A gym pre-workout supplement may or may not be needed based on a variety of factors, such as time constraints, workout intensity, nutrition intake, and other supplementation. Read on to find out more.
Read time: 5 minutes
“Hey bro, take a scoop of this.”
We were in the school locker room, just about ready to hit the weights.
I glanced down at the tub of mystery powder my friend was clutching.
“Okay!” I said, dumbly.
I proceeded to choke down the nasty sugary garbage that was this pre-workout.
30 minutes later, I didn’t feel a thing.
1 hour later, I felt sick to my stomach.
It could have been the combination of a poor diet and this nasty pre-workout, but it messed my system up.
And that’s the last time I’ve ever tried a commercial, conventional pre-workout.
The concept of a “pre-workout” is not a new one, but it’s one I don’t necessarily agree with.
Could a pre-workout theoretically help you lift more weight, have more focus, and get a better overall workout in?
Could it also be a huge waste of money and possibly even harm your health?
As a matter of fact, I’ve pulled my heaviest deadlift using no supplements, just real, good food, so you can gain muscle and strength without a pre-workout for sure.
Pre-workout supplements, like all supplements, should really be researched and given caution before use.
Also, you really need to make sure a supplement is just that, a supplement to your lifestyle, and definitely not a crutch.
Remember: nothing replaces good training, rest, and proper nutrition.
First and Foremost
Before you even think about taking a pre-workout supplement (or any supplement, for that matter), make sure these things are in order:
Your diet consist of plenty of real food, eaten 4 – 6 times a day, with proper macro and micro-nutrient ratios.
You’re getting 7+ hours of sleep a night.
You’ve lowered your stress levels by quitting your sh*tty job, dumping your nagging girlfriend, cutting toxic people out of your life, or you’ve found ways to release stress and cope with these things (nature walks, meditation, aromatherapy, yoga, etc.)
You’ve been lifting for at least 6 months and you’ve made some decent gains.
You’re over 18 years of age.
You have no heart conditions that would be aggravated by a pre-workout supplement.
So you’ve got everything nailed down and you’re looking for that extra edge, eh?
Now you’re ready to look into supplements.
Here’s what you should look for in a pre-workout.
Caffeine. Improves focus and helps mobilize fat tissue for oxidation. Caffeine is a pre-workout staple.
Read my post on caffeine for more info: How Using Caffeine Can Boost Your Workouts and Help You Focus
Creatine. Increases strength levels by replenishing Creatine Phosphate (CP) in the muscles more rapidly, allowing more strength and more reps, which equals more gains.
A high quality protein source, such as whey, casein, or egg protein. These provide plenty of Essential Amino Acids that kickstart the anabolic process and spare muscle.
Can Help, But The Jury Is Still Out:
Citrulline. An amino acid that enhances blood flow and Nitrous Oxide (NO) in the body. Can help with better pumps and nutrient flow.
Carnitine. In theory may help with fat oxidation during exercise, and also may help with recovery.
beta-Alanine. Needed for Carnosine production in the muscles, beta-Alanine may help with strength and power.
BCAA’s. Branched Chain Amino Acids, these basically act like carbs to fuel the muscles. These are plentiful in good protein sources, so shouldn’t be given too much of an emphasis.
No, just no:
“Proprietary blends” – in many cases is slang for bullsh*t.
Now could you spring for some expensive mystery tub? Yes. But why not just make your own?
What I Use Pre-workout:
It’s simple, really.
So easy anyone could do it, and 99% better than any “pre-workout” on the market.
Note: I’ve used Do Vitamins PurePump in the past, and it’s the only pre-workout I recommend. I really try to keep all supplements to a minimum, and I only use tried and proven ones. Another thing for me is cost, as I like to live a very austere, Spartan lifestyle, and not blow money on anything other than good food. I will probably purchase it again in the future, though, just to mix things up a bit.
Other Things to Consider Pre-workout:
Pre-workout meal. Ideally this is eaten 2-3 hours before training. Make sure it’s packed with quality carbs (like oatmeal) and quality proteins (lean meats, dairy, eggs, etc.).
Hydration. Make sure you’re properly hydrated, as being dehydrated will compromise strength levels and decrease performance. Sip on water throughout the day, and chug a cup or two before working out.
Don’t get taken for a ride.
Supplements aren’t regulated the same as real food by the FDA, so use caution.
Also remember that no supplement will blow you up and fill you out like Arnold in two months, it’s all a marketing lie used to push some sh*tty supplements, but they can give you a small edge and help you reach your goals more easily.
It’s your health, friend, so be choosy about the supplements you put in your body.
Be safe, gain slowly, avoid the shortcut, and have a happy and prosperous lifting career!