One of most common supplements to take before training is a pre-workout. Pre-workouts are blends of different ingredients taken to get better pumps, have more energy when lifting, maximize performance, and make the workout more enjoyable.
There are both pros and cons to taking pre-workouts but ultimately they are not needed for gaining muscle.
The pros of taking pre-workouts are better performance, lifts, pumps, focus, and mood during training. All of these effects can help you build muscle. Buying a pre-workout is also convenient because you do not have to purchase and combine the individual ingredients on your own.
The cons of pre-workouts are that they end up costing more than if you were to use the individual ingredients yourself and they are not necessary to take before working out. There are also side effects to pre-workouts such as insomnia, lightheadedness, dizziness, and more. The main side effects are from the stimulant content of pre-workouts and in some pre-workout blends, there is more than 4 cups of coffee’s worth of caffeine in addition to other stimulating compounds.
Other cons of pre-workouts are that you can not control how much of the effects you are getting from taking a blend of ingredients. You can not change the amount of stimulation or energy you get from 1 serving whereas with individual ingredients you can.
Pre-Workout and Getting a Pump
Getting a pump at the gym is one of the more sought-after effects of taking pre-workout.
A pump is caused by increased blood flow to the muscles being trained causing them to swell up. This makes the muscles larger, the veins pop out, and the workout generally feel better.
Pre-workouts help facilitate a pump by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the blood which relaxes and dilates blood vessels so more blood can be transported to where it needs to go.
Pre-workouts can also boost your energy levels which will make you train harder and add to the pump since the workout intensity relates to how much oxygen is needed by the muscles. More oxygen needed by the muscles means more blood will be sent to them which will add to the pump when you’re training.
What Ingredients Are in Pre-Workouts?
This is a list of common pre-workout ingredients. The reasons to take these ingredients before workouts will be listed next to the ingredient. All of these ingredients are supplements which can also be bought on their own. For the sources of these supplements, a place to buy them will be also linked.
- Caffeine: Physical and mental energy, stimulant (source)
- Creatine: Better strength and recovery, amino acid (source)
- L-Citrulline Malate: Better strength and pump, amino acid (source)
- Taurine: Better strength and physical energy, amino acid (source)
- Beta-Alanine: More endurance and recovery, amino acid (source)
- L-tyrosine: Feel better, mental energy, and focus, amino acid (source)
- Yohimbine: Physical and mental energy, bark extract (source)
- Glycerol: Better strength and pump, sugar alcohol (source)
- Beetroot: Better strength, performance, and pumps, vegetable extract (source)
- Acetyl-L-Cartinine: Better recovery and more endurance, amino acid (source)
- Betaine: Better strength and performance during training, amino acid (source)
The Reasons To Take Pre-Workouts
The reasons for taking pre-workouts are to increase energy, get better pumps, perform better, and feel better while training.
All these benefits from pre-workout can be obtained from the individual ingredients. If you are only interested in the energy boost, caffeine, guarana, and yohimbine are the best ingredients to use. If you are mainly interested in better pumps during lifting, L-citrulline, glycerol, and beetroot can all have that effect.
For increased strength and performance during training, L-citrulline, beetroot, and beta-alanine are the best ingredients to take. For better mood and focus during workouts, L-tyrosine, caffeine, and guarana are the best to take.
The value of pre-workouts is that you do not need to buy and combine all of these ingredients yourself to formulate a blend. Pre-workouts allow you to use multiple ingredients in one go.
Some pre-workouts also have ingredients that are hard to find such as DMAA. The reasons these ingredients are hard to find is usually due to legal reasons but if you like stimulant-heavy workouts, it is better to buy pre-workout blends.
The value of buying these ingredients individually instead of in a blend is that you can control the dosages and ultimately will save money. Ingredients bought on their own also are more pure and will not come with the fillers and additives that are in most pre-workouts.
Overall, pre-workouts are not needed to gain muscle.
For gaining muscle, the only supplements which are really needed are protein if your diet does not supply enough and a multivitamin if your nutrition is not optimal.
While pre-workouts are not necessary, they do have benefits that can indirectly help you build muscle. These benefits are more energy and focus, better pumps, better performance, and better mood.
All these benefits of pre-workouts can be received from the individual ingredients that usually constitute pre-workout blends. In the interest of cost, it is better to buy these ingredients on their own. In the interest of convenience, it is better to buy pre-workouts.
For energy, caffeine is the main stimulant in pre-workouts. For pumps, beetroot extract and L-citrulline malate are the ingredients responsible. For strength and recovery, creatine and beta-alanine are the best and for mood as well as focus, guarana, yohimbine and L-tyrosine are the ingredients which are best to take for this effect.
For more on supplements, such as how pine pollen affects testosterone levels and the amount of protein that is needed for muscle growth, click here.