A pre-workout supplement is designed to do exactly what it says – to make you more effective during training by increasing your performance. Depending on their list of ingredients, pre- workout supplements support energy, strength, endurance and lean muscle gains. However not all pre-workouts are made equally and here at XSV we strongly believe in educating you about the ingredients that should be in your supplements. Here is our list of ingredients that absolutely should be in your pre-workout:
In recent years, branched-chain amino acid supplements have been raved about by the bodybuilding and fitness community and for good reason – there is more research that supports the use of BCAAs than most other supplements on the market.
BCAA supplementation can be useful for gaining mass but they are also especially helpful for maintaining muscle mass on a calorie-deficit diet or for people with low dietary protein intake. Not only, that they also reduce the amount of exercise-induced muscle damage in the human body.
BCAAs refer to three specific amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine:
Leucine is the most anabolic, muscle-building amino acid out of all amino acids and has been shown to increase protein synthesis by up to 145%! Leucine also regulates blood sugar levels, providing energy to muscle cells and supports brain function to keep you focused and motivated for a long and heavy workout.
Some believe that taking Leucine on its own without isoleucine and valine will have the same effect however research proves differently. When leucine is taken out of balance with the other BCAAs it will reduce the anabolic response which is why the optimal ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine in a pre-workout product should be 2:1:1.
Isoleucine improves glucose metabolism and induces glucose uptake into cells while valine supports the blunting of fatigue allowing you to work out longer and push harder towards your goals.
Citrulline malate is a formulation of the amino acid citrulline and by combining it with malate, it is believed to create a synergetic reaction at the muscle cellular level, leading to enhanced performance during and after intense exercise. Citrulline malate has gained rapid popularity as a pre-workout supplement and is being touted as the next big breakthrough supplement to join the ranks of creatine and beta-alanine.
CM will improve your workout performance in three ways:
Enhanced removal of ammonia
Accumulation of ammonia is believed to contribute to muscle fatigue during high-intensity exercise. Research also suggests that subjects supplementing with citrulline malate before a chest workout could complete at least 1-2 more reps on most sets compared to subjects taking a placebo!
Increased energy production
Citrullin malate helps the body replenish ATP, the body’s main energy source, during intense physical activity. One study reported that subjects consuming 6grams of citrulline malate for 15 days experienced a 35% increase in ATP!
Boosting nitric oxide production
Nitric oxide enhances blood flow to muscles, improving their recovery and function.
Clinically proven, creatine monohydrate is the purest creatine available anywhere. Creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements and from decades of this research and hundreds of studies, there are several well substantiated benefits to creatine monohydrate:
Increased muscle levels of creatine
In order for creatine to be effective, you need to see increased levels of creatine in skeletal muscle. According to recent research, 10-40% increases in muscle creatine and PC stores have been observed with creatine supplmentation.
Increased work capacity and improved training
Creatine supplementation appears to be the most effective legal nutritional supplement currently available in regards to improving anaerobic capacity and lean body mass (LBM). Approximately 70% of research has reported a significant increase in exercise capacity, while none have reported an ergolytic effect. In both the short term and long-term, creatine supplementation appears to enhance the overall quality of training, leading to 5-15% greater gains in strength and performance.
Greater increases in lean body mass
There are only a few legal supplements that can directly add muscle mass when combined with exercise. Of these, creatine is the most effective and has the most scientific support.
One 8-week study found that creatine increased muscle mass when added to an exercise regimen. Strength on the bench press was improved, along with a reduction in myostatin, which is a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth.
Research has shown creatine supplements can also help women to tone up or increase strength. One study in women found a 60% greater increase in lean mass compared to a group that only strength trained.
Additionally, a review of over 150 studies reported an average 2.2% increase in lean body mass and a 3.2% decrease in body fat for those taking creatine.
Beta-alanine is technically a non-essential beta-amino acid, but it has quickly become anything but non-essential in the worlds of performance nutrition due to claims that it raises muscle carnosine levels and increases the amount of work you can perform at high intensities.
Beta-alanine is also famous for producing a certain ‘tingle’ you probably felt the first time you tried a pre-workout supplement containing beta-alanine.
The sports benefit of supplementing with beta-alanine lies mostly in its ability to raise muscle carnosine concentrations. Supplementation with beta-alanine has been shown to increase muscle carnosine concentrations by up to 58 percent in just four weeks, and 80 percent in 10 weeks!
Carnosine, aside from being a potent antioxidant, is one of your muscles’ first lines of defence against the buildup of hydrogen ions (H+) during high-intensity exercise. A rise in H+ dramatically lowers the pH within muscle cells and a drop in muscle pH is a major contributor to muscle fatigue.
L-Tyrosine is one of the 20 non-essential amino acids (i.e. can be made in the body) and is critical for a number of different bodily functions such as cognitive processes, synthesizing proteins, building muscles, and cell growth and recovery. N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine is 20 times more water soluble and better absorbed to raise tyrosine levels in the body.
From an athletic perspective, L-Tyrosine may support peak performance from both your brain and body by heightening mental alertness, increasing feelings of well-being and offsetting physical and mental fatigue, particularly during heavy exercise. It also has an antioxidant effect, helping to protect cell membranes from the damage caused by free radical molecules.
Study after study has shown that caffeine can increase alertness, sharpen focus, improve mood, boost pain tolerance, help burn fat, and help athletes do more work for longer periods in the gym and in sport.
In fact, caffeine works so well that, up until 2004, its use was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. But because a ‘threshold level’ between social use and abuse couldn’t effectively be established, the ban was lifted. Since then, urine samples have shown that more than 75% of elite athletes routinely use caffeine during competition.
Caffeine has been demonstrated to improve physical performance in all codes of sports while also delaying mental fatigue. Among the benefits it has been shown to provide are:
– Endurance athletes improved performance by an average of 3.3% (some reported up to 17% increases)
– Strength and power sports performance improved up to 20%
– Sprinters improved performance on average by 6.5%
– Weightlifters improved performance on average by 9.5%
– Rate of perceived exertion (fatigue) is decreased by 6%on average
Taurine is an organic compound naturally found in high concentrations in the brain, muscle, and other tissues.
Taurine’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties promote recovery after training and help protect muscle against exercised-induced oxidative stress – a key contributor to post-exercise muscle damage, soreness and injury.
Taurine is also useful for improving aerobic exercise performance. Supplementation is known to raise muscle taurine levels, which tend to deplete during exercise.