As gyms across the UK finally reopen at long last, many of us are scrambling for our designer activewear and eager to head off to regain our fitness levels. Lockdown has been hard on all of us, and whether you’ve managed to keep up some semblance of an exercise routine or not, indulgent summer barbecues and expensive bottles of wine have likely been more frequent than in most years. It’s time to reacquaint yourself with your personal trainer and get back to looking and feeling your best – because a good fitness routine equals oodles of energy and a boost in your mood, too. And what’s not to love about that?
The perfect excuse to a bit of luxurious online shopping, you might have already treated yourself to the latest Gucci trainers and a high-end protein powder or two to entice you back into the swing of things. But if those first few workouts are feeling more difficult than they should, you might benefit from a little helping hand.
Pre-workouts have been gaining increasing popularity in recent years thanks to their ability to give you an energy boost before you begin and get you performing to your full potential. Helping you to work out harder and longer, they have a vital role to play in the end result. More efficient workouts equal speedier results, and no more wasted hours wandering aimlessly around the free weights section with about as much enthusiasm as, well, someone after a long day in the board room (or of hitting the shops!).
So, what is the best pre-workout out there? With such a plethora of different options on the market, choosing the right one for you can feel like an overwhelming task – but once you know your ingredients, you’ll be well equipped to make a suitable selection.
To help set you off on the right track, we’ve broken it down into five of the most common and effective ingredients to look out for – and the role they each play in amplifying your performance.
Keeping fatigue at bay is the key to a more efficient workout, and beta-alanine has a key role to play in keeping those energy levels up. Although a non-essential amino acid – which means the body can make its own – giving yourself a boost right when you need it the most will increase the carnosine levels within your muscles to keep muscle fatigue at bay that little bit longer.
Acting as a buffer for pH levels within the muscles, thus controlling lactic acid build-up, it allows you to make it through more reps before you start to feel that burn – helping you to keep on pushing on a power through that extra set.
Whatever type of workout you favour, creatine is essential for being at your fastest and strongest throughout – as well as helping you to increase your lean muscle mass in the long-run. Especially beneficial during bouts of high-intensity activity such as weight lifting or sprinting, it helps muscles to make and circulate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – a compound that releases energy used for muscle contractions.
When it comes to making those bigger gains, L-citrulline is essential. The ultimate ingredient in preparing you for those extreme lifts, it’s a vital amino acid that our bodies are able to convert into L-arginine – a building block of nitric oxide.
So, why is this important? Because nitric oxide is able to help maintain regular blood vessel function. Today, it is often combined with malate to make citrulline malate – now one of the most popular powerhouse ingredients to look out for when choosing your ideal pre-workout.
Most of us are no stranger to the welcome morning energy boost that first cup of coffee brings, and an extra hit of caffeine right before your workout can yield similar results in the gym. Sharpening your focus and making your reaction times faster, choosing a pre-workout containing caffeine will ensure you remain laser-focussed throughout your session. Look for one that offers 100-300 milligrams per serving, which is the equivalent of one to three cups of coffee.
Branched chain amino acids such as I-isoleucine, L-valine and L-leucine are effective in fuelling the body ahead of a big workout session and help to reduce the amount of protein breakdown that occurs throughout. Labelled as ‘essential amino acids’ because the body doesn’t make them itself, they are an important addition to any pre-workout – if there is one ingredient you don’t want to miss, it’s these.
Choosing an effective pre-workout can make the world of difference to your sessions, and once you’ve tried one, we guarantee that you’ll never go back. Allowing you to get maximum results each and every time, they are one of the best motivators we’ve come across – and combined with a balanced diet and an effective post-workout, you’ll be back to your pre-lockdown best in no time.