Launching into a gym session charging with energy and ready to get vascular as fu*k is one of the greatest feelings known to man. You know you’re going to hit rep after rep and make serious gains. But what does pre workout do to your body?
Loading your guns up with a decent serving of a high quality pre workout all but ensures that’s what will happen.
But what actually does a pre workout do to your body? Why does it make you feel like your sole purpose in life is to hit the iron, with the added bonus of laser eyes and a nuclear roar?
With pre workouts more common than ever and blends of ingredients being more ambitious, you’re right to ask this question.
After all, while some pre workouts can improve focus, performance and amp up energy levels, and others can cause harmful unwanted side effects.
To understand what pre workout does to your body, you need to consider the groups of ingredients that goes into them.
A key component of most pre workout supplements are stimulants. When you tell a non lifter about a pre workout they suddenly presume you are talking about some illegal crack based bodybuilder supplement.
This is because of the association between pre workouts and stimulants.
Thankfully, you know that a pre workout, when it’s a good one, doesn’t have you gurning in the corner, scratching your skin off, and waiting for a huge energy crash.
Instead stimulants in pre workouts can be powerful, natural ingredients that’ll deliver benefits – without causing any side effects.
Good Pre Workout
Note that we said a ‘good pre workout‘ there, which there are plenty on the market that will keep you awake for 6 days and make you feel like shit.
Generally, the most common stimulant in a pre workout, and the only one you really need is caffeine.
If you get a good dose of clean caffeine you can experience and increased amount of energy and focus, alongside a jacked up metabolism. This is typical of most natural stimulants.
What effects do stimulants have on the body
Stimulants will get you feeling pumped up, energized and focused. Generally when choosing a pre workout you need to focus on natural stimulants from safe sources.
As a benchmark, we are going to look at the effects of caffeine in pre workouts, as it’s the most common ingredient used. And one that’s fairly representative of ingredients as a whole.
Effects of caffeine on your body
Caffeine directly effects your brain and works by slowing down the part of your nervous system that can cause you to feel lethargic and drowsy.
Effectively it can reduce feelings of pain too, as it releases epinephrine and norepinephrine, increasing neural stimulation.
It’s this that makes you feel more awake, energized and driven.
With a high dose of caffeine you get into an area where you may experience side effects.
These will generally be feelings of drowsiness and lack of energy, due to the adenosine receptors being no longer inhibited.
Generally you will find that most other stimulants affect the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine in some may, which is what gives that energizing effect.
The problem though, is that other stimulants, especially those that are chemically formulated, can leave a depletion of important bodily chemicals, causing unwanted side effects.
#2 Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, the essential ingredient for muscle growth and repair. As well as this, they play a role in near enough every function that goes on inside your body.
You can break amino acids into two groups, essential and non essential. Natural sources are normally fish, meats and dairy products. However, some exist in vegetable alternatives too.
Pre workouts normally contain amino acids as they can improve protein synthesis and also help with hormone synthesis, metabolic pathways and affect neurotransmitters.
Ever experienced a skin splitting muscle pump from a pre workout? That’s generally because of common amino acid, L-Citrulline.
This is a good example of what a pre workout does to your body, as it’s an amino acid that’s directly impacting your bodies function.
L-Citrulline in pre workout
This amino acid is converted to L-Arginine in your kidneys. L-Arginine boosts nitric oxide levels which in turn improves blood flow and gives you that vascular muscle pump feeling.
L-Citrulline naturally occurs in melons, and there are a few different forms available. The most effective being L-Citrulline DI Malate.
DI Malate means it’s got malic acid added, which works as part of your tricarboxlic cycle to produce energy.
Both muscle pumps and increased energy levels are essential byproducts of what a pre workout does to your body making this amino acid an essential one.
Pre workout for focus
We mentioned focus under one of the effects that stimulants can have on your body. But to further enhance this and even prevent against side effects, you can look at amino acids that have an impact on neurotransmitters.
