If you’ve been into fitness and sports nutrition for any length of time, you’ll have heard a thing or two about pre-workout supplements.
Everyone has their own opinions about pre-workouts.
Ask anyone at random, and you could get a different answer on whether they actually work, what they do for you, and which supplements are the best.
In this article, we’ll clear everything up, and give you all you need to know about pre-workout supplements, the benefits of pre-workout supplements, whether they’re worth taking, and how to get the most out of your pre-workout.
How Does a Pre Workout Supplement Work?
Pre-workouts are dietary supplements meant to give you a boost, as the name suggests, before your workout.
The name can actually refer to a pretty large range of products.
Unlike protein powder or creatine, the definition of what a pre-workout supplement is can vary greatly.
There are many different pre-workout formulas, from a proprietary blend of ingredients to something as simple as a caffeine pill.
The exact way it works will therefore be different depending on the specific pre workout formula.
The general idea, however, is the same. Pre-workouts are designed to improve athletic performance and support high-intensity exercise.
Complete pre-workout supplements, like Naked Energy, will also help you get more lasting gains from your workout regimen and increase recovery to get back in the gym faster.
Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements
Let’s take a closer look at several common pre-workout benefits.
Accessing the energy you need to hit peak output is tough, and even tougher if you’re doing it after a poor night’s sleep, or a long day at work.
Pre-workouts give you both a short-term boost of energy at the start of your workout, and a sustained increase in energy levels that helps you push further and maintain peak performance for longer.
Greater Athletic Performance
Your body needs certain vitamins and nutrients to support exercise performance and pure energy output.
Pre-workouts deliver more of these nutrients, so you can train harder and for longer.
Examples include creatine, which helps the body produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is a compound that provides the muscles with energy.
Other common ingredients in pre-workouts, such as B vitamins, caffeine, and branched-chain amino acids, support a range of athletic functions, from increased blood flow to enhanced power and strength performance.
Focus and Mental Clarity
The physical side of working out is just one part. It also demands intense focus and mental clarity.
If you’re not there mentally, it can be hard to make it through to the end of an intense workout. It’s all too easy to psych yourself out and quit early.
Mental clarity is also important to help you maintain correct form. When you get tired, your form begins to lag, which is where injuries and suboptimal gains happen.
Pre-workouts keep you laser-focused throughout your entire workout and help you nail the mental element of exercise performance, which is often ignored.
Pre-workout supplements also help speed up recovery time, supporting the process of protein synthesis, in which the body produces new proteins and rebuilds muscle tissue.
Recovery is where gains happen. The quicker you fully recover from your workout, the quicker you can access the benefits of working out, like increased strength or lean body mass.
With reduced muscle soreness and fatigue after your workout, you'll be able to get back in the gym more frequently, helping you increase your total workload over time.
Do Pre-Workouts Really Make a Difference?
Do pre-workout supplements really work? That’s the golden question, that’s difficult to answer for sure.
The effectiveness of pre-workout supplements depends on the specific ingredients used. As this combination varies from supplement to supplement, so will the effectiveness.
The benefits of the most common ingredients found in pre-workout formulas, like creatine and caffeine, are pretty well studied and backed by science.
So if these things are in your pre-workout, you can be safe in assuming it will make a difference.
Do Pre-Workouts Burn Fat?
In most cases, pre-workouts don’t burn fat on their own. You’re not going to get fat loss simply by taking a pre-workout supplement (despite what some products might claim).
Pre-workouts can certainly aid the process, however, by helping you access higher stores of energy and burn more calories during your workout.
You can definitely develop a better body composition by using pre-workout supplements - but you need to put some work in as well.
Is it Bad to Take a Pre-Workout Everyday?
Clean, high-quality pre-workout supplements are almost always safe to take every day.
The most common pre-workout ingredients, such as creatine and caffeine, have a wealth of studies to back up their safety for daily consumption.
Caffeine can cause issues if you overdo it (say if your supplement contains a huge amount of caffeine, or you drink a lot of coffee during the day) or if you have a medical condition that makes you sensitive to caffeine.
