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Pre Workout

Author:Britt Maughan R.D.
983   796 

Pre-workout image

Pre-workout or pre-exercise is the period leading up to your workout or race. Preparing well during this time is crucial to a successful training session or race. During this period, it's important to ensure you're well hydrated, have strong mental acuity, top off your energy stores, prepare to buffer your lactic acid, and overall, be prepared to perform physically and mentally.

Benefits of pre-workout supplements 

  • Prepare the body to handle to physical demands of your workout or race
  • Prepare you mentally to handle the demands of your workout or race
  • Increase time to exhaustion
  • Help reduce your recovery time
  • Enhances Fat utilization (example: Vespa, Motivator)

The products we carry to address your pre-workout needs have all been extensively tested by us and we've found them to be of great help in preparing for the intensity that lies ahead. What each athlete decides to take before exercising will vary based on individuality, training level, and the type of workout that awaits them. That said, all athletes need to make sure they consider the following before their workout:

Are you properly hydrated?
A good rule of thumb is to drink a 16 -24 oz bottle of water and electrolytes within 1 hr of your workout. (for example, a Nuun tablet added to water)

Are your energy stores topped off?

You don’t want to start exercising on a full stomach, but topping off your glycogen stores before exercise is a good idea. In general, having a meal 3 hours before exercising is ideal. In addition, athletes often take some calories 15 min to 1 hour before exercising in liquid or gel form. For example, you can take a gel 15 minutes before.

Pre-workout supplements

Supplements in this category can be broken down into three categories: products that increase mental acuity & boost energy, products that enhance your endurance, and products that buffer lactic acid. Many pre-workout supplements will have multiple ingredients to address one or all of these areas. Below you’ll find common ingredients used to achieve each goal prior to training and some examples of products we carry to achieve the said goal or outcome. 

Increase mental acuity and boost your energy
Caffeine:
This is the most widely used energy booster. Caffeine is a psychomotor stimulant used in a variety of products - from gels to drinks, and increases the activity of your central nervous system. Many of our products contain natural forms of caffeine from plants (such as green tea leaf extract). 

Creatine: Helps to increase exercise capacity, increase muscle power output, reduce fatigue and increase mental alertness. Creatine helps provide a rapidly available source of ATP to increase overall energy. An example of a product that delivers a solid source and an effective dose of creatine is Proven Nutrition’s CREA-HCL and Klean Creatine. This product can be taken daily, and can help both the strength and endurance athlete. 

ATP: Adenosine Triphosphate (aka “energy currency”) provides energy needed by your body. During intense exercise, ATP stores are depleted and replenishing ATP can give you an immediate boost of energy which is very helpful during interval training, during a hard section of a race, or when you’re ready to simply kill the competition. Some great products that deliver ATP are Hammer Nutrition’s Energy Surge and Fully Charged, Klean Athlete’s BCAA + PEAK ATP and Mdrive’s ATP Energy Booster. These can all be taken before workouts and throughout long workouts to continue delivering energy when needed. 

Taurine: An amino acid that helps in regulating the heartbeat and muscle transmitters – as well as the level of neurotransmitters to the brain. Taurine is also helps to increase concentration and mental alertness. Lastly – it is known to help increase Vo2 max and time to exhaustion. Products that feature Taurine include Hammer Nutrition’s Fully Charged and MOTIVATOR caps.  

Green Tea Leaf Extract
: This provides a natural boost of caffeine and helps increase energy and mental alertness. Examples of products that use this natural caffeine source include MOTIVATOR and Nuun Energy. 

Alpha Lipoic Acid: This is an antioxidant that scavenges both water and fat-soluble free radicals. This helps your mitochondria work more efficiently and helps improve overall energy production. Examples of these supplements include Klean Focus and Hammer Nutrition’s Mito Caps. 

Alpha-GPC: Also knowns as Alpha-glycerophosphocholine is a cholinergic compound (which means it is involved with acetylcholine and neurotransmitters) that helps enhance power output in athletes and has cognitive-promoting properties. Klean Focus uses this alongside lutein and a phytonutrient blend. 

Lutein: While lutein has mostly been associated with eye health, it has now shown to help improve cognition. As mentioned above, Klean Focus features this ingredient. 

