How to Take Pre-Workout Supplements for Optimum Results
Pre-workout supplements, one of the major subcategories of sports nutrition products, has been repeatedly proven beneficial to bodybuilding. Well, at least the right products have been.
Besides finding the best-formulated pre-workout supplement, there are other factors that determine how much you will benefit from taking it. Having the right components in correct dosages is one thing, taking the ideal amount in the precise time is another matter.
Err in your measurement or mess up your timing and you might waste some of the product’s potency. Abuse or overuse it and you could imperil yourself with serious adverse effects.
What are the Most Suitable Components for Pre-Workout Supplements and their Effects?
- L-Citrulline - This amino acid does not only intensify the production of nitric oxide (NO), it also helps dilate the blood vessels to pave the way for NO and other protein-building amino acids to quickly reach your skeletal muscles, thus promoting the growth of lean muscle mass.
Citrulline Malate likewise facilitates the removal of cellular wastes such as ammonia and nitrogenous toxins from your system. Moreover, it is essential for healthy blood circulation and for the wellbeing of your heart, stomach, lungs and other vital organs.
- Creatine – Just like citrulline, this nitrogenous acid provides energy fuel to muscle cells. What it does is assist in the recycling of adenosine diphosphate (ADP), the organic metabolic compound responsible for the delivery of energy in living cells mainly in the brain and muscle tissues. Creatine is found to have a cumulative constructive effect in the growth of lean muscle mass.
- Beta-alanine – By combining with another amino acid called histidine, it forms a dipeptide (combination of 2 amino acids) called carnosine, which saturates muscular fiber cells resulting to reduction and deceleration of fatigue and improvement of athletic performance. The added ability to train or play longer and harder can be translated to bigger and stronger muscles, lesser body fat, and increased stamina.
- Caffeine Anhydrous – Simply means “no water (dehydrated) caffeine”, and therefore a more concentrated central nervous system stimulant. In proper amount, it helps to improve your concentration and mood, reduce fatigue and elevate your athletic energy.
Coffee beans extract also contains antioxidants that aid in decelerating or averting cell damage, thus contributing to reducing the risks of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
What are the main types of pre-workout supplement formulas in the market?
Before learning how to take them, you must first know what to get according to your specific fitness program. There are at least 3 clear-cut categories of pre-workout supplement you can choose from:
1. All in One Pre-Workout Supplement
These products try to cover every possible aspect of every person’s body-sculpting and athletic objectives. Most formulations contain a cocktail of amino acids and other substances that cause fat catabolism, muscle construction, and energy, focus and fervor stimulation.
Their most common components are protein synthesizers such as BCAA or creatine, vasodilators such as L-citrulline and stimulants, usually ephedrine or a high dose of caffeine. These products are relatively strong and extreme caution is advised to users, particularly to those who are considered newbies to mainstream sports nutrition.
Some of the top-rated products in this category according to consumers and critics’ reviews are SHEER N.O. Nitric Oxide Supplement, Cellucor C4 Ripped, Gold Standard Pre-Workout and Jacked Factory NITROSURGE Nitric Acid Booster and Pre-workout Energy Powder.
2. Stimulant-Free Pre-Workout Supplements
Also called “stim-free” or “caffeine-free”, these products are almost the same as the first category discussed category, sans the usual stimulants. Substitute ingredients that cause caffeine-like effects are instead added to the blend such as beta-alanine and green tea extract.
If you are not one to give up enjoying daily cups of espresso or brewed coffee, yet wants to adjunct your fitness regimen with PWS without the risk of caffeine overload, then stim-free is the way to go. Or perhaps, you are standing on the other end of the spectrum and shunning all kinds of psycho-stimulants, this should likewise be your supplement of choice.
For this category, some of the bestselling and well-received products include Transparent Lab STIM-FREE Pre-Workout Supplement, GAT PMP (Peak Muscle Performance), BPI Sports Pump HD Pre-training Power and Energy Fuel Powder, Evogen EVP Grape, and 360 NITRODRIVE Caffeine-Free Stimulant.
3. Thermogenic Fat-Burner Pre-Workout Supplement
These products are specifically, or at least, primarily formulated to cause thermogenesis or the process of increasing your body’s core temperature to accelerate fat burning.
