Why Pre-Workouts Work and What Ingredients You Need to Watch For

woman squatting in a gymPre-workout supplements are incredibly popular with gym-goers because they provide that much-needed boost for heavy sessions. Whether they come in a powder or a pill, they promise to boost energy and workout performance thanks to their effective ingredients. However, some supplements are better than others due to the type of stimulants within the pre-workout.

Why Are Pre-Workouts Effective for Muscle Growth?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to energize the body and improve your performance by stimulating your heart rate and widening your veins. One active ingredient commonly found in pre-workout is nitric oxide because it’s the hormone that acts as a diuretic in your body. A diuretic promotes muscular endurance by providing more oxygen to the brain and muscles.

While a pre-workout doesn’t suddenly make your muscles super-charged, it does help you push that little extra bit in the gym. Most ingredients promise to increase power, endurance, strength, and speed, but the wrong pre-workout won’t provide you with any extra benefits. It’s essential to read the ingredients on every potential pre-workout supplement to judge its quality.

How to Find a Quality Pre-Workout Supplement

Examine the front and back of the package for the term “proprietary blend” because if you find these two words, you won’t have to go any further. A proprietary blend is marketing talk for “we don’t want to tell you what’s in this supplement,” which is a bad sign. These pre-workout supplements likely won’t have the ingredients you want. If they did, why hide this information?

Many salespeople, including influencers, don’t have enough knowledge on what should or shouldn’t go in their supplements. The last thing you want is for a shady person to point you towards a dangerous product. For example, if you find a pre-workout with synephrine, run far away. This banned ingredient could cause high blood pressure or increase heart rate in healthy adults.

Never buy a pre-workout right off the rack, even if it’s from a brand you trust. Do your research by scanning the ingredients list, looking up the manufacturer, and consuming the correct amount of each product. Remember, this substance is going in your body, so take it seriously.

Effective Pre-Workout Ingredients 

There are dozens of ingredients supplement companies will put in pre-workouts, but only some of them will improve your endurance, strength, and muscle mass.

  • Caffeine: Common for its effectiveness and low cost, caffeine is a safe stimulant that boosts energy levels immediately. Caffeine produces a positive effect on vertical jump height, strength, and fat loss for most individuals.
  • Beta-Alanine: Another ingredient that helps with energy, beta-alanine increases levels of carnosine in the muscles, which helps to control muscle fatigue. Carnosine also buffers your muscles’ pH levels to prevent lactic acid buildup so you can perform extra sets.
  • Creatine: Although creatine is naturally produced by our kidneys and liver, adding a supplement can improve ATP production, a compound that releases energy during muscle contraction. Creatine supports immediate energy production in short bursts.
  • L-Citrulline (Nitric Oxide): L-citrulline is a vital amino acid that can change into L-arginine, which then becomes nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is necessary for blood vessel function. By adding citrulline malate, you’ll be able to push even farther.
  • Vitamin D: Improves recovery from exercise and is necessary for turning glucose into energy. It’s an essential vitamin and can only be received from supplementation or the sun. Most people are deficient in this vitamin, so companies will add it to pre-workouts.

Always consider the amount of stimulants in a supplement because too much caffeine combined with other stimulants could lead to heart disease or dependence.

Avoid These Banned Ingredients 

The FDA typically bans ingredients because they’re dangerous to consume or give athletes an unfair advantage in competitions. As mentioned, synephrine is banned for its association with heart disease. Watch out for DMAA as well because users of this drug experience tightening of the chest, heart attacks, or strokes. 


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