Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a major surge in the supplement industry with the introduction of pre workout supplements.
It's really no wonder because there has been a surge of new studies and information about the positive effects of pre workout supplementation.
With that in mind, supplement companies have taken full advantage of this by producing a ton of pre workout supplements.
The next time you're in GNC, take a look around. I'm going to bet my bottom dollar that your going to see a wide array of pre workout supplements.
Pre workout supplementation has become just as popular as post workout supplementation as more and more weight trainers are looking for that extra edge.
Really, who doesn't want to get stronger, feel more energy, and get better pumps while their working out? Since most weight trainers, including me, all want to get bigger and stronger, pre workout supplementation has become an integral part of our diet.
It's kind of funny because I remember training back in the late 80's and saying to myself, If only there was a company that would come up with some sort of pre workout drink, designed specifically for working out. At that time, my pre workout supplementation consisted of one cup of oatmeal with bananas, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a large glass of milk. Want to know something? This little meal combination is still better than most of the pre workout stuff out there. Anyways, I knew at that time, that pre workout supplementation was very important.
Sure enough, as more and more studies on pre workout supplementation started to surface, more and more supplement companies started to produce more pre workout supplements.
Now, because there are so many pre workout supplements from so many different companies, it's very hard to decide which one is the best pre workout supplement. I mean, you have pre workout supplements that have ingredients that have been proven to work and other ingredients that are just a complete waste of money and mostly fillers.
Which pre workout supplement do you choose?
If my memory serves me correctly, I think one of the very first pre workout supplements was called Ultimate Orange. This supplement has been around since the mid 80's and was quite popular. In fact, I remember giving this product a try around 1990, and it was eye opening. I remember a workout buddy telling me that I absolutely had to try this product. I tell you, those were some mind blowing workouts! My squat, bench press, and shoulder press all improved while I was taking this stuff.
However, after about a week of taking this stuff, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't handle this product. I'd have ultimate orange at around 5:30 PM because I worked out around 6:15 PM and I would literally be up until 2:00 AM. Mind you, those were some mind blowing workouts but because of the amount of Ephedra in it, I was jacked until the early morning hours. I had to stop taking it because I couldn't sleep!
Anyways, Ultimate Orange was popular because it worked. No doubt about it. There was nothing special about the ingredients. Here were the main ingredients:
Remember, this was all before creatine, N02, glutamine and all the other stuff you see today. This formula was simple but very, very effective. You simply mixed this stuff with about 3 or 4 cups of water and consumed about 20 minutes before your workout.
Today, you have a myriad of different combinations of pre workout ingredients but they all tend to have the same basic ingredient combinations, just in different doses. Now, I can't say that most of them work because I haven't tried them all, but the ones that I have tried, some have worked pretty well. However, in all honestly, the best pre workout drink will be one that has the following ingredients:
This is a basic pre workout formula but you want to know something, it works. I've found that by taking in extra protein, carbohydrates, and creatine before your workout, you basically top up what's already in your system so that you can really hit the weights hard and heavy without worrying about hitting the wall too early.
I can tell you now that consuming a pre workout drink consisting of whey protein and carbohydrates will greatly improve blood flow and will help to:
Provide your body with a constant supply of amino acids and glucose while working out. This in turn will help prevent muscle tissue breakdown during your workouts and will improve energy levels.
Suppress cortisol build up in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that promotes muscle tissue breakdown.
We also know that creatine works. By topping up your creatine levels prior to working out, you are ensuring that you have the optimal amount of short term energy to lift heavier weights. Combine that with extra energy in the form of glucose and you have potent energy combination that will allow you to lift heavier and longer.
There have been numerous studies done on pre workout drinks containing carbohydrates. In one study, one group of weight trainers consumed a carbohydrate drink just before working out as well as between sets. Another group of weight trainers were given a placebo. For exercise, both groups did leg extensions at about 80 percent of their maximum, performing repeated sets of 10 repetitions with rest between sets. The researchers found that the carbohydrate fed group outlasted the placebo group, performing many more sets and repetitions.
Another study found similar results. One group of weight trainers drank a carbohydrate drink while another group were given a placebo. They performed repeated sets of 10 repetitions, with three minutes of rest between each set. The group that were given the carbohydrate drink before training could do more repetitions (149 vs 129) and more total sets (17.1 vs 14.4) than the group that was given a placebo.
This goes to show you that carbohydrates clearly gives you an energy edge when consumed before a workout. The harder you are able to workout, the more muscle you'll build - Simple as that.
Combine carbohydrates with fast acting whey protein and creatine and you have a very potent pre workout energy drink that will help you move more weight, trainer harder, and improve muscle recovery.
What about caffeine and other similar stimulants?
