Once you start training at the gym, it doesn’t take long before you find out about the cult-like obsession known as pre workout supplements. Here, we’re going to explain to you exactly what pre workout supplements are and what pre workout supplements do.
For Starters: What is a pre workout supplement and why would I want to take it?
Pre workout supplements are specially designed powders that are taken before exercise in order to improve some or all of the following:
- Energy Levels
There are also even more specially designed pre workouts that can help the actual building of muscle or fat loss, but the above covers the most realistic benefits 90% of pre workouts offer.
Both Men and Women take pre workouts for these reasons with energy being the primary highlight.
Everyone wants to be in better shape, but as we both know – getting motivated can be really hard (perhaps really, really hard is more accurate). This is why pre workout supplements thrive.
Nothing beats being able to drink a quick pre workout powder that hypes you up and energizes you for the gym. It’s a total mood-switch into workout mode!
And caffeine is the perfect ingredient to get you going in this fashion. Not natural caffeine like you would get out of coffee though… We mean the good stuff – purified and concentrated caffeine anhydrous.
This form of caffeine hits harder, cleaner, and doesn’t cause headaches as easily. Translation – it’s like the first time you drank an energy drink of cup of coffee. Boom!
Caffeine’s awesome effect in pre workouts is a double-edged sword in the fitness industry.
Due to caffeine’s feel-good energizing effect (which isn’t a bad thing), literally anybody can go out and make a pre workout supplement, slap a groovy label on it, sell it do pre workout newbies, and have massive success.
This isn’t inherently a problem, except for the fact that this creates a shroud of confusion around pre workout supplements and how they could actually be 10X better.
There is literally a marketing shroud created by companies selling mega-cheap caffeine pre workouts (high margins) that choke out the genuinely perfect pre workout supplements.
And that is our beef with the wonder drug caffeine, it’s allowing marketing companies to saturate your brain with so many average and decent products that you never even learn about the great, exceptional, and perfect ones.
Hence why we created this entire website. To help you learn about supplements, ingredients, and how to pick the absolute best. No more trusting marketing bullet points for us, mate!
What’s In a Pre Workout / What Makes a Pre Workout Good?
Nearly every pre workout supplement is composed of the following ingredients. Some having more than others, and some having larger or smaller dosages of each ingredient. These are the pre workout ingredients and dosages that you should be familiar with:
Ingredient #1 in pre workouts: Caffeine
Caffeine is the main stimulant that gives you uber-loads of energy. With that, its dosage varies drastically from product to product.
Caffeine quantities in Pre Workouts
- Low: 0 to 150 mg
- Optimal: 150 to 200 mg
- Tolerance compensation: 200 to 365 mg
- Unethical and dangerous 365 mg and up
We prefer the 150-200 mg range when we train, it’s an effective and safe dosage that will not cause you to quickly build a tolerance. Some companies go absolutely insane and over-dose their pre workouts like fools. You can see how much caffeine is in pre workouts here for a list.
Ingredient #2 in pre workouts: Citrulline Malate
Citrulline malate has two effects on the body that makes it useful in pre workout supplements.
The first, is its ability to increase nitric oxide levels with l-citrulline. That means, more blood circulation for increased performance and recovery.
The second, is an increase in energy from malic acid (malate) which is a cellular energy cycle component easily burnable by the body.
Citrulline Malate quantities in Pre Workouts:
- Ineffective: 0 to 5,000 mg
- Optimal: 6,000 to 8,000 mg
- Anything above this is unlikely, as Citrulline Malate is expensive
The main thing to understand here, is that if you are not getting at least 5,000 mg…. It’s worthless. For smaller women, you girls can get away with lesser dosages due to your body weight. But for men, no way!
You can learn more about Citrulline Malate here if you’d like.
Ingredient #3 in pre workouts: Beta-Alanine
Your initial reponse to beta-alanine is likely to be the most memorable! That’s because beta-alanine in proper dosages can cause a flushing/tingling of the skin. This is most predominant in the face!
But don’t freak out, this is totally normal. And this small tingly price comes with the benefits of increased endurance and recovery.
Beta-Alanine Quantities in Pre Workouts
- Ineffective: 0 to 3,200 mg
- Optimal: 3,200 to 5,000 mg
- Anything above is unlikely, as its pricey
Yes we know, your initial thoughts are: I don’t want to tingle… But before you give up, read about the benefits of beta-alanine here.
Ingredient #4 in pre workouts: Creatine
Many old-school pre workout supplements include creatine in their pre workouts, as its one of the most supported muscle builders. This is fine for stimulant-free pre workouts, but not so much for caffeinated products in our experience.
The problem, is that creatine doesn’t absorb that easy without food. So when you take creatine before working out, there is a high chance that you are just irritating your insides which ultimately may be costing you.
The best time to take creatine in our opinion is post workout with food.
There are many more popular pre workout ingredients, but this summarizes the 4 key players. We could go on, but it’s best to keep it short and digestible! Cruise the rest of our site if you’d like to learn more!
Should You Be Taking a Pre Workout Supplement?
Pre workout supplements will benefit you primarily by increasing your energy. The pre workouts that we prefer, also go on to increase strength and muscle growth / fat loss depending on our current goals.
If these perks interest you, then by all means take a pre workout like everyone else! However, pre workouts are not required to get into the best shape of your life. Plenty of people never touch a pre workout and do just fine!
So if you would like to take a pre workout that helps you build muscle, then you should view our 10 best pre workout supplements for men.
Likewise, if you are a lady looking to tone up and stay slim, then you should view our 10 best pre workouts for women.
These lists contain our user reviewed highest rating products. If you are short on time, these are the products you want to start with. As well, for those of you feeling extra intuitive, we urge you to use this list as a research template to become familiar with this class of sports supplements.
Common Pre Workout Questions and Answers for Beginners
Pre workout meaning: This is simply the time before exercise: pre (before) + workout (exercise). So, pre workout supplement simply means a supplement you take before working out.
What does pre workout feel like? The closest comparison to how a pre workout feels, would be an energy drink. Pre workouts typically make you feel energized and hyper.
Why does pre workout make me itchy? This is caused by either beta-alanine or niacin. Both of these cause stimulation of nerve endings which isn’t dangerous.
Why does pre workout give me a headache? Pre workouts may cause headaches in some people for two reasons: either you are dehydrated or you are taking too much caffeine.
Why does pre workout make me need to poop? This is an effect from caffeine. The same ‘stimulation’ happens from drinking a cup of coffee. Basically, caffeine causes your intestines to get a little more active.
Why does pre workout make my heart race? This is another effect that can be caused by caffeine content. Too much for your particular tolerance can cause your heart to race / pound/ flutter. Also, ingredients like Yohimbe can effect heart rate.
Can I take pre workout with protein? Technically you could, but it will most likely make you throw up once you start exercising. So, don’t do it. Save your protein for post workout. Learn more about taking pre workout with protein here.
Ask your pre workout questions below
If we have not answered any of your questions, below is the place to drop a line! Notice: any promotional comments by supplement reps will be moderated, don’t even try it!