By Awesome Supplements, Read time: 12 minutes
Pre-workout products are among the most popular additions to a sports supplementation regime. Gym goers around the world are very familiar with the infamous pink drinks, the effects of which are so well documented that they have been immortalised in memes across the internet.
Are ingredients proven or doses effective?
The trouble is that many popular brands use either un-proven ingredients or ineffective doses, and then these are hidden amongst cheap bulking agents within a ‘proprietary blend’ with a catchy name. The not-so-well-hidden secret is that these ‘proprietary blends’ tend to contain some of the evidence-based ingredients and a number of other less efficacious ingredients, and you never really know the dose of anything – often barely scratching the surface of what the research recommends being an effective dose.
This means you can’t assess whether a company is putting into the product what they should, so how do you know it’s not just a strong dose of caffeine?
We know what ingredients are ergogenic (performance enhancing) and what aren’t, so a pre-workout supplement should be the easiest product in the world to make. Despite this there are still a lot of BS products on the market relying on bold claims to sell you on their magic workout elixir, most likely because dosing things properly is expensive and there are profit margins to consider. Caffeine is cheap, after all, and getting a good tingle from beta alanine is a great way to make us feel we are on track for good results before we’ve even started. That’s makes it easy for a company to make a pre-workout you ‘feel’, but is it actually boosting your performance?
What's the truth behind popular pre-workout products?
We looked at 10 popular pre-workout products currently on the market. We’re not directly bashing these brands, we are merely outlining the facts which are freely available on their website and product label. You can then decide how you feel about this information, and which product (if any) you are drawn towards….
NOTE: we’ve colour coded the table, green means the company has put the research recommended dose in the product, orange means they are close/trying (if that can even be a thing), and red means they aren’t or haven’t put it in – and that then raises bigger questions!
|Effective Dose referenced from Examine.com||
L-Citrulline Malate 6-8g
L-Carnitine L-Tartrate 500-2000mg
|L-Tyrosine 500-2000mg||Betaine 2.5g||Alpha GPC 300-600mg||Caffeine 1-700mg|
My Protein THE Pre Workout
|The Curse Cobra||9g||None||None||None||None||155mg|
|Mr Hyde Nitrox||5g||None||500mg||None||None||420mg|
|Optimum Nutrition Pre||750mg||375mg||250mg||None||None||175mg|
|Grenade .50 calibre||1.5g||None||None||None||None||200mg|
Just to show you again, in clearer terms, here’s what our pre-workout contains compared to what is advised from the meta research done on www.examine.com:
|Ingredient||Effective Dose (taken from Examine.com)||Our dose per serving|
As you can see, the doses differ between companies, often wildly, and few compare with our Awesome Boost #JustSayin. But that begs the big question, why aren’t companies putting the research recommended dose in? Do they not read the research? Are they too focused on money and thus put the claim on the front but not the full dose in the tub because it means they can make more margin when they sell it to you?
Why take something that doesn't work?
We don’t personally see the point in taking something that doesn’t work. To use one company as an example, Optimum Nutrition, they only have ONE ingredient that is listed by the research to be ergogenic (performance enhancing), which is caffeine, so you’re basically buying a really bright coloured, really expensive caffeine drink…. Go figure.
We think this starts to really highlight the ethics of this industry.
There are many other ingredients found in popular pre-workout supplements that haven’t been mentioned in this blog, such as green tea extract (another form of caffeine, as is), green coffee extract, black pepper, cayenne pepper extract, olive leaf extract, ginseng and few others. None of these are bad for you, especially at the doses generally used, but how they are contributing to your workout is mostly unclear – if they are at all, because there is no research on them having ergogenic effects that are tangible to you in the gym or playing sport.
Then there is the inclusion of BCAAs which many pre-workouts also include, again these have no ergogenic effects, and have no anti-catabolic effects as many companies claim, as all exercise is catabolic, there is no way to take amino acids or protein pre-workout and not be catabolic, exercising is the process of breaking down tissues and energy stores to do the exercise, as long as you re-fuel properly after exercise, all is good. If you want to read more on why BCAAs are a waste of time, you can read this blog https://awesomesupplements.co.uk/blog/bcaa-benefits/
What about caffeine?
Now with our product Awesome Boost you might be thinking “Where is the caffeine?”. Good question.
Most companies throw in a high dose of caffeine. This is partly because caffeine is a known ergogenic but, in our opinion at least, it’s usually because putting 250-400mg of caffeine in something will make you feel like the product as a whole is working – even if nothing else in it serves a purpose (kinda like putting a token 1g of beta alanine in a pre-workout, it’s not doing anything significant at all but it’ll certainly make you tingle, making you think it's working!). Now 250-400mg of caffeine is great if you need that much, but for many it’s too much for their weight, the time of day, or overall sensitivity. Because of this we created Awesome Focus to sit alongside our Awesome Boost; allowing you to dose caffeine exactly how you want, for maximum effect, for you.
For example, if you train in the evening after a 250mg dose of caffeine from one of these drinks, the chances of you getting a restful night’s sleep afterwards are greatly reduced, and how big a problem is a lack of sleep, or high-quality sleep for a lot of people? Yep. And seeing how sleep is #1 when it comes to recovery, for most it would pay to rely on caffeine less, or have a smaller dose (or try a caffeine free pre-workout like Awesome Boost), and ensure you get a high quality 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
You may also be wondering why we don’t have creatine and beta alanine in our pre-workout. Again, we are certainly not knocking these ingredients. In fact, we think they are so awesome that we have created a unique supplement, Awesome Power, built specifically for strength and power. But for us, a pre-workout is all about improving performance, reducing fatigue and keeping you focussed throughout your workout – which the ingredients in Awesome Boost have been proven to do. There is no point in taking beta-alanine or creatine 3x per week before your gym session, they won’t benefit you because they have to be taken every day for 4-6 weeks before they start to really take effect. That’s why they should be taken daily away from the workout window on an ongoing basis to be effective. It’s why creatine and beta alanine aren’t in our pre-workout, and are in Awesome Power – a product you make up and put in your drinking water and sip throughout the day – to get the affects of them without the tingles from the beta alanine when you take the dose in one go.
So while this blog goes a long way to promote Awesome Boost and why it's better than the competition, it should make you think about the ethics of most supplement companies – do you really want to buy anything from them when you now know they don’t even put the research recommended dose into a product that has the sole aim of increasing performance from specific ergogenic compounds?
We think ethics and integrity are important, that’s why we put in our products what the research shows to be proven, and nothing else.
Check out Awesome Boost here