Personally, I have a problem with taking caffeine before my workouts. My stomach can't handle caffeine while I'm working out and I usually get sick. I remember trying NO Shotgun and Dymatize's Energy Formula's and feeling like I could move trucks at the start of my workouts. However, soon after the first couple of sets, I would always start to feel nauseous and make a mad dash to the washroom. I simply couldn't handle the caffeine prior to my workouts.
However, I'm not going to say it's bad because caffeine is a stimulant and can add an extra edge to your training and add to your energy levels. For some, it may work wonders while for others it can actually hinder a workout. If you are bent of using caffeine prior to working out, I suggest you approach it in a conservative manner. That is, start with a low dosage and slowly work your way up until you've reached a comfortable energy level. Keep this in mind, if you are having a hard time sleeping or you are up half the night because you can't sleep, you might want to cut back on your intake of caffeine.
What about arginine (N.O)?
I've tried taking arginine before working out and I didn't feel any difference. In fact, I've tried taking different doses of arginine and inosine and to tell you the truth, I didn't feel any change in my workouts. There just isn't enough human research on N.0 to give any conclusive evidence that this stuff works. I've done personal experiments and each time I've done it, I haven't noticed any change in my strength, energy levels or mental focus. My suggestion is to stick with works.
I have done experiments with pre workout drinks that contain creatine, simple carbohydrates, branch chained amino acids, arginine, and medium chain triglycerides (MCT's) and have had some wonderful results. These supplements do have arginine as a listed ingredient. I know for a fact that creatine, carbohydrates, protein, and MCT's work, but as for arginine, I'm still not convinced that it does anything to help improve workout performance.
So, What Is The Best Pre Workout Supplement?
Personally, I've tried a lot of pre workout supplements. The best ones, I've found were ones that didn't make me feel full, bloated or sick. Drinks that were relatively light, in terms of food density were the best because they didn't make me feel full. I've also found that certain types of creatine had different effects on my stomach. For example, if I had 10 grams of creatine monohydrate before working out, I'd feel very bloated and uncomfortable. On the other hand, if I had 5 grams of tri-creatine malate, I felt tight, strong and comfortable.
This would explain why I had much better experiences with formulas that contained creatine malates as opposed to straight up creatine monohydrates. For example, if I loaded up on cell tech (10 grams of creatine monohydrate) 20 minutes before working out, I'd start to feel bloated and nauseous. However, if I didn't have this type of feeling if I used a brand such as Dymatize's Xpand which uses creatine malates.
Personally, I feel that if your looking to build muscle and strength, your much better to look for a pre workout supplement that has the following:
Fast acting whey protein. Preferably something with branch chained amino acids in the ratio are of .4 or .5 grams per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weight 175 pounds, your looking at getting in about 35 to 40 grams of whey protein as a pre workout serving.
Carbohydrates. I would suggest you look for a product that contains maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a long acting sugar that doesn't breakdown as fast as dextrose. You will want to get in about .5 to .6 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weight 175 pounds, try getting in about 40 to 50 grams of carbohydrates.
Creatine. I suggest you look for a product that contains creatine malates. I've found that if I take anything over 5 grams of creatine monohydrate I start to feel bloated. With creatine malates, all you need is 5 grams and your good to go.
These 3 ingredients are a must for pre workout drinks. By using the above noted ingredients prior to working out, your going to greatly enhance your weight training sessions.
Now, you may want to look at caffeine as well in order to get that extra edge to your training. However, I personally don't feel the need to add caffeine to my pre workout drinks since I do just fine without it, but some of you may benefit from it.
There are so many brands out there that have a huge selection of pre workout drinks. I strongly suggest you take a look at certain pre workout supplements and do a bit of homework and read some of the reviews for the pre workout drinks. Like I said before, you can't go wrong with a simple drink made up of:
Really, this is all you need for a great pre workout drink. Here's a pre workout drink that you can use that costs about 2/3 less than other pre workout drinks. This is but a sample and you will have to adjust the amounts according to your size. You can generally get these ingredients at your local bulk food store.
2 tablespoons of whey protein;
1 ½ tablespoons of maltodextrin or dextrose;
3 to 5 grams of creatine;
1 ½ tablespoons of flavour crystals - I prefer cherry or lemon lime.
Mix all these ingredients in a shaker bottle with about 750 mg of water. Have this drink about 20 minutes before your workout.
I can say with confidence that this simple pre workout drink will work. It will help give you mental focus, provide short and medium term energy, and help keep your body in a state of growth.
Just remember that a good pre workout drink will have a good combination of carbohydrates, protein, and creatine.
If your interested in making your own supplements or looking to try supplements, you have to go over to Jeff Andersons website called "Home Supplement Secrets". I love this ebook because it showed me step by step, how to make all the popular supplements - Right in my own kitchen. You can make pre workout supplements, post workout supplements, muscle building supplements, weight gain supplements, or fat burning supplements, right in your own home. The best part about this book is that you can make the supplement for a fraction of the price. Jeff tells you exactly where to look in order to find the right bulk supplement. You get an exact recipe that's an ingredient for ingredient knock off of the popular supplement.
