How Often Should You Take Pre-Workout Supplements? – Overview
Sometimes, just getting yourself motivated enough to get dressed in your workout gear and go to the gym can be a challenge. It’s on days like these that I use a pre-workout supplement to kickstart my fitness routine and stay on track. A pre-workout, or pre-workout supplement, is a powder-based drink that, once you add water, creates a drink packed full of nutrients and (depending on the brand) a whole slew of other ingredients meant to boost your athletic performance. However, there is so no standard ingredient list among brands, so, every pre-workout can vary, and as such, so do its benefits. Keep reading to find out more about pre-workouts and how you can choose the right pre-workout for you.
What’s In A Pre-Workout Supplement
Ingredients to check in your pre-workout
Although ingredient lists for pre-workout supplements can significantly vary from brand to brand, there are several proven ingredients that you should keep an eye out for when choosing a pre-workout for yourself.
- Nitric oxide precursors: dietary nitrates like beetroot juice or watermelon, L-arginine, L-citrulline; improves nutrient and oxygen transport to the muscles (1, 2)
- Creatine: a chemical compound that aids in energy production and muscular strength; creatine can improve recovery times, promotes muscle mass growth, and is naturally occurring in the body (3)
- Amino Acids: increases blood flow to the muscles by dilating your blood vessels; beta-alanine, citrulline, ornithine, taurine, and arginine are the more popular ones in use
- Vitamins: B-vitamins especially play an essential role in your body’s ability to produce energy and blood
Check if your pre-workout has stimulants
Many pre-workout mixes contain stimulants like caffeine, chocolate, maltodextrin, sucralose, guarana, yohimbine, or theacrine. While these stimulants can provide an energy boost to your workout, I advise against them for most of my clients. The main reason I avoid stimulants in pre-workouts is that the FDA’s daily recommended limit of caffeine is 400 milligrams a day, and most people already achieve this limit throughout the day drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages. (4) You can find pre-workouts with or without stimulants at your local grocery store. Even Walmart sells their brand of pre-workout. Some other brands (among many) include Equate and NitroSurge. You can find more on those products below:
- Take a look at this analysis on NitroSurge – A pre-workout supplement that comes in a variety of flavors
- Also check out this Equate Whey Protein Review to learn about their stimulant-free pre-workout.
How To Take Pre-Workout Supplements
When should you take it?
It’s not uncommon for people to make the mistake of taking their pre-workout supplement as they’re walking into the gym. However, in doing this, you won’t be getting the full benefits of your pre-workout.
It takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes for the active ingredients in your pre-workout to properly cycle throughout your bloodstream and reach peak levels. Keep in mind that if your pre-workout contains caffeine, it can take your body between 3 and 5 hours to even half the concentration in your bloodstream.
When to cycle off the supplements
First and foremost, I always recommend that my clients speak with their primary care physician before starting any new dietary supplement, and this is especially important when it comes to cycling off of your supplements. You should be checking in with your doctor throughout your use of any dietary supplement, especially pre-workouts, as they are not FDA approved. Because every supplement, and body, is different, there is no set schedule for when you should cycle off of your pre-workout supplement. The rule of thumb that works for most athletes, though, is to begin cycling off once your pre-workout loses its effectiveness. Remember, many stimulants, like caffeine, can be habit-forming, and as such, should be regulated with extra attention.
3 Mistakes to Avoid When Taking a Pre-Workout Supplement
1. Not following the right timing
Depending on the pre-workout you’re using, instructions for when to take your supplement should be on the packaging. If it isn’t, or if the recommended timing isn’t working for your fitness routine, you should always aim to take your pre-workout supplement 30-60 minutes before your workout. This should give your body ample time to digest the supplement, and adequately spread it throughout your bloodstream, ensuring that you get the maximum boost to your workout.
2. Taking pre-workout on an empty stomach
If you take your pre-workout without eating, you may be subject to feeling light-headed, nauseous, or jittery, depending on the ingredients in your pre-workout. Think about the last time you drank a caffeinated coffee or tea on an empty stomach, do you remember how you felt afterward? If your pre-workout contains stimulants and you take it without eating, chances are you’ll have a similar experience. You can offset the adverse side effects by eating a small meal with your pre-workout. And if you’re worried about eating, reduce the potency of your pre-workout, stick to low-fiber foods and avoid high-fiber foods like whole grains and raw veggies. Finally, consume alcohol in moderation, or detox entirely. It’s been proven that this can adversely affect protein synthesis in your body
3. Not checking ingredients of your pre-workout supplement
I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but it’s for a good reason. The ingredients included in your pre-workout are the most critical aspect of your pre-workout supplement. Make sure you know what you are putting into your body, and if you’re unfamiliar with an ingredient, do some research to find out more about it.
Additionally, the amount of each ingredient included is of equal importance. When looking up the ingredients, be sure to note the recommended doses, so that you can cross-check them with what is in your pre-workout. Again, I have to stress that the best research you can do for yourself is to speak with your doctor. They should already have a general idea of the ingredients, their respective recommended amounts, and how introducing them into your diet can affect you.
Pre-workout supplements are one of the most effective ways to improve your athletic performance during your workouts. You could also try juicing to help supplement your body before and after workouts. If you’re interested learning more about juicing or detox regimens like the lemonade cleanse, check out our juicing article. The key to finding the right pre-workout for your fitness goals is always to speak with your doctor and to do your own research. When it comes to pre-workout supplements, as long as you know what you’re taking, how you’re taking it, and when to take it, you’re practically guaranteed to notice an improvement.