Workout Nerdout: Episode 5 -- The Hard Truth About Pre-Workout Supplements
It is no secret-- Americans spend a lot of money on supplements; to be exact, American spending on supplements exceeds $30 Billion (yes, with a "B") per year. While everyone has their own reason to take supplements, I, most commonly, encounter individuals that are seeking improved exercise performance, and this often means that they are willing to look to supplementation as their means to do it.
For those looking to improve the quality of their workouts by way of improved intensity, pre-workout supplements are their go-to's. To be knowledgeable about the efficacy of supplementation, it would behoove one to look up research, and, if the supplement companies cite specific studies to support their claims, read the research material. Oftentimes, such studies use very specific test subjects, including very sickly individuals. While the active ingredients in pre-workout supplements may produce positive effects in research studies cited by the producers of the supplements, their results may not be as impressive for the general population and, in some cases, may be more harmful than beneficial.
One of the most common reasons for individuals to resort toward taking pre-workout supplements is that they are seeking a "boost" to have a good workout. The active ingredient for this "boost" is oftentimes nothing more than caffeine. The most likely actor for allowing the individual to sustain a higher intensity while working out is the placebo effect. When a person is fully convinced that a certain product is the reason for their good workouts, and the absence of the product as the reason for their poor workouts, it is highly likely that the placebo effect may be the root of the cause.
What has been proven to help athletes and recreational weight trainers, time after time after time after time, are adequate sleep and healthy eating. Another thing to remember is that supplements are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are only evaluated by trusted third-party supplement testers, such as USP (United States Pharmacopeia), NSF International or Consumer Lab, when the supplement producer volunteers to have their products evaluated. What it means when supplement companies opt out of volunteering to have their products tested is that consumers have no guarantee, other than the supplier's word, that the product contains the listed ingredients, the listed quantity of each ingredient and no additional ingredients that may cause harm to the consumer.
Should you take pre-workout supplements? That is a decision that I cannot make for you, but it would behoove you to take a close look at the quality of sleep you are getting and the quality of food that you are eating, beforehand.