Pre-work­out shakes de­coded

From su­per­charg­ing your en­ergy lev­els to sharp­en­ing your fo­cus, here’s what to look out for in your pre-work­out shake

Men's Fitness - - Front Page -

For HIIT work­outs


Com­bat fatigue with this amino acid. It’s used to make carno­sine, which is a com­pound that neu­tralises the burn of lac­tic acid in your mus­cles when you’re do­ing short, high­in­ten­sity ex­er­cise. The av­er­age per­for­mance im­prove­ment is 2.85% – equiv­a­lent to shav­ing six sec­onds off your first four min­utes of a timed work­out or race, al­though it’s less ef­fec­tive for longer events. You need to take it con­sis­tently to raise mus­cle carno­sine con­cen­tra­tions, rather than just be­fore the odd ses­sion. Around 3g a day for six weeks fol­lowed by a main­te­nance dose of 1.2g a day has been shown to give the best re­sults.

NEED TO KNOW High doses can cause skin tin­gles, but only for a few min­utes – and you can pre­vent this by sip­ping the shake over 30 min­utes rather than down­ing it quickly.

For fo­cus


The pri­mary ben­e­fit of this stim­u­lant is to boost lev­els of pos­i­tiv­ity-pro­mot­ing en­dor­phins in your brain. This re­duces the per­cep­tion of fatigue and pain, and helps in­crease alert­ness and con­cen­tra­tion. But the ef­fects are also phys­i­cal: it can in­crease mus­cle fi­bre re­cruit­ment, aid­ing anaer­o­bic per­for­mance. You should take it 30-60 min­utes be­fore ex­er­cise and dur­ing your ses­sion if ex­er­cis­ing longer than an hour. Be­tween 70 and 210mg (equiv­a­lent to two cups of cof­fee) is an ef­fec­tive dose – more can blunt its ef­fects over time.


Al­though it’s a di­uretic, it doesn’t de­hy­drate you as much as once thought. Re­search shows that is be­cause adren­a­line, re­leased dur­ing ex­er­cise, blocks caf­feine’s ef­fect on the kid­neys.

For in­creas­ing size


Pre-work­out pow­ders of­ten in­clude the branched-chain amino acid leucine. Along with the other BCAAs isoleucine and va­line, it’s es­sen­tial for your diet be­cause your body can’t pro­duce th­ese acids on its own. The rea­son to take leucine be­fore a work­out is that it trig­gers pro­tein syn­the­sis and can re­duce pro­tein break­down dur­ing a re­sis­tance ses­sion for in­creased strength and size, but you can get enough for max­i­mum mus­cle-build­ing ef­fect (2g) from just three eggs.


If your diet al­ready in­cludes lots of eggs, dairy prod­ucts, meat, fish and poul­try, you’re prob­a­bly get­ting enough leucine to help re­sist mus­cle break­down al­ready when re­sis­tance train­ing.

For a short-term pump


Ham­mer­ing out 20 press-ups will give you a short-term mus­cle pump thanks to va­sodi­la­tion, the process that in­creases blood flow to mus­cles. Al­ter­na­tively you can get the same ef­fect from L-argi­nine sup­ple­ments, which in­crease ni­tric ox­ide (NO) pro­duc­tion, help­ing de­liver nu­tri­ents and oxy­gen where they’re needed. Com­bine the two and your mus­cles should swell ap­pre­cia­bly. But if you’re more con­cerned with hit­ting PBs than strut­ting in front of the mir­ror, then other NO boost­ers such as beet­root juice are more ef­fec­tive.


Argi­nine sup­ple­ments may pro­duce small ben­e­fits for be­gin­ners, but not for more highly trained ath­letes.

Ma­keev­ery ses­sion


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