You’ve probably heard people in your gym talking about pre-workout. You’ve also probably seen those people take a scoop of powder, dump it into a water bottle, shake it up, and chug it before class.
You’ve also probably asked yourself, “What in the WORLD are those people drinking???”
Pre-workout is a beverage that is a combination of a few key amino acids with some kind of flavoring to make it taste good. Common brands include C4, Bucked Up, and Six Star.
But does pre-workout actually…work? Is it worth buying yet another thing to support your CrossFit habit? I think almost everyone who uses it would respond with a resounding “YES”.
Key Ingredients and Benefits
- Brached Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. Your body uses it to produce carnosine, which helps improve exercise performance. It has been shown to reduce lactic acid buildup. This allows you to work out harder without your muscles cramping or feeling sore/tired. Beta-alanine is also the ingredient in pre-workout that causes your face to tingle (don’t worry, this is safe and normal)!
Citrulline is an amino acid made naturally in the body, found in food and available as a dietary supplement. It widens arteries and veins to lower blood pressure and allow for increased blood flow. It can also increase the amount of Growth Hormone produced in the body after exercise.
Of the nine essential amino acids, three are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine. They increase muscle growth, decrease muscle soreness, reduce exercise fatigue, and prevent muscle breakdown.
Creatine is naturally produced by your body in your kidneys, liver, and pancreas. It’s made from three amino acids — glycine, arginine, and methionine. Creatine replenishes your body’s stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — a molecule that stores energy and fuels your cells — to provide energy to your muscles. This increase in available energy has been shown to boost muscle size, strength, and power. Studies have shown that creatine supplements can increase muscle power and strength by 5–15% . It is one of the most studied supplements.
Making Your Own Pre-Workout
You can buy ready-made pre-workout at the grocery store, supplement store, or online. My favorites are C4 and Bucked Up. These run around $1-$1.50 per serving. While they’re convenient and come in a variety of flavors, that cost can add up over time.
I started making my own pre-workout a few years ago because I didn’t want one of the “key” ingredients, caffeine. While caffeine is a vasodilator, I can’t consume more than a cup of coffee’s worth of it or I don’t sleep. It’s pretty much in every pre-workout on the market with a few rare exceptions.
My pre-workout takes about a minute to put together every time, but it saves me a TON of money. Compared to the $1-1.50 per serving of normal pre-workout, my pre-workout costs around 40 cents per serving.
Here are links to the individual ingredients I use. I put in a single scoop of each, plus a scoop of flavoring.
J.D. Frizzell is the co-owner of Lakeland Health + Fitness. He has a passion for empowering people to live happier, healthier, fuller lives. He lives in Lakeland, TN with his wife, sons, and rescue mutts.