But what exactly does that mean, and what is the best course of action to enhance performance and lessen post-workout fatigue? Like most food-related objectives, supplements work differently for each person, and what works for one may not be as effective for another. It is kind of like an athlete counting on his lucky shorts to help him win the race — it’s personal.
What Is the Purpose of a Pre-Workout Supplement Before Running?
The pre-workout supplement consists of a multi-ingredient substance that contains natural, and sometimes synthetic, ingredients OR it may just be coffee or an energy drink. Part of the issue with these dietary boosters is that they are not regulated by the FDA (except coffee), so it is wise for users to do their homework. The goal of a pre-workout supplement is to:
- Increase strength
- Improve endurance
- Provide a better usage of fat as an energy source
- Lessen perceived effort
- Accelerate metabolism
- Fend off muscle exhaustion
- Intensify focus
- Enhance blood flow
Buyer beware: not all products will do all of these things. The formulas vary, so reading labels and understanding the lingo will enable the consumer to make a better choice.
Just like the grocery store, the line-up of choices for pre-workout supplements is endless. I could get whiplash looking at all of the different choices! In doing the research, some tried and true elements seem to work for most runners. It is essential to look for specifics as running requires energy, stamina, and recovery. Without proper preparation, a runner may experience nausea, muscle cramps, fatigue, and lack the ability to finish the race. To succeed, runners should look for the following:
- Creatine — A natural occurrence in your body, creatine improves the strength and fortitude of slow-twitch muscle.
- Glutamine — This amino acid must be stored to enable immunity and muscle repair.
- Branch Chain Amino Acids — Otherwise known as BCAA, these acids protect the muscle fibers during strenuous activity.
- Caffeine — While you may think caffeine is just a stimulant to get you going, it actually has other property values. Scientific studies show that it helps the body change fatty acids into energy, conserves carbs, and slows down exhaustion.
- Beta-Alanine — Produced naturally in the body, beta-alanine acts as a barrier against acid in the body. Its effect is to enhance muscular performance.
Is It Safe?
We want to know exactly what we put into our bodies. The best options for pre-workout supplements will show large amounts of testing with positive results. As I stated earlier, supplements have no governing. Consumers can count on such organizations as the NSF and Informed-Choice. Both of these companies provide investigative research on ingredients, quality, and toxicology of products available. Vetted products carry a certification label.
As with anything else that goes into the body, supplements can have diverse results. While one person may experience a side effect, someone else may not. Consider these reported side effects:
- A tingling sensation in the hands and feet that bothers some but helps others
- Digestion issues
- An increased heart rate or “the jitters”
- Water retention, bloating, weight gain
- Red skin patches
Is It For Me?
Even with all this great information, you may still be asking yourself, “Should I take pre-workout before running?” Well, the answer is multi-dimensional! The best place to start is by researching the supplements that appear to be the safest and have some approval ratings. Discuss findings with a registered dietitian to ensure they are appropriate.
Next, try small trial sizes to see how each substance works. I never walk outside in a new pair of shoes until I wear them around the house for a bit to make sure they are comfortable. Do this with supplements to gauge what works, what doesn’t, and how the body responds.
Lastly, evaluate how they help. Even if there are no side effects, spending money on something that doesn’t really make a difference isn’t a smart thing to do. Additionally, some sources report that taking supplements should be done less frequently to continue to be effective. The body can become immune to the benefits if taken too often, thus rendering the use of the supplement ineffective. This happens with coffee, in particular.
Should I Take Pre-Workout Supplement Before Running: The Final Word
Unless you’re sick or have a bad cold, it’s good to reflect on improving your performance before a big session. Finding the right product and using it in a timely manner will determine the success received.