Needing that extra burst of energy to get you through that last set? Then in all likelihood, you have had either coffee or pre-workout pop into your mind (or blood vessels.
But do those work?
Which one is better?
And which is better than the other for increasing performance?
In this article, discover the answers to those doubts and decide which is the right product for you.
THE BACKGROUND OF COFFEE & HOW SUPPLEMENTS CAME INTO THE PICTURE
Before the entry of energy supplements and the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger's supplement ads, we used coffee to boose our energy levels.
Or, as my coach used to call it, "borrowing energy from the future"
Then came pre-workout supplements with multiple ingredients, or MIPS, in 1982. These supplements came with caffeine and strange-sounding ingredients like beta-alanine, creatine, nitric oxide precursors, and amino acids.
Theoretically, compared to drinking coffee, these combined ingredients are better than coffee.
But does a pre-workout supplement deserve the extra price tag?
According to old-school gym goers, a cup of coffee gives more than enough energy for a full workout.
But let's delve into why coffee is a great energy booster.
THE BENEFITS OF COFFEE
ADVANTAGE #1 CAFFEINE
Most people drink coffee primarily for its caffeine content rather than necessarily for its taste.
Despite a rapidly expanding business in other substitutes, most caffeine consumed worldwide comes from coffee. Caffeine is recognized as a performance enhancer when taken in doses of 3-6 mg/kg. Similarly to this, studies show that caffeine intake of 3 to 9 mg/kg improves muscular strength, endurance, and power in resistance-trained athletes.
Even lower dosages of caffeine—between 2 and 3 mg/kg, or roughly 200 mg overall, - might enhance performance. However, this might only apply to specific sports and exercise uses, and it might only apply to unique caffeine responses (including genetics that affect caffeine metabolism).
Caffeine may enhance exercise performance by increasing alertness, reducing perceived exertion, and influencing strength and neuromuscular function, though the precise processes are still unclear.
Sports governing bodies know its ergogenic impact, and some have even imposed coffee intake restrictions.
For instance, the International Olympic Committee had a caffeine cap until 2004!!!
Caffeine is still on the NCAA's list of prohibited substances, and athletes are only allowed 15 micrograms of caffeine in their urine before competitions.
(However, to achieve that quantity, you'd need to drink coffee at quite the rate - roughly 5 to 8 cups of coffee before your event.)
Imagine the hand twitching from that much coffee
Coffee provides a quick and affordable option to consume caffeine before working out. We estimate that an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 96 mg of caffeine. However, depending on the type of coffee and brewing technique, this amount may change.
Considering that 3 mg/kg level, an athlete weighing 68 kilograms would require about 200 milligrams of caffeine consumption prior to a workout to experience the ergogenic benefit. About two 8-ounce cups of coffee would be that amount.
It's ideal to have your coffee around one hour before working out because it takes the body some time to reach peak levels.
For athletes, caffeine in coffee may also aid in weight management and reducing body fat mass outside of the actual workout. In addition, individuals who take coffee regularly are more likely to have reduced BMI and weight circumference.
ADVANTAGE #2: ANTIOXIDANTS
While most people know that coffee contains caffeine, we frequently forget that it also contains strong antioxidants, which have advantages beyond just giving us an extra lift in our morning workout. These antioxidants aid in defending our body from the oxidative stress brought on by free radicals.
Excessive oxidative stress causes cell damage, which puts one at risk for chronic disease and early ageing. Many people are unaware that vigorous exercise can increase oxidative stress, so it's crucial to eat a diet high in nutrient-dense foods that are also high in antioxidants.
For example, coffee can be a source of nutrients, but you obviously need a variety of sources (such as berries, nuts, cocoa, etc.) to get them to the full. Hence, why we also recommend a healthy beverage that combines all the health benefits of coffee, berries and nuts.
DISADVANTAGES OF COFFEE CONSUMPTION
Despite encouraging findings on coffee's caffeine and antioxidant content, it's also necessary to examine the downsides of drinking coffee before a workout.
According to some studies, coffee should be avoided right before a workout since it may hurt "getting things moving" in the bowel department. And by that, we mean a stomach upset to the point of some serious diarrhoea.
This is especially true for endurance runners, as the jolting of a run may exacerbate digestive problems, and restrooms are not always available when running. On the other hand, those working out in a gym have far less reason to be concerned about it.
Additionally, if you're not used to it or take a large dose, caffeine may produce gastrointestinal problems, jitteriness, or anxiety. Similarly, avoiding coffee before evening workouts might be a good idea because it doesn't just delay fatigue but also sleep.
THE BENEFITS OF PRE-WORKOUT
ADVANTAGE #1 CAFFEINE AS WELL
Just like coffee, many pre-workout pills also include caffeine. However, the amount of caffeine in pre-workout supplements varies widely based on the brand and item.
Some have more caffeine than what is found in a typical cup of coffee, while others are caffeine-free.
For instance, 100 mg of caffeine is present in one cup of black coffee, whereas 150–475 mg is present in several pre-workout supplements per serving. Pre-workouts could be an excellent option for individuals who are sensitive to caffeine (by choosing a caffeine-free version) or those who desire caffeine but don't enjoy the taste of coffee because there are so many different products on the market (by selecting a caffeine version).
