The Truth About Pre-Workout Supplements

Hands down the most popular category of supplements to hit the market in recent years is
“Energy Boosters”.

Just go visit your local supplement store and the shelves will be lined off with Pre-Workout drinks, powders, and stimulants all claiming to get you Jacked, make you Explode, go Crazy, Scream, Expand, Rage, and blow your freakin mind!

Take a quick visit to your local gas station and on the front counter you’ll see everything from caffeine pills, Red Bull, 5 Hour Energy Shots, to God knows what else… In addition to those gigantic bottles of caffeine spiked energy drinks in the soda cooler.

It’s almost to the point where you’re expected to get buzzed out of your head on stimulants just to get through the day. Does anyone even go to the gym “sober” anymore?

Do You NEED Pre-Workout Supplements? Watch the video below to find out…

Note: if you can’t watch the embedded video clip above,
you can watch it right on my YouTube Channel by Clicking Here

Most pre-workout energy boosting supplements contain some form of stimulant, which is basically a substance that stimulates the central nervous system and revs up the metabolism.

Some Popular Pre-Workout Energy Supplement Stimulants Include:
– Caffeine
– Guarana
– Yerba Mate
– Kola Nut
– Taurine
– Ginseng
– Green tea
– Capsaicin
– Bitter Orange
– Ephedrine
– Ephedra
– Ma Huang
– Etc…

The Grand Daddy Of Energy Boosters – Caffeine…

The number 1 stimulant of all time is caffeine. If you were to compare the labels of all the fancy energy supplements and herbal concoctions on the market you’d find that virtually all of them have caffeine listed as a major ingredient.

And while many of the energy boosting supplements may have over a dozen different ingredients listed on the label. The one that you’re feeling the most is caffeine. The other ingredients may help a little and can sometimes work synergistically with caffeine to either enhance or prolong the stimulant effect, but by themselves they usually have little stimulant effect on the body.

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world. It’s found mostly in coffee, tea, chocolate, soda pop and many non-prescription medications. The average caffeine consumption in North America is about 200 mg per day, or the same amount of caffeine that’s found in 2 cups of coffee. However, approximately 10% of the population will consume in excess of 1000 mg per day (i.e. the same a drinking 10 cups of coffee!)

Caffeine is referred to as an ergogenic aid, but it has no nutritional value. Once ingested caffeine is quickly absorbed from the stomach and peaks in the blood in 1-2 hours.

Studies from as far back as the 1970’s have shown that caffeine enhances exercise performance by increasing the release of adrenaline into the blood and stimulating the release of free fatty acids. The working muscles then use this extra fat for fuel during exercise, thus reducing the need to use as much muscle glycogen (i.e. carbohydrates). The sparing effect of muscle glycogen means that there is more available energy for later in exercise and this delays fatigue.

Bottom line:
Energy boosting stimulant supplements do work. They rev up the metabolism and give you that “mental pick me up”, mostly from the caffeine. Will these supplements work any better than a simple cup of coffee? Probably Not…

The Pro’s Pre-Workout Drink…

A few years ago IFBB Pro Bodybuilder, Branch Warren, was a guest poser at one of our local bodybuilding championships. Just in case you never heard of him, Branch is among the top pro bodybuilders in the world, winning the Arnold Classic a couple times and placing as high as 2nd at the Mr. Olympia.

While Branch was visiting he wanted to hit the gym for a workout. And my friend Rob, who owns a supplement store in town, told Branch that if he needed a pre-workout drink or any supplements at all, that he was welcome to have whatever he wanted.

I thought that was pretty cool, just imagine having your pick of anything in an entire supplement store – for FREE!

However, Branch just said:
“Nah, I don’t need any pre-workout drink.
All I need is a large coffee…”

I was shocked, but it really drove the message home. If one of the world’s top bodybuilders doesn’t need a “pre-workout drink” and can get a kick ass workout with a simple cup of coffee… Maybe that’s good enough for you and me as well.

Branch Warren - IFBB Pro Bodybuilder

Have you ever taken a Pre-Workout Energy Boosting Supplement Before?
If so what did you take and what kind of results did you experience?

Please share your feedback in the comments section below…

About The Author


Lee Hayward is a former competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online coaching people since 1997. His work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes. Lee's main focus right now is with helping men over 40 - who don't want to be fat anymore - lose the gut, build muscle, and get back in shape. If you're ready to "Start Again" for the last time and finally build a lean healthy body that you can be proud of, just e-mail Lee to discuss a realistic action plan that's right for you...


