Preworkout, does it work? The good the bad and the ugly
Preworkout! What works? What doesn’t? Should you take it?
I’m here to help.
There’s a lot of mixed reviews about pre workouts. Some people swear by it. Some people say it’s just a bunch of chemicals. Some people like the tingling feeling you get from beta alanine, and some like getting amped up for a caffeine-fueled workout.
But do they work?
First we need to look at what makes up most pre-workouts.
All pre-workouts are different but most will contain a combination of caffeine, creatine, beta alanine, BCAA (branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine), and a host of other chemicals that claim to benefit exercise endurance and recovery such as L-arganine, Taurine, Tyrosine, and UM WOAH A LOT OF BIG WORDS. Advertising makes them sound good in theory. Lets go over them and see what the research says:
Claim: boost in energy, improve focus, improve mood, increase metabolism for fat burning, appetite suppressant, improved overall performance.
Research: Caffeine is a double edged sword. Research has shown some inconclusive evidence. In some instances it has shown benefit, for example this study showed that caffeine improved performance of elite rowers in a 6 minute test. Many studies have found evidence of increased performance in different areas, however some researchers are speculating that this may simply be a placebo effect of being “hyped up”, as there hasn’t been any research to show conclusively how it affects our body systems in relation to sports performance. On the other side of this, research has shown some of the effects of caffeine on our bodies, such as increased blood pressure, involuntary contraction of internal organs, acid reflux, dehydration, as well as some interesting effects on your brain. Caffeine also increases your stress, which increases your cortisol levels, and we all know cortisol is not great for athletic performance or recovery, and has a tendency to make our bodies put on excess fat.
The jury: Due your due diligence! I myself can attest to feeling more amped up and having better workouts when I’m hopped up on caffeine. But on the other side I don’t feel awesome after I come down from a caffeine high, and I know I get jaw tension and increased stress from too much, so use in moderation!
Claim: Increased strength in the 1-3 rep range, increased muscle mass and power, increased recovery.
Research: Studies have shown time and time again that creatine has numerous benefits to athletic performance and recovery. Creatine increases muscle mass, power in the short rep ranges and increases muscle mass. Check it out! Also, if you’re going to supplement with creatine, drink lots of water!
Claim: Build muscle mass, increase exercise capacity and improve athletic performance.
Research: The research is inconclusive. Not many studies have been done on beta alanine and the ones that do exist show little or no significant effect on muscle performance, muscle mass or power. Check out this experimental review! Just because the research doesn’t show any benefit does not mean that there isn’t one, but it does cast a shadow of doubt. Do your due diligence!
Claim: Reduce fatigue, increase recovery, improves athletic performance.
Research: Research has shown that supplementing with BCAAs does actually result in improving recovery and actually boosts your immune system. However they does not improve athletic performance.
L-arganine, Taurine and Tyrosine
Claim: Boost athletic performance, aid in muscle recovery.
Research: These are three amino acids that have different effects on your body and some of them may aid in muscle recovery, however there really isn’t any research to show that they have a significant effect on performance or recovery. They’re also found in every day foods and don’t really need to be supplemented, for example Taurine is found in red bull… Check out this article from PMC that goes over the different amino acids and their functions!
So what works and what doesn’t? In some cases, the jury is still out. There simply isn’t substantial evidence to show that all ingredients in pre workout has benefits. Creatine definitely has its benefits, and there is some inconclusive evidence about the other ingredients, but just because research hasn’t shown that these substances improve performance doesn’t mean that they don’t, it just means that we don’t know. Want to find out? Time to do some research!
It really comes down to you. Do you feel better when you take pre workout? Do you recover faster and perform better? Whether or not it is a placebo, if it helps you then I would encourage you to keep using it. If it doesn’t, then stop wasting your money. Or just take creatine!
What’s your take?! Let me know!
Got suggestions about future posts? Got questions? Don’t hesitate to ask! I promise to respond as quickly as I can. I’m always here to help, and I want to be a resource. Talk soon 🙂