Pre-workout Supplements

Pre-workout Supplements

An interesting topic to say the least, is anything relating to pre-workout supplements. A lot of people ask what they can take, before working out or what can give them the energy to have an awesome workout session but not much people know what exactly is going on in those products.

Here I am going to touch on as many points, in relation to pre-workout supplements. How they work, what ingredients are involved in them, ingredients yield the best results, etc.

Pre-workout supplements are used as a stimulant to increase workout productiveness. Not only that but some of them actually promote muscle growth, along with prevent any type of muscle loss while undergoing highly intensive training (HIT).

Generally, pre-workout supplements have 3 types of ingredients to give you a crazy workout session; caffeine, creatine, nitric oxide and some amino acids, in particular branched-chained amino acids (BCAA).

Anyone who has worked out without a pre-workout supplement and have gone on one can, without a doubt, admit to the crazy and intense effects it has. The fact that you can push out more reps, lift more weights, and last longer in the gym, is enough reasons to get your hands on one.

Caffeine would be the most known of the ingredients in pre-workout supplements. Anyone who’s drank enough of a product with high amounts of caffeine, can tell you what an awesome stimulant it is. It was first isolated back in the 1800s, from coffee by a chemist. Caffeine has the lovely ability to affect the CNS (central nervous system) and be a metabolic stimulant.

If you have ever used a pre-workout supplement, you are familiar with the instructional label suggesting that you wait 30 to 45 minutes, after consuming the pre-workout supplement, before working out. This is because the body takes about 45 minutes to absorb caffeine through the stomach and the small intestine.

The purpose of caffeine is to heighten alertness and wear off drowiness, so that you can be completely focused at the task at hand. It does this by passing through the blood brain barrier that allows only certain substances to get in, and acts as a receptor antagonist, to adenosine receptors, making it a competitive inhibitor. An antagonist or receptor antagonist, does not provide any biological responses in itself, but inhibits the response of agnoist. An agnoist is the substance that actually triggers a response in a cell. So in essence, a caffeine prevents a response from being triggered. Adenosine binds to adenosine receptors, which in turn makes you drowsy. As caffeine is an antagonist, participating as a competitive inhibitor, then it will bind with the adenosine receptors and not allow for adenosine to bind and cause drowiness, hence the increased alertness.

Below is a diagram that gives you an idea how caffeine would work in the system as a competitive inhibitor:

To explain the above image, what is going on is that for an reaction to occur you must have a subtrate and an enzyme. An enzyme is a protein that catabolises a reaction, basically it increases the rate of the reaction. For an reaction to occur, the subtrate has to bind to the binding site of the enzyme, causing a reaction that produce a subtance or chemical, based on that reaction. Now a competitive inhibitor has the same shape, to fit into the binding site, so it binds with the enzyme and prevents the substrate from binding with the enzyme. This in turn will then prevent the reaction from occuring.

Another way that caffeine affects our CNS, is by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a pleasure inducing neurotransmitter, that gives you that “feel good”, sensation. Also, caffeine introduces adrenaline into the system. So with a combination of nonselective antagonist, increasing of dopamine and injection of adrenaline, one can see how the body becomes alert and enjoys the introduction of caffeine into the system.

The other ingredient is creatine, as discussed in detail in the All About Creatine article, is a chemical substance that increases protein synthesis and interacting with ATP, to produce energy within muscle cells. ATP is broken down into ADP and for the cycle to continue, a phosphate group from creatine is given to ADP to reverse it back into ATP. Not only that but creatine has been shown to pull water into the muscle cells, causing it to increase in size. As ATP only allows for a short time of muscle contraction, an increased amount of creatine to keep the cycle going allows for a longer and more intense training session.

Finally, the amino acids involved in pre-workout supplements. One recognized amino acids found in these types of supplements, is something called BCAAs (branched-chained amino acids). BCAAs are the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins. There are 3 types of BCAAs; leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids make up about a 1/3 of the skeletal muscle in the human body. As they are called essential amino acids, they are not produced by the body and needs to be ingested. These amino acids can assist in protein synethsis, increasing endurance, promoting fat loss, improving the immune system and metabolic recovery (a faster recovery between workouts).

Nitric oxide, a triple bonded compound that is a very important signaling molecule in the body. NO, as is it’s chemical formula, oxidizes iron-containing proteins. Not only that but it is a vasodilator, increasing the circumfrance of the blood vessels hence decreasing the amount of pressure the heart muscle has to undergo to pump the same amount of blood through the whole body. NO helps to increase endurance and enhance muscle growth in athletes.

One more ingredient that I didn’t place in my list but is an essential ingredient in such pre-workout supplements like Jack3d, is beta-alanine.

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is naturally produced by the body. It doesn’t have any involvement in the biosynethsis of protein, unlike the other amino acids mentioned. It’s also the only naturally occuring beta-amino acid in the body. Beta Alanine has a more direct impact on increasing the synthesis of an amino acid called carnosine. Carnosine is an important amnio acid for bodybuilders because it’s found in the type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers. Type 2 muscle fibers are the ones most stimulated by high intensive training, and more prone to growth. This amino acid, acts as an intracellular buffer that absorbs the hydrogen ions that are released by lactic acid, during strenuous strength training activities. The hydrogen ions are the culprits that cause muscle problems when training, even if you don’t feel the burning sensation, these hydrogen ions are being released. When the pH in our system gets reduced because of exercising, carnosine works as a stabilizer of the pH level in our bodies. Carnosine basically keeps our pH levels in our body balanced, as the body prefers. So as beta-alanine increases carnosine, this amino acid can then balance the pH level and suck up the hydrogen icons.

In conclusion, pre-workout supplements tend to have different ingredients to perform different tasks, either prevention of the loss of muscle, the building of muscles, or the prevention of other biological impacts our body undergoes. This is enough evidence to support supplementing on a pre-workout substance prior to training, to enchance your training sessions.

When one is choosing a pre-workout supplement, they should compare the ingredients and see which product is right for your personal desires in the gym.


More Articles


  • BCAAs Information, FAQ & Products
  • wikipedia: branched-chain amino acid
  • wikipedia: Nitric Oxide
  • 1 comment

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