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When & How to Take Pre-Workout for Best Results

The somewhat confusing term “pre-workout” refers to any type of supplement that provides people with extra energy during their workout. There are two forms of pre-workout: products with stimulants and products without stimulants.

Pre-workout often comes in powder form which can be mixed with water. However, it can also be consumed as solid food or it can be taken as pills. The article will examine pre-workout more closely and give some idea of the best pre-workout for your individual fitness goals. 

3d render of pre-workout pill with granules isolated over white background.

Background Information

Pre-workout should be taken before your workout. Some people drink it during their workout or on their way to the gym, but it ideally should be taken at least 30 to 60 minutes before you start working out. Which type of pre-workout is the best often depends on your personal preference, preferred type of exercise, and personal health goals. 

To choose the type of pre-workout that will be best for you, look specifically for the ingredients that will help you reach your goals. For example, if you are training for a marathon, you might look for supplements with caffeine and stimulants to improve your cardio endurance. If you want to build muscle and also want quicker muscle recovery, choose a pre-workout with ingredients like creatine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) that are specifically for that purpose. 

Once you have worked out the kinds of ingredients you need, pay careful attention to the amount of each ingredient, and also watch out for artificial flavors and ingredients. Many of the amino acids and compounds in pre-workout may sound artificial when they are actually not. So it helps to know exactly what to look for when you are reading a label. 

Pre-workout is not regulated by the FDA, but the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition  regularly publishes studies on pre-workout. Before making any kind of decision, read product reviews in the journal and online, ask questions at your gym if you have a personal trainer, and get some sound medical advice from your doctor. There are so many options available for you to test and try out.

Benefits of Pre-Workout 

An  improvement in exercise performance is the main benefit of pre-workout. Although, it should be noted that this is an energy-producing supplement that does not produce weightlifting results on its own. The theory is that when you have the energy and endurance to work out longer and harder, there will likely be an acceleration in results. 

Pre-workout on its own doesn’t affect weight loss or muscle growth, but it can boost your energy levels and increase your focus and endurance, thereby improving your physical performance. You will probably feel more motivated to go to the gym several times a week for tough training sessions and lots and lots of reps. 

There are currently several types of pre-workout supplements on the market that feature beneficial ingredients like caffeine, carbs, amino acids, antioxidants and B vitamins. These common chemicals are all key ingredients that can give you an energy boost to endure a challenging workout. Each product has a different ingredient combination so always read the labels carefully and look for the key ingredients. 

Risks of Pre-Workout and Potential Side Effects 

The risks of pre-workout really depend on the product’s ingredients, how you are using it, and how your body specifically responds to it. Familiarizing yourself with the ingredients in the product and monitoring how your body reacts to pre-workout is the most important part of trying to build up to using pre-workout safely. 

There are several potential side effects that can arise as a result of taking pre-workout. We will take a brief look at some of these side effects below. If you are a beginner and you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, always consult your physician or personal trainer before taking any kind of pre-workout.

Potential Side Effect #1: Pre-workout May Increase Water Retention 

A popular ingredient in many pre-workout formulas is creatine. With high-intensity exercise such as bodybuilding, it has been shown to increase endurance capacity and lean body mass gains. While it can often be found as part of a pre-workout supplement, creatine can also be taken on its own. The main side effects associated with creatine are mild but they include water retention, bloating, weight gain, and several digestive issues.

Despite these side effects, creatine is generally considered safe. You can reduce any adverse symptoms by ensuring proper dosing. Creatine is typically dosed with a loading phase of 4 scoops (20 grams) per day for at least three days, followed by a 3–5-gram daily maintenance dose. This method provides rapid benefits but it can cause digestive issues and bloating. 

You can also take a single daily dose of 3–6 grams if you are able to wait up to a month to experience the benefits. This option is best if you want to avoid side effects like bloating, especially for those with a sensitive stomach. Also, you may experience moderate weight gain of up to six pounds when you take creatine. This is mainly due to increased water retention in your muscles. The easiest way to avoid mild side effects from creatine is to take smaller daily doses instead of doing a loading phase. 

Potential Side Effect #2: Pre-workout May Make You Feel Jittery 

Caffeine is one of the primary ingredients in many pre-workout supplements. This stimulant has been shown to increase your muscle strength and output during exercise while also reducing the amount of fatigue. Many people find that caffeine allows them to get more benefits out of their regular workouts. 

However, caffeine has several potential side effects, especially if you consume too much. These include insomnia, nausea, increased heart rate, drowsiness, headaches, anxiety, and jitters or restlessness. What’s more, many pre-workout supplements pack high amounts of up to 500 mg of caffeine per serving. Serving sizes typically range from 0.35–1 ounce. In comparison, a cup of coffee contains only 95 mg. 

Caffeine dosing is very personal because some people tolerate the amount of caffeine better than others. The best way to reduce side effects is to start with a small dose of a caffeinated pre-workout supplement, slowly increasing your dosage to see what you can tolerate. Always avoid caffeine for several hours before resting to help prevent insomnia. Of course, you can also choose to take pre-workout supplements that don’t contain any caffeine. 

Potential Side Effect #3: Pre-workout May Cause Digestive Problems

Several ingredients in pre-workout formulas may cause digestive problems. These include sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, creatine, and caffeine. Sodium bicarbonate may cause problems when consumed at 90–230 mg per pound of body weight. However, most pre-workout supplements do not contain this much. Magnesium may have laxative effects, especially when taken in the form of magnesium citrate. Thus, taking too much may cause diarrhea. Interestingly, using too little water when mixing pre-workout supplements may likewise upset your digestion.

