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Why Take a Pre-Workout?

Why Take a Pre-Workout?

Nutrition

By Awesome Supplements, Read time: 5 minutes

When it comes to gym performance, we're pretty confident in saying that many of us would like to find something that can give us an edge. A little push to go harder, for longer, than we would otherwise be able to. This is understandable and (assuming you don't reach for certain compounds not approved by WADA) we would say that this is generally a good thing because it leads people towards making great decisions related to their nutrition and broader lifestyle.

Ensuring your calorie intake is adequate, making sure you’re getting enough carbohydrate to perform and protein to recover, making sure your sleep pattern is the way it should be, improving your hydration status, and even timing the meals before your workout properly can all make a big difference to how good you feel both at the start and at the end of a training session.

Then there’s the other side of things; with proper programming that includes a sensible progression strategy, some way of keeping volume in the sweet spot and regularly deloading – plus some attention being paid to stress in your daily life and the ways in which you keep that under control - you can be sure that you have as many of the variables covered as possible, and so can perform at your best.

All of this is great, and beneficial for reasons that go far beyond hitting a new PR...but for many that’s not enough. What if we could get even more out of our time with the barbell, the pads, or the trails?

This is where pre-workout supplementation comes in.

Now to be clear (though we assume you know this already, really), pre-workouts are NOT a replacement for all the stuff we just spoke about. If a person is:

  • Not eating all well, or enough
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Kinda winging it in the gym
  • Stressed to hell all of the time
  • Avoiding carbohydrate for some reason

Then pre-workout supplementation probably isn’t going to make a jot of difference. If, however, you’ve got everything pretty much under control, some targeted supplementation could make a small but meaningful difference to your performance, and so, your results.

For example, let's look at some of the ingredients in Awesome Boost:

Citrulline Malate taken pre-workout has one primary function (and one theoretical secondary function involving malate improving ATP recycling, but way more research is needed here). The citrulline is a precursor for arginine and ornithine, and so taking citrulline dependably increases levels of these in the blood; this then helps to improve ammonia recycling and nitric oxide metabolism. This all sounds very well and good, but the important thing you need to know is that because of this you get better bloodflow during exercise (meaning a sweet pump) and, according to a recent meta analysis (1), reduced muscle soreness, fatigue, and rate of perceived exertion (how hard a session feels). Not bad! 

L-Carnitine L-Tartrate is an interesting substance. It helps to preserve levels of Coenzyme A within the body, which in a very roundabout way helps to reduce the production of metabolic byproducts associated with increased fatigue and oxidative stress during training. What this means in practice is that if you take it before you train it can reduce fatigue and markers of oxidative stress, therefore contributing to increased volume, strength, and power output gains over time (2).

Finally you could look at L-Tyrosine, a precursor for dopamine and adrenaline. During stressful situations the production of these two key neurotransmitters is taxed, resulting in lowered mood, performance in tasks, working memory, and other issues. L-Tyrosine is able to provide a 'safety buffer' for the production of these, enabling for sustained production that results in these effects of situational stress appearing to a lesser degree (3). This has obvious utility for hard training people, where fatigue and a loss of focus can set in, decreasing motivation, desire to finish a session, and attention to technique and so on, meaning that this is a perfect addition to a pre-workout product.

One tactic that has been popular for a long time is taking NSAIDs prior to a gym workout. These drugs, such as ibuprofen, act to reduce inflammation and so speed up post-training recovery, reduce soreness, and so allow you to train again sooner - sounds great, but there's a catch. Unfortunately this also inhibits the very inflammatory process that is necessary for muscle growth (4)!. Fortunately another compound, l-Carnitine L-Tartrate seems to reduce muscle damage and so improve recovery, but it DOESN’T alter anything else (5) and that’s a huge win!

One tactic that has been popular for a long time is taking NSAIDs prior to a gym workout. These drugs, such as ibuprofen, act to reduce inflammation and so speed up post-training recovery. Unfortunately this also inhibits the very inflammatory process that is necessary for muscle growth (4)!. Fortunately a different substance, l-Carnitine L-Tartrate, seems to reduce muscle damage and so improve recovery, but it DOESN’T alter anything else (5) and that’s a huge win!

And finally, looking away from Awesome Boost, suffice it to say that caffeine like that found in Awesome Focus is probably one of the most researched and supported ergogenic aids there is, what with it’s ability to reduce RPE and increase time to exhaustion (6), and improve maximal strength (7). Of course caffeine also increases alertness, and by combining it with Theanine, something found in green tea, this alertness translates into greater task-awareness, focus, and an ability to swap from task to task smoothly (8) - ideal when you want to be on top of your game in the gym or at your desk!

Impressive, huh? Now again, none of this will so much as put a dent in issues that arise from a lifestyle not geared towards your goals. Eat well, sleep well, train in a way that's in line with what you want to achieve, and so on. This will do 95% of the heavy lifting (awful play on words intended, and we're not even sorry), but that extra 5% can be achieved using targeted supplementation, perhaps including Awesome Boost and Awesome Focus.

In summary, a pre workout supplement is a final push. An added extra that can make a small yet meaningful difference provided you get everything else right. Nail your sleep, eat well and try to manage your daily stress. Once you have most of that down, however, a pre workout supplement properly dosed and properly administered can increase your strength, endurance, power output, maximum strength and even your workout focus.

It won’t make you a superhero, but you can be damn sure you’ll get those extra few vital reps, making your workouts - and so you - just that little bit more Awesome.

Research

  1. Rhim, H., Kim, S., Park, J. and Jang, K., 2020. Effect of citrulline on post-exercise rating of perceived exertion, muscle soreness, and blood lactate levels: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 9(6), pp.553-561.
  2. Koozehchian, M. S., Daneshfar, A., Fallah, E., Agha-Alinejad, H., Samadi, M., Kaviani, M., Kaveh B, M., Jung, Y. P., Sablouei, M. H., Moradi, N., Earnest, C. P., Chandler, T. J., & Kreider, R. B. (2018). Effects of nine weeks L-Carnitine supplementation on exercise performance, anaerobic power, and exercise-induced oxidative stress in resistance-trained males. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry22(4), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.20463/jenb.2018.0026
  3. Banderet LE, Lieberman HR. Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans. Brain Res Bull. 1989 Apr;22(4):759-62. doi: 10.1016/0361-9230(89)90096-8. PMID: 2736402.
  4. Schoenfeld BJ. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for exercise-induced muscle damage: implications for skeletal muscle development. Sports Med. 2012 Dec 1;42(12):1017-28. doi: 10.1007/BF03262309. PMID: 23013520.
  5. Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, French DN, Rubin MR, Sharman MJ, Gómez AL, Ratamess NA, Newton RU, Jemiolo B, Craig BW, Häkkinen K. The effects of L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance exercise and recovery. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Aug;17(3):455-62. doi: 10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0455:teolls>2.0.co;2. PMID: 12930169.
  6. Doherty M, Smith PM. Effects of caffeine ingestion on rating of perceived exertion during and after exercise: a meta-analysis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2005 Apr;15(2):69-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2005.00445.x. PMID: 15773860.
  7. Timmins TD, Saunders DH. Effect of caffeine ingestion on maximal voluntary contraction strength in upper- and lower-body muscle groups. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Nov;28(11):3239-44. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000447. PMID: 25144133.
  8. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):193-8. doi: 10.1179/147683008X301513. PMID: 18681988.
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