Why Pre-Workout Supplements Work

by Christine Hronec

For the vain at heart, people lift and consume protein to get jacked.  But most want more, to be not only big, but also lean enough that all their muscle definition is visible.  When you add up the cost of a gym membership, the hours spent pumping iron, the attention to detail in reading nutritional labels, and the hundreds if not thousands one spends a year on protein, one must ask if all that time and money is delivering the results you really want.

While the intense resistance exercises will only consume an hour of your time, what you eat 90 minutes before has a significant impact on the net results.  Research has shown that the timing of amino acid consumption affects the anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise [1].  Simply stated, the process that builds up muscle is driven by anabolism.  This metabolic process stimulates protein synthesis which results in muscle growth [2].

In a brief time interval, high intensity resistance exercises causes severe physiological adaptations to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), phospocreatine (PCr), and glycogen levels [3].  For this reason, several ingredients have been identified to have proven benefits when taken prior to high intensity resistance exercise:

  • Caffeine-Caffeine is a well known stimulant to the central nervous system [4]. It is suggested that caffeine increases catecholamine concentrations that promote the utilization of fat, therefore sparing intramuscular glycogen, resulting in improved performance [5,6].
  • Beta Alanine-Beta Alanine is a non-proteogenic amino acid that enhances the buffering capacity of muscle, by increasing muscle carnosine concentrations [7].  Carnosine is a dipeptide amino acid that is highly concentrated in muscle and brain tissue.  Supplementation of beta-alanine was shown to significantly reduce fatigue in repeated bouts of exhaustive dynamic muscle contractions, due to its ability to increase carnosine content [8].
  • Creatine-Phosphocreatine (PCr) is a major component of biological buffering, a critical element when muscles are exposed to high intensity exercise.  Supplementation of creatine stores results in greater pre-exercise PCr availability which improves muscle buffering capacity and accelerates PCr resynthesis during recovery[9,10].

There are several pre-workout supplements on the market that are specifically formulated to help you get the most out of your workout that include these ingredients.  Scientific evidence supports the significant improvement in overall improved strength and muscle synthesis achievable through supplementation.  Products such as Muscle Gauge Nutrition’s Massive Growth and USP Labs Jack3d product deliver validated results at an insignificant cost when you consider all the time and money already invested into gaining lean muscle mass.


[1] Tipton et al. Anabolic Response of Muscle to Supplement Timing. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 281:197-206, 2001.

[2] Nicholls D.G. and Ferguson S.J. (2002) Bioenergetics Academic press 3rd edition ISBN 0-125-18121-3

[3] Smith et al. The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anerobic performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010, 7:10.

[4] Jones G: Caffeine and other sympathomimetic stimulants: modes of action and effects on sports performance. Essays in biochemistry 2008, 44:109-123.

[5] Costill DL, Dalsky GP, Fink WJ: Effects of caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance. Medicine and science in sports 1978, 10(3):155-158.

[6] Spiret LL, MacLean DA, Dyck DJ, Hultman E, Cederblad G, Graham TE: Caffeine ingestion and muscle metabolism during prolonged exercise in humans.The American Journal of Physiology 1992, 262 (6 Pt 1):E891-898.

[7] Dunnett M, Harris RC: Influence of oral beta-alanine and L-histidine supplementation on the carosine content of the gluteus medius. Equine Vet J Suppl 1999, 30:499-504.

[8] Derave et al. beta-Alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuats fatigue during repeated isokinetic contract bouts in trained sprinters. J Appl Physiol 2007 Nov; 103(5): 1736-43.

[9] Birch R, Noble D, Greenhaff PL:The influence of dietary creatine supplementation on performance during repeated bouts of maximal isokinetic cycling in man. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology 1994, 69(3):268-276.

[10] Earnest CP, Snell PG, Rodriguez R, Almada AL, Mitchell TL: The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indicies, muscular strength, and body composition. Acta physiologia Scandinavica 1995, 153(2):207-209.

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