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The 7 best pre-workout supplements

Die 7 besten Pre-Workout Supplements

Many people find it difficult to become or remain active. A lack of energy is a common reason for this. To get that extra boost of energy for their workout, many people use a pre-workout supplement. There is a huge variety of different pre-workout products on the market today, all containing a variety of different ingredients. The variety of products and ingredients can be confusing even for experienced exercisers.

This article will look at the most important and widely used ingredients in pre-workout products and help you understand what to expect from which ingredients and which ingredients are best suited to your individual needs.

It depends on the type of training you do

When considering the use of a pre-workout product, it's important to think about your goals and the type of training you want to do.

Typically, individual ingredients found in pre-workout products will only improve certain aspects of training performance. Some ingredients might increase strength or speed, while others might increase your endurance.

Each of the ingredients described below targets a specific type of workout. Knowing which ingredients are best for certain types of training will help you find the pre-workout supplement that is best for you.

Here are 7 of the most important ingredients to look for in pre-workout supplements.

1. creatine

Creatine is a molecule that is found in your cells. In addition to this, it is also a very popular supplement. Most scientists consider creatine to be the number one supplement for increasing strength and speed (1). Scientific research has shown that creatine can increase muscle mass, strength and training performance in a safe and harmless way (1, 2, 3).

Studies report that strength gains from weight training are 5 to 10% higher than average when creatine is taken as a supplement (2, 3, 4). This is probably due to the fact that creatine is an important part of the system responsible for energy production in the cell (5).

When your muscles have more energy during exercise, you can perform better and see greater improvements over time.

If you want to increase your muscle strength, creatine is probably the first supplement you should consider using. The recommended dosage starts with a so-called loading phase, during which 20 grams of creatine are taken in several smaller doses throughout the day. After this loading phase, which usually lasts 5 days, the typical maintenance dose is 3 to 5 grams per day (6).

2. caffeine

Caffeine is a natural molecule found in coffee, tea and other foods and beverages. Caffeine stimulates certain areas of the brain to increase alertness and make you more awake (7). It is also a very popular ingredient in pre-workout supplements.

Caffeine can improve several aspects of exercise performance. It can increase power release and the ability to develop strength quickly. This applies to different types of training including sprinting, weight training and cycling (8, 9, 10).

Studies have also shown that caffeine can enhance performance during long-duration endurance events such as long-distance running, as well as intermittent effort activities such as soccer (10).

Based on many studies, the recommended dose of caffeine for performance enhancement is 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight (10). For a person weighing 68 kilograms, this would be around 200 to 400 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine is considered safe and harmless at these doses and the suspected toxic dose is much higher at around 20 to 40 mg per kilogram of body weight (11). However, doses as low as 9 mg per kilogram of body weight can cause side effects such as sweating, trembling, dizziness and vomiting (10).

Caffeine can cause a brief increase in blood pressure and may promote restlessness, but does not typically cause an irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia (10, 12).

People react differently to varying amounts of caffeine, so it's best to start with a low dose and see how you respond to that dose. In addition to this, it is best to limit caffeine consumption to the earlier part of the day to prevent sleep disturbances.

3. beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps to delay muscle fatigue. When acids begin to build up in the body during exercise, beta-alanine helps to combat muscle acidosis (13).

Taking beta-alanine increases the concentration of this amino acid and the natural acid buffer carnosine in the body and can increase training performance. This supplement can specifically help to boost performance during intense efforts lasting from one to four minutes (14). However, it is probably not as effective when it comes to boosting performance during efforts lasting less than one minute.

Some research shows that beta-alanine can be effective in long-term endurance training, but the effects are less than for efforts lasting one to four minutes (13, 14).

The recommended dosage for increasing training performance is 4 to 6 grams, whereby daily intake is also recommended on non-training days (13).

Based on the available scientific studies, this dosage is safe and harmless. The only known side effect is a tingling sensation under the skin after taking higher doses.

4. citrulline

Citrulline is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body. However, consuming citrulline in the form of food or supplements can also increase citrulline levels in the body. These increased levels can have positive effects on training performance.

One of the effects of citrulline is to increase blood flow to the various tissues of the body (15). In the context of training, this can help provide your exercising muscles with the oxygen and nutrients they need to function well.

One study showed that cyclists were able to cycle around 12% longer before fatigue occurred when taking citrulline compared to the placebo group (16). Another study investigated the effects of citrulline on exercise performance during upper body training with weights. The study participants performed about 53% more repetitions after taking citrulline than members of the placebo group (17). Taking citrulline also significantly reduced muscle soreness on the days after training.

There are two main forms of citrulline supplements and the recommended dosage depends on the citrulline form you are using. Most endurance studies have used L-citrulline, while most weight training studies have used citrulline malate. One dosage recommendation is 6 grams of L-citrulline or 8 grams of citrulline malate (16, 17).

Citrulline supplements appear to be safe and harmless and have no significant side effects even at doses of 15 grams.

5 Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

Many people are surprised when they hear that this common household product can also be used as a sports supplement. Bicarbonate of soda acts as a buffer, which means that it can help prevent the accumulation of acids in the body.

In the context of exercise, baking soda can help reduce fatigue during exercise, which is characterized by the characteristic burning sensation in the muscles. This muscle burning is an indicator that acid production is increased due to the intensity of the workout.

Many studies have shown that sodium bicarbonate may provide benefits during intense efforts such as running, cycling and repeated sprints (19, 20, 21). There is limited data on the effects during prolonged activity, but one study found that sodium bicarbonate was able to increase power release during a 60-minute cycle ergometer performance test (22).

