Pre-Workout Supplements: Are They Worth the Hype?

If your average daily routine involves getting out of bed before the sun rises, grabbing coffee on your way to the office, then fueling up on pre-workout supplements before your sweat session begins, you’re not alone. Many people swear by pre-workout powders and formulas to give them that extra boost they need when they’re lacking the energy to complete their grueling workouts. But are these pre-workout formulas really doing your body any favors? It’s time to take a look at what exactly is in these supplements, and find out if they’re worth the hefty price tag.

On the days when you’re running from one place to another and are short on time, you need a quick workout. This is where pre-workout supplements come in — the idea is that by drinking them before your workout, you’ll be able to work faster, stronger, and harder through your routine. While these supplements often have ingredients that do increase blood flow and heart rate, you may not actually be getting any bigger or stronger.

Livescience explains these pre-workout supplements typically contain a mixture of caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine to give you the energy boost you’re looking for. Caffeine has been linked to providing a physical boost during workouts. The story highlighted research indicating men could lift heavier weights and perform more reps when working out with caffeine in their system over men who skipped the supplement. There have also been numerous studies linking caffeine consumption to improved performance for endurance athletes.

Muscular man drinking a protein shake

Muscular gym-goer drinking a pre-workout supplement | iStock.com

Caffeine isn’t totally safe, however. In the case of pre-workout supplements, there’s often more caffeine in the formula than is recommended for consumption. Some pre-workout supplements contain as much caffeine as four cups of coffee in just one serving, and many others contain levels of caffeine that could cause health problems if you’re also an avid coffee or tea drinker. Consuming caffeine may seem harmless, but Mayo Clinic says too much can lead to symptoms like muscle tremors, upset stomach, and heart palpitations.

If you are going to have a pre-workout drink before exercise, then creatine is definitely an ingredient you want to see on the nutrition label. Men’s Health explains this amino acid is known g weight lifters as a key component to building muscle quickly and effectively. Creatine helps the body produce energy faster, meaning you’ll feel more able to do that extra set of reps when you’re feeling tired. It also pulls water into your muscle cells, so if you’re consistently hitting the gym, you may be able to bulk up more effectively. The catch here is that if you take your pre-workout supplement and don’t the hit the gym, you’re bound to gain unwanted water weight.

Beta-alanine is newer to the sports scene than caffeine and creatine, but it’s a vital component to pre-workout supplements. Men’s Fitness says this amino acid might improve muscular endurance and reduce symptoms of fatigue during a workout. When used in conjunction with creatine, some research has shown it’s also more likely for users to gain more lean muscle mass and reduce body fat.

With all of these ingredients that can benefit you during exercise, pre-workout supplements still might not be worth it. While you might get the feeling that your muscles are tingling and ready to take on more weight than usual, most of the effects happen in your brain. Legion Athletics explains the amount of these ingredients in your pre-workout shake might be too miniscule to matter, and you might just be getting a load of caffeine, sugar, and other ineffective ingredients that only make you think you’re drinking an awesome supplement.

Man feeling tired after his workout is finished

Man feeling tired after his workout is finished | iStock.com

In addition to being ineffective, certain pre-workout drinks have been pulled off shelves because of their dangerous ingredients. Jack3d and OxyElite Pro are two supplements that have been linked to liver damage and even death. This is from a dangerous ingredient, which the FDA never approved.

Depending on which pre-workout supplement you choose, it’s possible to get not enough stimulation or way too much. If you’re having trouble finding a supplement that’s full of safe, natural performance-enhancing ingredients, that’s because they’re next to impossible to find. Taking these supplements usually means you’re in for a total jolt of stimulation, or you’ve wasted your money on a product that does nothing.

If you swear by your pre-workout supplement and it contains safe levels of stimulants accompanied by natural ingredients to better your performance, then by all means, keep at it. But if you’re considering taking a supplement for higher energy levels and quick muscle gain, then you might get more bang for your buck with a cup of coffee, food that’s high in protein, and enough carbs to fuel your workout.

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