You’re feeling down; it’s just one of those days. You already know that you should hit the gym, and hit it hard – just like any other day. But somehow you’re not feeling it. You’re exhausted, feeling weak, and you almost feel miserable and physically sick when you think about working out.
Still, you’re mentally tough. You push through and make it to the gym anyway. You look at the barbell and the cable machines like they’re your worst enemies; you still grab them. You rush through your workout, cheat on the last sets, lower the weights, and rest way more than you should. Your mind is somewhere else, and you can’t wait to get back home and enjoy a hot shower followed by some Netflix.
Sounds familiar? We’ve all been there, trust me! But being tired, or having your mind somewhere else isn’t an excuse to skip a workout…
At times like this, a good pre-workout supplement can do you wonders! You’ll feel an almost instant rush of energy and motivation; you’ll get pumped up and ready by the time you hit the gym, and you can hit it hard and remain focused throughout your workout. You’ll feel a slight aggression burning within your soul, just waiting to be unleashed at those weights.
For these reasons, I take a pre-workout about 20-30 minutes before every single one of my workouts – even when I’m feeling great to begin with. By taking a high quality pre-workout, you can push yourself a little harder, fuel your muscles a little better, and remain extremely focused all the way till the end of your workout. For me, a pre-workout isn’t just an instant boost for when I don’t feel like working out; it’s a natural part of my ritual of getting ready to hit the gym.
Finding a high quality pre-workout supplement is a challenge. Most pre-workouts are just over-hyped and overpriced shit, packed with way too much caffeine, artificial ingredients, and not much else.
So, what should you look for when buying a pre-workout?
Let’s face it: a pre-workout without caffeine is like an apple pie without apples. You need caffeine to give you a boost of raw energy – especially when you’re feeling too tired to work out. With that being said, you don’t want too much caffeine in your pre-workout, because that won’t do you any good either. Anywhere from 160 mg to 240 mg per serving should give you the energy you need without suffering a terrible caffeine crash halfway through your workout.
2. Citrulline Malate
You want that pump and extra power during your workouts, don’t you? Well then, Citrulline Malate is the way to go! By increasing your NO levels (way more effectively than L-Arginine or AAKG), you’ll supply your muscles with enough blood to squeeze that one extra rep out at the end of your sets. Oh, and don’t forget, having a nice pump going on during your workouts is not only beneficial for your progress, but it also looks very badass! Aim for a pre-workout that has at least 5000 mg (5 grams) of Citrulline Malate per serving to make sure you’re getting all the benefits!
Or, even better: N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine! Taking L-Tyrosine before your workouts helps you remain mentally present from your very first rep all the way to your very last. By increasing your mental focus, you’ll not only feel more motivated, but you’ll also get a boost of endurance. No more swinging the weights around pointlessly while thinking about your job, studies, or relationships; with L-Tyrosine, you’ll be able to focus on what you’re actually doing! You should look for a pre-workout that contains at least 500 mg of L-Tyrosine (or even better: N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine) per serving.
Many pre-workouts completely ignore the benefits of Beta-Alanine – something I can’t understand. Beta-Alanine increases muscle endurance during your workouts, and has even been shown to increase muscle mass over time. It delays fatigue, enabling you to push yourself harder in the gym. While some pre-workouts do contain beta-alanine, make sure that it’s in a sufficient amount: aim for pre-workouts that have over 3000 mg (3 grams) of beta-alanine per serving!
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning BCAAs. While I’m not a huge fan of supplementing with extra BCAAs, it’s a nice addition to have in any pre-workout. BCAAs have an anabolic effect, promoting protein synthesis, therefore growing your muscles. They also give you slightly more energy and endurance during your workouts. You can actually obtain BCAAs from other sources, but you don’t want to have a meal directly before your workout (throwing up in the gym is not fun)! For this reason, you should have BCAAs in your pre-workout – 4000 mg (4 grams) per serving should be more than enough to experience the full effects!
While I believe that having these five ingredients is a must for any pre-workout supplement, there are some additional ingredients – like vitamins, minerals, amino-acids, herbs, and more – that can enhance your workouts just a little further. However, before looking into these other ingredients, make sure that your pre-workout has these five key ingredients in the right amount!
Something that no pre-workout contains on its own, but you still need before hitting the gym is water. Mix your pre-workout with at least half a litre of water, and make sure to stay hydrated throughout your workouts by drinking at least another 0,5 litre while training! This is often overlooked, but this is the number one simplest thing you can do to instantly boost your workouts!
Also, make sure you don’t have creatine in your pre-workout! Caffeine inhibits the absorption of creatine, so you’re basically just flushing it down the toilet! Instead, take 5 grams of creatine after your workouts!