Do you really need a pre workout supplement? Does a good old espresso shot do the job equally well?
That's a question, the answer to which, is widely debated on the internet and outside of it. There are two camps to be honest. One that is absolutely convinced that pre-workouts are a must-have and the other that believes they are nothing but a waste of money.
We are not here to take sides, but rather help you form your own opinion by providing scientific evidence for both arguments. So, without further ado, let's take an objective look at this perpetual debate.
What are pre workout supplements?
Pre Workout Supplements are dietary supplements that are designed to improve athletic performance - some come in form of protein pills, while some are in powder form and can be taken as a meal replacement for breakfast to give you day-long strength.
They usually contain caffeine, creatine, and B vitamins. But may also include amino acids like L-Arginine and Citrulline for the added pumps.
There's a slew of colorful beverages out there in fancy bottles each one claiming to give you the edge you seek in the gym. So, it's only natural for one to wonder if they are actually effective or just another fitness fad.
The primary argument in favor of using pre-workout supplements is that they improve energy levels and alertness, more so if you have been working out for 6 days a week or so and both your strength and focus are waning. This allows athletes to push themselves harder during their workouts. Supplements that contain caffeine are especially popular for this reason.
The next argument in favor of pre-workouts is that they can improve strength and power output. This is usually due to the presence of creatine in most supplements.
Lastly, some people argue that pre-workouts can help with weight loss. This is typically due to the caffeine content in many supplements. But as we said, newer formulas add stronger stimulants that may provide an added weight loss advantage.
What is the best pre-workout supplement?
I could just say I have had a taste of virtually every new and established brand out there. From overpriced caffeine shots to borderline-illegal ones, i have chugged them lock, stock, and barrel. So trust me when I say that, based on my experience, the best pre-workout supplement is 4 Gauge.
4 Guage is a cutting edge pre workout formula with all-natural ingredients. More importantly, each ingredient is added to serve a purpose. There's no junk in there. That's what I like the most about it.
What I like about 4-Gauge
Regardless of whether you seek a buzz, or are looking to prevent cramping, 4 Gauge can help you achieve your fitness goals. The ingredients in 4 Gauge have all been scientifically proven to improve performance.
- Caffeine Anhydrous
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Red Beet
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Coconut Water
As you can see, there's not a single ingredient in 4-Gauge that doesn't have benefits. Caffeine as you all know is a powerful stimulant that can improve energy levels and alertness. Theanine is a relaxant that helps take the edge off of caffeine. Citrulline has been shown to improve blood flow and prevent fatigue. ALCAR is a cognitive enhancer that can improve focus. Creatine is the most popular sports performance supplement on the planet.
Red Beet is included for its nitric oxide boosting properties. And Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen that helps the body cope with stress.
So, as you can see, 4 Gauge has everything you need to get the most out of your workouts. It's my go-to supplement for pre-workouts. The best part is, it uses clinically dosed ingredients.
What does that mean? It means you get the exact amount of each ingredient that has been proven to work in scientific studies. So you can rest assured that you're getting the most bang for your buck.
Why should you take pre workout supplements?
Each one of us wants to put our best foot forward in the gym. We want to be at the top of our game every single day. But sometimes, life gets in the way. Maybe we didn't get enough sleep the night before. Or we're just not feeling it that day.
This is where pre-workout supplements come in handy. They can help you get into the zone and perform at your best even when you're not feeling your best.
Of course, pre-workouts are not miracle drugs. They are not going to turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight. But they can help you get the most out of your workouts and reach your fitness goals faster.
How Long Does Pre-Workout Effects last in your body?
Most pre-workout supplements contain caffeine. Caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours. That means it takes 4-6 hours for the body to break down and eliminate half of the caffeine you consume.
So if you have a cup of coffee with 200mg of caffeine, after 4 hours you will still have 100mg of caffeine in your system. And after 6 hours, you will still have 50mg of caffeine in your system.
Now you know why they say that you shouldn't take a pre-workout supplement late in the evening.
Of course, this is just an estimate. The half-life of caffeine can vary from person to person based on factors like age, weight, and metabolism. This might also depend on the nature of the caffeine too, since there's the natural caffeine, and then there's caffeine anhydrous - which, by the way, is also ideal for giving you the pumps and enhancing your performance in the gym.
