With so many pre-workout supplements out there, which one is right for you? Is taking pre-workout necessary for optimum fitness and performance?
Pre-workout fuel is usually for boosting your energy levels before your workout.
Having more energy stores available for your training may help in allowing you to push harder.
And a more intense session means that you may have a stronger start to your Stress-Adaptation-Recovery cycle. And your body may burn more calories during and after your workout.
Pre-workout definitely plays a role in enhancing the performance of athletes, but for regular gym-bunnies and fitness class-goers, maximising your nutrition the natural way with a small snack or an espresso shot may yield a relatively similar desired result.
So, why take them? And if we choose to, which one do we go far? Does timing matter? What should you consider before taking pre-workout?
Your body converts the food you eat into fuel daily. Your body will be more efficient at breaking down some foods into fuel than others. And the two sources of fuel that your body uses for energy is from glycogen stores from carbohydrates or from burning fat.
Carbohydrates are great for fuelling intense exercise because your body will be very quick at converting carbohydrates into glycogen. You’ll also need to replenish glycogen stores after your workout with carbohydrates. Your body can also get used to burning fat as a source of fuel, especially for endurance exercise like long-distance running.
Looking at pre-workout nutrition is a helpful way to ensure you fuel your exercise in the right way, to maximize the benefits you get from exercise.
Not all pre-workout supplements are created equal - quality differs between brands, and some are better suited to some than others and some are better suited for your fitness or weight loss goals than others.
So here’s a little guideline on what to look for in pre-workout for women.
Low or zero creatine because creatine promotes water retention in your muscles to make it look more full, so if you’re looking to get lean muscle and reduce body fat percentage, it wouldn’t be recommended.
No testosterone. A lot of pre-workout products in the market are aimed at males and promote a boost of testosterone. We don’t want that as it may cause a hormonal imbalance, and it’s probably best to avoid any products that may be filled with harmful chemicals that aren’t suited to our body.
No added sugar or sweetener because this will only cause an insulin spike and artificial sweeteners aren’t good for your health in the long-term. And if your goal is to become slimmer and lean, then definitely avoid adding a ton of sugar to your diet pre-workout.
Keep it simple, read the label, try before you buy.
And if you’re not looking to supplement your fitness with pre work out supplements, there are other natural sources of energy boosters from coffee to protein shakes to food.
Caffeine. Coffee may assist in boosting your metabolism and providing a boost in energy during your workout. A small coffee 30 minutes – 1 hour before your workout may help enhance the intensity of your workout.
Other variables to consider before taking pre-workout is looking at what type of exercise you’re doing indoor/outdoor or cardio intensive/strength training, how much time you have and what your fitness goals are.
If you’re going to sweat a lot, you’re likely going to be losing a lot of electrolytes including sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium. So it’s important to focus on foods or drinks that are richer in these specific micronutrients, to avoid feeling weak, dizzy or develop muscle cramps. Recommended pre-workout nutrition would be bananas, unsweetened coconut water, tomato juice or vegetable smoothies.
If you’re in a rush, water is also a great pre-workout. If you don’t have time to pick up a juice or smoothie or grab a coffee, then water is your friend. Consume water consistently up to two hours before your workout and also during your warm up. And try to drink cold water instead of warm to avoid stomach cramps during exercise. Ensuring that your body is adequately hydrated before a workout ensures that your joints are well lubricated and helps to transport nutrients to give you energy throughout your workout.
If you have loads of time and you have access to a shaker or blender or fresh ingredients such as fruits and vegetables, then definitely opt for a fresh smoothie with a scoop of protein powder. The base of your smoothie could be a nut milk of your choice or non-fat plain Greek yoghurt, that can be blended with an abundance of ingredients. Foods with quick absorption could be fresh fruit, spinach, avocado, nuts or flaxseeds.
If you’re looking to be leaner, avoid high-calorie or high-sugar and opt for water or a small coffee or espresso shot before your workout. And make sure to keep hydrated!