One thing to be wary of thermogenic fat-burners are most of them are loaded with stimulants. Some ingredients are relatively safe and effective such as green tea extract, caffeine anhydrous, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), while others are deemed potentially dangerous and controversial such as guarana, bitter orange extract, Garcinia cambogia fruit, and ephedrine.
Some of the top-rated products in Amazon.com for this product category are Universal Nutrition Animal Cuts Ripped and Peeled Thermogenic Fat Burner Supplement, Genius Burn – Nootropic Caffeine-Free Thermogenic Weight Loss Supplement, BPI Sports B4 The Once-Daily Fat Burner and Cellucor SUPERHD.
What Type of Pre-Workout Supplement to Buy Then?
It depends on your own fitness goal and effect preference. Personally, I prefer stim-free, but if you are looking for sudden energy bursts and have no problem with extra caffeine, then, by all means, go for All-In-One types.
Actually, there are also some products that fall in a different subcategory known as “Pump Based”. It is mainly focused on giving your muscle pumps a tremendous boost, and they are available in both All-In-One and Stim-Free types.
How to Take Pre-Workout Supplements?
As the name implies, it is obviously taken before training, but when exactly, how much, and in what manner? Those are the questions we will answer.
First off, most if not all pre-workout supplements in the market are recommended to be taken 30-minutes before you start training, give or take 10 minutes. This will give the formula ample time to inhabit your muscular cells and for the amino acids and micronized protein molecules to reach the anabolic stage, otherwise known as constructive metabolism.
While you can start pumping iron as soon as you took the supplement, you may be missing the benefits of vasodilation and having a copious amount of nitric oxide in the first half-hour of your workout. Not to mention the initial sudden burst of energy.
On the other hand, if you took it too early, you might lose some of the window time when the whole formula is in full effect inside you body.
Unless your pre-workout supplement formula is in capsule form, you need to dissolve it (the powder) in water. It is best to stick with the product label’s instruction in making the solution (water to powder ratio).
Although one of the advantages of having it in powder form is that you can make a few small adjustments to suit your taste preference or curtail any minor side effects you get from taking it.
There are some dudes on the Internet who are saying to dissolve the powder in an as little amount of water possible. There were even some guys who were advising that it is better to snort it as if you are a cokehead.
I don’t think it’s true. I believe that the manufacturer has formulated their powder to work well with the chemical composition of water or H2O. In fact, I believe that a little more water won’t do any harm.
For the same reason, I dissuade you to mix the powder with Gatorade or any other processed beverages, especially so-called energy drinks. Unless you can figure out the resulting chemical reactions when you combine the two formulations, it’s not worth the risk. If you want to enhance the flavor, stick with natural additives such as freshly squeezed fruit juice, honey, or pure maple syrup.
Other Helpful Tips:
- Take your pre-workout supplement on an almost empty stomach. The undigested food in your recent meal, especially the carbs may absorb some of the substances in the solution, thereby losing some of its potency. Your last meal should be at least two hours prior to drinking your PWS.
- Drink the entire pre-workout supplement solution 30 minutes before you start training. Most of its contents kick-off after said period. If you need to rehydrate in the middle and end of your workout, stick with plain water or a water-soluble intra-workout supplement that will not interfere with your PWS such as BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acids).
- For best result, begin with your resistance training first (after a brief warm-up and muscle stretching session, of course) and do your cardio exercises last. This way, you can take full advantage of your enlarged or dilated muscle pumps from your PWS.
- Don’t let the extra PWS-induced strength, stamina, and fervor go to waste. Do extra sets of squats, presses, lifts or whatever exercises in your fitness program.
Pre-Workout Supplements or any other sports nutrition products are clinically formulated and factory produced and fall under pharmaceuticals. Treat it as such. Meaning, you have to take it as prescribed in the label.
Don’t abuse or overuse it, as there may be some dire consequences. In fact, you can immediately feel some side effects when you overdosed such as tachycardia or rapid heartbeat, insomnia, anxiety and feeling of dehydration.
Another reminder that PWS is like medicine is that after taking a certain formula continuously for a long period of time, you will notice that it is no longer working the same way as before. It only shows that your body can develop some degree of immunity from its usual effects. It’s better to have periodic breaks from supplementing or otherwise cycle it with other products with a different formulation.
The bottom line is pre-workout supplements can be beneficial for you and your body if you use them right.