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Your All-Encompassing Pre-Workout Guide

Do you ever face days you can’t seem to find the energy to get through your impending workout? Could you use a little extra fuel to stay pumped through an intense training session? With an array of high-quality ingredients that can boost your energy levels and athletic performance, pre-workout supplements may be precisely what you need to meet your fitness goals.

We’ve put together an all-encompassing guide to walk you through everything you need to know about pre-workout supplements, selecting the right pre-workout supplement ingredients, and possible side effects pre-workout products can cause. We’re confident we’ll have you ready to take your workouts to the next level with the incredible benefits of pre-workout supplements.

What is a Pre-Workout Supplement?

How Can a Pre-Workout Supplement Enhance My Workout Sessions?

How Do Pre-Workout Supplements Work?

Who Can Benefit from Using Pre-Workout Supplements?

When is the Best Time to Take Pre-Workout?

Making Adjustments to Your Workouts

What Ingredients Should I Look for in a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Can I Combine My Pre-Workout with Other Supplements?

Our Top 10 Pre-Workout Supplement Choices

Possible Side Effects Pre-Workouts May Cause

Possible Side Effects Pre-Workouts May Cause

Addressing Pre-Workout Clump

What is a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Pre-workout smoothie with almonds

A pre-workout supplement is a game changer! Made with scientifically proven ingredients, they can drastically cut down the time of your warm-ups. By getting your blood pumping and ready to go in less time than your typical warm-up, you’ll save time and energy best used towards the core of your workout.

Adding a pre-workout to your routine works with your body to increase blood flow, raise your heart rate, and improve focus and motivation. Additionally, a pre-workout supplement brings the blood to the surface of your skin, aiding in thermodynamics to literally warm-up your body. With a pre-workout in your system revving up those muscles, you'll be able to jump into the heart of your workout sooner and reap the rewards quicker.

Pre-workout supplements can also help address a variety of workout obstacles you may be facing.

Workout obstacles pre-workouts can address include:

  • early onset of workout fatigue
  • inability to finish all reps
  • feeling too mentally exhausted to execute
  • inability to reach your goals during timed workout sessions
  • missing your mark for timed distance or rep workouts
  • lack of energy to extend workout sessions, even by 15 minutes
  • that extra push towards the end just isn’t there anymore

How Can a Pre-Workout Supplement Enhance My Workout Sessions?

Person getting ready to run

Incorporating a pre-workout supplement into your workout routine can take your sessions and fitness goals to the next level. Imagine shaking off that feeling of exhaustion and starting out pumped with energy, motivation, and laser-sharp focus.

Pre-workouts benefit your sessions by:

  • supporting more intense training
  • increasing endurance
  • supporting more reps
  • decreasing recovery time needed between your sets

How Do Pre-Workout Supplements Work?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to stimulate the nervous system to provide benefits to your fitness goals and needs. A pre-workout can enhance strength, boost energy, and support increases in muscle size. Let’s take a deeper look into how various ingredients work with your body:

Pre-Workouts for Strength

line of weights in black and white

Most pre-workout supplements contain creatine. Creatine is one of the most clinically tested and well-studied compounds on the market because of its reputation for energy production.

Creatine boosts levels of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, in your muscles. In short, while you lift, energy is being delivered directly to your muscles during optimal periods. More energy to your muscles means you can work harder, stronger, and longer. 

Pre-Workouts for Energy

Increased energy is often the number one reason bodybuilders and athletes use pre-workout supplements. Most pre-workout supplements contain stimulants, such as caffeine to provide the body with the boost of energy it's seeking.

Caffeine inhibits receptors that allow the body to be calm or become drowsy. It also stimulates the release of catecholamine from the adrenal glands, which produces neural stimulation. As a result, your body and mind stay awake, focused, and pumped throughout your workout.

Since catecholamine also reduces pain and discomfort during your workout, the process has a double effect — you can push through tougher, longer sessions, minus the fatigue and pain.

