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Pre-workout supplements 101

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking into sports nutrition and workout supplements, chances are you’ve probably come across the term ‘pre-workout’. In this blog, we’ll be diving into what a pre-workout is and the differences between different types of pre-workout supplements. After all, the world of sports nutrition can be an intimidating place. So, we’re here with all the expert advice you need to decide whether pre-workout supplements are for you, and which are the right ones for your unique health & fitness journey.

What are pre-workout supplements and what do they do?

First things first, what do people mean when talking about ‘pre-workouts’? In its broadest sense, anything consumed before a workout is a pre-workout. That may be a cup of coffee, a carbohydrate-rich meal, or a certain supplement. The latter is what most people in the fitness world refer to when talking about pre-workouts. Most often, it's a powdered formula with multiple ingredients to fuel your workout. It’s widely considered that around 30-60 minutes before training is the best time to take a pre-workout supplement.

What ingredients are in pre-workout supplements?

There are loads of different ingredients that can be part of a pre-workout formula and even more possible combinations and concentrations. Each pre-workout has its own unique effect, and every individual will react in different ways to a pre-workout formula. However, there is some consistency between pre-workouts. Below are the most common ingredients and their effects.

Caffeine

You're probably familiar with caffeine and its energy-boosting effects already, so it goes without saying why it’s one of most popular ingredients found in pre-workout supplements. Dosages of 75mg or more are known to increase alertness and improve concentration, so it’s a great way to get pumped up for an intense workout. Usually, pre-workout formulas contain higher dosages of caffeine, ranging from 100 to even 325mg per serving. If you’re not used to caffeine-rich drinks, however, we recommend starting out with a low dosage. Remember to stick to a maximum intake of 400mg caffeine per day (side effects like restlessness or nausea may occur with overuse), and that’s taking your morning coffee, afternoon tea, or other caffeinated drinks into account.

Creatine

A daily intake of 3g creatine increases physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high-intensity exercise. How? Well, our bodies use creatine to synthesise the ‘energy-molecules’ involved in muscle contractions. Our bodies can make creatine, and it also occurs naturally in meat and fish. However, to really max out your training, we recommend supplementing it. You can add creatine to your drinks and protein shakes or get it from a pre-workout formula. The average pre-workout doesn't contain the full 3g mentioned earlier, but you can always add more for an extra boost. Check out our Creatine 101 blog article for the full lowdown on using creatine to improve your training.

B-vitamins

B-vitamins contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. We're specifically talking about vitamin B2, B3, and B12. They’re typically found in animal-derived products and grains, but due to their supporting function you will also find them in many pre-workouts.

Magnesium

Like B-vitamins, this mineral also plays key roles in reducing fatigue as well as contributing to normal muscle function. To get a good understanding of how magnesium gets the job done, we need to talk about calcium. While calcium is important for bone health, it also binds to specific proteins in your muscles, causing them to contract. Of course, your muscle can't stay contracted forever. They need to be able to relax for proper muscle functioning. This is where magnesium comes in. Magnesium and calcium compete, both wanting to bind to the same specific protein in muscles. When magnesium prevails over calcium, your muscles will relax. Not a bad idea to add magnesium to a pre-workout then, huh? Otherwise, grains, veggies, nuts, and dairy prove to be good sources of magnesium, too.

Do pre-workout supplements help improve training and performance?

You're not going to lift an extra 20kg just by taking a ‘scoop’ of pre-workout. Making progression in your training takes time, lots of effort, and good nutrition. A pre-workout isn't a replacement of any of those things. Although, the effectiveness of the ingredients above is proven, so it's possible to notice smaller changes when working out. If you’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to push past a certain level in your training, a pre-workout can give you the boost you need. Also, if you’re just starting out on your health & fitness journey and not that used to training, a pre-workout can help you stay focused during your session. There's only one way to find out what a pre-workout will do for you — give it a try!

Is there a difference for pre-workout supplements if I’m a man or a woman?

All our pre-workout formulas are safe for both men and women. We do recommend pregnant or breastfeeding women to take their doctor’s advice, especially regarding caffeine content. Another thing to take note of is that the effectivity of ingredients, like caffeine and creatine, may be dependent on your body weight. This is not a man vs. woman difference per se, as both can have lower or higher bodyweights, but it is worth bearing in mind.

Are pre-workouts ‘safe’ for me?

White powders, pills, and ‘scoopies’ might sound suspicious, but we can assure you our pre-workouts are safe to use for healthy adults as long as you stick to the suggested use. Not only pre-workouts, but all our products comply with strict European regulation to ensure safety. As goes for all supplements, we recommend people with medical conditions or taking prescribed drugs, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, to follow their doctor's advice. The preconception that pre-workouts are unsafe or even illegal largely stems from times when regulation was lacking. Below, we'll get into some more misconceptions about pre-workouts.

Will I get dependent on a pre-workout?

