2018's 10 Best
Everyone wants to get the most out of their workouts, whether it’s becoming stronger, losing more weight, running faster, or increasing endurance. There’s a lot of debate about what types of exercises to do, how many sets and reps are best, and how many days to work out each week. Taking supplements is another commonly-discussed subject, and within that discussion pre-workout supplements get a lot of attention.
Each pre-workout supplement has slightly different ingredients and boasts various amazing benefits. But the main idea behind them is that taking a pre-workout supplement is a great way to increase your energy levels and blood flow. This helps to increase your motivation, exercise effectiveness, and overall results. And who doesn’t want all of those things when it comes to spending their time in the gym?
These supplements are designed to be taken a certain amount of time before your workout to maximize their effects. This can help your energy levels to peak at the right time so you can jump right into your workout. The resultant energy boost can be even more important if you’ve had a long day at work or have a hard time waking up early in the morning.
How Pre-Workout Supplements Work
These supplements have the largest effect on your cardiovascular system. Many of the ingredients in these supplements work to either increase your energy or blood flow in the body. These substances are often in a form that the body can use directly or that it can easily convert into an important hormone or chemical.
By stimulating blood flow throughout the body, pre-workout supplements can increase oxygen flow to the muscles to keep them fresh and prevent fatigue for longer periods of time. Extra blood flow can also help with muscle recovery after workouts.
Some ingredients focus on increasing energy. Caffeine and taurine are commonly used for this purpose. These ingredients help increase your alertness and lessen tiredness. They can also increase your endurance and power output.
Health Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements
Pre-workout supplements often contain a wide variety of ingredients, so a range of benefits can often be experienced.
INCREASED ENERGY LEVELS
One of the most well-known benefits of pre-workout supplements is an increase in energy. This is achieved with stimulating ingredients. These raise your energy levels and motivation, making it easier to get to the gym and get through your workout. Many studies have been completed on pre-workout supplements, and they have shown that taking a supplement increases how energized and alert you feel when compared to having a placebo drink. Surprise, surprise, right? Stimulant vs. water. Yeah, the stim is going to win.
Being alert and focused in the gym is crucial for getting the most out of your workout. Alertness is increased by stimulants, often the same ones that increase energy levels. One study looked at the reaction times and accuracy of twelve strength athletes. They performed tests of hitting 30 targets lit up on three towers in front of them. After taking a pre-workout supplement, the athletes were much faster and more accurate in timed tests when compared to baseline results with a placebo.
HIGHER MUSCLE POWER OUTPUT
Many pre-workout supplements contain ingredients that work to increase muscle output and strength during your workout. This helps you better stimulate your muscles during your workouts, making your time in the gym more effective. These supplements can also help you reach personal goals and set personal bests.
One study looked at 12 male subjects with an average age of 19 years old. These subjects underwent multiple tests in total muscle output in the bench press. The subjects were able to push more weight in the bench press, showing that pre-workout supplements can increase overall strength. Another similar study noted increased muscle output in the leg press with a supplement as well.
BETTER MUSCULAR ENDURANCE
Besides muscle power, muscular endurance is another key player in workout success. Pre-workout supplements work to increase blood flow throughout the body. Higher blood flow can help increase oxygen flow to the muscles during workouts. This can be especially useful during difficult workouts, as the muscles can become drained of nutrients and fatigue quickly.
The study of 12 subjects that we just mentioned also studied power output during a full-effort sprint test. Taking a pre-workout supplement increased average power output throughout the test. Another study of college-aged individuals studied how these supplements affect endurance on treadmill runs to exhaustion. They found that endurance was improved at these athletes’ peak running speeds.
INCREASED WEIGHT LOSS
One of the main goals of many people in the gym is to lose weight, whether it’s trying to get down to a healthier weight or cutting excess fat before a bodybuilding competition. One key part of this is increasing your metabolism. Working out and increasing your heart rate naturally increases your body’s metabolism both during and after exercising. But supplements can increase it even more.
Caffeine is a great example of this. Studies have shown that caffeine can boost your total metabolism up to 11 percent. In regard to fat burning, this ingredient can increase your fat metabolism up to 29 percent, making a huge difference in fat loss caused from workouts. Increasing your strength and workout effectiveness can also contribute to higher calorie burning.
What to Look for When Buying Pre-Workout Supplements
Many pre-workout supplements contain a number of different ingredients. Each one carries specific benefits, so it is important to know what they do when selecting the proper supplement. This will allow you to select a supplement that will give you all the benefits you are looking for. Here is a list of some of the ingredients that are commonly used in these supplements and how they work.
L-arginine is an important amino acid in the body. It is used to build new muscle cells and tissues to replace damaged and torn cells that result from workouts. L-arginine also helps to make other important substances, like glutamate, proline, and creatine, all of which play important roles in the effectiveness of workouts and the recovery process.
L-arginine also gets converted into nitric oxide inside the body. Nitric oxide is a major player in controlling blood pressure. It is used to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow throughout the body. This can help increase oxygen flow to muscles and increase stamina during workouts. Arginine can also increase your energy levels.
Citrulline malate is turned into L-citrulline inside the body. This amino acid is not used to make proteins like most amino acids. Instead, it is turned into L-arginine and then converted into nitric oxide. As we just stated, nitric oxide plays an important role in increasing blood flow to help your heart and other muscles work better.
Caffeine is one of the most commonly used supplements in the world. It is found in many foods and beverages, such as coffee, green tea, and chocolate. This stimulant is known for its ability to increase your focus and energy levels. It can also affect your reaction times during workouts. Taking caffeine can also boost your fat and total metabolism, which is great for increasing weight loss.
