The Science Behind Pre-Workout Supplements
Pre-workout supplements have become increasingly popular in the fitness industry. They are designed to enhance physical performance, increase energy levels, and reduce fatigue during exercise. Pre-workouts contain a combination of ingredients that work synergistically to provide these benefits. In this article, we will discuss the most common ingredients found in pre-workout supplements, their effects, and the scientific evidence supporting their use.
I’ve taken pre workout since I was around 13. I’ve tried strong caffeine, pump pre / nitric oxide boosters, performance pre and I even tried DVST8 crimson pre before it got banned, that was a ride and a half. The fact that a fruity drink can have such an impact on the brain, on focus, muscle pump and even confidence level has always interested me. So as always I was my own guinea pig over the years. For me pre has always been a great tool that I’ve use either for early morning sessions ( Be warned, depending on the pre, the crash is real) or for periods were I wanted to smash PB’s and used pre workout to boost confidence and energy in the lifts. There’d definitely something for me personally that switches when on pre that allows me to put weight on a bar and lift with no fear of failing. Anyway these are the main ingredients to look out for in your pre’s, each with a different effect.
Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients found in pre-workout supplements. It is a natural stimulant that works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain, which reduces drowsiness and increases alertness. Caffeine has been shown to improve physical performance by increasing endurance, strength, and power output. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that caffeine supplementation improved bench press and squat performance in trained athletes. However, it is important to note that caffeine can have negative side effects such as jitters, anxiety, and insomnia if taken in excessive amounts.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is commonly added to pre-workout supplements. It works by increasing levels of carnosine in the muscles, which helps to buffer lactic acid buildup during exercise. This can lead to improved endurance and delayed onset of fatigue. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that beta-alanine supplementation improved rowing performance and increased power output in trained athletes. However, beta-alanine can cause a tingling sensation in the skin, which may be uncomfortable for some individuals (If you’ve felt the itch after drinking pre, this is why.)
L-citrulline is a popular pre-workout ingredient because it can increase nitric oxide levels. This, in turn, improves blood flow, allowing nutrients and oxygen to reach the muscles more efficiently. This leads to better muscle pumps and increased energy levels.
Endurance athletes can also benefit from L-citrulline, not just bodybuilders and weightlifters. L-citrulline malate, which is the citrulline salt of malic acid, is one of the most commonly used pre-workout ingredients.
Recent studies suggest that pure L-citrulline is just as effective as citrulline malate, provided that doses are matched. Malic acid, while an important intermediate compound involved in energy production, has yet to demonstrate ergogenic effects.
Research has also found that citrulline malate enhances the anti-catabolic effects of branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements .
While other ingredients, such as L-arginine, beetroot, or agmatine sulfate, can also support nitric oxide production when dosed appropriately, citrulline and citrulline malate are often the most effective options available.
Pre-workout supplements can be an effective tool to enhance physical performance during exercise. The most common ingredients found in pre-workouts include caffeine, beta-alanine, and L-citrulline. These ingredients have been shown to improve endurance, strength, and power output in trained athletes. However, it is important to note that pre-workouts should be used in moderation and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It is also important to choose a pre-workout supplement that contains safe and effective ingredients. By understanding the science behind pre-workout supplements, individuals can make informed decisions about their use and maximize their performance in the gym.
Goldstein et al. (2010). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(5), 1-15.
Schwedhelm E, Maas R, Freese R, Jung D, Lukacs Z, Jambrecina A, Spickler W, Schulze F, Böger RH. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine: impact on nitric oxide metabolism. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Jan;65(1):51-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2007.02990.x. Epub 2007 Jul 27. PMID: 17662090; PMCID: PMC2291275.
Kern et al. (2011). Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1804-1815.