Workout Like a Beast: Finding The Best Pre-workout Powder 9


37-drinking-preworkoutThe supplement industry is a huge business and my personal favorite sup has to be my pre-workout.

Is it the best most necessary and beneficial thing to take? No, but I like it.

The main reason is because unlike other supplements I feel the effects almost immediately. It really gives me energy, focus, strength, a better pump and just makes me feel like an animal while I’m lifting.

While I do admit some of these results are probably due to some placebo effect as well as a lot of caffeine, I always lift better with a pre-workout supplement than without one.

Who are Pre-workouts for and not for?

There are some supplements that I think are pretty important such as a good multivitamin and fish oil.

As much as I love pre-workouts, they are not necessary for great results.

Most of your overall results will come from consistency with your nutrition, workouts and rest. There really is no substitute for these 3 things. If one or all three are screwed up, your results will be dramatically less no matter what kind of supplement you take.

With that said, a good pre-workout powder can give a boost to your training and allow you to lift more weight. Over time stringing together great workouts will lead to better and quicker results.

I would not recommend a pre-workout supplement for a beginner. The main reason is that a beginner will see results pretty quickly and doesn’t need to spend money on extra supplements.

The other reason I would not use a pre-workout if I was a beginner is because of the stimulants. Not all, but many pre-workouts contain stimulants like caffeine. Stimulants cause the heart to beat faster and if you are brand new to working out your heart may not be able to take the added workload from the workout and stim combination.

In my opinion, pre-workouts are most beneficial for intermediate and advanced lifters. Your body is more accustomed to hard workouts, which means you can handle more training intensity and volume than a beginner. A pre-workout can help with increasing both.

Getting used to an intense workout can also make the stimulants a bit safer since the heart will most likely be able to handle the elevated rate from the workout.

Ultimately it is up to you whether you feel you need a workout boost or not. If you are unsure about any of the ingredients, especially the stimulants, in a pre-workout supplement check with your doctor.

37-preworkout-brands

What to watch out for

Most of the pre-workout supplements on the market are crap. They might make you feel great from the stimulants, they might give you a better workout from a placebo effect, but a lot of them are a waste of money.

I’ve bought into some of the hype and wasted my money on a lot of these products. Some worked great and others did not.

Here are some of the tricky things that these companies do to help sell their products.

37-preworkout-doseImproper dosages:

There are some ingredients in pre-workout powders that have the scientific research to back up their effectiveness. Each requires certain dosages to be effective.

One trick that supplement companies use to sell their products is to put in some great ingredients, but the dosages are so low that you may not see any positive effects.

The dosages are important. If you don’t get enough of a fancy ingredient, it doesn’t matter how great it is. The effects from it will be reduced or nullified.

Know what the proper dosages are and read the labels of any product you may consider buying.

37-preworkout-label-5The concentrated formulas:

Some of the companies will even be bold enough to claim that their product is “concentrated.”

When compounds are tested they are already in pure form. How can you concentrate a pure ingredient? You can’t.

If you see the word “concentrated” on your pre-workout, this is a red flag that you should check the dosages to make sure they are at the effective levels. Most of the time the serving size is just not large enough to fit all the ingredients in the proper amounts.

37-preworkout-label-3Proprietary blends:

This has to be the biggest scam of the entire supplement industry. The words “proprietary blend” are supposedly to protect trade secrets like their “secret formula.”

The truth is that if someone wanted to spend the money on a lab test they can easily find out the exact dosages of an ingredient. The only real reason to use a proprietary blend to hide it’s dosages from most people who will not get a product tested.

A company can put a bunch of cheap crappy fillers in their product then put a few good ingredients in it and tell you about all the awesome active ingredients and the great results they will deliver. Unless the dosages are correct all the effective ingredients are just a waste.

If a company uses a proprietary blend you won’t know how much of each ingredient you are actually getting.

Think about it, if a company had a product that had the right dosages wouldn’t they want their consumers to know that they are getting the correct amounts of each ingredient?

I would run away from any product that hides their ingredient dosages behind the words “proprietary blend.”

The Best Pre-workout

37-creatineAfter looking at most of the pre-workouts being sold, most of them are crappy but well-marketed products that look and sound really good until you look at the label.

There are some good ones out there, but they can be pretty expensive per serving. This is especially true for the good ones that contain the correct dosages.

I think the best pre-workout is the one you make yourself.

A homemade pre-workout powder has a lot for benefits and I make my own pre-workout for a couple reasons.

The first  is I can put in the ingredients that I want in the dosages that I want. I don’t have to put in any crappy filler ingredients that I don’t need and I won’t have a powder that is skimping on the dosages.