Enhance your endurance
Beta-alanine: This amino acids helps to reduce exhaustion and muscle fatigue, and increases overall muscle endurance. It has been shown to be most effective for short and high intensity exercises. Products a focus on Beta-alanine include Proven Nutrition’s BETA, Beta Red Pre-Workout Performance Formula, and Hammer Nutrition’s Fully Charged. 

CitrullineCitrulline is a non-essential amino acid that helps increase blood flow, decreases training fatigue, and improves muscle recovery. Products that are great for this include Proven Nutrition’s CITRULLINE and CORE, and SFH PUSH Pre-workout. 

BCAAsBranched Chain Amino Acids help with muscle building, maintenance and recovery. Taken pre-workout, BCAAs can help decrease muscle fatigue during workouts and helps speed up the recovery process. Products that feature an effective dose of BCAA’s include Hammer Nutrition’s Endurance Amino, Klean BCAA + PEAK ATP, SFH PUSH Pre-workout, and GU Roctane BCAA.

L-glutamine: This amino acid is used before and after intense workouts to help avoid muscle fatigue and allows the athlete to work out for longer periods of time. It also helps increase the rate of recovery. Examples of products that feature L-glutamine include AMINOPURE Sport L-glutamine Powder and Proven Nutrition’s CORE. These can both be taken pre-workout and as a daily supplement. 

Aspartic Acid: Helps to increase stamina and increase endurance. It also helps remove excess ammonia that builds up due to protein metabolism during prolonged exercise. A product that focuses on this is Hammer Nutrition’s Anti-Fatigue Caps.

Astaxanthin: This has superior antioxidant capabilities and acts as an anti-inflammatory aid. This can help increase your endurance and allow for extended training time, helps with faster muscle recovery, helps support joints and improves flexibility and mobility, and boosts immune system function. Examples of a product featuring astaxanthin is AstaFactor Sports Formula. 

OKG: This refers to ornithine and alpha-ketoglutarate which provides non ammonia producing sources of glutamine in the body. OKG increases the amount of glutamine in the muscle which helps prevent muscle catabolisum and acts as an ''ammonia scavenger''. This helps to reduce fatigue. Hammer Nutrition's Anti-Fatigue Caps feature this ingredient.

Help buffer lactic acid
Beta-alanine: In addition to aiding in muscle endurance, beta-alanine also helps reduce (buffer) lactic acid burn. Since beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine – and carnosine helps reduce oxidative damage to proteins to improve recovery. Examples of products that include beta-alanine include VO2 Max Endurance,  BETA, and Beta Red, and VO2 Max Endurance.

L-Carnosine: An amino acid that is the main buffer on muscle acid. It helps to enhance endurance and delay fatigue. Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to increase the concentration of carnosine, and therefore increase your body's ability to buffer lactic acid. That being said, products that carry beta-alanine will increase carnosine. This includes the products listed above in the beta-alanine category. 

Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D – These three primary ingredients are simple yet powerful. When lactate compounds of these vitamins and minerals are used, your blood lactate level is raised and tells the muscles not to make so much lactic acid. This helps decrease the muscle burn. SportLegs offers a unique blend of these three nutrients to help deliver these results. 

Sodium Phosphate: With athletes, using sodium phosphate helps increase endurance and increases oxygen uptake. It also helps buffer lactic acid. An example of this supplement is Hammer Nutrition’s Race Day Boost. 

Bottom Line:

Pre-workout supplements come in all forms – from caps to powders to tablets. Each focuses on delivering one or all of the following: increased energy, mental acuity, enhanced endurance, and aiding in buffering lactic acid. It’s important to try out a few different products to see what feels best and performs best for you. With hydration and food on point, every athlete can benefit from a pre-workout supplement to improve overall performance for strength, speed, and endurance goals. For examples of pre-workout strategies specific to sport, check out our athlete’s nutrition plans where they describe their strategies for pre-workout, during workout, and recovery. 

*Additional Info:
Note that many of the pre-work products will also be found in our 'During Workout' category as you often need to pre-load with a given supplement and then keep taking it during your workout or racing especially if the event is of long duration like an Ironman or an Adventure Race.

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