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Pre Workout Supplements – What You Need To Know

The power you get from a well executed pre-workout routine is often the difference in making the gains you’re striving for.

Here at Elite we’ve spent years optimising our pre-workout routines for maximum energy and gains.

But also trying to avoid the jitters and side effects that can come from many pre-workout supplements.

Get it right with your workout preperation and you’ll feel like you can take on Sparta.

What are Pre-Workout Supplements?

To give a simple definition, pre-workouts are a supplementary aid to be used prior to a gym session, which provides additional energy and focus. Taken either as a powder or pill form, pre-workouts have surged in popularity and seen as a magic bullet to power you through your workout.

On paper the benefits are clear – you arm your body with solid nutrients to improve your strength and muscular endurance. Your vasodilation will peak giving you that pump you yearn for, and your mental focus will be razor sharp as you strive to destroy that next rep.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. As often the downside is that a range of side effects can take place ranging from sleep depravation to high blood pressure.

Understanding what pre-workouts really are needs a thorough examination of their composite nature, what they can bring to your individual performance, and ultimately the positives and negative impacts they herald. With thousands of products available, we’ll go step by step to provide a thorough insight of pre-workouts so you can develop a solid understanding, and decide whether you need to add this supplement to your gym bag.

Picture this:

You’re a regular at the gym, and you’re making gains and progressing regularly, all is good. Then one day, out of nowhere, you plateau. Each time you enter the gym you’re not pushing as far as you’re used to, you’re failing in earlier sets, and you’re getting a little frustrated at your stunted situation. Pretty annoying.

Change is needed, rapidly, to get yourself back on track.

You sharpen up on the nutritional front, and incorporate a pre-workout into your regimen. Suddenly you’re seeing yourself push on, with greater concentration, desire, and drive. Before you know it, you’re smashing sets again and back to accomplishing goals and feeling great about yourself.

In a nutshell, that’s exactly what most pre-workout manufactures want you to buy into – a miracle supplement that will turn you into a beast right before you hit the gym.

That isn’t exactly the truth. Results are based on a number of variable inputs, and getting wise with the parameters will better your experience with the supplements.

with the parameters will better your experience with the supplements.

What Do Pre-Workout Supplements Contain?

With an increasing, diverse market for pre-workout supplements targeting all manner of fitness goals and nutritional benefits, when you look a little closer, there are quite often more than a few common threads particularly when it comes to the ingredients. Yes, each brand may offer their unique take on proceedings with numerous additional elements, but when boiled down you’re looking at these four key components:

  • Caffeine
  • Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
  • Creatine
  • Carbohydrates

The four noted ingredients offer a multitude of beneficial nourishment goods and will prep you for a solid session, so let’s break down which each constituent input brings to the table.


As a stimulant that hits your central nervous system, you’ll feel alert and sharp, with higher levels of energy, all ideal preparation for a hard workout. A further bonus is that caffeine has a fat burning effect, caused by the stimulus of the nervous system which raises epinephrine (adrenaline) levels, signalling to your body to break down fat stores into the blood.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Amino acids play a crucial role in all part of the workout, from fuelling your muscle tissue to creating an anabolic environment for your gains to flourish. BCAAs are an immediate fuel injection for our bodies, absorbed into the bloodstream allowing the body to conduct protein synthesis, reduces muscles soreness and recovery, and fights fatigue. Incredible stuff.

Furthermore, our bodies are unable to produce BCAAs such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Providing an additional boost contributes to increased energy and has been proven to dramatically increase the performance capacity and endurance of those who consume BCAAs.


A popular choice for gym goers as an isolate, Creatine boosts muscle strength and is a potent source of energy. Whilst exercising, your body releases massive levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to generate energy. Creatine supports the process of anaerobic endurance, generating more energy for your muscles, allowing you to work harder, and powering you forth.


Carbs are a macronutrient that are one of the primary sources of energy to your body. In this capacity, the carbohydrates fuel our muscles with glycogen, acting as an energy source that will support your body with adequate levels of energy throughout.

It’s clear to see that these foundation ingredients are geared towards two specific points – flushing your muscles with energy to carry your endurance, and providing nutrients conducive to the creation of an anabolic state in your body, allowing muscles to repair and grow effectively.

Now we’ve got the boring part out the way, let’s look at how to maximise your experience with pre-workout supplements – after all, we’re all here to learn a little and improve our performance in the gym, no?

When and How Should I Deploy A Pre-Workout?

Apart from the giveaway nature of it’s name, nailing your timing with a pre-workout sup is crucial. Recommended timing for optimal consumption is 30 minutes before you take to the gym. Around the half hour mark will allow your body enough time to absorb and distribute the nutrients throughout your body.

I cannot stress enough how important timing really is. If you’re a tardy soul, try to at least get your pre-workout spot on. Why? Well, simple really. If you take it too early the nourishment and effects will kick in far too soon and you’ll not reap the maximum benefits. Believe it or not, ingesting a sup too late won’t kick in when you need it most… strange that!

Get the timing right, and you’ll extract the upmost benefit from the nutrients and you’re sure to beast through your routine like a beast.

One thing to note is whether you take your pre-workout on an empty stomach. Now yes, we have been arguing that there is enough sustenance in the supplements to carry you through a workout, so it seems like we’re giving mixed information. In honesty, we want you to be aware of potential pitfalls.

