We all need an energy boost now and then. Low energy levels from a bad night’s sleep, a low-calorie diet, or just the rush of life can make the most simple activities seem strenuous, but you need to find the energy to get through your normal day and still train.
Thankfully, numerous supplements are specially formulated with a combination of effective active ingredients that can deliver an immediate burst of energy and fight fatigue when you need a lift.
Stimulants enhance alertness and wakefulness, improve your mood, boost energy levels and endurance, and help reduce feelings of perceived effort.
A popular go-to when looking for a quick energy boost is a stimulant like caffeine – it is ubiquitous and available in various forms from supplements, energy drinks or even a strong cup of coffee.
When used correctly, caffeine is a proven performance-enhancing aid and a trusted energy booster. Caffeine exerts its effects by stimulating the central nervous system and releases adrenalin.
Caffeine also increases the efficiency with which the body metabolises fat for fuel, which can spare finite muscle glycogen reserves. This glycogen-sparing effect can boost endurance and leaves more of this high-octane fuel available for hard efforts during training.
Research shows that caffeine’s combined effects can increase time to exhaustion by as much as 18%, and increase exercise intensity by up to 24%.
You can find caffeine in various supplemental forms, including products that combine caffeine with other ingredients, like a thermogenic fat burner, energy drink or pre-workout supplement.
Other common and widely available stimulants include green tea extract, guarana, yerba mate, or ginseng, among others.
When to take it: Many of these substances are quick-acting, which provide an immediate boost before training or periodically throughout the day as needed.
As the name suggests, energy drinks provide a source of energy usually with a combination of various ingredients.
For example, products like Primal Energy Force Misty White Sugar-Free contains the amino acid taurine, which works synergistically with the stimulant caffeine to boost mental and physical energy.
You’ll likely also find other stimulants in the formulation like ginseng, which is a potent natural ingredient used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine.
Ginseng can improve cognitive function, concentration and memory, enhances work efficiency and output, and boosts stamina and endurance.
You’ll also find L-Carnitine Tartrate on the Primal Energy Force Misty White ingredient list, which offers an additional metabolic boost by improving fat metabolism, as does caffeine.
And many energy drinks include B complex vitamins, which play vital roles in energy production processes. For instance, vitamins B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid) are vital for optimal carbohydrate metabolism, while your body needs vitamins B6 and B12 to produce energy from fats and proteins.
When to drink it: Depending on the formulation, it generally takes 10-20 minutes for the active ingredients in an energy drink to have an effect. Always follow label recommendations as these are specific to the product you’ve selected. This high bioavailability makes energy drinks another ideal option for a quick pick-me-up whenever you need it throughout the day.
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A concentrated pre-workout is the ideal product to deliver explosive and sustained energy before hard exercise sessions.
Most pre-workout supplements contain energy-boosting stimulants to help increase workout intensity, focus and endurance.
Many products also contain compounds that boost the efficiency with which you body convert stored fat into useable energy.
Including nitric oxide (N.O)-boosting compounds in the formulation dilates blood vessels. This effect improves circulation to transport ingested nutrients (oxygen, glycogen and free fatty acids) and active ingredients to working muscles (and your brain) for energy.
Your body naturally converts the amino acid L-arginine into N.O, which is why most effective pre-workout supplements contain arginine and/or its derivatives, such as arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG).
Dilated blood vessels also help to more effectively remove the exercise metabolites and by-products that working muscles generate during intense training. This may improve endurance and recovery between sets, and pushes out the point when your muscles fatigue.
Many pre-workout supplements also contain substances that enhance focus and concentration, like caffeine and other stimulants, which can deliver mental and psychological performance benefits. Additional ingredients such as citrus aurantium and L-tyrosine may help to improve mental focus and reduce perceived effort during training.
For example, the potent formulation used to create Biogen RAGE Energy includes multi-stage release caffeine for immediate and sustained energy; nicotinic acids, which contribute to the reduction of fatigue; vitamin B6, which is necessary for normal protein metabolism; and folic acid, which contributes to normal amino acid synthesis and helps with energy production.
And most formulations today contain additional ingredients such as amino acids, which aid recovery and support lean muscle gains.
When to take them: Always stick to label recommendations related to dosing and timing. Most products are best taken 20-30 minutes prior to training for optimal results.
Beware double dosing
As supplement manufacturers commonly use similar ingredients across energy drink, pre-workout and thermogenic fat burner formulations, it is important to remain mindful of double-dosing on these potent stimulants.
Consuming stimulants in excess can actually detract from your performance by over-stimulating your nervous system. There are also more severe potential consequences to consider, such as jitters or adrenal fatigue if you continue to unwittingly consume these compounds in excess.