Pre-Workout Supplements are big business at the moment.
There are a variety of brands that can be purchased online or off the shelf and they all offer the promise and possibility of helping you achieve a great workout even when you feel lacking in energy before you start.
This promise in my experience is also quite TRUE!!
However like most things in life if we take something that we don’t have ie. The energy for a great workout, then we normally have to pay something back.
In this instance if we are not careful we pay back with our Health.
If you are young and find yourself using these supplements frequently be aware that long term use will very probably be detrimental to your health.
If used very sparingly, maybe on a competition day or on a once in a while basis for a much needed boost for a very good reason then this is fine.
Please however do not make these drinks part of your regular, routine exercise sessions, especially without knowing and understanding the ingredients.
If however you are in your 40’s or beyond and you are using these supplements to try and replace the energy that you used to have – STOP NOW
If you find yourself constantly lacking energy, have poor sleep patterns, struggle with motivation and suffering declining physical performances – THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER.
THIS IS AN ENEMY THAT WILL BEHAVE LIKE A FRIEND FOR A SHORT TIME BUT ULTIMATELY BE YOUR DOWNFALL
In return for the short-term energy boost to get us through our workout the Pre-Workout supplement will also
- Over Stimulate our Central Nervous System putting us in a frequent and chronic ‘Fight of Flight’ Mode
- Increase our Blood Pressure
- Provide Poor quality Sleep
- Place a large stress on our adrenal glands
- Place further stress on our liver and kidneys
If you are middle aged and find yourself chronically fatigued and lacking your Mojo. If you feel that you have lost the Powers that you used to have and that this drink will help you, rest assured it is compounding every issue that put you into this place.
Your body and its organs have been overstressed from years of fighting battles.
Your body has been in an elevated ‘Fight or Flight Mode’ too many times, fighting such Battles as Work, Family, Relationships, Deaths, Births, Marriages, Divorces, Finances, Mortgages, Late nights, Early mornings, The excessive load of physical demands and stresses, Th excessive load of nutritional demands...years of what you considered harmless stimulants to help you fight these battles – Caffeine – Alcohol – Pre Workout Drinks...You have flooded your body with adrenaline and cortisol and your body, it’s organs and your Hormonal system has been overloaded and overstressed. It is no longer working effectively and is shutting down – You feel awful and are declining from the once prime physical specimen you were.
These drinks are doing everything to your body that has caused the damage and that you now need to sharply STOP DOING. Your body has been flooded by Cortisol and adrenaline at excessive levels for too long. This has caused the issues – every time you drink one of these drinks you are banging another nail into your own coffin and sealing the lid on your future Performances and Health. Please note however, whatever age and whoever you are that not all Pre-Workout drinks are created equally and so IF YOU MUST use them then my advice is
A) ONLY USE THEM VERY SPARINGLY AT TIME OF COMPETITION OR EMERGENCY!
B) UNDERSTAND THE INGREDIENTS AND AVOID DRINKS WITH CERTAIN ONES
- Firstly, never use an off the shelf drink with its own Proprietary blend. You will never know what this contains and so do not take the risk.
- Do not take a Pre-Workout Drink with Ingredients and substances that you don’t know
- Additional Ingredients to avoid would be - Yohimbine – Synephrine – And Caffeine* (over 160mg)* as these will overstimulate and ultimately give you back a drained, weakened body
Personally if I do take a Pre-Workout Drink I will only ever do it on a Competition Day, a handful of times per year and thereafter spend a prolonged period of time doing everything possible to relax and calm my body for the days following it.
My personal prescription involves following a small cup of coffee in the morning with 80-100mg caffeine I like to make my own drink containing only the following key ingredients;
THE 2 BIG GUNS – The Supplements that are highly effective, have a large mountain of research showing their benefits and that will place ‘Less Stress’ on my body than some of the other possible ingredients ;
THE BIG TWO
Creatine is a highly researched Sports Supplement clinically proven in its benefits. Creatine is a substance formed naturally in the body from amino acids and present in red meat and fish. Most of the creatine in our body is stored in our muscle cells with a small percentage in our brain, liver and kidneys. Creatine is released for short bursts of high intensity energy production and so therefore for those of us that call upon these demands on a frequent basis then supplementing with a larger intake of creatine than our diet supplies is very beneficial. It is possibly the most clinically researched natural substance proven to increase muscle cell energy, strength and power.
