A typical conversation at our shop begins like this “Hey, hat is the best pre workout that you sell?” Asked by about 50% of people who enter, this question isn’t specific enough to allow for a helpful answer. Sure, we can tell you what the best selling pre workout is, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best pre workout for you!
A pre workout is not one size fits all. What works for some may not work for others. What is built for some is not built for others.
Wait, before we go any further, let’s address how our team defines a pre workout supplement.
What is a Pre Workout?
A pre workout is a powder, pill, or RTD that makes you feel stronger, lift harder, run faster, focus longer, and perform better. This is most likely a different definition than what you’ve found on the internet. At 619 Muscle, we use pre workouts as a component of our superhero building formula.
Plenty of people use a pre workout to “feel” like a superhero, but like a balloon full of air, after working out, the feeling fades away. Pre workouts are a tool, but it is not enough to get the job done. Remember this as you learn about pre workouts and which one is right for you.
What Pre Workout Should I Use?
Now, this is a better question. The best pre workout for you depends on many factors. A pre workout is such a personalized experience that you can take a pre workout quiz. They are “supposed” to help you better understand what you need.
These quizzes fall short, though, as they do not provide enough context. Nor do they include lifestyle factors into the questions being asked. For example, when you use a pre workout supplement for building muscle, your ingredient profile differs based on body composition, training style, and stimulates sensitivity.
Speaking of ingredients, let’s look at the different effects popular sports nutrition ingredients provide when packed into a pre workout powder.
Stimulants For Energy & Fat Burning
Let’s start with stimulants, since this is what most people “think” pre workout supplements are. Yes, the best pre workout supplements for most people include stimulants, but many terrible products hide their inferiority behind a jacked up feeling.
Born out of fat burner pills, as flavoring improved and more ingredients surfaced, stimulants became a part of pre workout drinks. Old school bodybuilders like us suffered painstakingly, putting down pre workouts that tastes like bitter medicine pills mixed into what was “called” a fruit punch flavor.
To this day, the taste lingers in the back of our throats, reminding us how good we have it. Dry powder scooping wasn’t a fun TikTok video to share, it was a faster way for the pre workout to take down our pre workout. The only benefit is that the horrible taste was a wake up alarm, signaling it was time for training and athletic performance.
The job of a stimulant is to increase energy production by stimulating adrenal receptors. Some have more fat burning effects than others, but all the amount of calories we burn increases when stimulants are active in our body.
Nitric Oxide Boosters
As a pre workout ingredient, pump promoting herbs and amino acids actually pre date stimulants. The pump feeling began with creatine monohydrate and its cell swelling ability. Newer ingredients like arginine and citrulline now outshine creatine by directly increasing blood flow to the muscle.
The science on nitric oxide boosting supplements for benefits in and out of the gym continues to unfold. But the benefit bodybuilders care most about is clear. We train harder when we look bigger in the mirror, and vasodilating supplements can take us from feeling like Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hulk.
Nitric oxide pre workouts give us immediate gratification. From a training standpoint, the only people who should not use nitric oxide boosters are those who need to prevent the pump. Endurance athletes, aquatic athletes, and MMA athletes find pumps interfere with performance.
Amino Acids for Strength & Muscle Endurance
Train the same and remain the same. At some point, we must get stronger for hypertrophy to continue. But we use the term strength loosely. Building muscle means getting stronger in various hypertrophy rep ranges.
Once more, we are bringing it back to the old school. Creatine monohydrate continues to be the most commonly used pre workout ingredient for increasing strength and muscular endurance. But it isn’t the only ingredient that gets the job done.
The supporting amino acid beta-alanine also helps with muscular endurance. If you’ve felt the tingle, then you know this ingredient. What most people view as the activation button signaling the time to train is actually for delaying muscular fatigue.
On the explosive strength side, we look at ingredients such as Alpha GPC, known as a nootropic (more to come on this) but also helping with anaerobic strength. Couple this with the strength boosting effects of caffeine PR’s become your destiny.
Amino Acids for Muscle Recovery
Prepare to repair! Shuttling essential aminos (including branched chain amino acids) into your muscles before and during training gives your body fuel to sustain performance and shorten recovery times. A few brands include this recovery element into their pre workouts.
Ask Pete Ciccone’s clients about the importance of essential amino acids for their brutal training sessions. They confirm it helps with exercise performance and reducing muscle soreness the days following their workout.
You may need an EAA supplement or BCAA supplement besides your personalized pre workout powder since most brands reserve this for a separate product.
Nootropics For Focus
While stimulants improve focus, too much of them leads to distraction when training. Nootropics compliment a pre workout formula by creating tunnel-like focus when you train.
What started out as smart drug alternatives for academic students has become a pre workout staple. Actually, we had nootropics in the gym well before the classroom. Ingredients like creatine have a focus effect on the brain.
But there is just too much good stuff out there to lean on creatine for being in the zone. Ingredients like lions’ mane, l-tyrosine, and alpha gpc make us feel limitless in the gym.
Questions From the Pre Workout Experts
When you step into our supplement store and ask “what is the best pre workout”, expect a series of questions to your initial question. Now understanding how a pre workout product may differ, it’s time to get personal about your pre workout drink.
