Pre-workout supplements: What you want and what to avoid

There’s no better feeling than the one you get after a good workout.

Your emotions are running high, stress is low, you’re on top of the world.

But, maybe you find yourself in a bit of a rut right now.

Either you’re up early, out of bed before the sun rises or you’re getting there after a long day of work. Sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough motivation in the world.

And getting to the gym is only half the battle. Real progress is only made when your workout is intense and long enough.

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To break yourself out of a rut or to make sure you get the best bang for your buck when you are in the gym, a pre-workout supplement could be the answer you’re looking for.

A pre-workout supplement will help you up your intensity and grind out a difficult workout. It could help you get you the gains you want.

Where do you start? What separates the good from the bad? What ingredients do you want in your pre-workout and which ones do you want to avoid at all costs?

I’ve got you covered. Read on and find out everything you need to know.

What are pre-workout supplements?

Pre-workout supplements are supplements taken before you exercise. That’s really all they have in common.

The ingredients in each one can vary quite a bit depending on the brand.

Pre-workout supplements generally claim to increase:

  • Energy
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Lean muscle gains

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But, not all of them can effectively do this.

What you want your pre-workout to have

Ingredients that prime the mind for exercise

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Your mind is your most powerful ally when it comes to a good performance in the gym. It can also be your biggest enemy.

You want a pre-workout supplement that gets you in the right mind space to crush it.

Pre-workout supplements can help you get there by priming your brain for increased mental focus and activity. Supplements that do this have a moderate amount of caffeine in them.

Caffeine before exercise has been shown to increase overall performance, make the workout seem easier, and make it more enjoyable.

I say moderate amounts of caffeine because there are some pre-workout supplements on the market that contain way too much. These ones, which I can tell you from firsthand experience, leave you with the jitters and battling a major energy crash.

Ingredients that prime the body for stress and recovery

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Alongside ingredients that prime the mind for exercise, good pre-workout supplements also prime the body to withstand the stresses of exercise and to recover from it.

I’m talking adaptogens, creatine monohydrate, Nitrosigine, and citrulline.

For more on adaptogens, please check out this article.

Adaptogens are part of the nutritional support your body needs to handle stress.

And exercise is a form of stress.

Not in the negative sense you probably think of when you say you’re “stressed out”. But, in a positive way. Exercise stresses the body and the body adapts by growing and becoming more efficient. The stress from exercise is what makes you stronger.

Adaptogens help reduce and resist the effects of stress and improve the body’s capacity to perform under stressful circumstances.

Other ingredients a good pre-workout supplement has are creatine monohydrate, Nitrosigine, and citrulline.

Creatine helps you work out longer and harder by increasing the amount of energy available to working muscles.

Nitrosigine is a combination of the amino acid arginine and silicon. Together, they increase blood flow and improve delivery of oxygen to muscles.

Citrulline helps support better blood flow too. And it helps protect against muscle soreness.

When you have all three of these ingredients working together in the same supplement, you have a combination that increases your power output, decreases fatigue, improves blood flow, accelerates muscle gains, and improves performance.

A supplement like this can be boosted by with the addition of caffeine and the right combination of adaptogens.

What you don’t want your pre-workout to have

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You don’t need any unnecessary fillers.

A lot of the ingredients you find on some pre-workout supplement’s labels have zero scientific support. These are things like maltodextrin, artificial flavors and colors, and other stuff that won’t help you when you’re exercising.

You also don’t need artificial sweeteners or “proprietary blends”.

To be on the safe side, sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose should be avoided.

“Proprietary blends” are a mixture of ingredients whose specific amounts do not have to be stated on the label. Just the total amount of the “blend” has to be listed. Manufacturers often do this to keep their competitors from knowing exactly what is in their product.

But, that means you also don’t know exactly what you’re putting in your body. Don’t waste your time.

Lastly, check out the reviews.

One of the best ways to nail down a good supplement is to read the comments of people who have actually tried it.

A few negative reviews on a supplement isn’t something to get worked up over. But, if it has a grocery list of complaints from everyone who has tried it, move on to something better.


Pre-workout supplements are designed to prepare your body for better strength and power before exercise. Taking a pre-workout supplement before you work out gives your training a boost.

Pre-workout supplements that contain ingredients such as nitrosigine and citrulline deliver nutrients and oxygen to working muscles. Creatine, which is also an ingredient in many pre-workout supplements, improves your performance and reduces fatigue.

Caffeine can give you the mental boost you need to focus and adaptogens provide your body with the nutritional support it needs to handle the stress of exercise.

If you’d like to know more about pre-workout supplements, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

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