With all the ghosts and ghouls and scary stuff out there this week, I want to talk about another scary product you see in fitness facilities and gyms all over… PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS. There are several types of supplements you can take to impact your exercise routine. Some are used for post workout recovery, others for hydration, and some for energy. Today we will look at supplements used before (pre) a workout, meant to enhance your performance and give you an edge in the gym.
Pre-workout supplements have a large range of vitamins and ingredients that are geared towards promoting better, stronger, and faster results from your workouts. I want to be very clear, pre-workout is not steroids! The goal of pre-workout is to put your body in a better state to reap all the benefits from exercise, and to hyper focus your mind to stay motivated and determined during a workout. Most of the time, this is accomplished with either caffeine, B vitamins, Coq-10, or some combination of those. These ingredients tend to be the main drivers behind the mental focus aspect of pre-workouts.
When it comes to prepping the body for intense exercise, pre-workouts will use all types of synthetic or natural ingredients. A few common ingredients you may see are Citrulline-Malate, Beta-Alanine, and Creatine. There’s no need to fear all these big fancy names, I happen to have a handy little table that will help keep them straight!
You may be thinking, “Wow, Eric can really make a chart! That thing is good! But what does it all mean?” I’m glad you asked! Whenever someone asks me whether they should be taking a pre-workout supplement, the first thing I ask them is about the brands and products they are interested in. Some products are packed with “filler” ingredients, and nobody needs to spend their hard-earned cash on “filler”. The other thing to look for is how much of each ingredient there is. For example, some pre-workouts have about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (about 95mg). Some have almost 3 times that amount! If you need that much help from a stimulant to get you motivated through a workout, there are other things we need to look at!
Supplements are generally unregulated by the FDA, so they have scary leeway when it comes to disclosing their ingredients. If you ever see “proprietary blend” followed by the amount per serving with a long list of ingredients, that usually means that the amount per serving represents some mixture of ALL of those ingredients!
I don’t have any issue with pre-workout supplements, in fact, I use them myself. The biggest thing to remember is to research what you’re taking, ask your trainer, doctor, nutritionist, someone that may have more knowledge about it. Please follow the directions, and more than anything, remember that YOU DON’T NEED THEM! If you take a pre-workout supplement and you feel like crap, STOP TAKING IT! Maybe try a supplement that doesn’t have caffeine if you get light headed or your stomach hurts. If it feels like your skin is crawling, try a supplement without Beta-Alanine! Just like exercise and diet, proper supplementation is going to take a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you! So, don’t be afraid, at least not of pre-workouts!