Pre-Workout Supplements: What are they? Why and How to use them?

Answers to all questions related to pre-workout supplementation - How many types of pre-workout supplements are there? What are their core strengths in improving your performance, strength, endurance, muscle growth and focus? How to use them? If you are serious about your goals, this article is a must read.

Pre-workout supplementation, people have heard about it but not everyone is aware of it because of it being rather a new concept. This concept of taking supplementation before workouts has started gaining popularity in the recent years. Some of the current research on the subject has given many discoveries that can benefit hard training lifters. The benefits of taking pre-workout supplements are numerous and can propel your workouts to new levels.

There are several benefits of taking pre-workout supplements and some of them are listed below:

  • Increases strength
  • Increases endurance
  • Increases performance
  • Increases protein synthesis
  • Improves nutrient delivery and assimilation
  • Improves energy and focus
  • Increases metabolic rate (fat burning)
  • Creates an optimal hormonal environment
  • Decreases muscle breakdown during training

It is evident that no matter what your training goals are, you are going the above listed improvements will benefit you in several ways. Your efforts at the gym can be more rewarding with a strategic approach to pre-workout supplementation. For anyone, who is training to compete then results to matter, and for those desired unflawed results, you cannot afford to neglect this part of nutrition. Whether it is energy, strength, endurance or performance, pre-workout supplementation helps you propel your training goals in the gym every time your workout!

Pre-Workout Supplements for Strength

If you are looking for upraising your strength and power then these supplements can help you improve those critical areas in the gym, you will keep progressing with time and will be able to lift more with the help of good pre-workout supplementation which regulates your system in different ways.

Creatine Monohydrate

One of the most popular supplements in the market. It works well and many have seen the results. Creatine has the ability to maximize strength which will lead to new growth.

When you are training, there are many processes that take place that allow you to continue a set. Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP is the only source of energy that can drive your muscles to contract. Unfortunately, muscle only stores enough ATP to support muscle contraction for a few seconds, therefore it must be replaced. Your body then replaces your ATP stores by breaking down creatine phosphate (CP) for more energy. This realeases energy for fast replenishment of ATP, allowing the set to continue. If creatine stores are low then failure during the set will be reached sooner than if creatine stores were full.

This is how creatine supplementation helps regaining strength. Taking creatine before every workout will ensure that muscle creatine stores are topped up, allowing maximum weights for maximum reps on each set. If your goals are gaining muscle and strength then make sure your pre-workout has creatine. For best results, take 5 grams of creaine monohydrate 30 minutes before every training session.

Taurine

It is an amino acid found within the body that is produced from cysteine. Taurine is different from most of other amino acids because it is not incorporated into proteins but is involved in a wide array of physiological process. These processes include control of muscle contractions, helping control fluid balance within the body, cell membrane structure, as well as antioxidant actions. In terms of training performance there are several thoughts on how taurine may beneficial. One hypothesis has to do with tauine’s role in modulating contractile function of skeletal muscle tissue. Although taurine’s exact role in muscle contractions is not fully understood one thing is clear, exercise causes a drop in muscle contraction. If muscles do not contract efficiently then performance and strength will suffer. This is simply one of many different benefits of taurine.

To offset the drop in muscle taurine concentrations due to training, supplementing 1-2 grams of taurine 30 minutes before your workout is recommended.

Pre-Workout Supplements for Muscle Growth

Lifting weights is directly related to muscle growth as part of your goals. Weight training in and of itself will bring about muscle growth, but our goal is to optimize this effect. Luckily there are supplements that will enhance the muscle growth response from training and increase protein synthesis. Here is the list of recommended ingredients for muscle growth.

BCAAs

The 3 branched chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. It has long been know that taking BCAAs before training can reduce muscle tissue breakdown. This is because BCAAs are training will prevent your body from robbing needed aminos from your muscle tissue and it will take what is already in the blood stream. Recent research has shown that taking BCAAs before training can have a good effect on your hormones. To take full advantage of all the benefits of BCAAs, 3-10 grams should be consumed immediately before (and/or during) your workout.

