To the outsider, the world of nutritional supplements can be overwhelming at first glance. There are so many options to choose from: powders, pills, capsules, gels, rubs, wraps, the list goes on and on! Everybody is coming at you from every angle trying to sell you everything! One of the most contraversial categories of supplement is pre-workout. People seem to be either completely for pre-workout, or completely against it. Some believe that you are “weak” if you “need” something to get you in the mindset to workout.
However, the thing about supplements is they are just that: supplements. They are meant to enhance diet and training, and synergize with it, not stand on their own. Pre-workout capitalizes on your body’s existing energy systems, optimizes them, and then further enhances them. Think of it like pouring fuel on a fire.
Another thing to consider is the hormonal benefit of intense training. The more intense your workout, the more of a release of testosterone and growth hormone by the body in response. Pre-workout intensifies training, which can then lead to more growth in the long term through improved hormonal output combined with the intense diet and training.
So what should you look for in a pre-workout supplement?
Generally, most pre-workouts are stimulant based and have some combination of stimulants, performance enhancing compounds, and nootropics. The lacking products tend to focus on one of these areas and not the others.
For example, there are some products that are 100% pure stimulants. This would include things like caffeine, rawscoline, geranium oil, etc. You feel the energy from the stimulants and have a more intense workout. Studies show that caffeine increases work output.
Some products have great performance enhancing ingredients: fully dosed profiles of beta alanine (3+ grams), and generous doses of citrulline malate which is great for pumps and NO release (this increases GH levels post workout) as well as lactic acid clearance, which means more endurance! These products are great, but sometimes lack the kick that the stim products do.
Catch 22: Stimulant based products give you more intense focus, and energy buttttttt… Pump and performance based products increase blood flow – stimulants are vasoconstrictive and are therefore counterproductive to a pump.
What does this mean? It means that the best products need to be a combination of all categories of products. Strong stimulants, enough to get you going at 5 am and ready to crush it. Moderate performance enhancing products – enough citrulline and beta alanine to provide a functional dose and increase performance significantly (as opposed to mega dosing it).
The final key is nootropics – focus and mood boosting ingredients that synergize with the stimulants and provide an amazing mind-muscle connection. Compounds like choline bitartrate and huperzine A. Choline bitartrate is an acetylcholine source, which means it increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain – increasing focus, memory, etc. Huperzine A is an acetylcholinerase inhibitor – it inhibits the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine in the synapses. So the two ingredients synergize, combined with stimulants provide a long lasting and intense focus.
Always do your research, and if you ever have any questions about the formula of a product, e-mail the manufacturer – if they can’t answer the questions you probably should shop elsewhere!