As for the other ingredients in pre-workouts, they usually have a half-life of 2-3 hours.
So, in general, you can expect the effects of a pre-workout to last for 4-6 hours.
How long does it take for pre-workout supplements to kick in?
This depends on a few factors. If you have caffeine sensitivity, it will take longer for the effects of pre-workout to kick in. On the other hand, if you have a fast metabolism, the effects of pre-workout will kick in sooner.
In general, you can expect the effects of pre-workout to kick in within 30-60 minutes. So, 30-minutes before you hit the gym is a good time to take your pre-workout supplement.
How to know when pre-workout supplements have started working?
Well, how would you know that the coffee you just drank has triggered a dopamine release in your brain? You will feel a buzz, won't you? The same goes for pre-workout supplements.
The effects of pre-workout are subtle. It's not like taking a painkiller where you can feel the pain go away within minutes. With pre-workout, you will notice a gradual increase in energy levels, focus, and motivation.
You will feel more alert and ready to tackle your workout. And you will find that you can push yourself harder for longer periods.
How long does it take for pre-workout supplements to lose its effects?
That depends on the formula. Some pre-workouts contain ingredients that can last for hours. But most pre-workouts will lose their effects after 4-6 hours. That's because most of them use Caffeine as the primary stimulant.
If you're looking for a pre-workout supplement that will give you energy all day long, you might want to consider taking a sustained release formula or consider clubbing it with an energy drink instead.
How to make pre-workout supplements last longer?
There's no universal answer to this question. It depends on how your body responds to pre-workout supplements.
If you want to make the effects of pre-workout last longer, you might want to consider taking a higher dose. You can also try splitting the dose into two halves. Take one half before your workout and the other half during your workout.
You can also experiment with different formulas and brands to see which one works best for you. Some people find that they respond better to certain ingredients than others.
Then there's the tried and tested way to gulp a caffeine shot midway during your workout. This will amplify the effects of pre-workout and help you push through your workout.
The bottom line is that there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You will have to experiment a little bit to find
What are the factors which make pre-workout last longer?
There are several factors that can make pre-workout last longer.
Caffeine Sensitivity - One of the factors is caffeine sensitivity. In other words, your tolerance to caffeine. If you are used to gulping down copious amounts of caffeine in a day, then it will take a strong dose and much longer time for the effects of pre-workout to show.
Age - Age is another factor. As we grow older, our tolerance to caffeine increases. So, an elderly person will need a higher dose and more time for the effects of pre-workout to show.
Metabolism - Another factor is your metabolism. If you have a fast metabolism, the effects of pre-workout will kick in sooner and last for a shorter period of time.
Caffeine concentration - Some pre workout formulas like Gauge 4 are gentle and have a low concentration of caffeine. These are designed for people who seek a subtle, but long-lasting effect. On the other hand, there are formulas with almost 500 gm of caffeine. These are designed for experienced users who have a high tolerance to caffeine.
Best Pre Workout Supplements to take
As I mentioned earlier, I have experimented a little bit to find the best pre-workout supplements for me. Apart from 4 Gauge , I have found two formulas that have worked. These formulas use different ingredients like Creatine, Beta Alanine, and Arginine which help to keep the pumps going.
Before we get into these formulas, let's take a closer look at creatine. This ingredient is believed to be quite potent, with great benefits for gym goers, pretty much like caffeine does. Creatine is particularly great for women, and yes, you can take creatine on off days too to fill up any nutritional gaps and still keep your energy levels high.
So yes, in case you have been wondering whether creatine is a great caffeine alternative, the short answer is yes.
#1 - The Pump
I first tried 'The Pump' when I was taking a planned caffeine break. Most decaffeinated pre-workout supplements are just junk. So, I was pleasantly surprised when my coach recommended this supplement.
The Pump comes from My Protein, a trusted UK-based company. It uses Creatine HCL, Beta Alanine, L-Citrulline, and Nitrosigine to help you get a pump. It also has a good blend of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D, B6, and B12 which are essential for energy metabolism.
Did i miss the buzz? Of course, I did. Who wouldn't? But not for long. By week 2 of using The Pump, I was attuned to its subtle energy.
What I like about it
The best part about The Pump is that it lasts for a really long time. I take it before my morning workout and the effects last almost till my evening run. It has helped me have some great training sessions without the dreaded crash.
