What’s the Deal with Pre-Workouts?

I’ve never really used pre-workouts before. They tend to be expensive and those that I have tried tend not to have any noticeable effects. But, I was feeling really tired and having one of those days where I knew my gym session wasn’t going to be great, so I decided to give them another chance.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a pre-workout, they are another supplement category. They tend to be in powder form and are taken 30-60 minutes before your workout. The concept behind them is that they provide an increased focus and intensity to your training. Here is a run through of some of the ingredients that can be found in pre-workouts and what effects they may have (not all of them are in all pre-workouts):

Caffeine: Can promote increased attention, physical performance and increased muscular recovery.

Methylhexanamine: Can provide a strong energy rush, promoting improved endurance and mood enhancement.


Creatine: Creatine works by replenishing ATP and helping to maintain power output during exercise.

Beta-alanine: May decrease fatigue in athletes and cause an increase in total muscular work done. One side-effect of beta-alanine is that of paraesthesia, known by many as “the beta-alanine tingle”. This is a harmless effect and does have the positive effect of letting you know something is working!

Citrulline Malate: May enhance aerobic performance.

Sodium Bicarbonate: May delay fatigue and boost endurance as Sodium bicarbonate works as a lactic acid buffer.

Methyl Synephrine: May enhance fat breakdown and subsequently utilise fat for energy. May also improve attention and focus.

Agmatine: May stimulate the release of pituitary hormones such Growth Hormone (GH).

Taurine: May reduce muscle fatigue and acts as a cell volumiser by drawing water into the muscle; making the muscles look bigger.

Arginine: Arginine may be beneficial for athletes as its effects may include conversion to nitric oxide (NO) via nitric oxide synthase and its stimulation of growth hormone.

Acetyl L-Carnitine HCL (ALCAR): May support cellular energy production by assisting the transport of fat into the mitochondria where it is oxidized and converted into ATP (chemical energy for the cell).

Glycocarn a.k.a Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine (GPLC): May increase nitric oxide levels increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle and the heart, leading to greater oxygen and nutrient delivery both during and after exercise. Glycocarn also controls lactic acid levels, thus enhancing endurance, making it popular with athletes of all disciplines. For more info see: http://www.predatornutrition.com/en/content/understanding-pre-workout-supplementation/

So, I took the pre-workout with 500ml of water, it was a subtle lemon flavour and was very easy to drink. I then got on the bus to the gym. It was rush hour and inevitably the bus was stuck in traffic, that’s when I could feel it kick in. I had never had any noticeable effect from a pre-workout but knew what they were meant to do so was not too shocked when my face began to tingle. It started with my lips and then spread across my cheeks. This may sound like an unpleasant experience but it wasn’t, the tingles were coupled with an increased focus and concentration. By the time I got to the gym all fatigue I had been feeling was forgotten and I was able to have one of the best training sessions I’ve ever had – the intensity was really high and I was able to shift more weight than normal. So far so good!

People warn of the crash after taking a pre-workout. I didn’t have one. There were no negatives to this for me, it was just a really good session. Having said that, I wouldn’t use a pre-workout every session – I think that my self-motivation and drive is pretty good without them. In this case it was helpful, just to give that boost on a day when I was really run down. I’m not sure if I would recommend pre-workouts, they’re certainly not for everyone, but I have changed my opinion on them – they can be helpful and are not always an expensive waste of money.

For those of you that are interested, I was using ZV Charge by Zipvit Sports which is available online at https://www.zipvitsport.co.uk/products/sports-nutrition/before.html

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