We ALL love that feeling, the PUMP. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, your training is most likely sub par. Anyway, the pump is that feeling you get when it feels like the muscle your training is about to burst through the skin. Remember Arnold’s famous quote? If you don’t, stop reading this and go watch “Pumping Iron.” Arnold stated, “The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is… The Pump. Let’s say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles and that’s what we call The Pump. You muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute, and it’s really tight – it’s like somebody blowing air into it, into your muscle. It just blows up, and it feels really different. It feels fantastic.” Funny, yet true. The pump is probably the best feeling you get in the gym next to a PR (personal record) but I would argue that is more mental than physiological.
A solid pre workout formula can aid you in achieving that lovely pump, which quite honestly is the main reason I supplement with a pre-workout. Granted, the research is there to demonstrate that ingredients making up most of the pre-workout blends on the shelf have proven benefits on strength, endurance, and hypertrophy, I enjoy feeling and seeing it goto work even if that pump fades two-hours later(there’s my bro-esque line of the blog) Before we dig any deeper I am going to be completely honest with you, as all of my articles will be, NO ONE ever got huge off of a pre-workout supplement. So don’t ask if this one works or that one works. I am not going to sell you snake oil, because quite frankly, I’m not getting paid for pushing supplements, rather giving you the knowledge to make the correct choice for your needs. You need to evaluate the ingredients and determine if it contains the ingredients I will talk about below at the the recommended dosage. Sure, you can have all the right ingredients, but if it is not dosed properly, you’re probably not going to see a benefit. This can be difficult as most companies use a proprietary blend to avoid giving out their formula, since this is the case I recommend sticking with a reputable company that has been in the game and proven to produce a quality product time and time again. Beyond the ingredients you have to test what works for you. Many friends of mine have raved about a particular brand but when I tried it I thought it was a dud. Similar to diet, diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. Again, I’ve never heard of anyone getting huge off of a pre-workout, but I have witnessed many grueling workouts get completed that may not have without the extra boost and ergogenic aid provided by the mythical pre-workout solution. Below I will briefly run through some key ingredients that should be part of your pre-workout and one surprise powerhouse that you may wish to avoid. Later this week I will be reviewing Animal RAGE and demonstrating it’s mixability, taste, as well as go through a training session that I will post for you to give a try.
Proven ingredients have been scientifically shown to improve performance in endurance and strength as well as gains in muscle mass. Caffeine and Creatine are undoubtably ergogenic aids. Both of these have been studied more than anything else and as long as the subjects were given the proper dose both have come out on top time and time again. As for creatine (monohydrate) a 20g loading phase for 1 week followed by 5-10g per day is recommended.This dosage has been shown to increase size and strength in multiple studies, just goto www.pubmed.com and search creatine and hypertrophy and you will find thousands of results for research studies.
Caffeine is really individualized in the amount an individual can handle. Some do not do well with stimulants and require a caffeine free pre-workout, others, like myself, have a high tolerance and can handle upwards of 600-800mG (about 4-5 Tall Starbucks coffees). Caffeine has shown to be beneficial at different dosages and is generally studied by weight of the subject. A 2008 study demonstrated participants to lift significantly more repetitions on the bench press as opposed to those consuming a placebo. The dosage provided in this study was 5mG/kG body weight, which would be the equivalent of 500mG for a 200 pound individual. Assess your tolerance and see what you can handle.
Before we go into the next two. Caffeine actually counteracts the benefit of creatine loading in muscle when combined(2). This is the reason I solely take creatine post workout along with a carbohydrate, which has shown to increase its benefit. By consuming creatine pre workout along with caffeine you are not doing any harm, but you also may be wasting your money.
Beta-Alanine (CarnoSyn) is what gives you that tingling sensation that usually hits about 15-30 minutes after consumption. This should be dosed at 3.2g/day to see an ergogenic effect. This does not all have to be consumed at once and has actually shown benefits to be broken up into two 1.6g doses (you will most likely avoid the tingly feeling). If your pre workout does not contain 3.2g you can purchase this in the raw form, http://www.supplementcentral.com/index.php?filter_name=beta+alanine&route=product%2Fisearch&limit=10, and add it to your post workout shake as it has shown benefits when combined with creatine.
Citrulline-Malate has been around but is starting to generate more buzz for its benefits of reducing muscle fatigue and increasing endurance (53% more repetitions on bench compared to placebo)(4). These studies have provided subjects with 6-8g of Citrulline-Malate prior to working out. Again if your favorite pre-workout doesn’t currently have this in or you are unsure of the dosage, you can purchase it in the raw form and add it in if you wish.
There are definitely more ingredients you will find on the label of your pre-workout but these are some of the main ingredients with evidence to back them up. If you have any questions about additional ingredients feel free to contact me on twitter @LuKKoV or facebook, www.facebook.com/lukekovalfitness
Remember to check back for the Animal Rage review and an accompanying training session.
1. Woolf K, Bidwell WK, Carlson AG. The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise. Int J of Sport Nutr Exerc Meta. 2008;18:412–29.
2. K. Vandenberghe, N. Gillis, M. Van Leemputte, P. Van Hecke, F. Vanstapel, P. Hespel counteracts the ergogenic action of muscle creatine loading. Journal of Applied Physiology February 1, 1996 vol. 80 no. 2452-457
3. Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012;43:25–37. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z
4. Perez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24:1215–1222. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0.