I buy the ingredients in bulk without any fancy packaging or marketing. This is a lot more economical and you can make a great preworkout for less than half the cost per serving of a commercially produced product.

For some people, taste is a big factor in their pre-workouts and they can put in whatever artificial flavor that they like best. I personally don’t care about taste so I don’t put any artificial flavors. It’s really up you.

If you are going to make your own pre-workout mix, the first thing you need is a scale for obvious reasons.

The Ingredients: How to Make Your Own Pre-workout Drink

Some pre-workout powders have a ton of ingredients. There are only a few that have enough research to back their effectiveness though. Here are the one’s that actually have some science behind them and the recommended doses that are researched.

Keep in mind even though I list certain effective dosages I am not recommending any of these products. If you are unsure about any of them please check with your doctor.

Caffeine:

The fact is that most commercial pre-workout supplements have caffeine in it and that is where a lot of the results are coming from since some of the other active ingredients are under-dosed. Caffeine is cheap and not a lot is required for an effective amount.

Some people like stimulants in their pre-workout and some don’t which is why there are some preworkouts with no caffeine.

Some people get jitters, are highly sensitive to caffeine, or workout late at night and will have trouble sleeping. If this is you then you should skip adding this to your preworkout.

I like the boost that I get from caffeine before my workout. I think caffeine helps my workouts but sometimes I feel like crap afterward so that is the tradeoff, at least for me. It’s up to you if you want to include it your mix.

Caffeine has been shown to increase energy, focus and alertness. It can also delay muscle fatigue and help increase fat burning.

The good thing about caffeine is that is very cheap and delivers good results.

The bad thing is the possible withdrawal symptoms that you get once you get off the stuff. Like other stimulants your body will develop a tolerance for it, so more and more will be necessary to feel the same effects.

Effective Dosage: 50-300mg before your workout. This dosage range is pretty wide because people have different tolerances. If you are unsure about yours, start small and see how your body reacts.

Caffeine can come from a supplement or a simple cup of coffee or tea.

I keep my dose in the 200mg range and don’t go above that. I only take this on workout days and will cycle off of it every so often to bring my tolerance back down to normal.

Buy Caffeine Tablets

Citrulline Malate:

There are not a ton of studies done with citrulline malate, but the limited amount of studies do show positive results.

Studies from 2002 and 2010 both show that Citrulline malate has been reduce muscle fatigue and speeds up muscle recovery.

L-Citrulline is an amino acid that can be converted to arginine which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that allows more blood to enter the muscles. Citrulline may help to increase the nitric oxide in the body.

Citrulline malate is formed when citrulline is mixed with DL-Malate (aka malic acid or malic salt). The malic acid helps to enhance the benefits of the citrulline alone. Citrulline malate is usually sold as 1:1 or 2:1 ratios. The 2:1 ratio has more Citrulline than the 1:1 ratio. since most of the benefits come from the citrulline, 2:1 is more beneficial than a 1:1.

Since citrulline malate aids in helps to decrease muscle fatigue, you will experience the best results if you are doing a moderate to high rep program with little rest.

Most people will not see too much of an effect on their first set but will see a minimal drop off in strength with subsequent sets.

Don’t expect an immediate boost to your one rep max but you should still be able to kick butt with sets 4-8. Over time the increase workload capacity should help your overall strength and muscle gains.

The downside to citrulline malate is the cost. Even if buying in bulk, it can still be pretty pricy compared to other supplements.

Some people experience stomach discomfort when using Citrulline malate.

 

Dosage: 6-8 grams before your workout. This is a pretty big serving size but this is the dosage that was used in the studies.

Many pre-workouts will skimp on the dosage amount because of the large dosage amount.

Please note that the taste is very sour due to the malate so this may limit your options if you like to add artificial flavoring. Fruity flavoring works best.

Buy Pure L-Citrulline DL-Malate 2:1 Powder

 

Beta-Alanine:


If you’ve ever taken a pre-workout and felt a tingly feeling, it is probably because of the beta alanine.

Some people like the tingling feeling and add it to their pre-workout for that reason. Don’t worry, the tinglling feeling is harmless.

Though it’s a very popular ingredient in pre-workout supplements, it does not need to be taken right before your workout to see it’s effects.

Beta-alanine is converted into carnosine after you ingest it. The carnosine is stored in your muscles and is released when your pH drops. This means as your muscles get more acidic from energy being used, the carnosine is being released to delay your fatigue.

This means more reps and less rest time between sets.

