How to Choose a Great Pre-Workout Supplement: Give Your Routine a Boost


Is your progress stalling? Strength hitting a plateau? Feel the need to bump up your gains in muscle mass and shed some fat? Your workout nutrition could be the answer.


We think most gym-goers will agree with us when we say that good supplements are a staple in every gym bag; with a good recovery, intra-workout and, perhaps most importantly, a pre-workout supplement present, and that these items help trainers get the nutrition they need to push hard in the gym and get the results they need. So, today, we’re going to be discussing how to choose the best pre-workout.


But supplement shopping can be pretty tough. Especially these days, when there’s so many options available. We know that we even find it difficult sometimes to find the best supplements.


So, when it came to choosing the best pre-workout supplement, we did our homework on what ingredients, and what amounts, would give you a physical and mental edge to help you smash through any plateau and get you further to reaching your goals.


So keep an eye out for the following ingredients on your next shopping trip to make sure you choose the best pre-workout that will get you jacked for the gym.


Top 5 Ingredients For The Best Pre-Workout

1.   Caffeine

2.   Betaine

3.   Creatine

4.   Beta-Alanine

5.   Whey protein


Ingredient 1: Caffeine: Speeding Up the Computer

What is it?

Caffeine is basically a low level stimulant. It blocks up the receptors in the brain that tell you ‘you’re tired’ and causes the release of adrenaline in the body.


How will it help?

Caffeine basically reduces feelings of fatigue and increases vigor (that ‘get-after-it’ feeling that you get when you’re pumped up), helps you focus and increases the amount of information your brain can process.


Studies shows it also helps make your workout feel easier, increases the amount of reps you can do in later sets, and the amount of power you can produce. So, when deciding how to choose the best pre-workout, consider caffeine content.


How much do I need?

Research shows 6 mg per kilogram of bodyweight (so, 450mg for an average 75 Kg man) seems to be the sweet spot.


Higher amounts increase side effects like anxiety and lower doses sometimes fail to have an effect on training.


For a guide to how much 450mg of caffeine looks like, below is a guide to the caffeine content in cups of coffee at Starbucks and other common caffeine containing beverages.



Beverage Caffeine Content
Size Small (8 fl. oz) Medium (12 fl. oz) Large (16 fl. oz)
Espresso 75mg (One Shot) 150mg (Two Shots) 225mg (Three Shots)
Americano 75mg 150mg 225mg
Cappuccino 75mg 75mg 150mg
Latte 75mg 75mg 150mg
Mocha 90mg 95mg 175mg
Monster Energy Drink  –  – 160mg
Coca Cola 23mg 34mg 45mg


When should I take it?

30-60 minutes prior to training.


Anything else I need to know?

You’ll need to increase your dose after a while (around 1-2 weeks) as your body and brain can gradually adapt to caffeine intake by growing more receptors, so the same amount of caffeine that gave you a boost before will lose it’s performance-enhancing effect after a few workouts.


Cycle your intake of it as well because, eventually, the necessary dose will get too high to maintain. So, take it for 4 weeks and take 1 week off to keep reaping the benefits over the long term.


Ingredient 2: Betaine: Increasing the Size of the Fuel Tank

What is it?

Betaine is basically a chemical found in beetroot juice and green, leafy vegetables. It has the ability to increase the amount of a chemical called nitric oxide in the blood which can widen the blood vessels in the body. So, this nitric oxide basically increases the amount of blood that can flow to the muscles.

How will it help?

Increasing blood flow will help increase the amount of nutrients that can be delivered to the working muscle and the amount of exercise-induced toxins, like lactic acid, that can be flushed out of the muscle.


A study from the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed it increases strength and power during weightlifting and, like caffeine, increase the amount of reps that can be performed. So you can push harder for longer.

How Much Should I Take?

2.5 grams daily, or 500ml of Beetroot juice.

When should I take it?

30-90 minutes before your workout.

Anything else I need to know?