There is also however a plethora of additional benefits from its usage:-
- IT INCREASES LEAN BODY WEIGHT & MUSCLE MASS – One main reason for this is the rise in intra-cellular fluid caused by an increase of creatine in the muscle tissue. However, over a longer period of time the ability to lift heavier, for more repetitions from the Creatine usage will ultimately lead to pure muscle growth
- IT WILL AID MUSCLE RECOVERY – by helping balance pH levels in your muscles
- IT WILL IMPROVE YOUR ENDURANCE - Although studies are unable to confirm that creatine would benefit a long steady state aerobic session as its strength lies in providing energy production for short term, high intensity efforts. Creatine will however provide the ability to replenish rapidly the muscles creatine stores if it is supplemented with correctly therefore providing the ability to perform for a longer duration if frequent high intensity efforts are constantly required such as during an Interval type session.
- IT PROTECTS THE BRAIN AND IMPROVES COGNITION – with current research showing it to potentially prevent or to improve symptoms of Alzheimers
- IT MIGHT ALSO HELP PARKINSONS DISEASE by showing in recent studies that it prevented a drop in dopamine levels which is a causing factor of Parkinson’s
There have been fears about creatine causing a strain on the kidneys however current research typically rebukes this claim and so unless you have an ongoing kidney issue then I would not worry.
Almost all research now proclaims Creatine to be 100% safe in levels of 5-30g consumption per day and in fact is beneficial and that we can potentially use it year-round.
Personally, I would always recommend as with all supplementation to cycle its usage and have periods of time when it is not being consumed. At the very least this will prevent your body becoming desensitised to the product and allow more Gains when you do use it again
I recommend 10g per day – 5g Pre or Intra Workout and 5g Post Workout on Workout days and 10g divided into 2 dosages on non-workout days. There should be no need to have a Loading Phase at the start of using it but you must be consistent in its usage maintaining the required muscle cell load of creatine at all times to reap its benefits.
- BETA ALANINE –
Beta Alanine is another amino acid naturally made by the body and used in the production of other chemicals in the body. Beta Alanine’s benefit to improving performance lies in the fact that it increases carnosine stores in muscle which helps reduce fatigue during intense exercise By supplementing with Beta Alanine there is evidence of improvements in physical performance mainly in the 1 – 4 minute range, however research also shows improvement in endurance by helping to buffer the build up of lactic acid in the muscles because of its high pH levels There is also research that shows that it might also –
- IMPROVE MUSCLE GROWTH
- LOWER ANXIETY AND IMPROVE PTSD by promoting serotonin production in the brain. This is almost an opposite effect to the nasty post usage side effects of most pre-workout ingredients
- FIGHT AGING as the increase Carnosine levels fights the age related stress and damage to the body’s cells BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY FOR THE NATURE OF THIS ARTICLE
- IT MAY ALSO HELP CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME. During Chronic Fatigue the body releases excessive amounts of beta-alanine in its urine therefore suggesting that low levels of Beta Alanine may be a causing factor to the side effects of Chronic Fatigue. By supplementing with an increased intake of Beta Alanine it may help against these negative side effects.
There is not as much long term research with Beta Alanine supplementation as there is with Creatine and so we cannot be 100% sure of its long term usage safety. All current research however proclaim that a usage between 4-10g daily would provide benefit without any detriment to your health. Some people do experience a tingling sensation with its usage but this often subsides after a while. If not then try breaking the dosage down into smaller doses throughout the day. This is not a supplement that I personally choose to use year round but instead during certain cycles of the year, possibly Competition Phases or Intense Training cycles I will use 4g per day on Non Workout days to maintain muscle Carnosine levels and boost this with an additional 4g in my Pre-Workout drink to help further buffer the lactic acid.
