Do You Need a Pre-Workout Supplement? How & When Give Your Workouts a Boost

Plus, alternative ways to pump up your energy before you hit the gym.

By May 31, 2022

Do you ever struggle to find the motivation to get to the gym, or have a hard time persuading yourself to pick up those dumbbells in your basement? Whether you work out from the comfort of your own home or the gym, you may find yourself needing a little pick-me-up before your daily sweat sesh. And while you’ve likely heard of pre-workout as a way to hype yourself up before your workout, you may be wondering, do you actually need a pre-workout supplement to achieve optimal results?

Keep reading to learn about pre-workout, whether or not you actually need it to enhance your workouts, and alternatives to supplementation.

What is Pre-Workout?

Pre-workout supplements give you the energy and endurance to power through a difficult workout. Pre-workout comes in many forms — including pills, powders, and drinks — and should be taken 30 minutes to an hour before your workout for best results.

While ingredients vary by product, most pre-workouts are made up of primarily caffeine — many contain 150 mg to 300 mg of caffeine per serving. That’s equivalent to up to three cups of coffee, which is why you’ll feel that jolt of energy hit soon after consuming it. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration considers 400 mg of caffeine daily a safe amount for adults to consume, so if you do opt for a pre-workout that’s higher in caffeine, consider limiting your coffee or soda intake throughout the day to avoid feeling jittery.

In addition to caffeine, a recent study found the two most common ingredients in pre-workout supplements are beta-alanine and citrulline — the former helps control fatigue, while the latter is an amino acid that can help you push through that last set.

Is It Safe?

Pre-workout supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning they’re not evaluated for efficacy or quality. So if you choose to take a pre-workout supplement, carefully evaluate the ingredients, and as with any vitamin or supplement, always consult with your primary care doctor before you begin taking pre-workout in any form.

Do You Actually Need It?

The bottom line is that pre-workout supplements will give you a boost of energy and a shot of endurance to sustain you through a tough workout when you’re feeling lethargic. Whether or not you need them really depends on personal preference and the type of workout you’re doing. For example, a pre-workout may help you power through Julian Smith’s “Daily Pump” workouts, while you might not find it necessary to follow Morgan Tyler’s “Yoga at Your Desk” program.

Here are a few Playbook-approved pre-workout supplement brands to consider:

If you’re looking for a dose of energy — and nutrition — before a workout but are hesitant towards pre-workout supplements, eat a healthy pre-workout snack about 30 minutes before hitting the gym instead. A high-protein snack can not only give you energy for your workout, but also aid in building and repairing muscle.

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