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What is Pre-Workout and What Does Pre-Workout Do?

Girl drinking pre-workout from a blenderbottle stainless steel shaker bottle

The global pre-workout market is growing just as fast as the athletes using them and it's expected to reach over $28.5 billion by 2028. Pre-workouts have become increasingly popular with gym-goers as the supplements promise to deliver when it comes to reaching your fitness goals.

But what is pre-workout, and what does pre-workout do? With so many pre-workout products on the market, it can be difficult to find a reason to pick one over the other. What works and what's just a clever marketing ploy?

In this article, we'll answer all the questions you might have about pre-workout supplements. Let's dive right in on pre-workout. 

What is Pre-Workout?

Pre-workout is a fitness supplement designed to enhance your performance in the gym. More often than not it comes as a powder that you mix with water and drink before training. 

Different types of pre-workout supplements target different areas of training. High-stim pre-workouts contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants such as Teacrine and DHMA. Other pre-workouts focus on pumps and contain vasodilators such as L-citrulline and L-arginine.

They're also thermogenic pre-workouts designed to help you burn fat and nootropic pre-workouts that are designed to dial in your mental focus. Most pre-workout supplements combine all of the above elements to some degree to give you an overall performance enhancer.   

What Does Pre-Workout Do?

A pre-workout can do several different things depending on the ingredients. It's always a good idea to possess some knowledge regarding what pre-workout does and about each ingredient in a pre-workout and its dosage so you know what to avoid.

Stimulate

One of the most common ingredients in pre-workout is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, it fires up your brain and nervous system. Pre-workouts tend to provide a dose of between 150-450mg of caffeine. Caffeine is a great ingredient if you're training first thing in the morning and struggle to feel awake.

It's not so great if you're training in the evening and need to sleep after. Keep in mind that 450mg of caffeine is the same as drinking 6 shots of espresso. When it comes to stimulants, it's always best to start low and assess your tolerance.

That being said there are caffeine free pre-workout options also known as stim-free pre workout. These are great alternatives for those who worry about overstimulation through workout supplements. 

Increase Endurance

Several ingredients found in pre-workout supplements help to sustain a level of hard work and focus. They help to prevent muscle fatigue and support protein synthesis. If you've ever wondered how to get energy to work out, pre-workout is a possible option for you.

One of the most common endurance-enhancing ingredients is beta-alanine. Beta-alanine helps to regulate lactic acid build-up in the muscles so you can train for longer before you reach exhaustion. It's also the ingredient in pre-workout supplements that makes you itchy

Other ingredients include betaine, creatine, BCAAs, and glutamine.   

Vasodilators

Vasodilators such as L-citrulline and L-arginine cause the blood vessels to open. Why is this of any use to you, you might ask... Well, by dilating the blood vessels you increase blood flow to where the body needs it.

This means that your body can get oxygen and nutrients to your muscles faster. It also helps create that "pumped up" gym look that you wish would last forever.

Focus

Several different nootropic ingredients go into pre-workout supplements. Caffeine is one, but then others don't have the same stimulating properties. This is great if you train at night and want the focus without the insomnia hangover.

Some of the most common cognitive-enhancing ingredients you'll find in a pre-workout supplement include:

    • L-theanine
    • Rhodiola Rosea
    • Alpha GPC
    • Citicoline
    • L-tyrosine

All these ingredients can help to give you laser-sharp focus and drive throughout your workout. 

How Long Does It Take Pre-Workout To Kick In?

Most pre-workouts take about 20-30 minutes to kick in. You'll feel the effects quicker when they're taken on an empty stomach, especially first thing in the morning.

If you're wondering when to take pre-workout, one important piece of advice is to make sure you don't take it too soon before you train. The last place you want to be is stuck in traffic when your high-stimulant pre-workout kicks in. The best time to take them is as soon as you get to the gym. That way you'll feel it kicking in as you're warming up.

How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?

Most of the effects of a pre-workout will last between 2-3 hours, but it all depends on how hard you train and the dosage of each ingredient. Lower-dosed pre-workouts will wear off quite quickly, while high dosages might keep you going for 4 hours without feeling exhausted.

Caffeine Half-life

It's important to mention the half-life of caffeine. This is a key factor when it comes to the timing of when to take pre-workout. While many of the other ingredients will wear off after a few hours, caffeine is different.

Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours and a quarter-life of around 12 hours. So, if we say a single shot of espresso is about 75mg of caffeine and your pre-workout contains 450mg of caffeine then you'll be feeling some noticeable effects for quite some time.

If you take your pre-workout supplement at 6 pm then you're still going to have the equivalent of 3 shots of espresso in your system at 11 pm.

Pre-workouts are notorious for interrupting quality sleep, so make sure you take high-stim pre-workouts early in the day and use stim-free pre-workout supplements if you're training in the evening.    

Pre-Workout Flavors and Colors

This is where the fun starts. Pre-workout supplements come in a wide range of flavors. Most of them have exotic names like "dragon's blood" and "icy fireworks." Whatever you prefer, you'll be sure to find something you like.

When it comes to negotiating the best flavors, we'd recommend reading online reviews to see what other people prefer. Most pre-workouts have all their different flavors ranked online. 

As for colors... Well, a lot of pre-workout drinks look like laboratory experiments. You can expect bright colors. It's always worth checking to see whether or not the pre-workout you're about to choose uses artificial or natural colorings. 

Best Pre-Workout for Men?

There's no easy answer to "what's the best pre-workout for men?" because it depends on what you're looking for. But, now you know exactly what is pre-workout, you can start to research what is best for you. 

Once you know what kind of boost you need in the gym, we'd recommend researching a few pre-workouts and then going through their ingredients list. You can check how they're dosed against the clinically recommended dosage online.

And be sure to avoid anything that uses proprietary blends. A proprietary blend lists the ingredients but it doesn't tell you how much of each one is present. More often than not, they're all underdosed. Stay away!

Once you've found your dream pre-workout make sure you've purchased the best-selling shaker bottle to mix it in before you head to the gym and turn on beast mode.

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