Pre-workout supplements contain ingredients that help to support your workout. Your daily dietary intake is normally enough to satisfy your body’s nutritional needs during physical activity, but in some situations, your body may not be able to synthesize individual compounds fast enough. This can lead to fatigue, loss of mental focus and a slow recovery.
What Are Pre-Workout Supplements Used For?
Individual pre-workout supplement needs will vary depending on the areas of the body you are working, as well as the intensity and duration of activity. Pre-workout supplements are available in many forms but are commonly packaged as protein powder, creatine powder, and creatine pills. These are formulated with ingredients that are believed to support:
- Muscle endurance
- Energy levels
- Focus and mental clarity
There are other types of pre-workout supplements as well. These use herbs and other extracts that may also support healthy joints, normal blood flow through a circulatory system, a healthy urinary tract, a healthy digestive system, and temporary relief from occasional pain. Some protein and creatine products do contain these ingredients, but they may not advertise them as core benefits.
What Nutrients Will Support My Fitness Goals?
Before taking a pre-workout supplement, you need to know what effect the ingredients will have on your body. Your specific requirements will depend on your body type, and whether you are focusing on cardio or strength training.
Additionally, your diet may have a significant impact on both the type of supplement and quantity that you ingest. For specifics on your precise dietary needs, a doctor and dietician will be able to explain where you may be nutrient deficient, as well as foods or supplements that will help to balance your diet.
The following compounds are commonly advertised on packaging, with some research suggesting that they may provide optimal benefit before, during and after workouts.
- Creatine – Creatine is produced in small amounts inside the body and stored inside muscles. During physical activity, the body draws from these stores. Research suggests that when taken in supplement form, stores increase and may result in the optimal production of cellular energy that provide fuel for tissue, including muscles. Creatine may also support the body’s ability to adapt to different types of exercises, including more ideal recovery times.
- Essential Fatty Acids – EFAs are essential to the synthesis and transportation of vitamins and minerals throughout the body, and are believed to support healthy weight management.
- Beta-Hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid (HMB) – This compound may support healthy muscle metabolism and development during strength training.
- Phytonutrients – These include plant-based extracts and bioflavonoids from fruit that support a healthy immune system with free-radical scavenging antioxidants, which may support oxidative stress that results from exercise.
- Digestive Enzymes – These may include alpha amylase, bromelain, cellulase, lipase, papain, protease, and many other enzymes that support gut bacteria or introduce new, living bacteria into the digestive system.
- Theanine – This amino acid is found in green tea leaves, and some research suggests that it may support cognition during recovery, and a healthy hormonal response during physical activity.
- Beta-Alineine – Another amino acid, this compound supports the biosynthesis of proteins. Alineine is also being studied for its effect on workout performance during short bursts of intense physical activity, known as anaerobic exercise.
- Citrulline Malate – This amino acid may be ideal for anaerobic exercise, but research suggests that it may provide temporary relief from occasional muscle soreness during and after workouts.
- Betaine – This chemical compound is found in spinach, beets, and whole grains, and may support muscular endurance, promote muscle development, and promote the definition of muscles.
- Ornithine – The amino acid ornithine is an essential component of the urea cycle, which helps to pass nitrogen from the body. Ornithine is also believed to help the body use energy more efficiently during extended workouts.
Some post-workout supplements contain the same ingredients as pre-workout supplements, including those listed above. For simplicity, you can choose one supplement to cover both of your pre- and post-workout needs, then add in a multivitamin and an herbal supplement to fill out your dietary intake.
What About Carbohydrates, Fat and Protein?
A balanced diet is ideal for maintaining wellness during the day and during healthy aging. In many cases, the foods we eat during the day provide enough nutritional content to meet most of our dietary needs. This is especially true of carbohydrates, fat and protein.
Carbohydrates and fats are a primary fuel source in the body, though they have been found to be less useful during exercise that lasts less than 2 hours.
Likewise, protein is most effective during prolonged resistance and endurance exercises that rely heavily on muscle activity. For exercise regimens with a focus on cardio, or low-intensity training, consuming meats, eggs, fish, or other sources of protein with regular meals may satisfy the body’s immediate needs during exercise and recovery.
The Health Risks of Pre-Workout Supplements
The Food and Drug Administration regulates how supplements can be marketed and sold, but they do not directly regulate individual products or require manufacturers to divulge claims that their product is safe.
Pre-workout supplements fall under the umbrella of “Dietary Supplements,” which means the FDA understands that these products may support a healthy body but consumers may take them at their own risk. In the past, some workout supplements were linked to cases of liver damage.
This doesn’t mean they are inherently unsafe. Instead, anyone who uses a workout supplement needs to understand both the benefits of the product and the potential signs that something may be wrong. Also, purchasing products from trusted sources and with ingredients you recognize are recommended.
How to Choose The Right Pre-Workout Supplement
Pre-workout supplements provide a convenient way to supplement your daily dietary intake. When choosing a supplement, look for products that advertise some or all of the ingredients listed above. Those nutrients are included to provide immediate nutritional benefit to help support energy levels, muscle endurance, and mental clarity.
Products that contain protein, carbohydrates and fats may not provide immediate physical benefit, but they are important to recovery and long-term wellbeing.
If you are in the market for a pre-workout supplement, try one of the following and experience the difference for yourself!
Extreme Edge Pre Workout Muscle Recharging Stack Lemon, .66 Lbs, from Bluebonnet is a nitric oxide supplement that contains creatine, amino acids and more for support of healthy energy levels during your workouts.
Sport Energizer Sugar Free Lemon Lime from Vega is a dietary supplement with 10 herbs and electrolytes in a natural citrus fruit flavor that supports muscle endurance and cognition during quick runs, yoga and other low-intensity workouts.