Pre-workout supplementation: when to take it and does it have the right stuff

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Pre-workouts have become on par with protein powders as a training staple for many athletes in recent years. With good reason. They’re effective, tasty and easy to use. Easy to the point that the name itself tell you when you should consume it.

When exactly should you take your pre-workout? Sounds too simple to screw up?┬áRight? Well… you would be surprised.

Pre-workout Timing

Many people often start taking their pre-workout as they are walking into the gym. The problem is that the majority of active ingredients within a pre-workout take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to reach peak levels within the body. So if you consume your pre-workout as you enter the gym it may not be until you’re into the second or even third exercise before the you can take advantage of the benefits.

The major stimulant is usually caffeine, which has a half life of approx. 3-6 hours depending on the individual. That being said, the optimal timing to take a pre-workout supplement is somewhere in the 30-60 minutes window prior to your workout.

Pre-workout Ingredients

These days there is a huge range of pre-workout supplements on the market. Many of them provide an excellent choice. However, there are also many on the market that are below standard. These are usually full of many ingredients that you have likely never heard of before. A long list of ingredients usually means fillers or sweeteners or very small quantities of important ingredients that a single dose won’t provide any real benefit anyway.

A product with basic ingredients will almost always work best. However you pick your pre-workout, whether is it by brand, flavour, price, you should make sure it contains the following ingredients:

  • Caffeine. For increased energy, endurance and focus to fight fatigue for one more round. For more on caffeine and how it can improve athletic performance, check here.
  • Citrulline Malate. For transporting oxygen and other important nutrients to your muscles and is an important precursor to nitric oxide production. This helps enlarge the blood vessels and improving blood flow (the pump in your muscles). Improved blood flow also means better muscle contractions, lower heart rate and improved breathe rate during intense physical activity.
  • Creatine Monohydrate. For increased muscle mass, overall strength gains and enhanced recovery. Make sure your pre-workout contains the monohydrate form as other variations are inferior. For more on creatine, check here.
  • Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). These amino acids include leucine, isoleucine and valine and are critically important for muscle growth.

Alternatively, you could make your own pre-workout by adding these ingredients to a juice or pre-workout protein shake.

In summary

A pre-workout supplement may be very beneficial addition to your training regime. When used correctly, they can assist in a variety of ways such as increased energy, endurance, focus and an increased ability to to transport vital nutrients to the muscles during intense physical activity to help you achieve your training goals.