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Finding a good pre-workout could be the difference between a regular session and the best training session you’ve ever had. Seriously, we are not understating this. Pre-workouts can banish fatigue, increase energy, improve endurance, and even help boost your mood and motivation. In this article we are going to look at five of the best pre-workouts to buy in the UK in 2020.
Table of Contents
The Purpose of Pre-Workouts
Pre-workouts serve several functions, the most obvious being to increase the amount of energy that you have available to you. There are several ways that this can be achieved, though the most common method is to not actually increase your energy at all (bear with us here).
Ingredients such as caffeine, for instance, don’t boost your energy but instead temporarily block fatigue, giving you the impression that you’ve had an increase in vigour. If you’ve had a bad night’s sleep or have been working for ten hours straight before a workout, tiredness and exhaustion can ruin a workout, but a decent pre-workout can help to banish your fatigue for an hour or so while you train.
Some pre-workouts, of course, do boost energy. Ingredients such as carbohydrates, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), or creatine can boost energy levels (or improve energy transfer which amounts to the same thing).
More energy equals a better workout, allowing you to lift heavier weights for more repetitions, or to run faster, or to grind out an extra 30 seconds on that damn rower when every part of your body wants you to give up. At moments like this a good pre-workout may feel Heaven sent!
But pre-workouts can do more than that, they can even improve your cognition. Ingredients such as caffeine and creatine have been shown to help you concentrate better, make quicker and more decisive choices during stressful times (such as in the middle of a football match), and generally help you learn better. They can also boost your motivation.
There is a reason why students and caffeine are rarely parted during exam time. This can be true of many of the ingredients in a pre-workout, and some companies have really concentrated on this over the last few years.
Stim vs Non-Stim
You can split pre-workouts into two types, stim and non-stim. Stim pre-workouts contain ingredients that act upon your central nervous system. The most common stim pre-workout ingredient is caffeine, as it is mostly safe (when taken in sensible amounts) and very effective. There are many other ingredients that can stimulate your CNS, and they all work in a similar way, banishing fatigue, boosting adrenaline, and increasing focus.
Sadly, you can’t take stim pre-workouts forever and get the same results; your body begins to get used to the dosage and it takes higher and higher dosages to see the same benefits. If you’ve ever met someone who drinks 10 coffees per day then you probably have a good idea about how this works. Often, the best thing you can do is to wean yourself off stimulants for a few weeks.
If you want to cut down on your stimulants for a few weeks but don’t want your workouts to suffer – or you’d rather avoid stimulants altogether – then you can take a non-stim pre-workout. These are pre-workouts that don’t contain stimulants but can still help you to train harder and for longer. They are often very effective, usually in a more subtle, strategic way.
Non-stim pre-workouts often contain ingredients that can boost energy, and that can allow you to exercise for longer. They can also be taken indefinitely and won’t become less effective over time. Many lifters, for instance, tend to cycle between stim pre-workouts and non-stim pre-workouts. Which gives them the best of both worlds.
Good Ingredients/ What to Look For
There are many good ingredients that can be found in pre-workouts, but remember, it is all about the dosage! Some unreputable supplement companies will look to cut costs by including great ingredients but only in very small dosages (luckily, we are highlighting five excellent pre-workout supplements below that absolutely do NOT do that). But here are some good ingredients to look out for:
- Caffeine – there is a reason why every stim pre-workout on the market seems to contain caffeine of some description, it works. Increases in muscular endurance, strength, power, focus, improved mood, and increased fat loss too. An excellent stim pre-workout ingredient.
- Creatine – Increased muscular endurance, improved energy, increased focus, and increases in strength and power.
- Betaine – An up-and-coming pre-workout staple, betaine is an amino acid that can help boost power output, increase muscle gain, and improves the way your muscle cells use energy. More and more research is coming out in favour of betaine every day.
- Beta-Alanine – An excellent non-stim supplement ingredient that can reduce fatigue and allow you to train harder and for longer.
- L-Citrulline – Combines well with creatine, but that’s not all. L-Citrulline enhances nitric oxide production (allowing for a greater pump), increases power, and can increase the time it takes for your muscles to fatigue (by clearing ammonia).
Best Time to Take a Pre-Workout
The standard advice is to take your pre-workout about an hour before your session, but we think that there is an issue with this. When you go to the gym do you immediately walk up to a heavy barbell and deadlift it? Or instead, do you place your bag in a locker, talk to a friend, climb onto an exercise bike for five minutes, and then spend ten minutes waiting for the barbell to become free? For most people it is the latter.
If you had taken your pre-workout one hour before your gym session the benefits would have peaked while you were putting your bag in the locker! We say take the pre-workout about 30 minutes before a workout, that way you should see the results while you are lifting the heaviest weights, rather than while you’re warming up.
Five of the Best Pre-Workouts to Buy in UK in 2020
There are some seriously good pre-workouts out there now, so it was difficult to pick out just five of the best pre-workouts to buy in the UK in 2020 (so much so that we snuck in a sixth). But these five absolutely deserve to be here:
Performance Lab SPORT Pre
This pre workout is seriously clever, it’s non-stim so you won’t get the big caffeine jolt of many pre workouts, but it more than makes up for this by increasing your power through l-citrulline, delivering a great hit of creatine, and containing Himalayan pink salt which can help you to replenish lost water and electrolytes.
What’s also great about Pre is that it can be combined with so many other Performance Lab supplements to create an ultimate pre-workout. Consider mixing it with their “Carb” supplement for an amazing aerobic performance.
Performance Lab Stim
One of the best pre workout hacks out there is to just take a caffeine pill, this has a lot going for it. But what if you could get even more out of a caffeine pill? Stim by Performance Lab looks to answer that question.
Not only does it contain a standardised dosage of caffeine, but it also offers L-Theanine and L-Tyrosine which can remove any of the side effects without affecting performance! Performance Lab Stim is designed to work in combination with Performance Lab Pre which is why we’ve placed these two next to each other. They both work excellently when taken separately but are greater than the sum of their parts when combined.
Named after a shotgun, designed to look like a shotgun shell, and some would say as effective as a shotgun in a zombie movie. 4Gauge is a great pre-workout.
Like Performance Lab Stim, they have made the smart decision to combine caffeine with L-Theanine to provide performance enhancing benefits without the drawbacks (jitters, headaches, nausea, insomnia etc). There is also L-Citrulline, betaine, and rhodiola rosea (to improve your mind).
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
If you name your supplement the “gold standard” you’re either cocky or confident. Luckily, ON is justifiably confident in their product, because they are one of the best out there.
This pre-workout has Beta alanine, caffeine, creatine monohydrate, L-Carnitine, and L-Tyrosine. All well dosed and effective. Another solid supplement from Optimum Nutrition.
Made by Bodybuilding.com legend Jim Stoppani, this supplement is so good we can forgive the incredibly corny name! A seriously good dosage of caffeine (300mg) leads the charge for Pre-Jym, ably supported by citrulline malate, betaine, taurine, tyrosine, choline, and some BCAAs (great for banishing fatigue).
What’s most impressive here is that all the ingredients are well dosed, which is rare for a pre-workout that contains so many active ingredients.
Freak Athletics Pre-Workout Venom
This is another non-stim pre workout, which focuses on beta alanine, citrulline malate, arginine, taurine, and betaine. You’re going to get a great muscle pump from this, you’ll think clearer, feel happier, and be able to lift for longer. Worth looking at.