A growing number of gym-goers and serious athletes rely on pre-workout supplements to give them a boost before training and optimise their performance.

These products are specially formulated to supply both your hard-working body and your mind with a blend of effective ingredients and other nutrients that can enhance your workout.

More energy delivered with every heartbeat

The primary function of most pre-workout supplements is to increase blood flow to working muscles, which they achieve by dilating blood vessels.

This happens when the amino acid L-arginine is converted into the vasodilator, nitric oxide (N.O.). Effective pre-workout supplements will, therefore, often contain L-arginine and/or its derivatives, such as L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG).

By increasing the size of the delivery ‘pipe’, these products enhance muscle pumps and supply more blood and a flood of nutrients such as oxygen, glucose, amino acids and creatine to working muscles, which they can then use for energy.

Dilated blood vessels also help to more effectively remove the exercise metabolites and by-products that working muscle muscles create during exercise, which may improve endurance and recovery between sets.

Train to a different beet

There are also other ingredients that can increase N.O. levels, which supplement manufacturers are increasingly including in their formulations. For example, Beta Vulgarus L, the supplemental form of beetroot extract, has been shown to have an N.O.-boosting effect and can enhance exercise endurance, power output and reduce fatigue.

Citrulline malate is another substance that can elevate arginine and NO levels, which dilates blood vessels to boost the delivery of nutrients to working muscles, and clears away metabolic waste more effectively, while also extending time to fatigue.

Packs a prodigious performance punch

Well-formulated pre-workout supplements can also deliver increased strength and energy with a combination of effective functional ingredients that will get you through the most gruelling workouts.

There are also products available that contain creatine, beta-alanine, L-carnitine, caffeine and other stimulants, which offer additional benefits to deliver an energy surge as you enter the gym and the strength to keep knocking out rep after rep deep into your workout.

There’s also a brain-boosting benefit

Many pre-workout supplements contain substances that enhance focus and concentration, which can deliver a performance benefit. Substances such as citrus aurantium, L-tyrosine and caffeine help to improve mental focus and reduce the perception of fatigue during training.

Limit muscle loss, promote serious gains

Many modern pre-workouts are also formulated to help limit muscle breakdown (catabolism), enhance tissue repair and aid recovery through increased protein synthesis, and create an optimal hormonal environment for muscle growth during training.

That’s why many products today contain a source of carbohydrates and protein – often in the form of essential or branched chain amino acids – which help to prime your body for anabolism before you start working out.

Other highly bioavailable ingredients that may be included in pre-workouts to help to limit muscle breakdown during training and boost tissue repair and recovery after training include HMB, L-leucine, L-arginine and L-glutamine.

When to take your pre-workout for maximum effect

It’s clear that anyone who wants to benefit from vastly improved workout performances can increase mental alertness, boost physical energy levels, enhance strength and improve intra-workout recovery with a well-formulated pre-workout supplement.

It’s always best to stick to label recommendations on dosing and timing, but most products are best taken 20-30 minutes prior to training for optimal results. So drink up, power up and demolish that session!