Also, this is a great choice for folks who are wary of gulping more caffeine. The Pump uses Creatine HCL which is a great alternative to caffeine for energy production.
The not so good part
I wish The Pump had more flavors. It's available in just two atm. Also, I felt that it took longer than the regular pre-workout supplement to kick in.
#2 - Transparent Labs Bulk
Bulk is a potent formula from Transparent Labs that uses Creatine, Beta Alanine, Dicaffeine Malate, a blend of BCAAs, vitamins, minerals and Arginine. It also has a high dose of caffeine which helps to amplify the effects of pre-workout.
It is hands down, the best pump boosting supplement that I have tried. I take it before my heavy lifting sessions and it helps me to push more weight and do more reps.
What I like about it
Bulk gives you sustained energy throughout your workout. I don't have to keep drinking those annoying energy drinks to keep myself going. It mixes well and has a great taste. Also, it is available in several delicious flavors.
I have never felt cramping even when my hydration levels have not been on point. The minerals and electrolytes in the formula keep your joints and ligaments functioning at their best.
The not so good part
Bulk is very strong. So, if you are new to pre-workout supplements, start with half a scoop. Also, the high dose of caffeine can cause jitters and anxiety in some people. So, be careful if you are sensitive to stimulants.
What are the main ingredients of pre-workout supplements?
In the 90s, a pre-workout supplement was a glorified caffeine shot. Anyone who was too lazy to churn out a cup of joe would just mix a scoop of pre-workout with water and chug it down. Ingredients like L-Citrulline and Arginine came much later.
Thankfully, things have changed since then and pre-workout supplements now use a variety of ingredients to help you train harder and longer. Here are the most common ones:
Caffeine - Caffeine is the most widely used ingredient in pre-workout supplements. It is a central nervous system stimulant that increases alertness and reduces fatigue. Caffeine also helps to increase power output and delay muscle fatigue.
Creatine - Creatine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body. It helps supply energy to the muscles and delay muscle fatigue. Creatine is the most popular and well-researched supplement for athletes. And as I've already mentioned, you can take it on off days as well, I did use it even after I had to stop working out for 6 months, you just got to take it responsibly.
Beta Alanine - Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to increase muscle endurance and strength. It buffers lactic acid build-up in the muscles and helps to reduce muscle fatigue.
BCAAs - BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids are a group of three amino acids - Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine. They are essential for muscle growth and repair. BCAAs also help to reduce exercise-induced muscle fatigue.
L-Citrulline - L-Citrulline is an amino acid that helps to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles. It also helps to reduce muscle fatigue and improve exercise performance.
Arginine - Arginine is an amino acid that helps to increase nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide helps to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow to the muscles. This leads to better oxygenation of the muscles and reduced muscle fatigue.
Taurine - Taurine is an amino acid that is found in high concentrations in the muscles. It helps to regulate water balance and prevents dehydration. Taurine also helps to reduce muscle fatigue.
Electrolytes - Electrolytes are minerals like sodium (although low sodium protein powders are far better), potassium, magnesium, and calcium that are essential for muscle contraction and nerve function. They also help to prevent dehydration and cramping.
Vitamins - Vitamins are essential nutrients that the body needs for various biochemical reactions. Some vitamins like Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 help to convert food into energy, while others like Vitamin C help to reduce oxidative stress.
When to take pre-workout supplements for best results?
Pre Workout supplements are ideal to take around 30-60 minutes before your workout. This gives the ingredients enough time to start working their magic and help you train harder.
However, if you are short on time, you can also take them closer to your workout. But be aware that it may take a while for the effects to kick in.
If you are using a caffeinated formula, avoid taking it too close to bedtime as it may interfere with your sleep. The effects of pre-workout supplements usually last for 3-5 hours. However, this can vary depending on the individual and the ingredients used.
How to take pre-workout supplements?
Most pre-workout supplements are designed to be blended with water and consumed as a drink. This is the most convenient way to take them. Simply mix the recommended dose with water and drink it down.
You can also find pre-workout powders that can be consumed on their own. These are usually flavored and come in individual servings. Just tear open the packet and consume the powder directly.
There are other forms too, like gels and capsules. But I prefer the powder form as it is more convenient and easier to take.
Are pre workout supplements effective?