The effects of Betaine are also beneficial for cardiovascular work, increasing the amount of work that can be done at high intensity, so it is also a good pre-workout choice on cardio days. Particularly if your preferred choice of cardio is High Intensity Interval Training.


Ingredient 3: Creatine: Increasing the Size of the Engine

What is it?

Creatine is an amino acid (which is basically a substance that is used in the body to form protein) that is found naturally in the muscles and is used to provide it with immediate energy for high intensity exercise, such as weightlifting.

How will it help?

The amount of creatine stored in the muscle can be increased with supplementation in the diet. This can lead to more ‘immediate energy’ that can be used for high intensity exercise. This, in turn, increases strength, power and even muscle growth from working out.

How Much Should I Take?

5g per day. 3g can also be effective but it doesn’t have as much of an effect on muscle gain.

When should I take it?

Anytime. With creatine how much you take is more important than when you take it. Taking it with whey protein or carbohydrates will also increase absorption and give better results in terms of strength and muscle mass.

Anything else I need to know?

There’s a lot of confusion about this supplement.


Firstly, it is NOT a steroid and all of the research shows it is safe to take.


Secondly, there’s many forms of this supplement sold, from creatine monohydrate to creatine ethyl-ester to dicreatine malate, with the only difference, aside from the complicated names, being the way each supplement is designed to deliver the creatine to your muscles.


But, only creatine monohydrate has proven to be consistently effective, so stick with that one.

Ingredient 4: Beta-Alanine: Souping up the Pit-Stop Crew

What is it?

You know that ‘burning’ feeling you get when you’re hitting out high reps on a bicep curl or leg press? That’s caused by ‘lactic acid’.


The reason it goes away is because of carnosine, which is basically an amino acid that acts as your body’s clean-up crew. This crew helps get rid of the lactic acid. Beta-alanine is an amino acid that triggers an increase in carnosine in the muscle.

How will it help?

Because greater amounts of carnosine can mop up more lactic acid, Beta-alanine supplementation indirectly enables you to perform more reps and increase your overall training volume. It can also help body composition and strength gains with weight training.

How Much Should I Take?

6 grams per day.

When should I take it?

Just like creatine, it matters more how much you take rather than when you take it.

Anything else I need to know?

Beta-alanine also increases absorption of creatine into the muscle so there is more than one reason to add beta-alanine with creatine in your workout.


Also, spread your doses out throughout the day, with three 2 gram doses, for example, with one of the doses in your pre-workout, or take with a meal, as taking too much at once can cause paresthesia as a side effect (which is an uncomfortable tingling sensation in the skin).

Ingredient 5: Whey Protein: Fueling the Engine

What is it?

This is a form of protein found in milk and dairy products, and a rapidly digested protein at that. This type of protein is also high in the amino acid leucine, which aids muscle protein synthesis.

How will it help?

Not only has research shown that it increases muscle growth when taken as a pre-workout, but high levels of protein can also keep insulin high, which is a hormone in the body that regulates sugar in the blood and muscles and has an influence in muscle growth.

When should I take it?

0-60 minutes before your workout.

Anything else I need to know?

As we mentioned earlier, taking whey protein can also increase the absorption of creatine and beta-alanine, so timing all of the above supplements to be taken together at the same time will give you the best pre-workout.


Conclusion and Recommendations

As seen above, choosing the best pre-workout supplement can help increase energy and motivation, increase your work capacity, strength, power and can even lay a strong foundation for recovery and muscle growth.


In short, knowledge is power. From understanding how and why each of these ingredients work, you can now tailor and time your pre-workout supplement to perfectly fit your workout routine and goals.


If finding a pre-workout with the recommended amounts of each ingredient proves too difficult, you can make your own, either by buying the raw ingredients yourself and mixing them in bulk in a tub, or individually per shake.


So, that’s basically it on how to choose the best pre-workout. You need caffeine for energy, betaine and beta-alanine to increase your work capacity, and whey protein to help prevent muscle protein breakdown and increase absorption of the above nutrients. Just mix with water, shake well, drink up and go kill your workout.



Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>