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When To Take Pre-Workout Supplements

Why Take a Pre-Workout

  • The best opportunity to take a pre-workout supplement is when...

#1 You need physical and mental energy

Pre-workouts typically contain stimulants. Stimulant based ingredients help increase energy levels and fight fatigue. An example of a common stimulant found in pre-workouts is caffeine. Because caffeine is relatively fast-acting, it’s a popular stimulant worldwide for getting a quick boost when you need to do something physically or mentally demanding.

Seeing results, whether mentally or physically is what gets you coming back to the gym. Achieving goals and and setting new ones. 

#2 You need to improve exercise motivation

Pre-workouts are formulated to prime your body for the gym. Many of the ingredients used in pre-workouts work acutely, meaning their effects are felt relatively quickly in the short term.

The Journal of Clinical Obesity recently reported that mood and feelings toward exercise are two of the most influential factors for someone out of shape to begin an exercise program. Motivating factors such as mood and seeing results that reinforce perceived effort (e.g., early and significant changes in physique) are amongst the greatest contributors.[7] Anything that safely and effectively promotes energy, improves mood, and can help increase the speed at which exercise yields beneficial results sounds like a good thing, right?


#3 You need to increase training volume

One of the reasons some people use pre-workouts is they want something that can help them try getting extra reps on a lift. One of the most used ingredients in pre-workouts is CarnoSyn beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is an amino acid that has been clinically studied for its role in exercise performance. Beta-alanine helps fight fatigue, especially during high-intensity exercise.


#4 You need to speed up intra-workout recovery

While pre-workouts are mainly thought of as a supplement to help prime you for performance in the gym, they also contain ingredients to support recovery like creatine. Creatine helps support increased strength and recovery. Many people also like to mix amino acids like BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) into their pre-workout shake. BCAAs can help support muscle repair and recovery.


#5 You’re a beginner in the gym

If you’re a beginner in the gym, there are a few things you should consider when taking a pre-workout for the first time. The first one is the caffeine content, check the product label to see how many milligrams of caffeine a single scoop of pre-workout contains. Compare the caffeine content in pre-workout with your current daily intake level. Next, check to see if your pre-workout contains beta-alanine. This amino acid helps fight fatigue and it’s also associated with a harmless tingling sensation that you may experience when first trying a pre-workout.

Whether you’re a beginner or an elite athlete, exercise constantly or you don’t exercise, one thing is universally necessary for everyone when it comes to exercise: motivation. It’s what gets you off the couch and into the gym, enables you to push yourself beyond your limits–to exhaust yourself throughout an entire workout, and then to return again and again and again...

Answering the question if you should take a pre-workout: Without motivation, you’ll never reach your full potential. While there are genetic factors and regions of the brain that impact motivation to exercise, what worldwide coffee and tea consumption rates support and what pre-workout supplement users have inherently learned – the drive to stay focused on a difficult task (e.g., exhaustive exercise) is fueled best when the brain’s battery is charged. [1-6] How do you “charge” up? Use and timing of aides such as a pre-workout can serve as a positive trigger to get you in the zone for your workout.

In other words, an intelligently formulated and tasty pre-workout drinks may work a little more consistently. Not to mention, providing other benefits toward goal attainment.


#6 You’re a competitive athlete

If you’re a competitive athlete looking to try out pre-workouts, make sure you examine the labels and look for the NSF badge. The NSF® Certified for Sport® mark certifies that the product has been tested by one of the most respected independent certification companies. It’s trusted by professional athletes around the globe
  • Link to article: What is NSF Certified for Sport


Can you take pre-workout on an empty stomach?

Yes, you can take pre-workout on an empty stomach. Some people prefer to go several hours without eating or even fast the night before their workouts. While other people get their best results from eating a meal before workouts. Factors like your personal tolerance to stimulants, foods before a workout, and the type of exercise you do will impact whether you prefer to take a pre-workout on an empty stomach or not.

  • Link to article: What to Eat Before a Workout


Should you take pre-workout in the late afternoon evening?

Taking a pre-workout in the afternoon or evening is a strategy that some people do if they work out later in the day. Something to consider is that the effects of pre-workout normally last 4-6 hours, depending on your caffeine intake and metabolization. If you’re someone that’s more sensitive to caffeine’s effects, you may want to consider trying a pre-workout that has a lower caffeine content or is stim-free.


Takeaway on Pre-Workout Timing

A pre-workout designed to help increase training volume, when combined with the proper exercise and nutrition program, can be just the extra help someone may need to achieve their goals. The more goals you hit, the more motivation you have to train.

Ingredients commonly present within pre-workout formulas and that can influence training volume are caffeine (e.g., can reduce fatigue / increase exercise time to exhaustion), creatine (e.g., can increase the number reps to failure at a given load and accelerate recovery) and beta-alanine (e.g., can increase the number of reps to failure at a given load). [8-11]

Is it necessary to consume a pre-workout supplement? No.

Could a pre-workout supplement be helpful, however? Absolutely, yes.

Date December 02, 2021
Category Nutrition
Chris Lockwood

Dr. Lockwood is president of LOCKWOOD, LLC, an innovations, research, and consulting firm within the dietary supplement, nutrition and fitness industries. Beginning in Fall 2017, will also begin serving as an Adjunct Professor at Auburn University, School of Kinesiology. He has previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Muscle & Fitness and M&F Hers magazines, Senior Category Director of the Diet, Energy, Food and Beverage category of GNC, Senior Brand Manager of ABB, and as Chief Scientific Officer of 4Life Research.