  • Ryan

    Interesting article Lee, for the most part I tend to agree with Branch Warren and I don’t waste my money on any pre-workout supplements. However, for a brief period of time I had to work out in the mornings instead of my usual afternoon time and I started taking a pre-workout to help wake me up and get me ready to lift weights since I’m not much of a coffee guy. I have used Red Bull in the past on several occasions and never noticed any significant difference in energy levels. But the one pre-workout that I used that I really noticed a huge difference was Razor8. It didn’t give me a jittery feeling like other pre-workouts often do, but I did feel like I didn’t fatigue nearly as quickly as I normally would. I was able to get several more reps of a lift than I usually could, but I also noticed that after taking it for a few weeks, the effects seemed to wear off as my body got used to the product.

    • crysostomos

      First of all everyone’s different and reacts differently with a pre-workout. These things are not for everyone. I have used expensive pre-workout products and they didn’t do anything. Then I used a Walmart shelf product (cheap $15) and it did wonders. It depends on the list of active ingredients. Not everyone will benefit the same way. I get very pumped up with it and do not get half the pump without it. I am sorry but this article is over-drawn on basic general facts and not on a ‘per individual’ basis. Pre-workout drinks do work for some people and some do not.

  • Clint McQuade

    Hey Lee, have you ever heard of C9-T11. It sure seems a lot of guys are taking this product and in you’re experance is this safe to take.

    Clint McQuade

  • Paul

    Occasionally I have heard that calcium has a really active role in how fats are consumed, used by the body, etc. and affect metabolism, but almost every diet including muscle building workouts seems to treat dairy foods like a curse. For example, a “double milk yogurt” (made by making yogurt and adding non-fat milk to the milk first) has at least double the calcium than a ‘protein shake’ and nearly as much protein. What are your thoughts?

  • Paul

    nonfat milk powder, by the way

  • Tom

    When I was a novice lifter, a pre-workout helped me get amped up and get my workout done. They helped me get my intensity level way up.

    Now, that I am advanced lifter I only use them on the rare occasion that I can’t seem to get psyched up for my workout. My muscles now look forward to their beating at the gym and reward me with soreness when I skip a workout.

  • Clint McQuade,

    I haven’t used this product personally and I don’t have any feedback about it.

  • Shola

    Hi Lee,
    The other day I went to buy some protein powder and I realized that almost all the weight gainers contain some soy products of some sort. I know you have said sometime ago that soy is no good for the mans body, but the store guy still managed to convince me to buy one of them because he said your body need some soy somehow to perform better. Is this true? Why is it that soy is so widely added to protein powder if it is truly known to be detrimental to ones health? Please can you give me examples of some mass gainers that contain no soy?
    Thanks a million.

  • Jesse

    You offer up good sense advice as always, Lee. I usually drink coffee or tea, and eat a piece of fruit before I workout. The combination of caffeine from the coffee and sugar from the fruit seems to work pretty well. Also, during the course of a workout, I find I tend to drink a total of about three cups of water. As an aside, I’m in my fifth week of following your 12 Week Workout. It’s a lot tougher doing it than it looks on paper, but it’s also the most fun programmed workout that I have ever tried.

  • this guy says he never used them, all of a sudden he is naming them\?

  • Paul,

    Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. It helps the heart, nerves, muscles, and other body systems work properly. In addition to bone health, adequate calcium intake can help aid with fat loss and keeping your body in an alkaline state. I recommend consuming about 1500 milligrams of calcium per day. Dairy products and whey protein is a great source, but you can also get calcium from broccoli, cabbage, and dark green leafy vegetables.

  • Shola,

    One of my personal favorite protein supplements that does not contain any soy is Blue Star Iso-Smooth from

  • Thanks for the comments and feedback, it’s much appreciated 🙂

  • sean,

    I never said that I’ve never used a pre-workout supplement. And I’m not saying they are useless. But you can get too much of a good thing. A few years ago I used to take a pre-workout every time I went to the gym. While it seemed to help a bit at first, I found that after a while the energy boosting effects I got from them were minimal and it seemed to make me feel burnt out. Today I rarely use a pre-workout supplement, instead I prefer to have a cup of coffee before I hit the gym. It’s cheaper and I feel it’s just as effective.

