Using Pre-Workout Supplements: Do They Work?

Athletes have been attempting to use liquids and foods for increased performance ever since athletics have been around.  Over the years, we have identified the foods and substances that really work to naturally benefit your body – but do supplements offer faster benefits than just eating healthy?

Today, many runners have turned to certain types of natural (and legal) substances in order to supplement their performance.  It has been theorized that caffeine, creatine, and amino acids can offer a sizable boost to a runner’s aerobic and anaerobic performance.

To test this theory, a team of researchers designed an experiment to study whether or not pre-workout supplements offer any real boost other than placebo effects.

The study consisted of 24 moderately-trained recreational athletes who were split into two groups. The experimental group was given an active supplement called Game Time, which consisted of whey protein, cordyceps sinensis, creatine, ginseng, and caffeine. The placebo group was given a beverage that tasted and looked similar, but did not offer any benefit.

Both groups participated in the same program: three weeks of high-intensity interval training three days a week.  Each runner consumed their beverages 30 minutes prior to each workout session, and everyone was tested before and after training to see if their athletic capabilities had improved.

The results seemed to confirm the hypothesis.  While both groups improved their VO2 max, the experimental group showed a remarkable 10.9% increase as opposed to the 2.3% increase in the control group.  Also, the experimental group increased its anaerobic running capacity by 22% vs. a 10.6% increase in the placebo group.

The results of this study are promising.  Taking amino acids, creatine, and caffeine as supplements to, in this instance, HIIT can promote significant development  in a runner’s aerobic and anaerobic capacities.

Why is this? Well, creatine and amino acids are used extensively to develop muscle, so much of the added performance comes from stronger and more elastic muscles, which contributes to running economy and power. Plus, caffeine is a stimulant, and works to promote increased activity in the nervous system.

Does this mean everyone should take these supplements? I think the jury is still out on whether or not a cocktail such as this should be an everyday thing.  But, it is quite promising and is a sign that supplements, properly used, can be helpful.

Smith AE, Fukuda DH, Kendall KL, Stout JR (2010). “The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance.”J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 7(1):10

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2 Responses to “Using Pre-Workout Supplements: Do They Work?”

  1. Shannon says:

    Do you have a particular brand or specific ingredient ratio that you’ve tested and/or believe in?

  2. Yuri says:

    Not really Shannon. I don’t use really any supplements. Other than the occasional latte (for caffeine) and the fact that I used to use creatine periodically while playing soccer, I’m pretty whole food based nowadays.

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