Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions about preworkout supplements.
“Should I be taking a preworkout supplement?”
“I see others taking preworkout supplements. Is there some magical benefit I am missing by not taking one?”
“I just took a new preworkout supplement for the first time. Why do I feel so jittery, nauseous, anxious, or like my heart is going to explode?”
If the possibility of feeling like your heart may explode during a workout hasn’t scared you off yet, here is my 2 cents on whether I think preworkout supplements are right for you.
What’s the point of a preworkout supplement anyways?
Most preworkout supplements are designed to solve a variety of functions. Caffeine is typically used to give you the mental and physical energy you need to workout. Arginine is used to improve blood flow and make you feel a “pump” during your workout, among other things. Other ingredients such as beta-alanine, branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s), and creatine are there to help you delay fatigue, workout longer, and build muscle.
One of the reasons many people like preworkout supplements, is because you can feel them working. Unlike a multivitamin or protein powder, where you may notice little or no immediate effect, you will usually know within 5-10 minutes if you have taken a preworkout supplement. For some people, this will be noticeably positive feelings of more energy, better focus, less fatigue, and more motivation to workout. For others, this can take on more negative feelings of being jittery, anxious, or feeling nauseous. I can personally attest to some of these adverse effects when I was taking preworkout supplements a few years back, but for the most part my experiences with them were positive.
Back in my Gold’s Gym/LA Fitness days, I would rely on preworkout supplements to get me through the workouts. I tried some of the most popular brands at the time such as NO Explode, Jack3d, among others. One of the big drawbacks that I found with preworkouts is you start to create a mental and physical dependence on them. Any time I found myself a couple weeks in to a new bottle, I found it nearly impossible to workout without taking the preworkout first. On days that I forgot my preworkout, or chose to go without it, my motivation wasn’t there, my energy sucked, and I would be in and out of the gym in less than 30 minutes. While I felt pretty good as soon as I got back on the preworkout, it was never as good as the first couple days I would start using it.
Why I Stopped Taking Preworkout Supplements When I Started CrossFit
One of the things that I love about CrossFit, is that most of the motivation is built into the program. The energy of the group, accountability of the coaches, and the fun of being around everyone is more powerful than any preworkout I used to take in the past. Even on the days when I am feeling most tired and sluggish, I know that if I just walk through the doors of CrossFit Palm Beach and start going through the warm up, that I will quickly find the energy and motivation to push myself in the WOD. This just doesn’t compare to those globo-gym days where I spent every second between sets trying to convince myself not to walk straight to my car and drive home. The internal battle that was quieted with preworkout supplements back then, just doesn’t exist in CrossFit, at least for me personally.
Guidelines for Taking Preworkout Supplements
With that said, certain people may feel like they still need that added boost to get them to CrossFit and maximize their WODs. Here are a few more guidelines and things to consider before taking a preworkout.
- Only take a preworkout supplement if you workout in the morning. The energy boosting effects of caffeine can typically last as long as 12 hours and have a noticeable effect on quality of sleep. The energy boost may feel good prior to those afternoon workouts, but the negative effects on sleep will only make you progressively more tired week after week.
- Don’t drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages on top of the preworkout. Doubling up on the caffeine is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. If you already enjoy coffee and feel that this gives you a boost for your workouts, then stick with this instead.
- Preworkout supplements are better suited for someone looking to gain muscle or increase performance, not lose weight. Most preworkout supplements contain creatine, in addition to other ingredients that fuel muscle gain more so than fat loss.
- Avoid preworkout supplements that have a lot of added sugar, artificial ingredients, and other crap. Unfortunately, this means you will have to avoid most of the brands out there, including the ones I mentioned above. (Sorry, Blue Raz is not paleo.) If you are looking for suggestions, SFH came out with one recently that looks pretty solid.
What is your experience with CrossFit and Preworkout supplements? Tell us the GOOD, BAD, and/or UGLY below.
If you have any additional questions about preworkout supplements, or other questions you would like answered on the blog, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owner/ Coach CrossFit Palm Beach