What are the best pre-workout supplements?

There are plenty of pre workout options for the gym-goer, endurance runner or simply exercise enthusiast. This article will suggest some of the most useful ones, as well as their specific benefits. When used as part of a balanced diet, these supplements can help you maximize the benefits that you obtain from your workouts. As you will soon see, some of the following pre workout (post workout, too) supplements can help you extend your workout routine, whereas others fill your muscles up with more of the explosive energy that is needed for high-intensity activities.

Protein Powders of All Types

Protein, of course, is the building block of muscle. More specifically, the amino acids of which protein is composed is the human body’s way of repairing muscle tissue and increasing muscle mass. For pre workout meals/drinks, whey protein stands heads-and-shoulders above the other alternatives. The reason for this is that it has a spectrum that includes branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are essential for the preparation of muscle fibers and tissue. The BCAAs in whey protein contain leucine, isoleucine and 7 other amino acids that make for a complete protein profile.

The amino acid leucine, in particular, is responsible for building muscle stronger after heavy weight-lifting routines. This amino acid focuses on high-intensity work, where the rest and recovery period will benefit from the muscles being flooded with leucine for repair and strengthening. Additionally, the BCAAs in protein can repair tendons, ligaments and even your dermal (skin) layers. Much of the food you eat will already contain some protein; but supplementing this with whey or a protein that’s infused with BCAAs will go a long way in maximizing your body’s ability when it comes to intense exercise.

Another important component in whey protein powder is cysteine. It occurs as a sort of “cast-off” in the production of general protein, and the FDA doesn’t consider it an essential amino acid. However, it is known to protect against cellular wear-and-tear, and helps in the production of antioxidants that combat disease-causing free radicals in the body.

Can Caffeine Serve as a Viable Pre Workout Supplement?

If you live anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, then caffeine is more of a staple of your diet than a supplement. Nonetheless, this coffee bean extract is definitely a viable pre workout supplement that is known to rev up your brain function in order to dampen those sleepy eyes, and to jolt your body out of lingering sluggishness. In fact, some protein powders even have caffeine as one of the ingredients; however, caffeine is plenty good enough if taken alone as a cup of Joe before a workout. Obviously, one should take care to avoid caffeine if you’re working out past about 3pm in the afternoon, as caffeine is known to stay in the body for about 6-8 hours and may not exit your system in time for bed if you imbibe it too late.

As for the specific function of caffeine as far as exercise is concerned, it has been found to be useful in activities as diverse as weight-lifting, sprinting, endurance running and virtually any sport. This is because caffeine improves power (how quickly you can exude energy), as well as for how long. Studies have shown that caffeine is effective in improving sports performance.  

If you’re taking caffeine for exercise performance purposes, then you should restrict your dose to about 4.5 mg per kilogram of body weight on average. For American readers, this amounts to 2 mg per pound, or for someone weighing 150 pounds, about 300 mg of caffeine should suffice. If you triple this recommended amount, for example, you could start to experience negative side effects such as jitteriness, dizziness, vomiting or sweating.

Creatine – Micronized, Capsule Form

Perhaps surprisingly, creatine is a natural substance made inside of your cells for energy. The popular promotion of it by nutrition and health food stores has caused some people to think of it as a supplement exclusive to the weight-lifting and body-building crowds; but this is definitely not true as the average exercise enthusiast can benefit greatly from it.

The facts are that creatine is the chief legal supplement used for increasing muscle mass and for elevating your strength when incorporated into an exercise program. It is easily digestible and can be taken both before and after a workout to maximize energy and post-workout recovery/muscle reparation. Generally, you want to take about 2-3 mg before a workout so as to give your body enough time to digest the amount (which it does quickly, as creatine metabolizes a lot faster than food). After your workout is an even more beneficial time to take a solid 5 mg, which will be distributed throughout the body quickly for muscle repair and strengthening.

Creatine works by simply providing your cells with energy; when you take it as a supplement, it enhances the body’s natural production amount to give your muscles the ability to function at higher intensity, and for a longer period of time. Clearly, this has huge benefits for gaining muscle – especially if you maintain a consistent program of creatine supplementation and exercise (particularly of the weight-training variety). Although it only takes roughly 5 grams of creatine per day to maintain its prodigious benefits, you should take up to 20 grams if you’re just starting out. This lets you load your cells with the stuff; but make sure not to take the 20 grams all at once – split them up into perhaps three or four different doses throughout the day.

The above examples are pretty much staples for the average weight-lifter, and more and more exercise enthusiasts are reaping the benefits of pre workout supplements. There are quite a few others that were not mentioned in this review, such as beta-alanine, citrulline, nitrates and sodium bicarbonate. As you bolster your workouts with the examples we fleshed out, you can also try your hand at these to see how positively they affect your workouts. Most of them really aid in the recovery process more than during the actual workout – but the post-workout strategy is just as essential in reaching your goals as the exercise activity itself.