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Safe, Cheap, and Effective Pre-workout Drink

I am a full time mom, a business owner, and a practicing nutrition coach. Honestly, my days are crazy… every S-I-N-G-L-E day. It begins at 7:00 or 7:30am then ends at 12mn, sometimes 1:00am.

For some of you who’s been following me on social media, you might be wondering how I am able to fulfill my responsibilities while having enough energy to complete my workouts. Well, for one, EATING RIGHT really helps a lot. But aside from this, I have a not so secret weapon that preps me for my workouts…a “pre-workout drink”.

A pre-workout drink (PWD) is a supplement taken before a workout and is often used to improve energy, alertness, strength, power, and body composition (1). Various formulations are made available in the market as a result of vast research on performance enhancing substances. However, PWD’s effects, effective dosage and combination of ingredients still remains unclear (2). These drinks are readily accessible in supplement stores and are frequently advertised by coaches who sell body transformation programs.

But the pre-workout drink I’m talking about is not the same as the ones marketed to exercisers and athletes. Because these supplements do not come without potential drawbacks. Not only that they cost a lot (compared to not buying), some of them contain ingredients that needed more research or worse, downright illegal.

A few years ago, fans of the Gilas National Basketball Team were shocked by the news that one of their team members, Kiefer Ravena had tested positive for doping. The banned substances allegedly came from the pre-workout drink consumed by the athlete prior an international game. Members of the national team from all sports are well aware of the consequences of doping. Unfortunately, most of them (if not all) don’t have mastery of the full list of prohibited substances.

PWDs purport to boost exercise performance and maximize training effects. But, taking them is risky especially for elite athletes. So what can be a good alternative to commercial PWDs that doesn’t cost much and also free from banned substances?

If we’re going to evaluate the ingredients of PWDs, the primary ingredient that helps boost exercise performance is caffeine. Caffeine is a well studied compound in its affects in both mental and physical performance.

The type of caffeine used in supplements are called “anhydrous caffeine” which are found to be the most effective form of caffeine to enhance physical performance. However, this is mostly accessible to pharma/supplements company only. A “regular Juan” will have a hard time sourcing this.

So what I recommend then is to consume another source of caffeine that is devoid of “other” ingredients. And this is BLACK COFFEE. Caffeine in coffee is not anhydrous, and may not be as potent as what’s in PWD but it can still help in enhancing both mental and physical performance. Caffeine content of 1 scoop of commercial PWD is around 100 mg and is equivalent to caffeine content of 1 cup of brewed coffee.

With the substitution, you are assured that (1) you will have more money to spend for healthy food and (2) you’ll get the same “hyper” mode— because not all of us need to be in “beast” mode to complete a workout. Just make sure that it's black so as not to consume unnecessary calories.

Side note: other than caffeine, most PWDs contain ingredients that are said to enhance performance and recovery from exercise. From what I know so far, only beta alanine, nitrates, and creatine are the well studied ingredients and have shown positive associations in exercise performance.

References: (1) Outlaw et al (2014) JISSN (2) Collins et al (2017) Nutrients

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