We all lead hectic and busy lives that demand lots of energy during the day. What do you do after you’ve spent all day at work or all day attending classes on campus and don’t have any energy left for a grueling gym session? This is where an effective and properly dosed pre-workout can make all the difference with the right ingredients.
An extraordinary pre-workout can give you a much needed pick-me-up making you feel fully energized and recharged. But, obviously, not all pre-workouts are equal in their ingredients. In a market saturated with thousands upon thousands of pre-workouts, many lack the essential building blocks and key ingredients your body needs to achieve peak performance. Many companies skimp out on proper doses of these ingredients by hiding behind the mysterious moniker of “proprietary blends”, which costs you the knockout effects you expect in a premium pre-workout supplement.
As we said previously, in a saturated market of endless pre-workouts, choosing the best one can be challenging. However, there are just a handful of top must-have ingredients you should look for in ALL pre-workouts.
Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid which helps fight muscle fatigue. When working out and performing high intensity exercise, your muscles will eventually begin to cramp and you’ll feel soreness. That’s where beta-alanine steps in to act as a buffer to this muscle soreness and to help extend your endurance level. If you aren’t as sore or fatigued while lifting, then you can lift more. Lifting more = more gains!
Research shows that you only need a total of 3.2g of beta-alanine per day BUT it should be divided into two doses. Many pre-workout supplements attempt to give you a full “overdose” of this ingredient which causes itchy skin and an unpleasant “pins and needles” feeling all over your skin. This won’t harm you as there are no damaging effects to taking too much beta-alanine. However, there is no benefit to over supplementing on it either, unless you enjoy itchy skin during your workout.
Some pre-workouts on the market now are advertised as “stim-free”, meaning they don’t have caffeine or other stimulant ingredients. That is okay if you have a low tolerance for caffeine. However, if you want to experience heightened energy and amplified alertness, then you need caffeine. Caffeine has been a staple ingredient in pre-workouts mainly because it is extremely effective in what it does.
Caffeine can increase your power output as well as improve your ability to lift heavy amounts of weight (when you consume about 300mg of caffeine prior to exercise) and improve your aerobic / cardio performance (when your caffeine intake is about 150mg). It is best to assess your caffeine tolerance level first as too much caffeine can cause jitters, headache, and irregular heartbeat. To combat these negative effects of caffeine, some companies have begun pairing caffeine with theanine. Theanine helps make the energy surge from caffeine smoother and more gradual to prevent the experience of a crash and jitters while still giving you heightened energy.
Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid meaning that your body can produce it. However, your body will only produce just enough for it’s daily needs. In regards to physical exercise, you’ll want to amp up your citrulline levels with a serving of 4g before exercise. When taken, Citrulline helps supply your muscles with more oxygen and nutrients to give you more of a pumped feeling while working out. Citrulline has been studied extensively and has shown to help weightlifters perform roughly 53% more reps in their workouts.
Several pre-workouts will list citrulline and others will list citrulline malate on the nutritional label. There is no real difference between the two as they are both citrulline. You must check the dosages though. Many times when citrulline malate is listed it is a 2:1 or a 1:1 ratio (this should be specified). Therefore, if the label says 6g of citrulline malate it may be 4g of citrulline to 2g of malate or only 3g of citrulline to 3g of malate. Strive for 4g of citrulline in your pre-workout.
4. BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
BCAAs are made up of 3 molecular ingredients: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These 3 amino acids have been shown to help improve endurance training to alleviate muscle soreness. As we mentioned earlier, less muscle fatigue mean lifting more weight. The ratio you should look for with BCAAs is 2:1:1 with leucine being the highest of the three. BCAAs act quickly when consumed and give you immediate protection against muscle fatigue when working out. Some research has even found that BCAAs can decrease muscle soreness that you may experience the following day from an intense workout.
Like the other mentioned ingredients, Creatine is one of the most studied ingredients in the fitness industry. The benefits of supplementing with creatine are that it has been shown to increase strength and power. Anyone who lifts weights wants more strength and power to increase muscle mass and definition. Scientifically backed research has shown that people taking creatine saw approximately up to a 10% increase in strength gains. As an added bonus, newer studies have shown that supplementing creatine monohydrate with beta-alanine can significantly boost the effects of beta-alanine.
If you’ve never taken creatine before, studies recommend you undergo a short loading phase where you take up to 20g of creatine throughout the day split in multiple servings. After that it is recommended to supplement with 3 – 5g split throughout the day.
Those 5 essentials should be the base of any pre-workout supplement you buy. Beyond that, many companies then can take the effects of their pre-workout product in all directions. Some companies may then add more nitric oxide boosters to that base mix for more of a pump and increased blood flow effect. Others may pile on stimulants for a crazed jittery mess. LionBlast took those base ingredients and went in the direction of adding nootropics for a more well-rounded pre-workout that delivers eye-opening energy, long lasting endurance, and razor sharp focus from the mixture of nootropics.
Should You Make Your Own Pre-Workout?
If you want to, you can make your own pre-workout. The benefit to do this is that it would be cheaper and you would get to fine tune your ingredients to fit your overall fitness goal. However, there are significant downsides to this. For starters, many websites that supply consumers with the raw ingredients will source their ingredients from China. In doing so, many of the raw bulk supplement powders you find will contain high levels of heavy metals and haven’t been properly tested in an FDA / GMP certified manufacturing facility the way in which a retail pre-workout supplement would be tested.
Secondly the taste will be disgustingly awful. Nearly all of these raw ingredients are extremely bitter, sour, and foul tasting. No matter the amount of additives and flavorings you can find over-the-counter, you won’t be able to properly mask the stomach churning taste of pure raw ingredients. Trust me. I tried making my own personal pre-workout mix years before launching LionBlast.
Stick to buying a pre-made, properly dosed pre-workout instead. Just make sure that when you aren’t sure as to which pre-workout to use, you always read and compare the nutritional labels. Knowing which ingredients and how much of those ingredients to take is vital to any supplement you consume.