Pre-Workout: What's Up with That?
So, I’ve constantly heard from a number of members in the gym that they feel like they need something extra to really get them up for a workout, or that they saw some Instagram fitness guru and they take pre-workout so they want to take some too. Now, before we get into if there are really pre-workout supplements that can aid in your workouts, I’m going to tell everyone the best pre-workout there is and it doesn’t cost a single penny.
That’s right. Sleep more. Before you go spending boat loads of money on something that you aren’t absolutely sure is going to work for you or not, I would make sure you check off the number one thing on the list to make sure your performance improves and that is sleep. If you aren’t sleeping more than 6 hours a night, you have ZERO business buying pre-workout supplements until you fix that. If you are sleeping more than 6 hours but less than 7, I would still say you should try re-working your schedule before you go down the supplement road. The decrease in A LOT of biomarkers that are crucial for performance happens when you aren’t sleeping enough. Your ability to produce testosterone goes down. Your predisposition to diabetes goes up. Your ability to properly handle stressors goes down. So, first and foremost make sure you’re sleeping enough.
Ok. Now that we got that out of the way let’s discuss pre-workout supplements.
The first thing that needs to be established is the kind of workout are we doing. If we’re going for a long run or a leisure bike ride or anything that might last in excess of 30 minutes at a very moderate pace, we don’t need any pre-workout. Those things are aerobic in terms of the response they’re going to get from your cells to facilitate the exercise. Those reactions happen in the mitochondria of the cell which is totally prepared to handle those type of stressors.
If we’re doing a typical CrossFit style workout or we’re doing some kind of running or biking or rowing intervals, now we’re getting into the stuff pre-workout was designed for. The first supplement or ergogenic aid that people should most likely be taking in order to “get up” for a workout is caffeine. That’s right, caffeine. Now, it is a vasoconstrictor, which means your blood flow won’t be that great so I wouldn’t recommend taking some right before your workout but maybe an hour before can do you a lot of good in terms of just feeling up for your workout.
The next is creatine. Creatine is a molecule that gets stored in the body as phosphocreatine. It’s basically the molecule that supports muscle growth and power output that’s found in red meat and eggs. It can be highly useful for weightlifters or people doing high intensity workouts. However, there is roughly 20% of people that are going to be non-responders so it is something that you’ll have to experiment with.
The next are BCAAs or branch chained amino acids. These are the amino acids known as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are amino acids that help with protein synthesis (muscle building) and glucose intake into cells. These amino acids are already found in food but if you aren’t eating enough protein, then it is something you might want to consider. They’re common among body builders because they aid in the prevention of entering a catabolic state (muscle break down) during exercise. They do not aid in making you feel more alert and neither does creatine.
These are some things to consider when purchasing pre-workout. As always, it is best to experiment on yourself and take notes to see if you’re really seeing any added benefit from the supplement.