Last Updated on August, 2022
A good pre-workout supplement will have a pretty significant impact on your training.
But each pre-workout formula is different, and hundreds of different products exist. So it’s pretty overwhelming to pick one that suits your fitness goals.
A good starting point is looking at the main ingredients in pre-workouts. Although the ingredient list varies, few ingredients are scientifically proven to provide benefits during exercise.
We will take you through the main pre-workout ingredients, and look at how each ingredient contributes to your performance.
So keep reading to discover the common pre-workout ingredients, and then you can choose the right supplement for your fitness goals.
Table Of Contents
- What Exactly Does a Pre-Workout Supplement Do?
- 8 Main Pre-Workout Ingredients
- Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Supplements
What Exactly Does a Pre-Workout Supplement Do?
Pre-workouts are supplements that you take before strenuous exercise. They boost your energy levels, keep you alert and reduce muscle fatigue.
These products come in various forms, such as pills, powders, and liquids.
Pre-workouts have both short-term and long-term benefits. Regular pre-workout intake will improve your overall performance and endurance. Also if you don’t consume the recommended amount of these ingredients, you’ll experience bad side effects.
8 Main Pre-Workout Ingredients
Caffeine is the ingredient associated with energy and focus. Therefore, it is a common ingredient in many pre-workout formulas. Caffeine acts as a stimulant to increase alertness and focus. Therefore, many products contain an equivalent amount of caffeine as in one to three cups of coffee. (1)
There are a few downsides to taking too much caffeine. A daily caffeine intake greater than 500 mg/day can have undesirable side effects. The most well-known side effect is poor sleep. High caffeine levels can also cause other issues like dehydration and gastrointestinal upset.
Creatine is a nitrogen-containing compound that is both consumed in the diet and manufactured in the body. Milk and meat are two food products with high creatine levels.
Creatine aids muscles in making ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP supplies energy for muscle contraction by generating a large amount of energy in short bursts. As a result, creatine improves overall athletic performance by boosting energy.
If you are looking for a significant muscle size and strength increase, creatine is an essential ingredient. Therefore, creatine is a must-have ingredient for those interested in bodybuilding and heavy weightlifting.
However, creatine doesn’t give fast results. If you stick with the daily dosage of creatine, you’ll see results in about 30 days. So it’s essential to continue with a regular intake.
3. Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are essential amino acids. Your body cannot synthesize BCAA, so you must consume plenty of food products with BCAA or opt for a dietary supplement with BCAA. BCAA are present in protein-rich food products like meat, fish, dairy, and legumes. (2)
There are 3 crucial BCAA. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These 3 amino acids are vital for muscle protein synthesis. In addition, these BCAA work together to reduce protein breakdown during a workout.
Leucine is a vital amino acid that stimulates muscle growth and recovery. Other benefits of BCAA include reduced fatigue and soreness.
Related article: BCAAs vs Pre-Workout
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid (an amino acid produced naturally in the body) and a vital ingredient in most pre-workout products.
Beta-alanine increases levels of muscle carnosine. Carnosine acts as a buffer and reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles during strenuous exercise. This, in turn, can reduce muscle cramping and delay fatigue.
The ultimate result is that you can work out for a longer time with minimal exhaustion.
The recommended daily dosage of beta-alanine is 1.5-5 g. Unfortunately, beta-alanine is also known for causing the infamous beta-alanine itch. Some people experience this harmless tingling sensation after taking supplements containing beta-alanine.
You can also consider the best pre workout supplements without beta alanine, if you don’t want to experience this infamous beta-alanine itch & harmless tingling sensation. And this guide shows the reasons why these supplements make you tingle and Itch.
Citrulline is another non-essential amino acid naturally occurring in foods like pumpkin and watermelon. However, unlike most other amino acids, citrulline is not a building block of protein.
Citrulline helps in nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator. This means it can dilate your blood vessels, thus increasing blood flow. Vasodilation improves blood circulation during exercise. Improved blood flow allows the muscles to gain extra nutrients and oxygen. This keeps your muscles active and helps you perform better without feeling exhausted.
Citrulline comes in two different forms: L citrulline and citrulline malate. L citrulline is citrulline in its natural form. Citrulline malate has malic acid added to it. Malic acid has benefits such as high energy production. Many studies have proven the benefits of citrulline for athletes.
Both citrulline malate and L citrulline help with vasodilation. However, the added benefits of malic acid make citrulline malate a better option than L Citrulline in sports performance. A supplement with citrulline will increase endurance and help you do more reps. (3)
Taurine is another essential amino acid found in pre-workouts. This amino acid is present in our brains, heart, and muscles. Taurine naturally occurs in meat, fish, and dairy products.
Taurine maintains electrolyte balance and hydration level during workouts. (4)
A continuous supply of taurine reduces muscle soreness and improves endurance. Taurine also plays a role in thermoregulation during exercise.
Another benefit of taurine is that it acts as a cell volumeizer. This means that your muscles retain taurine. As a result, taurine reduces the risk of calcium deletion and cramping.
7. Vitamin B
Vitamin B is an integral component of many dietary supplements. Vitamin B is known by other names like niacin, Vitamin B or Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B plays a role in toning up your muscles and improving your metabolism. B vitamins enhance the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. (5)
The correct balance of electrolytes is vital to keep your body functioning correctly. The most common electrolytes are calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, and phosphate.
A hard workout session will make you sweat and lose a lot of electrolytes. Electrolytes play critical roles in the human body, such as maintaining pH balance and regulating muscle and nerve function.
Electrolyte imbalance has serious effects such as rapid heartbeat, fever, and drowsiness.
Pre-workout products prevent your electrolyte levels from falling too low. Maintaining the proper electrolyte balance helps you feel and perform better. (6)
Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Supplements
- Better performance: Using a pre-workout product in its recommended dose will improve endurance and reduce fatigue. This will greatly impact your overall performance. Ingredients like beta-alanine, citrulline, and Vitamin B work together to bring out your best performance.
- Improves alertness and focus: Stimulating ingredients like caffeine activates your nervous system and makes you more alert.
- Helps in muscle development: Amino acids play a significant role in muscle growth. In fact, amino acids are essential for lean muscle growth. Pre-workout products also help you to recover from muscle soreness quickly.
- Tingles: Beta-alanine in pre-workout products is responsible for causing a side effect commonly known as pre-workout tingles. This is an unpleasant itchy sensation in the arms and feet. These tingles are harmless; nevertheless, it’s an annoying effect that may distract you from your workout.
- Disruption of sleep: Caffeine is the world’s best-known stimulant. But for some people, the effects of caffeine may last longer than needed.
You could avoid taking supplements late in the day to prevent caffeine from messing up your sleep. Limiting your consumption of coffee and other caffeinated products like tea is also a good idea.
Pre-workout products are an easy, healthy, and convenient way to boost your exercise performance. But as with everything else, keeping track of what you consume is crucial.
Caffeine, creatine, taurine, citrulline, BCAA, vitamin B, and electrolytes are main pre-workout ingredients that work together to make your workout more effective. Also, some brands contain additional ingredients for texture and flavor.
The best option is to stick with a product that contains the essential ingredients and a few additional ingredients as possible.