There’s no doubt that taking a pre-workout can improve your performance in the gym…
Combined with quality training, nutrition, and rest, a pre-workout can give you an edge when it comes to kicking ass in the gym.
If you’re a bodybuilder, physique athlete, or just someone who wants to ramp up training intensity, build muscle and look frickin awesome, then this post has been written for you…
Benefits of taking a pre-workout
To build muscle and improve performance in the gym, a pre-workout is a must. According to Sal Kassam, a certified personal trainer and nutrition expert at Red Pill Fitness, there are many benefits to taking a pre-workout drink. Here are five:
- Improve physical performance
- Enhanced focus
- Better concentration
- Increased energy
- Feel good mentally and physically
Drawbacks of taking pre-workouts
It’s important to point out that while there are many benefits, there are also drawbacks. Here are five potential negatives when it comes to taking pre-workout drinks:
- May cause dehydration
- Increased blood pressure
- Poor sleep
- Energy crash
What’s in pre-workout drinks?
Most pre-workouts contain the following ingredients:
- Caffeine (to increase blood flow and improve concentration)
- Beta-Alanine (which increase blood flow)
- Amino acids (to prevent the breakdown of protein)
- Creatine (to enhance muscular performance, cell swelling – muscle pump)
The best pre-workout drink for bodybuilders
There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of pre-workouts on the market — some better than others. I’ve tried lots of pre-workouts, some terrible, others incredible. My favourite to date is Ghost Lifestyle – Ghost is a lifestyle performance brand catering to a large range of individuals looking to boost performance. Like all supplements, it’s worth trying different ones and finding out which one works for you the best.
Side Note – I’ve also recently tried a pre workout by Strom Nutrition called – Stimumax – this is a pretty good pre workout and has a sour like taste (a bit like Skittles!). The green apple flavour is my favourite. It’s around £30 and what I like about it is that the stimulant effects wear off quickly after your workout (unlike many pre workouts that keep you jiggling around in bed when you’re trying to sleep!)
How to use a pre-workout?
Each pre-workout is different. Typically you take between 5-30g of powder. Make sure to read the instructions and don’t overdo it. You mix the powder in water (250-500ml), shake, and then you’re good to go. Some pre-workouts are in tablet form, but powders are fasting acting and enter the system more quickly. I prefer powdered pre-workouts.
When to use a pre-workout?
Ideally, you want to take your pre-workout 20-30 minutes before your main session. I like to take mine before I do my warm-up. I’ll take a dose of Ghost pre-workout, do some foam rolling and mobility work (20 mins), and then I’m good to go.
How long does a pre-workout last?
It depends on the individual. Some people are more sensitive than others…
But typically, it will last for 3-6 hours.
How do they taste?
Most pre-workouts have a sour taste (like sour skittles), and in many cases, they taste nice. It’s worth trying some free samples at your gym or asking a friend for recommendations if you’re unsure.
Things to watch out for…
Pre-workouts can significantly enhance your training, BUT don’t abuse them. For example, please don’t take them all year round. I find they work best in cycles of 4-8 weeks on and then 4-8 weeks off. You don’t want to become too reliant on them, and it’s good to let your body rest and recover from stimulants.
Another thing to be extremely mindful of is SLEEP.
As all of us bodybuilders know…good sleep is crucial. If you take too much pre-workout or have it too late in the day (after 1 pm), you are seriously increasing the risk of having a poor night’s sleep. I like to have mine no later than 10 am (otherwise, it impacts my sleep). If you struggle with your sleep, make sure to read this article I wrote – 10 sleep tips for better gym performance.
Avoid taking pre workouts every day. I typically only take them 1-2 x per week on big volume training day(s) such as legs. The other days I have a black coffee (or two!). Some bodybuilders take them 4-5x per week, but avoid relying on them too much, and give yourself a break mid week, or on a rest day. Too much stimulation is not a good thing – so be careful.
Finally, watch out for cheap brands. Yes, you can get a pre-workout for £10-£15, but there’s a high likelihood the product will be of poor quality and contain lots of bulking agents and unnecessary (in some cases) harmful ingredients. It’s better to spend more than £30+ and get something of high quality.
If cost is an issue then you could try something like Runner Bean Coffee – the Gym Brew is one of the strongest coffees you can get and it will fuel your workouts, and last you a long time. I typically alternate between coffee and a pre workout as mentioned above, but some bodybuilders swear by coffee alone! As long as it’s doing what you want it doesn’t matter!
Thanks for reading,
Nick Screeton (Founder of LEP Fitness & LEP Life)