When people talk about a ‘strong’ pre-workout, they’re usually referring to the amount of caffeine it contains. Maybe you've knocked back a fair amount of coffee during exams or busy times as work, so you might be familiar with it just not having the same effect on your body anymore. This is nothing to worry about, although we don’t encourage you upping your caffeine intake to more than 400mg a day. Our advice is to cut back on caffeine (don't forget tea and some sodas also contain caffeine) to ‘reset’ your body’s sensitivity.

Am I dehydrating my body by consuming caffeine?

This myth that caffeine dehydrates the body has been going on for a long while, especially because it's so relatable. Who doesn't visit the bathroom after a cup of coffee or tea? Yes, it's proven that caffeine (and so most pre-workouts) stimulates your kidneys. So, why is it not dehydrating you? The amount of water you'll excrete won’t increase overall, it's just the timing of it. You'll go to the bathroom sooner, but you won't lose more water. Of course, it's still important to stay hydrated, especially when working out and sweating. Since a pre-workout is usually dissolved in 250-500ml water, you're already helping to take care of that.

Does creatine make you gain weight?

We love creatine and are always sad when it's being accused of causing weight gain. It is possible to see the scale go up when taking this supplement, but creatine is not responsible for an increase in fat mass. It will only cause some water retention. But again, this is nothing to worry about since we're talking about intramuscular water retention. In other words, only your muscles will hold onto some more water, meaning you won't get a puffy face from creatine. It may even give your muscles a fuller look. We always advise not to focus too much on what the scale says. Instead, take a good look at yourself in the mirror — that will tell you the truth. We do offer pre-workouts without creatine for those who prefer. Continue reading to find out more about the different kinds of pre-workouts we offer.

What’s your most popular pre-workout supplement and why?

We have multiple pre-workout formulas to suit all kinds of health & fitness goals. Let's give you a quick breakdown of our best-selling products.

Body&Fit Crazy Pre-Workout: this classic formula contains 250mg of caffeine and 1320mg of creatine. L-arginine and L-citrulline — two precursors to nitric oxide — are added, as well as the popular beta-alanine. This is your go-to, no-nonsense pre-workout for a great training session, whether it’s in the gym, out on the field or those intense HIIT workouts at home.

Body&Fit Ripped Pre-Workout: this pre-workout is perfect for those who don't want creatine in their formula, either because they prefer taking it as a separate supplement or because they simply don’t need it. For example, endurance athletes usually don't benefit from creatine as it only increases your performance in successive burst of short term, high intensity exercise. Our Ripped Pre-Workout contains 233mg caffeine (partly from green tea extract). It’s a little less strong than our Crazy Pre-Workout, although still the equivalent of three and a half espressos. Vitamin B2, B3, and B12 are added to promote energy metabolism and reduce fatigue.

Body&Fit Aminos and Energy: with 185mg, this is the lowest in caffeine. It's also free of creatine, yet packed full of amino acids. These are the building blocks of protein, and this formula provides you with a range of essential amino acids and glutamine — perfect for anyone starting to experiment with pre-workouts.

Body&Fit Maximum Pre-Workout: the name says it all – this formula contains no less than 325mg caffeine, 2997mg creatine, B-vitamins, essential amino acids, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, L-arginine, and more. If you're serious about your pre-workout and experienced with a high dosage, this is the perfect formula for you.

Sustained Release Pre-Workout: this one is somewhat like our Ripped Pre-Workout. It has no creatine, 200mg caffeine, and B-vitamins. However, this formula has BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) added to it. The biggest difference is in the way these ingredients are delivered. The small beads will surprise you the first time you see them, but they're an ingenious way to deliver caffeine and BCAAs in a sustained way during your workout. If you're looking for a new way to take pre-workout, consider this product.

If you're happy with a certain formula, but want to experiment with adding other ingredients to your pre-workout drinks and shakes, we offer the most popular ones, like Citrulline Malate and L-arginine, as pure ingredients. Both are precursors of nitric oxide and many lifters swear by them.

How do I take a pre-workout?

So, you've figured out which pre-workout is right for you, now let's talk about how to go about taking it. All supplements will have a suggested use on the packaging, but in general, we advise the following: dissolve a scoop of powder in 250-500ml water or juice (or this delicious pre-workout smoothie), add any other ingredients you like, and take 30-60 minutes before starting to exercise. It will take some trial and error to figure out the best timing for you. How much you've eaten and whether you’ve had any caffeine before your session will affect the way your pre-workout hits. Experimenting is the only way to find out what works for you.

The Body&Fit pre-workout summary

There’s no denying that achieving goals comes with hard work, dedication and good nutrition. You don’t necessarily need pre-workouts for that, although the right ones may help to push you in the right direction. Remember, pre-workouts aren’t just for weightlifters and bodybuilders. You can use them from the football field to the pool, track and beyond. Use this guide as an introduction and experiment with different formulas, dosages and timings. Soon, you’ll discover what’s right for you and how pre-workouts can give you that extra boost to take your training to the next level.