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The Women's Sports Alliance


Guidance Around Taking Pre-Workout

Exclusively for our Advancement Zone community, our trusted expert, Danny Webber - Bsc., MSc, SENr-accredited and ISAK-accredited Nutrition X Performance Nutritionist - breaks down the benefits and warnings of taking pre-workout as a female athlete.

Danny Webber

What is a pre-workout?

A pre-workout is a formulated drink or solution geared towards improving physical and mental performance during exercise. Common ingredients found in pre-workout supplements include a combination of stimulants (caffeine), amino acids (beta alanine, tyrosine, arginine) and other naturally-occurring chemicals like creatine.

How does pre-workout work?

Taking a pre-workout, like the Nutrition X Xplode Shot, before exercise is designed to promote athletic performance by enhancing physical and mental capacity to work harder during that session. Depending on the ingredients, it’s generally recommended to take the supplement 15 - 45 minutes before training in order for the effects to be ready for the start of a session.

How a pre-workout works in the body depends on the ingredients. To support intense training, pre-workouts typically contain a stimulant like caffeine. This is used to improve concentration, RPE (ratings of perceived exertion/effort) and fat oxidation levels; in essence, the rate at which fats are burned in the body.

Pre-workouts might also contain beta alanine to promote the buffering capacity of lactic acid for improved repeated high intensity performance.

The benefits of taking a pre workout?

Pre-workouts are designed to support athletic performance by enhancing physical and mental capacity to work harder during training or exercise.

Caffeine - typically included in a pre-workout - can enhance alertness and decision making, as well as rates of perceived exertion/ effort and fat oxidation levels.

If a pre-workout contains beta alanine or creatine, these can also help to improve repeated high-intensity athletic performance.

How is Pre-Workout Consumed?

Pre-workouts typically come in an easy to digest solution such as a small concentrated “shot” or as a powder which is added to water. For single ingredient pre-workout products e.g. caffeine, they can also come in tablet, chewing gum or dissolvable strips.

How much caffeine is in a pre-workout?

Caffeine content in a pre-workout can range from 100-300mg, with 200mg being a well recommended dose for most individuals.

The Nutrition X Xplode shot contains 200mg of caffeine alongside taurine, acetyl l-tyrosine and vitamin B6, formulated to boost energy levels, concentration and mental alertness.

The difference between drinking a coffee before training and taking pre-workout?

The main difference between coffee and a pre-workout is that coffee will only contain caffeine, compared to potentially multiple ingredients in the pre-workout, such as beta alanine, tyrosine, arginine and creatine, which work in different physiological pathways to exert a benefit on physical and cognitive performance.

The other difference is that the content of a pre-workout is measured for a specific serving of each ingredient. For example, 200mg caffeine is a well recommended dose for most individuals to improve concentration and reaction times, increasing fat oxidation rates and lowering RPE and pain perception. However, the caffeine content of a standard espresso or latte can vary greatly across coffee outlets and products.

When are the ideal times to take pre-workout?

Caffeine is best taken in the 20-45 minutes before training and competition, depending on the form of caffeine and its absorption rates i.e. caffeine from liquid and gum/strips peak in the blood steam quicker than tablets which need to be broken down.

Caffeine can also be taken at half-time in team sport matches and during endurance races i.e. triathlon to give a further mental boost and maintain concentration.

Which sports is Pre-Workout more effective to and why?

Not all types of sports will benefit from the same multi-ingredient pre-workout. Different doses of caffeine can elicit performance enhancing benefits in different sports at different times, specific to that event. For example, smaller doses of caffeine of 40-100mg are better every 1-2hrs during a long duration endurance race e.g. marathon or triathlon, and smaller doses may also be better for skill acquisition sports to maintain better concentration levels for longer periods compared to high doses.

Higher doses (200mg) may be better suited to team-sport matches, track events and shorter endurance races like 5-10km running distances.

Can pre-workout be bad for you?

Every pre-workout will have an advisory warning to consult a medical professional before use. Most athletes are considered healthy and would generally be considered safe to take a pre-workout. However, people with pre-existing medical conditions i.e. heart arrhythmia - or that are pregnant - should avoid taking them all together.

Pre-workouts can be taken at night, however they will very likely result in disturbed sleep, especially if they contain caffeine.

Ideally, high-strength caffeinated pre-workouts should be avoided in the afternoon and evening. This is to avoid any impact to sleep quality and therefore recovery levels.


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