I think that this needs to be mentioned. I can tell you with complete certainty that the best pre workout drink in the world won't do a thing if you don't have the right nutrients in your system. That is, if your body is already low on nutrients, a pre workout drink will have little effect on improving your workouts. Here's a tip. About 2 hours before your workout, always make sure you take in a meal that includes the following:
2 glasses of water.
An example of this type of meal would be 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast, 1 cup of brown rice (Try mixing 2 tablespoons of raisins and 1 tsp of sunflower seeds while your cooking it), 1 cup of steamed broccoli. This type of meal will give you the fuel you need to really hit the weights hard. About 30 minutes before your workout, try taking your pre workout drink and you'll notice that you workouts are more intense and energized.
Now here are some of my personal thoughts about the pre workout products that I have tried:
Simply awesome. This product has simple carbohydrates, protein, and ephedra in it. My stomach seemed to agree with ephedra in it and I was bouncing off the gym walls. Made some amazing strength gains but unfortunately, I was too pumped up and jacked to sleep. I was going to school from 9 AM to 5:00 PM and did my workouts at night so I'd take Ultimate Orange at about 5:30 or so and would be up all night - Couldn't relax even with a small dose of ephedra.
The original formula has been changed and they no longer use ephedra. They still use 14 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of protein, and instead of ephedra, they now use 300 mg caffeine per serving. I like the fact that they use 14 grams of carbohydrates and protein but I'd like to see a little more. No creatine has been added to this product.
I haven't tried this new formula because I can't handle the caffeine before my workouts.
I tried this product for about 4 days. When I first took this product, I felt awesome. I felt like I could move trucks I couldn't be more focussed. Unfortunately, I couldn't handle the caffeine anhydrous in it and would feel sick after my first exercise. I tried altering the dose but still, I can't handle the caffeine while working out.
In terms of carbohydrates, it's got about 9 grams per serving. For protein, it contains 5.3 grams of branch chained amino acids. This product contains creatine ethyl ester, which is a great creatine and well tolerated but it doesn't say how much it contains. I'd like to see more protein and carbohydrates in this pre workout drink.
For those of you who can handle the caffeine, this product may be worth checking in to. Initial reviews are very positive.
Like N.0 Shotgun, I couldn't handle the caffeine in this pre workout drink. I tried this product for about 5 days. Every time I tried the product, I felt awesome at first, but after the first exercise, I felt sick. I had to stop taking this product.
Read my dymatize energy xpand review here.
This is not a strict pre workout drink but it is recommend to be used as a pre and post workout drink (according to the label). I've used this product off and on for the past two years and I've had some very positive results. There isn't anything fancy about this product but every time I use this product, I get the results I want.
As a pre workout drink, I take one serving 20 minutes before my workout. Seems to do the trick.
In terms of nutrients, it doesn't have a lot of carbohydrates or protein in it. It contains about 2 grams of branch chained amino acids which is pretty much nill for the average working weight trainer. As for carbohydrates, it contains only 5 grams. It does have almost 5 grams of tri creatine malate and also uses glycocyamine and medium chain triglycerides. Also included is 3.5 grams of arginine. Maybe it's the combination of tri creatine malate and glycocyamine but it works pretty well for me.
Read my Dymatize Xpand Review here.
This formula is a lot like Dymatize's Xpand but doesn't contain the same amount of ingredients. Works in the same manner as Xpand and uses about 3 grams of creatine. There is about 4 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of arginine. I don't think there is any protein in this formula which I find very strange, since I think it's a pre and post workout drink.
However, I've had some pretty good results with this formula. One of the big reasons I like this formula is because it is very light. That is, you don't feel bloated or full, and it seems to give you an extra edge in the gym. This product doesn't contain any caffeine so it is very tolerable. I also liked it because it came in a lemon - lime flavour.
Read my NOZ Supercharged review here.
I was very excited to try this product. I've heard some very positive reviews on this product and the mind blowing pumps that people get while using this supplement. It just wasn't meant to be because I couldn't handle the caffeine. Like N.0 Shotgun, I felt sick to my stomach after the first exercise.
In terms of the main ingredients, it contains 8 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of protein, creatine malates (unknown), arginine (unknown), and caffeine (unknown).
Way too much. I had one bottle and I was on fire! I mean my feet couldn't stop moving, and by the time I got to the gym I was feeling dizzy. I felt like I was high! I completed one set of squats and had to run to the bathroom.
So there you have it. My suggestion is to read the reviews about the pre workout drink you want to use and look up some of the ingredients.
Also, head over to Jeff Andersons website "Home Made Supplement Secrets" and learn how to make your own custom supplements at a fraction of the price. He's got a whole whack of pre workout supplement recipes.
You can read my personal review of this book here.
All the best,
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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