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Exercise: Old Volvo or Porsche?

Needing a pre-workout supplement to do a workout is like saying you need to have a Porsche to get from A to B. It’s not necessary, but it sure can make the ride a lot nicer.

Pre workout supplements are usually a powdered substance that is added to water and consumed prior to an exercise session. Taking a pre workout supplement before exercise may help maximise your training efforts, increase your endurance, improve your focus and speed up your recovery time.

Generally a pre workout supplement is best taken in the 30-60 minutes prior exercise and may also be consumed in small but frequent amounts, during some endurance activities. The team at ATP Science – (an Australian based company who pride themselves on using natural ingredients to create products that help improve health and performance) suggest that their premium pre workout blend INFRARED is suitable for cross-fitters, gyms goers, endurance athletes as well as ball and combat sportspeople.

Pre workout supplements usually contain a mix of vitamins that support your body during exercise, carbohydrates to fuel the body, amino acids to help with energy production and muscle growth and caffeine to help boost energy, alertness and muscle strength.

Caffeine, from sources such as coffee, yerba mate, cacao, green tea or guarana berries, is one of the most common ingredients in pre workout supplements because of its ability to increase cortisol and adrenalin. However, some pre workout supplements can contain the same amount of caffeine as three cups of coffee, in one single serve (about 350mg). Health professionals advise consumers to be aware of how much caffeine is in your pre-workout supplement, especially if you are having other caffeine sources throughout the day (regular coffee, dark chocolate for example). 400mg caffeine per day seems to be a considered safe for most healthy adults. Too much daily caffeine may result in adverse effects such as feeling jittery, insomnia, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and digestive issues.

Look for a pre workout supplement that contains between 150mg-300mg of caffeine, but adjust as required based on your body size and other sources of caffeine you have had throughout the day. Alternatively look for a non-stimulating pre-workout supplement that uses other ingredients to support energy production and nutritional requirements.

Beetroot juice or powder is one such ingredient found in some pre workout supplements that is being considered by more sportspeople for endurance and performance. Nitrate (the compound found in high levels in beetroot) enhances blood flow through the muscles which in turn boosts efficiency, improves cardiovascular endurance and increases the time to exhaustion in high intensity activities.

Whether you are looking for caffeine based pre workout or a non-stimulating pre workout, also be aware of the ingredients used to sweeten the product. Artificial sweeteners are often added to pre workout supplements but they may cause intestinal discomfort and digestive concerns. Aspartame, Sucralose, Acesulfame K (ACE-K) and Saccharin are sweeteners to avoid, particularly if you are prone to gut problems. A safer alternative is a pre workout powder that is sweetened with a natural source like stevia.

Being active regularly should not be dependent on if you have taken your pre-workout supplement or not. However, if chosen correctly – based on your existing diet, your body size and your exercise regime – a pre workout supplement may make your workout feel less like driving an old Volvo and more like driving that Porsche.

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