Pre-workout supplements are among the most popular nutritional supplements for athletes who participate in high-intensity exercise like CrossFit. You’ve probably seen these and maybe you use them yourself. They’re usually a powdered blend of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. You mix it with water and take 15 to 30 minutes before exercising for an energy and focus boost. 

We get a lot of questions about pre-workout supplements. Everyone wants to know if they’re safe, are they necessary, who can benefit from them and what’s the best way to make them part of your training routine. So, this post is going to provide a few answers and things to think about when deciding if pre-workout supplements are right for you. 

What Are Pre-Workout Supplements?  

Pre-workout supplements, as their name implies, are multi-ingredient formulas that you take before a workout. There is a lot of variety from one product to the next. Each has its own formula with different ingredients in different amounts. But, in general, they have a proprietary blend of caffeine, B vitamins, amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, nitric oxide boosters and other performance enhancers. A few of the most common include: 

  • Caffeine to boost energy 
  • Beta-alanine to reduce lactic acid and soreness 
  • L-arginine to support nitric oxide levels 
  • Taurine for efficient recovery 
  • Citrulline to enhance stamina and blood flow 
  • Creatine for production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — your main source of energy 
  • B vitamins including B1, B3, B5, B6 and B12 for energy and metabolic function 
  • Branch-chained amino acids for endurance and protein synthesis 

What Are the Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements? 

As we touched on, pre-workout supplements have ingredients that might increase your energy, mental focus, strength, performance and motivation to have an amazing WOD. There are a few studies out there that suggest some pre-workout formulations may enhance performance capacity in people who have been consistently training for at least six months. The details are a little beyond the scope of this post, but you can check out a few of the scientific inquiries into pre-workout supplements here, here and here. 

Should You Take a Pre-Workout Supplement?  

A pre-workout supplement is not required to have an awesome workout that elevates your spirits and gets your blood pumping. That said, we’ve all had those days where we’re dragging and don’t want to do a WOD. In those situations, mixing up a pre-workout might be the trick that puts some pep in your step so that you can get to the box and not let your long-term goals slide because of a temporary, short-term case of the blahs. 

And if you’re advanced in your training, and have all your lifestyle elements in check, a pre-workout supplement might give you an edge to enjoy a more intense workout.

Do Pre-Workouts Have Negative Side Effects? 

Beware that most pre-workout supplements have as much caffeine as a cup or two of coffee, so consider your total caffeine consumption. Products that contain vitamin B3 (niacin) may cause your skin to be temporarily itchy. Also be advised that some formulas contain sugar alcohols, which can cause an upset stomach. 

The Bottom Line 

Progress in CrossFit is a result of training, nutrition and smart supplementation. A quality pre-workout supplement can give you an energy boost or put your head in the game before a workout. But they aren’t essential, nor can they replace a good diet, adequate sleep and consistent hydration. So, use them to make your fitness routine better, not to compensate for late nights. 

Exercise the same due diligence when selecting a pre-workout as you would any other nutritional supplement. Purchase from reputable companies that are transparent about ingredient sourcing and take part in third-party testing. And if you want to keep it simple, the classic, lo-fi pre-workout — black coffee and a banana — is cheap, easy and will fuel you up for your workout. 

And if you’re consistently finding yourself needing to wake up before your workout, maybe it’s just time to switch things up. Why not come on down to Rhapsody Fitness and workout with us? If you haven’t taken advantage of your free session, now is the time! Start your journey here.