Hugo Luna, General Manager, Rick & Ann's GNC Stores
As I mentioned in my first post, I take my supplements seriously, and I want to make sure that we at Rick & Ann's GNC Stores always connect you to the right product for you and your lifestyle.
We're always available to help you in person, whenever you drop into one of our stores, but we also want to make you better supplement consumers by educating you about the options you've got.
In this post, I want to tell you more about pre-workout supplements. This is a category of supplement that you take before a workout, and it gives you a carefully-calibrated mix of nutrients that are aimed at improving your results.
What is a pre-workout supplement?
Pre-workout supplements are formulated to help you get the most out of your workout. It doesn’t matter what kind of workout you do — intense or moderate, aerobic or anaerobic, long or short — if you’re going to put in the effort, you want to maximize the results.
That’s what pre-workout supplements aim to do. They aim to give you exactly what your body needs to maximize your workout gains.
But because there are so many different workout programs and styles, and because there are such big differences among individual athletes, not every pre-workout supplement is right for everyone. Generally speaking, every supplement out there is formulated for a specific kind of athlete. It’s important that you understand what goes into those products and how they fit you and your workout program.
What does a pre-workout supplement do?
There are three things that are important to a successful workout.
Mental energy and focus — you can’t drag during your workout and expect to get real value. Focus and energy make a huge difference.
Stamina — as you work out, your muscles get fatigued and that puts a limit on how far you can push. Extending your stamina extends your effective workout.
Rebuilding — when you’re done, your body needs to rebuild. You need to give it the tools it needs to maximize that rebuilding.
Pre-workout supplements are designed — in varying ways and with varying emphasis — to give you the nutritional elements you need to achieve those three goals.
What does a pre-workout supplement contain?
So what are those nutritional elements?
Here’s a list of typical ingredients you may find in a pre-workout supplement.
Caffeine — this stimulant gives you a boost in energy, focus, and endurance.
BCAAs — this category of amino acids (‘branched-chain amino acids’) reduces muscle breakdown and improves muscle recovery.
Creatine — this amino acid improves muscle strength, power, and general performance.
Nitric oxide boosters — things like citrulline and arginine help with blood flow and get nutrients to your muscles.
Taurine — this is another amino acid; it can improve performance during your workout and reduce muscle damage.
Glutamine — yet another amino acid; it reduces muscle soreness and speeds recovery.
B-Vitamins — these essential vitamins play a role in energy metabolism.
These components will occur in different amounts, and some may not be present at all in some formulations. Most of that information is displayed on product labels.
I know that comparing product labels can be hard, so we offer a couple of things to help you out.
First, we’ve got trained staff in each of our stores — experts who can help you compare products and decide which is best for you. Come in and talk to us.
Second, we’ve put together a product guide on our website. Our product guide organizes pre-workout supplements into three ‘levels’:
Non-stimulant products. These products contain no caffeine at all. These are the products you should use if you’re just starting out with pre-workout supplements. They’re also the right products for you if you need to watch your blood pressure.
Medium-stimulant products. These formulations contain a moderate amount of caffeine. These products are for more experienced users.
High-stimulant products. These products pack the most stimulant, and they’re aimed at high-energy, high-focus workouts. Don’t start with these products. Work your way up to them.
Get our advice
When you’re picking a pre-workout supplement, it helps to get advice. So first, check out our website product guide to see what we recommend. Then stop into one of our stores and talk to one of our in-store experts. They know the options, and they can help you pick the right one for your workout style and fitness condition.
As another aid, here are some charts that compare a few of our pre-workout products. You can also see these charts in our stores.