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Pre Workout: Is it good or bad for you?

Pre Workout: Is it good or bad for you?

Bill Wock

Pre Workout: Is it good or bad for you?

Pre Workout is known widely to be drinks that people have before a workout. There are just as many kinds of pre workout drinks out there as protein powders. Which is a lot!

But lets break it down, what’s in these pre workout powders we drink? Welllll that is kind of a complicated question since each company has their own recipe or blend. For the most part each blend has 4 common nutrients, and sometimes more.

First off caffeine!

The elixir of the gods (in coffee form), raiser of the dead (because lets be real when you are like me and wake up at 4:30 AM every morning chamomile tea isn’t going to cut it) and destroyer of worlds! Well maybe not destroyer of worlds, but if you gave it to small children like I see so many mothers do at Starbucks you’ve got a good chance.

Caffeine is widely available in many forms including in pre workout powders. The number of grams can range depending again on which brand you use. That alone can make the difference of having the best workout of your life or shaking uncontrollably and dropping a dumbbell on your face. I have seen it happen. When choosing a pre workout check the amount of caffeine per serving or scoop and use your best judgment with what you consume normally on a regular basis. And if it says on the label not to exceed two scoops you should probably listen…

Beta-alanine

You might say huh? Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid often found in poultry and other meats, it is more commonly known as just alanine. Some studies have shown it reduces fatigue during exercise, particularly high intensity exercise. Which sounds really good to anyone, especially personal trainers who workout then will have on average 5-8 clients a day.

Creatine

This is personally my least favorite of the active ingredients listed, but I can also see the huge benefit that creatine can provide. It is made out of three different amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine. It is produced by our bodies naturally and found in various meats.

So what does Creatine do? I’ll try an abbreviated answer without going too far down the rabbit hole. ATP (Adenine Tri-Phosphate) is a source of energy, when we eat food it is turned into ATP. This is used for almost everything including muscle contractions (ex. during a workout). When your body uses ATP you will lose a P or phosphate and it will turn into ADP (adenine Di-phosphate). 
Your muscles can’t really use ADP to help with your workout. And this is where creatine shines! It takes ADP and with all of its amino acid glory turns it back in to useable ATP! This is where people have the benefit of less fatigue and more energy in their workouts.

L-arginine

L-arginine is also an amino acid (sense a trend here?) found commonly in varies meats, some plant sources and also produced in the human body. L-arginine helps to create Nitric Oxide which is a substance made and released by the cells around your body’s blood vessels. [1] Inner lining of blood vessels uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax, thus resulting in vasodilation and increasing blood flow. In simple terms it dilates your blood vessels.

So are pre workout powders good or bad for you? Well the honest answer is, it depends. It depends on what your diet is for starters. Do you get enough amino acids in your regular meals to justify taking a supplement to add more? Also what brand of pre workout powder are you taking? Different brands have different amounts of each nutrient in them so one of them might work better for you than another. Also these are just some of the nutrients that are put into them. If a container of pre workout is a proprietary blend and has an asterisk symbol somewhere on it. They can really put anything in there that they want and not have to put it on the back of the label. That includes filler ingredients to increase the amount of the powder while keeping it cheap to manufacture, or some nutrient that you may not want to have in your own diet… Catch my drift? Also I know for me I usually have 2-3 cups of coffee (which is down from 6-10 that I used to have) per day. A recommended serving can contain 100-400 mg of caffeine in them…. So that equates into 1-4 cups of coffee being consumed in a few gulps. If I had 685 mg of caffeine in a single day my girlfriend would probably have some nice people waiting at our place to take me to the funny farm.

"They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!"

Do I take a pre workout? The answer to that is no. I eat enough lean meats in my diet that I never really felt a benefit to any of pre workout powders that I tried, and trust me, I tried a lot of them from just being in the fitness industry. I also usually have a couple of coffee before my workout to give me that extra caffeine kick when I am lifting. Will I try a pre workout in the future? Probably but it depends what my goals are at that time and if I find one I like. So the next time you walk into a GNC and some sales person wants you to add some pre workout to your shopping cart, you will have more information and be better prepared.

References: 
[1] Stryer, Lubert (1995). Biochemistry, 4th Edition. W.H. Freeman and Company. p. 732. ISBN 0-7167-2009-4.