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


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? Right? 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.

Supplementing with creatine monohydrate


What is it?
Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. That is it.

It is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise.

Dietary sources of creatine include red meat and fish, however large amounts are required to be consumed to obtain sufficient amounts required for increased performance. Dietary supplementation is inexpensive and effective at increasing the amount of creatine within the body.

Studies have shown that supplementing with creatine has been very popular among athletes and bodybuilders to gain muscle, enhance strength and improve overall exercise performance for many years.

When you supplement with creatine it increases the body’s stores of creatine phosphate, which is able to donate its phosphate group to Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. The more ATP that is available, the better the body can perform during all sorts of physical activity, with the most benefit being seen with short, fast and explosive movements.

There are many forms of creatine available on the market however the best form to supplement with is creatine monohydrate.

Who needs it?
Everybody can benefit from creatine supplementation, however these specific groups of people would benefit the most:

  • Bodybuilders and strength athletes;
  • People over 40 years of age;
  • Anybody trying to improve their physical and cognitive performance or recovery.

Benefits of taking creatine
Here are some of the ways that creatine supplementation can boost physical performance and assist in overall health:

  • Increases muscle strength and size;
  • Enhanced recovery;
  • Improved sprinting / high intensity physical performance;
  • Improved glucose tolerance;
  • Enhanced brain function;
  • May reduce sarcopenia (age related muscle loss).

How much should be supplemented?
Common dosing strategies usually include a loading phase of approx. 5 to 7 days where you supplement with 5g, 4 to 5 times per day.

Following the loading phase you would transition into the maintenance phase of 5g, 1 to 2 times per day.

It is not necessary to cycle on and off of creatine supplementation, however doing so could increases results or break a training plateau.

When to supplement?
An often debated topic, but it appears that taking creatine post-workout has the most benefits.

Some studies have shown that supplementing with creatine post workout at a meal time could be beneficial in increasing the uptake of creatine due to the increase in insulin secretion and transporting nutrients into the cells.

How this works:

  • The body absorbs nutrients better after physical activity;
  • Insulin helps drive more creatine into muscle cells;
  • The first meal post-workout should contain some carbohydrates to help spike your insulin in order to facilitate nutrient absorption into the muscles;
  • Creatine supplementation will help refuel your body’s creatine phosphate stores.

On non-training days, supplementation timing isn’t as important as the purpose of supplementing on a non-training days is to keep creatine levels elevated within the muscles.

Final Thoughts
Creatine is one of the cheapest, most studied, ethical, effective and safest nutritional supplements on the market. It has a variety of uses including increased muscle mass and physical fitness, and can also improve brain health.

Creatine Monohydrate is the best form of creatine to supplement with.