Pre-Workout & Post-Workout Supplements Guide
If you go to the gym on a regular basis, then you probably already have a favorite protein shake. This is a fantastic way for you to replenishing some of the energy that you will inevitably lose working out. But is it enough?
If you are looking to a get a bit more out of your workouts and are interested in significantly increasing your strength by intensifying your workout regimen, then it might be a good idea to consider using supplements to help keep your body in balance.
You also know about protein powder, but what about pre-workout and post-workout supplements to help you get ready for an intense workout and help your muscles heal after your re finished?
The best things to intake before a workout have a lot of carbohydrates and a mid-range amount of caffeine. Be careful with your caffeine intake, though. You don’t want to overdo it. Both the carbohydrates and the caffeine will ensure that you have plenty of strength for your workout and you are alert and ready to go. They will also help you with endurance so that you can that extra mile when you don’t think it is at all possible.
Immediately after your work out you need to find a way to help your muscles recover as fast as possible. Glutamine is the perfect amino acid to help your body recover from a heavy workout. It is most commonly found in cottage cheese and is a good choice because it contains low amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. There are other ingredients out there that can help speed up the recovery process, some of which work by helping your body synthesize protein and get you ready for the next work out.
Here is some basic information about fundamental ingredients that you will find in pre and post workout supplements. These ingredients are the key to a successful workout routine and a speedy recovery.
“any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body.”
These are crucial for both pre and post workout. Carbohydrates are responsible for fueling our muscles; they are stored in our body as glycogen. During a workout or any physical activity really, we use our reserves of glycogen to operate and when overtime those reserves become depleted that’s when we run out of energy and hit the “wall.” Obviously, once you are done with a workout and you are out of glycogen you have to replenish it, otherwise you won’t have energy to function.
The best way to intake enough carbohydrates is either through supplements or sports drinks, eating a bowl of mashed potatoes is definitely not suggested. The amount of carbohydrates you need to consume varies depending on the intensity of your workout but generally a range between 3.5 to 4.5 grams per pound of body weight is a good number.
Caffeine is defined as “a crystalline compound that is found especially in tea and coffee plants and is a stimulant of the central nervous system.”
Consuming a moderate amount of caffeine pre workout will help you greatly to maintain your endurance. It will make the workout seem a bit less difficult and easier to complete. The only thing you have to make be careful of is to ensure that you don’t overdo it. Check the contents table to make sure that you don’t take too much, otherwise you might end up nauseous or jittery throughout your workout, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine. The best way to find out how much is best for you is through trial and error. Start with a lower dose and increase it as you go until you are comfortable with the amount you are taking and the results it is producing.
Vitamin C is “a vitamin found particularly in citrus fruits and green vegetables. It is essential in maintaining healthy connective tissue, and is also thought to act as an antioxidant.”
This vitamin is known for being super useful when you get the common cold, but most people don’t actually know why. The truth is that vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps your body with stress. No matter how you look at it, an intense workout is just that, metabolic stress. This means that your body goes through similar conditions during a workout as it would if you were to be under the influence of a cold. Vitamin C will help you combat these conditions throughout your workout and afterwards, as well. The fact that is will also help prevent you from developing a cough is just a nice bonus.
The recommended dosage varies between 65 to 90 mg a day, and is usually less for women and more for men. Do not exceed more than 2,000 mg a day. Even though too much Vitamin C is unlikely to be harmful, mega doses of Vitamin C supplements may cause undesired side effects such as diarrhea.
Vitamins B6 and B12
These vitamins are part of “a group of substances (the vitamin B complex) that are essential for the working of certain enzymes in the body and, although not chemically related, are generally found together in the same foods.”
Even though more research is needed, many people agree that these nutrients can be depleted much faster when your body is undergoing stressful and strenuous activities. This is generally the case for B6 more so than for B12. This vitamin helps your body fine tune regular bodily processes, such as converting food into energy and forming red blood cells. It’s kind of like oil for your engine: while your engine will run with a small amount of oil in it, it will operate much better if you have the right amount. This ensures that everything is well-tuned and will give you strength when you work out and during all other times in the day as well.
For Vitamin B6 you should consume about 1.3mg per day if you are between the ages of 19-50. If you are over 51 and are a man then increase the dosage to 1.7mg. Do not exceed 100mg per day.