Pre-workouts for Increasing Muscle Size 

Citrulline malate is the amino acid made up of the compounds L-citrulline and malic acid. When the two combine, they are responsible for vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels. Vasodilation offers the only way to get more blood to your muscles. 

man flexing muscle while working out

Citrulline malate increases nitric oxide, triggering vasodilation. This process signals the pumping of blood through your system, directly to your muscles. When your muscles have an increase in blood, additional nutrients are also being delivered. As a result, your muscles get pumped up and prepped to take on intense workouts.

Citrulline malate is also responsible for increasing creatine phosphate regeneration. This process helps reduce your fatigue during hardcore workouts.

It also supports recovery by helping rid your body of lactic acid, or waste, from your muscles during exercise. As a result, your body will benefit from quicker recovery times and less soreness following even your most intense workouts. 

Pre-Workouts for Weight Loss

Pre-workout is even ideal if you’re serious about your weight loss goals. With the increase in energy, you’ll intensify your workouts and burn through calories to achieve quicker results.

The right pre-workout supplement can turn your body into a rapid fat-burner. By increasing epinephrine levels, caffeine signals your body to use the fatty acids for energy while increasing your metabolic rate. As a result, you'll see a slimmer, more tone body in no time at all.

Pre-Workouts for Focus

woman doing pull-up

While caffeine may supply the energy you need for your intense workouts, you need the support of L-theanine to be productive. Selecting a pre-workout supplement with L-theanine helps harness the energy caffeine provides to create a more focused, productive session.

L-theanine, a nootropic, ensures caffeine pairs up with the right receptors to prevent a jittery, unfocused mind. The pairing of the two is such a good fit; they are sometimes referred to as "smart caffeine.”

Who Can Benefit from Using Pre-Workout Supplements?

Pre-workout supplements aren’t just for athletes. If you’re ready to get serious about your fitness training, bodybuilding, or weight loss, pre-workout is right for you.

Incorporating a pre-workout supplement can help meet goals which may include:

  • taking your training to the next level
  • losing weight
  • gaining muscle
  • building denser muscle
  • improving focus during workouts
  • seeing better overall results
  • improving your overall performance

When is the Best Time to Take Pre-Workout?

Ask any seasoned athlete or weight trainer, and they'll tell you that being mindful of the time you take your pre-workout supplements is the key to successful results. While products will vary, on average, pre-workout supplements take approximately 45 to 60 minutes to reach optimal effect for athletic performance.

stretching before workoutWith a 45–60-minute window, we recommend starting your day off with a morning workout to ease into your new pre-workout routine. Plan to take your pre-workout supplement when you wake up. Then, allow yourself time for a pre-workout snack, travel time to the gym, a quick change, and a decent warm-up. Before you know it, your pre-workout will have you pumped and ready to work.

How Long Do the Effects of Pre-Workout Last?

While we get this question often, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Once a pre-workout kicks in, it will generally provide you with energy for three to six hours. However, the effects of any pre-workout supplement will depend on various factors, including brand, ingredients, and strength. In addition, your body's tolerance to various stimulants, like caffeine, is another massive factor in the length of effectiveness. 

Making Adjustments to Your Workouts

person getting ready to run

When you introduce pre-workout supplements, your fitness routine will need a bit of tweaking. But, don't forget - pre-workout is meant to make your routines feel lighter, shorter, and less mentally straining. So, take full advantage by stepping up your game.

Increase your workout intensity and length to maximize the energy your pre-workout provides. Adjusting your workout routines will help you crush your goals faster.

Evaluating your reps is a great way to start. This is especially helpful if your goal includes continuing to build lean muscle. We suggest adding two to four additional reps per workout. 

If your goal is to bulk up, keep your original rep count but adapt your weights gradually.

With the use of pre-workout supplements, it takes longer for your body to enter the anaerobic threshold of your workout. So, for cardio workouts, adjust your sessions by extending your time or distance.

