A Pre-workout supplement is exactly what it sounds like. Something to give you an energy boost and support a serious workout without getting worn out before you reach your goals. Some pre-workout supplements rely primarily on heavy doses of sugar and caffeine. While natural pre-workout supplements may contain caffeine, a natural pre-workout supplement will primarily offer your body what it needs to sustain intense training.
An energy boost is, of course, necessary, but a natural pre-workout supplement that works will have much more than a caffeine buzz. A natural pre-workout supplement provides amino acids and other nutrients that maintain your blood sugar, metabolism, and energy levels. Many athletes are turning to sound pre-workout supplements precisely to get a balance of nutrients and stamina for workouts.
The crash and burn that can come with a workout comes from much more than low blood sugar and low energy. A good pre-workout supplement treats more than blood sugar.
Natural pre-workout supplements help build strength and muscle. They increase stamina. And natural pre-workout supplements will sustain serious training beyond just a general workout.
What is a Natural Pre-Workout and What It Does?
A natural pre-workout is a combination of amino acids, nitrogen, caffeine, and other ingredients that work together to enhance muscle fitness, combat fatigue, and sustain intense muscle burn exercise.
In the most practical terms, a pre-workout is designed to increase the intensity and length of your training so that you get more out of your workouts. Extra reps, extra sets, extra time working out will all add up to serious results. A pre-workout supplement is meant to help you go just a little longer and a little harder the more you exercise.
- Many pre-workout supplements contain creatine. This is a chemical found in our cells, and it is the most potent source of energy and power for a pre-workout supplement. In a supplement, creatine helps build up phosphocreatine which speeds up the production of energy at the cellular level. What creatine does is increase muscle strength, mass, and performance.
- What a pre-workout supplement does is provide nutrients and food for your body as you train longer and harder. The added amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), provide the chemical building blocks for muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs do not need to go through the digestion process to be available for building muscle. This means that as you work out these chemicals are available to keep building muscle tissue in the course of your training.
- Beta-alanine is another important ingredient in pre-workout supplements. During intense bursts of exercise, your body can start to build up acids. This partially accounts for the pain or “burn” of these types of exercises. Beta-alanine helps eliminate these acids. Studies have shown that beta-alanine can help especially with an intense burst of exertion lasting about 4-5 minutes.
- Another pre-workout supplement ingredient that fights acid build-up is simple sodium bicarbonate. Also known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate has been shown to decrease acid accumulation in muscle tissue. This is especially helpful for runners and bicyclists.
- In addition to BCAAs, citrulline is another amino acid that helps with pre-workout supplements. Citrulline can increase blood flow specifically to certain body tissue such as muscles that are undergoing stress as in a workout. Citrulline carries oxygen and nutrients to muscles.
- Added levels of things like nitrate can increase blood flow. This effectively induces your body to carry more nutrients and amino acids to the areas that you are working so they can go longer and harder. Nitrate is found in foods like spinach. It seems the Popeye myth has a little truth to it.
- Other things like caffeine do exactly what you already know. Caffeine is nature’s first pre-workout supplement. Getting your mind and body moving with the energy you get from a caffeine boost helps prevent getting tired too soon. But caffeine is more than just an energy boost. It has been clinically shown to increase performance in high-intensity exercise; increasing stamina and resilience.
Different pre-workout supplements will include varying levels of these ingredients. Some will include high doses of just a few of them. The type of pre-workout supplement you choose will depend mostly on the type of workout you do. Endurance athletes will want something that focuses on increasing blood flow and reduces acids. Athletes who require serious muscle will want something with high levels of BCAAs.
How and When Should You Take a Pre-Workout Supplement?
Timing is everything with pre-workout supplements. If you wait until the last minute, you will not get the full benefit of the supplements. If you take them hours before your workout, they will have metabolized before you exercise.
It is generally recommended that you consume a pre-workout supplement mix about 30-60 minutes before you hit the gym. This will allow all the supplement ingredients to enter your system and be available for maximum benefit.
Most trainers recommend mixing pre-workout supplements with a shake or smoothie. This makes them palatable for one thing. You also want something in your stomach besides the pre-workout supplement. Just consider that there is usually a fairly high level of caffeine in pre-workout supplements. On an empty stomach, this can make you jittery and even nauseated.
Pre-workout Ingredients to Avoid
The makers of natural pre-workout supplements are careful to include only those ingredients that are beneficial to your health and fitness. The reason we now have natural pre-workout supplements is in part due to concern about ingredients that either do nothing useful or are in fact harmful.
There are a few ingredients to watch out for in pre-workout supplements.
- Artificial dyes: Some manufacturers of pre-workout supplements try to entice the eye with artificial colors that look appealing. Those radiant blues may look like something that means power and strength, but the dyes used for these are toxic. Some of these dyes have been linked to cancer.
- Excess caffeine. This does not require a lot of explanation, but excess caffeine will go beyond giving you energy for a workout. Too much caffeine will make you jittery and ultimately make you nauseated.
- DMAA. This can appear on a supplement label as methylhexanamine or dimethylhexanamine, DMAA functions as an amphetamine in your system. It will give you energy, but it is dangerous. DMAA can cause shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, and heart attack. It has been flagged as a dangerous chemical and the FDA is warning supplement manufacturers to stop using it.