What Time Do You Train?
Knowing whether you workout in the morning, afternoon, and evening helps us point you to the right pre workout. Understanding your workout timing makes sure we do not suggest a product that makes you feel dizzy when training or interrupts sleep.
Pre Workouts to Start Your Day
Training in the morning means you are in a fasted or near fasted state. Certain pre workouts make you feel funny when not having enough calories in your body.
Most people training early in the morning are not willing to shovel down a thousand calories before training. A morning pre workout needs a moderate stimulant effect that limits the amount of adrenal stimulation we feel.
If you are hardcore, and have been at this pre workout game for a while, push this advice aside. Stick with what is working for you. We promise it won’t offend us.
Pre Workouts to Pick You Back Up
Ah, the dreaded lunchtime crash. Wait, that isn’t you right? You’re not one of those people who dumps high glycemic carbohydrates down their throat in the middle of the day?
Either way, we may feel off our game when training during a lunch break or early in the afternoon. This is the perfect time for a scientific blend of stimulants and nootropics that make your workout more intense and carry you through the rest of your workday.
Nighttime Pre Workouts
There is something special about a quiet lifting space where gym rats did damage earlier in the day. The quiet iron game is a special experience that some people must have. Working out in the evening is therapeutic and is worth staying up later by those willing to sacrifice a little sleep.
But throwing back stimulants and nootropics will create a detrimental effect. Caffeine has a half life of approximately 6 hours when consumed before a workout. This means your 7pm does has 50% of the caffeine active at 1am.
And that’s just the start. Less research is available for high powered stimulants, but they most likely have this same effect.
Nootropics might seem like the solution, but the focus can lead to a post workout effect, stimulating your professional and personal interests.
If building muscle mass or burn fat is your objective, then be careful with your pm pre workout strategy. Not getting enough quality sleep limits muscle gains, stores fat, and makes us crave the wrong foods. Ouch!
How Often Do You Lift?
An appropriate training schedule isn’t what most of the new customers visiting the shop say they follow. Either they are all in training 6-7 days a week, or inconsistent, going 1-2 times per week.
You are bound to experience adrenal fatigue by using a pre workout 6-7 days per week. You need off days from stimulants so your body does not become dependent.
Our typical recommendation for all-in gym rats is using a high stim when needed and focusing on a stimulant free pre workout for workouts like arm day. If we are being honest, we only need a couple of sets of bicep curls to find the motivation we need.
For inconsistent people, they find a strong pre workout becomes a habit trigger forcing them to workout. One attempt at drinking a strong pre workout without a workout is all you need to never do that again.
Are you Doing Cardio?
Those who weight train for 4-5 days may still come back on their “off days” for cardio. O they may even return for a second session on the same day. In either scenario, you still must respect the stim.
Since San Diego calls shredded abs, we can set you up with the right cardio pre workout supplementation strategy.
A pre workout for cardio uses mild and non-stimulant ingredients that increase thermogenesis and fat metabolism. Known to make you sweat, a cardio pre workout improves fat burning effectiveness for both steady state and H.I.I.T. cardio.
How to Avoid Buying the Wrong Pre Workout
To start, purchasing based on an advertisement is a bad idea. It is the marketing department’s job to sell you their product. Their intention is to capture your attention, making you feel like their product is absolutely groundbreaking.
It’s also a bad idea to buy a pre workout from someone who does not workout. Expertise in supplementation comes through both education and experience. You’ve got to FEEL a pre workout to understand how it works. We won’t name any names here, but search YouTube for videos of commissioned sales reps from national supplement stores who are ignorant about what’s in a product.
Pre Workouts With Pixie Dust Ingredients
Many brands sprinkle the latest hyped up ingredient, hoping to make your head turn. In the supplement industry, we have witnessed these trends come and go. Once thought to be the most advanced form of creatine, the facts came out about creatine ethyl ester, clearly showing that it cost more money and provided fewer gains.
Sadly, this ingredient continues to live on in many pre workout formulas.
Under Dosed Pre Workout Drinks
Have you been around long enough to remember concentrated pre workout drinks? These micro dosed scoops were strong in stimulants but weak in every other pre workout ingredient category. Here are examples of underdosing found in mainstream pre workout powders.
- Pre workouts with one gram of creatine will be strong enough to increase muscle tissue.
- Pre workouts with one gram of citrulline malate will not be strong enough to delay muscle fatigue.
- Pre workouts with one gram of BCAA’s will not be strong enough to stimulate muscle protein synthesis
The Best Place to Buy a Pre Workout Supplement
From us, duh! Only kidding. As with any dietary supplement, buy your pre from a shop with a strong reputation and practice what they preach. A supplement store with competitive pricing but without incredible customer service.
The Most Hardcore Supplement Store in San Diego
Since 2006, 619 Muscle has been serving customers the best supplements in the industry. While we are local to San Diego, we offer expert advice and hardcore supplements all over the globe. Call us and our team of supplement experts will find the right pre workout to support muscle growth, fat loss, or athletic performance needs.