What Ingredients Should I Look for in a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Selecting a high-quality pre-workout supplement that will help you crush those goals is all about the ingredients. We’ve touched on the benefits of caffeine and creatine, but what other ingredients make up a successful pre-workout supplement?

different smoothies

Effective pre-workout ingredients include:

  • Beta-alanine
  • Arginine alpha-ketoglutarate
  • Theacrine
  • N-acetyl l-tyrosine

Beta-Alanine

The primary function of beta-alanine is to counteract the adverse effects of lactic acid. As you exercise, your body produces waste material as stored sugars are used as energy. That burning sensation you feel around the muscle is the acid buildup limiting the muscle's optimal ability to contract.

Beta-alanine acts as a buffer between your muscles and lactic acid. You’ll benefit from increases in endurance, energy, and strength.

The amino acid is also known for putting a stop to fatigue. Less fatigue means you can hit the gym and expect to get in a more brutal, longer workout.

Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate

The amino acid compound arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, or AAKG, is typically found in most pre-workout supplements. Its use as a primary ingredient increases nitric oxide production to aid the vasodilation process.

AAKG is credited with boosting muscular "pump" while increasing oxygen, blood, and nutrient delivery to muscles hard at work.

Theacrine

Theacrine is a naturally occurring chemical compound, similar to caffeine, yet it is a non-stimulant. The great news is your body won’t build up a tolerance to theacrine.

Many athletes and lifters note the changes in focus and clarity it provides during their workout. In addition, it is also known to heighten mood for a more exhilarating session.

N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine

N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine enhances energy and endurance and helps the mind stay sharp during prolonged physical exercise. It may also play a role in supporting physical performance under extreme conditions, including sweltering temperatures. 

Can I Combine My Pre-Workout with Other Supplements?

Variety of Supplements

The short answer is yes. Pre-workout supplements are ideal for pairing with BCAAs and protein supplements.

Don’t forget, pre-workouts have a specific window of time in which they should be taken to reap optimal benefits. Also, be mindful of additional supplements you add that may also have specific requirements or suggestions.

In addition, it’s wise to keep tabs on supplements you add to your daily routine that contain caffeine and other stimulants. You can minimize the unwanted side effects pre-workouts may cause by selecting low dosage formulas when necessary. 

Pairing Pre-Workout Supplement with BCAAs

Now, if you’re new to the supplement scene, additional questions may include the topic of BCAA’s. You've probably heard a lot of talk about them and wonder if you should go with a pre-workout supplement or a BCAA before your morning routine.

If your goals include sustaining your growth, a BCAA can preserve and even build additional muscle. If you want to intensify your workouts, increase focus, and boost endurance, a pre-workout supplement can help you achieve these goals.

However, you don’t need to sacrifice one for the other.

The great thing about BCAAs and pre-workout supplements is their ability to complement one another. By utilizing both supplements, you'll reap the rewards of increased energy and focus from your pre-workout supplement while fueling your body with BCAAs to maintain and increase muscle. 

What are BCAAs? 

Let’s take a quick look at BCAAs in a nutshell. There are eighty amino acids, but only nine are considered essential amino acids. This means the body can't produce them, so they must be consumed to receive the benefits.

protein powderEssential amino acids support athletes by recharging their energy post-workout, reducing muscle soreness, and even promoting weight loss.

Three of the nine essential amino acids make up the infamous building blocks of muscle proteins.

BCAAs are vital to your body's ability to repair itself, build new, lean muscle mass, and reduce exercise fatigue. They help decrease pain and soreness within the muscles and help prevent muscle breakdown.

The three BCAAs include:

Leucine - directly stimulates protein synthesis and supports mental and physical performance during workouts.

Isoleucine - both during and after your strenuous workout, this BCAA will increase endurance, boost energy levels, and regulate blood sugar

Valine – improves muscle tissue recovery while increasing your stamina and endurance. Valine also acts as an appetite suppressant, keeping those post-workout cravings at bay.