Too concentrated a liquid could lead to diarrhea. Mixing your pre-workout supplement with up to 12 ounces of water can minimize some of these side effects. Because it is difficult to determine which specific ingredient might be causing your digestive problems, you may want to try different pre-workout formulas until you find one you can tolerate.

Potential Side Effect #4: Pre-workout May Trigger Other Mild Reactions 

Two additional ingredients in many pre-workout supplements are beta alanine and niacin (vitamin B3). Beta alanine is an amino acid that reduces acidity in your muscles during exercise, which may help you sustain your workout for slightly longer. Dosed at 4–6 grams per day, it increases exercise performance and reduces fatigue in high-intensity exercises up to four minutes. However, it may cause paresthesia, a tingling sensation in your hands and feet, which can be uncomfortable. 

Another ingredient with mild downsides is niacin, which is included in many pre-workout supplements for its skin-flushing effects. In high doses of 500 mg or more, it can trigger a blood rush to the surface of your skin, which can sometimes result in red patches. While niacin also plays an important role in energy metabolism, supplementing with it probably won’t offer you many other benefits if you are already eating a well-balanced diet. 

The most effective way to reduce the tingling associated with beta alanine is to divide the daily 4–6-gram dose into two separate doses of 2–3 grams each. You can also buy sustained-release formulas. Keeping your dose of niacin to less than 500 mg may prevent niacin flush. You can also purchase niacin-free products. Just be sure to check the ingredients on the label. 

Potential Side Effect #5: Pre-workout May Cause Headaches 

Citrulline is added to some pre-workout supplements to increase the blood flow to your muscles during exercise for enhanced muscle building. This amino acid works by boosting nitric oxide levels in your blood. The recommended dose for citrulline malate, a common form of this ingredient, is 6–8 grams. Many pre-workout supplements offer smaller amounts and may not provide enough benefits. This increase in blood flow can affect your brain as well as your muscles, leading to headaches and migraines for some people.

This is due to blood pressure changes in your brain’s small blood vessels. The most effective way to reduce headaches from citrulline is to decrease your dosage. If you still have headaches, you may want to find a pre-workout supplement without this ingredient. Citrulline, a common ingredient in pre-workout formulas, may cause headaches by increasing blood flow in your body. Decreasing your dosage may minimize this effect. 

Types of Pre-Workout 

The fitness industry is full of all kinds of pre-workout products and you may have to try a few different types before you find the right product for you. With new products hitting the market every day, there is no shortage of options to choose from. 

Pre-Workout Drinks

Pre-workout powder is the most popular product you’ll find on the shelf. A scoop of powder is added to water and then mixed to make a flavored sports drink. The powder can also be mixed with smoothie ingredients to make a pre-workout smoothie. Taking pre-workout drinks with food can help reduce some of the unwelcome side effects. Plus, the extra nutrients from smoothie ingredients like bananas and strawberries can give you more energy, too. If you don’t really like pre-workout powder, you can find many pre-workouts that come in bottled form too. 

A good place to start is with our  VIS Premium Pre-Workout. VIS will unlock the maximum potential of your body and mind. We use the highest quality ingredients with full clinical dosing to produce skin-tearing pumps, increased pain tolerance, superior mind-muscle connection, tunnel vision focus, and no caffeine crash. VIS comes in flavors such as Ginger Lime, candied limes muddled with a hint of ginger, or Raspberry Honeycomb, with fresh tangy raspberries and a chunk of raw honeycomb to bring out the berry's sweetness.

pre workout smoothie

Pre-Workout Food

Experts suggest eating a full meal two to three hours before exercising. If that window of opportunity isn’t possible, then eating a small meal 30 minutes before hitting the gym can give you a wide range of benefits as well. A pre-workout meal will boost energy, but it will not contain the stimulants or caffeine kick you might be looking for. The best strategy is to eat something that is full of carbohydrates and protein before attempting strength training. The best types of pre-workout snacks often include things such as bananas, almonds, protein bars, fruit with Greek yogurt, or a variety of smoothies. 

Together with your meal or snack, you might want to try our  VITAE Men’s Health Optimizer. VITAE has been meticulously designed to amplify your performance in the office, gym, and even in the bedroom. You can expect high quality full spectrum multi-vitamin, greens and superfood complex, and hormone optimizing compounds from this product. Men especially can benefit from these types of pre-workout products because they have more energy with natural-producing testosterone.

The best pre-workout for men will contain ingredients that boost testosterone levels. In most products, caffeine gets the blood pumping and circulating, but in products specifically created for men, nitric oxide and beta-alanine are included too. Other products are for men who want to bulk up. These products include the traditional pre-workout ingredients as well as ingredients that increase muscle mass. 

The Best Pre-workout Supplements

The healthiest pre-workout product you can buy will have simple, minimal ingredients that you can understand and pronounce. Look for ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine, and nitric oxide booster. Avoid products with artificial sweeteners and artificial colors and flavors. There are now products that fit a variety of lifestyles and dietary restrictions. You can choose from supplements that have non-GMO ingredients, and even some Paleo, vegan, soy-free, or organic options. 

If you take the recommended amount according to your bodyweight, you should feel the effects of pre-workout in 30 to 45 minutes. That is why pre-workout should ideally be consumed quite a long time before you go to the gym. Depending on the product, the pre-workout effects will last up to six hours for most gym goers. 

To find out more about what pre-workout is, talk to your doctor and personal trainer as you are defining your fitness goals. Carefully examine each product’s ingredients, browse through online reviews, and try a few samples of each product before selecting one to use. Pay careful attention to how your body responds to pre-workout and how you feel after using it. Ideally, you will find that pre-workout can be an extremely useful addition to your fitness routine.

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