What should I consider before buying a pre-workout supplement?

Before you make a purchase, there are several things to consider beyond the good marketing and packaging of pre workout supplements. Most people make a couple of mistakes and often jump the gun when purchasing these supplements. They often overlook important aspects like the ingredients, but other factors like taste, solubility, user reviews and effectiveness these can be key differentiators. Let’s take a look through each of these aspects that way you can be happy with the pre workout supplement you choose.

Ingredients

When we first started research on pre workout supplements, we focused on sorting through the ingredient labels across many products. However, it quickly became apparent that there were many similar ingredients, these ingredients might be just as, if not more, important than all of the rest. You can have a pre workout packed with many different ingredients, but are they useful? What if they don’t have any effect at all? Consumers often overlook the ingredients. The primary reason is that there is not a simple way to know the purpose of each ingredient without taking the time to look them up. The correct dosage, to side effects, to the effectiveness are all important to know as well. Many companies do not list the individual dosage size of each ingredient, aka proprietary blends, which can complicate things even further. Knowing which ingredients to look for in a pre workout is important, no sense in wasting money on products that are not useful.

Below you will find a brief description of the best ingredients to look for in a pre workout. These ingredients are the ones with the most research behind them proven to benefit your body. These eight are the ones we found to have the most effectiveness, finding a majority of these in a pre workout supplement will be a key indicator of its quality.

Caffeine

Surprisingly, the majority of pre workout supplements revolve around the ingredient caffeine, and all of the products that we reviewed use it in their blend. If you are not familiar with caffeine, it comes from coffee beans, and its structure is the same throughout any product whether in your coffee, tea or pre workout. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, studies have shown that it improves physical strength, endurance and provides mental stimulation. Typically new users want to start at a lower dosage of caffeine and work their way up, Optimum Essential AmiN.O. Energy has 50mg per serving, allowing you to build your comfort with caffeine slowly and increase serving size as necessary. Towards the 200mg caffeine mark is where it starts to aid the body in fat burning. The downside of caffeine is that the frequent use leads to a build up of tolerance. Meaning the effects of caffeine will diminish, and a break from the supplementation of caffeine will help reduce tolerance. The scientific name for caffeine is 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine, can also go by the cloak name ‘tea extract’.

Amino acids

Amino acids are likely to be found in pre workout supplements as well. when in isolation these can have a wide range of varying effects depending on which amino acid is supplemented. The body already makes amino acids via the help of dietary protein, but taking an additional surplus may exert unique effects. Beta-alanine and citrulline are among those few that are the most useful when an increased amount is consumed.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine, or 3-aminopropionic acid by its scientific terminology is one of the amino acids commonly found in these products. In fact, all of the top pre workout supplements we reviewed except for two of which don’t include beta-alanine. Beta-alanine has been shown to enhance muscular endurance and improve cardiovascular exercise performance. During high intensity workouts your body starts to produce lactic acid, which can slow down or halt your ability to push forward through an exercise. Beta-alanine has been shown to offer protection from this exercise-induced lactic acid production. Standard effective dose is between 2,000mg and 5,000mg. With larger doses, a harmless tingling feeling side effect called paresthesia may occur. It is common for users to overlook this side effect, and often first-time users get worried and decide to stop using their pre workout supplement, in fear that they may be allergic to it.

 L-Citrulline And L-Arginine

Many pre workout supplements come with amino acids l-citrulline and l-arginine, supplementation as shown to reduce fatigue and promote endurance. These amino acids help aid the body with nitric oxide production, which plays a role in vascular relaxation which may help with blood flow and circulation. L-citrulline does not get broken down by the body until it reaches your kidneys, where it gets converted into the amino acid l-arginine. L-arginine has poorer absorption rates, since it is absorbed by the intestines before it can reach appreciable activity in the kidneys. A majority of pre workouts tend only to use l-arginine, which is not the best choice since it is less effective than l-citrulline. Most of the top pre workout supplements are made with at least one of these ingredients, but finding one with both or l-citrulline is highly recommended for the best results.

Yohimbine and Rauwolscine

The majority of the top pre workout supplements reviewed include one of these highly stimulatory ingredients. Yohimbine and rauwolscine are both very similar to each other and have similar effects. Generally you’ll only find yohimbine or rauwolscine seldom together. Known for being fat-burning compounds, they aid the body in fat burning by inhibiting regulatory processes in fat cells. Supplementation of these is best during a fasted state, which is usually when you want to take your pre workout for maximum effectiveness. If you are trying to lose weight, you should actively look for a pre workout supplement that has either of these ingredients.

Rhodiola

Another ingredient to look out for is the traditional Chinese herb Rhodiola, or Rhodiola Rosea. Studies have shown that Rhodiola can significantly reduce effects of minor physical exhaustion. Rhodiola is not commonly used, despite being highly reliable in reducing fatigue symptoms. Although not necessary in a pre workout, its a nice feature to have since it is indeed effective.

Trimethylglycine aka Betaine

The correct name is trimethylglycine or TMG, informally it goes by Betaine. Betaine helps preserve cellular structure and making them more resilient to stressors similar to the ingredient Creatine. Studies show minimal enhancements in physical performance and power output, along with improved endurance. It is a great addition to a pre workout supplement even though its effectiveness may, in fact, be marginal.

Creatine

one of the most commonly found ingredients second to caffeine is creatine. Often misjudged for being harmful, creatine is remarkably safe for most people and is a well-researched supplement. The body naturally produces creatine. Foods like, meat, eggs and fish also contain decent amounts of creatine, but not nearly enough to be effective. Creatine has a wide range of health benefits, shown to improve power output, increase exercise capacity and lean body mass. If you are sticking to a regular exercise routine, a pre workout with creatine is an excellent choice.

Performance and Effectiveness

Overall effectiveness is derived from the ingredients used to make up the mixture. A pre workout with the majority of the ingredients we listed above will have the most effectiveness. However, many of the ingredients have similar effects, which means you will not need all of them for the good results. If you are looking for energy, make sure you go with one that has plenty of stimulants. Endurance, make sure it has the correct amino acids, like beta-alanine. If you are looking to increase strength and power, something with creatine or beatine maybe right for you. A good weight loss pre workout will have the fat burning compound yohimbine.

Taste and Solubility

Almost all of the pre workout supplements have their own unique flavoring, making the taste of each product different. The best products go beyond that by offering a mixture that tastes good and mixes well. A good tasting pre workout could be the breaking point in whether or not you’ll finish off all of your product, why drink something that has a foul taste. If this concerns you, it is a good idea to go with a product that has excellent taste and mix-ability.

User Reviews

Probably the most important aspects of them all, user reviews. Making sure the users before you had a pleasant experience will give you a good idea of what to expect. However, each person may have a different experience, and the decision will ultimately be up to you. By keeping theses aspects in mind, you will be well equipped in your search for the perfect pre workout supplement.

Updated:
February 18, 2015