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS TO CONSIDER ARE -
L - THEANINE –
L - THEANINE is once again yet another amino-acid !! L – Theanine is rarely found in most foods however and is exclusively found in tea’s and some fungi with its largest concentrations found in Green Tea’s. L – Theanine’s benefits are vast and its specific usage in Pre–Workout drinks lies primarily with its ability to Improve blood flow by increasing nitric oxide production and also reduce fatigue by increasing the concentration of Glycogen in the liver ready for fuel when we workout. As a mid-40’s highly competitive Age Group Athlete with a long history of ‘HPA’ issues and Chronic Fatigue due to the demands I have put on my body this is rapidly becoming one of my main ‘Super-Power’ Supplements;
A great benefit of L-Theanine in Pre-Workout drinks and the most important in my mind is the fact that it blunts all of the negative effects of the caffeine. It blunts the excessive Cortisol response that caffeine produces, mitigates the increase in blood pressure and provides a calming effect reducing the elevated heart rate, anxiety and CNS over-stimulation that the Caffeine brings about.
In addition L-Theanine has a large antioxidant effect capable of assisting and repairing the Liver and increasing glutathione levels, reducing inflammation in the body.
It is also well known to
- IMPROVE BRAIN FUNCTION by increasing brain serotonin and dopamine levels and therefore also
- IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY
You may be questioning that if it is so beneficial in relaxing our body then why will it be good pre-workout? Well the combination of L-Theanine has a synergistic effect when taken with caffeine and produces a nootropic effect boosting cognitive ability whilst also dampening the caffeine negative effects.
I personally recommend taking 200mg twice daily everyday and adding one of these servings to your Pre-Workout when consumed and/or your Post workout drink and a serving before bed
This supplement is increasingly beneficial to us aging athletes who have overstressed our systems and continue to stress our body’s.
Taurine, another Amino Acid!! … is important in several of the body’s metabolic processes and also has strong antioxidant properties. Taurine is found naturally in meat, fish and dairy products. Its usage as a supplement does not have as much research supporting it as the Ingredients that I have listed above but some studies do show an improvement in Athletic Performance. Not unlike L-Theanine, Taurine also appears to have a synergistic effect with caffeine helping boost cognitive ability with improved reaction time and brain function but also once again buffers the negative effects of caffeine, calming the central nervous system. Although it is possible to purchase this amino acid and add it to your pre-workout drink, I personally do not. However, if this pops up on your list of Pre-Workout Drink Ingredients then I would not be put off by it as it may well have a beneficial effect to your performance and also your recovery
L-TYROSINE Is an Amino Acid that is a precursor to the production of Cortisol and the catecholamines, dopamine and epinephrine. L-Tyrosine is an ingredient often found in Pre-Workout Formulas due to its link in improvements to cognitive function and metabolic rate and the stimulation of adrenalin.
It is also however quite confusingly also recommended at times to those that are suffering adrenal fatigue or Chronic Fatigue. This is due to the fact that at certain stages in these conditions Cortisol levels can fall excessively low. L-Tyrosine will help because it is a precursor to its production. Don’t be fooled however if you believe that you are suffering one of these conditions that it will be fine to consume this product as conversely you may be in a situation whereupon your systems cortisol production is simply out of alignment and you are creating too much cortisol at the wrong times of day leaving you wired at times during the night and exhausted during the day. L-Tyrosine supplementation from my own experience will only serve to make these matters worse. This is a tricky one, but one best left alone in my opinion if you are looking for a safe stimulant on an already stressed aging body
So in Summary for the Perfect Pre-Workout Recipe For anyone serious about not causing long term stress on their body but most importantly us aging Athletes who need to be much kinder to our bodies -
1) NEVER USE A PRE-WORKOUT DRINK WHICH YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ALL OF ITS INGREDIENTS
2) NEVER USE A PRE-WORKOUT DRINK WITH IT’S OWN PROPRIETARY BLEND WHICH WE DON’T KNOW WHAT IT CONTAINS
3) AVOID CAFFEINE LEVELS OVER 160mg 4) AVOID YOHIMBINE – SYNEPHRINE & POSSIBLY L-TYROSINE
5) DRINK 1 STANDARD CUP OF COFFEE 30-60 mins PRE-WORKOUT THEN 6) PREFERABLY MIX YOUR OWN PRE-WORKOUT DRINK WITH THE INDIVIDUAL INGREDIENTS CREATINE 5mg – BETA ALANINE 5mg AND L-THEANINE 200mg -
Then go have a great workout knowing that you are getting the best out of your body and helping it to recover afterwards without taking so much out of your energy bank that it will be impossible to pay back later.