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What’s in your Pre Workout? Components of Pre Workout Mixes

Are you trying to get that extra edge in the gym? A pre workout mix is a great means of supplementation to add energy and focus to your lifts.  Unfortunately, many supplements out there low-ball dosages, or skip vital components entirely in their “energy blends”.  Today, I am going to take you through some of the integral ingredients for a pre-workout mix; what they do, and how much you need. By the end of this, YOU will be informed, and YOU will be able to evaluate every pre workout product on the market ensuring that you are getting the most out of your product.  You may even want to create your own!

By Justin Schwartz

The first ingredient on the list is L-Citrulline. L-Citrulline is going to give you that “pump” you desire in the gym. The amino acid L-Citrulline metabolizes in the liver into the amino acid L-Arginine.  L-Arginine is further broken down by the enzyme Nitric Oxide Synthase to produce Nitric Oxide (NO).  Nitric Oxide provides huge benefits due to its’ influence on vasodilation.

Vasodilation is the relaxation of smooth muscle cells in the walls of blood vessels enabling them to open up wider, allowing more blood flow. The increase in blood flow due to the vasodilation leads to more oxygen and nutrients transferred to the muscles being worked.

Are you looking for that extra pick-me-up for your workout?  Don’t forget the importance of caffeine. Research has shown that caffeine provides increased energy allowing athletes to work out at higher intensities for longer periods of time.  We all know how grueling long training sessions can get. Remember to check that your pre workout mix has sufficient amounts of caffeine to ensure that your mental fatigue doesn’t lead to muscular fatigue!

Next on the list is Beta-Alanine (AKA the supplement that causes people to get that “tingling feeling” in the gym).  Yeah, although we’ve all heard of it, what does it do? After consumption, Beta-Alanine is transported to the muscle tissue where it reacts with the amino acid L-Histidine (His, H) to form Carnosine.   

It is no surprise that L-Histidine is utilized here.  L-Histidine is a positively-charged, basic proteinogenic amino acid.   It has a pka value (a measure of acid/base) near that of physiological pH. This allows L-Histidine to act as both a proton donor and acceptor at cellular pH conditions, making it a very effective buffer.  The pH is simply a means of quantifying the hydrogen ion concentration in an aqueous solution to determine how acidic or basic a solution is.  Simply, the more H+ concentration in the aqueous solution, the more acidic it is.

The goal of supplementing Beta-Alanine is to increase muscle concentrations of Carnosine, where it works as a physiological buffer. When you work out, the increase in H+ concentration in the muscles causes the intramuscular pH to drop. Research suggests that this decrease in intramuscular pH (increased acidity) is what results in muscular fatigue. Carnosine, however, provides a buffer in which small changes in H+ concentration are less significant.  This allows a delay in muscle fatigue by reducing the acidity in the muscles being exercised.

What would a pre workout mix be without the most highly studied supplement there is? Next up is Creatine Monohydrate. Research has shown that oral Creatine supplementation, when paired with heavy resistance training, leads to a significant increase in exercise performance, as well as an increase in fat-free mass. If you are looking for a great detailed read on Creatine monohydrate, I suggest taking a glance here:

Last on my list of pre-workout mix necessities are Branched-Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs. The BCAAs are comprised of three proteinogenic amino acids that fall in the nonpolar, aliphatic category: L-Leucine (Leu, L), L-Isoleucine (Ile, I), and L-Valine (Val, V). These amino acids help to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, as well as prevent the breakdown of muscle during exercise.

Research suggests the following as the clinically effective dosages for each of the above listed ingredients to improve athletic performance:

L-Citrulline: 3-5g

Caffeine: Less than or equal to 3 mg/kg body mass, (or about 200 mg)

Beta-Alanine: 3-6g per day.  However, note that the higher the dosage, the more likely you are to experience the feelings of paresthesia (the tingling feeling associated with beta alanine consumption). Research suggests that you should be able to avoid such side effects if your maximum Beta Alanine consumption is less than 10mg/kg of body weight

Creatine Monohydrate: 2-5g

BCAAs: 100mg/kg of body mass in a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine to Isoleucine to Valine

When it comes to buying and mixing these ingredients into your very own pre workout mix, it should be noted that L-Citrulline tends to have a metallic taste. If you need to add some flavoring, I recommend one of the following:

Add some Gatorade powder to your pre workout for an extra boost of carbohydrates and some added flavor.

Mix all of your ingredients with some whey protein powder for an effective pre workout snack.

References Beta-alanine as a sport supplement. (2017). human-kinetics. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. (2017). Retrieved 8 October 2017, from Culbertson, J., Kreider, R., Greenwood, M., & Cooke, M. (2010). Effects of Beta-Alanine on Muscle Carnosine and Exercise Performance: A Review of the Current Literature. Nutrients, 2(1), 75-98. Frank, K., Patel, K., Lopez, G., & Willis, B. (2017). Branched Chain Amino Acids Research Analysis. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from Frank, K., Patel, K., Lopez, G., & Willis, B. (2017). Citrulline Research Analysis. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from Graham, T. (2001). Caffeine and Exercise. Sports Medicine, 31(11), 785-807. Khatri, MD, M. (2017). An Overview of Creatine. WebMD. Retrieved 8 October 2017, from Nitric Oxide | Michigan Medicine. (2017). Retrieved 8 October 2017, from Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., & Bajotto, G. et al. (2010). Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation before Squat Exercise and Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition And Exercise Metabolism, 20(3), 236-244. Spriet, L. (2014). Exercise and Sport Performance with Low Doses of Caffeine. Sports Medicine, 44(S2), 175-184.
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