Keep in mind stimulants impact individuals in different ways. So for instance, if you feel restless from a caffeinated drink like coffee, it’s advisable that you consume a small meal around an hour before the pre-workout to offset the jitters.

The Potential Side Effects of Pre-Workouts

Whilst we’ve been signing the praises of pre-workout supplements, it is clear that there are some downsides too.

As mentioned in the last segment, giving your body a 200-300 milligram hit of caffeine may put you on edge instead of giving you the edge. This is only one in a litany of side effects attributed to some of the supplements available on the market. Let’s give you some insight on what you could expect to deal with and how to combat the symptoms.


Pre-workouts alone won’t directly cause headaches, however some supplements contain acids such as arginine citrulline malate, and beta-alanine. These promote vasodilation – the muscle pump – causing blood vessels throughout the body, including in your head, to expand, leading to headaches.

To effectively combat this, you must engage with the information label on your preworkout packaging. From there make an informed decision to either choose a supplement that contains vasodilators or cut your current portion size. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water.

Itching and Tingling Sensations

One of the key compounds in many pre-workout formulas, beta-alanine and niacin, produce the ability to create irritable, uncomfortable sensations throughout your body.

Beta-alanine is a terrific aid in getting you to push through the more difficult sets, whilst limiting the production of lactic acid. This can cause a burning sensation, leaving you feeling a little uneasy. Thankfully this isn’t a toxic process, and despite being an annoyance, causes no harm to you.

Niacin is known to flush the skin with blood, and combined with the burning, itchy sensation from the beta-alanine creates a less than pleasant experience. It has been noted that niacin is added to supplements by some companies so that the combination of the sensations permits the user to ‘feel’ the effect, adding them to believe their performance has been top notch.

Whilst these issues are a nuisance, thankfully they’re a minor side effect that is nothing to worry about. Of course, if you’re bothered by the itching and tingling, selecting products that don’t content beta-alanine and niacin is your best option. For the rest of us, it’s best to ride it out, and enjoy the burn.

High Blood Pressure

Absolutely the most serious side effect of taking pre-workout is the raising of blood pressure. The nature of the supplements are designed to boost your performance, hence the inclusion and high dosage of stimulant-based composites. Always ensure that if you’re taking a fat burner that you’re not overdoing your daily caffeine and stimulant intake.

Exercise such as heavy lifting or high intensity interval training naturally raise your blood pressure, but adding a further stimulant into your bloodstream can lead to sustained periods of high blood pressure, which is obviously not good for anyone.

Combating high blood pressure requires a trip to your doctors to consult your workout and nutritional plans. Engaging a medical professional is the smartest route to strive forth safely and we endorse seeking a doctor’s opinion regarding anything health and fitness related, rather than chancing your luck.


Leaving the best till last, yes, certain supplements will stimulate unwanted bowel movements. Certain ingredients (such as magnesium, taurine, arginine, and creatine amongst others) when situated in a compound can mimic the effects of laxatives.

It is also noted that on some serving recommendations less water is encouraged by the brand, leaving a thick, undiluted shake. Ultimately, this leaves a paste in your gut, and your body will pull water from elsewhere to the intestines to break it down.

Hard to process substance + vast amounts of water = you get the picture.

Ironically, the best way to combat this is taking on more water during the time surrounding your workout and throughout the day. Simply put, the more liquid that goes in the top, the less that comes out the bottom.


This article set out to give a general yet solid overview of pre-workout supplements, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether or not incorporating this additional nourishment would be a worthy addition to you health regimen. Before you make the decision, we’ve got a few points to summarise and ponder which will help you make the right choice.

The primary issue underlying everything stated above is whether or not you require preworkout. Everyone has different requirements to get themselves over the line, and on paper, supplements that pack in energy releasing formulas should do the trick.

It must be stated that whilst pre-workout supplements offer dynamic physical results, it could purely act as a placebo agent. We aren’t going to fault gaining a psychological advantage, but is a serious matter to review before dabbling with supplements.

Best keep in mind too pre-workouts are supplements. Yes, when used correctly they will give you an explosive workout that’ll leave you pumped and satisfied. Ensuring your diet is balanced and healthy will provide you with outstanding fuel for performance, endurance and progress.

Downing scoops will certainly give you the edge, but keep in mind it’s only a small part of your overall nutritional intake, and consuming whole foods can offer you the same results.

A rather obvious one, but READ THE LABELS – it’s the only way you can be sure you’re giving your body exactly what it needs.

Sure, you may have heard this immense new pre-workout that is the bomb, all your mates are using it, and you want a piece of the action. Before you jump in the deep end, you’ve got to consider what your health goals are and if this supplement will positively impact you progress.

Personally, I’ve been guilty of buying pre-workout based on hype and then feeling horrendous in the aftermath. Please, don’t do that. It’s dumb and a waste of time and money.

Finally, be smart. As mentioned at the top of the article it’s best to be prepared. Educating yourself on how pre-workout supplements and nutrition influence your mental and physical performance will ensure you’re sufficiently prepared to drive yourself towards your objectives.

At the end of the day if you’re seeking a paramount performance give yourself superior nourishment through food, liquid, and safe supplements. Sure, give pre-workouts a go as it has revolutionised the game for many gym goers, though being knowledgeable about your nutrients is what will give you a serious edge.

Elite Health

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