What’s The Evidence Behind Pre-Workout Supps
What’s The Evidence Behind Pre-Workout Supplements
Will pre-workout actually work for you? An abundance of evidence suggests that pre-workout supplements may provide certain benefits for athletes and gym-goers. Here are some key findings from the latest research to help you choose the best pre-workout.
Common pre-workout ingredients
Pre-workout supplements are designed to enhance physical performance and improve exercise endurance. These supplements typically contain various ingredients, such as caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, and nitric oxide precursors—among others.
Caffeine is a common ingredient in many pre-workout supplements and has been shown to improve exercise performance and endurance.
According to a review of studies published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, caffeine can improve aerobic and anaerobic performance, increase muscle strength, and reduce fatigue during exercise.(1)
Creatine is a natural substance found in muscle cells, and it is often included in pre-workout supplements to enhance strength and muscle growth.
Studies have consistently shown that creatine supplementation improves strength and power, increased lean body mass, and improved exercise performance in activities such as sprinting and weightlifting. In addition, it may also provide benefits such as enhanced recovery, injury prevention, and neurological benefits. (2,3)
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is often included in pre-workout supplements to improve endurance and delay fatigue.
A review of studies on beta-alanine finds that supplementation can improve endurance performance and delay fatigue in activities such as cycling and running. (4,5)
Citrulline increases nitric oxide production, which can improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles to help improve performance and recovery.
A 2020 review of the effects of citrulline supplementation on exercise performance reports several studies have concluded that L-citrulline supplementation can enhance recovery and exercise performance. (6)
Not-so-common pre-workout ingredients
Bitter Orange is sometimes included in pre-workout supplements to increase energy and encourage thermogenesis.
One particular study result suggests that p-synephrine (bitter orange) might increase fat oxidisation in 1 h of exercise, without affecting total energy expenditure or exercise heart rate.(7)
Acetyl L Carnitine
Acetyl L Carnitine helps the body to produce energy increasing physical endurance and reducing fatigue to increase recovery time.
Many studies report that L Carnitine can be taken approximately 1 hour before exercise to reduce blood lactate levels. Heart rate, increase fatty acid oxidation, and maximum oxygen consumption.(8)
Alpha GPC has been used by athletes looking to improve performance for athletic activities that emphasise velocity and power.
A recent study showed that muscle strength was increased when using mid-thigh pull as an assessment method. The research based on low levels of 250mg shows variations in results however, based on the total available literature, a dose of 600 mg or greater has shown results.(9,10)
L-Tyrosine is included in pre-workout formulas to help increase or decrease energy and endurance that can become depleted during times of physical exertion.
In healthy individuals, TYR has often been used to reduce the adverse effects of conditions that deplete the brain’s dopaminergic resources, such as extreme physical stress. The supply of TYR was found to reduce stress-induced impairments of working memory and attentional tasks, but more so in individuals who were particularly sensitive to the stressors.(11)
Ensuring adequate electrolytes before and during exercise is a simple step that is very easily overlooked. Electrolytes can help to prevent dehydration and depletion that can occur with exercise-induced sweating. Particular electrolytes/minerals have multiple functions within your body's cells which are essential for physical activities.
Sodium intake during prolonged exercise in the heat plays a significant role in preventing sodium losses, Magnesium is important for the assistance and maintenance of normal muscle function, potassium can help with glucose metabolism, and calcium alongside exercise can help to enhance bone mineral density.(12,13,14,15,16)
The best pre-workout combinations
So, now you know the evidence behind some key pre-workout ingredients, which ones should you choose? If you are looking to create your own amino acid concoction then check out the ATP Science individual amino acids (acetyl l carnitine, l citrulline, creatine, beta-alanine) for sale here.
If you are looking for a great blend to support your maximum lift potential, complete with a performance amino acid blend and some not-so-common goodies like electrolytes and Alpha GPC then the ATP Science Max Lift is for you.
If you are looking for a thermogenic blend that has slow-release caffeine to keep you gliding through your workout then the ATP Science Slice and Dice should be your go-to.
For more options to support your specific workout routine check out this blog on targeting your pre-workout.
The take-home message
Pre-workouts can harness energy and performance which can see you hitting your goals consistently. You may even start making new ones you thought you would never aim for before!
(1) Guest NS, VanDusseldorp TA, Nelson MT, Grgic J, Schoenfeld BJ, Jenkins NDM, Arent SM, Antonio J, Stout JR, Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Goldstein ER, Kalman DS, Campbell BI. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021 Jan 2;18(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4. PMID: 33388079; PMCID: PMC7777221.
(2) Antonio J, Candow DG, Forbes SC, Gualano B, Jagim AR, Kreider RB, Rawson ES, Smith-Ryan AE, VanDusseldorp TA, Willoughby DS, Ziegenfuss TN. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021 Feb 8;18(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w. PMID: 33557850; PMCID: PMC7871530.
(3) Hall M, Manetta E, Tupper K. Creatine Supplementation: An Update. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2021 Jul 1;20(7):338-344. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000863. PMID: 34234088.
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