However, the primary benefits of this supplement are likely to be focused on intense activities characterized by muscle burning.

The optimal dosage for increasing exercise performance is about 300 mg per kilogram of body weight (23). For a 68 kilogram person, this would be about 20 grams.

Sodium bicarbonate is available in health food stores and as a sports supplement. A common side effect is stomach problems after taking it. You can prevent these side effects by taking it more slowly or dividing the total dose into several individual doses.

If you need to control or reduce your salt or sodium intake, you should discuss the use of baking soda with your doctor. The recommended dosage provides a substantial amount of sodium, so it may not be a good idea for people who need to reduce their sodium intake.


The branched-chain amino acids - BCAAs for short - comprise the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids are found in large quantities in many protein-containing products - especially animal products.

Although BCAAs are commonly consumed for their purported muscle-building effects, they are less effective in this regard than whole proteins (24, 25). The high quality protein found in dairy products, eggs and meat usually already provides sufficient amounts of BCAAs to support muscle building and it also contains all the other amino acids your body needs.

However, taking a BCAA supplement still has a number of potential benefits. Some research has shown that BCAA supplements can increase endurance performance in sports such as racing (26, 27). One study conducted on marathon runners reported that the benefits were greater in slower runners than in faster runners (26).

Other studies have shown that BCAA supplements may reduce mental and physical fatigue (27, 28). In addition, some studies show that these supplements can reduce muscle soreness after running and weight training (29, 30).

Despite all these positive study results, the overall study situation on the benefits of BCAA supplements is mixed. Due to the possibility that these supplements may improve endurance performance and reduce fatigue, BCAAs may be a useful part of pre-workout supplementation for some individuals.

Dosages of BCAAs range from 5 to 20 grams. The ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine varies depending on the product, but a 2:1:1 ratio is common.

Many people consume BCAAs daily through natural foods, which is why BCAA supplements in typical dosages are generally considered safe and harmless.

7 Nitrate

Nitrate is a molecule found in vegetables such as spinach, beets and beet (31). Small amounts are also produced naturally by the body.

Nitrate may be useful for enhancing exercise performance as it can be converted in the body into a molecule called nitric oxide, which can increase blood flow (32).

Nitrate consumed as a sports supplement often comes from beetroot or beet juice. Nitrate may also enhance exercise performance by reducing the amount of oxygen needed during exercise (33, 34).

Studies have shown that beet juice can increase the time to exhaustion in runners during a 5 km run and also increase speed (33, 35). There is also some evidence that nitrate can reduce perceived exertion during running (35). So all in all, it may make sense to consider this supplement if you are doing endurance activities such as running or cycling.

The optimal dosage is probably 6 to 13 mg of nitrate per kilogram of body weight, which would be about 400 to 900 mg for a 68-kilogram person (36).

Scientists believe that nitrates from vegetables such as beet are safe and harmless (37). However, more research is needed to determine the safety of long-term nitrate use.

Should you buy ready-made pre-workout supplements or make your own pre-workout supplement?

If you want to use pre-workout supplements, you can either buy a ready-made product or make your own from individual ingredients. Here are the pros and cons of both approaches.

Ready-made pre-workout products

If you want to buy a ready-made pre-workout supplement, you will find a huge range of products from a variety of suppliers. It should be noted that products with the same ingredients from different manufacturers may contain different amounts of the individual ingredients.

These dosages are not always broken down exactly and are often not based on scientific studies. In addition, many individual ingredients and combinations of ingredients are not supported by scientific research.

This does not mean that you should never buy a ready-made pre-workout product, just that you should look carefully at the ingredients and dosages on the label. Some products also contain proprietary blends that disguise the dosages of the ingredients. This means that you don't know exactly what you are actually ingesting, so it is best to avoid such products.

You can also check whether a supplement has been tested by an independent laboratory. If this is the case, the product will usually have the logo of this organization on the label.

Making your own pre-workout supplement

Another option is to make your own supplement. Although this may seem cumbersome at first, you can ensure that you only consume the ingredients you need for your needs and goals.

To create your own pre-workout supplement, simply buy the individual ingredients you need. As a starting point, you can begin with the ingredients described in this article and select the ingredients that suit your type of training.

If you make up your own product, you can also experiment with different dosages of each ingredient to find out what works best for you.

It is quite easy to find the ingredients described in this article on the internet. If you buy larger quantities of these, you could even save some money in the long run. If the idea of making up your own product doesn't appeal to you, then you should take a close look at the labels of the products on your shortlist and compare the ingredients and dosages with the science-based information in this article.

The bottom line

Even though the individual ingredients of pre-workout supplements have been extensively scientifically studied, most of the pre-made combinations available on the market have not yet been scientifically evaluated. However, based on the information in this article, you now know some of the main ingredients to look for.

When it comes to longer duration endurance activities, you may be able to boost your performance through the use of caffeine, nitrate and BCAAs.

When it comes to shorter duration, intense efforts that result in muscle burning, beta-alanine, sodium bicarbonate, caffeine and citrulline may be helpful.

To perform at your best during strength and speed training, such as training with weights, you can try creatine, caffeine and citrulline.

Of course, for some types of training and certain sports, a combination of the above can be useful. In these cases, it makes sense to experiment with ingredients from different categories to find out what works best for you.

You can either choose to create your own pre-workout supplement using some of the ingredients in this article or buy a ready-made combination product.

Whichever you choose, knowing which ingredients are best for which types of training will give you a good starting point to perform at your best.




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