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?!
Some gym bros will say you have you “adapted to it”, and others will recommend you buy a stronger pre workout.
But before you do any of that, I want you to look at the two things below!
1. 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 in the first place.
The easiest way to tell if you have a poor pre workout is to flip the tub around and look at the ingredients panel.
If the formula is hidden behind a proprietary blend then I can 100% guarantee your current pre workout sucks. They’ll claim prevents rival companies from stealing the formula and releasing copycat products, but in reality it’s not true (nowadays it’s very easy to discover what’s in any product if you want to know!).
The real reason they’re using a proprietary blend is because this is an outdated industry loophole which supplement manufacturers can easily manipulate in order to sell under-dosed products to unsuspecting customers.
If you can see the ingredients and their doses, let’s keep going!
Here are the clinical doses for each main ingredient you’ll find in a good pre workout supplement:
- 6-10g CitMal
Citrulline malate will increase blood flow to working muscles, and can also lead to faster recovery between sets, improved endurance, and a better training pump. 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)
- 3.2g Beta-alanine
Beta-alanine helps buffer against the build-up of waste product (metabolites) during intense training, leading to more repetitions before muscle failure, and therefore more muscle growth. A clinical dose is 3.2 grams, but this can be split into two across the day if you prefer. (3, 4)
- 2.5g Betaine
Betaine is somewhat of an unsung hero, but it can make all the difference between a good pre workout and a great pre workout. Continuous supplementation will lead to great strength improvements (that’s why it’s very popular with sprinters), faster recovery between sets, and more endurance. A clinical dose of betaine is 2.5 grams. (5, 6, 7)
- 200-400mg Caffeine
There are a number of good “stim free” pre workouts out there, but if you like caffeine then it’s worth knowing that the training benefits associated with it (better energy output, increased focus, improved strength) require a dose between 200mg-400mg. It’s also worth knowing there’s no benefit to going above 400mg. (8)
So now take a look at your tube and see if it ticks all of these boxes.
If it does, then I’d say you have a decent product – but most don’t!
You’ll also find a bunch of other stuff in there – many of them are pointless (niacin, agmatine sulfate) and some are downright counter-productive (BCAAs, taurine) – but the 4 shown above are the key players.
If your current pre workout simply isn’t up to standard, then I recommend cutting your losses and changing to a better product. I’ll give you a few solid recommendations at the end of this article.
2. There Are Only 2 Ingredients You Can “Adapt To”
There are two main ingredients you can adapt to, and it’s perfectly normal to do so over time.
They are caffeine and beta-alanine.
Let’s start with caffeine…
You see, your tolerance towards caffeine will build relatively fast (think of a buddy at work who drinks ten cups of Joe per day!). A pre workout supplement will work in much the same way, so if a 200mg dose “blows your head off” the first few times you use it, eventually you’ll need a higher dose to get the same “kick”.
So take the recommended dosage advice shown above and apply it to your pre workout.
Remember, there are no extra training benefits to be had in going higher than 400m (unless you enjoy heart attacks), so when you’ve adapted to the max dose it’s a good idea to switch to a stim free pre workout for about a month, allowing your body some time to lower its tolerance levels so you can re-start from a smaller dose in the future.
Now let’s talk about beta-alanine…
Most lifters think this ingredient is no longer effective when they stop feeling the famous skin-crawling effect it brings. This is not true. This skin-crawling effect (parasthesia) is just a superficial side effect of beta-alanine, and you will only feel it for about 3-4 weeks of supplementation. If you carry on using beta-alanine beyond that stage (and you should!) you will likely no longer feel those effects, but it doesn’t mean that the ingredient has stopped working.
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-living the feeling they got the first time they used it – and that’s a dangerous thing to do.
It can take people down a dark path of looking for “hardcore” pre workouts which promise to blow your head off when, in reality, all good muscle building pre workouts are based around the four ingredients you see above. These so-called “hardcore” pre workouts are usually built around untested exotic stimulants, most of which have zero research to document their safety for human consumption and, as such, they either wind up hurting people or USADA drops the ban hammer on them 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). You simply need a break.
If your pre isn’t providing you with effective doses of each key ingredient, you’ll want to throw it straight in the bin and use this handy list of properly dosed pre workouts:
- 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).