Whey Protein

It most often thought of as a post training option and not usually considered a pre-training supplement. Whey is a high quality protein that contains high levels of BCAAs and is quickly digested. This rapid digestion is what makes it a great choice post workout. Taking whey post training will halt the catabolic effects of training as well as increase protein synthesis (muscle growth).

But taking it before workout has as much benefits if not more. Research has shown that ingesting whey protein before training can increase protein synthesis just as much as, and in some cases more than, ingesting whey protein after training. Also, the full spectrum of amino acids will raise insulin levels higher than simply consuming free form BCAAs. Higher insulin levels will further increase protein synthesis and mitigate muscle tissue breakdown during training.

For best results take 15-30 grams of whey protein immediately before training. This does not mean that you should let go your post workout whey protein. Taking it pre and post training can maximize protein synthesis.

High Glycemic Carbohydrates

High glycemic carbs are essentially carbohydrates that are digested quickly. Fast digesting carbs may not be considered a very popular supplement, but they can have profound difference on muscle growth and performance. Our body uses different forms of energy during and in between sets. During training, the body uses ATP to drive muscle contractions. After ATP stores are depleted your body turns to creatine phosphate (CP) for energy. Your body only stores enough CP for about 8-12 seconds of maximal effort.

At this point, your body switches to glycolysis, this is when your body uses stored glycogen and blood sugar to replace ATP stores. Your body repeats this process for every single set that you perform in the gym. Carbs come into play during glycolysis. Then, in between set, muscle cells use the glycolytic pathway to restore ATP. That means that you can preserve muscle glycogen and stay strong throughout your workout by having carbs before training.

The primary reason for using fast digesting carbs as opposed to other carb sources is because of the effect it will have on insulin levels. High glycemic carbs cause as much greater insulin release than slow digesting carbs. Insulin may just be the most anabolic hormone in the body and it also has an antagonist relationship with cortisol.

Cortisol is a muscle wasting hormone that typically spikes during every workout. Since insulin and cortisol are opposing hormones this means that when levels of one is high, levels of the other must be low. So by ingesting high glycemic carbs before training you will get the anabolic benefits and anti-catabolic benefits of the hormone insulin. As a guideline it is best to consume between 20-60 grams of high glycemic carbs immediately before training.

Pre-Workout Stimulants for Energy and Focus

How can you imagine to do just about anything without energy and focus? If you lag back in this aspect, whole of your efforts can just go to waste. Great workouts are fueled with energy throughout. You have to concentrate and relate to each muscle you are working out and have to enjoy the process without getting bored or distracted. The components listed below can help you with both energy and focus.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a very popular performance enhancer. People who do not train also use it to concentrate well on their work. It is a stimulant that acts upon the central nervous system in humans. It is also a metabolic stimulant since it increases the metabolism. Caffeine works as a metabolic stimulant by releasing fatty acids into the blood stream to be used as energy. This means that when caffeine is taken before training it works as an excellent fat burner.

From a muscle growth standpoint caffeine is a potent performance enhancer that increases wakefulness, creates and clearer flow of thought, increases focus, and better general body coordination. This leads to stronger lifts that will translate into muscular gains. Contrary to popular belief, moderate doses of caffeine are best for improving athletic performance. If doses of caffeine are too high then it can actually impair coordination and performance.

The amount of caffeine you consume pre-workout highly depends on your tolerance level. Most pre-workout products recommend you start off with a small serving to “access your tolerance” and work up from there. Caffeine can be used by itself, where most products contain dosages of around 200mg. Caffeine in in almost every pre-workout on the market (except stimulant-free products). It is better to take it 30 minutes before workout.

