What is a pre-workout supplement?
A pre-workout supplement can be defined as a supplement that can help to improve exercise performance. Pre-workouts come in many different formulas and claim to do many different things. Some pre-workout supplements claim to improve energy and focus while others claim to improve circulation to the muscles contributing to increased muscle endurance and the slowing of muscle fatigue.
Do pre-workouts really improve exercise?
One study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition explains that multi-ingredient pre-workouts have been shown to improve muscular endurance and improve subjective mood in relation to exercise in the short term. (1) Another study from the same Journal suggests that taking pre-workouts may increase upper body muscular endurance, improved average power output during a sprinting test, and positively affects subjective fatigue and alertness. (2)
What is the best pre-workout supplement?
The best pre-workout supplement depends on the person taking it. Pre-workout supplements claim to do many different things from stimulation and focus improvement to purposed muscle gain and reduced muscle fatigue. The best pre-workout supplement for you would depend on whether you need energy to get to a workout or find one that, research supported, gives you the edge to get the workout you want.
What do good pre-workout formulas look like?
Most pre-workouts have many different ingredients, many of them claiming to do certain things with little backing by research. So, what do good pre-workout formulas look like? A study of the ingredients in the top 100 commercially available pre-workout supplements found that most consisted of beta-alanine, caffeine, citrulline, tyrosine, taurine, and creatine. Many pre-workouts contain proprietary blends that do not give the exact amount of each ingredient. These proprietary blends tend to be difficult to study and compare. The study also found that several ingredients were on the low side of the recommended dosage. (3) A good rule of thumb is to just keep it simple and know exactly what you are getting out of your pre-workout.
 Harty, P. S., Zabriskie, H. A., Erickson, J. L., Molling, P. E., Kerksick, C. M., & Jagim, A. R. (2018). Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 41. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0247-6, Accessed 1/2/2020.
 Jagim, A. R., Jones, M. T., Wright, G. A., St Antoine, C., Kovacs, A., & Oliver, J. M. (2016). The acute effects of multi-ingredient pre-workout ingestion on strength performance, lower body power, and anaerobic capacity. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13, 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-016-0122-2, Accessed 1/2/2020.
Jagim, A. R., Harty, P. S., & Camic, C. L. (2019). Common Ingredient Profiles of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplements. Nutrients, 11(2), 254. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11020254, Accessed 1/5/2020.