Pre-Workout: Not Just for Meatheads

When I first started working out, the thought of taking pre-workout was really scary.  I didn’t understand what it was and I didn’t think I was enough of a gym rat to need it.  I was also proud that I could get through my workouts without extra help.  I had also heard of the scary side effects – like heart racing and jitters – and thought I could do without.

It started with one girl on my roller derby team.  Someone brought back Spark for us to try before a game, and it worked like magic.  Not only were we not getting tired over the course of the game, we were actually playing harder.  I decided to give it a try during my workouts alone, and I loved it.  I had mental focus in the gym and was able to push through some intense workouts after a long day at school.  My lifts went up, and I even had energy to do cardio afterwards.

For a basic run-down on what pre-workout is, check out the infographic I made below:



Some people will ask why you can’t just drink coffee.  You absolutely can, if all you need is more energy!  You might need a few cups to get enough since each cup is only 75 mg, but it’s cheap and works just as well.  You can also just take caffeine pills which cuts down on the volume of liquids you’ll have to drink and is much easier to carry around.

In the DIY pre-workout recipe, I listed the following in adding to caffeine (links to

For an in-depth discussion on creatine, check out my previous blog post.  In short, it will increase your muscular endurance and power output.

L-Citrulline is an amino acid which helps with reduced fatigue and improved endurance for both aerobic and anaerobic prolonged exercise.  It plays a role in ammonia metabolism, turning into arginine, which in turn increases the amount of nitric oxide.  Increasing levels of nitric oxide helps increase blood flow, helping you move blood into the muscles and getting that ‘pump’.  Malate plays a key role in the Krebs cycle (how your body turns glucose into ATP, a form of cellular energy).  Combining the two in a 2:1 (two parts L-citrulline with one part DL-malate) works synergistically in producing cellular energy.

Taurine, an acid supplemented in many energy drinks, also increases blood flow without increasing blood pressure.  It is commonly used to help prevent cramping, and also contributes to the ‘pump’ effect.

Beta-alanine is well known for giving you the ‘tingles,’ a harmless side effect.  It is an amino acid that turns into the molecule carnosine, which acts as an acid buffer in the body.  Carnosine is stored in cells and released in response to drops in pH.  This helps stave off the effects of lactic acid build up in the muscles, allowing you to push for one more rep or one more mile.

These ingredients are not just for men.  I know the packaging can be very masculine and sometimes off-putting, but the ones marketed for women also have the same ingredients.  Don’t pay more for pink products!

If you get these ingredients in bulk, it can be fairly cheap to make on your own.

However, if you like convenience and the ability to pick and choose from a ton of flavors, here are my tried-and-true recommendations:

Beginner pre-workout: C4 Blue Razz (150 mg caffeine)
Intermediate pre-workout: Lumberjacked Pink Lemonade (225 mg caffeine)
Strong pre-workout: Mr. Hyde Green Apple (300 mg caffeine)

The pre-mixed powders are convenient and often pretty tasty.  These are also zero calories (some have added sugars, which may not be suitable for your needs, especially if you’re doing fasted cardio).

Do y’all have any other supplements you’d like for me to discuss or review?  Let me know in the comments below or use the contact form!


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