  • Markadonis

    I don’t need them. The caffeine works great without all the other stuff. I generally have a 200 mg caffeine tablet (generic works just fine) half my Creatine dose 2.5mg and half my protein powder dose and I’m on hyped up and ready to go for an hour and a half if necessary. Even without the Creatine and protein pre-workout I’m still hyped up with plenty of energy.

  • Danny Filion

    Don’t you use Rush pre workout supplement?
    I tought you we’re saying that it was necessary in one of your blog?

  • jo

    diet, exercise, and sleep.

  • Darshan Weerasinghe

    He Lee,

    I have used pre-workouts for many years and I’ve learned a few things based on my own experience and that of fellow lifters.

    1) The effectiveness depends on if you are a caffeine “high responder” or not. If you respond to caffeine well most of them will get you up. Including a regular coffee.
    2) after a couple of weeks you adapt to that particular pre-workout brand and once you switch to another brand you get an immediate boost. This happens even if the new brand has LESS caffeine per serving than the previous brand. SO my advice is to get two brands and rotate them workout to workout.
    3) Time of day is important- for some people even a large dose of caffeine has a limited effect at certain times but the same dose may have a big effect at another time of the day.
    4) You will need to have a two days or so a week where you get by with little or no caffeine to “reset”your sensitivity and keep your pre-workouts effective. These days will be hard so its best to choose off days from training.

    hope this helps

  • Sean Little

    Hi Lee.
    Caffeine, black coffee or pill, is my go to for energy; mostly for school but occasionally as a pre-workout. I have recently been testing Extreme Rush. I’ve found it very effective for strength training (21 day Muscle Model) but uncomfortable when including moderate intensity cardio. With the strength training, I notice the benefits when pushing for an extra rep(s) or increase in weight, especially during morning workouts.
    I found the beta alanine effects noticeable from a single full scoop but not uncomfortable.
    Bottom line: I enjoy and make use of the energy boost provided by the pre-workout and there is a strong possibility of purchasing another container (when it goes on sale).

  • Shah

    I used to train just with Lucozade, a pure novice in the gym. All went crap and demotivated till I laid my hands on NO Xplode. The first ever time I took it, a sense of fear that something really serious was going to happen to me as I was freaking out from the high. I was really scared.

    During the 3 months on NO, i’m telling you, I had to stop myself working out sometimes as I was unstoppable. I was over working, sometimes in the gym for 2 hours. But funny thing is, as time went on, the effects were getting shorter, maybe I was getting to tolerant to it. Back to the internet, and I found Jac3d. Well this was something else. One tiny little scoop and I had to get to the gym in 5 minds. Or otherwise Id be going thru red signals and running people over. This stuff really took me to a new level. Id be tired coming home after work, even if anyone offered me a bar of gold to go to the gym, it didn’t entice me. But one small scoop, and I was off like a rocket.

    Went very well for about 7 months, until a scare of some ingredient that causes Cancer or something, and some people died as a result of this. Immediately the angel of death warned me of this, and I stopped.

    Trained for a few weeks without ANY preW, but didnt enjoy the wrokout. No motivation , no pump and missed sessions.

    My conclusion is that Pre workouts do work, but my experience is that I was too reliant on them. They did give me extra push, extra ability to push myself beyond my thinking limits. And this of course gave results, and good results I must say.


    i used to use pre workout supplements all the time, until i was low on cash so i started using tea as my caffeine supplement, i put lemon aid and lemon juice in my tea so it isn’t as bitter tasting, it works just great and its a lot cheaper

  • Jason

    I have only used straight caffein pills (100mg) preworkout before I FINALLY tried two or three preworkout brands two times each years after beginning training. Then I went back to straight caffein pills because I didn’t find the popular preworkouts worked any better at all. The caffein pills were $7 for 100, 100mg tabs, so way cheaper than even coffee and that leaves WAY MORE MONEY in the wallet for good quality food.

  • Darshan Weerasinghe,

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Danny Filion,

    I have used Extreme Rush, especially during the final 6 weeks of dieting for a bodybuilding competition. But I wouldn’t call it a “must have” supplement. I suggest you watch the video above for more info. Extreme Rush does work, but I don’t take it all the time, I just take it when I really need it.

  • Neal

    Thanks for being honest! I went to Branch Warren’s Facebook page and the 3rd post down the page is for a pre-workout supplement called SuperPump250 lol