Have you ever gone into a store to pick up some pre-workout ingredients but been left scratching your head with the sheer number of options available? Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
As the health and fitness industry continues to grow, so does the amount of pre-workout supplements on the market, with each one claiming to be the best.
With such a wide and a varying number of options available, it makes it hard to make an informed decision on which supplement to opt for.
Many of the supplements have different effects on the body, so it is crucial to consider the type of training that you are performing and the desired effect.
For example, if you are doing a short, high-intensity workout, you may require something different from someone who is doing endurance training.
Best and Common Pre-Workout Ingredients to Have
We have gone ahead and broken down each of these pre-workout ingredients for you. We have focused on what they consist of, what it does, and what effect these have on the muscles and the body.
From that point, you should be able to make a more informed choice on what pre-workout ingredient is best for you.
Beta-Alanine is one of the more popular pre-workout ingredients on our list. It is a non-essential amino-acid, which means that your body can’t naturally produce enough of it on its own without needing it in your diet.
However, it cannot naturally produce enough to give you the benefits you would feel from a pre-workout supplement.
It is not used by our bodies to be synthesized into proteins — instead, beta-alanine converts into carnosine.
It is the carnosine that gives you the benefits that you will feel during your workout by reducing the acidity levels in your muscles that are brought on by the glucose breaking down in lactic acid.
It is this lactic acid that makes you feel tired and unable to push out that final rep.
Carnosine helps to create a buffer between your muscles and the acid during high-intensity exercises, which will allow you to train harder for longer.
Clinically effective dosage range: 2 – 5 grams daily
Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found in many common beverages that we drink each day. Due to its easy accessibility and low price, caffeine is one of the more popular forms of pre-workout ingredients.
It works by stimulating parts of your brain that are associated with alertness and tiredness. It can provide a sharp boost to your energy levels, which can be beneficial to your workout.
Caffeine has been reported to improve exercise performance in several ways, such as; higher resistance to fatigue, increased mental focus, endurance improvement as well as an increased power output.
Caffeine is excellent for both short-burst high-intensity workouts as well as long-duration events, making it a great all-round pre-workout supplement.
You can take caffeine in many forms, but it is recommended to use a tablet form for your pre-workout as it is easier to measure the dose.
Clinically effective dosage range: 3 – 9mg per kg of bodyweight.
Creatine is another popular supplement that is one of the best for increasing your power and strength.
Having been around in the fitness and bodybuilding industry for quite some time, creatine monohydrate has been a favorite for those looking to boost their strength gains from weight training programs.
Creatine works by increasing the level of ATP production in your body, which is an essential factor in energy production within the muscles.
Creatine gives users more energy to lift heavier weights, reduces their fatigue so they can train for longer, and increases their maximum strength output.
Because of these factors, creatine best for people looking to add a boost to their strength and power output rather than endurance activities.
Clinically effective dosage range: 20g per day (starting dose) / 3 – 5 grams per day (maintenance dose)
Citrulline is another naturally occurring amino-acid in the body, and like beta-alanine, it is not used to synthesize proteins in the body. Instead, it plays a vital role in increasing vasodilation.
Vasodilation is the widening of your arteries and veins. This is beneficial to us when we exercise as it allows the blood to reach our muscles much quicker, providing that vital source of oxygen when we need it.
It is for this reason that citrulline is better for endurance exercises or weight training with higher repetitions. The increased blood flow to the tissue will allow the muscles to work longer and delay the effects of fatigue.
It is also reported to reduce muscle soreness in the days after exercise, reducing the time needed for recovery.
There are two types of citrulline. These are L-citrulline and citrulline malate. L-citrulline is best for endurance exercise while citrulline malate is better for weight training
Clinically effective dosage range for L-citrulline: 6g
Clinically effective dosage range for citrulline malate: 8g
Branched-chain amino acids, better known as BCAAs, are essential amino acids that our body cannot produce naturally by itself. We source these essential amino acids mainly from our diet in animal products.
The BCAAs consist of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are often cited as being the building blocks for our protein, so our body must have enough BCAA stores before our workout; otherwise, we can burn out prematurely.
The studies that have been carried out on BCAAs have given mixed results. Some studies have found them to increase endurance performance but only in lower performers. According to one study, the positive effects seem to drop off in elite athletes.
However, BCAAs have been reported to reduce mental and physical fatigue as well as muscle soreness following intense exercise. They will not help with muscle growth or strength improvement, but they provide some benefit to our workout.
Clinically effective dosage range: 5 – 20g
A naturally occurring vitamin in the body, Vitamin B-12 is a popular sports supplement and for a good reason. It’s vital for energy production, blood flow and can also stimulate protein synthesis, all of which are beneficial to our workout.
Vitamin B-12 plays an essential role in several functions within our body and is heavily linked to our energy levels. One of the first signs of a deficiency is a weakness in the muscles and cognitive issues.
As for pre-workout, vitamin B-12 ticks a lot of boxes. It increases the body’s energy levels and is said to reduce muscle fatigue, meaning that we can work out at higher intensities for longer.
Vitamin B-12 increases the production of red blood cells within the body, which is what helps us with our muscle endurance by keeping our muscles oxygenated.
Because of this, it is more suited towards people who are looking to improve their endurance training rather than high-intensity weight lifting. However, there are still some benefits to be found there too.
Clinically effective dosage range: 500mcg per serving
Buying Preworkout With These Ingredients In Mind
When it comes to buying pre-workout, it is important to consider what your goals are and what benefits you will look to achieve with your supplement.
As we have shown in this article, each of these pre-workout ingredients has its benefits and can target a specific workout.
Some are better for high-intensity workouts, such as lifting heavy weights and sprinting, whilst others are better for longer workouts and more endurance-based training.
If you buy ready-made pre-workout, please keep in mind what each of the ingredients does to your body. Some supplement companies provide an all in one solution that can be great for all-round training but not for specific workouts.
Combining Your Own Ingredients
The best way to take control over what you are consuming is to combine your own ingredients. This way, you can tailor your supplements to fit your exact style of training.
This may seem daunting at first, but if you follow this article and stick to the recommended dosage, then you will be much better off than taking an all in one solution from a supplement company.
Experiment and try what works best for you. Record your results and test which combination has the best effect on your particular type of training.
Remember, each person is different. What works for someone else may not work for you, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and try something new. Keep in mind what each ingredient does for your body and what your training type is for the best results.
Adding a pre-workout to your training routine can be a great way to see some quick improvements and give your sessions that extra edge that you have been looking for.
There is a wide variety of pre-workout ingredients out there and many supplement companies that are offering an all in one solution, which can be fine for the average gym-goer.
To see the best results, it is advised to combine your ingredients using the information in this article as a guideline. Make sure to have a clear idea of what benefits you are looking for from your pre-workout and then choose your ingredients carefully.
If you are looking to add some explosive power and increase your strength, then a combination of creatine, caffeine, and beta-alanine may be your best bet.
If you are looking to improve your endurance, then look toward a combination of L-citrulline, vitamin B-12, and BCAAs.
Be sure to mix and match to find the combination that works best for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment.