How to Choose a High-Quality Pre-WorkoutJanuary 22, 2023
Pre-workout supplements all claim to put the kind of steel in your spine that adds a weapons grade upgrade to your energy supplies.
Small wonder they’ve become one of the most popular supplement categories because many tactical professionals, first responders and general consumers love that feeling of pumping out reps until their left ventricle gets to the brink of popping a gasket.
Trouble is, more is not always better and while pre-workouts used to consist of just one or two ingredients, now they can have as many as ten. Often times stimulant compounds are stacked or used in combinations that can be extremely potent and potentially dangerous.
In 2012 two U.S. soldiers died with traces of the popular pre-workout ingredient methylhexaneamine (DMAA, 1,3-Dimethylamylamine) in their system, leading to massive recalls of the Jack3D supplement reportedly involved. The brand USPLabs that sold Jack3D has since been the target of one of the largest FDA lawsuits in history, which resulted in multiple guilty pleas on a variety of felony charges.
Figuring out what works and what doesn’t, can be difficult when a pile of ingredients are put in a product.
Fortunately, research in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found overall, multi-ingredient pre-workouts are generally safe, but the athlete should always check the ingredient list as many preworkout supplements include stimulants that are banned in sport or may be illegal supplement ingredients.
Are you at risk?
Absolutely, but only if you leave these boxes unticked when choosing
- Stick with what you know
Straying too far from what you’re used to can be a lot for your system to handle. Less has proven to be more in the realm of pre-workouts where overstimulation can harm performance.
If you want to explore this realm, start with individual ingredients, such as caffeine, to see how you tolerate them then move from there after understanding how your body feels.
Be careful of high stimulant pre-workouts as these can really pack a punch. Many of the ingredients that have been historically used are new chemicals masquerading as natural products, and these can be a big problem for you, especially if you are a drug tested athlete, first responder, or tactical professional.
- Decide on your goal
Pre-workouts have their own subcategories with stimulant pre-workouts, non-stim products, and products focused more on fat burning.
The person taking a fat burner needs a very different product than the guy who wants to play a good game of soccer, or maximize focus for tactical precision.
Some stimulants can be overbearing and give you so much jittery energy that you lose focus and performance can be impaired.
Stick with the ingredients that best serve your training outcomes, because a scoop of BEAST-MODE-5000 may not give you the calm of mind needed to protect and serve.
- Check the label and do your research
Just because it has creatine, doesn’t mean that there’s enough in there to help you build muscle or get a performance edge. Make sure you understand why you are considering an ingredient and what amount might help your cause. Some brands pixie dust products with ingredients that are popular but are used in tiny amounts that are not effective.
A few minutes of research can enlighten your decisions and keep you from wasting your cash on ineffective products. If you want the complete details on creatine the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has
a good white paper on it that you can find here: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-
0173-z. Look for information like this to inform your decisions.
Beware of the ingredients in pre-workout products as many are prohibited and could make you test positive on a drug test. Operation Supplement Safety (https://www.opss.org/), the DOD initiative on dietary supplements, is an excellent resource available to military service members. The OPSS prohibited ingredient search engine allows you to search for an ingredient to see if it is banned.
- Watch out for the placebo-effect
While you’re search-engine-in-hand, make sure to do your research to see if a pre-workout ingredient has a proven track record, or if it is just the latest fad.
It’s easy to get sucked into the marketing claims and deliver yourself a powerful placebo effect.
Though unethical, it’s not illegal for brands to include ingredients that have failed to deliver once put under scientific scrutiny. Worse yet, they might use ingredients that have not been subjected to any scientific
review, or are banned and potentially harmful.
Okay, so planned ignorance may keep the placebo dream alive, but a dash of research will ground the results in reality.
- Let third-party certification be your guide
If you want to make it easier to make good product decisions, there are shortcuts available to you like third-party certification.
Buying a brand that’s reputable is a good start, but if they’re third party certified then you’re truly covering all bases. Ensuring you only use third-party certified products that have been tested for banned
substances, like BSCG Certified Drug Free supplements, can save you from a world of hurt suggests OPSS in their checklist on product safety.
It’s like an extra set of trained eyes examining products to verify product quality.
To keep yourself safe, choose products that have a third-party seal like the Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG) Certified Drug Free seal.
The BSCG Certified Drug Free program helps to ensure products are free of banned substances in sport and other potential drug contaminants, verifies that products meet label claims and are free of environmental contaminants, and evaluates compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and other regulations.
Not only are you making sure you get the best quality products and ingredients, but you safeguard yourself against a failed drug test and unscrupulous ingredients.
Every lot of BSCG Certified Drug Free supplements are tested for more than 500 drugs including 296 drugs on the WADA Prohibited List and 209 OTC, illicit, or prescription drugs – the most comprehensive testing menu in the realm of third-party certification for banned substances. Not every banned substance program tests every lot so be sure to check the certification program database to make sure the lot in your hand has been tested.
This offers maximum protection against hidden risks of dietary supplement contamination and protects you and your career against a failed drug test, leaving you to serve with confidence.
Pre-workouts may seem confusing but stick to these simple checkpoints and you can be sure you’re giving your body the best it can get.