Proper Pre and Postworkout Supplementation
Pre-workout supplementation over the decade have really evolved. From the beginning, they were very simple, and now very complex. You see tons of different formula’s, prop blends, and also individual ingredients that make one another truly stick out. In my stance, the first thing to address will be caffeine intake. Everyone is different, some people are wired off 100mg caffeine, while some may have a tolerance up to 300-400mg caffeine per individual serving or multiple servings of a pre-workout product. Other things we will have to factor based off the individual and how they respond are various other things. I would want to mention that you should try and consider a caffeine pill first (200mg Caffeine) and see how you react, based off if it is too much then you need less, or if you do not get much out of it you may need more. Another factor is how much caffeine you consume besides pre-workouts in the 24 hour period which would come from diet soda, soda, coffee, or energy drinks which can add up. If you do the math and see how much you get already, you may not even need a pre-workout product because some use coffee or an energy drink as their pre-workout product. If you are already taking a lot of caffeine from products before investing in a pre-workout, I would suggest tapering your intake or going cold turkey for a good 2-3 weeks (a stim break) to see how effective a pre-workout would be to help reset your adrenal glands and tolerance build up.
Besides the caffeine, there are other ingredients which may help you or aid your workout performance which I will talk about. The first I want to address is Beta-Alanine and that the effects from BA (Beta-alanine) can help increase overall performance and endurance during a workout session. The overall amount of BA to be considered would be 3.2g split into two doses over the 24 hour period. This is what modern pub-med research has shown, and if you wish to look it up you can as well. Based off of that the only downside to BA may be the tingles you will receive from using it. Especially the first time using BA supplementation.
Another ingredient to consider would be citrulline malate. CM (Citrulline) is beneficial for pumps, endurance, and also prevents lactic acid build up during training. Most studies have been showing results dosed in the 6-8g range pre-workout to be optimal. If you look at many pre-workouts on the market, it may be hard to find one with optimal amounts, a few that may come to mind are OUTLIFT by Nutrex, Conqu3r by Olympus Labs, and also High Volume now under PES (Stim and Non-Stim Stim being the outlift and HV being the non-stim). Be cautious when using products with prop blends because they may not have enough of this to aid you in the designed amounts and may need to utilize more bulk powders.
Creatine while not 100% needed pre-workout it is found in many pre-workout products hence why I am going to address it here. If you wish to take it in a bulk powder upon waking or at a different time that would be perfectly fine. Creatine may be one of the most underdosed products in pre-workouts especially those that confine it in prop blends. Creatine has been shown to aid strength, performance, and endurance, especially in the 3-5g amount. 5g of creatine should be taken the first month on workout days, and then reduce to 3-5g without cycling or loading creatine. There is very little research if any to help support creatine loading because the only benefit would be reaching saturation faster. If you wish, go for it, but totally not necessary. Creatine is dirt cheap and be really beneficial also we have to realize that we can find creatine in red meats, and fish.
LCLT (L-Carnitine L- Tartrate) has been shown to help increase LBM (Lean Body Mass) and overall endurance for a workout. This may be something if you are training more endurance based to invest in, or if someone is looking for something to help push a bit longer in their workout. Dosing has been shown around 500mg-1g to be a good dosing with some PubMed research going all the way up to 2g worth and showing increased recovery for their workouts.
Betaine one that has come a long ways over the last few years is starting to get a lot more rave. Betaine in bulk form has been small cases and studies to show an increase in LBM when utilized and mostly found in the pre-workout region. There are a few companies that offer it in bulk powder and bulk capsule and usually again around the .500mg and 1g range to notice its benefits.
HICA (Alfa-Hydroxy-isocaproic acid) has been shown to help increase LBM, leucine activation, and also protein synthesis. Not a lot of products on the market have HICA in a healthy dose, and some are also utilizing it in intra-workout or BCAA products (Cellucor Cor BCAA and PES Amino IV). While this could benefit someone pre-workout this could also carry over to intra-workout, so I wanted to address it here. Dosing should be 750mg minimum to around 1.5g which has been seen in 2 studies available for you to read on PubMed. This was done on soccer players and how it did increase performance during exercise.
Forskolin 95 which does not get a lot of support or love because it is rare on the market in products has a lot of backing to help with increasing LBM and also reducing fat mass. I know a product named alpha max which does include it, but you can usually find it in bulk (Reform by Nimbus or AS F95) which I did use myself on a cut to show some increased benefits. Usually, forskolin ranges will be in the 50-100mg range. Additional may be unbeneficial with side effects of an upset stomach and upset stomach due to an overdose out of the gate. I would really like to see this utilize a lot more in the future as its benefits truly shine to those who do use it.
One more I want to address would be ARA ( Arachidonic Acid) this is found primary in a substance called X-Gels or X-Factor by Molecular Nutrition. ARA can be very helpful with LBM, strength, and size gains. ARA also is a form of an omega-3 fatty acid and can be found in food sources like egg, meat, and fish. ARA has been found beneficial up to 1.5g per day. Due to getting a good amount via whole foods (based off diets). Because this is not very common in most pre-workout products this may be something you could take on the side (X-Gels).
While a lot of the information above may be a lot to digest these are a lot of popular pre-workout ingredients, did I come all of them? Absolutely not, but again these may be the most common you could invest or look toward as far as pre-workouts go. If I were to make another article I could make one off a non-stim pre-workout alone including things like GMS, Glycerol, Agmatine, and Nitrates which can be bonded to some of the ingredients above mostly associated towards pump.
