How to Choose the Right Pre-Workout Supplement
Can you think of one supplement company that does not have a pre-workout??
There are hundreds of pre-workouts out there! And more coming this month, and next month, and more after that!
So, what the heck are you supposed to use?
Let’s clear up some of the confusion, pull all of the hype out, and make it simple to find what’s right for you.
The first thing you need to know, is you!
Ask yourself these few questions first:
1. What am I going to be using the pre-workout for?
What kind of training are you going to be doing? Do you need a massive amount of energy because you are going to be doing an excruciating workout like leg day?
Or, do you need a good sustained energy with fuel for your muscles because you are doing a very long and endurance based workout like cross training?
Are you currently trying to lose body fat or build muscle?
2. Why do you want to use a pre-workout?
Do you need more energy because you are lacking it by the time you get to the gym, and your workout isn’t the best due to that?
Do you just like to have raging energy during your workouts?
Do you want a pre- workout that is going to help you build muscle because you are pushing your muscles to the max, hitting muscle failure consistently, and you simply want to get more out of them?
3. What is your tolerance to stimulants?
Do you drink coffee and energy drinks regularly, or does half a redbull get you wired?
Knowing your tolerance to stimulants is key in picking the right pre-workout.
Once you have answered these three key questions, you are now ready to figure out what kind of pre-workout you need, and it will be one of these two main types.
The 2 Types of Pre-Workouts
Type 1: Stimulant-Based Pre-Workouts
This first type for the most part, is the more popular of the two, which is your “stimulant based pre-workout.”
The easiest way to tell that a pre-workout you are looking at is a stimulant based, is to either look at the size of the jug, or the serving size on the supplement facts.
Stimulant based pre-workouts are the pre-workouts that come in small containers, usually weighing less than a pound. Additionally, they usually have a serving size that is about 10 grams or less.
These are the kind of pre-workouts that typically give you a euphoric-like feeling when they are kicking in and have you amped up during your workout.
This is ideal for when your workout is so tough that it drains your energy, such as when you are doing olympic lifts like deadlifts, squats, hang cleans, etc.
Additionally, stimulant based pre-workouts are great for when you are trying to drop body fat as they will help your body get into a thermogenic state so you can burn more calories and sweat more. Make sure that if you are cutting that you drink BCAAs throughout your workout to preserve your muscle so you only lose fat.
Now don’t pick one of those two because they are the most popular, they still may not be the best for you, I will cover how to pick the right one shortly.
Type 2: Muscle Building Pre-Workouts
Muscle Building Pre-Workouts are very under-rated, simply because they don’t typically provide you with an insane amount of energy. They will give you energy, but they give you much more in areas that make a difference.
These are the pre-workouts that you see coming in a big two pound jug or larger, and they’ll typically have a serving size that is 20 grams or more.
The reason these are bigger, is because they are providing you with large doses of ingredients that play an important role in muscle building and muscle recovery such as creatine, amino acids, and fast acting carbohydrates.
When it comes to building mass, energy is not the most important component of your pre-workout. You are going to want to be able boost your strength so you maximize your lifts, have a good source of fuel so that your muscles don’t burn out, as well as have a good “pump” and recovery for your muscles so that you can push them to complete muscle failure.
In my opinion, the best way to use this kind of pre-workout is to sip on it throughout your workout, as opposed to stimulant based pre-workouts, where most people tend just chug those down right before their workout.
The most popular pre-workout in this category is Hypershock Rage by Myogenix.
Final Decision: Which Pre-Workout Do You Pick?
This is where your tolerance comes in, and a little bit of preference.
I personally like to have both a stimulant based pre-workout and a muscle building pre-workout. Why? I don’t need crazy energy when I am working out arms, I want to get my arms bigger, but I sure do need some serious energy if it’s leg day and I am doing squats.
Nonetheless, here are the important things you need to consider and look for in choosing the right pre-workout.
If you are looking for a stimulant based pre-workout, and you have assessed yourself as being a person that has a “high tolerance” to stimulants, then when you are looking at a pre-workouts’ ingredients, you will want to make sure it has one or more of these ingredients:
- Alpha Yohimbe
If you are a person that has a high tolerance, go with Higenamine based pre-workout such as Wild Thing, and when you are ready you can jump up to the strongest of pre-workouts which are typically DMAA based like Mesomorph.
If you have a “low tolerance” to stimulants, you will want to avoid the above ingredients as they may give you too much energy, and go with one that has one or more of these ingredients:
- Phenylethylamine (PEA).
- Caffeine (200 mg or less)
Caffeine will be in pretty much every pre-workout on the market, so if your tolerance to stimulants is low, you will want to make sure the amount of caffeine is not too high, less than 200 mg per serving is a good rule of thumb (8 oz cup of coffee has approximately 95 mg of caffeine).
If you have a lower tolerance to stimulants, your best bet is a pre-workout like Defcon 1 by Platinum Labs.
There are few different ingredients you are going to be looking for here, you essentially want to make sure there is at least one ingredient from each of these categories to make sure your pre-workout is covering all bases.
Ingredients for Strength and Power
- Creatine (Any form)
Ingredients for Muscle Growth & Fuel
- Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs)
- High Glycemic Carbs (dextrose, waxy maize, etc)
- Bio-Active Peptides
- HICA/Leucic Acid
Ingredients for Muscle Pumps
Ingredients for Recovery
Ingredients for Endurance
- Beta alanine
The easy overall pick for muscle building is going to be Hypershock Rage by Myogenix, as it covers all of these bases and has a good stimulant base with 7 hour time released caffeine for long lasting energy.
If you don’t want to take all the time to do all the investigating, you can check out the Top 10 Pre-Workouts, which provides very accurate ratings of the top rated pre-workouts on the market, and you can make your decision from there. Otherwise, check out the Full Pre-Workout Selection Here.
Additional Things you may want to Consider
When do you workout and when do you go to sleep.
If you workout at 6pm and you go to bed at 10 pm, don’t expect to fall asleep on time if you take a stimulant based pre-workout. A good rule of thumb is that the latest you want to take a stimulant based pre-workout is 6 hours before you go to bed.
In a situation like this you may want consider using a low stimulant based pre-workout like Condense by Purus Labs.
If you find yourself not able to fall asleep at all when you take a stimulant based product late, check out a nitric oxide boosters like Hype by Blackstone Labs, which will help give you a good “pump” during your workout, but without the stimulants.
If you workout in the morning, and you take a high stimulant based pre-workout you may experience a bit of a crash as your body will be going from having massive amounts of energy, to very little. To handle this, you have two options.
The first is to go with less of a high stimulant based pre-workout that way the come down isn’t as hard.
The second is to make sure you have a bit more stimulants a few hours after your pre-workout, so when you are coming down you don’t really feel the crash, and that it becomes a normal decline that levels out with your natural energy levels.
If you have any other questions about pre-workouts, please leave them in comments section below and I will be sure to answer back.