Many studies have confirmed the ability of beta-alanine to increase muscular endurance. (1, 2, 3, 4) It may also have minor effect on reducing fat and increasing muscle.

Dosage: A daily dose of 3-6 grams is a good start. You do not need to take it right before your workout for it to be effective.

It may take a few weeks for you to notice a difference in your workouts with beta-alanine since the carnosine levels need to build up.

If you don’t like the tingling feeling you can split up the doses throughout the day if you want to avoid it.

Buy Pure Beta Alanine Powder

 

Creatine Monohydrate:

I saved the best for last. (I did this mainly because, like beta-alanine, it does not necessarily need to be taken right before your workout.)

Creatine has been around for a while and has a lot of research to back up all the claims that are made.

It is well documented that creatine increases strength, muscle size (although a lot of it is due to water retention). There is also evidence that shows that creatine decreases fatigue and may slightly increase testosterone levels along with numerous other benefits.

Creatine is manufactured naturally in the body and increases the efficiency at which it converts ATP (Adenosine triphosphate ) to energy.

There are a lot of “advanced” creatine products out there but there is no real benefit to those over regular old creatine monohydrate. They are a lot more expensive though so don’t waste your money on them.

Creapure is a more concentrated form of creatine monohydrate that is a little more expensive. Over time though you muscles will get saturated anyway so both monohydrate and creapure are fine.

There is some evidence to show that taking creatine around the time of your workout is more effective but it does not seem to make a difference whether it is before or after.

The bad thing about creatine is that some people are non-responders which means they will see no effects at all.

The good thing is that most people will see results and it is cheap so you can see if it works for you. It will take a few weeks to saturate your muscles though so give it time.

Dosage: A daily dosage of 3-5 grams is recommended.

The old school thinking was that you need to do a loading phase where you take 20-30 grams a day for the first week. The other old school view was to cycle on and off of it.

While a loading phase won’t necessarily hurt you, it may get your muscles saturated a little quicker, but there won’t be too much difference after a few weeks anyway.

As far as cycling, it’s not really necessary since your body won’t build up a tolerance to it like with caffeine.

You can load or cycle creatine if you want, but both practices are unnecessary.

You also don’t need to take creatine with sugar or juice. The sugar raises insulin which may help creatine to be absorbed faster, but it’s really not necessary for most people. The extra sugar is probabaly where the “creatine makes you bloated” myth comes from.

Click Here to Buy CreaPure Creatine

Wrapping it up

There are a few other ingredients like BCAAs, Acetyl L-Carnitine and L-Tyrosine that provide some minor benefits to your workout.

L-Carnitine and L-Tyrosine both help to improve cognitive function and focus. BCAAs have some value if you are working out in a fasted state but can also be found in protein.

You can add them in if you want but I think that Caffeine and Citrulline Malate are the most beneficial. I like to add creatine and beta-alanine to my pre-workout since I like them and I need to take them some time during the day so I just put them in my pre-workout.

My current pre-workout stack has:

5 grams creatine monohydrate

200 mg caffeine

6 grams citrulline malate

2 grams beta-alanine (I add another 2 grams in my post-workout shake)

And that’s it. I don’t put any flavors or anything else. It works pretty well for me even on days when I don’t eat enough food beforehand and my energy sucks.

This adds up to less than $1 per serving when bought in bulk. I challenge you to find a commercial pre-workout with those ingredients in those amounts that costs less per serving.

So what do you use? Are there any other active ingredients you like to add to your pre-workout? I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below or in the facebook group.

Hope you found this information useful. To get updates on the latest articles please subscribe to the newsletter for the latest tips, workouts and news.

 

  • Phillip Lawson

    Hi, so glad I found this article! My son plays basketball for an AAU league, high school, and on the football team. Today he had football practice and he has 8 games in basketball as well. I purchased several things for him to try to help with his endurance and to help him gain more muscle and strength. He is 6’5 198 pounds. I don’t want to add the caffeine into his regiment, so all I have so far is:
    L-Citrulline
    Beta-Alanine
    Creating Ethyl Ester
    Agmatine
    Can you help me create a mixture for him? He’s been an athlete since 7th grade so he is not just starting out with workouts, he has been dedicated for a while now. He is soon to be 18 as well. Any advice is much appreciated!

    • Hi Phillip,

      The most important thing is to make sure his diet and training are spot on. The supps will only enhance that but will not fix it if they are off.

