What does a Pre-workout supplement mean to you? Is it simply a powder or pill that you ingest to give you an energy and stimulatory hit before a workout, or is there far more to what is one of the most popular nutrition supplements on the planet?
You see the term ‘Pre-workout’ can literally comprise of single ingredients, right through to supplements that contain 10 or more ingredients, as well as special supplement blends known as proprietary blends. So what should you go for when deciding on a pre-workout supplement, is it better to choose several single ingredient pre-workout supplements or buy one that has them all in already?
Things to consider...
Well first off it’s not as easy as that, many pre-workout supplements that contain a multitude of ingredients do not necessarily contain the best ones! Some pre-workout supplements on the market cram in loads of ingredients in a lame attempt to either baffle the consumer, or because they think more is better.
I can categorically tell you that more is NOT necessarily better, especially not when it comes to a proprietary blend which by definition doesn’t have to state the exact quantities of each ingredient in the product. For example, a pre-workout might contain some of the superstar names in the pre-workout world such as Beta-alanine, L-arginine, Citrulline malate or Agmatine, but how much of each is in there is anybody’s guess! Yes you can estimate the quantities by looking at where the ingredient is on the list e.g. there will be higher quantities of ingredients that are at the beginning of the list compared to those at the end. You could also take the total grams in the proprietary blend and divide it by the number of ingredients to give you an idea of spread.
Which Pre-workout is best?
There really isn’t a right or wrong type of pre-workout to consume, some blends are excellent, take Optimum Nutrition Platinum PRE which is technically a blend but overtly states the quantities of each ingredient. So does the legendary BSN NO-Xplode, one of THE original pre-workout supplements, this clearly states exactly what you can expect to get from the product.
Conversely, Cobra The Curse delivers an impressive energy and blood flow amplifier concoction and a focus combo all in one product, which is great and seems to be quite effective in my experience. Problem is the quantities of each ingredient, all of which are quite small based on the number of ingredients and total grams within the blend. The effectiveness of the product could therefore be down to the solid caffeine hit, which I estimate to be around 130mg caffeine (about the same as 1-2 filter coffees), which in itself isn’t a bad thing, after all we know that caffeine reduces perceived exertion as well as improving mental acuity (focus and concentration).
Some pre-workouts avoid the proprietary blend route altogether and just state exactly how much of what is in the product. Take Grenade 50 Calibre as an example, this product clearly states the individual ingredients and how much are present for each. This transparency makes it a lot easier to decide whether you want to top up a particular ingredient such as creatine, for which you need significantly more than is present in the product in order to see an ergogenic (performance enhancing) effect.
Many fitness professionals and enthusiasts opt for single ingredient pre-workouts for the simple reason that you have complete control of how much of what goes into your body. Of course that then means you have to know how much of what to have, as well as knowledge on what individual ingredients work well together. Good news is that most single ingredient pre-workout supplements will be in or around the optimal range, so all you have to think about is getting the ideal combination of products for best results.
Single Ingredient Pre-workout combinations…
To help you out, here is a list of single ingredient supplements that work well together…
Many people choose to buy these ingredients individually and consume them together, whilst others prefer to take one on its own, perhaps the best of the bunch is Creatine. There is more evidence surrounding the beneficial effect of creatine than any other supplement on the planet. It would be quite reasonable to consume a serving of L-arginine, Beta-alanine, Caffeine and Creatine around 20-30mins prior to a workout to get a great muscle pump (L-arginine), improved muscle power endurance (creatine), improved mental focus (caffeine) AND reduced onset of muscle cramps (beta-alanine).
If you do choose to consume single ingredients, then exercise caution if combining other pre-workout supplements as these might already contain some of those active ingredients.
Always consult a Doctor prior to taking a nutritional supplement. Everybody responds differently to pre-workout supplements, therefore it is at your discretion whether you choose to consume them.
Do consult your Doctor prior to consumption if you have a medical condition or are on any form of medication.