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Written exclusively for Xyience.com (Manzen, LLC) by ChristinasFitness.com, 2012. 

Have you been busting your butt at the gym for months, consistently working out hard, eating properly and supplementing when needed? Does it seem like your strength and energy are at a standstill? A pre-workout supplement is something you might want to look into. There are numerous benefits of taking pre-workout supplements - and they can take your workouts and results to new heights.

Pre-Workout Supplements Can:

  • Improve your Energy and Focus
  • Improve your Metabolic Rate (thus burning more calories)
  • Improve your Performance
  • Increase your Strength
  • Increase your Endurance
  • Improve Nutrient Delivery
  • Increase Protein Synthesis
  • Decrease Muscle Breakdown During Training
No matter what your training goals are these improvements are beneficial to everyone.

How to Use Pre-Workouts to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck:

As with most supplements out there, the best way to use them are to cycle on every 6-8 weeks, followed by an off period of 2-3 weeks. Our body adapts to almost everything over time - our calorie intake, caffeine, and our training routines are some examples. You always want to switch up your routine and supplements to gain maximum results over a shorter period of time. By cycling pre-workouts, you ensure that your body remains sensitive to all the ingredients. This way, you won't have to use more to get the same benefits over time. When you do come back to the supplement after taking off time from it, you will feel super charged and gain back all, if not more, of your energy and strength. Just like the same diet and training style can't be followed forever, the same holds true to supplementation. Additionally, they are suggested to work best when taken on an empty stomach.

How to Choose a Pre-Workout Supplement:
  • Look at the cost and how many servings are in a container. Something like $1-$2 per serving is pretty normal for a 30 serving tub. Calculate how many workouts you usually do per week to calculate how long this will stretch you. If you work out 4-5 times a week, I'd look for 20-30 servings per tub to get you through the month. Most of the time, it isn't necessary to take pre-workout supplements on rest days.
  • Read reviews on the product to see what people are saying and how it's affecting their workouts. Reviews are typically unbiased information by people giving their opinions on the pros and cons, whether or not they would buy it again, and what they experienced during their workout(s).
  • Look for top sellers online. Some websites will have a 1-10 rating system or 1-5 stars to make it quick and easy to see what’s most popular. Be sure to use a reputable website!
Ingredients to Look for - Depending on Your Goals:

Gaining Muscle and Strength -

Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most popular muscle building supplements, because it works. Taking creatine 30 minutes before a workout allows you to workout longer, and harder. Once ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate - or energy stores) are depleted it then breaks down creatine for more energy. If energy stores are too low then muscle failure during your workouts will set in sooner. This is where creatine supplementing picks up the tab.

Taurine, BCAAs (branch chain amino acids), whey protein and high glycemic carbs are in this category as well, and have shown positive effects for years and years.

Energy and Focus -

Caffeine is going to be your best choice, if you're not caffeine sensitive. Taken 30 minutes before training sessions, it is an excellent fat burner and performance enhancer. Most products that contain this stimulant have around 200mg per serving. If you are someone who is sensitive to caffeine products I'd recommend starting off with half a dose to see how your body reacts, or substituting with supplements touting B vitamins.

Endurance -

Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that has the ability to increase levels of carnosine within muscle tissue. Carnosine increases endurance through anti-oxidant properties which may be able to offset some of the oxidative stress associated with fatigue. What this means for you is more reps with any given weight.

To recap - choosing an effective pre-workout supplement might be the extra boost you need to get over that hurdle or plateau that you may be experiencing. Give it a try!

- Christina

Follow her on Twitter for all the latest news on fitness! @ChristinasFit