For Vitamin B12 your daily intake should be 2.4mcg (micrograms).
Tart Cherry Juice
This fruit is quickly becoming a favorite among endurance athletes because of its ability to help with pain and its anti-inflammatory properties. The phytochemicals in the juice are able to keep your health on guard and protect your body from a lot of damage. Although there are many studies still underway to determine exactly how the tart cherry juice acts on your body, one thing is clear: it does wonders for muscle recovery and pain management.
Because the use of tart cherry juice is relatively new, the recommended dosage has not been perfected yet. We know through trials and testing that two 10oz bottles of tart cherry juice increased the recovery rate of post marathon athletes much faster. As tart cherry powder is produced for post work out purposes, the dosage will vary depending on its potency.
“A branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) is an amino acid having aliphatic side-chains with a branch (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms). Among the proteinogenic amino acids, there are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine.”
Basically, a BCAA Blend is a mix if three important amino acids; leucine, isoleucine and valine. There are many functions within our bodies that BCAAs help with, but the main things they are responsible for are helping with the digestion of food and assisting in the recovery of muscle tissue. Those who are interested in building muscles need to increase the intake of BCAAs into their body, which can be accomplished via the consumption of proteins like meats and eggs. Remember the good old image of Rocky drinking raw eggs while training?
He knew what he was doing. Leucine is responsible for fixing broken tissue; it is vital when regenerating after tissue damaged caused by workouts. The dosage can vary drastically depending on what your primary objective is, but generally anything up to 20 grams should be fine.
Now that you know the basics we can dive into specific products and give you a little feedback on a few of the pre-workout and post-workout supplements on the market today. The supplement market is huge and it is nearly impossible to try every supplement available, so we had to rely a bit on reviews from others to see what results they have had with the products and whether they liked the products. Keep in mind these are not listed in any specific order.
Arnold Iron Pump
This supplement was designed for those who are looking to target their muscle growth and strength. It contains well-known and revolutionary nitric oxide promoting pathways. It also contains many other pump matrixes which are arginine free. This supplement mix will provide you with everything you need to pump out the maximum you can from your muscles.
Arnold Pump is manufactured by Musclepharm and is not available anywhere else. They also offer a variety of other blends which contain creatine and protein. Keep in mind that they are relatively new in the supplement industry and might not have as much reputation as some of the other blends out there, but that doesn’t mean that the product is lacking. Give it a test and see if it works for you.
Pro Supps Mr. Hyde Pre-Workout Supplement
If you are looking for a super energy pre-workout supplement, then Mr. Hyde is definitely in that ball park. Known for being one of the strongest pre-workout stimulants on the market, it will most likely not be for everyone. But if you crave that insane energy wave during your workout and are looking to simply tear up the gym quickly and efficiently, then you have found the right stuff.
This is a fantastic simulant with a superb value that is quick acting as well, but besides that it’s nothing special. So if intense workouts are your thing and you need something to help you breeze through them, you got it, but if not then perhaps you should keep looking.
Cellucor C4 Extreme
Cellucor C4 is for people who are looking to take something every day and get relatively good energy boost while maintaining clear cut focus. It contains beta-alanine which creates that tingly sensation that keeps you moving, as well as creatine nitrate which is pretty much known for instant power.
The blend has been perfected with a main focus to maximize absorption into your body. They seemed to have jumped ahead in the industry when it comes to delivery, and they’re providing pretty good results.
Cellucor C4 Neuro
The new and reformulated version of this product contains four additional variants of C4, Neuro being the best one. We only focused on this one out of the four new variants because we felt the others simply did not deliver. The other three had different items in them which we weren’t too pleased with, like sugar or a weak shred matrix. But C4 Neuro delivered on all of its promises.
While still maintaining an amazing delivery efficiency, the dosage remained as low as before without a loss in effectiveness. At the same time, the formula was reconstructed to deliver a better focus matrix. This means that the product is designed to ease your mindset once you start the workout. This amazing combination of capabilities resulted in easily one of the best products out there.
Isatori Pre-Gro – Muscle Growth PWO
If you are a body builder, you have probably already heard about Pre-Gro. If not, then you are missing out. Colostrum is the focal point of each serving, which produces growth factors. These same growth factors stimulate your muscles and increase their growth while maintaining total safety. You might think that this is more than enough to be a good pre-workout supplement (and you are right) but Pre-Gro doesn’t stop there. Its formula also contains one of the best mixes of substances to promote amazing mental focus. We have literally not found a single bad review about this product and that is very impressive.
