What is pre-workout?
Pre-workout’ refers to sports supplements that are designed to provide your body with everything you need to fuel your ambition prior to a monstrous workout. More specifically, they provide your body what it needs to go the extra mile and perform at your best. Pre-workouts come in a variety of forms, be it an individual supplement geared to give you more energy or a blend that combines several different supplements in one.
The most commonly found ingredients on the label of a pre-workout blend often include the following:
Branch Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs, means amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. These include three of the nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs help your body to metabolize protein and support muscle retention along with recovery.
Beta-Alanine helps you to work harder for longer by increasing your endurance and allowing you to perform at a higher level of intensity.
Caffeine is nothing new to you, probably, however, this isn’t quite the same as a nice cup of tea or milky coffee. This provides a serious mental and physical boost that increases your focus and concentration as much as your energy levels.
Creatine provides you with energy reserves when you need it. It is often thought of as a supplement for building muscle. This is true to an extent, but it is actually the energy creatine provides to do extra reps and the water drawn into muscles by creatine that results in a bigger pump and a better workout.
How do pre-workout supplements work?
Pre-workout supplements are combined and utilized to give your sporting performance a legal, safe boost. Essentially they are stimulants, geared to release adrenaline along with inhibiting adenosine receptors.
Pre-workout supplements containing the likes of creatine provide you with an extra boost by increasing your production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main source of energy in most processes within your cells. Naturally, this results in improved endurance and the ability to handle higher intensity exercise.
Other pre-workout supplements assist your circulation via vasodilation, which is the dilatation of your blood vessels, which decreases your blood pressure. In turn, this achieves a more efficient delivery of nutrients to your tiring muscles, along with greater muscle pumps.
Types of pre-workout supplements?
All-in-One Pre- Workout Supplements
These are the aforementioned blends that combine as many energy and alertness- giving supplements as possible. These include commercially available products such as energy and pre-workout blends. These are a good way to go if you’re looking for everything you’ll ever need in one mixable drink.
The drawback relates mostly to people who know which supplements they want to use and when. For example, if you’re avoiding caffeine, or are supplementing BCAAs separately, this more affordable option may not be ideal. Whereas, if you are looking for somewhere to begin, and don’t already prescribe a supplement routine, this is a good place to start.
Stimulant Free Pre- Workouts
It is quite common to find bodybuilders and HIIT athletes who want the pump and the gains but not the stimulants – not even caffeine – then stimulant free pre-workout supplements are available to get you the pump without the jitters.
Thermogenic Pre Workout Fat Burners
Thermogenic pre-workout supplements are designed to help weight management. In other words, they cut fat. They do so by combining individual supplements that help to increase the number of calories your body burns during exercise.
Pre-workouts and steady cardio
Many pre-workout supplements are designed to help you to meet the heights of a high-intensity interval workout and are therefore not as essential for moderate cardio workouts as they are for HIIT cardio exercise (more on that in a moment).
However, while they are best tailored to harder, more intense bursts of physical exertion, they can provide you with many other benefits that certainly translate to more steady cardio. For example, endurance, alertness and energy reserves. Then again, fat- burning may be your primary reason for steady cardio, in which case you may utilise a pre-workout blend designed to do that.
While supplements such as creatine and caffeine are best suited to intense bursts of energy, the fact that they improve endurance as well as muscle contractions suggests they may also be utilized for steady cardio.
Pre-workouts and HIIT cardio
High-intensity interval training is exactly what pre-workout supplements are designed for, providing you with the energy and stimulants to meet the demands of start-stop bursts of explosive strength.
The consumption of caffeine, creatine and amino acids has been proven to improve maximum oxygen consumption, running speed, strength and lean body mass when combined with HIIT training.
Take home message
Pre-workout supplements are designed to improve your athletic performance and the outcome of that performance. This may be as a result of stimulants, the release of adrenaline and production of ATP, or your body’s capacity to burn calories. There is no one size fits all, though there are all-in-one options that combine several supplements in one.
While pre-workout supplements are often marketed towards weight lifters and bodybuilders looking for an extra pump, more reps and heavier lifts, they are also highly effective when combined with high-intensity interval workouts, while also helping with mental alertness and endurance during steadier cardio exercise.
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
Alice Pearson is a UKVRN Registered Associate Nutritionist and UK Anti‐Doping accredited advisor, having obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and a Master’s of Science in Sport Nutrition. She has a specialist interest in the use of sports supplements for improving health, fitness, and sport performance. Alice has experience working with both amateur and elite athletes, including providing nutritional support to Tranmere Rovers FC and Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club. Her nutritional guidance is always supported by evidence‐based research, which she keeps up to date through continuing professional development and independent learning. In her spare time, Alice loves travelling, hitting the gym, and getting stuck into a good book. Find out more about Alice's story here.