Pre-workout supplements come in many variations, nearly all of them are caffeine containing and usually at ridiculous overdosed amounts. They may also contain other supplements such as Beta Alanine, Creatine, BCAA’s and a mix of others.
So why is caffeine a staple in pre-workouts? Examine.com released the below statement:
‘Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and it can be used to improve physical strength and endurance. It is classified as a nootropic because it sensitises neurons and provides mental stimulation.’
With this being said, we need to understand that caffeine and therefore pre-workout supplements are not natural to your body. It is a product and industry that has grown massively in the past few decades.
The main mechanism of caffeine in the body is antagonising adenosine receptors (adenosine causes sedation and relaxation). Having caffeine prevents relaxation and causes you to be alert and awake.
In fact, having caffeine regularly will build a tolerance, which means the effects will be diminished. Over use will lead to caffeine no longer having effect apart from on the users sleep as seen in the below statement from the same article released by examine.com.
‘Habitual caffeine use leads to tolerance. This means the effects of caffeine will be diminished, often to the point where the only benefit a user experiences is caffeine’s anti-sleep effect. This is an ‘insurmountable’ tolerance, which means more caffeine will not overcome it. A month-long break from caffeine will reduce tolerance.’
One thing not mentioned about caffeine yet is the influence it has on your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone and having too much of it in your body can stop you from reducing weight around the midline (often referred to as your spare tyre). Which in many cases is probably counter intuitive to the result you’re looking for in the gym.
With all of this being said, we’d like to recommend a few things for the question ‘Should I be taking a pre-workout supplement?’
- What is the rest of your diet like? Have you critiqued and detailed everything else you’re putting in your mouth to optimise your performance? There’s no point painting a dirty car. Clean it first and then paint it…
- Are all other aspects of your life optimal for the best results, i.e. sleep? When sleep is the best it can be and stress levels are reduced we are more likely to get the results we desire in the gym. See episodes 40 & 75 of The Chief Life Podcast where we interview The Sleep Doctor.
- Why are you training? Caffeine ensures forced motivation however your “why” is your most powerful tool. Go deep and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Call on your why when you’re lacking motivation.
- Want a natural pick me up? Try a Beetroot Supplement or increase your beetroot consumption. The main active component in beetroot is nitrate. This converts to nitric oxide promoting better blood pressure and increases cardiovascular health, which in turn may aid exercise!
- Want all the benefits from the pre-workout minus the caffeine? Take them all separately. Do some research along with some trials on your body to find out which supplements fit you and your body type best.
In short, maximise lifestyle for the best results in the gym. Pre-workouts are a “supplement” which means they shouldn’t be the main mechanism. Remove and re-introduce, trial which ones work best for you, and cycle on and off, however, don’t make them a staple. If a stimulant is needed, we would argue your nutrition is not at an optimal level. Enquire how you can personalise your nutrition with The Chief Life today here…