In part one I talked about The Training Program, on the part 2 I discussed about Pre-Training Food, and now it’s time to address Pre-Workout Supplements
In general, when talking about pre-training supplements, you have two main options. The supplements that are meant to increase neural drive and focus, or brain supplements, and the ones that are meant to increase nitric oxide or vasodilation.
Supplements for the Brain
Let’s start talking about the brain supplements. The main objective of these supplements is to increase the levels of two main neurotransmitters in the brain: dopamine and acetylcholine. You can think of dopamine as the neurotransmitter for drive, and about acetylcholine as the one for focus. Why do you need them both at the same time? Let’s say you have all the drive for that squat session and you feel like lifting more than ever, but you cannot remember the feet stance or tempo for the exercise, or maybe you cannot stay focused rep after rep and your brain simply goes somewhere else. That definitely will not bring you a good workout. And now let’s go to the other side of the spectrum and you can focus on every rep and even remember the dot on the wall where you put your eyes on during the previous session, but the drive to train is non-existent. Again, not a good situation.
On top of that, both neurotransmitters are involved in muscular contractions and activation, so having both elevated at the same will ensure that you can give the most of you in the workout, and that’s why raising both at the same time is very important.
My favorite supplements for these purposes are:
|NEURON from Optimum EFX (Use code “STRENGTHCOMMUNITY15” for 15% off)
|Brain Restore from NutriDyn (Create an Account for 10% off)
|PreTrain NRG from Designs for Health
|Growth Factor from ATP Lab
I like to use these supplements for relative strength workouts, as they need more from the brain than other types of workouts, because it is mostly a neural process.
Nitric Oxide Increasers
Moving in to the second category of supplements, we have the nitric oxide increasers. Nitric oxide is a molecule involved in a wide array of processes in the human body and it gave a Nobel Prize to the 3 researchers that discovered it. For our case, when you increase nitric oxide levels, you’ll have a better vasodilation, which means better blood flow to the muscles, better nutrient transport, and a better pump. But nitric oxide is not only for muscles, as it also allows better oxygenation of the brain, and it is actually a precursor of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine and acetylcholine.
The supplements to increase Nitric Oxide that I like the most are:
NOX Synergy from Designs for Health
|Cardio Flow from NutriDyn
eNOS from ATP Lab
I like to use these supplements mainly for hypertrophy type of workouts, as they are more related to the muscular processes.
Caffeine is probably the most researched stimulant on earth, and for a good reason. I won’t get into all the details, but research has proven that caffeine can increase athletic performance, strength levels and endurance. Great benefits, right?
I like to get my caffeine from a good coffee, specially a properly made cold brew (and I know I’m biased), but according to research is one of the forms that reaches peak levels faster in the blood, and the taste is simply outstanding.
The optimal dose of caffeine is highly individual and it can range from 100 mg to 800mg. You just have to find out the one that work the best for you, and from an empirical point of view, 200 mg is the most common dose.
Now let’s address some common questions about the pre-training supplements
How long before a workout should I take them?
Usually, between 30 and 60 minutes is a good timing, and as everything else in life, individuality plays an important role, so my best advice is experiment in order to find the timing that brings you the highest benefits.
Can I mix some of these supplements?
You can, but you have to be careful, so let’s start with brain supplements and caffeine. They are an excellent combo, as the effect on the brain gets magnified, but read the labels first, because some of them already have caffeine like NEURON from Optimum EFX (150 mg per serving) and PreTrain NRG from Designs for Health (100 mg per serving).
Nitric oxide increasers with caffeine are an absolute NO. As we saw before, nitric oxide increasers are vasodilators, and caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, so your body will get opposite messages simultaneously with that mix, and the result will be far from what you might be looking for.
Brain supplements with nitric oxide increasers can be mixed, but as I explained before, there should be no presence of caffeine in them.
What is the right dose?
Normally the dose on the label is optimal, but sometimes people need more or less, and as usual, that is very individual. My suggestion is to start with the recommended dose on the label, and see if you need more or less.
A special note
If you or a client get anxious before an athletic event or particular training program, instead of any of the above, you should use a supplement to calm the brain without producing drowsiness or make you feel sleepy, and a fantastic product for that is:
|NEUROFF from Optimum EFX (Use code “STRENGTHCOMMUNITY15” for 15% off)
It is designed to recover the central nervous system on athletes and people that train hard, and it’s normally used right after a very intense workout, game or competition, and/or before going to bed. Nevertheless, it can be used as a pre-workout, pre-competition or pre-game, if the person suffers from anxiety or nervousness as mentioned before.
I hope this information helps you to improve your performance!
Coach Carlos Castro