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I’m nothing without my ‘pre-workout’?!

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Give a man a pre-workout supplement and you make him strong for life? 


Pre-workout supplements are immensely popular lately. Some people believe so strongly in ‘Rocket Fuel 2.0’, that they start pre-ordering their next batch when their current supply is still half full! The thought of having to be #dedicated without their beloved stimulant is one thought too far.

Pre-workout supplements aren’t necessarily bad. I’m aware there are some decent ones on the market. However, the pre-workout market is heavily saturated with ‘coffee in a bottle’ type supplements – where you’re basically buying caffeine and sugar. Admittedly, some pre-workouts do contain beneficial ingredients; beta-alanine, L-carnitine, creatine and even traces of EAAs and BCAAs.

(Related: Performance enhancing supplements – a primer on BCAA’s (with experience)

While these beneficial amino acids are present, they’re nearly always in a poor ratio to sugar, caffeine, artificial flavourings and preservatives. The over-riding property of a product should dictate what the product is labelled as. Otherwise I could advertise my home as a spider sanctuary because I have one little spider living in the corner of my garage, right?

Pre-workout supplements are bad then?

No, not necessarily. They are a tool just like exercises. There’s a time and place for everything. Pre-workouts are not that different. If your budget allows you to buy them, so be it. Although I would caution against being ignorant to ingredient lists and ratios of amino acids to cheap stimulants (sugar, caffeine etc). You get what you pay for.

I personally haven’t used pre-workout supplements. I think a good old-fashioned cup or two of organic black coffee is more than sufficient. Green tea, white tea, black tea are all fair game too! These actually have health benefits besides being a stimulant.

The most basic of pre-workouts; organic black coffee

Of course, the caffeine dosages in these beverages are nowhere near the ones in some of the supplements, and this is where we hit the nail on the head………..

People rely on pre-workouts to mask poor lifestyle habits. 

Over-working, under-sleeping, chronic stress, malnutrition, even over-using stimulants. Any or all of the above will have a marked affect on your general performances in the world. Eradicating, or minimising these will naturally cause less “need” for pre-workout stimulants.

Stimulants are never a long term solution. They only work for a set duration before you have to ‘top up’ with another capsule, cup of coffee, cigarette or whatever else. You could also think of them as a ‘get out of jail card’. The human body builds a tolerance to stimulants very well. The more you take, the more you need to replicate the original effect.

The final word –

Pre-workouts in any form, be it coffee or supplements, are there for them times you need a pick up. Those days where you stayed up late the night before because you took that gorgeous chick out for the first time. I understand it. Things happen. The last thing you want to do is be a slave to your gym performances; fretting about not training on the same day every week, thinking your session was useless because you forgot your protein powder, thinking taking pre-workouts will eliminate the possibility of a ‘bad’ performance. Life works in cycles. Light doesn’t exist without darkness.

Circumstances are very rarely ‘perfect’. Use stimulants on days where your lifestyle habits haven’t been up to par. Heck, use them on workout days only. It’s well documented that caffeine is a strength enhancer. Intelligently exploit caffeine for your benefit, it’s what I do and it works well – very well. This could be classified as ‘cyclical caffeine usage’.

In a picture perfect world we wouldn’t need caffeine at all. We’d sleep 8 hours straight every night, would have access to the best quality food at our disposal, never fight with our spouse and not need to work another day in our lives. In this case, pre-workouts are utterly pointless; you shouldn’t need a lift, you should be thriving.

( – The residents of paradise never need a pre-workout

Since reality isn’t quite so cute, and a lifestyle like so would lead to little evolution of character – or anything else for that matter, just do your best to practice sound habits that lead you to never “needing” pre-workouts day-in, day-out. And when the chips are down, seek a little help in the form of a pre-workout.

Coffee and tea are always going to get my approval far more than over-priced, over-hyped, over-used and over-rated pre-workout supplements. Regardless of who endorses them.

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

23 thoughts on “I’m nothing without my ‘pre-workout’?! Leave a comment

  1. I’m not that big a fan of pre-workout supplements, mainly because any test results are normed on people a lot younger than I am. There are so many changes in the way a person’s body processes nutrition, hormones, and everything else as you get older, that I seriously doubt what is beneficial for a guy of 20 or 30 will work very well with people over 50 and 60.

    I just drink a cup of coffee and a glass of water, and eat a banana (for a carb boost) before lifting and it seems to work fine.

  2. You’re right in stating that pre-workouts aren’t necessary; however they really can be beneficial, especially when they’re properly dosed! If you’re looking for a good pre check out my latest post!

    • Hey!

      Thanks for getting in touch. Interesting product. How do you find it compares to standard coffee? It definitely looks a more ‘upmarket’ pre-workout supplement. I personally don’t feel the need for a pre-workout, I’m cursed (or blessed?) with being very hard wired/highly strung, haha.

      • Hi JR 🙂
        The caffeine content feels about the same as coffee (maybe a little less if you are a frequent, strong coffee drinker.) The plus to PreSeries Lean is the improved endurance and vascularity. If I go into the gym raw (no pre) I get very easily fatigued. With this pre, I get great pumps and I feel like I can keep going and going and heavier too. It really aids when doing legs.

