Pre-Workout and You


What’s Right For You?

img_6958-1Exercise is a different experience for everyone. Every situation is different. Every plan is different. Every session is different. Depending on your goals you may be trying to move as much as possible during your workout or you may be resting for 2 minutes between every lift. Since everything is so varied there isn’t one thing that necessarily works for everyone. Preworkouts before your workouts are just as varied.  Preworkout is the term used to describe what you take before your exercise, it is not a single specific thing, and can be different for everyone. Preworkout is a way to put your best effort into achieving your fitness goals.

My Experience with Pre-Workout

Open container of pre-workout powderI used a pre-workout mix when I first started training using exercise videos. I took something to give me a boost of energy beforehand to get me through the workout. This was usually something caffeine based and oftentimes included sort of “fat burner” to try and optimize my workout. I personally found taking this helped. I oftentimes felt pretty worn out by the time I got in my car to leave the office at the end of the day. Planning my pre workout became part of the workout day ritual. It needed to be packed up with a shaker and taken to work, and then consumed about 30 minutes ahead of exercising. I was working out after work a few nights a week so I’d have to take the pre-workout on the way home. Whether the preworkout actually made me perform better or not eventually didn’t matter. It was going through all the steps and making sure everything was right so I could complete my workout. A downside to this was that i’m pretty sure having all that caffeine that late led to me not sleeping as well as I should have. I was a beginner though, and I was proud to be planning and completing daily exercises 5 days a week.

Do the Research

Black Blender bottleSince then I have learned a lot more about pre-workouts. I have a better idea of the different kinds, ingredients, and what to look for. Some of them are very stimulant heavy and would keep you going and sweating, while others are really for performance to strictly try and increase your power output. There are other mixes that could be considered pre-workout, but really may just help increase muscle gained from the work you do or try to prevent muscle from being used up as energy during the workout. There are a lot of options and although just “feeling it” after taking your pre-workout may be enough to motivate you, it may not be doing everything you’d like it to.

Different Types of “Pre-Workout”

Kellogg’s frosted krispies cereal boxOver time I’ve used different pre-workouts effectively for different situations. My pre-workout for my exercise videos was a completely different mixture than the one I used when I was doing Strong Lifts 5×5. They were both targeted to help me achieve my specific goal at the time. Sometimes I could “feel them” or noticed an improvement in my performance, but not always. There is a lot of trial and error plus others factors that could impact the pre-workouts effectiveness. Remember that sleeping enough and eating right will affect your workouts more than any pre-workout. I think for me it always comes down to the preworkout being the step before working out. It’s something you do or consume that signals the workout is coming next.  At this point just drinking blue colored water out of shaker may get me psyched up before my workout. Of course there are times when you just don’t feel like exercising and actual pre-workouts do come in handy. I know sometimes early in the morning when I have to get my work out in as soon as possible a quick shot of pre workout can help ensure I achieve that.

What You Take Before the Workout

Black Cold brew coffee potPre-workout doesn’t always have to be a stimulating mix though. Since I’ve gotten more seriously into running and other cardio, I’ve essentially stopped using a  pre-workout mix. If I’m having trouble getting motivated, I’ll have a little cold brew coffee to kickstart myself. I use black cold brew because it’s very low calorie and takes no time to prepare. You can buy and keep a bottle in the fridge for emergencies. Pre-workout can also be just eating some carbs to fuel your body while you exercise. A simple banana or rice krispy treat can be used as fuel to help your body perform the work needed and keep you from feeling tired. A protein shake can provide your body the building blocks it needs during your workout to build muscle in the areas you are working.


Two full spring water bottlesFor my triathlon workouts I’ve been training fasted with basically 0 calories or pre-workout beforehand aside from a couple sips of the aforementioned cold brew. These workouts usually consist of an hour or more of cardio. Training this way helps me get my body used to endurance workouts, while also using my stored fat as fuel. Hopefully this will help me with my weight loss by lowering my body fat. 

At first having nothing beforehand was a big change, but I’ve gotten used to it. I actually enjoy the fasted feeling now. I don’t always have as much energy as I did when taking something pre workout and lifting weights, but the work required is different with endurance training. Rather than having to be explosive or powerful, I have to continue moving forward steadily on a run or on the bike. I also get a positive feeling knowing I haven’t had any calories and I’m continuing to increase that deficit by completing the workout. Currently my pre-workout routine is 2 glasses of water. I try to finish them as soon as I get up in the morning and at least 20-30 minutes before my workout. This way at least I know I will have some hydration to work with so I don’t put myself in danger while exercising.

Get Psyched Up

Resistance band, light dumbbells, pvc pole

Other than water, warming up with movement and stretching really helps me wake my body up and get it prepared for the work to come. I would always recommend at least a 5 minute warmup, and for some this may serve as all the preworkout you need. Increasing your blood flow, elevating your heart rate, or breaking a sweat may be all the stimulation your body needs to switch into workout mode. Going for a walk or going through the movements with no weights can get your body into a more prepared state then just walking up and lifting a dumbbell. Although warming up doesn’t necessarily prevent you from injury, it can serve as a good warning of one to come. Warmups are a good option to use in place, or on top of whatever other pre-workout you may take. 


Impact whey isolate mocha protein bagThe point is there are a lot of options out there for a pre-workout. The definition of a pre-workout isn’t really one thing or another, it’s what you take before you workout. Make sure you are taking what you need to maximize the effort you put in. Do the research so you have a better understanding of exactly what you are putting in does for you. Pre-workout is important because it helps us get our workout in and in some cases, may keep us coming back to do it again the next day. Figuring out what works for you and using it is just one more thing you can do to help yourself achieve your goal. Let me know what you use for a pre-workout or contact me to hear about all my pre-workout experiences.

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