You’re standing in an aisle with shelves and shelves of pre-work out supplements and mixes that are covered in slick marketing, making you uncertain of where to start. You finally find your way over to choose the container with the most promises but then turn it over to read the ingredients and become filled with skepticism because you’re not exactly sure a.) what you’re looking at b.) what you really need, and c.) if it’s worth the money. You might pull out your phone to google a few ingredients. Put it back. Pick up a new container. Google a few ingredients. Put it back. Then repeat this process until you a.) give up or b.) cross your fingers and pick one at random.
Also, you’re not alone.
It can be really difficult to pick a pre-work out when they all appear to be mystery concoctions that (might) enhance your work out to the fullest. So how do you find out which will actually do the trick?
To start, here are a few tips:
If the label includes these, THEN ON TO THE NEXT ONE.
- Proprietary blend
Because it could be a blend of anything! There isn’t really a way to tell what you’re buying, which could mean that you’re buying garbage.
Other words to look out for: matrixes, complexes, blends, and amplifiers.
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids
UNLESS you are engaging in fasted training, BCAA probably won’t do much for you. While an abundance of research does suggest BCAA can lead to numerous health benefits, they are likely to do little for the ‘average physically active person following a sensible workout routine and high-protein diet’. Besides, it’s more effective for your body to receive BCAA through food rather than supplementation. Further, BCAA supplements are not cost-effective.
- Artificial ingredients
Not only is it unhealthy to consume large amounts of artificial ingredients (chemicals), but they’re a waste of your money, as they don’t add anything to the mix.
- A lot of ingredients
It’s possible the label is just a heaping pile of small doses of ineffective ingredients. That’s why you want to be aware of which ingredients are scientifically validated and how much of them you should consume.
Which brings me to my next point…
Here’s what you want to find on your label:
- Caffeine – 3 to 6 mg of body weight about 20 to 30 minutes before training. Take this in pill form, not coffee form!
- Theanine – 100-250 mg, works best when dosed at a 1:1 ratio with caffeine. Theanine can be found in tea or pill form.
- Vitamin B – Vitamins B3, B5 and B12 improve energy levels.
- Citrulline – This amino acid can improve muscle and aerobic endurance and reduce soreness.
- Beta-Alanine – Can reduce fatigue associated with exercise.
- Creatine – is in fact safe. However, there is conflicting evidence on whether creatine should be consumed alongside caffeine. With that said, you may want to stay away from post-work out supplementations that contain caffeine and creatine to play it safe
Hope this helps you on your pre-work out hunt!
Article by GUADS staff writer Rachel with contributions from legionathletics.com & pubmed (not to be confused with webmd).