A Guide to Pre-Workout Supplements

a guide to pre-workout supplements

You love working out! It makes you feel good, and it adds longevity to your life. If you’re making an effort to exercise, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of each session. You can do that by making sure you’re well-hydrated or snack on a handful of almonds or a banana beforehand. But could you be supercharging your workouts by gaining more muscle and burning more fat each time you hit the gym? Knowing what to eat before training can be confusing, especially if you’re new to the world of supplements. It’s time to add pre-workout supplements to your routine to help give you a boost and maximize your hard work. Here we break it down into a guide to pre-workout supplements with what you need to know before heading to your favourite supplement shop. 


What is a pre-workout supplement?

A pre-workout supplement is one that you take about 30-45 minutes before you exercise and is most commonly in powder or pill form. Think of adding a couple of scoops of a specialized formula to your water bottle and drink it within the hour leading up to your workout. The goal of pre-workout supplements is to give you sufficient energy to get you through your sweat session while improving performance without any adverse side effects. They are a mix of carbohydrates and protein, sometimes with added Caffeine for an extra boost, designed to have you work harder and longer with improved results. 


Pre-workout ingredients to look for? 



Caffeine is a stimulant most commonly found in coffee, tea, chocolate and soft drinks. It can stimulate your brain, elevate mood and delay fatigue, making it a popular ingredient in pre-workouts to increase endurance and improve athletic performance. You can take it in supplement form or have a cup of tea or coffee shortly before you exercise. 

You don’t need much; to give you some perspective, one cup of coffee has approximately 100mg of Caffeine. Look at the product label to see how much Caffeine there is per serving. Pay attention to the amount of Caffeine you take in supplement form, especially if you’re a coffee drinker. Too much Caffeine can make you jittery, upset your stomach, disrupt sleep, and lead to general feelings of restlessness and agitation. If you’re not a regular coffee drinker, look for a supplement with only a small amount.


Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Essential amino acids, of which there are 9, cannot be made by the body and must be eaten through food. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three essential amino acids; leucine, isoleucine and valine. The leucine signals muscle growth, isoleucine is muscle fuel, and valine reduces fatigue. BCAA supplements can reduce exercise fatigue, improve endurance and lean mass – talk about a win/win/win! They may also help reduce muscle soreness after running and weight training. 


Nitric Oxide

The body produces nitric oxide to increase blood flow while decreasing blood pressure by relaxing the muscles of the blood vessels. Pre-workout supplements contain compounds that the body uses to make nitric oxide so that you can then reap the benefits to your health and workout performance. Nitric oxide supplementation decreases muscle soreness and boosts performance due to increased nutrients and oxygen in the blood going to muscles.



Creatine exists naturally in the body. It helps provide energy to muscle cells and maintains a constant energy supply to working muscle cells. Creatine supplementation is most prevalent in sports or when bursts of energy are required, like powerlifting and bodybuilding. This type of pre-workout supplement will help increase power, strength, lifting capacity and improve workout recovery but doesn’t benefit aerobic endurance. If you want to increase your muscle strength, Creatine is a popular supplement to consider. 



Stored carbohydrates, glycogen, are your body’s primary and most easily accessible source of energy. Carbs will fuel you for the long workouts and the explosive exercises that come with muscle building; this pre-workout supplement does it all. Carbs in supplement form, like in a shake, taken shortly before a workout, are easily digested and absorbed quickly, vs eating food that takes longer to break down. Supplementing with carbohydrates will help you during strength training workouts when your muscles fail before you hit the number of repetitions or when you “hit the wall” sooner than you’d like during high-intensity interval training. 


Now that you’ve read a guide to pre-workout supplements, lets break it down! If you feel like you’ve plateaued or want to push yourself towards a PB, try Caffeine, BCAA, and nitric oxide supplements. For enhancing performance with short burst exercise, try creatine supplements. Carbohydrates work well for both types of training and is a great place to start if you’re beginning to explore the world of pre-workout supplements. 


Pro tip: If you aren’t eating a well-balanced diet, no amount of supplementation will make up for a nutrient-deficient diet. Make sure you’re eating your greens and superfoods to have sustained energy levels throughout the day. Supplements are there to act as an energy boost, not a meal replacement. 


When deciding on what pre-workout supplement to take, it’s best to test it out first. Try a powder for a few weeks and see if it increases your energy levels when working out. Do you get the same results with a whole foods snack, or is the supplement helping you kick serious butt each time you hit the gym. Remember, you are an individual. Take the time to find what works best for you. 


Want to get prepped with all of the pre-workout supplements you’ll need before hitting the gym? Visit us in store, have a chat with one of our experts, and learn about our favourite supplements! We can also be reached on Facebook and Instagram. Now it’s your turn to tell us, how do you keep your exercise routine going? Be sure to tag us! We are #ReflexNation.

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