Tyrosine

This is an amino acid that has many physiological roles. Many of the benefits of tyrosine seem to be because it acts a sa precursor to norepinpherine a domapine and that taking tyrosine can accelerate catecholamine synthesis. Because of this tyrosine has been shown to modulate the effects of acute stress which can reduce effects of over training. Along with this, it can increase concentration during times of stress on the body (training session) and has even shown promise as a fat loss aid. Hence, it has become important part of pre-training supplementation. Take 500 – 1000 milligrams 30 minutes before training.

Pre-Workout Supplements for Endurance

Endurance during training has many different applications. Increasing endurance allows you to lift weights for more reps, train harder for longer, and pack on more muscle as a result. It doesn’t matter if you are distant runner or a bodybuilder, more endurance will beneficial to your goals.

Beta-alanine

It is an amino acid that has the ability to increase levels of carnosine within muscle tissue. Carnosine is a ipeptide that is comprised of beta-alanine and histidine. Unfortunately carnosine cannot be ingested because it is rapidly hydrolyzed metabolized in blood plasma by the enzyme carnosinase. However, ingestion of beta-alanine will lead to it being transported to muscle tissue where it resynthesized with histidine as carnosine.

Carnosine increases endurance through anti-oxidant properties as well as acting through physiochemical buffering capabilities. As an anti-oxidant carnosine may be able to offset some of the oxidative stress that is associated with fatigue. Carnosine can act as a buffering agent which delays this drop in PH and delaying neuromuscular fatigue, allowing activity to continue. This translates into more reps with a given weight. Take it 30 minutes before training with a 2-2.5 gram dose followed by a second dose later in the day.

Citrulline Malate

It is an amino acid that is not built into protein during protein synthesis. In this regard it is similar to taurine. It supports the body in optimizing blood flow and can converted to the amino acid arginine. Cirtulline is often paired with malate which is a TCA cycle intermediate. The TCA cycle is a major producer of aerobic energy within the mitochondria of cells. It has been shown in the studies that citrulline malate can reduce the sensation of fatigue as well as increase ATP production. Other studies have also shown that citrulline can also have a protective effect against blood activity. This can delay fatigue during high quality training. Citrulline malate has been shown to be effective at aiding in removing these endotoxins.

Recommended dosage is 3-6 grams of citrulline malate immediately before or during training for best results. Some pre-workout products contain citrulline malate and it is also found in some inra-workout products.

Anti-Oxidants (Muscle Protectors)

We all have heard of anti-oxidants but very few of us actually know what they do and what they are. They help our body neutralize free radicals. When oxygen interacts with certain molecules it can form atoms or groups of atoms called free radicals. Free radicals cause damage when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. When this happens, it can also cause cells to die. This includes muscle cells. Antioxidants are molecules that can interact with free radicals and effectively neutralize them before they can cause damage to cells. Exercising naturally increases oxidative stress which leads to increased production of free radicals. This means that it is even more important to ingest antioxidants around your training sessions. Antioxidants are Vitamin E, Alpha Lipoic Acid, N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC).

How to Use Pre-Workout Supplements?

As with most supplements, it is important to cycle pre-workout supplements. Many supplements should be cycled from time to time to keep your body from adapting to them. By cycling it ensures that your body will remain sensitive to the ingredients. For example, if creatine is not cycled, creatine transporters in your body will down regulate. This means you will keep taking it but it will essentially be wasted because the body no longer has the ability to transport creatine to the muscle cells.

Caffeine is another example of supplement that should cycled. Sensitivity to caffeine will decrease over time with use. This is seen by someone who used to need only a cup of coffee to stay alert but over time it take a whole pot just to exert the same effect. Plus surplus or more caffeine intake will lead to disoriented efforts and lowered adrenal function. This can be avoided by cycling products.

You can recycle pre-workout products by consistently using for 6-8 weeks followed by 2-3 weeks off. Then repeat. You will find that when you come back to the supplements they will feel they are working even more on you. Your body will also re-sensitize itself during the break while occasionally cycling off. Similarly, you must have break from stimulants.

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