Performance Supplements: Do we actually need them?

Let’s talk about supplements. I’m sure most of you have been told to buy a pre-workout formula along with a jar of whey protein at some point in your life. Are these supplements completely necessary in your diet?: It all depends on your lifestyle and training habits.

Let’s debunk a few health myths. I am sure there are a lot of health nuts telling you that pre-workout, protein powders, and many popular sports nutrition supplements are bad for you. Some are too much and others are completely fine. However, if you find yourself drained after a long day or too foggy in the morning to workout, a pre workout or endurance supplement may be right for you. Here’s my take on pre-workout supplements and nutrition.

A few pre-workouts have added ingredients that can lead to health risks over a prolonged period of time. Let’s use caffeine dosing as an example. Used in the correct amounts, caffeine is is a life saver at work and at the gym. It has a myriad of benefits such as better reaction times, vigilance and memory (Ruxton 2008). As a rule of thumb, for every 100 lbs of bodyweight, a human can consume up to 300mg of caffeine without side effects. If more is consumed than this amount, studies have shown that excess caffeine can significantly raise levels of anxiety, depression and hostility (Veleber & Templer 1984).

Some hardcore pre-workout brands include 400+ mg of caffeine in one serving, which is most likely too overwhelming for the average gym goer. However, these amounts make sense for a seasoned, experienced bodybuilder. To save you some time, I will address the main ingredients a good preworkout should contain. Check your ingredient label to see if your formula contains these clinically dosed amounts: caffeine (100-200 mg), creatine (3-5 g), beta-alanine (3.2-6.4 g), L-arginine ( > 3 g) and if you’re lucky (2.5 - 5 g) of BCAAs.

Pre workout formulas make sense if you’re going into the gym for about 1-2 hours to lift and do a basic form of cardio i.e. 20 min treadmill, bike etc. However, let’s say you’re an athlete and you are not focused on muscle building during your workouts. For example, a distance runner needs a different type of supplement with a different ingredient profile because that individual has a different goal. This athlete could be constantly running for 1-2 hours and would need to replenish glycogen levels in a more dramatic sense than a person who only lifts. It is not the same type of recovery process a person who goes to the gym will experience. I will address athlete supplementation in my next blog! But for now, pre-workout formulas: good. Just make sure you are getting a good brand and feel that you absolutely need it in order to get the most out of your workouts. Here are my recommendations:

Caffeine included:

Gat Nitraflex

Bang Master Blaster

Cobra Labs the Curse

Non Caffeine:

Carbon Prep


Ruxton, C. H. S. (2008), The impact of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: a review of benefits and risks. Nutrition Bulletin, 33: 15–25. doi:10.1111/j.1467-3010.2007.00665.x

Veleber, David M., and Donald I. Templer. "Effects of caffeine on anxiety and depression." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 93.1 (1984): 120.

Volek, J. S., PHD. (n.d.). What's in your pre-workout formula? - Nutrition Express Articles. Retrieved July 17, 2017, from index/authors/showarticle.aspx?id=1320

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