Pre-workout supplements can offer a number of benefits that can help you train harder and longer, although you can also take some of them like protein shakes without working out just to get that extra boost of energy. However, it is important to choose the right product and take it at the right time for best results.
There's ample evidence that some of the ingredients used in pre-workout supplements can help to improve exercise performance. For instance, caffeine has been shown to increase alertness, power output, and muscular endurance.
Likewise, beta-alanine has been shown to increase muscle strength and endurance while BCAAs can help to build muscle and reduce fatigue. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition cites that pre-workout supplements can be an effective 'Ergogenic aid' during workouts.
Another study shows that pre-workout supplements with Citrulline allowed cyclists to ride for 12% more before hitting failure.
Are there any side effects of pre-workout supplements?
The only ingredient that can potentially cause side effects is caffeine. When consumed in large doses, it can lead to side effects like anxiety, jitters, and increased heart rate. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means it can cause dehydration if you don't drink enough water.
Other than that, the other ingredients used in pre-workout supplements are generally safe and well-tolerated. However, it is always best to consult with your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have any preexisting medical conditions.
Watch out for stimulants like ephedrine, which maybe sneaked in to create an added buzz.
What are the benefits of pre-workout supplements?
There are several benefits of taking pre-workout supplements. Some of these include:
Increased energy and alertness - Caffeine and other stimulants help to increase energy levels and alertness. This can enable you to train harder for longer periods of time.
Improved power output - Ingredients like Creatine and Beta-alanine have been shown to improve power output, meaning you can lift heavier weights or run faster for a longer period of time.
Increased muscle strength and endurance - Ingredients like BCAAs and Beta-alanine can help to increase muscle strength and endurance, allowing you to train harder for longer periods of time.
Reduced fatigue - Ingredients like BCAAs can help to reduce fatigue, meaning you can work out for longer with less muscle soreness.
Improved exercise performance - The combination of all these benefits can lead to improved exercise performance. You'll be able to train harder and longer, meaning you can see better results from your workouts.
What are the drawbacks of Pre workout supplements?
That said, not everything is perfect with pre-workout supplements. Some potential drawbacks include:
Jitters - Some formulas may contain a high dose of stimulants that can cause anxiety, jitters, and increased heart rate. If you are prone to these side effects, it is best to go for a stimulant-free formula.
Dehydration - Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it can cause dehydration if you don't drink enough water. It is important to drink plenty of water when taking pre-workout supplements.
Cost - Pre-workout supplements can be expensive, so it's important to do your research and find a product that offers good value for money.
Pre-Workout Supplements – are they worth it?
After a lot of deliberation, I've come to the conclusion that pre-workout supplements are definitely worth it. The benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks, and if you find a good product then you'll be sure to see some great results from your workouts.
Don't get swayed by claims that a shot of coffee can do the same thing. A quality pre-workout will have the perfect blend of ingredients to ensure you get the most out of your workout, and coffee just doesn't cut it.
So, if you're looking to take your workouts to the next level then I recommend giving pre-workout supplements a try. Just be sure to do your research before you swipe that card.
Here are some more answers to your questions on pre-workout supplements.
Q. Is pre-workout bad for you?
A. As long as you scrutinize the ingredients list carefully for any banned ingredients, and don't have any pre-existing medical conditions, pre-workouts are not bad for you. In fact, they can be very beneficial in increasing energy levels, stamina, and focus during your workouts.
Q. How much water should I drink pre-workout?
A. Hydration plays a key role in exercise performance. So it is important to drink plenty of water both before and after your workout. A general rule of thumb is to drink at least 8 ounces of water before your workout, and 16 ounces after your workout.
Q. Can I use other supplements with pre-workout?
A. The pre-workout formulas that I have recommended are loaded with ingredients that will help improve your performance. You dont really need to add anything to it. However, you can consider throwing in some Whey Protein pre-workout. I wouldn't bother with anything else really.
Q. How long does pre-workout stay good?
A. The shelf life of pre-workout supplements is typically around 2 years. However, it is always best to check the expiration date on the label to be sure.
Q. Can you take pre-workout supplements every day?
A. Absolutely. Just stay within the recommended dose and you should be fine. If you notice any unexpected side effects, you may want to dial it down and try altering the dose.
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Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now.
My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future.
I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics.
My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics.
Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward.
You can learn more about Fitlifefanatics on our About Page