Chasing purple dragons; Why are you really using that pre workout and what should you actually be looking for? Posted on 28 Feb 11:07

Whats the STRONGEST?!
Which one will make be buzz my tits off mate?
Have you got anything that's like the old Jack3d?



Sound familiar? It might do or it might not, but these are the most common lines of enquiry when people are asking about pre-workouts. Very rarely will someone open with a question along the lines of:

Which one will offer me the best performance improvement?
I'm looking to get more of a pump?
Which products have the full amount of the clinically studied doses of the active ingredients used?

But the above questions should be our primary concern when looking for our next purchase, especially considering that after protein, pre workouts are usually most people's second priority when buying supplements.

The reason (in my humble opinion) is because people are still looking for that Jack3d ‘Buzz’, but I have news for you guys, it's not gonna happen!

Jack3d and its clones of the day, despite many of us having had some epic sessions on it, was banned for a reason. The 1,3 dimm that gave it such a kick was an amphetamine which caused over reliance, heart irregularities and excessive chatting when you were supposed to be benching. The point is, those days are gone and there is no legal, safe OTC product that will give you the same buzz.

So what should you be looking for?

Most pre workouts on the market now fall in to (or somewhere between) three distinct categories. I’m going to avoid naming individual products as they change formulations so often.

The high stimulant. (A.k.a 'High Stim')
Because of the limited range of ingredients that are now available to manufacturers this normally just means somewhere in the region of 500mg of caffeine and some token ingredients that sound good on the label but are often lacking in a ‘proper’ dose. These products are attempting to replicate that Jack3d buzz and may be suitable to people who work long physical jobs, but they are unlikely to yield any benefits for your physique or performance over and above ten Proplus tablets!

The Pump product.
Often containing high doses of things like Argnine, L Citraline, less caffeine (as this can have a vasoconstrictive effect) these product can be good but often require multiple scoops to work effectively.

The Focus product.
This is a relatively new type of pre workout, often creatine free and containing things designed to improve mind to muscle connection. I personally really enjoy these products but you have to already be in the right frame of mind to get the benefit from them.

Which ever type of product you feel would work best for you is an individual choice, I would never suggest that one brand is intrinsically better than the other as ultimately it comes down to the ingredients and doseing. What I will do is list some ingredients you should be looking for, what they do and the amount you would hope to see in a product in order to get a ‘real world effect’.
Sometimes you'll see the phrase ‘proprietary blend’ used on products. What this means is the manufacturer is just giving you a list of the individual ingredients (but not their amounts) but the total amount of all the active substances (caffiene, creatine etc.) within the whole blend. Often this allows them to put in more of the cheap ingredients but with claims it is to protect there top secret formula! Using these products comes down to whether you trust the manufacture and ultimately often just giving the product a try.

Caffeine:
Almost every pre workout contains caffeine, it's the single most used and abused stimulant in the world! It is clinically proven to increase performance, of that there can be no doubt, however over reliance on it should be avoided.

I aim for around 250mg per serving but this is a personal thing, many people tolerate up to 500mg quite well. I would always avoid going beyond that point as there is definitely a point at which it becomes counter productive, often causing nausea, dizziness and so on.

L-Arginine:
An Amino acid which is a precursor to the production of nitric oxide in the blood - that gives you that pump! 3g plus would be what I would personally look for.

Creatine:
There are many different types of creatine on the market now. There are few supplements that have been studied in as much depth and repeatedly been proven to be safe and effective. I personally get on fine with plain old creatine mono but other options are out there such as Creatine HCL, EE, Krealkaline etc, the dosing for them all is slightly different. The two most common in pre workouts are monohydrate and HCL. Personally I notice little difference using it in a pre workout product over having it dosed daily in the morning, that said many people appreciate the convenience of having it in their pre workout.
With this in mind aim for 5g of creatine mono or 750mg of creatine HCL.

Beta Alanine:
The 'TINGLES!' that many people now associate with their preworkout ‘kicking in’ is actually just a curious little side effect of Beta Alanine. It works by preventing the build up of lactic acid in the working muscle, allowing you to push more reps for longer. It is actually best used daily for maximum effect so I would suggest getting a stand alone supplement for non training days.
1g will usually cause the tingling sensation in most people, but 2-3g is a more useful amount to get the best results.

Taurine:
Made famous by Red Bull, an urban legend would have you believe it is an extracted form of bull semen! This is not the case, but taurine is essential in prevention of cramps, regulation of heart rhythms and the hydration of muscle tissue. Anything over 2g is perfectly acceptable.

Glucuronlactone:
A metabolite of glucose, shown to increase focus, alertness and mood improvement. Effects can be noted above 500mg but 1g is where the magic starts. I do find some people don’t respond drastically to this ingredient, but for those who it really works for tunnel vision and a feeling of being extremely ‘zoned in’ are the usual comments.

Citruline Malate:
A combination of Amino Citruline and salt malate, responsible for huge pumps and vascularity by increasing blood flow, 2-4g is plenty.

BCAA’s:
Not essential in a pre workout and often used as a filler, but as long as its not taking away from the quantities of the other ingredients then they can certainly have their place. Assisting with recovery, energy production and preventing catabolism, 5-20g is a nice place to be.

There are lots and lots of other bits and bobs you may well find in pre workouts, new ingredients appear all the time. My general advice regardless of the type of product you feel you need would be do some research. See what amounts of active ingredients are required to get a real world effect before getting all carried away at the inclusion of a wonderful new ingredient. Then, if it all looks to be good, get your pump on!

Richard Foster
Pump’a’holic.