ADVANTAGE #2 CREATINE
The body already makes natural creatine. Animal products, including red meat, chicken, and fish, also provide people with creatine.
Creatine is crucial for maintaining healthy muscles and generating energy.
Creatine is used by your body to produce the energy needed for brief, intense workouts like high-intensity, low-rep strength training.
Research shows that taking supplements improves training adaptations and performance during high-intensity exercise. In other words, you can push harder and longer at your maximal intensity level before taking your recovery time session.
Although creatine doesn't need to be consumed directly before a workout to have an ergogenic effect, it can be more convenient if it is included in a pre-workout supplement.
ADVANTAGE #3 BETA-ALANINE
Beta-alanine is a common component in pre-workout supplements. However, for your muscles to produce carnosine, beta-alanine must be combined with another amino acid called l-histidine.
Carnosine aids in preventing acid accumulation. According to some gym fanatics, muscle tiredness and decreased force generation are caused by acid accumulation. Therefore, if beta-alanine could boost carnosine production, this would enhance the muscle's capacity to withstand growing acid levels and, consequently, its ability to function.
Be aware that this is a long-held theory and not necessarily supported by evidence. Moreover, according to certain studies, additional factors, such as inorganic phosphate buildup or neuronal contributors, could also contribute to muscle weariness.
Additionally, there are other explanations for why beta-alanine might be advantageous, such as its effects on oxidative stress.
However, several studies have shown that beta-alanine can improve performance and postpone exhaustion under specific exercise circumstances.
For instance, a meta-analysis from 2012 discovered that adding beta-alanine to a diet or pre-workout shakes increased exercise capacity for tasks lasting from up to four minutes. There were also advantages in exercise scenarios lasting longer than 4 minutes, but they were less noticeable.
Regarding resistance training, beta-alanine is still the subject of little research. Most beta-alanine studies that demonstrate solid ergogenic effects have been conducted on amateur or recreational athletes; therefore, if you are a highly trained athlete, you might get a different benefit.
ADVANTAGE#4: NITRIC OXIDE AGENTS
Pre-workout supplements often include a nitric oxide agent to encourage the body to manufacture more nitric oxide rather than nitric oxide naturally. A few examples are L-arginine, L-citrulline, and natural sources of dietary nitrates like beetroot.
Nitric oxide aids blood vessel expansion, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. In addition, nitrate supplementation generally improved time to exhaustion for exercise tasks.
It is interesting to note that studies have shown benefits for both endurance exercise and (though less established) intermittent, high-intensity activity when beetroot is involved.
DISADVANTAGES OF PRE-WORKOUT CONSUMPTION
The drawbacks of pre-workout centre on two issues: side effects and ingredient reliability.
Like coffee, caffeine in pre-workouts can have adverse effects on some people.
You could be more likely to have negative side effects like jitteriness or stomach distress because certain pre-workout supplements can contain more caffeine than a cup of coffee.
The skin may flush and tingle in response to beta-alanine dosages that are too high. By taking pre-workouts with lower beta-alanine dosages, this can be prevented.
Although there was some initial doubt over the possibility of liver and kidney damage from excessive creatine ingestion, investigations have disproved these claims. When utilizing creatine, some people do report a slight increase in body weight. However, this is actually due to water retention rather than actual weight gain.
Finally, it's crucial to consider the other ingredients if you use a pre-workout and experience unpleasant side effects like headaches or bloating. For instance, many pre-workout supplements contain artificial sweeteners, which some people can't tolerate or are allergic to.
Therefore, any product you use should have a label that you carefully examine.
Trustworthiness of Ingredients
Pre-workout supplements (or any other supplement) are not subject to sports nutrition regulations, so it's vital to keep this in mind while evaluating the reliability of the ingredients.
This indicates that neither the promises mentioned in the product package nor the efficacy of the components are guaranteed.
According to research, when subjected to independent testing, the amounts listed on some supplement containers aren't accurate. Suppose you're an athlete competing in a sport that is governed by a governing body.
In this case, you should also consider the chance of unintentional exposure to an ingredient that is prohibited due to supplement contamination. For instance, research showed contamination rates ranging from 12 to 58%.
You surely don't want to jeopardize your athletic career for a pre-workout supplement.
For these reasons, it's crucial to select a high-quality, reliable product (like Chewz) that you trust if you want to take a pre-workout. Also, try looking for businesses that conduct sufficient testing on their goods to guarantee quality and correct labelling (again, like Chewz).
Additionally, search for goods with third-party certification from organizations like Informed Choice/Informed-Sport or NSF to ensure they contain only the ingredients listed and no prohibited compounds.
IN CONCLUSION, WHAT'S BETTER?
Pre-workout supplements and coffee each have their benefits and drawbacks. However, coffee is significantly safer and more cost-effective in terms of both price and negative effects for the general public.
Coffee consumption before exercise is a simple technique to improve performance, especially for leisure and endurance athletes. However, a pre-workout pill might also provide a boost for seasoned gym attendees who are trying to overcome fitness plateaus.
This presupposes that it includes the proper proportion of the abovementioned ingredients and that you are not taking some of them individually.
Finally remember that the disadvantages mentioned may outweigh the potential advantages, so consider your options carefully.