Work It Out: Pros and cons of pre-workout supplements
June 2, 2016
It's a question many new clients have: What is a pre-workout supplement?
Pre-workout is designed to give you a boost in energy from high concentrations of vitamins and minerals, such as amino acids and nitric oxide. This concoction bolsters energy production in the body. Most powdered pre-workout mixes also have a high concentration of caffeine, which means they need to be added to water and consumed about 20 minutes before a workout to feel the effects. Popular brands include MuscleTech, Novex, Optimum Nutrition, BSN and Cellucor C4.
Along with vitamins and minerals, pre-workout can boost amino acid production. This helps your body utilize muscle activation during a workout, so that it works harder and leads to greater body transformation. In other words, it can help you build bigger muscles more quickly and effectively.
With pre-workout in your system, your body will use its aerobic and anaerobic pathways of energy. This helps your body use more fat energy, as well as sugar energy, during each workout.
Positives in the short-term
After taking pre-workout, you will immediately feel the effects of more energy. Take the example of weight lifting: You will most likely find that your body works harder, with heavier weights and a higher repetition count.
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You will also find that you can exercise for longer, especially if you are cross-training. When you begin with weights and then go for a run after, you will find you still have a lot of energy for a full hour of weight lifting.
Pre-workout can lead to tingling and other sensations. These are normal: With the high concentration of nitric oxide flowing through your body, you will feel an unusual sensation of energy flow through your skin. It will feel as though you are itchy, but, when you touch and rub your skin, it will first feel like it hurts and then feels good. This is thanks to a release of nitric oxide into your muscles, which makes for greater output during a workout.
Negatives in the short-term
Be smart about when you take a pre-workout supplement. If you are driving to the gym and still more than 20 minutes away when you take your pre-workout, prepare for a different experience while driving. With all of the amino acids, nitric oxide and caffeine flowing through your system, you will start feeling like you have too much energy stuck in the driver's seat. You will start to feel anxiety and likely get fidgety in your car.
From personal experience, I know that you will also feel that unusual sensation in your skin. This can lead to shivering as the vitamins and minerals are released into your blood and muscles. You might also become hyper and anxious, like you want to do a workout as fast as you can. You might also notice that sound becomes distant and you develop a form of tunnel vision.
Find a pre-workout routine
I don't recommend taking pre-workout supplements when you are driving to the gym. Otherwise, you will experience these symptoms first hand and the symptoms can be alarming if you've never encountered them before.
I recommend taking pre-workout when you arrive at the gym. But, be aware that certain supplements can still cause unusual sensations that feel alien or even unwanted. If taken before your workout, you will feel an increase in blood pressure, and your heart beat in your head. This can lead to dizziness as a result.
Pre-workout can also make you more dehydrated because you will sweat a lot more than normal during an intense workout. Be sure to stay hydrated before, during and after your time at the gym.
Pre-workout might look like an appealing way to begin your workout. However, unless you are 100-percent healthy and familiar with a gym workout, I don't advise pre-workout in any way, shape or form. Instead, take a more natural supplement like Novex or another plant-based mix that is healthier. It will give you a similar amount of energy without the consequences of taking an intense pre-workout blend.
Trent Johnson is a personal trainer certified through the National Association of Fitness Certifications. As a trainer and runner, he has years of experience training people of all abilities, from high-level athletes to Average Joes who just want to find better fitness.
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