Pre-workouts pack performance boosters such as creatine, beta-alanine and carbohydrate into a convenient drink. Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains.
What is pre-workout powder?
Pre-workout supplements, or pre-workouts, come in a powder form to make a drink, and contain a mixture of carbohydrates, creatine, beta-alanine and sometimes caffeine.
Pre-workout supplements are available both with caffeine and without, for athletes who may not desire extra caffeine intake or who may get their caffeine elsewhere.
What do pre-workouts do?
The various ingredients in pre-workout supplements can help during high-intensity training or competition periods.
Caffeine can enhance strength, sprinting, jumping and throwing, as well as mental alertness. Carbohydrate intake before and after training makes sure the body has enough energy, particularly when training multiple times a day or on consecutive days.
Carbohydrates are particularly important for endurance athletes or in team games with intermittent intense bursts, such as football or rugby.
Creatine allows the rapid creation of ATP: the muscles' energy source. Increasing the amount of creatine in the muscles has led to measurable gains in sprint speed and jump height, and increased muscle mass and strength in resistance training.
Beta-alanine can increase the levels of carnosine in the muscles. Carnosine helps neutralise the hydrogen ions that are produced during high-intensity exercise as lactic acid breaks down. These ions lead to muscle soreness and fatigue, so higher levels of carnosine can help to improve performance in repeated high-intensity work such as sprints.
"The key ingredients I want in a pre-workout supplement are carbohydrates, creatine, and beta-alanine, as all these contribute towards enhanced training outputs, adaptation and recovery."
Kat Darry, All Blacks Nutritionist
When should you take pre-workouts?
Pre-workouts can be taken before or during exercise. As with any supplement, you should always make sure your body is familiar with a product in training before using it in competition.
Are pre-workouts bad for you?
Athletes should consider their individual needs when considering a pre-workout supplement. For example, caffeine is not always well tolerated and can cause anxiety and jitteriness, as well as interfere with sleep – and sleep is essential for performance. Creatine can cause water retention and weight gain, which could be a problem in endurance or weight category sports.
Find out more about pre-workout supplements
What are pre-workout supplements and what do they do?
Pre-workout supplements can help your body with its energy requirements in competition and high-intensity training. Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains.