One of the more common supplements on the market are pre-workouts. Just about every company in the fitness industry has a product on the market, and you can even find them in your local convenience store. But what seperates a good pre-workout from a great pre-workout. Better yet, are they even necessary?
Caffeine: Although pre-workouts may give you a much-needed boost in the morning or late after work before you hit the gym, I wouldn't go as far to rely on them. The first and most noticeable ingredient in the products is often caffeine. It is the source of the energy you are feeling before the gym. Although it is nice to get a feeling of being prepared for the gym, I wouldn't allow yourself to create a dependence on pre-workouts. It shouldn't be the difference between a good and a bad gym session.
Caffeine can also be naturally found in both coffee and tea. When asked what kind of pre-workout I prefer, the answer is typically a cup of black coffee.
Beta-Alanine: is a non-essential amino acid, upon digestion the molecules transform into carnosine. Beta-alanine is effective in preventing fatigue during short bursts of muscle activity. This is most effect for those who weight lift due to the fact that lifting activity for each set is often shorter than 120 seconds.
Beta-Alanine is also responsible for the tingling sensation you may feel in your ears, face, fingers, etc. following the consumption of a pre-workout drink. This may be something to look for if you are not particularly found of that sensation.
Beta-alanine can be naturally found in just about every protein rich food you can think of. Poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, beef, etc. are all great sources with turkey containing the highest concentration of carnosine. One thing you may have noticed about beta-alanine is its lack of presence within vegetarian and vegan friendly foods. This can be solved through the supplementation of vegan beta-alanine supplements.
Nitric Oxide: Another commonly used ingredient in pre-workout products is Nitric Oxide. (Nitric oxide is a gas, but it is still marketed under that name. The active ingredient is actually the non-essential amino acid arginine.) This ingredient allows the blood vessels of the body to relax to allow for more sufficient blood flow. This works particularly well in relation to exercising because increased blood flow allows for more efficient muscle activity.
Natural sources of this non-essential amino acid include leafy greens, citrus fruits, and beets. One easy thing to remember when shopping in your local grocery store for products rich in nitric oxide is the veins in the leaves of the greens you purchasing are also good for the veins in your body.
Conclusion: Pre-workouts can be incredibly beneficial when you are lacking the energy to get to the gym. However, it is important not to have your performance in the gym depend on the supplement itself. Many of the active ingredients in pre-workouts can be naturally found in foods that are part of a wholesome balanced diet. As always, I recommend using in moderation.