Ingredients to Look for in Preworkouts

I am a scientist by training, not a shill.

So I am not going to try and convince you to buy some mysterious powder from the Himalayas that will make you jacked.

I am, however, going to cut to the chase and tell you about why a few supplements might be worth taking to maximize your training.

The main reason for each of these is that they increase your ability to do work, which we know is the main dictator of how jacked you get during your bulk cycle.

The three on the list today are caffeine, beta-alanine, and citrulline.

 

1. CAFFEINE

Caffeine is touted as one of the most efficacious pre-workout supplements for increasing energy, focus, and training capacity. It is also thought to elicit the following: increased anaerobic running capacity, power output, adrenaline, aerobic exercise, blood glucose and fat oxidation, as well as decreased insulin sensitivity.

Related: 4 Supplements You Should be Taking This Bulking Season

Caffeine primarily works by antagonizing (essentially blocking) adenosine receptors. Adenosine normally binds to these receptors, causing drowsiness. By antagonizing these receptors, caffeine can increase alertness and combat drowsiness.

Caffeine is also distributed throughout the body and interacts with receptors on the surfaces of other cells to elicit different physiological processes including the release of adrenaline and cortisol.

Several studies have shown that caffeine pre-workout can increase power output1, 2, 3. However, it appears to not be related to improvements in 1 repetition maximums but in “sustain power,” e.g. 3-5 RM and Wingate.

It may be due to a reduction in pain perception, and mobilization of intramuscular calcium (the stuff that lets your muscles actually contract).

There have been documented increases in aerobic capacity from caffeine supplementation4, 5, 6. This is potentially mediated by increased free fatty acid (FFA) release. However, contradictory evidence shows that adrenaline increased FFA release, thus decreasing FFA oxidation.

Related: How To Choose The Right Supplements According To Science

Dosing of caffeine is highly variable. Your genetics and habitual use of caffeine play a large role in how much is needed to elicit an effect. The more you consume on a daily basis, the more you will need to consume in order to see any training benefit.

Additionally, there appears to be a “saturation” limit where you only receive an anti-fatigue benefit and no additional effects from higher levels of caffeine intake.

 

2. BETA-ALANINE

Beta-alanine is the beta form of the amino acid alanine (meaning the amino group is in the beta position). It is the rate limiting (read bottleneck) precursor to a chemical called carnosine which acts as a buffer to prevent reductions in pH.

Beta-Alanine is purported to increase your training capacity by improving the body’s ability to buffer exercise-induced decreases in pH. In essence, Beta-alanine isn’t doing the work; it is providing your body with the ability to make more carnosine.