The world of workout supplements can be daunting to say the least, with literally thousands of scary-sounding products, many in containers bigger than the size of your head, it’s easy to see why. But supplements aren’t simply something for the guys; the right supplements can do wonders for your workout intensity and your results. At the same time, as the name suggests, supplements aren’t meant to replace good [clean eating] and consistent [workouts], so you can’t view them – as far too many people do – as a silver bullet.
The fundamentals still count!
On the other hand, many women shy away from supplements because they don’t want to turn into the muscle-bound bodybuilder stereotype. If you were one of those bodybuilders you’d wish it was that easy – it actually takes tremendous dedication and commitment to achieve a physique like that – it doesn’t just happen. The proviso is that you don’t dabble with steroidal and hormonal supplements – take those and all bets are off.
Taking all that into consideration, here are our favorite pre-workout supplements to give your workouts a performance boost, without turning you into She-Hulk.
4 Pre-Workout Supplements to Boost Your Performance
For best results you should aim to take your pre-workout supplements about 30 minutes before you start your workout. You can blend them all together in a pre-workout shake which is easily digested.
We like whey protein (from milk) but you can get pea, casein, soy, hemp, etc. Choose a protein powder which works for you. It digests much quicker than protein from whole food sources, which means it’s excellent for before your workouts. It floods your muscles with amino acids, which is great for increasing muscle growth and helping to prevent muscle loss.
You can get protein powders in just about any flavor, but we prefer plain because it doesn’t contain excess sugars or synthetic sweeteners and allows you to create your own protein shake flavors yourself by adding natural ingredients.
Branch-Chain Amino Acids
Also known as BCAAs, these are a group of essential (meaning your body cannot naturally synthesise them) amino acids critical for muscle growth or preserving that hard-earned muscle you’ve already built. You can take these before, during and after your workout, but we wouldn’t recommend adding them to your protein shake – they taste pretty bad – suck it up and down them neat.
Creatine allows you to train with higher intensity and higher volume because it increases muscle strength (sometimes quite significantly). We naturally obtain creatine from sources like red meat, so if you’re vegetarian, you’ll get more benefit from supplementing with it.
One unwanted side effect from supplementing with creatine can be water retention and bloating – definitely not what you want from a supplement. Many people avoid this side effect by sticking to a relatively low dose of 3 grams per day, upping water intake slightly and buying a high quality (and thus usually more expensive) creatine monohydrate supplement.
Yes, we know we just wrote about how to kick the caffeine habit, but it really does have some good things going for it. Namely, it’s still an awesome stimulant. Best for morning to afternoon workouts, since it stays in your system for 12 hours. Take a shot of espresso and have it neat, or add it to your protein shake for extra workout energy.
It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s all you really need to get started with pre-workout (and even post-workout) supplementation. If you start with these four simple supplements you’ll almost certainly (provided you’re lifting heavy and eating clean) start to see better workout performance and an increase in lean muscle.
And if you just want a really simple pre-workout supplement: chocolate milk.
What are your favorite pre-workout supplements? If you want, you can let us know in the comments below.