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The Dos and Dont's of Pre-Workout Supplements, According to Experts

When you enter the world of fitness, it won’t be long before you’re dipping your toes into the world of sports supplements. That’s because an increase in physical activity increases your body’s demand for quality nutrition. A high-quality supplement regimen is one way to bridge the gap between the nutrients your body needs and the food you’re consuming.

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As you get introduced to the various categories of sports supplements, you’ll quickly come across pre-workout supplements. This category is specifically formulated to support your energy levels before and during a workout, to assist you in pushing your body as hard as possible so that you can get the most from every workout.

Pre-workout supplements are extremely popular, and if you’re looking to give them a try, you’re probably wondering how to take pre-workout and if there are dos and don’ts for doing it right.

So, let’s dive into just that!

Do: Time Pre-Workout Correctly

Poorly timing your pre-workout supplements is one of the most common mistakes, and unfortunately, this mistake could cost you the effectiveness of the product. Taking your pre-workout supplements too early could mean that the desired effects are kicking in (and potentially wearing off) before you even arrive at the gym. Ideally, your pre-workout should start working just before you pick up a weight or jump onto a treadmill.

For most people, depending on when you last ate, the ideal timing is approximately thirty minutes before you start exercising. If you’re taking your pre-workout on an empty stomach (two to four hours after eating), it might take as little as fifteen minutes for you to start feeling the effects. Whether this means you’re taking your pre-workout before you leave your house or in the parking lot, you want to ensure that it works when it’s supposed to.

Don’t: Take Pre-Workout Supplements on a Full Stomach

Speaking of stomachs, drinking your pre-workout with a big meal can delay absorption and prevent you from feeling the effects appropriately. So, don’t have lunch and your pre-workout together. This isn’t as common of an issue, because generally eating a full meal immediately before a workout is a no-no.

Still, if you find yourself feeling full when you’re due to take your pre-workout supplement, try to delay until your stomach is emptier. A brisk walk on the treadmill can help speed along the process if you’re already walking into the gym.

How to take Pre-Workout on an Empty Stomach

If you’re wondering how to take pre-workout on an empty stomach because that sounds like the perfect formula for an upset tummy, you’re not alone. However, many people report unpleasant side effects, including digestive upset and caffeine jitters when they take supplements on an empty stomach.

Luckily, if you’ve eaten at all within the last four to six hours or so, you’re not likely to feel too terrible when you drink that pre-workout. On the other hand, if you’re working out in the morning and haven’t eaten since dinner last night, you might have some problems. In that case, make sure you drink at least eight ounces of water before you drink your supplement, and continue to hydrate through your workout.

If you’re still experiencing some tummy troubles, the answer to how to take pre-workout on an empty stomach may be switching products or consuming it with a small snack. No pre-workout buzz is worth it if your stomach is too upset to handle a proper workout.

Don’t: Mix Creatine with Caffeine

Moving on from your digestive tract, another common “don’t” for taking a pre-workout supplement is in the ingredients. Caffeine and creatine are two of the most popular, well-researched, and effective ingredients within the sports supplement world. Caffeine is known to increase energy and athletic performance in the short term, while creatine has long-term benefits of increased strength, endurance, and lean body mass.

It’s obvious why, at the surface level, you would want both ingredients in a quality pre-workout product. It sounds like the perfect two-for-one deal, right? Well, the problem is some research shows that concurrently ingesting caffeine can reduce the ergogenic effects of creatine, rendering it less effective.

However scarce the research is, we recommend splitting up these two ingredients. So, choose a pre-workout with creatine or caffeine, depending on your personal preference. This is easy enough, as creatine can be taken at any time throughout the day while caffeine is short-lived and time-sensitive. 

Don’t: Allow your Pre-Workout Supplements to Interfere with Your Rest

This is potentially the most crucial don’t—do not take your pre-workout supplements if doing so will interfere with a good night’s rest. Quality sleep is critical to fitness results, not to mention your overall wellbeing. An estimated one in every two Canadian adults already has trouble sleeping, so a stimulating pre-workout too close to bedtime is a big no.

The Sleep Foundation recommends no caffeine within six hours of bedtime. Meaning if you go to bed at 10p, no caffeine-containing pre-workout after 4p. This means if you’re an evening gym rat, a traditional pre-workout supplement might not be for you.

Lucky for you, stimulant-free pre-workouts are a growing category, and you still have plenty of options for improving your workout.

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What are Stim-Free Pre-Workouts?

Stimulant-free pre-workouts are also formulas designed to improve your workout. Unlike a traditional pre-workout that may contain caffeine and other stimulants, stim-free contains none. Instead, these products use ingredients that naturally dilate blood vessels, improving alertness and the coveted muscle pump.

Do: Take your Pre-Workout as Directed

Lastly, as always, follow the directions when you’re taking any dietary supplement. Using excessive amounts, especially if your product contains caffeine, can be dangerous and, in some cases, fatal. It is essential to your health that you know how to take pre-workout supplements correctly.

You should always take the recommended dose mixed with water or a beverage of your choosing. We know dry-scooping your pre-workout is trendy, but there’s more than one reason not to do it.

Pre-workout supplement products are an excellent addition to your regimen if you’re looking for a boost in energy and performance. Remember our how to take pre-workout supplement tips: time consumption correctly and take it on a nearly empty stomach. Above all else, don’t let it interfere with your sleep!

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