Pre-Workouts and What To Consider.
So, let's look at reasons that we would want to use a pre-workout in the first place.
Well, the front runner as far as reasons usually go is that we may want the PW to help get us "up" for our training session after a hard day at the office.
Another reason may be that we want a PW to assist us to obtain the maximum benefit from the time and energy that we plan to invest in our training session.
Other reasons can range from helping post workout recovery to avoiding DOMS.
Basically, we want the PW to help us create a training session that we can look back on with a fond feeling of satisfaction and comforting knowledge that we kicked ass and made some progress.
When considering and researching a pre-workout candidate, let's look at some key ingredients—and why they’re important.
Many, many ingredients are available in off the shelf pre-workouts, but the ones that we’ll talk about here are the conventional, uncontroversial (in reasonable dosages), legal (but check with your own sporting organisation, if this issue is of concern) and have a little scientific research backing up their use (and justifying their expense).
Primary purpose: Energy
Optimal dose: 200-500 mg, or 1.8-2.7 mg per kg of body weight.
Benefits: The good old standby, the most used drug on earth has repeatedly been shown to be an effective ergogenic aid (performance booster) in both endurance exercise and short bouts of maximal exercise (e.g., sprints). Although there haven't been many studies showing increases in one-repetition max, caffeine has been shown to increase workloads by decreasing the rate of fatigue and lowering the perception of effort—even in sleep-deprived situations. This is accomplished through action that caffeine molecules have on adenosine receptors, blocking the effect that adenosine has on promoting fatigue.
Based on your genetics, you will either be a fast or slow metaboliser of caffeine. The slower that you metabolise caffeine, the longer it stays around in your system. Slower metabolisers need to be cautious when taking caffeine later in the day, as it will interfere with sleep.
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Primary purpose: Supporting an anabolic environment.
Optimal dose: 5 g in pre-workout, up to 20 g total throughout the day can be used.
Benefits: BCAAs— leucine, isoleucine, and valine—are important when it comes to regulating protein metabolism, increasing protein synthesis, and suppressing protein breakdown. For a decent ratio of leucine/isoleucine/valine, you are probably looking for values of 3:1:1, respectively.
Leucine is the key ingredient here because it has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis most effectlvely, the role the other 2 amino acids seem to be supportive and less vital. Therefore, leucine should be the amino acid with the highest quantity in your blend. A dose of at least 3 g of leucine, along with the other two BCAAs, in a serving of your PW is a good general rule of thumb.
A further useful ingredient is arguably HMB (Hydroxy Methyl Butyrate), a metabolite of Leucine. Research indicates that HMB has an anti-catabolic effect, reducing the damaging effects of the catabolic hormone cortisol. HMB seems to roll in and out of fashion, but we think it important enough to mention as a good ingredient to look for in a PW.
Primary purpose: Increased muscular endurance.
Optimal dose: 1.5-5 g.
Benefits: This is another ingredient that can help improve your overall training volume, it works by buffering hydrogen ions (H+), giving you the ability to maintain intensity for longer periods of time. In other words: more high intensity volume; more gains.
If you take a large enough dose, you will most likely experience an electrical, tingling sensation. This effect is called "paresthesia," at first it may be a little uncomfortable, but it is not life threatening, in fact you may grow to like this strange effect. Anyway, you didn't drive all the way to the gym to be comfortable today, did you?
Beta-alanine is excellent for pumping out extra reps and squeezing the most out of your workout.
- Creatine Monohydrate
Primary purpose: Explosive strength, Myostatin Suppression, Mental Focus
Optimal dose: 5 g in pre-workout, up to 20 g per day
Benefits: Creatine has many benefits to offer: it supplies energy, helps build muscle and aids in the recovery process. Its effectiveness varies widely in individuals, depending very much on genetic predisposition. But there are few people that don't find it of some value.
The reason that manufacturers suggest a "loading" phase is to speed up the saturation process. A standard loading phase is typically prescribed for about a week, thereafter dropping down to a maintenance phase of 5 g per day.
Realistically, you can just stick to suggested 5 g/daily amount.
We’ve written extensively about Creatine in our profile on Quora.com. Go to Alex on Quora, if interested in reading further about Creatine.
Bonus Ingredients: Vasodilators
Primary purpose: Increase blood flow, chase the pump.
Benefits: The primary role of vasodilators such as L-Argininine, Ornithine and L-Citruline is to increase nitric oxide levels in the blood, leading to an increase in blood flow, which can stimulate that keenly sought after and magical status "the pump."
To let our workout genie out of the lamp and get him casting his high energy magic accross your gym session, your PW should be taken roughly 30 minutes before getting to your workout venue. This ensures that all the ingredients start to metabolize and become ready for use as you begin your training session.
So that you can get some of that motivational ass-kicking workout done that we spoke of in the paragraphs preceding, right?