Pairing Pre-Workout Supplements and Protein Supplements

Another popular and highly effective pairing is that of your favourite pre-workout supplement and a protein supplement product. The two used together help support and maximize workouts.

Ideally, your best source of protein is through a natural diet. For example, your high-protein source meals might include fish, lean meat, chicken, and dairy. Alternatively, high-quality protein supplements can step in when you’re in need.

There are many reasons to include protein supplements into your daily routine, with convenience being one of them!

Additional reasons to use protein supplements:

  • beginning a new workout
  • increasing workout duration or frequency
  • recovering from an injury
  • transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet

Importance of Protein During Transition Periods

Supplying your body with sufficient levels of protein is crucial during transition periods. Starting a new workout or increasing the frequency or duration of your current workout will take a lot out of you. Plus, your body requires the additional protein to push through and heal properly. Failure to provide enough protein could impact your gains or slow recovery time.

What is Whey Protein?

smoothie in mason jar

Whey is a popular protein choice, as the body can speedily absorb and utilize it. The quick access to its benefits makes it ideal for your intense workout sessions.

Whey is known for its ability to maximize muscle growth, making it one of the most effective protein supplement options on the market.

How Does Whey Help Build Muscle?

Protein and amino acids work together to build muscle. For example, whey supplements are high in leucine, which is responsible for protein synthesis. This process utilizes the protein your body has just absorbed to stack muscle.

Whey protein can also increase muscle mass. This is possible as whey stimulates hormones, like insulin, which signals your body to increase its muscle mass production.

Whey supplements also offer one of the quickest ways to absorb protein. This fast absorption helps you maximize gains during the anabolic window.

Our Top 10 Pre-Workout Supplement Choices

So, you’ve learned that selecting the right pre-workout can make a tremendous difference. Finding the right fit can deliver optimum results from high-quality ingredients to formulas that meet your specific goals and needs. But how do you find that perfect fit?

We know there are hundreds of brands and products out there. It can be a bit overwhelming – we know! So our team has compiled a list of our top ten pre-workout supplement picks to get you one step closer to your goals.

Top 10 Pre-Workout Supplements:

Ans Performance Prophecy

TC Nutrition Batch 27

Allmax Impact Igniter

Mammoth Pump

Magnum Nutraceuticals Prefo

Prosupps Mr. Hyde Nitrox

Pescience Prolific

Cobra Labs the Curse

Gat Nitraflex

Beyond Yourself Preset

1. ANS Performance Prophecy

Prophecy Ultimate Pre-Workout by ANS Performance

You’ll get noticeable results and undeniable performance results with Prophecy Ultimate Pre-Workout by ANS Performance. ANS Performance Prophecy boasts peak02, a unique blend of six organically sourced, natural adaptogen mushrooms. This blend enhances physical endurance by improving the maximum oxygen volume available.

2. TC Nutrition Batch 27 

tc batch 27 pre workout

Batch 27 by TC Nutrition will change your workout game. You’ll feel more alert while it enhances endurance and reduces workout fatigue. Get ready for ultimate pumps, increases in strength, and improved cognitive function. Batch 27 will remove nitrogen waste and boost your metabolism.

3. Allmax Impact Igniter

allmax impact pre-workout

Test your limits with Allmax Impact Igniter. This pre-workout supplement offers increases in strength, reps, and metabolism. In addition, Allmax Impact Igniter reduces muscle lactate buildup for more productive workouts.

4. Mammoth Pump

mammoth pre-workout

Mammoth Pump works with your body to metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to boost endurance and maximize performance. In addition, you'll reap the benefits of reduced workout fatigue and cramping with tyrosine for mood and adrenal function support. 

