Which ingredients should a pre-workout formula include?

January 13th, 2022

If you are looking for the ideal pre-workout formula, you came to the right place. In this article, we explore the most relevant ingredients that your pre-workout formula should include to target power, focus and endurance.

Which ingredients shoul be included in a pre-workout formula

Tingles and rashes, this is what the average gym visitor is looking for in a pre-workout formula. However, sometimes it can be difficult to choose the right product due to the endless lists of ingredients.

You may find yourself asking questions like: “Do I really need all these things?”, “What is it that really matters?”. If this is the case, in this article, we explore a few effective ingredients to target the 3 main benefits a high-quality pre-workout should provide: power, focus and endurance.

What is a pre-workout?

Pre-workouts are known to most as cocktails of rash- and tingle-causing formulations. However, these days, formulations are more sophisticated than they used to be. They are consumed by athletes from all disciplines briefly prior to their workout or training.

The goal of consuming these types of formulas is to enhance acute exercise performance [1]. You can find pre-workouts in different forms, like drinks, gels or capsules, yet ready-to-drink powders are by far the most common format.

Getting the most out of your workout

If you are considering consuming a pre-workout for improving your performance, you can pay attention to a few things before buying.

First, you would like to have an effective product that addresses three main benefits: power, focus and endurance.

Further, you would like this product to have a rapid onset of these effects, ideally within 15-30 minutes of intake.

Finally, you can consider choosing a formula that contains natural ingredients and avoid consuming high amounts of stimulants like caffeine.

In the next section, we look at the ingredients that you should be looking for in a pre-workout.

Ingredients for power

These ingredients provide fuel to maximize high-intensity movements within your training or workout [2].

Citrulline malate. Clinical dose: 6 g

This ingredient consists of citrulline, a non-essential amino acid, and malic acid, an intermediate in the citric acid cycle.

Citrulline malate is linked to improved blood flow during exercise by augmenting nitric oxide (NO) levels, as citrulline is a NO precursor [3].

Currently, it is unclear whether the performance improvement is linked to this mechanism, but several studies support an improvement in peak power output after citrulline malate consumption [4,5].

Creatine. Clinical dose: 3 g

Creatine is one of the most well-researched ingredients in sports nutrition. Creatine supplementation increases intramuscular creatine levels. Short-term energy generation in muscle tissue comes virtually 100% from creatine – the phosphorylated isoform, Cr-P.

Daily intake has been demonstrated to promote anaerobic performance in the gold standard Wingate Test [6]. Researchers also found beneficial effects on exercise recovery with creatine intake, reducing exercise-induced muscle damage [7].

Ingredients for focus

These ingredients make sure that you can focus on your movements to execute them with high precision [2]. Focus is more famously referred to as mind-muscle connection.

Berry anthocyanins. Clinical dose: 15 mg

If you are looking for an alternative to caffeine, you should check out berry anthocyanins. This group of bioactive compounds has been demonstrated to increase neurotransmitter levels, improving connectivity in the brain.

Specifically, Aronia melanocarpa anthocyanins aid in improving cognitive functions: eye-hand coordination, psychomotor speed and focus [8,9].

Caffeine. Clinical dose: 200 mg

Similar to creatine, caffeine is one of the most well-researched ingredients in sports nutrition [2], often referred to as the primary ingredient responsible for acute ergogenic effects.

Low doses (3 mg/kg body weight) have been linked to improved alertness, vigilance, mood and cognitive processes during exercise [10].

However, a comparison between non-caffeine and caffeine-containing pre-workout formulas concluded that the caffeine-containing pre-workout reduces calmness. If you are training in the evening, this might be a reason to pass on caffeine [11].

Ingredients for endurance

These ingredients are important to provide nutrients to feel energized until the end of your workout [2].

Beta-alanine. Clinical dose 4-6 g

Beta-alanine is a carnosine precursor, a compound that buffers lactate build-up in the muscle tissue, prolonging the feeling of soreness.

It has been shown that 4-6 g of beta-alanine consumption per day for two weeks improves high-intensity exercise performance. Regular consumption maintains a certain level of intramuscular carnosine levels, as beta-alanine is the limiting factor in carnosine production [12].

Carbohydrates. Dose depending on exercise type [13]

This ingredient depends a lot on the exercise type you are performing. Typical gym sessions last between 45-120 minutes, for which a small amount of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates shortly before exercise can be beneficial.

Carbohydrates are the main energy source during resistance exercise and are mobilized from glycogen stores. A small amount of carbohydrates is able to support glycogen store replenishment [14].

Endurance exercise is typical of a longer duration and would require a larger pre-workout carbohydrate amount to optimize glycogen stores. Slow-release carbohydrates could be a consideration for this type of athlete, as they deliver energy over a longer period of time.

Citrus flavonoids (hesperidin) – Power and endurance in one ingredient

If you want to take your pre-workout to the next level, an additional ingredient you may want to include in your pre-workout formula, are citrus flavonoids (hesperidin).

WATTS’UP® is a natural Citrus sinensis extract researched and developed by BioActor. The recommended daily dose (clinical dose) for this ingredient is 400-500 mg.

Two randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials conducted by BioActor confirmed that WATTS’UP® is able to significantly improve peak force, endurance capacity and anaerobic power in trained subjects.

Further research revealed that WATTS’UP® works by stimulating nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in blood vessels, thus stimulating a better blood flow, and by increasing mitochondria efficiency and respiration capacity [15, 16].