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, make up around 40 percent of the essential amino acids in the body. They are processed within the muscles, providing energy directly without having to go through the liver first. Three main amino acids make up the majority of BCAA supplements: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Isoleucine and valine work to increase energy in the muscles to improve muscular endurance. Leucine is responsible for growing new muscles, which is important in the recovery process after a workout. The ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine varies between supplements, but it is often either 2:1:1 or 4:1:1.
Beta-alanine is another amino acid that is not used to build up new muscles. Instead, it is turned into carnosine once it is combined with histidine. Carnosine works to reduce lactic acid buildup in the muscles during exercise. By keeping lactic acid levels low, the muscles are able to perform better for longer periods of time, increasing performance.
Creatine is used to increase muscle size and strength. This supplement is naturally produced in the body, and it is stored within each of the muscle cells. It is a highly-dense form of energy that can be broken down to feed the muscles when their energy stores are depleted. It is especially used during high-intensity exercise.
Creatine also plays an important role in rebuilding muscle tissues. It can improve intracellular communication and speed up the regrowth process. The extra energy can also prevent muscle from being broken down as much during exercise.
Sodium bicarbonate is known by most as baking soda. This common household product is a buffering agent, which means that it helps reduce acid buildup. In the muscles, lactic acid builds up with extended exercise and can result in post-workout soreness.
Studies have found that taking sodium bicarbonate can help reduce acid buildup and can increase exercise performance. This is especially notable when it comes to high-intensity and short-interval sprinting, running, or cycling. There is also some evidence that it can help with longer bouts of exercise.
Nitrates are found in many foods, such as vegetables, beetroot, and even drinking water. In the body, nitrates are converted into nitrite and then into nitric oxide. This finished product helps increase blood flow in the body to increase energy and stamina during workouts. It can also help warm up the joints and muscles during exercise to decrease pain.
In addition to regulating blood pressure, nitric oxide has also been shown to decrease muscle soreness after workouts by sending extra nutrients to damaged tissues and clearing out the built-up lactate and ammonia. This helps to speed up the healing process and get you back in the gym quicker.
The Proper Dosage for Pre-Workout Supplements
There is no golden rule to find the appropriate and most effective dose of a pre-workout supplement. This is because these supplements vary significantly in the ingredients they contain and the amounts of each one in a single dose. Because of this, it is usually best to select a dose based on the instructions on the supplement, and then alter it according to how it affects your body. If there is a range listed, it is usually best to take a dose on the lower end of the spectrum to make sure you do not have a negative reaction.
One important thing to note with pre-workout supplements is the timing of them. Taking these supplements between 20 and 30 minutes prior to a workout usually is the most effective approach. This allows the ingredients to be digested and absorbed by the body so that you can feel their effects by the time you begin your workout. Taking pre-workouts too early before you exercise could cause them to wear off in the middle of your workout.
Possible Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements
One of the biggest potential side effects with pre-workout supplements is overstimulation. Many of the ingredients in these supplements cause increased energy levels and alertness. At some point though, the body can obtain too much energy, causing it to become jittery.
While this may only be an uncomfortable feeling for some people, it can be dangerous for others. If you have a heart condition, high anxiety, or have a history of panic attacks, you should be careful when taking any pre-workout supplement. Caution should also be taken by people who have a sensitivity to caffeine.
Another side effect is dehydration. Just like other stimulating items (coffee, tea, etc), pre-workout supplements can act as a diuretic. This causes your kidneys to release water and can result in you needing to go to the bathroom more frequently. To reduce the ill effects of dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of water before and after taking your dose.
Pre-workout supplements have not been tested thoroughly, and these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid taking these supplements to prevent any unwanted effects. This is also true for children.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements
Our top 10 list of pre-workout supplements is organized to reflect what you most value in your supplements. First and foremost is quality. All of our top ten supplements meet high standards of quality and come from brands with a proven record in excellence and purity. Another important factor in deciding the top ten was cost. You don’t have to pay through the nose to get a high-quality pre-workout supplement. In addition, all the companies represented on our list have stellar records with customer service and prompt shipping. This ensures that your supplement experience is enjoyable from the first click to your final dose.
- Hoffman, J.R., Kang, J., Ratamess, N.A., Hoffman, M.W., Tranchina, C.P., Faigenbaum, A.D. Examination of a Pre-Exercise, High Energy Supplement On Exercise Performance. PubMed.gov
- Brandon D. Spradley, Kristy R. Crowley, Chih-Yin Tai, Kristina L. Kendall, David H. Fukuda, Enrico N. Esposito, Sarah E. Moon, and Jordan R. Moon Ingesting A Pre-Workout Supplement Containing Caffeine, B-Vitamins, Amino Acids, Creatine, and Beta-Alanine Before Exercise Delays Fatigue While Improving Reaction Time and Muscular Endurance BioMedCentral.com
- William Gamonski Top 5 Pre-Workout Supplements LiveStrong.com
- Fukuda, D.H., Smith, A.E., Kendall, K.L., Stout, J.R. The Possible Combinatory Effects of Acute Consumption of Caffeine, Creatine, and Amino Acids On the Improvement of Anaerobic Running Rerformance in Humans. PubMed.gov
- Andrew R. Jagim, Margaret T. Jones, Glenn A. Wright, Carly St. Antoine, Attila Kovacs, and Jonathan M. Oliver The Acute Effects of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Ingestion On Strength Performance, Lower Body Power, and Anaerobic Capacity BioMedCentral.com
- Janet Renee, MS, RD Safest Pre-Workout Supplements LiveStrong.com
- Grant Tinsley, PhD The 7 Best Pre-Workout Supplements to Try HealthLine.com
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