- Yohimbe. This is often touted as a natural, and therefore safe, ingredient in some pre-workout supplements. It is the bark of a tree from Africa, and it is natural. But natural does not mean healthy. There is little research on Yohimbe, but it has been linked to seizures and heart attacks.
- Synephrine. This is included in pre-workout supplements to help with weight loss. Synephrine does work to suppress appetite, but it also causes dizziness and anxiety. With a solid natural pre-workout supplement and a good workout, you will not need something so toxic.
- Artificial sweeteners. Ingredients like aspartame do nothing but artificially sweeten the supplement while they pose no real positive effect. In fact, things like aspartame have been linked to increased obesity rather than fitness.
Again, natural pre-workout supplements that fuel muscle protein synthesis, enhance stamina, and help with blood flow will give you the training you are after. Avoid toxic ingredients that boast quick and easy results.
Natural Pre-workout Ingredients to Look For
The best ingredients to look for in a pre-workout supplement are:
- Creatine strength and power
- Caffeine for energy
- Beta-alanine to reduce acids
- Citrulline to reduce acids
- BCAAs for available amino acids to build muscle
Different pre-workout supplements will have varying levels of these ingredients. The best thing to do is to adjust your pre-workout supplement to the type of training you are doing. Distance and endurance athletes will find acid reduction to be a major consideration. Athletes who train for muscle and strength will want to increase BCAAs.
How long does a Pre-workout last?
Pre-workout supplements begin working after about 30 minutes. Depending on your age and the type of exercise you are doing, they will typically last about 2.5 hours.
The various ingredients all metabolize at different rates. The maximum time in which you can expect the pre-workout supplement to be active is within the 30 minutes to 2.5-hour range. However, some supplements continue to work for as much as 6 hours.
Is Pre-Workout Bad for You?
The short answer to this question is no. However, as with anything else, this answer can get complicated.
The main side effects of pre-workout supplements are jitteriness and anxiety. The caffeine and other ingredients designed to boost energy can also make people anxious.
Some rare side effects depend on an allergy. Some people will react to beta-alanine with numbness and tingling in their hands and feet. This is not dangerous, but it may be uncomfortable.
Some people have adverse reactions to niacin. This too is an allergy. The symptoms include flushing of the skin and redness. Again, this is not dangerous, but some people may find this unpleasant.
Pros of Pre-Workouts
Pre-workout supplements are a fantastic addition to your regime if you are the type of athlete who trains hard. The added energy and protein make for increased stamina for longer workouts and increase muscle. They work.
The pros of pre-workout supplements include:
- Increased muscle
- More energy and stamina
- Increased blood flow
- Increased oxygen levels for longer workouts
Cons of Pre-Workouts
Like anything else, there are downsides to pre-workout supplements. Nothing is entirely without issues.
The cons of pre-workout supplements include:
- May cause anxiety and nervousness
- Can cause an upset stomach
- Some people have adverse allergic reactions.
Overall, pre-workout supplements are safe and effective. They produce real results.
6 Surprising Facts About Pre-Workouts
In addition to the obvious benefits for fitness and performance, pre-workout supplements have some surprising additional benefits. Things you may want to know:
Pre-workouts can make you smarter. Caffeine and beta-alanine improve brain function by enhancing blood flow and oxygen.
Enhanced nerve signal function. The beta-alanine in pre-workouts improve the central nervous system.
BCAAs will help you lose weight. For people who workout for weight management, pre-workouts will help you slim down.
Faster recovery. Though pre-workouts are obviously intended to help with workout preparedness, they also enhance recovery from workouts. Many of the main ingredients will speed recovery from an intense workout.
Better kidney and liver function. Creatine enhances kidney and liver function.
Increased motivation. All in all, the energy boost and increased oxygen will give you more motivation to train.
Though these things do not necessarily make pre-workout supplements the new wonder drug for nutrition and health, they do offer some surprising side benefits on top of the help with workouts and training.
How to Choose the Best Pre-Workout Supplement
Choosing the right pre-workout supplement will, of course, depend on the type of training and workouts you are after. But of the many pre-workouts available, certainly one of the best is NF Sports Pre-workout.
This will optimize your workouts and provide motivation for intense workouts.
It also tastes great. NF Sports Pre-workout contains a full range of the best pre-workout ingredients including Creatine, beta-alanine, and citrulline. All of this is balanced with the correct levels of caffeine for energy, stamina, and motivation. It also includes B-6 and B-12 to assist with tissue regeneration for post-workout.
Wrapping things up
Pre-workout supplements do enhance your overall performance when it comes to high-intensity training. Among the supplements available for increased performance and increased muscle, pre-workout supplements are among the most effective and the safest.
You will need to pay attention to some key ingredients as you evaluate pre-workout supplements. Make sure you choose a supplement that leads with the top performers listed above. The main things you want in a pre-workout supplement are things that will enhance blood flow and oxygen, increase muscle, reduce fat, and enhance motivation.
Artificial ingredients and enhancers that promise fast and easy results either do nothing at all or they are outright harmful. Take note of the dangerous ingredients we listed above.
But in the final analysis, the best pre-workout supplements are designed to improve health, fitness, and athletic performance. A sound pre-workout supplement like NF Sports Pre-workout will build muscle, strength, and endurance.