5. Magnum Nutraceutical’s PRE-Fo

magnum pre-workout

Are you looking for a caffeine boost without the jitters? PRE-Fo by Magnum Nutraceuticals offers a blend of nootropics, cellular endurance, and vasodilation agents with an incredible energy boost. PRE-Fo improves YOUR stamina, boosts muscle energy, and accelerates muscle recovery rates, so you're back at it again in no time.

PRE-Fo also contains acetyl-L-carnitine, a nootropic that supports strengthening neural connections by removing damaged fats from the brain. 

6. Prosupps Mr. Hyde Nitrox

Mr Hyde Pre-Workout
Mr. Hyde Nitrox by Prosupps provides everything you’re demanding, from pumps to metabolism support. This pre-workout increases vascularity, sustains strength, and enhances mental focus.

 

Not only will you experience incredible added energy, but Mr. Hyde Nitrox also contains zero sugar, calories, or carbs, and is gluten-free.

7. Prescience Prolific

Prolific pre-workout

Prolific by Prescience offers their unique formula designed to support your short-term workout goals while helping you build gains over time. Prolific provides 6 grams of L-citrulline per 2-scoop serving for the ultimate pumps and endurance you crave for those grueling workouts.

If you’ve been searching for a formula that’s gluten-free, vegan, and keto-friendly, your search is over.

8.The Curse! By JNX Sports 

The Curse! Pre-Workout

The Curse! is the ultimate energizing muscle fuel blend containing all the essentials a potent pre-workout supplement needs.

Packed with beta-alanine, creatine monohydrate, and citric acid, you can push yourself past your limits. Boundless energy, strength, and massive muscle pumps will take your workout to new levels.

9. GAT Nitraflex

nitraflex pre-workout

Nitraflex by GAT Sport fights workout fatigue like a champ! With a clinically tested formula, Nitraflex offers you increased intensity, unmatched energy, and proven pumps so you can power through every workout.

Nitraflex delivers the lean muscle you’ve been working towards. This highly concentrated pre-workout supplement improves your alertness while maximizing stamina.  

10. Beyond Yourself Preset 

Beyond pre-workout

Beyond Yourself Preset provides energy performance packed with results. This pre-workout supplement delivers high energy, intense focus, and improved blood flow. You’ll push yourself harder and take your workouts farther with increased endurance from gluten-free ingredients. 

Possible Side Effects Pre-Workouts May Cause

It's essential to make yourself aware of possible side effects pre-workout supplements may cause. Our team has put together a few of the most common ones and has included a few helpful tips to familiarize yourself with should any concerns arise. As with any new dietary supplement, consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding the side effects pre-workout may cause you. 

Digestive Issues

Digestive issues are a common side effect pre-workout users may experience. More often than not, stomach issues result from not having enough water added to the supplement mixture.

person sleeping with face mask on

Ensure your water and supplement ratios are as directed on the label. This will prevent you from ingesting ingredients at a higher concentrated form than initially intended. Generally, brands call for eight to twelve ounces of water.

If water ratio doesn't seem to be the root of your stomach troubles, it may be necessary to try out another brand. Carefully compare ingredients and dosages to help determine what your system may better tolerate. 

Headaches

Headaches may be a side effect pre-workout use causes if you are already prone to them. For example, citrulline, a common ingredient in many pre-workout supplements, increases blood flow in your muscles. Unfortunately, this increase can also cause headaches and, in some cases, migraines.

Avoid this side effect of pre-workout supplements if headaches are a concern by selecting a product without citrulline or one with a low dosage.

The Jitters

Jitters are another side effect pre-workout use may cause. As with too much coffee, consuming your pre-workout supplements without food may cause you to feel a bit shaky or jittery.

Caffeine can be hard on an empty stomach as well as your nervous system, so try to develop a habit of consuming a healthy snack, at a minimum, to keep the jitters at bay.

Coffee cup

If you continue to experience the jittery side effects of pre-workout, try reducing your dosage. Slowly increase your pre-workout dosage over time, allowing your body time to adjust to the ingredients.

