Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Supplements branded as 'pre-workout':

Looking at different substances with the question

'Does this enhance my athletic performance?'.


1. BCAA's (branched chain amino acid): Does this enhance my athletic performance?

Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins.

Branched chain amino acids (hereafter referred to as BCAAs) include leucine, iso-leucine and valine. These BCAAs are not naturally produced in the body and must be introduced by your diet. What makes BCAAs special is that they can be metabolised in muscle tissue, whereas our essential amino acids (EAA) are only broken down in the liver. The function of BCAAs is to promote muscle synthesis and prevent or decrease muscle damage.

BCAAs as a pre-workout supplement has been shown to reduce damage to muscle tissue and enhance muscle synthesis. The BCAAs are metabolised by your muscles and the optimal absorption window is during and after your workout. Using BCAAs as a supplement for sports nutrition can enhance your athletic performance.

When standing in front of the supplements shelf, lookout for products

- containing leucine, iso-leucine and valine.

- that do not contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols (can cause digestive discomfort)

- containing additional vitamins and minerals

Note: If the product contains creatine, do not take additional creatine supplements to avoid over-dosing.


2. Creatine: Does it improve my athletic performance?

For a detailed discussion of creatine, read the post CREATINE in sport .

Only to conclude: if you qualify as a 'high intensity, repetitive athlete' the use of creatine can enhance your performance and allow you to reap maximum benefits from your sessions. When choosing a product advise a nutrition professional or a doctor in case you have any underlying disease and use it as directed. Don't be too smart. Dosage instructions are there for a reason.


3. Caffeine: Does it enhance my athletic performance?

Caffeine is a natural ergogenic (performance enhancer). It has been shown to increase speed and/or power output when exercising or in race conditions. The effect of caffeine can be experienced in activities as short as 60 seconds and sessions up to 2 hours. Studies support the effect of caffeine on endurance training or providing resistance to fatigue, but little evidence on effect on strength training.

Caffeine peaks 30 - 90 minutes after ingestion. The half-life of caffeine is 5 hours so it should not be consumed in high concentrations within 5 hours of bedtime, or it may cause a hard time falling asleep. One cup of coffee equals approximately 90mg of caffeine. Some pre-workouts contain up to 300mg per serving. Not all individuals react the same. Start by trying out a product with lower caffeine content to see how your body reacts. 150mg of caffeine per serving should be enough to fire up your motor drive and enhance your athletic performance.


4. L-Cittruline

A natural substance, produced in your body, but also found in food (specifically watermelon!). It is known to dilate (widen) your blood vessels, allowing increase blood flow to muscles which in return can enhance athletic performance.


Product reviews:


This product contains a good combination of BCAAs, caffeine, L-Citrulline as well as additional vitamines and minerals to ensure electrolyte balance. It comes in three flavours and falls in an average price range.

Muscletech Neurocore Pre-workout

Muscletech pre-workout is one of the more expensive products in store, but follows strictly research-based development. A safe dose of pure L-citrulline instead and 3g creatine per recommended serving. Little calories and carbohydrates. Ginseng and caffeine also included in tolerable amounts for increased mental and physical focus. Good product if you are training on a more serious level and have a bigger budget for sports performance.

EVOX amino energy

Good ratio of BCAAs, contains a blend of Essential Amino Acids, 100mg caffeine per serving AND green tea extract (also shown to enhance athletic performance)

Herbalife CR7 drive (caffeine free)

Developed in conjunction with Cristiano Renaldo, this product does not contain BCAAs or caffeine, but consists of a healthy blend of vitamins and minerals to enhance energy metabolism and provide energy to fight the onset of fatigue. It is tingle free, mild in flavour and does the job. It is free from artificial sweeteners and flavours.

NPL Pre-Ignite (possible side-effects)

This products provides a concentrated mix of all the above mentioned and more. It is advised to start with a small doses to evaluate the effect on your body. High in caffeine (300mg = 3.5 cups of coffee), extreme BCAA content (tingles in extremities guaranteed) and containing some ingredients with no sufficient evidence for performance support, this product is not for everyone.


CONTRA-INDICATIONS AND INTERACTIONS WITH MEDICATION is listed on the labels. Individuals with anxiety or depression disorder, diabetes and pregnant or lactating women should avoid this product.

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