With so many brands and choices of pre-workout supplements available, figuring out which products are actually safe and worth your money can be difficult. Here are two of the better supplements on the market.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition says that creatine monohydrate is the most effective nutritional supplement for increasing lean body mass and anaerobic capacity.
Creatine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body. When taken as a supplement, it improves explosive power during short bursts of activity such as sprinting. Five grams of creatine per day is a safe dose that works well for most people. Maintain adequate hydration while supplementing. It may take a few weeks before you see noticeable benefits, so be patient.
Read more about creatine:
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that increases the amount of carnosine in your muscle cells. Carnosine is a protein building block that helps buffer the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles in response to intense training. The increase in lactic acid is what produces the familiar "burn" feeling as you near the end of a tough set.
Supplementing with beta-alanine enhances muscular endurance, allowing you to push out one or two extra reps during your lifting sets. It is most effective in the eight-to-15-rep range or for periods of exercise lasting one to four minutes. The benefits are minor, but they can impact your training.
The standard dosage for beta-alanine is between 2 and 5 grams daily. Initially, you might feel tingling in your face and limbs after larger doses. This sensation is known as paresthesia and it is a completely harmless side effect. Over time (a minimum of two weeks), your carnosine stores will increase, and the tingling sensation should subside.
Creatine and beta-alanine complement each other well; you can add both to your pre-workout drink.
Read more about beta-alanine:
1. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Page 8, "Effects of Supplementation on Exercise Performance and Training Adaptations." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/.
2. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Page 3, "Background." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/.
3. Laboratory of Applied Nutrition and Metabolism, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. "Role of beta-alanine supplmentation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20479615.