L-theanine is one of the key ingredients here. Generally found in teas what L-Theanine does to your body is calm and relax it, as well as reduce anxiety.
These effects are the polar opposite to the effects on stimulants within a pre workout, which is what makes it the ideal ingredient to supplement with.
If the caffeine and stimulants in your pre workout is making you anxious and giving you jitters, L-Theanine can help calm and reduce these effects. Making you even more focused on the workout and smashing the weights.
Combining L-Theanine and Caffeine results in Smart Caffeine. For us, this is an essential component to avoiding those unwanted side effects on your body from a pre workout.
#3 Herbs, Fruits and Extracts
Another massive part of so many pre workouts is the fruits, herbs and extracts. Each can have a vastly different effect on your body.
Unlike amino acids or stimulants, the lines of what constitutes these types of ingredients and what it’s effects are.
Generally you want natural ingredients in this category that are going to amplify the stimulating effects, or improve pump and focus.
Some of these ingredients are better than others at these effects
What do key pre workout herbs and ingredients do to your body?
We will summarize some key fruits, herbs and extracts you should be looking out for in your pre workouts and their affects:
#1 Coconut Water
Essential for hydration and natural bodily functions. Coconut water powder/extract ensures a smooth and successful workout. The antioxidant properties help clean away waste produced by cells as a result of heavy exercise.
Another benefit is the high levels of potassium, which can prevent cramping.
#2 Red Beet Extract
Supported by numerous studies and even more athletes as a natural performance enhancer, red beet is high in nitrates that contribute to the overall muscle pump.
The pump leads to increased blood flow and performance.
#3 Green Tea Extract
Quite rare in pre workouts, but the amount of antioxidants and touch of caffeine in green tea means it can help with energy, focus, and keeping your body working at optimum levels.
#4 Rhodiola Rosea
Makes big improvements to soften cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can not only damage hormone levels. But, it also affect muscle growth. This ingredient is essential to help overcome the stresses of training.
#5 Green Coffee Bean (Caffeine Source)
A natural source of caffeine which effects can improve insulin resistance too. This is a great (but uncommon) ingredient look out for and is especially of use if you’re looking to shed some excess fat.
What does pre workout do to your body? – Avoiding Unwanted Side Effects
So you’ve got some idea about what pre workout does to your body after you take it. But how can you be sure you’re not buying a product that’s going to give you awful side effects? That’ll prevent your gains and see you going back to curling 4kg dumbbells?
There are a few simple checks in place.
First off you want something that’s all natural and uses a few focused ingredients in it’s dose.
Most companies will highlight scientific studies supporting the use of these natural ingredients, so keep an eye out for these.
Keep ingredients lists short
Generally, keep ingredients down to around 10, this will keep a lid on effects and means you can identify what’s causing unwanted side effects – if any occur.
Focus on getting something that ticks the 3 main functions of a pre workout. Energy, focus and pump.
Increasing strength and power is the byproduct of these supplements too. But if something says it’s blend increases testosterone, makes you better at maths, turns you into the hulk, then don’t bother.
It’s a gimmick that could see you waste your money and even experience the horrid side effects you wanted to avoid in the first place.
Simple, clean, proven is the checklist.
What does pre workout do to your body? Conclusion
With so many pre workout ingredients out there, it’s hard to give a full explanation of what each one does.
But, by sticking with a clean stimulant, focused amino acid, and few supporting extracts you can get a powerful and safe product.
Minimizing a lasting impact on your body while maximizing your performance in workouts.
Spot Me Bro’s top natural pre workouts
We have recommendations of a pre workout that causes incredible improvements to strength and performance while avoiding side effects.
This list is full of tried and tested pre workouts. If it makes us feel shitty and doesn’t perform, it doesn’t make the list. Simple.
So, if you are concerned about the question; what does a pre workout do to your body? Then follow our lead, because this list is THE best.