Everyone wants to get the most out of their workouts. Whether you need an extra boost to get to the gym or looking for something to help take your training session to the next level, a pre-workout supplement could be exactly what you need.
But what exactly is a “pre-workout” supplement?
Whether you’re brand new to the gym or a life-long exerciser, the appeal of a pre-workout supplement can be very attractive, regardless of your athletic background. Added energy, increased power and endurance, what’s not to love?
The value of pre-workout is meant to provide you with the ability to increase energy, power, endurance and overall training volume. This is so you can push yourself harder, but also to get more out of your training sessions day in and day out.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between sipping on a coffee vs. sipping a pre-workout drink, there are a few. Coffee is simply caffeine while pre-workout supplements are made up of developed formulas specifically to enhance the benefits from training.
Once you’re used to taking a pre-workout supplement, it can be hard to imagine training without it. Pre-workout supplements have the ability to improve energy, muscle pump, power and endurance in a number of ways. Some of the basic functions of pre-workout supplements include:
Stimulating the release of adrenaline and inhibiting adenosine (as adenosine builds up in the bloodstream, it interacts with certain receptors which lead to drowsiness by inhibiting neural activity).
Pre-workout supplements can boost circulation and blood flow which can lead to a stronger, fuller muscle pump and have you feeling swole in no time.
One of the most common ingredients found in pre-workout supplements is caffeine. Time and time again, studies have shown that caffeine has the ability to increase alertness, sharpen focus, improve mood, improve pain tolerance from exercise, increase fat burning and increase overall workload and volume in a training session.
Caffeine has the ability to affect the body on multiple levels. It works on our CNS by increasing spinal cord excitability and muscle fiber recruitment. Keep in mind, it does this while decreasing potential perceptions of fatigue and muscle pain. However, caffeine may influence parts of the body in a number of different ways.
Hormones: Epinephrine (otherwise known as adrenaline) is the hormone responsible for the “fight or flight” response in certain situations. This ultimately has a positive effect on physical performance. (1)
Central Nervous System (CNS): As mentioned above, caffeine has the ability to activate certain parts of the brain and spinal cord to improve focus and overall energy while delaying drowsiness or fatigue. (2)
Increase Fat Burning: Caffeine has the ability to increase the body’s ability to burn fat through lipolysis (the breakdown of fats and other lipids by hydrolysis to release fatty acids). (3)
Muscle Function: Caffeine could possibly have an impact on the motor cortex which is responsible for muscle activation, among other things. (4)
Glycogen Stores: Caffeine can help fat burning due to its ability to spare muscle carb stores which can be helpful for enhancing physical performance. (5)
When it comes to performance, caffeine can help in a variety of different ways.
Athletes in every sport claim to notice an increase in energy and overall performance and research has shown these claims to be true. In fact, studies time and time again studies have shown that caffeine has the ability to increase endurance. One study took subjects and divided them into two groups, with one placebo group and another group consuming 400mg of caffeine. The caffeine group was able to cover up to 2 more miles than the placebo group. (6)
One study even showed that compared to carbs or water, caffeine was superior in increased workload. This study examined a group of cyclists with one group of cyclists consuming carb and the other group consuming caffeine. Caffeine was shown to be superior by increasing workload by 7.4% compared to 5.2% in the carb group. (7)
Another study took a look at the perception of effort. The results showed that coffee helped reduce the perception of effort, which allowed athletes to work harder. (8)
When it comes to caffeine and strength training, the research is still out. One comparison of a number of studies showed that caffeine can improve leg muscle power by up to 7%, but no effect on smaller muscle groups. (9)
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