I have to state publicly that when it comes to supplements, I’m generally pretty skeptical. Read through any bodybuilding forum and you’ll find TONS of ‘information’ on the best types and brands of supplements. But there’s a lot of information out there that is contradictory and just plain wrong. In this buyers guide, just as in our Best Shoes for CrossFit guide, we’ll look to cut through the hype to find the best products at the best price.
Unfortunately, some people take marketing and opinion as fact. Then they blow a bunch of money on a product that delivers little to no measurable results. Reading food labels is a great habit to get into, but you’re not going to find out everything you need to know about the best pre workout supplements by reading the labels.
So whether you’re into traditional weightlifting or looking for the best supplements for CrossFit here are a few of the highest rated products on the market designed to maximize your energy and mental focus heading into a workout.
|[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B004RG76NC" cloaking="yes" height="110" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Z4d0XZY9L._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="110"]Cellucor C4 Extreme Workout Supplement[/easyazon_image]||[easyazon_link asin="B004RG76NC" locale="US" new_window="default" nofollow="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" popups="no"]Cellucor C4 Extreme Workout Supplement[/easyazon_link]||$$||4.3 out of 5|
|[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B00FQEQS0G" cloaking="yes" height="110" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31GJgUPN44L._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="110"]Bluebonnet Nutrition Extreme Edge Pre Workout[/easyazon_image]||[easyazon_link asin="B00FQEQS0G" locale="US" new_window="yes" nofollow="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" popups="no"]Bluebonnet Nutrition Extreme Edge Pre Workout[/easyazon_link]||$$||4.5 out of 5|
|[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B002FK37M6" cloaking="yes" height="110" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51%2B-wmVpCFL._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="78"]BSN N.O.-XPLODE 2.0[/easyazon_image]||[easyazon_link asin="B002FK37M6" locale="US" new_window="yes" nofollow="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" popups="no"]BSN N.O.-XPLODE 2.0[/easyazon_link]||$||4.1 out of 5|
|[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B007XFKSDE" cloaking="yes" height="90" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41SFCTa%2BqtL._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="110"]PurePump - Natural Pre-Workout Supplement[/easyazon_image]||[easyazon_link asin="B007XFKSDE" locale="US" new_window="yes" nofollow="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" popups="no"]PurePump - Natural Pre-Workout Supplement[/easyazon_link]||$$||4.2 out of 5|
|[easyazon_image add_to_cart="no" align="center" asin="B006R76WQG" cloaking="yes" height="110" localization="yes" locale="US" nofollow="yes" new_window="yes" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rENHDPLZL._SL110_.jpg" tag="efficientgains-20" width="75"]Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy 65 Servings, Fruit Fusion, 585 Grams[/easyazon_image]||[easyazon_link asin="B006R76WQG" locale="US" new_window="yes" nofollow="yes" tag="efficientgains-20" add_to_cart="no" cloaking="yes" localization="yes" popups="no"]Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy[/easyazon_link]||$||4.2 out of 5|
Before making your selection you should consider a few things. First and foremost, what are your goals? An individual training for a personal best in bench press or squats requires a different routine than someone who is focused on leaning out for a competition.
And their bodies will require different nutrients to meet their specific goals. That’s not to say that both individuals won’t benefit from some of the same supplements, but to truly maximize gains you need to be as efficient as possible.
The idea behind this site is to help people maximize their time in the gym. After all, what’s the point of being there, if it’s not to achieve results. Making gains every day means consistently creating the right mindset for your workouts, and focusing all your energy into the next set. Even for professionals, this requires both intensity and dedication.
Those that make consistent gains understand that the preparation for this begins with how you fuel your body. And I’m not just talking about some powder or shake. Real nutrition and diet make up 80% of what you’ll be able to achieve in the gym. If you’re not giving your body what it needs, it’s not going to deliver the performance or results you want. But before we talk about diet I want to hit on something else first.
Sleep Sleep Sleep
If you absorb nothing else from this article, make sure you come away with a basic understanding of how sleep (or the lack thereof) affects everything from mental attitude, muscle building and strength gains, to your bodies ability to oxidize and burn fat.
