Chances are you’ve seen someone hit the gym with a brightly colored liquid in their shaker. Health and nutrition supplements can be a maze of confusing and even harmful potions and powders. One of these health trends is pre-workout. Pre-workout is considered by many to be a great addition to a workout supplementation routine, but is it really necessary? Here we will explore whether pre-workout is right for you.
Consider caffeine intake
One of the major ingredients in most pre-workouts is caffeine, which is a known performance booster. This is great if you don’t already intake a lot of caffeine form coffee, tea, or other beverages. But if you’re an avid coffee drinker, the added caffeine of a pre-workout might just make you jittery or ill. There are some pre-workouts without caffeine, but this is really the bulk of the supplement’s purpose- to increase energy for a more productive gym session. The same energy effects can be gained from drinking coffee.
Consider your workout routine
Chances are, if you’re just a casual gym-goer, there’s no reason to drink a pre-workout before your session. Many of the ingredients, like creatine and other amino acids, are only beneficial over the long-term in addition to intense training*. Otherwise, there’s really no benefit for the thirty-minute treadmill jogger or social gym-goer. If, however, you’re a competitive athlete or participate in truly intense training, a pre-workout with the added amino acids might help promote lean body mass and muscle recovery.
If natural eating is important to you, pre-workouts are often not the option for you. Not only do pre-workouts and other supplements often host a handful of unknown, untested, or unfamiliar ingredients, but many of the ingredients are also not regulated by a government agency. Keep in mind that there is a lot of money to be made for corporations willing to tell you their supplement will make you a better athlete, without repercussions if the product doesn’t actually do anything. If you are set on having a pre-workout but don’t want the potentially dangerous additives, there are natural options out there so like anything else, do your research and read the nutrition labels.
Every now and then, I drink a pre-workout before a very intense workout session or long run. However, there is only one pre-workout that I really trust, enjoy drinking, and is free of side-effects for me. Whole Foods makes a great Energy Support Pre-Workout in Sweet Lemon. There are minimal ingredients and it contains 125 mg caffeine, BCAAs, and creatine. The mix lacks artificial coloring as it shakes out to be a pale whitish yellow color, and it’s low in calories and sugar. The test is very light, as it lacks that sweet artificial taste of most other pre-workouts.
The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance
*Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition20107:10
© Smith et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010