By Coach Rachael
Many have asked what kind of pre-workout our own LaMonte Styles takes, because they want to have his energy and endurance. Unfortunately, the answer is “none”. (Seriously, he’s just like that all the time.) However, you may have heard one of our other trainers or athletes referencing the itchy feeling they get before a workout or that his/her face may be tingling. Unfortunately, unless you are born that way, like LaMonte, this amped up feeling is usually a result of some sort of pre-workout supplement.
Pre-workout, or PWO, typically comes in a powder form, to be mixed with water. On its most basic level, it is an energy and endurance booster that is taken 30 to 60 minutes before exercise. Not all PWO are the same, however. Some PWO advertise that they help with mental focus. Other PWO say they are metabolism boosters or promote adrenaline rush. Some that are marketed for a quick short burst workout, while other PSO are time released for a longer workout.
A big factor in the success of a PWO is also the taste. Today you can find them in almost every flavor. I recently tried one that even tasted like a gummy worm. However, it is not just taste that makes a PWO drink unique, they all contain a different mix of ingredients or amounts of similar ingredients.
Some contain creatine and/or caffeine, while others do not. Caffeine is probably the most discussed ingredient found in many PWO. People typically hear the word caffeine and think coffee or soft drink, therefore they do not truly understand the power it can have over the body. Many people have even built up a tolerance to caffeine, where they do not feel it’s effects without multiple doses. However, caffeine is a substance that can be abused and create unhealthy addictions. Consuming high levels of caffeine to boost your energy levels and combining it with intense cardiovascular exercise can put a strain on the heart. With this said many athletes use PWO and use it safely. You simply must understand what you are taking, and understand the limitations of your body before you jump right into any old PWO.
Most PWOs contain a safe and reasonable amount of caffeine, yet even those doses are often higher than that of a cup of coffee or soft drink. In a review of 45 popular PWOs, one was found to have as much as 435 milligrams of caffeine… equivalent to 4 cups of coffee. The lab performing the testing said that while none of the PWOs they tested had dangerous levels of caffeine on their own for one dose, when mixed with daily coffee or soft drinks the levels could result in caffeine overdose and make an athlete shaky, ill or even exacerbate underlying heart conditions. When choosing a PWO, first determine what you are seeking in a PWO. Some articles have published that they have found PWOs that contain as much as 20 cups of coffee in one serving; however, this is rare in the United States.
There are also other ingredients you may want to investigate, in order to make a more informed decision on what PWO, if any, is right for you.
If you don’t like the tingling sensation you may get in your ears, face, lips, hands, etc from a PWO, then you might want to avoid those that contain the following:
Beta-Alanine: dilates the blood vessels which improves your aerobic activity and brings blood through the heart.
Niacin: helps to expand small capillaries near the surface of the skin and increase the body’s energy.
Alpha Keto-Glutarate: It helps get you really pumped up as a vasodilator.
Although not as common in over the counter PWO, another ingredient to be very aware of is 1-3 Dimethylamylamine – a controversial substance that is some have described as a legal form of Adderall or Ritalin, which helps you focus and sky rockets energy. It has been compared to crack, and has been banned by the military and some athletic organizations test for it as a banned substance.
Many PWOs also contain some form of protein, and various other ingredients. Before you buy a PWO, do your research. Ask the sales associate about what is right for your type of exercise/focus and about the ingredients you may or may not want in your body. You may need to try several PWOs before you find the one that gives you desired results, a taste you enjoy and comfortable body effects.
Finally, some athletes have been known to switch up their PWO, cycling them on and off so their bodies do not build up a tolerance and lose the intended effects.
If you have health issues, or any concerns for the potential impact on your health, you should consult a physician before taking any substance, even some purchased over-the-counter.