Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pre-Workout Supplement

September 11, 2023

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pre-Workout Supplement

Whether you’re new to the gym or a pro at lifting weights, you’ll have seen the long lists of supplements recommended to get lean and build muscle.

By now, you’re probably up to speed on the benefits of a good-quality protein supplement to help you recover and maximise muscle-building, and you may have heard of creatine or BCAAs.

What about a supplement for before you step onto the gym floor? Why take a pre-workout supplement, how does it work, and how can you make the best choice?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to help you optimise the results of every workout, every time you show up. We all have good and bad days, but using a pre-workout mix can help you get over the bad and make the good, outstanding.

Here is why you should use pre-workout supplements, how they work, and what to consider when choosing one. 

Why pre-workout powder can be your secret weapon?

When you work out regularly, you need to ensure you give your body the best resources to help it not just recover after exercise, but also work its best when you’re pushing it in the gym. That means ensuring you’re well-nourished and hydrated, and that you have the energy levels to sustain yourself through a 1-rep max effort, for example.

Realistically, however, we often fail to get ourselves to a workout in the best possible shape. Either you won’t have fuelled properly, or you may be tired from a day at work. Regardless, a boost of beneficial ingredients can help you perform your best during your session.

Some pre-workout will contain creatine, a supplement that’s been scientifically proven to directly improve sports performance and training adaptations. Additionally, you’ll be taking in caffeine, which gives you an instant energy boost and added focus

Finally, taking a pre-workout dose can help level up your weight loss benefits and give you the stamina you need to finish your weightlifting program for the day.

How do pre-workout supplements work?

Through an optimal mix of energy-boosting and nutritional ingredients, a good pre-workout will supply you with the focus, stamina, and strength to perform well during your session. This is thanks to the following common ingredients:

  • Caffeine: It is the most potent ingredient in any pre-workout. Caffeine is also found naturally in coffee and tea. A dosage of 3-5mg/kg of bodyweight is considered optimal for performance enhancing benefits. Some people do well even at lesser dosages. It's always best to start at a lower range and move up. Even 1.5mg/kg of bodyweight caffeine works well for many and give them fatigue suppressing effects. Not everyone tolerates caffeine the same way. Some do well even at lowest dosages while those who are used to it, may require turning up their intake to get kicking.
  • Citrulline Malate: Citrulline is an amino acid which gets converted to arginine inside the body. Not only can it get you a pump but also helps in improving exercise performance. It is proven to be effective to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue at the same time increasing work capacity to train longer. Some pre-workout formulations underdose it so look out for a pre-workout which gets you at least 4g of Citrulline malate. For increased exercise performance, 6-7g is more than ideal.
  • Beta Alanine: This supplement simply reduces acidity which builds up in the blood while performing a repetitive physical task. In scientific terms, it acts as acid buffer and is a vasodilator. It may help you pull 1-2 more reps in your set if you are weight training in 8+ rep range. Standard dosage is 2-4g. It takes at least 12 weeks to see most important benefits of beta-alanine which is increasing your carnosine levels. So even if you are not using a pre-workout but still want benefits of Beta alanine, you can always purchase it standalone.
  • Taurine: A conditionally essential amino acid also found in whole milk, cheese, egg, chicken, fish and Meat. So if you are a vegan, you are missing out the benefits this has to offer. Pre-workout formulations use this ingredient mainly for its focus enhancing capabilities. It is also proven to be effective for reduction in stress and anxiety since it has calming effects. Other similar ingredients which have mental focus enhancing effect include DMAE, Tyrosine, and Theanine. Apart from mental focus, it helps but not very significantly in strength gains and fat oxidation. Look for a pre-workout having at least 1gm of taurine to witness its focus enhancing effects.

Here’s how pre-workout influences your performance in the gym:

  • For best results, a pre-workout drink is mixed and taken about 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout. This ensures that the glucose in the mix raises your blood sugar levels, to supply you with more energy in the session to come.
  • Powerful ingredients like creatine boost your muscle power and your ability to max out the weight you lift during your session.
  • Alongside caffeine and creatine, other ingredients like L-Theanine and TeaCrine can help you to avoid mental fatigue and be more focused on your workout.
  • Your pre-workout will also improve your mood and get you amped up for exercising.

How Long Does Pre-Workout Take To Kick In?

When you start your workout, you want to hit the ground running. You don't want to be waiting around for your pre-workout to kick in, so it's important to find the sweet spot. For most people, the ideal time is around 20 to 30 minutes before your workout — this should give the supplement enough time to hit your bloodstream and amp you up ahead of your session.

Something to consider, however, is the 'half life' of caffeine. Generally, caffeine has a half-life of around three to seven hours after ingestion. If you're used to training in the evenings, you want to take half the recommended dose or swap it out for a pre-workout alternative. 

Should I Take Pre-Workout Every Day?

If you continue to take pre-workout on a regular basis, your body can build up a tolerance to its effects, which is why we advise cycling the supplement, or coming off it for six to eight weeks at a time to give your body a chance to reset. During this time, there is the option of taking a stimulant-free pre-workout. 

Is pre-workout really worth it?

Is pre-workout the right choice for you? If you’re ready to give your next workout 100% of your effort and focus but are concerned about your energy levels, then you can count on pre-workout to give you that added boost of stamina and power. You’ll also benefit from targeted ingredients to ensure you hit your muscle-building and fat-loss targets.

A properly dosed pre-workout supplement can provide performance benefits that may help you train harder and longer, allowing you achieve better results over time. However, a pre-workout is only going to work as hard as you do. No pre-workout supplement can make up for poor nutrition or lazy training. Ultimately, you have to put in the work and consistent effort to make sure your training, nutrition, and recovery is on point.


Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified health care provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider. 

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