Do Pre-Workout Energizers Live Up to the Hype?

  2017-08-15 07:40AM
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Youre eating Paleo. Youve chosen your perfect protein supplement. Youve gotten a great post-workout recovery drink dialed in. Youre killing your WODs, or at least keeping up. But wait. What about these pre-workout drinks?? The idea of taking a supplement to help improve your speed, strength, endurance and overall WOD performance is enticing, but is it all its cracked up to be? You decide. Pre-workout drinks are popular amongst the CrossFit community, as CrossFit workouts tend to be more intense and fatiguing than your average gym session. In order for some people to perform at maximum levels, for a greater intensity or longer period of time, they feel they need a little boost. But what, exactly, is in these products, and are they safe to use? Youll find some variation of the following ingredients in most pre-workout supplement blends, though the amounts and combinations may vary. They include: caffeine, an ergogenic aid known to have a glycogen-sparing effect and to improve endurance; creatine, an effective supplement for increasing anaerobic capacity; branched chain amino acids (BCAAs,) found to improve muscle strength and regulate protein metabolism; beta-alanine, thought to increase muscular endurance, and vasodilators, often derived from beetroot or citrulline, to increase levels of nitric oxide in the blood, resulting in increased blood flow. In simple terms, they are meant to increase your output and reduce your fatigue during a workout. With these beneficial effects, using a pre-workout supplement seems like a no-brainer, right? Not so fast. Though the beneficial effects of the above mentioned ingredients are generally accepted, the research is not there yet showing an indisputable benefit with usage of the supplements containing them. Add to that vague labeling, unknown concentrations in proprietary blends, and overblown claims and things can get tricky. Does this mean that you should skip them? Not at all. A 2014 research study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition on a commercially available supplement with the above listed ingredients (less the vasodilator) did indeed find an increase in lower body strength, and concluded that taking the pre-workout supplement for an extended period of time in combination with exercise is safe and can lead to beneficial changes in strength and body composition and overall that it may be beneficial to consume. Other studies show similar results, though some demonstrate no significant effect. They all concede that more research is needed. And for now, at least, that is as good as its going to get. So if you are looking for that competitive edge, give one, or several, a try. Not all athletes will respond the same to a particular product. Some will experience positive feelings such as better energy and greater focus and motivation, while others may feel anxious, jittery or even nauseous. Before committing to a specific brand, try sampling a few so you know what to expect. Use these common sense tips: Do not drink coffee and take a pre-workout supplement. A double dose of caffeine may leave you feeling sick or light headed. Dont jeopardize your sleep by using products with a stimulant too close to bedtime. Read the ingredients and know what youre putting in your body. Manage your expectations and dont get swept away by impossible claims--it probably wont shave a minute off your Fran or get you a new PR every week. Pre-workout drinks/supplements can lead to increased strength and performance in some athletes. Try to ignore the hype, and sample a few products for yourself to see if one can give you that edge youre looking for!


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