On a practical level, the best pre-workout supplements are designed to help you increase training volume and intensity so that you can get more from each workout session. In time, those extra reps, sets and minutes spent add up to major gains. When you see your hard work pay off, the more motivation you have to train. And the more you train, the more progress you continue to make.

So, when combined with the proper training regimen and nutrition program, taking a pre-workout can offer that extra push–not just to workout today, but to do it again tomorrow, then again the day after…

Traditionally, pre-workouts have had a reputation for being exclusive to the highly advanced gym-goer whose sole focus is to get as muscular as possible. But the truth is, pre-workout ingredients can help just about anyone who wants to improve his or her fitness levels–from the beginner all the way to the hardcore gym buff.

In a nutshell, pre-workouts can benefit you if:

1. You want ‘focused energy’ before a workout
2. You’re starting a program and/or trying to take it to the next level
3. You want to lose weight
4. You want to build muscle and strength
5. You want to improve your performance–in the gym or for sport

Coffee and energy drinks have their place in an active lifestyle. But it’s important to note: while you do get an energy boost from a cup of coffee or a standard energy drink, pre-workouts offer additional performance benefits. That’s because most pre-workouts have tailored formulas that enhance physical output for a variety of activities–whether that’s deadlifting 500lbs or running a marathon.

In other words, pre-workouts combine specific ingredients in specific doses to give you the biggest bang for your buck–a.k.a they maximize time and effort you put into your workouts.

The effects of pre-workout will depend on your sensitivity to caffeine and the other ingredients discussed below. For a standard dosage, the average individual can expect the full effects to be felt within 45 minutes and last 3-6 hours. For those more sensitive to stimulants, the effects will likely be felt faster and last closer to 6 hours.

You don’t just buy a car without checking out the features. You read the fine print to make sure what you’re getting is exactly right for your lifestyle. The same goes for choosing a pre-workout.

Before purchasing a pre-workout, you want to examine the label and look for ingredients that support your fitness goal, training level, and so forth.

A few key ingredients to look for in a traditional pre-workout are:

Caffeine is the classic ingredient found in your morning pick-me-up to get you energized before your workout. Your C4 pre-workout can have anywhere from 135mg-300mg per serving compared to a coffee or standard energy drink, which falls within the 80mg-150mg range.

After oral ingestion, caffeine is 99% absorbed within 45 minutes by the gastrointestinal tract, according to a review in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. For this reason, research on caffeine’s effect on athletic performance has primarily been in the areas of running and cycling. Specifically, a 2010 Journal of Sports Sciences study found that 3mg of caffeine per kilogram of body mass improved cycling performance compared to a placebo.

Another study found experienced cyclists were able to ride faster for 60 minutes at 75% of peak power output in 95 degrees Fahrenheit compared to cyclists that weren’t stimulated. Other studies have found improved reaction time, mental clarity, and focus in strength-athletes that take caffeine. This improved alertness can also come with a better tolerance for pain.

Your muscles are made up of proteins, and amino acids are the foundations of those proteins. CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine is a patented amino acid used to help your muscles endure a tough workout. It’ll also give you tingles to tell you “hey, I’m working”.

Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid (meaning our bodies can produce it) but it can also be found in protein-packed foods like beef, chicken, pork, and fish. Beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine, which buffers hydrogen ions within muscle cells. This buffering results in a fatigue-fighting effect since the muscles are able to contract for longer/more efficiently.

According to a 2014 review in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, there are studies that found beta-alanine may increase power output and working capacity, decrease the feeling of fatigue and exhaustion, and have a positive effect on body composition and carnosine content.

Beta-alanine is one of the few ingredients in any C4 product that elicits a physical feeling—if you feel a tingling sensation in your lips, face or even fingertips, it’s a harmless effect of beta-alanine.

Beta-alanine works best where large muscles are contracting quickly, like when running sprints, wrestling, high-intensity cycling (yes, spin class), and Olympic weightlifting.

You’ve probably heard of it before, but we promise it’s not just for giant shredded weightlifters. Creatine can be found naturally in bone and certain foods and helps to build strength and lean muscle. Creatine Nitrate is a university studied, advanced, and more soluble form of creatine that helps with “pumps”.

Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate is a precursor to nitric oxide, which promotes nitric oxide production in the body. Ultimately, this helps in achieving pumps.

Arginine is an amino acid found in eggs, chicken, nuts, dairy, pork and other foods. The body converts arginine to nitric oxide in a complex reaction. Arginine is also used in the urea cycle which is the natural process in which ammonia is detoxified through its metabolism into urea.

Although arginine may improve blood flow and circulation, there’s no conclusive evidence that the arginine-nitric oxide relationship results in improved performance.

TeaCrine® is a non-stimulant source of energy and focus, and it is structurally similar to caffeine. Preliminary human studies indicate that the body does not adapt to it as quickly as it does to caffeine, therefore prolonging the tolerance buildup.

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is a more soluble form of L-Tyrosine, which supports the production of noradrenaline and dopamine, in turn supporting mental and cognitive health during stressful activities – such as physical training.

According to a 2010 European Journal of Applied Physiology study, oral supplementation with tyrosine improves cycling performance in the heat. Moderately trained athletes were able to cycle longer compared to a placebo after taking 150mg of tyrosine per kg of body weight. Tyrosine plays a role in providing a better mood, which may result in getting more out of your workouts.

Mucuna Pruriens contains high concentrations of L-Dopa. L-Dopa crosses the blood-brain barrier where it then converts to Dopamine, therefore supporting a positive effect on mental well-being, enhanced mood, alertness, and cognitive function.

There are different levels of pre-workouts thanks to the amount of stimulants found in each serving. In general, pre-workouts can fall into 3 categories:

Level 1: Low/moderate stimulant. Good for those who enjoy a standard energy drink or cup of coffee during the day.

Level 2: Moderate/high stimulant. Good for those who enjoy multiple energy drinks or cups of coffee a day and/or take pre-workout before the gym.

Level 3: Extremely high stimulant. Good for those who have taken pre-workouts for years.

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