I don’t care what sort of magic diet or supplement cocktail you’ve discovered, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not realizing anywhere near the gains you should.
Our bodies use sleep to repair and recover from the previous day. Sleep affects nearly every aspect of our bodies performance including; immune system functioning, neurological performance (focus), and musculoskeletal growth and repair. And that’s just naming a few. Here are a few ways in which sleep can massively affect your workouts.
Recovery and Repair
Most important to those reading this guide is probably the growth and repair of skeletal muscle. Sleep causes our bodies to naturally release human growth hormone (HGH). There are some that pay big money for this hormone, but if you’re getting enough sleep, your body will produce it for free.
Slow wave sleep in particular is when our bodies release HGH from the pineal gland. (Read more about sleep phases here) Limiting the amount of slow wave sleep you get can impair not only muscle growth, but basic skeletal repairs as well. As we age, our slow wave sleep time decreases, so to see increased benefits from this period of rest and repair we often have to increase the amount of time we sleep overall.
Have you ever stepped into the gym and just known that you were going to have one of your best workouts ever? And sure enough, your usual weight seemed lighter than you remember. And everyone has experienced the opposite of this. Mental focus and clarity are a huge part of staying motivated and pushing yourself forward.
Sleep is absolutely crucial to mental clarity. Your brain operates more efficiently after a good nights sleep. Your mental attitude is as important as anything else when it comes to performing your best in the gym.
Fat Loss and Muscle Gain
Now obviously sleep isn’t a supplement that you can just go online and buy. Consistently getting enough sleep requires that you devote time to it every day. Basically it boils down to this. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may as well not waste the money on anything else mentioned in this guide, because it’s not going to do you a damn bit of good.
While adequate sleep causes your body to produce HGH and increase muscle size there is a flip side to this coin. Too little sleep is a stress on your body. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released when we don’t get enough sleep. And this can cause muscle LOSS and fat GAIN.
So, like I said before, if you take nothing else away from this, understand that getting enough sleep is crucial to consistent gains in strength, muscle, and leanness.
Diet and Nutrition
Like I said earlier, diet and nutrition make up 80% of the results you’ll see in the gym. I can personally vouch for this. I spent the better part of 15 years eating exactly what all the fitness and health magazines said to eat. My diet was loaded with high-carb energy sources like pasta and grains, lean protein such as chicken breast, and lots of fruits. I put on a decent amount of muscle and even got pretty strong, but I never got any leaner. And I hated having to eat every three hours to “keep my metabolism high”.
In the last 3 years I’ve moved to the Paleo diet. I’ll be posting more about this diet in the future. Suffice it to say it is based upon eating whole foods as often as possible. Lots of leafy green vegetables, lots of protein, and lots of fat. (the right kinds of fats) I steer away from just about anything that comes in a box. It takes a bit more time to prepare meals. But they taste better, and I’ve seen a dramatic difference in my health and my physique.
That being said, sometimes the foods we eat can’t deliver all of the fuel we need to maximize our time in the gym. And that’s where supplements can greatly enhance your results.
The emphasis on ‘enhance’ should not be overlooked. If you think that you can feed your body a bunch of crap food and then use a supplement to achieve great results, you’re in for a shock. On the other hand, if you choose to eat a diet rich in the foods your body was designed to run on, a decent supplement can be the difference in helping you reach your goals more quickly.
In other words, it needs to be a balanced approach. A balanced diet supplemented with essential fuels that are difficult to get in sufficient amounts from foods alone.
What Results Should You Expect from a Good Pre Workout Supplement (PWOS)?
The title of this post is the best pre workout supplement for women and men. And though there are very obvious differences between men and women, from a nutritional standpoint, our bodies require the same things in order to build muscle, increase strength, and get lean.
Building muscle and strength requires actually lifting the weights. It means pushing your body beyond what you achieved before. This requires three things; energy, focus, and the ability to recover. So whatever you take before your workout should help facilitate all of these things.
Another important function of any PWOS should be to ensure that you’re not cannibalizing skeletal muscle for protein synthesis. For a more detailed explanation of this process check out this article on Leangains.com. This can be achieved in a couple different ways. One is through the consumption of protein. And the other is by consuming BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids).
