The best pre-workout supplements can help get you serious gains, along with the right diet, and the right workouts. Because if you’re working out and putting in all the effort, you’ll probably want all the results too.
But what are the best pre-workout supplements, and how do they work? Well, you know us. We’re not ones to leave questions unanswered, or ones to not fully back up our answers with facts, research and science.…
Pre-Workout Supplements – the Science Bit
The best pre-workout supplements will power you through a more explosive, energetic and ultimately rewarding workout. They’ll allow you to do more of whatever it is you’re focussing on improving; weight, reps, speed, endurance or focus. Your energy will reach levels you didn’t think possible and your workout will be ultra-driven.
They generally contain ingredients that provide energy and endurance, such as caffeine, creatine, amino acids and citrulline malate. The best pre-workout supplements increase the heart rate and the blood flow to the muscles, allowing them to work harder. This often causes a harmless tingling in the skin, and you’ll be energised and focussed enough to get more from your workout.
Caffeine is an obvious stimulant, and it’s been proven to provide an energy boost if taken before a workout. One study, in 2012 1 concluded that ingesting caffeine prior to resistance exercise, meant that subjects were able to perform more reps and had a higher ‘readiness to invest physical effort’ (RTIPE). In other words, they were more pumped for exercise than those given a placebo. None of the participants, or examiners, knew who had taken a placebo and who had taken the caffeine supplement, a so-called double-blind trial.
Creatine is the most robustly studied sports supplement on the market and all the best pre-workout supplements contain it. It helps increase the speed and force at which muscles work, meaning that your workout is more rewarding. A study in 2014 2 looked at the effects of creatine supplementation both prior to, and after, exercise. It concluded that positive changes in muscle mass and strength were similar when creatine was ingested before and after resistance training, when taken over a 12-week training period. All subjects displayed an increase in lean muscle mass and upper and lower body strength, and a decrease in muscle protein catabolism. Proof then, that creatine is an excellent sports supplement, and also that it doesn’t have to be taken pre-workout. However, the best pre-workout supplements contain creatine since it’s a good idea, and it’s easy, to take one load of supplements containing everything you need.
BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are another excellent pre-workout supplement. They help build up muscle mass by preventing the catabolic breakdown of muscle tissue. It’s been known for a long time that BCAAs have a positive effect on exercise. It took a while for scientists to work out why but back in 2008 3 a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness cracked it. Taken before exercise, BCAAs decreased exercise-induced muscle damage, allowing a faster recovery and therefore the ability to exercise again, sooner.
We all know what Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) feels like, that soreness in our muscles in the days post-exercise. BCAAs help reduce this, and also help promote the synthesis of protein in the muscles, increasing lean muscle mass. They also have an effect on immunity. Intense exercise is linked with dips in immunity due to something called oxidative stress which BCAAs can help reduce. Oxidative stress is caused by too many free radicals in the body, and intense exercise can increase the number of free radicals. A stronger immune system means less time off exercise due to colds and other bugs!
There have been several exciting studies into the effects of the amino acid citrulline malate on exercise performance. They’ve resulted in it being considered one of the best pre-workout supplements available. Two separate studies in 2016 4 5 concluded that citrulline malate can improve sporting performance when taken as a pre-workout supplement. It works by delaying the onset of fatigue during intense training, in both endurance and strength athletes. It increases the amount of arginine, another amino acid, in the body, which leads to an increase in nitric oxide (NO). The more nitric oxide in your body, the more blood flow to your muscles, and therefore the more they can pump. Be that during long distance running, or actually pumping iron.
Look out for pre-workout supplements with these ingredients for the best results.
Our Best Pre-Workout Supplements
We don’t endorse products, and are unbiased in our recommendations. Science is everything to us at Fitness Savvy, and we wouldn’t recommend a supplement without knowing that its ingredients had been properly researched.
The Cobra Labs ‘The Curse’ powder is one of the best pre-workout supplements around. It’ll give you an insane amount of energy, mental focus and muscle pumps. It’s available in a range of great tasting flavours and contains caffeine, creatine, amino acids and citrulline malate. As with all pre-workouts that contain caffeine, it’s best not to take it in the evening, as you’ll be too pumped to sleep. Take it 30-45 minutes before you plan to exercise and wait for that tingly skin. Skin tingling lets you know it’s working, and that you’re ready to go.
NOXPump by six times Mr Olympia Dorian Yates gives full on energy, endurance and focus. It boosts metabolism and cellular hydration, important factors in bodybuilding. It also contains choline for energy and muscle movement, and beetroot extract which naturally boosts levels of nitric oxide.
The Grenade .50 Calibre pre-workout ‘devastator’ promises explosive energy, strength and endurance. It’s the ultimate ammunition for your workout. It was developed by research and development specialists and as well as all our best pre-workout supplement ingredients, contains beet for an increase in nitric oxide, and cacao, a powerful antioxidant found in raw chocolate. Antioxidants help reduce the risk of our enemy, oxidative stress.
Take a look through our best pre-workout supplements pages and see which ones stand out for you. Watch out for the amount of caffeine you’re consuming (don’t take them at the same time as drinking coffee or cola) and expect the pre-workout skin tingle. Then measure your gains in the gym, and in the mirror!