Pre-workout supplements are generally known for their ability to PUMP YOU UP! Their key ingredients usually include l-arginine, beta-alanaine, caffeine and more recently, citrulline malate, all of which work cumulatively to bring you to a peak level of arousal and readiness to train. However, it now seems that key ingredients in a pre-workout supplement may reduce muscle soreness too...RESULT!
How pre-workouts do their job
If we consider the mechanisms by which pre-workouts work then it’s clear that they act both directly and indirectly on the cardiovascular system (heart, veins and arteries). Pre-workouts increase the perfusion of blood to your brain and working muscle via a process known as preferential shunting. The extra blood to the brain increases oxygen delivery and energy, and the increased blood flow to the muscle increases muscle pumps, the removal of waste products, as well as increases oxygen and energy delivery. These functions predominantly rely on amino acids and key organic compounds such as citrulline malate, beta- alanine and l-arginine.
L-arginine and citrulline malate causes the release of nitric oxide (NO), which subsequently leads to vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), this in turn gives you a nice vascular (veiny) look…better known as the pump. Despite this characteristic pump being the main reason pre-workout supplements have become one of the most common supplements around, new research appears to demonstrate improvements in muscle recovery after taking a pre-workout supplement prior to exercise.
The multi-talented pre-workout supplement
A recent study by Perez-Guisado & Philip Jakeman, (2010) suggests that an increased blood flow to the muscle during exercise may be one of the contributing factors as to why a pre-workout supplement was seen to reduce the aches you feel after exercise (DOMS). Yes, a good pre-workout supplement will increase your ability to lift weight for longer, as recently evidenced by Wax, Kavazis, Weldon & Sperlak, (2015), but despite what common sense might suggest, key characteristics of a pre-workout supplement may indeed reduce muscle aches the next day.
The study by Wax et al, (2015) found that the effects of citrulline malate increased high- intensity resistance performance, allowed athletes to perform more reps on the leg press, hack squat, and leg extension machine (yep, these guys didn’t skip leg day)! However, this improvement in blood flow was also seen to increase nutrient delivery (such as amino acids), as well as improve the removal of waste products such as hydrogen, ammonia and lactate. It is the accumulation of waste product combined with inadequate amino acids such as Leucine and Glutamine that can cause the stiff, achy legs the next day. Therefore it stands to reason why a supplement that removes waste whilst concomitantly introducing nutrients and fresh blood will help to flush the muscle and improve muscle recovery.
So next time you get your pre-workout supplement in before a tough gym session, be sure to combine this with a BCAA supplement for during the session (the Leucine content of a BCAA significantly reduces muscle breakdown), and of course a quality whey protein supplement for after. This way you stand a good chance of making DOMS a thing of the past!
Wax, B., Kavazis, A, N., Weldon, K., Sperlak, J. (2015). Effects of supplemental citrulline malate ingestion during repeated bouts of lower body exercise in advanced weightlifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 29(3)/786-792