Jan 212012

Finding a good pre-workout supplement is all about knowing what ingredients to look for. Some supplement labels will try to impress you with the amount of ingredients. It’s not the number of ingredients that matter but the quality of those ingredients. If you are already aware of which ingredients are effective, then you will know how to choose your pre-workout. I’m going to outline some of the most crucial ingredients in any pre-workout formula.

The most effective ingredient in any pre-workout supplement is caffeine. This is where the majority of your energy is going to come from. B vitamins also supplying energy but they work with your body to release the energy that is in the calories you eat, rather than stimulating your body. Together these two ingredients will give you a powerful energy boost for your workout, from start to finish.

Creatine is a staple of any pre-workout supplement. Creatine aids with recovery and also delays muscle fatigue by increasing carnosine levels, which battle lactic acid build up. My personal recommendation is creatine monohydrate. It is the only tried and true form of creatine that has proven itself time and again, through decades of research. There are, however, other forms of creatine that may be effective, such as creatine HCL or creatine nitrate. Many users claim that creatine nitrate will give you the best pumps. Creatine HCL is the newest and most popular creatine supplement.

To get the pump in your muscles you need arginine. There is not a pre-workout formula on the planet that doesn’t contain some form of arginine. Arginine is an amino acid that your body converts into the natural gas nitric oxide, which aids in dilating blood vessels and thus increases blood flow to the extremities. This increased blood flow to the muscles is what causes the sensation known as the pump. Arginine AKG is the most commonly used form of arginine in pre-workout supplements.

Many pre-workout supplements will have branched chain amino acids and other amino acids as well. BCAA’s can be an effective tool during workouts for decreasing soreness. Many pre-workout supplements will contain taurine as well. Taurine is the second most abundant amino acid within your muscle tissue, right behind glutamine. Glutamine benefits include anti-catabolic properties among others, although it isn’t usually in pre-workout supplements.

Vitamin C has actually been shown to possibly increase stamina and absorption of other nutrients, which is why some pre-workout supplements include it in the mix.

The Checklist

Caffeine (about 100mg is good)
B vitamins (as a general rule – the more the better)
creatine (most pre-workouts contain around 1 gram per serving)
arginine (around 5 grams is optimal)

Other helpful ingredients

Vitamin C
other herbal stimulants (1,3 dimethylamylamine is an example of a popular one)

One final thing I highly recommend is switching between different pre-workouts. The body can become accustomed to a particular formula and the effects will diminish after time. To avoid building up this tolerance it is good to switch to a new pre-workout supplement every so often. Different blends and different amounts of ingredients can surprise your body and increase the effectiveness of your pre-workout supplement.

John McKiernan is a personal trainer who enjoys researching information on bodybuilding, supplements, diets, health tips and more. He is the owner of Supplementhelper.com where he shares knowledge and advice about popular bodybuilding and health supplements.

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