One of the most important functions a supplement can provide is to maximize your available energy. We have a limited store of energy that we hold in our muscles at all times. It is called glycogen. Once this energy is used up, we have to restore it before we can expend any more.
Glycogen comes from the foods we eat, specifically carbohydrates. Our livers convert carbs and sugars into glycogen. Based on need glycogen goes to one of several places. Our brain runs on glycogen, so it is first in line. Our muscles require it to operate so they get it next. Our liver hangs on to some for future demands, and the rest is stored in our fat cells.
Another form of energy comes from ATP. Adenosine Triphosphate is the energy currency of the body. WIthout it, we would die within seconds. When you perform an exercise, ATP is used first, followed by Phosphocreatine. But our muscles can only store a small amount of these two compounds. Once they are used up, we begin using glycogen.
While we can’t take ATP as a supplement, we can enlarge our stores of Phosphocreatine by taking a creatine supplement.
Best Creatine Supplements
Whether you’re a man or a woman, the best supplement you can take to increase your energy levels during a workout is creatine.
There are many forms of creatine on the market. You can read my thoughts on the best creatine to take to maximize your gains in a previous article. It also goes into great detail in describing how and why this supplement works.
Essentially creatine provides the energy source of your muscles (ATP) with a quick method of refueling both during and between sets. This will allow you to get more work in, and see greater results.
Creatine has been in use for decades in the world of fitness and bodybuilding. It is one of the few supplements that has been heavily studied and has shown consistent results.
Since it’s arrival on the market years ago, there have been significant improvements made to creatine absorption rates through a couple different methods. Due to the cost per serving, micronized creatine is one of the most popular of these. Just keep in mind that creatine itself is a chemical compound and therefore every manufacturer uses the same basic formula.
Any particularly hyped up claims of results are probably just that, hype.
[easyazon_link asin=”B00E9M4XEE” locale=”US” new_window=”yes” tag=”efficientgains-20″ add_to_cart=”no” cloaking=”yes” localization=”yes” nofollow=”yes” popups=”no”]Click Here for My Favorite Creatine on Amazon.com[/easyazon_link]
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
The last thing you want when you’re working out is for you body to cannibalize protein from your muscles. Branched chain amino acids provide a catalyst for protein synthesis without using your bodies stores. Many protein powders contain BCAA’s. Additionally there are specific BCAA supplements on the market that supply a higher amount per serving.
BCAA’s are especially important if you are on an intermittent fasting regimen. More on this later.
[easyazon_link asin=”B00FQNA7KE” locale=”US” new_window=”yes” tag=”efficientgains-20″ add_to_cart=”no” cloaking=”yes” localization=”yes” nofollow=”yes” popups=”no”]Click Here to See My Favorite BCCA Supplement on Amazon[/easyazon_link]
Finally a boost in focus and energy is always a bonus before a workout. Even the most dedicated professionals have days when they dread going to the gym. Getting a mental boost from your supplement can be a lifesaver on days like these.
Caffeine is one of the most popular methods of achieving this. Obviously caffeine is plentiful in coffee, but other more concentrated forms are available as well. And some research has shown that isolated caffeine has a more pronounced effect than coffee due to the other chemicals in coffee.
Are Specifically Formulated PWOS Products Worth the Money?
There are literally dozens of pre workout supplements on the market, and they all claim to have the best formula for enhancing your workouts and your gains. While many lifters will swear by their particular favorite, most individuals will get the best results from those mentioned above.
If you choose to go with a specifically marketed pre workout supplement, just be sure to check that it has these ingredients at a minimum. And then do your research to see what those that use it say.
One great resource that I use all of the time for reviews is Amazon.com. With such a large marketplace, you are bound to get opinions from a large enough sampling of people to judge whether or not the product is worth the money.
As with any review based system, you will get those that absolutely love it, and those that hate it. I’ve found the best method is to stick with the reviews in the middle (3 and 4 stars) for the most honest and insightful opinions.
A Final Tip
Last but not least. Amazon will often have a price per serving listed for each product. Rather than going by price alone, use the per serving price as a basis for comparison. It takes a bit of work, but it will help insure you get most bang for your buck.