      • Ah I see! As long as it’s making you better each day, it’s doing it’s job 🙂 Leg training is definitely when you’ll need it and benefit from it most. They say if you’re not nervous before your leg session, it’s not a real leg session, hahaha; I agree too.

        Very nice site BTW. Equally nice transformation. It’s always good to meet a girl who can do pull ups 😉 haha. Thanks for the follow too, back at ya! 🙂

    • Oh I bet! Endurance cycling is on another level! That’s one area I actually have very little experience in; cycling. I know the energy demands/turnover are INSANE!

      But black coffee always does the trick, tastes great too. You don’t even feel as though you’re seeking a stimulant, you’re just enjoying a traditional drink, right?

      • Exactly right… and it’s really a double whammy having a Coke at the halfway point of a 70+ miler. Caffeine and sugar! Only time I really enjoy it, too. Just makes everything feel better.

  3. Great article. I’ve dabbled with pre-workouts, albeit fairly briefly. They don’t seem to agree with me. Creatine nitrate triggers some nasty headaches that leave me feeling lousy. I know I’m not the only one this has affected as others have posted as such. I could probably stick with it and the headaches would subside but it’s not worth the pain and discomfort. I tend to be in the camp of a coffee, a protein shake with added oats, banana and nuts and maybe some blueberries. I believe that for me, some of the effects of taking the pre-workout were purely psychological. If I have slept well, eaten properly, stretched and mobilised, gone out in the cold, I’m awake and ready to roll. No one size fits all though and I’m sure they have their place for some. Just not me. Perhaps worth mentioning that some are packed with sodium. Read the label guys and girls.

    • Awesome input Pixie! Exactly that, when the puzzle is complete, there’s no need for pre-workouts really. And as you illustrated, nature provides many decent pre-workout options, haha. It’s the dependence on them that’s an issue I think. So many people are ADDICTED to them without even knowing it!

      • Thank you, JR. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve made mistakes, not read labels properly, assumed it would make a huge difference, relied on it too much. I pack enough into my pre-workout shake that I don’t need to worry about taking anything else and given that I have a history of severe migraines; messing around with pre-workouts has cost me dearly. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to take something that gave me an edge and a bit more of a pump but all I need to do for that is throw on some shorts, run in the rain and hey presto, zing and punch. Wired all day long.

      • Haha, good to see you’ve found the natural substitute! I’m the guy who’s always wired, struggles to sleep and has never ending energy. Whether it’s good or bad, depends on your take on things. But for recovery, it sucks! For getting shit done, it’s GREAT!

      • I have to force myself to sit down. You’d think by now that I might have slowed down a bit but no, that’s not the case. I choose to scrub the floors by hand to use up some of the extra energy. Today though, I forced myself to sit down and take a break. CNS exhaustion from deadlifting.

      • Fitness Land…. I like that. I’m resting today, of sorts. Well, I was using an axe, is that resting? Shifting wood. Now it’s time to tax my brain a bit. I tried wearing shoes with a heel raise, that made my back squat worse. I opted for bare feet instead and focused on technique. Still prefer the overhead squat. I’m wrong.

      • I’m still doing my research into the biomechanics of back squats, length of femur etc. I’ve been doing some work on squatting without any weight. In the front squat I can go ass to grass. As soon as I put my hands into the back squat position, my pelvis lifts and I tilt forward. However, in the front squat position with the bar, I have problems. I have long arms for my body, I have good mobility in my wrists, however, in order to get into the perfect position, I’d need to break my wrists in order to sit the bar correctly. This is becoming complicated and I do so love a challenge. Thoughts?

      • Hey Pixie,

        Interesting that you didn’t feel any benefit to the heel elevation idea. Possibly due to it simply being different mechanically – any change in heel elevation can completely change the feel of the lift. Secondly, there’s less energy transfer through the floor as opposed to completely raw (barefoot).

        Your pelvis lifts? Do you mean tilts anteriorly/posteriorly?

        RE front squats…..where are you trying to place your hands, or fingers should I say? Are you trying to get your fingers resting on your front delts? If so, try sliding your hands out wider whilst keeping your elbows IN still. Another tip would be starting with 2 fingers on the bar and working up to 3, 4 and so on. The more fingers you have on the bar in the ‘hold’ position, the more mobility you need throughout the wrists.

        I can’t remember if I covered the grip issues in detail – I think I did – when I wrote all about the front squat:

      • Hi there, JR. Thanks for the very comprehensive reply. Sorry for the delay. I’ve been stupidly busy. My shoulders go forward and my pelvis tilts anteriorly. The last session was greatly improved. Still in bare feet still focusing on perfect technique. Not upping the weight for the moment. Worked on my snatch and as is usual, perfect squat. I’m not built right. I’ll have a go on that grip tomorrow and get back to you. This is a subject that I could discuss for hours on end.

      • You and me both! I love discussing the technicalities of lifts/training etc….

        I haven’t front squatted properly for a while. It’s something I’m going to start cycling in very soon I think. I rate the lift so highly. Incredible core builder too!

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