Remember Predator, the mean alien from that 1987 movie with Arnold in it? Musclepharm Wreckage is kind of like that. It is designed for people who are accustomed to hitting the gym five to six times per week who are striving to become bodybuilders. This stuff is not for the faint of heart. It is pumped full of caffeine, citrulline, and leucine, which fill you to the brim with energy. You need the experience to know what to do with this energy and how to maximize it. If you are new to the gym lifestyle, please stay away. You will not be able to handle it. Start with something a bit easier and less intense.
Hands down this pre-workout supplement is at the top of the list for hardcore gym rats. You will love what it does to your body and mind as long as you are into hardcore, intense, quick-paced workouts. Still, bear in mind, it is for experienced lifters only.
Musclepharm Assault – All-In-One PWO
Strength is the focus of this supplement. Designed for a broad variety of users but targeted towards those who are willing to do some serious muscle strengthening workouts, Musclepharm Assault will definitely help make you stronger. One of its primary focal points is to increase endurance and elevate your performance during your workouts. The set back is that you will need a bit more time set aside to recover from your workout if you plan to use this supplement. If you are the type of a person who wants to be the strongest in your pack and outshine your competition, this is the stuff for you.
It’s not really a secret; everyone knows how well Musclepharm Assault works. So don’t expect to use it as some sort of secret weapon. Just keep in mind that this supplement is very well balanced, both for that extra juice when you are pumping iron and mental stamina that you can use while doing so, the rest is up to you. Just don’t overdo it.
JYM- Pre Jym Pre Workout
Jim Stoppani is a respected bodybuilder all across the world and he also happens to have a Ph.D. What’s that got to do with JYM? Well, he developed it. This is his latest pre-workout supplement and definitely the best yet. Whenever a product is being developed by someone who has the intention of using it every day, and who has been using similar products for a long time, the result more often than not is spectacular. The reason is simple. Jim knows what he needs out of a pre-workout supplement because he has been at the front lines and has experienced the drawbacks and side effects of other supplements. Combine all this experience with a brilliant mind and you have JYM.
The main take away from the product is energy and that “creatine power” feeling. But unlike most creatine products out there, this one is long lasting and works all the way through your workout without a single fail. The amount of endurance boost you can get from this product is remarkable. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on while you hit the gym and continue down your path to bodybuilding perfection.
Betancourt Bullnox (B-NOX) Pre Workout Powder
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be the Hulk? Well, take away the radiation, add a dose of B-Nox, and you are there. B-Nox has a modest amount of natural testosterone, a well-balanced pump matrix, and multi-creatine powder with the addition of a few other stimulants. The result is a more manly you, meaning that the testosterone increases your levels of masculinity and causes you to be more aggressive and feel a sensation of strength and power. Your muscle gain will increase and you will be more determined in the long run.
There were some drawbacks to this product. Most of the people who have used it before were drawn to it and this may be a concern regarding the possibility that it is addicting. The pump matrix also wasn’t as well constructed as we expected it to be, so it fell a bit short on our scale of functionality. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic supplement that is definitely worth a try.
Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK
Many body builders dub this the hands down best pre-workout supplement ever made. Not only does it guide you through a powerful workout and increase your energy while maintaining unparalleled mental focus, but it also focuses on post-workout lean muscle growth.
Citrulline Malate is the ingredient responsible for such great mental focus and some of the highest energy levels out there. This is a lot different than working with caffeine and the effect that Citrulline Malate has on your body is nothing like we have heard of before. It actually feels like your brain is performing on another level altogether.
This is all fine and dandy, why is the muscle growth so prominent when using BULK? The answer is surprisingly simple: 2.5 grams of anabolic betaine with the support of some testosterone. Add a whopping 4 grams of BCAAs and you’ve got a formula which will keep you going longer and harder than anything else out there.
EVL Nutrition RE-BLD
As far as post workout supplements go, this one is more of an all-in-one option. It has a blend of creatine HCL, which helps you start the recovery process as fast as possible when you are done with your workout. There is also L-glutamine which is an essential nutrient in the recovery process and also helps synthesize protein. Besides that, the supplement actually tastes pretty good which can be a challenge to accomplish especially considering the types of nutrients packed into most post-workout supplements.
