In this blog, we discuss pre-workout nutrition and the labels we typically see in our community and beyond. We also give our recommendations for a better pre-workout supplement and how we think you can crush your next workout.
Let's face it, we are all guilty of buying the latest and greatest Oly shoes before perfecting our air squat, buying the newest Reebok shoes with rope guards before we could climb a rope, and buying over the counter supplements before fixing anything with our nutrition. Buying new equipment or trying new supplements is part of the fun of getting into any fitness routine. However, when it comes to pre-workout nutrition, there is a good chance you are throwing money out the window.
Pre-workout supplements have traditionally been a guy's market. Look at GNC.com and you will find catchy titles like C4, Ripped, Volcano, Energizer, Neon Volt, Shatter, Black Powder, and my favorite, N.O.-XPLODE. If we ever meet in person, ask me to tell you my Iraq story about that last one. If you click on each one's ingredients list, you'll reveal a horror story of natural and artificial flavors, several different types of artificial sweeteners, food dyes, and all sorts of proprietary blends like "Nitric Oxide Muscle Matrix". With the rise in CrossFit popularity, many supplement companies have started marketing to women too.
Take MusclePharm FitMiss Ignite for example. It comes in a black bottle with hot pink lettering and a female figure on the front. Right off the bat, it offers to help provide a "motivational boost" by "supporting converting fat into energy, improving endurance, and promoting healthy body composition". Sounds promising, except it is filled with the same junk as the guy's stuff minus the nitric oxide which I'm guessing women don't like or want. So if most of what is offered out there is, at best, suspicious, let's focus on what you can do instead to make sure you are having the best workout possible.
This blog is titled "Our Best Pre-Workout Supplement Actually Works" because the best supplement the vast majority of us need is sound nutrition throughout the day. As a box owner of 5 years, I can tell you that most athletes need to dial in their nutrition instead of looking for a pre-workout boost in a bottle. Nutrition is a personal journey that should be explored by each of us. So, before jumping the gun and buying the latest and greatest pre-workout supplement or drink that promises the world and delivers only creatine and caffeine, why not step back and just look at Coach Glassman's "World-Class Fitness in 100 Words." The first few words are the best.
Once you realize that performance has less to do with what you drink or take right before a workout, and more to do with your overall nutrition strategy, you will make great strides towards improving your workout performance. Here are some of the key aspects to a great pre-workout plan:
- Hydrate - Some people drink a gallon of water a day and feel fine. Others can drink less. The goal here is to find a balance that both supports hydration and your life. Because having to go the bathroom every 10 minutes is not only stressful, but it can be counterproductive too.
- Eat a well-balanced meal two to three hours prior to working out. This means getting a solid source of fats, carbs, and protein.
- If you cannot eat a full meal that far in advance, try a smaller snack about an hour before. Something like a banana for carbs, mixed nuts for fat, and a protein source like an EPIC Bar will go a long way.
- If you are still looking for that N.O. boost, try real foods that produce nitric oxide such as beets, spinach, walnuts, and watermelon.
- If you want something portable, read our blog "How to Make a Superior Protein Shake which tells you exactly how to make your own shake with a 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% fat ratio. We developed the shake for post-workout, but it would also work as a solid source of energy 2 hours prior to a workout as well.
- Don't keep eating immediately before and throughout the workout unless it is going to last longer than 45 minutes. Digestion requires energy and blood, and when you begin to workout, that blood is pulled away which can result in a longer digestion and GI distress.
- Keep it simple. The more basic your plan, the less stress it will cause you. Focus on the big picture of overall nutrition and most importantly, what works for YOU.
There is simply no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan out there. However, if you begin by addressing the quality of your daily nutrition first, you will have plenty of opportunities to drill down and make minor adjustments along the way. Not only will this logic save you a lot of money buying supplements you don't need, but it will help you focus on what is and what is not working.