That fact that nutrition and exercise conjoined is a major contributor to overall health is without question. Whether you are on a mission to bulk up, lose weight, boost your energy level or just maintain good health, it requires discipline and consistency. That much is clear. But what some women still struggle to grasp is how to reap the maximum benefits from each workout and how to push through fatigue.
Many women have found their solution in pre-workouts. A pre-workout is a food supplement, which can be in the form of a capsule, beverage or protein/energy bar taken for the purpose of propelling and powering up your workout. Some supplements target weight loss and others muscle building. There are also pre-workouts designed specifically for men and others marketed to women.
The need for a healthy, balanced diet cannot be understated. A supplement is just that; an add-on. Pre-workouts can re-frame your mindset and transform your usual routine into a robust training session, but they are not meant to replace the nutritive value your body acquires from food.
Though some women prefer to work out after fasting, eating the right food beforehand serves to fuel your workout. Inevitably, this is not always feasible. Women tend to carry the load for others, wearing a multitude of hats and running from one bustle to the next throughout the day. But when possible, try to avoid the pitfall of replacing food with supplements.
Understanding what the muscles need
To explain the importance of feeding your muscles, let’s begin with the fundamentals. The job of muscles is primarily to alternate between contraction and recovery. The mass of muscle surrounding the skeletal frame is composed of millions of cells and fibers, and this structure is engineered to enact physical activity. Performing these actions requires short- and long-term energy. This energy is generated from glucose, glycogen and fatty acids, which are the metabolic products of carbohydrates and fat.
According to health professionals, it is best to eat a light meal high in complex carbohydrates and low in protein with a small amount of fat or fiber about three to four hours prior to a rigorous athletic event. After the meal is digested and absorbed, the nutrients will be transformed into stored glycogen for fuel.
Optimal timing of a pre-workout
The general rule of thumb on timing the pre-workout is to ingest it about 30 to 45 minutes prior to starting your workout session. Most supplements contain some level of caffeine, and it takes about that long for the stimulant to have an effect. Also, for any product that contains caffeine, avoid taking it too late in the day. Though its effect on sleep varies by individual, the usual guideline is not to imbibe caffeine after 4 or 5 p.m.
How to choose the right supplements
Resist the temptation to purchase heavily marketed products that are nothing more than the flavor of the day. A knee-jerk reaction to claims of super-powered ingredients and fast results, especially when under-priced, is understandable. But choosing a product based on sensational gimmicks and a slashed-down price is not cost-effective if it fails to engender the desired results. A prudent course of action would be to select products seconded by clinical research and authenticated through testing. Buy quality products that are proven to be safe and effective.
As in most things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all for supplements. So before evaluating a product, give some thought to your individual goals. Of course, good health is the overall objective. Beyond that, some women envisage themselves in an athletic body. Others focus on toning and shaping; reducing inflammation or stiffness; or slimming down.
To wade through the vernacular on pre-workout labels, following are examples of ingredients you can expect to see.
- L-citrulline: An amino acid manufactured by the body; fosters energy and stimulates the immune system.
- Creatine: Naturally present component of muscle cells; abets muscles to give rise to energy while lifting weights or exercising in high-intensity mode.
- Carnitine tartrate: Manufactured in the body from food substances containing meat and dairy; utilizes long-chain fatty acids to produce energy.
- Glucosamine: Naturally occurring compound; produces a molecule helpful in forming and repairing cartilage and other tissues; highly concentrated in the joints.
- Chondroitin: Naturally occurring element in connective tissue that can be seen in cartilage and bone; sometimes paired with glucosamine to treat osteoarthritis.
- Bromelain: Enzyme in pineapple; useful in the reduction of inflammation and sore muscles.
- L-theanine: Amino acid in green and black tea leaves; creates balance by promoting relaxation to offset the effect of caffeine.
- Taurine: Amino acid in the body; important factor in metabolic processes; may positively affect sports performance.
The following ingredients are essential amino acids. Amino acids are the body’s basic building materials that form protein. Essential amino acids refer to those building units that the body cannot produce on its own in adequate amounts, so they must supplied by food.
- Leucine: Essential amino acid for synthesis of protein and varied metabolic functions; promotes muscle growth and restores muscle tissue.
- Isoleucine: Essential amino acid of similar content and size to leucine but with a different structure.
- Valine: Essential amino acid with a stimulant effect; necessary for muscle metabolism, tissue repair and regulation of nitrogen balance.