But it’s not all peaches and cream here. Even though the taste is great, there are only two flavors, which we could deal with but only if the price was acceptable. Unfortunately, it’s a bit high.
MHP Dark Matter
Besides the cool name, this post workout supplement also has some pretty nifty stuff in it. Starting with creatine complex which helps your muscles regain fuel and energy, on to glycogen replenishment complex which is pretty self-explanatory. Glycogen is a type of fuel that our body uses to function. Finally, a protein synthesis accelerator complex, which essentially helps your body accelerate protein synthesis, resulting in faster muscle repair post-workout.
This product contains some pretty impressive ingredients that are rather unique, but for some reason, the makers think they can charge an arm and a leg for it. We disagree, especially when only three flavors are available.
BSN AMINO X
This is a very solid post workout supplement. It takes advantage of the many benefits that amino acids have to offer, which are an excellent way to speed up the recovery process after any workout. It also contains a mix of BCAA’s which, combined with the amino acids, results in superior recovery, fantastic muscle regeneration, and protein synthesis.
This is a very well-targeted product and is a pretty good overall solution to the recovery issue, but it isn’t a complete solution. We would like to see a few more ingredients to help with muscle recovery and acceleration of muscle tissue regeneration. The price is pretty good but we still only get three flavors. When will these companies learn? We want more flavors!
MusclePharm BCAA 3:1:2
Delivered to you by the very popular creators of pre-workout supplements known as MusclePharm comes a new post workout recovery solution known as MusclePharm BCAA 3:1:2. Taking advantage of the branched chains of amino acids, this supplement comes in the form of a pill so it doesn’t have to take up shelf room amongst all your other shakes and juices at home.
The price of this product is great and the fact that it comes in pill form is good news, too. It contains some of the more essential recovery nutrients like leucine, valine, and isoleucine, but unfortunately, is still lacking some of the other top-notch recovery ingredients available out there. While the pill form is great and all, the serving size is a whopping 8 capsules. Seems a bit over the top if you ask me.
BPI Sports Best BCAA
Besides the standard focus on post-workout recovery, BPI Sports Best BCAA also puts some focus into weight loss and vasodilation. Unlike other post-workout supplements, BPI Sports Best BCAA combines the three BCAAs it uses in an exceptional bonding process which results in a more effective method of absorption of these important amino acids.
This product is hands down the best BCAA supplement available, but unfortunately, it is not a complete post-workout solution. The price is also rather high for a product that is not a complete solution. It is most likely going to be used in combination with something else that offers a few more benefits for you.
Technically, this product is designed more for use during your workout than it is a post-workout supplement. It is designed to deliver a head start on recovery through a slow release of carbs into your body as you are working out while maximizing your endurance during the workout. Pretty good idea if you ask us. Besides the slow release of carbohydrates, SciVationXtend Endurance also offers amino acids, which we all know are a must have when attempting to heal and recover your muscles after your workout.
This is definitely one of the less pricey items we have looked at. While the head start on recovery is a good idea, we are still missing some key ingredients to help us recover quickly and efficiently. Another factor is inconvenience: how comfortable will you be with drinking this supplement during your workout? We personally would rather stick to water or electrolytes for now.
Rich Piana 5% Nutrition ALLDAYYOUMAY
Now this is the stuff we like to see people use. Made by Rich Piana, the owner of 5% Nutrition, this post-workout supplement is packed with the most necessary ingredients for a great post-workout recovery session. With a cross combination of BCAA and beta-alanine, multiple vitamins, coconut water concentrate, and many more absolutely wonderful ingredients, this product is a great solution.
The formula of this product goes beyond the standard recovery ingredients. It offers many other beneficial nutrients which can boost your recovery speed and effectiveness. The price point is pretty good as well, sitting somewhere in the mid-range when compared to all of the other products out there. We only have one thing to harp on. Apparently, some people dislike the taste, as they use sucralose and acesulfame potassium to give it a sweeter flavor.
Universal Nutrition Torrent
Keeping a consistent balance of ingredients across the board is the best strategy that will separate you from other products on the market. That is exactly what Universal Nutrition Torrent has managed to accomplish. Using free form amino acids with vital ingredients such as creatines and whey protein, Torrent has accomplished what we have all been looking for: an affordable, easy to use solution for everything that our body might need to recover quickly and effortlessly. This product is great and we did not find any drawbacks. Keep in mind that the ingredients in this supplement not only help with recovery post-workout but also get your body ready for your next workout session as well. There is nothing better than knowing you are one step ahead of your body and one step closer to your perfect workout body.