However, the main reason it could be bad to take pre-workout consistently is if it contains a lot of artificial additives or harmful ingredients - in which case, it’s best not to take it at all.
What are Some Common Pre Workout Ingredients?
Here are some of the ingredients you’re likely to see in high-quality pre-workout supplements.
Creatine, or creatine monohydrate, has been extensively tested and studied for a number of uses related to physical performance.
Creatine is naturally occurring in the body, as well as being found in food sources such as meat, eggs, and fish. However, it’s more commonly known as a supplement.
The benefits of creatine include increased energy production, greater strength and muscle power, enhanced muscle growth, faster recovery, and a slower time to muscle fatigue.
Caffeine - the same caffeine that’s in your morning cup of joe - is a staple in most pre workout supplements.
The reason for this is that it's a dependable, fairly safe energy boost. Caffeine is great for fighting off fatigue (mental and physical) and getting you up to speed at the start of your workout, and may also improve endurance for 1-2 hours after consumption.
Caffeine can also boost mental clarity and focus, making it a great all-around supplement for pre-workouts.
Beta-Alanine & Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which serve many important roles in our body’s natural functions, including energy production and recovery.
This is why athletes often take amino acid supplements to ensure their body has what it needs to perform at a high level.
Supplements may also feature a range of other amino acids, particularly the 9 “essential” amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Pre-workouts may also include B vitamins, such as vitamins B3, B6, and B12.
Each B vitamin serves a slightly different purpose, but in general, they’re used for converting energy from external sources (such as food) into energy that the body can actively use - during a tough workout, for example.
B vitamins may also have stress-reducing properties and promote mental clarity, which are two more things that benefit you during a workout.
Is Caffeine a Pre-Workout?
You can take caffeine as a pre-workout on its own.
If you don’t want to take an actual pre-workout supplement, you could simply drink a cup of coffee a little before your workout, and you’ll get a few of the same effects.
However, be aware that it won’t give you the same level of sustained energy boost and increased athletic performance as a specifically-made pre-workout supplement.
When Should I Take a Pre Workout?
The short answer is obvious - before your workout.
As for exactly how long before your workout, this can differ from person to person, and from supplement to supplement. Depending on the ingredients, and your personal physiology, it may take more or less time to kick in.
A general rule is to take it 15-30 minutes before your workout. But feel free to experiment with the timing yourself, to find what works for you.
How do I Know That My Pre Workout Supplement is Working?
You should feel a little boost of energy, at least, similar to the effect you get after drinking a cup of coffee.
During your workout, you should feel a little extra drive and energy, and get to the point of fatigue later than usual.
Be aware, however, that a pre-workout supplement is not a magic pill, and it won’t make you feel like Popeye after eating a can of spinach. The effects can be subtle and not something you feel in an instant.
Are There Any Pre Workout Side Effects?
Side effects, again, depend on the ingredients in your pre-workout supplement.
Most supplements contain caffeine, which can have minor side effects for some, including jitters, digestive issues, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate.
However, for most people, these effects are minor, or not noticeable at all.
Creatine can also cause mild digestive upset, and can also cause water retention and make you feel slightly bloated.
Any other major side effects are often due to unhealthy or harmful additives. Some pre-workout supplements are loaded with sugar, which can cause a big energy crash. Some even contain stimulants, which may cause extreme jitters, palpitations, headaches, and anxiety.
It’s important to check the ingredients before taking a pre-workout, to ensure it’s safe and healthy to consume.
If you have any medical conditions, get your doctor to provide medical advice before taking any sports nutrition supplements.
Take Home Message
Some people claim pre-workouts are dangerous. Others say they’re just a waste of money and don’t do anything.
While some pre-workout supplements do fit in those two categories, it depends wholly on the list of ingredients.
Most supplements on the market have ingredients that offer well-studied and proven benefits for athletic performance, focus, mental clarity, and recovery.
Clean pre-workouts featuring ingredients such as creatine, caffeine, and beta-alanine, are pretty safe to improve your performance in the gym, with no harmful side effects.
Try a pre-workout product like Naked Energy to see the benefits for yourself, without the risk of any harmful additives.