Build lean muscle and a shapely body
Athletic women aiming for a muscular physique would look for supplements that include a complex of oxiendurance and electrohydration ingredients, such as L-citrulline, creatine, carnitine tartrate and leucine. Critical minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium and premium forms of Vitamin B could be added to the mix. Superpump Max encapsulates these elements in precise doses for energy, muscle repair and hydration.
Boost energy and lean muscle growth
If your vision is to be a powerhouse of energy with enhanced lean muscle growth, endurance and stamina, look for a supplement with branched-chain amino acids. BCAA is a group of amino acids comprised of leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are building blocks in the manufacture of proteins, acting to sustain muscle mass and promote recovery. Hyperamino is a complete amino acid and energy fuel. In the form of food, BCAAs can be found in eggs, meat and dairy.
Another BCAA product to optimize endurance levels is AminoLast. Not only does it promise to take effect from the first dose, but it mitigates muscle soreness and improves the level of hydration.
If getting ready for summer is what you are after, step up your egg protein intake with Summer Shred Stack.
Mitigate joint inflammation and stiffness
Sometimes vigorous training and overextending can result in inflammation of the joints. To ease the initial discomfort and promote healthy joint and bones in the longer term, Proven Joint works in two stages. This supplement blends anti-inflammatory elements, including herbs found in nature, such as turmeric, white willow bark and ginger. Turmeric contains curcumin, a yellow pigment that has anti-inflammatory properties. White willow bark is used to combat backache as well as joint pain. The Proven Joint also contains glucosamine, chondroitin, calcium, manganese and boron.
Enjoy a more restful sleep
A low energy level resulting in missed workouts or reduced motivation may be a sign of sleep deprivation. A supplement with zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 may support a better quality of sleep. A deficiency in zinc is lost when you perspire. Food that is high in oxalic acid interferes with magnesium absorption. Examples are almonds, chard, cocoa, rhubarb, spinach and tea. Absorption of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is blocked by diuretics and cortisone drugs. ZM-Complex is a choice sleep and recovery supplement.
Pre-workout ingredients for weight loss
If your focus is weight loss, the following elements may interest you. Though the benefits are not conclusive in all cases, it may be worth keeping abreast of future research studies that may draw favorable conclusions.
- Tyrosine: Amino acid that helps to produce dopamine and other hormones.
- Velvet Bean (Mucuna Pruriens): Legume with hormonal balancing characteristics.
- Evodiamine: Plant-extracted chemical that reduced fat absorption in studies with mice.
- Sceletium tortuosum: South African plant historically used by tribes to improve mood and relaxation.
- Garcinia cambogia (Malabar tamarind): Tropical fruit that may suppress appetite.
- Raspberry ketones: Chemical in red raspberries that has shown in some research animal studies to increase metabolism.
- Green Tea: Beneficial for hydration; offers antioxidants and nutrients.
Special ingredient considerations
Ingredients such as caffeine, carbohydrates and vitamins can propel the mind and body into action. However, be cognizant that the tolerance level for caffeine varies from one individual to another. Sometimes we learn by trial and error. After taking a supplement with caffeine, be attentive to nervousness, shaking, heart palpitations and sudden sluggishness. These are all possible consequences of excess caffeine.
Be careful about too much sugar, particularly when selecting an energy bar. In addition to the empty calories, sugar can cause an energy dive similar to that of caffeine. Also, high sugar intake can increase levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), high blood pressure and inflammation. Be aware of sugar in disguise like syrup, and although honey has a reputation for being healthier, it is still a sugar. The ubiquity of the term “natural” on packaging is misleading and a source of confusion for many consumers. Artificial sweeteners may have ill-effects as well, although there are some research studies that reveal certain artificial sweeteners, namely stevia, erythritol, xylitol and yacon syrup, may be beneficial or at least not harmful. Of course, if you crave something sweet, fruit is the healthiest choice.
Use pre-workouts wisely
Effective pre-workouts can help you bulk up, slim down and reduce inflammation as well as aid in rest and recovery. To ensure they are safe, consider these guidelines:
- Read ingredient labels, follow instructions carefully, take notice of potential side effects, and take the proper dosage.
- Avoid supplements with excessive amounts of caffeine, sugar, artificial ingredients and fillers.
- Beware of supplements that make outrageous claims that are not backed by research.
- Be especially careful with energy bars, which are sometimes just candy bars under a different name.
- If this is your first introduction to pre-workouts, consider taking half a dose to start. Once you are confident in its effect, try the full dose.
- Do not risk a pre-workout if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Advise your personal physician of your pre-workouts to receive personalized counseling on the impact to your health and on potential interactions with any prescribed or over-the-counter medications.
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