      I explain a lot of this in my free ebook.

      http://eepurl.com/J9IYH

      As for the sups you are bought, here is my take:

      L-Citrulline- I would use Citrulline Malate instead with a 2:1 ratio. With a 6 g dose, you would get 4g of citrulline and 2 g of malic acid. Basically you get the benefits of L-Citrulline plus the benefits of Malic acid.

      Beta-Alanine- This is good. Some people need to split the doses up to get less tingles and reaction to it. 4g per day is the recommended daily dose.

      Creating Ethyl Ester- I assume you mean creatine ethyl ester. This stuff is more expensive than creatine monohydrate and there is no research that backs up many of the claims. I would use monohydrate instead. It’s cheaper and there is more proven research.

      Agmatine- I would skip this one. This is supposed to increase the “pump” by producing more nitric oxide but there is no research that shows this happens with oral supplementation. The Citrulline in the citrulline malate will raise the nitric oxide in the body so IMO there is no reason to add the agmatine as well. Some people like it but I find it unnecessary so I don’t use it.

      So the only pre-workout I use other than caffeine is citrulline malate, beta alanine and creatine monohydrate. The beta alanine and creatine don’t need to be take before workouts though.

      If you want to add more to that stack you can try L-Carnitine and L-Tyrosine for a non caffeine focus boost. If he is working out on an empty stomach than he may want to sip some aminos during the workout.

      Let me know if you have any more questions. Hope this helps.

      • Phillip Lawson

        Yes you’re right, auto correct on the Creatine. Thanks so much for taking the time to help me. That’s so confusing on the citrulline because in parenthesis it says “(as L-Citrulline Malate)” on the back of the bottle, so is that the same product? Sorry the picture is sideways.
        What can I do now that I have all these supplements? I don’t want to send them back. i guess I’m just asking is there a way to use this all together since I have already bought them. And then try to do what you suggested later on? Thanks again so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

        • Hmmm. Not really sure what that label means. Citrulline and Citrulline malate are different things. I don’t understand either why they would list both on the label. Usually with citrulline malate, there is a ratio that is included like 1:1 or 2:1 so I am not sure not sure what is actually in the container.
          I usually do 6g of 2:1 citrulline malate. That would give me 4g of citrulline and 2 grams of malic acid. So as far as the dosage of this product it is hard to say because I am not sure what it actually is.

          You can use what you have now and stack them together. There is nothing wrong with what you have except that the citrulline label is confusing. You can take the agmatine and the creatine ethyl ester. They won’t have any negative effects. The creatine should work fine. You can get the cheaper and equally effective creatine monohydrate when you run out. The agmatine may be great for pumps. There are a lot of people that like it and it may do exactly what the claims say, there just isn’t a lot of research that proves it. I would compare your son’s results with it and without it and see how he reacts. If he has a good experience with it then great.

          Good luck.

          • Phillip Lawson

            Thanks man! You helped me out a lot.

  • Mikey Bav

    Thanks for the good info. I’ve been using this product http://www.amazon.com/Neon-Sport-Creatine-Preworkout-Watermelon/dp/B00VAPRCW8 and it has all of these minus the creatine because I want to slim down a little bit. Any other product suggestions or opinions?

    • Paul

      Thanks Mikey,
      This is the nutritional info from that product.

      Neon
      It has beta alanine, and L-citrulline, which are both good products. The issue is that the dosage for those are low.Citrulline alone should be 4 grams and the beta alanine should be about 4 grams. The TOTAL for the “performance matrix” 2.3 grams so that is under-dossed.
      It also contains caffeine so that is good but the total for that blend is 206 mg. This can can be ok, but it’s not clear how much is caffeine and how much is the other ingredients.

      My opinion is that this is not the worst product on the market but you’re probably better off creating your own mix with the ingredients and dosages that you want.

      Also, I have used creatine with some clients who are cutting. It’s not the norm, but if used correctly, it can still help with cutting.

  • Mark Tennis

    Creatine is creatine. Just try to find the one that works best with your body. There are so many expensive creatine products sold in supplement shops – all you really need is creatine monohydrate and I recommend the Dr Max Powers Creatine Pills (even though they have 3 types of creatine). I’ve seen better results with the Dr Max Powers Creatine vs. the Optimum Nutrition creatine. I’ve seen an increase in strength and size as well but make sure you are careful. Always stay hydrated.

    I also don’t do the loading cycles as well because I’ve seen results without it.

    • I haven’t tried that one. The recommendation on the bottle recommends cycling it 4-6 weeks on then 4-6 weeks off. I’m not sure if that is necessary because of the way creatine works.
      I am using the bulk supplements creatine monohydrate. CreaPure should work a little quicker but over time it should be the same.