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What is a pre-workout

Pre-workouts are sports supplements that have begun to attract a lot of interest due to their multiple ingredients in a single dose. These contain a mixture of mainly caffeine, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids, nitrates, creatine, arginine, citrulline… and other ingredients that could improve exercise performance. These supplements should be consumed prior to workout.

In this post, we will explain each of the most important and used substances that these pre-workouts contain and their optimal doses along with a review of studies that have used certain pre-workouts and their effects.

Common ingredients in pre-workouts

Pre-workouts commonly have the ingredients that we will discuss below: 


Caffeine is the main ingredient in many pre-workouts as it is responsible for its acute ergogenic effects. Its maximum peak is around 60 minutes. It acts as an antagonist of adenosine receptors, reducing the feeling of tiredness. In addition, it has been shown to acutely improve both strength and endurance exercise performance at doses between 3 and 6 mg/kg of body weight. In pre-workouts it is usually a dose of 300mg per dose, an optimal value in most cases.

nitric oxide agents

Nitric oxide is a molecule that has vasodilator properties, with an important role in lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow. Some common pre-workout components such as arginine and citrulline increase nitric oxide (NO) levels and therefore could improve performance.

L-arginine is an amino acid precursor to nitric oxide, some studies have reported benefits from it but most suggest it has limited efficacy in improving blood flow.

L-citrulline is another non-essential amino acid found mainly in watermelon that is converted to L-arginine, also promoting NO synthesis. Supplementation with L-citrulline in combination with malate (an intermediate in the citric acid cycle) has been shown to increase vasodilation and improve exercise performance when consumed chronically in doses of 6-8g per day.


Creatine is an amino acid found in muscle and its intake increases intramuscular phosphocreatine levels. It is the most studied supplement and has been shown to increase performance in high-intensity exercise when consumed chronically and its effect begins to be felt after 28 days. Its two ways of administering it are starting with a loading phase (20g/day) and then another maintenance phase (3-5g) or a maintenance phase from the beginning. Although the consumption of creatine after training seems to be higher than before with respect to the effect, its chronic consumption is already sufficient, so in the pre-workout, it would not be a problem.

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Amino acids and amino-containing compounds

Pre-workouts usually contain amino acids such as taurine, a sulphonic acid that contains amino acids and to which antioxidant, metabolic and ergogenic properties are attributed. In resistance exercise, it has been observed that it can improve the time to exhaustion with its chronic consumption, but the acute ingestion of 1.5g also improves muscular resistance after resistance exercise.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAS) are also often added to pre-workouts with the intention of increasing muscle protein synthesis rates, minimizing protein breakdown and reducing exercise-induced muscle damage. They are often said to improve fatigue, but they do not appear to significantly improve performance or stimulate muscle protein synthesis.


Beta-alanine, another typical component in pre-workouts, is a non-essential amino acid that is synthesized in the liver. It is a precursor for the synthesis of carnosine. Carnosine improves muscle contraction, increases the sensitivity of myofibrillar calcium in fast fibers, and intervenes in 8-15% of the intramuscular buffer capacity, reducing the limiting effect of performance related to acidosis. It has been shown that the consumption of 4 to 6 g of beta-alanine per day for a period of at least 2-4 weeks improves performance in high-intensity exercise (duration 1 to 4 minutes). Therefore, if the pre-workout has that amount, those effects are also achieved to keep intramuscular carnosine levels high.

However, we remember that beta-alanine has the secondary effect of paresthesia in the extremities or head, which is characterized by itching or tingling in the hands and ears mainly. This effect does not cause any harm to the body, but if it becomes very uncomfortable, it has been observed that with a smaller amount this effect would not appear.


Betaine is a derivative of glycine (an amino acid) that can enhance performance by increasing creatine synthesis, raising blood nitric oxide levels, and promoting fluid and thermal homeostasis. Chronic supplementation with 1.25-2.5g daily has been shown to improve repetitions to fatigue and total volume load completed during resistance and power exercise.

Other ingredients that pre-workouts usually contain

There are many other ingredients that some pre-workouts usually contain such as p-synephrine, Rhodiola rosea, curcumin, piperine, glutamine, Panax ginseng, vitamins, minerals, and alpha lipoic acid, among others.

Pre-workout effects

A review of the effect of pre-workouts has been done in the scientific literature and promising results have been found. 


The ingestion of pre-workouts seems to improve force production. In those taking caffeine, the fatigue-related decline in force output is found to be mitigated.

muscle endurance

Regarding muscular endurance, there are mixed results, but it can be concluded that performing more repetitions of resistance exercises until fatigue by supplementing with a pre-workout has also been reported, thereby increasing muscular endurance performance.

In addition, it also appears to increase the total exercise volume performed when seeking total performance.


Conflicting results have been found for power production, although they are more promising in the upper body than in the lower body.

Results in other sports performance abilities

There are other sports performance capacities that have been investigated, such as jumping, which supplementation with a pre-workout does not seem to improve. There is also very little evidence regarding resistance or endurance exercises.  

On a subjective level, it appears that it does improve concentration, fatigue, alertness, and self-reported energy levels, but not in all subjects. Improvements in reaction time are also observed.

About the short-term hormonal response is not clear. Growth hormone and testosterone increase in some studies and not in others  

In the short term (for less than 10 days) it does not seem to have a favorable impact on maximal strength and no conclusions can be drawn about muscular endurance and total volume. There is also insufficient evidence for an effect on hormones or markers of muscle damage caused by acute exercise.

In the long term (more than ten days), there is much more research than in the short term. In the production force, it seems to have a positive influence. It has no great effect on pain, inflammation, and biomarkers of muscle damage.

How to take a pre-workout

Before taking a pre-workout, we recommend consumers read or ask about the ingredients they contain.

It is recommended that you put the amount of each ingredient, otherwise, it makes it difficult to determine if those supplements contain enough to have an ergogenic effect. 

They are usually taken between half an hour and 10 minutes before.

It seems that it is completely safe and no adverse effects have been reported, but most studies are done with a duration of fewer than 8 weeks.

Finally, we want to remind you that on our website we have WhatsApp, a physical store phone number, and an email to advise you so that we can offer you the pre-training that can help you the most.