Key ingredients in Pre-Workout

What to take before workout is a million dollar questions for many, and with the increasing number of products that are being marketed today it becomes even more difficult to decide.

There are various products in the market today which can be ingested before workout or exercise. These pre-workout drinks contain a large variety of mixtures that claim to boost energy, provide essentials nutrients and offers muscle pumping.

With such a huge market for pre-workout supplements or products let’s take a look at the five most common pre-workout products, the nutrients they contain and their benefits.

  • Caffeine
  • Creatine
  • Beta-alanine
  • L-arginine
  • Protein


  • Caffeine


Everyone gets that feeling of lethargy during the day where they just can’t seem to muster enough energy to focus on the tasks at hand. The first inclination is to pump your body with an excess amount of caffeine to get you motivated. But if you do that hours before a workout, you may be hurting your performance and endurance. Caffeine also has a mild fat burning effect, which can spare carbohydrate and enhance endurance performance. Several reports have shown caffeine can increase strength as well. An effective caffeine dose is 100-200 mg, equivalent to about 1-2 cups of coffee. . If you have caffeine before a workout, it tends to decrease your perception of how hard you’re working.

  • Creatine

Creatine should be used as part of a highly effective preworkout supplement, or on its own 30 minutes prior to exercise, but also as part of your post-workout shake immediately after exercise, for maximal results! Creatine boosts muscle strength and power. Muscle creatine accumulation occurs over 3-5 days of multiple daily doses of about 5g. A maintenance dose is then required to keep muscle creatine levels elevated. Including the maintenance dose of 3-5g of creatine in a pre-workout formula is a good idea. On non-workout days, take 3-5g of creatine to keep your muscles saturated and primed for your next workout.

  • Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine can provide an acute stimulant response and is therefore a good candidate for being consumed pre-workout. Studies indicate that beta-alanine supplementation increases muscle levels of carnosine, an intracellular buffer that helps fight fatigue during high-intensity exercise.An advantage of consuming creatine and beta-alanine in a pre-workout formula is that blood levels will be increased at a time when blood flow is increased and redistributed to active muscles, and thus should promote greater overall delivery of the substances to muscle. Similar to creatine, muscle levels increase over several days/weeks, so the timing of ingestion is not critical. An effective daily dose is 3.2-6.4g in divided doses. A pre-workout drink that contains at least 1.6g would give you half of the daily minimum dose, and you should take another dose during the day to keep your muscle carnosine levels elevated.



  • L-arginine


Researchers at the University of Exeter in England found that a dietary supplement containing L-arginine could enhance the production of nitric oxide in the body and significantly boost stamina during high-intensity exercise. It is one of the key nutrients in a rapidly growing segment of products that claim to promote vasodilation and better muscle pumps during exercise. L-arginine is an essential amino acid for synthesis of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a substance made and released by the cells that line your blood vessels. When released, NO causes a potent dilation of blood vessels, which translates into increased blood flow. Some studies have shown better blood vessel function after L-arginine supplementation in people with impaired vascular function, but positive effects in young healthy athletes are less clear. An effective L-arginine dose to impact NO is at least 3g.

  • Protein

After ingesting protein, muscle protein synthesis can stay elevated as long as 3 hours. This means that pre-workout protein allows you to double dip: You reap thebenefits of elevated blood amino acids during your training session in addition to a carryover of elevated blood amino acid levels after your workout. The importance of protein after exercise is well recognized, but new research indicates that pre-exercise protein is beneficial for strength and endurance athletes. You don’t need a lot; 10-20g of whey protein 30-60 minutes before a workout can increase protein synthesis by delivering more amino acid building blocks to muscle that get incorporated into proteins. The branched-chain amino acids, especially leucine, are the most important amino acids for building muscle. Leucine signals the muscle to turn on protein synthesis. If a pre-workout drink does not have protein, you can boost its effectiveness by adding BCAAs. Protein from whey concentrate or isolate naturally contains about 22% BCAAs. Or you can take 2.5-5g of a straight BCAA powder, which would equal the BCAAs in 10-20g of whey. Maximal effects are achieved with about 3g of leucine.


Other Ingredients


Taurine, an amino acid, is abundant in skeletal muscle. It is known that a decrease in the skeletal muscle taurine concenteration leads to decrease in strength. Interestingly, supplementation of taurine augments muscle taurine levels and increases muscular strength. There is evidence that taurine may increase insulin sensitivity and decrease oxidative stress. It may also help burn fat in overweight individuals. Doses greater than 1g is likely needed to have any impact on cell function.



Tyrosine is an amino acid that serves as the precursor for norepinephrine (NE). NE is an important hormone that acts in the brain to stimulate metabolism. Prolonged, intense physical stress can deplete NE levels, which is associated with a decrease in performance. Tyrosine supplementation has been shown to enhance NE levels and brain function in animals. In soldiers, tyrosine supplementation enhanced cognitive task performance during a demanding military combat training course. Effective doses are 1-2g. Tyrosine can help you exercise harder and longer 




The basis for consuming carbs before exercise is to provide a readily available source of glucose (fuel). I suggest you avoid the convenience store energy drinks that are loaded with sugar. Almost all carbs found in energy drinks are simple sugars. The problem with these massive amounts of carbs is they spike blood sugar and insulin levels so high, you can cause a corresponding low blood sugar crash. Equally problematic, they block your body’s ability to burn fat stores. Obviously not a desirable effect if you’re trying to lose weight or improve metabolic health. If you’re exercising less than an hour, or if your workout goal is to burn body fat, you probably don’t need to consume carbs before a workout.




A wide variety of pre-workout options are available for consumers, however it is essential for the consumers to make the right choices. As the supplements contain a large list of ingredients, it is of importance to make decisions wisely. You may have to do some experimenting to find the right pre-workout formula that works for you, based on your fat loss or strength training goals. Or consider creating your own pre-workout drink by buying some of these ingredients separately and taking them in the doses that have been shown to work.


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