Do You Need Pre-Workout?

Supplements are a highly discussed item in the fitness world. With anyone who has had trouble getting the energy to get excited or “amped up” for a workout, the first thing we look for is something that gives us a pick me-up. If you’ve gone down this path and did that one workout on an empty stomach with just coffee to fuel you, you realized pretty quick either during the WOD or after that coffee isn’t gonna be a long term solution. So, you end up looking up this thing you heard from your fitness friend called “C4” and gave it a go. You put the powder in some water and your heart went from 0-100 real quick. While C4 will spike your heart rate to the point of getting you so hyped you’ll run through a brick wall, it can also have some significant drawbacks to your training, especially in CrossFit. 

Let’s talk about pre-workout and whether it is truly necessary to have that amazing workout we all crave.

What is Pre-workout?

Pre-workout is exactly what we talked about in the forward: a supplement that gives a neurological boost to an athlete so that they have the perception of more energy to attack a workout. These are usually found in a powder form that is scooped into water and mixed. You can also find it premixed into bottles at most supplement stores or in the supplement aisle of your local grocery store.

These supplements can be categorized into two different versions: Stim and Non-Stim.

  • Nearly all pre-workout supplements use a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates (usually a type of sugar and a starchy root of some kind like a potato) and vitamins that are thought to improve performance like Coenzyme Q-10 and Niacin.
    • Stimulant Pre-Workout has Caffeine in it. 
    • Non-Stimulant Pre-Workout doesn’t have Caffeine in it.

View the difference this way, the non-stimulant version is the base and it has everything you would need to actually have more energy for a workout (TONS OF CARBS). The stimulant version is so you think you have even more energy. 

Why You Should Be Wary.

While good supplements that have been kept to a high manufacturing standard have been shown to help short term in some athletes, it doesn’t help every athlete. On top of this, the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements very well at all. What a bottle may say on the label isn’t what is always what is inside. It’s why it’s a possible reason many athletes get popped on drug tests and is always a plausible alibi. For us everyday folk, it means that there could be things such as cereal fillers in there as well. 

  • To combat this, the FDA does have a rating system that tells you how recent a companies last test was and if they were using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
    • You can check you supplements or the website of the brand you use and see if they have received a cGMP certification.
      • This means that their GMP rating is current but with regulations being pretty open ended this is still not a 100% guarantee.

Apart from pre-workout being involved in the under-supervised supplement industry, there are still problems that can arise with cGMP pre-workout. The caffeine in stim pre-workout can cause your heart rate to stay elevated, jitteriness, increased anxiety, and if you take it too close to bed you’ll have a much harder time falling asleep. If you have ever done a MetCon, you know that this isn’t something that we want when we are trying to pace ourselves through a workout! 

One more thing to be concerned with on pre-workout is that there are no long term studies on the affects supplements like this have on the human body. While we have had caffeine for ever and it should it is relatively safe to have, it is something to keep in mind!

What Is The Best Way to Pre-Workout?

Supplements are exactly what the name entails, something to substitute for something we aren’t getting enough of in our regular diet. In pre-workouts case this can either be not getting enough sleep or not enough carbohydrates in the meals leading up to a workout. 

The best pre-workout ever is 7-9 hours of sleep, a consistent schedule, and eating enough food throughout the day every 3-5 hours with a focus on having enough carbs to fuel your workouts!

Now, if we could all do this, no one would have ever needed these supplements. So, if you are someone who has a schedule that only allows for 5 hours of sleep or have an inconsistent schedule, then the next best step would be a non-stim pre-workout. While you still will probably have coffee in your regular work day, as you enter the afternoon of your day, caffeine is the last thing you need when you’re sleep deprived. A non-stim pre-workout can help you recover some simple carbs that you may have missed in a meal you skipped and at least give you some energy to workout. Just make sure to have a real meal as soon as you can after the workout!

If you need to feel like you’ve been slapped in the face and want your heart rate to feel like it’s bouncing off the redline at rest, then go for that caffeine filled pre-workout and hold on to your horses during that MetCon. 

Take Care Of Yourself!

Supplements can be a great way to help improve performance in elite athletes and put a band-aid on gaps in our recovery routines. But, they are just band-aids. We should all be constantly working towards not only improving our physical health, but our mental health. A lack of energy to exercise may be a symptom of a larger issue. If you’re a caffeine lover, good for you and we salute you and the energy you bring to everything you do! But, if you’re feeling burn-out and run down, focus on getting some sleep first before relying on pre-workout. 

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