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What Does Pre Workout Do: Here's What You Should Know

If you've ever wondered 'what does pre workout do?' then you're in the right place as we've put together a guide on everything you should know about the supplement, helping you to understand its effects on exercise.

With that being said, if you're looking for any additional supplements to support your training, then check out some of our lists on the best protein powder, creatine, and BCAAs available now.

Without further delay, let's jump in...

What Is Pre Workout?

Pre-workout supplements, or simply pre-workouts, are multi-ingredient blends designed to give you a boost in energy before you start exercising.

Some of the best pre-workouts on the market, like this Cellucor C4 stimulant, come in a powdered form and are designed to be mixed with water and consumed prior to working out.

Cellucor product image of a white container with yellow labelling.
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Credit: BSN

Pre-workout is said to last anywhere between 3-6 hours depending on the person, making it the ideal supplement to help you get the best performance possible in the gym.

What Does Pre Workout Do?

As mentioned above, the purpose of pre-workout is to provide you with an energy boost, whilst also helping you recover and ease the fatigue of an intense workout according to WebMD.

To provide energy, they often contain caffeine, however, one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding pre-workouts is that they all contain the same ingredients.

This is not the case, and although many of them will utilise the same core ingredients, the quantities will often vary, resulting in the effects of the supplements changing.

With that being said, here are the most common ingredients in pre-workout and their effects.


Caffeine is a well-known stimulant for increasing alertness which is why it is almost always included in pre-workouts.

According to Healthline, caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical that makes you feel tired.

In terms of fitness, this study into the effects of caffeine on exercise suggests it is clear that caffeine is an ergogenic aid for training, however, there are a handful of caffeine-free pre-workouts, like this Genius Pre blend, available.

Instead of caffeine, the Genius Pre utilises ingredients such as Alpha GPC which is linked to improved power output and cognition.

The Genius Brand product image of a white container with orange accents, lid, and labeling.
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Credit: The Genius Brand


Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is said to help you withstand the 'burning' sensation you get when pushing an exercise to failure.

According to the International Society Of Sports Nutrition, this is because it helps your body prevent acid buildup in your muscle tissue, hence why most pre-workouts, like this one from Elevate Zero, include them.

Bulk product image of a black packaging pre-workout.
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Credit: Bulk

The International Society Of Sports Nutrition goes on to state that beta-alanine is currently deemed safe to consume in healthy populations at recommended doses.

Nitric Oxide Boosters

Nitric oxide is a chemical found naturally in your body that helps you relax your blood vessels.

Research into nitric oxide and its role in exercise has found there is a relationship between the compound and improved athletic performance.

However, not all research agrees, and most of the studies so far have only used young men as participants.

Despite this, many pre-workouts still contain nitric oxide boosters such as l-citrulline which, in theory, can increase the blood flow to your muscles to improve your performance, particularly whilst weightlifting.


Creatine is a naturally occurring non-protein amino acid compound used to replenish ATP, one of your body's major sources of cellular energy, and is often taken as a supplement in its own right.

Many studies have researched it including this one into the effects of creatine on training. The study found creatine increased strength by 8%, weightlifting performance by 14%, and participants bench press one-rep max up to 43%.

As a result, many pre-workout supplements include creatine as an ingredient to capatilise on its training and strength benefits.

Should I Take Pre Workout?

This is a topic we've previously discussed in our guide on whether you should take pre-workout.

We mention that pre-workout isn't for everyone, and you're probably better off looking to improve factors like sleep, hydration, and your diet as the first port of call.

With that being said, pre-workouts can sometimes be a useful supplement to have to hand when you're in need of an energy boost.

If you're still considering them, then this study into the safety implications of pre-workout suggests thoroughly investigating the ingredients prior to consumption to ensure the option you choose is safe to consume and will work with your diet.

Read More: Best Creatine Supplements Available Right Now

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