If you’ve been in a gym at all in the last 5 years, then you know that Pre-Workout supplements are the hot products right now. There is literally a new Pre-Workout supplement released every week it seems like. Some of these products are nothing more then sugar substitutes, food coloring and caffeine powder! There are products out there that actually contain ingredients that work, but often the amount of those ingredients is below the amount required for any significant affect. That’s because ingredients that work are expensive and they taste terrible!
Anyways, I’ve done a little homework on some of these ingredients. I wanted to know which ones are proven to work and the amount required to be affective. Obviously there are tons of ingredients being used, I’ll be honest, I didn’t research every last one of them. I know, I’m lazy. Instead I focused my research on the ingredients that I’ve seen listed on many of the popular Pre-Workouts. I’ve attempted to explain what benefit they offer and how much you need to take for the ingredient to be affective. If I missed one that you feel is beneficial, by all means let us know in the comments section below or on my Facebook page. Here we go!
L-Arginine: Is an amino acid that converts to Nitric Oxide which increases blood flow to the working muscles, increasing what is known as “The Pump”. L-Arginine works, however recent studies indicate that L-Arginine may not be the most efficient ingredient for this purpose as the absorption rate has been shown to be as low as only 38% when taken orally. This is due to the fact that L-Arginine is metabolized in the stomach and small intestine. The reason this ingredient is popular is because it’s cheap and tasteless and it works “good enough”. This is probably the most used ingredient in terms of Pre-Workout supplements, especially products that provide “KILLER PUMPS!” An affective dose is 3,000 to 6,000 mg!
L-Citrulline: One of the more recent ingredients is L-Citrulline or Citrulline Malate (a mixture of L-Citrulline & Malic Acid thought to increase absorption). When ingested L-Citrulline is converted to L- Arginine which you now know is converted to Nitric Oxide. Based on this process of conversion one would think that Citrulline is a less efficient ingredient since it requires another step to become NO. In reality though, the opposite is true. Citrulline is metabolized in the Liver which allows greater amounts of Nitric Oxide to be produced and absorbed thus more NO is available to the working muscles. In short L-Citrulline is a better ingredient then L-Arginine if your goal is to get pumped. An affective dosage is 6,000 mg to 15,000 mg!
Beta Alanine: The benefits of this ingredient are improved workouts, increased endurance and increased muscle mass. This is because Beta Alanine increases Carnosine syntheses by up to 80%. Carnosine reduces acid build up during workouts, which leads to the user’s ability to train at a greater intensity, applying more stress to the muscles worked leading to greater gains. This ingredient is great for anyone looking to build lean mass, burn fat or individuals training for and competing in endurance sports. Adequate dosage for Beta Alanine is 2-3 servings of 2-3 grams per day, for a total of 6 grams each day. If you have never tried this ingredient or a product containing a high amount of it, start with less. Some people find the tingling sensation caused by Beta Alanine to be uncomfortable.
Creatine: Creatine Monohydrate is an ingredient that has stood the tests of time. It works, there’s not doubt. Typically this ingredient is taken post workout to aid in recovery and replenish your creatine phosphate stores. So what about taking a product that contains Creatine before your workout? There is some debate on this, but it seems that the only real benefit to taking creatine before your workout is to prevent your cells from being depleted. The Creatine you’ll use during your workout is going to come from what is already in your cells, not the Pre-Workout you just took. So the benefit, if any, is that you’re getting a jump start on restoring Creatine used during your workout. Most Pre-Workouts don’t contain an adequate serving of Creatine anyways. The recommended effective dosage for Creatine is about 5 grams a day, ideally after your workout. All of this being said, I don’t feel that it’s a waste to take a Pre-Workout that has Creatine listed in it’s ingredients, just don’t count on that product as your main source of Creatine. Make sure you’re taking it as a stand alone product after your workout or before bed.
Niacin (B3): Aside from causing a sensation known as the “Niacin Flush”, this ingredient has not shown any benefit to increased performance during physical activity. In fact several studies indicate that excessive supplementation (over 50 mg/day) of this ingredient will actually decrease aerobic endurance and athletic performance. There are some benefits of this ingredient however, such as increased HDL and lowered LDL. Niacin also plays a role in the breakdown and conversion of carbohydrates into energy. We get enough Niacin in our diet to take care of these essential roles so increased intake from a supplement isn’t necasary. In my opinion there is not enough research to support Niacin as performance enhancing ingredient. If your Pre-Workout has more then 50mg of Niacin (or B3) per serving I would suggest a different product. You would be better off taking a B-Complex with a cup of coffee.
In an effort to keep this post readable (it’s getting quite lengthy), I’m going to stop here for now. A few closing statements. First and foremost, don’t take any of these supplements if you’re taking any medication or have a medical condition. In fact even if you’re a young, healthy individual you should still consult your physician before implementing any supplement. At the very least do some research.
Which leads me to my last point. This is not a complete analysis of the scientific data available for each ingredient. Doing that would take a lot of time, as there is a ton of info out there to sift through. This article is meant to provide some basic information as to the common ingredients in many of the Pre-workouts on the market. If you feel like I’ve missed something or I’m dead wrong about one of the ingredients above, by all means educate me. I have no problem learning or admitting if I’m wrong. Just don’t be a jerk about it. In part 2 of this article I plan on breaking down several other ingredients that are commonly used. Let me know if there are any in particular you’d like my take on. Any comments or questions below or on my facebook page are always welcome. Thanks for reading!