Health & Habits
Buyers Guide: What to Look for in a Pre-Workout
Posted April 26, 2022
Pre-workout supplements can be one of the most effective exercise supplements available on the market today. Whether we’re looking for an extra burst of energy after work or a pick-me-up in the morning—pre-workouts can provide us with much needed stimulation and energy to make the most of our sessions. Although they can benefit our workouts and bring us closer to our goals, some supplements in this category can have harmful ingredients and side effects that can hinder our progress and negatively affect our health.
A ‘pre-workout’ refers to a supplement in either powder, liquid, or pill form that contains a number of stimulating substances with the intention of priming the body for exercise. Commonly used substances include branch chain amino acids, beta-alanine, caffeine, creatine, and nitric oxide. While there is a range of different products available, each one contains different combinations and quantities of each substance. Ultimately, the goal is to optimize energy production, athletic performance, and recovery. Ingesting these supplements have been shown to enhance blood flow, increase energy production, reduce fatigue, and improve endurance - all things we want when we’re exercising.
Just like any supplement, we must take the necessary steps to inform ourselves before making blind purchases. The powerful marketing that comes alongside ingredients in today’s pre-workouts can be deceiving as many products unfortunately contain harmful fillers, proprietary ingredients, and improperly proportioned ingredients. As a result, taking the wrong pre-workout can be more harmful than beneficial when it comes to our overall health. Here are the best and worst ingredients to consider when selecting a pre-workout supplement:
1. Proprietary Blends
A proprietary blend is a mixture of ingredients that are shown as one overall quantity – created as a formula specific to a particular company or supplement. These blends allow companies to hide the dosages of each ingredient and fill their proprietary blends with cheaper ingredients that aren’t shown to work. Not only that, as we don’t know the amount of ingredients inside these blends, our risk of experiencing side effects increases. As a result, we should only consume products that have each ingredient and their exact dosages clearly listed on its ingredient list.
2. High Doses of Caffeine
Caffeine is a staple in most pre-workout supplements, and it offers some great benefits such as better endurance, muscle glycogen preservation, delayed fatigue, increased focus, and more, but too much of it might not be such a good thing. Excessive amounts of caffeine (upwards of 400-500mgs per serving) can cause side effects such as nervousness, jitters, anxiety, stress, insomnia, muscle breakdown, and high blood pressure. Some brands engage in an arm’s race about who can add the most caffeine, so it’s important to gauge how much caffeine we already consume daily, then consider what additional amount we feel comfortable consuming with a pre-workout.
3. Artificial Colors
A vast majority of pre-workout products come in powder form; thus, companies tend to sneak some “Blue 1” or “Red 40” in their products to give the powder a more aesthetic appearance. Unfortunately, these synthetic food coloring additives appear to be linked to cancer, gastrointestinal issues, and the worsening of ADHD symptoms (particularly in children). We’ll commonly see food colorings listed as an “other ingredient” towards the bottom of the label of pre-workout powder products.
4. Non-Science Backed Formulas
Sometimes the most well-known supplement brands can “pick and choose”, misrepresent, and exaggerate research for specific ingredients to provide a better standing and greater efficacy for their product. Legitimate scientific research to support the ingredients is key to ensure safety and efficacy. Scientific backing and third-party research helps to provide objective proof of nutritional purity, potency, and cleanliness, so we can be sure what’s in the bottle matches exactly what’s on the label.
Citrulline is an amino acid found in foods like cucumber, watermelon, and pumpkins, and is naturally produced in the body where it plays an important role. Citrulline increases vasodilation, which means it widens our veins and arteries. This is associated with increased blood flow and lower blood pressure. This amino acid is converted into another amino acid called arginine, and then again into a molecule called nitric oxide. This molecule helps relax the smooth muscle cells to cause vasodilation of blood vessels. This tends to offer a better “pump” during our workouts.
2. Moderate Doses of Caffeine
There are stimulant-free pre-workouts (made without caffeine or stimulants), but if our primary purpose is to use it for energy, then caffeine is something we should look for. Caffeine is a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant derived naturally from coffee beans and various plants, such as green tea leaves. A large body of evidence shows caffeine is effective for increasing focus, energy, and fat burning during exercise. Many agree that modest amounts of caffeine - roughly 200mg per serving - are safe and beneficial.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid used in many of the best pre-workout supplements. It’s a non-essential amino acid that doesn't synthesize proteins the way other amino acids do, and produces carnosine in conjunction with histidine. Carnosine can help improve athletic performance by reducing the amount of lactic acid that builds up in our muscles when we work out. By increasing endurance, reducing fatigue, and boosting performance in high-intensity training, beta-alanine has been found to be a useful workout aid to many athletes.
Supplements containing theanine have been shown to reduce psychological and physiological stress, while enhancing mental alertness and attention. When paired with caffeine, theanine provides a host of cognitive benefits, which improves focus, memory, and mood.
Finding safe, effective formulas can sometimes be difficult, but Vedge Pre-Workout and Nitro Pump contain only premium-grade ingredients to aid both athletes and non-athletes alike. Both help deliver more oxygen, fuel, and other key nutrients to our muscles during workouts and everyday activities. Extensive quality control processes have gone into selecting the scientifically engineered and trademarked ingredients S7, Nitrorocket, ElevATP, and Infinergy to support full-body performance in any arena.
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At Vedge Nutrition, we understand the power of our customers' purchasing decisions and strive to make a positive impact on the world through our business. That's why we're proud members of 1% for the Planet, an organization that connects businesses with non-profits working to tackle our planet's most pressing environmental issues. Through our membership, we've had the opportunity to partner with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting endangered wildlife and their habitats.