The Top 6 Most Common Pre Workout Ingredients

Many people will try all sorts of things to reach their fitness and weight loss goals faster. For years, protein shakes were the go-to pre-workout solution. But now, people are increasingly turning to pre-workout supplements, which can enhance workouts by boosting energy and metabolism, while improving muscle growth. You can take them as a tablet or put them in a drink about a half hour before a workout.

Despite the demand for pre-workout supplements, there is a lack of research on them, not to mention all the product variations. Plus, there are uncertainties about what these products contain so it’s hard to know how effective they are.

Here are some of the most common pre-workout ingredients, along with evidence that shows if they work or not.

6. Caffeine

Caffeine can be added to pre-workout supplements, acting as a stimulant to boost alertness and reduce fatigue. Evidence shows that consuming caffeine a half hour to an hour before exercise can boost endurance performance (i.e., running or cycling) by up to 20 percent during an exercise regimen that lasts one to two hours. Caffeine also makes your workouts more enjoyable and tolerable.

The big drawback of caffeine is that higher doses (between five and 13 mgs of caffeine per kilogram of body weight) can produce side effects. These side effects include an upset stomach, poor sleep quality and confusion. For example, one espresso shot has only 75mg of caffeine. But smaller doses can still have effectiveness with little side effect. Most pre-workout supplements have 85mg to 300mg of caffeine.

You may think it would just be easier to sip some coffee before exercising, but caffeine content can vary a lot, depending on how you’re getting it. You may get too much or too little. A set dose through a supplement would give you the perfect amount.

5. Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine, an amino acid the body can naturally produce, works in tandem with other chemicals to create a substance known as carnosine. This is stored in the muscles and helps you maintain stable pH levels, which helps to fatigue when engaging in high-intensity exercise.

This is why beta-alanine is included in several pre-workout supplements. But even though some evidence out there says that taking beta-alanine supplements works, you would need to consume at least 3.6 grams every day for six weeks to see any effects. Most pre-workout supplements only have between 350mg to 3,200mg. Evidence does not show that taking small amounts prior to a workout has any impact, aside from the tingling feeling some people experience.

4. Branched-chain amino acids

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are also a common ingredient in pre-workout supplements. You get them naturally from foods like meat, dairy, and legumes. They’re often included in pre-workout supplements to reduce fatigue and promote muscle growth.

Most pre-workouts have between 400mg and 1500mg of BCAAs. But there’s no evidence that shows these small amounts are effective in enhancing muscle growth or combating fatigue. In fact, you would have to take BCAAs at much higher doses (5,000mg) after exercise in order to see any real benefits like muscle repair and growth.

3. Creatine

Creatine monohydrate, a chemical found naturally in the body, can also be ingested from foods like seafood and red meat. Many pre-workout products have creatine because it is good for building muscle size and strength.

While there is research showing that creatine is beneficial when looking to improve performance — such as how many sprints you can do, muscle strength, and rate of quick recovery after a workout — you would have to take at least 3g to 5g daily in order to see results.

Taking 20g of creatine initially for five days, then a maintenance dose of 3g to 5g a day is said to improve athletic performance. But if you take small doses before exercising, this hasn’t been shown to bring benefits. Pre-exercise supplements have between 1.5g and 5g of creatine per serving, meaning if you consume a lot initially, you could see some effectiveness.

2. Green tea

Green tea extract is contained in multiple pre-workout supplements in an effort to reduce body fat. They usually contain 100mg to 250mg. There is not much evidence that green tea can be effective at low doses, though. Results are muddled when considering high doses (300mg to 600mg) consumed over a long period.

1. B vitamins

You get B vitamins naturally in foods like chicken, fish, and dairy. Many pre-workout supplements have B vitamins added, as they help create energy and thus enhance workout performance.

But unless you are deficient in B vitamins, there is really no benefit of taking extra in small doses. That being said, exercise could increase the need for you to take certain B vitamins, such as B2 and B6.

Most of the ingredients in pre-workout supplements have been shown to be safe at low doses. But consuming them later in the day isn’t the best idea because they could interfere with sleep quality due to the caffeine.

The biggest concern is that some of the ingredients included in supplements have not been fully tested or studied like other ingredients have. They could even cause serious problems, like liver damage. Always speak with a registered dietician or nutritionist before you take a supplement.

Even though pre-workout supplements are the fastest-growing sports supplements on the market apart from caffeine, they don’t contain a lot of ingredients that have been shown to be effective when it comes to improving athletic performance in small doses prior to a workout.


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