Pre-workout supplements are big business. While you may identify pre-workout powders, ready-made beverages, and shakes with gym-goers, more and more women are turning to them to improve their workouts and achieve their objectives – and the business is booming as a result. But, can these nutritional supplements and gym supplements truly help you improve your workouts – or is using a pre-workout a waste of time?
What is the definition of a pre-workout?
First and foremost, a pre-workout supplement is a powder, tablet, or processed snack that you consume 30-45 minutes before you exercise (yes, a protein smoothie or bar before a sweat sesh counts as well). ‘Ideally, it should stimulate you enough to boost performance without causing any bad side effects,’ says Sarah Lindsay, a three-time Olympian, dietitian, and Roar Fitness trainer.
Benefits of a pre-workout:
‘The benefits of taking a pre-workout pill are to boost performance by both increasing energy and postponing weariness so you can get that PB more easily,’ says Jennifer Blow of MyProtein. ‘They can be used for both anaerobic and aerobic training, such as weightlifting and resistance training, as well as running, HIIT, and cycling.’
Is it okay to take pre-workout supplements?
There are two sides to every story, as there are to most things. ‘Pre-workout nutrition over an extended period of time in combination with exercise is safe and can lead to beneficial changes in strength and body composition,’ according to research published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
A pre-workout, on the other hand, may cause negative reactions or side effects. If you have any worries, it’s always a good idea to read over the ingredients list and visit a nutritionist.
You should also be careful not to overdo it. If you’re new to pre-workouts, it’s probably not a good idea to do them every day for a 5-day workout streak. Instead, take one and observe how your body responds for a few days. If everything goes well, you can take another the following time you work out.
How do you pick the finest pre-workout supplement?
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably interested in learning more about what a pre-workout can do for you and your training. Before you fill your basket, keep the following top ideas from Kimber in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to making substantial gains:
- Keep things straightforward.
It isn’t necessarily true that the more expensive the pre-workout supplements are, the better. In fact, you might want to go with a product with only one ingredient. Consider skincare: your body, like our complexion, may become overwhelmed if we overload it with too many substances.
‘Many pre-workout regimens contain a mysterious cocktail of substances, some of which have no proof to support their effectiveness and others that may even be dangerous,’ Kimber adds.
‘Keep in mind that pre-workouts are not subject to any safety regulations.’ That magical concoction may just include traces of what you’re looking for — as well as a lot of what you’re not (read: artificial sweeteners).
- Look at the label.
Always look for signs that the pre-workout product you’re buying has been tested for quality and safety (a mention of NSF International is a good start, according to Kimber) and/or displays the Informed-Choice emblem.
‘Alternatively, go to the organization’s website for a list of supplements that they endorse,’ Kimber advises.
- Before buying in bulk, try a sachet.
Pre-workout supplements aren’t always cheap, and Kimber recommends starting with a sachet to assess tolerance and taste.
- Consult a professional
‘Some nutritional supplements used to improve exercise and sports performance can have adverse effects and interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications,’ explains Kimber.
If you’re concerned, speak with a healthcare professional who can assess your specific situation.
- Double-check that your selection is legitimate.
Because not all pre-workout supplements are authorized by sports governing bodies, Kimber advises that if you’re training for a certain competition, you should educate yourself. ‘Nutrition does not come in a tub,’ as the saying goes.