Optimum Nutrition Essential AmiN.O. Energy
Optimum Nutrition is excellent for what your body needs both during and after a workout. Packed to the brim with very powerful amino acids, beta-alanine, and green tea extract, this supplement will help you by supplying energy during your workout and giving you a lead in the recovery department well before your workout is over.
The mixture contains no fat and absolutely not sugary, but it is still available in nine delicious flavors. That’s what we’re talking about! The versatility that comes with this product is fantastic as well: you aren’t just limited to using it during or after your workout, you can also just take it before your workout. The effects are long lasting and one way or another, your recovery will be sped up and more effective with this supplement. The value is great as well, as it is one of the more affordable products on the market.
Cellucor Alpha Amino
Not only is this product a leader amongst all post-workout supplements out there, it is also a wonderful source of electrolytes and carries a powerful hydration blend to keep you going throughout your routine and on your way to recovery post-workout. The amino acids found in this drink mix are the ones your body needs to fuel a full recovery once you are done with your workout. The hydration side of the mix helps your body regain fluid levels, which can also catalyze the recovery process of your muscles. This is a relatively simple solution but amazingly effective. The price, while not the lowest we have seen, is still very affordable. It can be found in five different flavors. That’s not as many as we would like to see, but it’s enough to keep us happy.
Overall, we think this is the best post-workout product out there. Everything seems to be in perfect order. The ingredients used are in a perfect balance. The post workout recovery wasn’t the only challenge that the creators of Cellucor Alpha Amino were thinking about when working on the formula. Luckily, all the hard work paid off.
Final Thoughts on Pre & Post Workout Supplements
So there you have it, all the information you could possibly need to choose the right pre-workout and post-workout supplements for your needs. Just keep in mind that at the core of every workout is you, and what you do at the gym matters the most.
Yes, the right nutrition is key and using supplements is the most effective way to get the correct nutrients into your body for best performance during and after your workout, but if you don’t challenge yourself and push yourself beyond your limit then no supplement in the world can help you.
If you are just starting out with going to the gym and are only interested in getting in relatively good shape, then the basic supplements we mentioned at the start of this article will most likely be more than enough for you. However, if you have already been to the gym for a good amount of time, managed to gain some experience and are now focused on a totally different goal with perfection in mind, then you will certainly need the help of supplements.
Remember that supplements should not be seen as props or crutches to your success. The main reason they are used is to ease the process and reduce the amount of time it will take for you to get to your ultimate goal.
Before we let you all go there is another topic we should talk about. The not so legal alternative to gaining the body you always wanted. It is very tempting to give into a few carefully placed words just within your hearing range and make the mistake of taking the wrong path to your athletic goals.
We understand the temptation to reach for the shortest path to fast results, but we also want you to understand that the majority of the products out there which are deemed not safe or illegal have been labeled so for a good reason. Some of them can cause adverse side effects which can be very discouraging and dangerous.
Other things can lead to much more troublesome issues. What you put into your body is important. These synthetic substances are designed to create unnatural conditions for your body in an attempt to boost your stamina, muscle weight, or energy. Make no mistake that the chances are there will also be a price for these exaggerated results, and it might not be something that will surface immediately. But it will certainly show up sooner or later. Take care of your body; nothing is worth endangering your life over.
You have a fantastic mind which controls everything you do, so use it to make the right choice. Use your mind to motivate yourself and those around you.
Finally, we want you to understand that not all bodies are built the same. While some supplements can do miracles for many people, they might also be less effective for others. Be aware of any allergies that you may have before taking any of these supplements. It is a good idea to check all of the ingredients listed and make sure you are not allergic to any of them. If you discover some strange side effects or undesired conditions, please check with your doctor before jumping to any conclusions.
Only a medical professional is truly qualified to help you determine what is happening to your body. Make sure you keep track of everything you take just in case something happens and you need to have a detailed record of what you have been taking. Many people keep a gym journal where they will track their workout routines and diets.
This is a great location to also jot down what supplements you are taking and when, and makes for a pretty convenient record where your doctor can review all three side by side.