Intra-workout Nutrition and Post-Workout Nutrition will be pretty brief, especially those who train in a fed state these may not need much in the grand scheme of things. More along the lines for fasted trainee intra-workout may show better benefits to a BCAA/EAA product. Before we address both fasted and fed intra-workout wise the only thing I would suggest that could aid performance, endurance, and energy would be an intra-workout carb source. Some of the popular ones on the market would be dextrose, waxy maize, karbolyn, and HBCD (High Branch Cycling Dextrins). What would be the benefits of carbs during a workout? Performance, glycogen, and endurance. Carbs would help give extra energy during high intensity or high volume workouts. Now while most individuals may not even need carbs we have to factor if training fed that you have food
overlap from a pre-workout meal and carbs that you may have eaten in your previous meals. The key element would be your caloric intake, your goal (bulking/cutting) and caloric allotment on how you like to train. BPAK and Dr. Wilson also have videos out there and podcasts showing how Protein and Fat meals earlier in the day or pre-training may be more beneficial to help with keeping insulin at bay and allowing for eating the majority of your carbs intra-workout and later in the day( which I have touched upon in my other articles). That would be the main ingredient I would suggest intra-workout next to HICA (which could help activate leucine). The only real studies done via PubMed are on EAA’s and showing how they can be up to 33% more beneficial dosed intra-workout and why I would suggest them. Good products may consider purple wrath by Controlled labs, Prime EAA’s, Amino IV, or any bulk EAA product.
Post-workout wise you could utilize your creatine here (which has been addressed), Simple carbs or carbs above like I have suggested but again not needed or necessary for most. Most simple carb studies have been done on those training in a 24+ hour fasted state or those who are training to be endurance athletes. Another supplement which is very common on the market would be whey protein or different forms (WPI I would only suggest as an isolate to those who are lactose intolerant) and WPH (Whey Protein Hydroslate) which does not have any real scientific or research to back it. I know that one supplement owner has invested well into 100,000$ into WPH and found no real backing to the product when protein requirements were met in the 24 hour period. Besides that honestly your best option especially training in a fed state would be a whole food meal. Supplement wise you can really only supplement when you are lacking, and if you lack calories than a simple shake may be your best alternative. Since your body still has food being overlapped from the pre-workout meal and still digesting do not think you need to slam a protein shake after your last set or need one in a particular time frame. There is more to the “Anabolic” window than people really do think.
While pre-workout may be the most opportune time to invest in some forms of supplements this will vary a bit when the individual is in a fasted state. The key change here would be utilizing BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) because you are in a fasted state and there is no food in your system and going into a very catabolic activity (lifting weights) with no flip of the catabolic switch may be disaster. BCAA’s also have been shown via PubMed to be beneficial to be taken pre-workout and also EAA’s more important intra-workout (again the research on PubMed showing up to 33% greater for intra-workout compared to BCAA’s). Martin Berkhan of lean gains has an excellent article on this with his lean gains guide showing around 10g of BCAA’s to be ingested pre-workout, and that is what I would follow as well. Coming from someone who trains mostly in the fasted state upon waking I have found my best results with 10g pre-workout and then taking another 10g every 2 hours until you may eat a whole food meal, or you can simply have a shake after training or a whole food meal. That would basically be the only change in supplements. Another thing to consider is that taking all pills and powders on an empty may provide a better results but not always. Pre-workouts for example, when dosed upon waking, may hit much harder than around food or a meal. The reasoning behind that is with less food in the system it allows for a quicker absorption and increased benefits and effects. For example, if you take a pre-workout shortly after a meal you may not feel the true benefits of the caffeine or stimulants due to food diminishing the results. A lot of the ingredients I did not touch upon may be amplified with food and benefit the fed trainee such as Agmatine, Glycerol, and GMS to help aid pump especially around the use of carbohydrates.
Being in a fasted state is another place where I would suggest intra-workout or pre-workout carb powders that may help the individual power through workouts. Some of my suggestions would be Intra-MD by Prime, HBCD found in m5 reloaded by Cellucor (as a good pre-intra-workout product), Karbolyn by Pro-supps, Waxy Maize from Carb Slam by Primaforce, and Vitargo as a good carb based product.
Overall Pre/Intra/Post workout supplements are mostly geared towards pre-workout as intra-workout for the fed individual won’t merit much as far as supplements go. One can sip on a BCAA product intra-workout, but it may not be too many benefits as EAA’s are more beneficial intra-workout. The BCAA’s would most likely merit those in the fasted state or those who dose between meals spaced 4-6 hours apart as shown by Layne Norton’s Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) Hypothesis. For those training in a fed state if you could time your BCAA intake pre-workout to include the BCAA’s between a meal that is what I would suggest or take them pre-workout. The carb powder as well may be something only really helpful for a fasted AM workout or those with higher volume, intensity, or training to be an endurance athlete.
Products I would highly suggest as far as pre-workout goes is vast, but take a listen. If you want a lower stim product I would venture towards cellucor c4 (135mg caffeine) with BA, and Creatine nitrates. Neon Volt with ~100mg caffeine + other stimulants plus BA and CM. Scivation Psycho per scoop has 100mg caffeine and small doses of BA, CM, and Creatine.
For a higher stim product, there are quite a few that really stand out. White Flood Reborn if you want a creatine free pre-workout in the 225mg caffeine serving with BA/CM. Katana by Komodo with around 200mg caffeine, agmatine, more pump agents, amentoflavone and citrulline(which is not seen in many pre-workouts besides high volume the stim free option). Presurge by AEN which is a heavy stim option in the 200mg range. Olympus Labs Conqu3r that is above 200mg caffeine with adequate amounts of BA, CM, Creatine all in one shot. There are still many more out there, but again I do not want to drag this on forever. Based off some of the research and ingredient amounts these may be some to consider.