WHY YOUR PRE WORKOUT ISN’T WORKING ANYMORE
Your old pre workout used to make you train like an absolute machine, but now it leaves you feeling flat and empty.
What’s going on?!
Have you “adapted” to it? Do you need to buy a stronger pre workout now?
Well, before you do any of that I want you to look at the TWO things below…
MAYBE IT SUCKS
Hey, it’s possible.
The supplement industry is shady as f**k, and companies often release poor products which over-promise and under-deliver, so there’s a chance your pre was never good enough for you in the first place.
So let’s take a look at this first.
The easiest way to tell if you have a good pre workout is to flip the tub around and look at the ingredient list. If there’s NOT a list on the back of the tub (i.e. they’ve hidden the dosages behind a proprietary blend) then I can 100% guarantee your current pre workout sucks, because there’s no other reason for a company to do this.
But let’s say you CAN see the ingredients.
Here are the clinical doses for each main ingredient you’ll find in a good pre workout supplement:
- Citrulline Malate
Citrulline malate is responsible for increasing blood flow to working muscles, and can lead to faster recovery between sets, improved performance, and better pumps. A clinical dose is 6 grams, but we can go as high as 10 grams if we really want to “max out” the pump aspect. This post will teach you all about this ingredient. (1, 2)
Beta-alanine can help buffer against the build-up of waste product (metabolites) while you train, leading to more repetitions before muscle failure. This is a good thing, because it means you can force out more reps and build more muscle. A clinical dose is 3.2 grams, which can be split into two across the day if you prefer. (3, 4)
Betaine is somewhat of an unsung hero, but it can separate a good pre workout from a great pre workout when it is used correctly. Continuous supplementation will lead to improvements in explosive strength (that’s why it’s very popular with sprinters), faster recovery between sets, and endurance. A clinical dose is 2.5 grams. (5, 6, 7)
Your need for caffeine in a pre workout largely depends upon your tolerance level. If you’d prefer to skip this one, there are a good number of stim-free pre workout options available which will do the job. However, if you’d like to unlock the training benefits of caffeine (greater energy output, increased focus, improved strength) and can handle it without going nuts, you’ll be looking for a clinical dose between 200mg-400mg, the top end representing the maximum you’ll ever need. (8)
Anyway, these are the “key players” in your pre workout. Supplement companies love to add extra ingredients, some of which are pointless (niacin, agmatine sulfate) and some of which are downright counter-productive (BCAAs, taurine), but the selection above will have the greatest impact on your performance in the gym.
Looking at the formula on your tub you’ll be able to see if it ticks all of the boxes above.
If it does, you should stick with it. You’ll see why in a moment.
If it doesn’t, you should cut your losses and change to a better product. I’ll give you some suggestions at the bottom of this page.
ADAPTATION TO CAFFEINE AND BETA-ALANINE IS NORMAL
When people say their pre workout doesn’t work anymore, they are usually referring to these two ingredients in particular.
Because either the product isn’t giving them the same energy kick it used to (caffeine), or the product isn’t giving them the skin-crawling sensation it did upon first use (beta-alanine).
Here’s the thing…
… this is perfectly normal!
Providing your current pre workout contains proper doses of both ingredients you shouldn’t worry about it. You see, your tolerance towards caffeine will build relatively quickly (think of your friend at work who can handle 10 cups of Joe each day), and this will leave you needing a higher dose in order to achieve the desired energy/focus benefits. So perhaps you could swap your existing pre workout for one which takes you from 200mg to 300mg, or 300mg to 400mg, but eventually you’ll hit a ceiling where it’s not worth going any higher. I mean, there are no additional training benefits from going way up to 500mg, 600mg, or 700mg, but there are certainly risks.
If you’d like to decrease your tolerance I recommend swapping to a stim-free pre workout every 3 months. This allows you to continue reaping the full benefits of the other key ingredients, while giving you a break from caffeine. When you re-introduce it, you’ll feel it much more at a lower dose.
Now let’s discuss beta-alanine.
Most lifters think this ingredient is no longer effective when they’re not getting that skin-crawling effect from taking it. This is not true. Parasthesia (science name) is just a superficial side effect of beta-alanine, and you will only notice it for the first few weeks. However, as long as you’re getting 3.2 grams of beta-alanine each day you are still getting the full training benefits it offers – regardless if you feel tingly.
The reason I mention this is because people often wind up double scooping, or even triple scooping their pre workout in the hope of re-experiencing the feeling they got the first time they used it. It doesn’t work that way. That approach often leads people down a dark path of looking for “hardcore” pre workouts which promise to blow your head clean off when, in reality, all good muscle building pre workouts are based around the 5 ingredients you see above.
These so-called “hardcore” pre workouts usually rely on untested exotic stimulants as part of the formula.
Some of these offer useful training benefits (Eria Jarensis, Rhodiola rosea), but they do not have sufficient research to document their safety for human consumption and, as such, USADA generally drops the ban hammer on most exotic stimulants as soon as they become popular.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the read. If your pre workout is not performing like it used to, use the information above to decide whether it’s because it sucks or because you’ve adapted to caffeine and beta-alanine.
If it’s the latter, you do NOT need to switch to a new product (although maybe go stim-free for a while).
If you’ve looked at your tub and noticed it’s not providing you with effective doses of each key ingredient, you’ll want to throw it straight in the bin.
Unfortunately, the pre workout marketplace is littered with f**king awful supplements which rely solely on caffeine, but as you can see, there’s a lot more that goes in to making a high quality pre workout!
Heres my ‘go to’ list if you need a new one:
- REDCON1 TOTAL WAR
- PRE JYM
- AML PRE WORKOUT
- Or read my guide on how to make your own pre workout from scratch
Until next time, happy lifting!
- Alvares T. S., et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab (2012).
- Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res (2010).
- Hoffman J., et al. Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med (2008).
- Donovan T., et al. Beta-alanine improves punch force and frequency in amateur boxers during a simulated contest. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab (2012).
- Hoffman J. R., et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2009).
- Lee E. C., et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2010).
- Holewa J., et al. Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, Coastal Carolina University (2013).
- McCormack W. P., et al. Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance. Str Con J (2012).