Another tip we suggest is avoiding large doses of caffeine at least six hours before your regular bedtime. A good night's sleep will give your body the rest and recovery time it needs.

Tingling of the Hands and Feet

Paresthesia, the pins and needles side effect pre-workout may produce, causes a tingling sensation in the hands and feet. In some users, beta-alanine may cause this sensation.

The sensation is not a serious cause for concern and will subside on its own. However, while it's a nervous system's reaction, it can be more of a distraction or discomfort than anything.

If the tingling side effect pre-workout causes begin to interfere with your focus or performance, considering another brand with a lower beta-alanine dosage.

Possible false-Positive Test Results for Performance-Enhancing Drugs

One side effect pre-workout use may cause is a possible false-positive test result for performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, certain ingredients in pre-workouts show up as methamphetamines. 

Addressing Pre-Workout Clump

Believe it or not, the pre-workout clump is a thing. We get many questions about clumping and if it's an indication your pre-workout supplement has gone bad. It may surprise you to hear it may prove the opposite!

There’s a phrase, “if it clumps, it pumps,” and it may just offer the best way to explain the clumping of pre-workout supplements. If nothing else, you can take the hardening or clumping of your pre-workout as a sign it’s working. 

Why Does My Pre-Workout Clump?

Here’s the science lesson behind the clumping of your pre-workout. Most pre-workout supplements on the market contain high doses of pump ingredients, including l-citrulline, glycerol, and arginine. Many of these are compounds.

Many pump ingredients are hygroscopic. A hygroscopic ingredient is a substance that readily absorbs moisture from the air. They will attract and hold water, causing them to clump with other pre-workout ingredients. 

How Do I Prevent My Pre-Workout Supplement from Clumping?

If the clump is an annoyance, the good news is there are a few things you can try. 

You may have noticed the little silica gel packs in your protein powders, vitamins, and other supplements. This little guy is particularly beneficial in your pre-workout supplement container. The gel pack helps absorb extra moisture from your pre-workout to prevent hardening and clumping.

green smoothieWe also recommend giving your pre-workout supplement a good shake or stir regularly. This can help reduce or prevent pre-workout clumping. 

When you stir the contents of your supplement regularly, you help move around the silica gel pack. This action allows it to absorb more moisture throughout your supplement to prevent clumps. In addition, it will ensure your desiccant pack moves throughout the container to absorb any moisture that's present.

Regular mixing will also keep your ingredients well-blended. Ingredients have various gradations and weights, allowing them to separate in their containers. So while your heavier ingredients will settle to the bottom, lighter ingredients, which tend to like caffeine, gather towards the top.

When ingredients separate, your pre-workout servings can become inconsistent. You may also experience more than typical clumping the longer like ingredients stay settled together. If nothing else, give your container a good shake before your scoop your next serving.

Our last tip for preventing pre-workout clump is careful consideration of your container storage. Store your pre-workout supplement in a cool, dry location if possible. This temperature is ideal, as it limits moisture from accessing your supplement.

Consider storing your pre-workout in the freezer. Making a little room can prevent clumping since it offers a dry space with very little moisture in the air.

How Can I Fix Hardened Pre-Workout Supplements?

If your pre-workout supplement has already hardened, don't throw in the towel just yet. Trying a few quick tricks may just solve your clumping issue. Also, don't forget; your clumped pre-workout supplement is still usable and effective.

Breaking apart hardened clumps will help ensure a more consistent ingredient mixture. You can toss your pre-workout clumps into the blender to break them up. This quick trick allows a quick even mix of ingredients before returning it to the container.

You may prefer to break up your hardened clumps of pre-workout supplement with a fork, scoop handle, or another utensil of choice. Give it a quick stir or shake before scooping your next portion, and you're good to go!

Now the choice is yours. Select the pre-workout supplement that fits your fitness needs and get ready to crush those goals!

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