Pre-Workout Supplements: To Take or Not to Take? 

Athour :

Keeley O'Hagan



Learn about pre-workout supplements and their potential benefits for athletic performance. Discover key ingredients to look for and alternatives to consider before deciding if a pre-workout supplement is right for you.

Many powdered supplements on spoons,
Many powdered supplements on spoons,
Many powdered supplements on spoons,

Do you get tired of feeling sluggish before a workout or becoming quickly fatigued during one? If this is the case, you may be wondering if a pre-workout supplement can help give you the energy you need to power through your workouts. But, what is a pre-workout, and do you really need one? 

What exactly is a pre-workout? 

A pre-workout supplement is a product designed to improve athletic performance and muscle building. These supplements usually include ingredients that boost energy, focus, and blood flow, allowing you to get the most out of your workout. It is important to note, however, that not everyone requires a pre-workout and that there are other options to consider. 

Other Pre-Workout Energy & Focus Options 

Is it necessary to take a pre-workout supplement? The answer is not simple because it is dependent on the individual. While some people believe that pre-workout supplements can help with energy, focus, and stamina, this does not mean that they are the best option for everyone or that you can't have a great workout without them. Fueling your body with natural energy-boosting ingredients found in foods is an alternative to pre-workout supplements. While these ingredients can still provide energy, they may not be as concentrated as they are in supplements. Before a workout, you could try the following snacks: A protein-packed smoothie made with berries, banana, leafy greens, nut butter, and a scoop of protein powder. Sliced apple or pear with almond or peanut butter. 

Whole-grain crackers or hummus-filled tortilla. A hard-boiled or fried egg on whole-grain toast. Berries and cottage cheese are a delicious combination. Check out the Athos App for more excellent snacks for athletes. What to Look for in a Pre-Workout  

There are a few ingredients to look for when comparing pre-workout supplements if you decide to use one. Ingredients that can help with concentration and energy during exercise, as well as recovery, include: 


Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and cocoa that can improve athletic performance by stimulating the central nervous system. It works best when taken 45-60 minutes before a workout, at a dose of around 3 mg/kg body mass. 


Although beta-alanine is not required in the diet, it is the rate-limiting amino acid in the process of carnosine synthesis. Beta-alanine supplementation can increase carnosine stores in your skeletal muscle, which can improve endurance during intense exercise. More research is needed, however, to determine the effects on strength and endurance performance beyond 25 minutes. Fish, poultry, and meat all contain beta-alanine. For 8-12 weeks, the recommended daily dosage is 2-5 g. 


Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium are lost through sweat and, if not replaced, can cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps. Replacing them before and during a workout is critical for prevention and can take the form of whole foods, sports drinks, or powders. 

Amino acids 

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and skeletal muscle, and they can aid in the body's recovery after exercise. Taking them before a workout may help to delay the onset of muscle soreness. However, many pre-workout supplements contain the BCAAs leucine, valine, and isoleucine, and there is little evidence that supplementing with BCAAs improves performance in people who already consume enough protein in their diet. 


Creatine is a naturally occuring compound in the body that plays an important role in the supply of energy to muscles. It's a common pre-workout ingredient because it can improve focus, strength, and muscle mass, as well as muscle recovery. The recommended daily dose of creatine monohydrate is 5 g/day. 


Carbohydrates, specifically glucose, are the body's and brain's prefered energy source. Glucose is commonly used in pre-workout drinks to help prevent muscle fatigue. Carbohydrate consumption before a workout can help optimise how well the body can tap into muscle glycogen stores for energy, especially for shorter or higher intensity activities. "Carb loading" is the practise of eating high-quality carbs more intentionally 1-7 days before a difficult workout to help replenish glycogen stores for later use. 


L-Citrulline is an amino acid that serves as a precursor to L-arginine, which is essential for nitric oxide synthesis. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, increasing circulation and oxygen availability to muscles. Although research on the benefits of citrulline on athletic performance is mixed, current evidence suggests that citrulline malate is beneficial in reducing muscle soreness at 24 and 48 hours after exercise. 

Is a Pre-Workout Supplement Really Necessary? 

A pre-workout supplement isn't required for a productive workout. Many pre-workout supplements on the market contain unnecessary fillers and ingredients that provide no benefit. Choosing one with key ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine, on the other hand, can be beneficial for longer and more intense workouts. It is also critical to select a pre-workout supplement that has been independently tested for safety, quality, and prohibited substances. 

It is critical to remember that taking a pre-workout supplement will not guarantee success in your sport. To truly see improvements in performance, other factors such as getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, promoting muscle recovery, and consuming enough calories must also be considered. 

  • A pre-workout supplement is designed to improve athletic performance and muscle building by boosting energy, focus, and blood flow.

  • Not everyone requires a pre-workout supplement and there are other options to consider such as fueling your body with natural energy-boosting ingredients found in foods.

  • If you decide to use a pre-workout supplement, look for ingredients that can help with concentration and energy during exercise, as well as recovery. These include caffeine, beta-alanine, electrolytes, amino acids, creatine, carbohydrates, and L-Citrulline.

  • A pre-workout supplement isn’t required for a productive workout and many contain unnecessary fillers and ingredients that provide no benefit. It is critical to select one that has been independently tested for safety, quality, and prohibited substances.

  • Kreider, Richard B et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 14 18. 13 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z 

  • Khemtong, Chutimon et al. “Does Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Supplementation Attenuate Muscle Damage Markers and Soreness after Resistance Exercise in Trained Males? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Nutrients vol. 13,6 1880. 31 May. 2021, doi:10.3390/nu13061880 

  • Allerton, Timothy D et al. “l-Citrulline Supplementation: Impact on Cardiometabolic Health.” Nutrients vol. 10,7 921. 19 Jul. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10070921 

  • Furst, Taylor et al. “β-Alanine supplementation increased physical performance and improved executive function following endurance exercise in middle aged individuals.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 15,1 32. 11 Jul. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0238-7 

  • Guest, Nanci S et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 18,1 1. 2 Jan. 2021, doi:10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4 

  • Harty, Patrick S et al. “Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 15,1 41. 8 Aug. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0247-6 

Keeley O'Hagan

Keeley O'Hagan