What’s in a pre-workout?
By Dr Crionna Tobin, Optimum Nutrition Sports Nutritionist
We’ve all been there. You arrive at the gym exhausted after a long day of work. Motivation is lacking. Some simple techniques to encourage you to work out include making sure you change into your workout gear before leaving the office, recruiting a workout buddy & always remember why you started. When it comes to nutrition, a healthy balanced diet that includes adequate hydration is the cornerstone of workout success. Pre-workout supplements can build on this approach, supporting your workout needs and enhancing your workout potential. So what are the key ingredients to look for in a pre-workout supplement and how can they help you reach your training and fitness goals?
The key benefits of caffeine come from its influence on the central nervous system and resulting reduced perception of effort and/or reduced perception of fatigue (exercise “feels” easier). Caffeine also increases your alertness & concentration keeping you focused during your workout.
The performance benefits of caffeine have been found in doses as low as 1-2 mg per kilogram of body weight. This implies that if you are 80 kg a dose of 80-160 mg will support your performance. However, everyone has a specific tolerance to caffeine depending on their day to day consumption. Some people need higher doses than others to feel similar effects. Therefore, we at Optimum Nutrition have created a number of options for you depending on your caffeine needs.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-workout contains 175 mg of caffeine per serving. This is over twice the amount of caffeine found in an instant coffee which contains approximately 75mg of caffeine. This pre-workout is created with the more advanced caffeine user in mind. Whereas, Optimum Nutrition Amin.O Energy contains 100 mg of caffeine per serving. The caffeine in Amin.O Energy is derived from natural sources including green tea and green coffee extracts. Amin.O Energy is in fact a great option anytime throughout the day when you feel like you need to ‘switch on’.
Creatine plays a role in producing fast immediate energy for the muscle allowing it to contract at a rapid pace. Creatine, specifically creatine monohydrate plays a role in the production of ATP which is the energy currency of the muscle. Creatine helps to re-produce new ATP in the muscle for immediate energy. When creatine is taken continuously in a dose of 3g per day it assists the production of more energy allowing you to increase the intensity of your training sessions. The more intensity you can bring to training the greater your adaptations (faster, bigger, stronger). Creatine specifically increases physical performance in successive bursts of short term high intensity activity in the gym or on the pitch/track. Supplementation is the most effective way to increase muscle creatine levels as to consume a similar volume of creatine from food you would have to eat 1 lb of meat! Gold Standard Pre Workout contains 3g of creatine per serve.
Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in food such as red meats and fish. Beta alanine increases a compound in the muscle known as carnosine, which is present in high amounts in the muscle. Carnosine is a buffer in the muscle which helps to control the acidity that can often build up during high intensity exercise. This acidity is caused by carbohydrates being used at a high rate during high intensity exercise which causes the formation of lactic acid. This lowers the pH and has been shown to interfere with muscle contractions during exercise and ultimately increases the onset of fatigue. Carnosine is a buffer found in the muscle which can remove this acidity. Therefore increasing the carnosine content within the muscle will raise the buffering capacity of the muscle during high intensity exercise and help to delay the onset of fatigue. Consuming beta-alanine over a period of 4-8 weeks increases muscle carnosine levels. Gold Standard pre-workout provides 1.5g of Beta-alaine, while Amin.O Energy provides a lower dose of 350 mg.
L-arginine is an essential amino acid found in sea food, watermelon, nuts and meat. L- arginine can increase the synthesis of nitric oxide (N.O.) in the blood vessels.
L-citrulline is a non-essential amino acid, is naturally sources in the diet, but is mainly produced in the small intestine by glutamine. It is a precursor to the synthesis of L-arginine and therefore indirectly increases the concentration of N.O. in the body. Studies have found that supplementing with L-citrulline is more effective at raising L- arginine concentration in the blood than directly supplementing with the same dose of L-arginine. There is 750 mg of citrulline per scoop in Gold Standard Pre Workout.
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
Another common ingredient of pre workout supplements is BCAAs. These Amino acids are literally the building blocks of all biological proteins. Every protein you consume in your diet or through supplements is broken down in the body into amino acids in order to support muscle repair and recovery. The Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine, are all essential amino acids, meaning that they must be consumed through the diet or supplements as the body can't produce them. A serving of Amin.O Energy provides the muscle with 5g of amino acids.