Many of us have walked into nutrition stores, looking to buy a pre-workout supplement that'll give us the energy we need to boost our next training session. However, if you've ever stopped to read the ingredients, you probably can't pronounce half of the convoluted, scientific terms printed on the label.
Don't worry; you aren't alone.
The truth is that most supplement companies don't want you to be able to read what's in their product, they just want your hard-earned dollars. More importantly, these companies don't want you to just make your own drink. Instead, they want their cool packaging design to sell you on their powder (which, like all the others, is the best-tasting and provides the best results).
Let's break down what it is in most pre-workout powders that gets you all pumped up.
This is a form of amino acid that we consume naturally by eating seafood and steak. The synthetic version we find in our pre-workout drink is safe and effective for increasing muscle mass, endurance, and strength. Due to how inexpensive the compound is, it's one of the most-used supplements on the market.
Creatine also increases the amount of water stored inside your muscles, giving you that extra mass you probably want.
Also known as "L-arginine," this amino acid aids with wound recovery, dilating your arteries, and delivering nitric oxide, promoting that classic gym pump that everyone loves to show off. In short, you can blame "invisible lat syndrome" on this amino acid.
Pre-workout drink companies want to make you believe you're getting bigger by the minute and L-arginine helps with that.
This is a non-essential amino acid, which means it's something our bodies make naturally. Beta-alanine might be printed on the label under the name "CarnoSyn" and it's makes us feel all intense and tingly as we press out those extra reps. Beta-alanine is excellent at reducing muscle fatigue, elevating your workouts to the next level.
4. The "explosive energy blend" or "proprietary blend"
Some labels don't tell you exactly what's in their blends — and if whatever's in there is bad for you, the FDA has to prove that the mixture is unsafe before the supplement company is forced to take it off the market, which takes a long time.
Anyway, this is where the caffeine comes into the mix (as well as n-acetyl-l-tyrosine and other types of amino acids). Caffeine levels vary from product to product, but most pre-workout drinks contains between 75 to 200mg. The standard cup of coffee comes with about 95mg. To some, that's a lot of caffeine.
5. Bonus amino acids
L-theanine, L-citrulline, and L-valine are also commonly found in pre-workout drinks. Why you so many amino acids? Instead of wasting time waiting on the digestion process, by drinking these supplements, amino acids are shot straight to your muscles, promoting faster recovery and growth.
We'd also like to point out that you can actually mix your own pre-workout drinks and save money.
It's way f*cking cheaper.