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The workout supplements industry is a multi-million-dollar industry. Marketers in the industry portray the optimal body physic in order to sell its products. But do we really need pre- and post-workout supplements?

This article will dive deep into these four questions concerning pre-and post-workout supplements:

  1. What are the main products in pre-workout supplements?
  2. What are the main ingredients in post-workout supplements?
  3. Does the average gym-goer need to supplement for optimal performance?
  4. What do you need to know before you start taking supplements?

Before you start taking supplements, whether before or after your workout, you need to understand exactly what you are consuming and how it helps your body. Knowing this information will help you make the best decision for your active lifestyle.

What Are The Main Products In Pre-workout Supplements?


This is best taken 1 to 2 hours before your workout; this will give caffeine time to enter your bloodstream and prepare you for your workout. Caffeine boosts mental alertness, speeding up your reaction time.

The extra energy from caffeine will allow you to workout longer, which means more miles for the endurance athlete and more reps for the strength trainer. Caffeine also increases your metabolism, helping you burn extra calories.

Creatine Monohydrate

The most tested supplement is creatine monohydrate. It is the most effective supplement to aid in building lean muscle mass, allows the athlete to lift heavier, and increases muscle fibers, compared to placebos.

Creatine helps with higher power and muscle force during short bouts of exercise including sprinting, cycling, swimming, and weightlifting.. Studies have also shown no detrimental side effects of using creatine, making it safe for all athletes, including minors, with proper supervision.



This non-essential amino acid boosts immune health and plays an important role in your blood vessel health. L-Citrulline improves blood flow by creating nitric oxide, which helps the blood vessels relax.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)

There are three types of BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These essential amino acids increase muscle growth, decrease muscle soreness, reduces fatigue, and prevents muscle wasting. The most important amino acid is leucine, which plays a key part in protein synthesis.


This is used to slow down muscle fatigue by regulating acid buildup in muscles during high intensity workouts. Studies have shown that taking this supplement will not increase endurance or strength and does not mean athletes will perform better. You can get Beta-Alanine through foods like meat, fish, and chicken. One notable side effect of taking Beta-Alanine is tingling of the skin.

What Are The Main Ingredients In Post-workout Supplements?


Even though BCAAs are most commonly sold in powder or tablet form, they can also be found in chicken, eggs, canned tuna, cottage cheese, and wild salmon. If your diet consists of protein-rich foods, then supplementation is usually not needed.


Consuming simple carbs after a workout is important because your glycogen stores are depleted during your workout. When this happens, gluconeogenesis occurs, where cortisol (the stress hormone) is secreted to break down muscle mass to use as fuel in the liver.

You can combat this by consuming a protein shake within 45 minutes of your workout, allowing carbs and protein to enter your body quickly to start the recovery process. Dextrose is one of the most common simple sugars used in protein shakes. Maltodextrin is also a good choice because it is a complex carb and slower to metabolize. This results in a slower drop in insulin and blood sugar.

Whey Protein Isolate

Usually sold in a powder form, whey protein isolate is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It is high in protein and low in fat, and helps to build muscle mass, increase strength, and heal wounds. Since the body can only process 20 to 40 grams of protein at a time, consuming excessive amounts has no additional benefits.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine slows the loss of bone mass. Even if you do not participate in strenuous exercise, you will still see evidence of increased muscle mass after a couple of weeks. A high protein diet will supply enough creatine to support muscle growth. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, will get a better advantage during competitions from the consumption of excess creatine.

Taking creatine can help boost mental alertness just as well as caffeine, especially if you are sleep deprived. It can increase water retention, making you gain weight. The good news is that it has zero effect on fat gain. It will make you look bigger without actually working out, which means you can also take it on your rest days and reap the benefits.

Does The Average Gym-Goer Need To Take A Pre- or Post-Workout Supplement?

Now that we know a little bit about what a pre- or post-workout supplement contains and how they aid the body, the question remains: are pre-and post-workout supplements necessary?

  • Athletes training for endurance sports like marathons or triathlons need the protein, caffeine, and carbs for enhanced performance as they power through their training or race.
  • Bodybuilding competitors can really benefit from supplementation. The additional consumption of BCAAs can really help prevent muscle breakdown.
  • Most people, however, do not need extra supplementation because they do not work out long or hard enough. If you do not participate in high intensity training in excess of an hour, then you really do not need any pre- or post-workout supplements.
  • The everyday gym-goer really only needs a cup of coffee or a bagel an hour or so before hitting the gym to get the energy necessary to power through a workout. If you are struggling during your workout, then perhaps other areas of your life need to be addressed, such as your sleep habits, dehydration, or switching to day or night workouts.
  • A 180 lb. man only needs around 80 grams of protein per day (or .8 to 1 gram of protein/kg of body weight). You can get the required nutrients to support recovery and growth by eating a healthy meal afterwards. No supplements are needed.

What Else Do I Need To Know Before Taking Any Supplements?

  • Always consult your doctor before starting any nutritional or workout plan.
  • Do your homework on the supplements you are taking. Some supplements can interfere with your medications. L-Citrulline, for example, should not be taken if you are also taking heart disease, high blood pressure, or erectile dysfunction medications.
  • Many of the supplements can be found in foods, so supplementation may not be necessary. Consuming excess amounts may not provide any additional benefits.
  • The makers of supplements do not have to show that their products are safe to use or effective before selling them. Therefore, you should exercise caution before consuming supplements.

Sources: NIH, PubMed, WebMD, WebMD,, ClevelandClinic, Washingtonian, Mens Health