If you’ve spent any time in the gym, you’ve probably heard fellow gym goers talking about their pre shake, but is pre-workout for women? And should you be taking it? We help you decide.
What is pre-workout?
In very simple terms, a pre-workout supplement is used to improve workout performance.
Traditionally, a pre-workout was pretty much just a shake that contained a lot of caffeine, designed to make you feel energized ahead of workout. Nowadays, science has shown there are a whole host of ways to prep you to get the most out of your workouts.
What does pre-workout do?
For example, you can expect a pre-workout supplement to offer the following:
- Energize you – usually through stimulants like caffeine, you’re more likely to finish a workout if you have the energy to do so
- Heighten power – after research into ingredients like creatine, many supplements use ingredients to increase you power output. This then leads to bigger workouts and more results
- Improve endurance – certain vasodilators have been shown to increase muscle endurance and delay the onset of fatigue so you can add extra reps to your workouts
- Enhance focus – nootropic ingredients can improve your positivity and focus so you’re ready to take on a challenge
- Improve strength – Science has shown that some ingredients can help to up your strength a little during a workout
In theory, these elements should combine to provide you with a bigger, better workout that should then lead to more results than you would normally achieve without the pre-workout.
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Does pre-workout work?
While all of the above sounds great, the question is does pre-workout actually work?
Well, the answer is a difficult one. Overall, it’s a bit of a grey area.
There are so many variables when it comes to pre-workouts. For example, one study might show an ingredient might be excellent for boosting power, but if the manufacturer of the product decides to use just half the amount used in the study, it’s not effective.
Certainly, there are many natural ingredients out there that are backed by science as having a positive influence over athletic performance.
For example, caffeine has been shown to improve both muscle endurance and strength when supplemented before exercise .
And supplementing with creatine has been proven to up bike sprint performance by around 15% and led to a 6% improvement on the bench press too .
Although these two are examples of positive influences over athletic performances, while the manufacturer may quote these studies, it’s often unlikely that they’re delivering the same servings used in the studies in their supplements.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Although they may be few and far between, there are some good pre-workout supplements that offer good servings of key ingredients and, while they may not be perfect they can improve performance.
Simply look out for the supplements with the most scientific backing (like creatine and caffeine for example) and ensure the servings are aligned with research and safety guidelines.
Is pre-workout for women safe?
One thing you may have heard about pre-workouts is that they can be dangerous.
The truth is, supplementation is an unregulated market and it’s completely possible for it to be dangerous when comes to caffeine.
As they’re mainly used to energize you before a workout, manufacturers often turn to the very lazy and sometimes dangerous approach of pumping their supplements with stimulants like caffeine.
This is dangerous, as high levels of caffeine can cause jitters, migraines, headaches, heart palpitations and even high blood pressure . It’s also been known to cause lack of sleep and trigger anxiety .
Despite this, there are pre-workouts out there that offer safe experiences, that will energize you and give you enough of an energy boost to improve your workout.
The US Department of Agriculture say 400mg of caffeine, spread throughout the day is the healthy upper limit .
You should also aim to avoid proprietary blends and unnatural ingredients. This is simply because a if these are included, you don’t know what you’re putting into your body or how you might react.
For example, proprietary blends can contain any ingredients, with any serving sizes without disclosing what’s inside. That is concerning for any health-conscious individual.
When looking for a safe pre-workout for women, we recommend you follow these tips:
- Ensure caffeine levels are no higher than 200mg per serving
- Never buy a pre-workout containing a proprietary blend or synthetic ingredient
- Always opt for a natural formula
- Don’t take more than the recommended 400mg of caffeine in a day
- If you do decide to take a pre-workout, adjust your caffeine intake accordingly
- Never take a pre-workout supplement or anything containing caffeine if there is a chance you could be pregnant. Speak to your doctor first if you’re concerned.
[Related Article: 5 Pre-Workout Side Effects and How to Avoid Them ]
Pre-workout for women
As a woman, there are a couple of other things you should be aware of.
Science shows that women often experience more negative side effects when taking caffeine compared to men . So when we say look for something with caffeine levels no higher than 200mg, we mean definitely aim for something below this, as you may be more prone to side effects.
You should also manage your expectations when it comes to pre-workouts that are ‘made’ for women. More often then not, when you see a supplement claiming to be specifically for women, its usually just a marketing ploy.
Aim to approach the market with an open mind and analyse the product formula rather than the branding to find the best product for you. Don’t be put off if something is clearly marketed towards men, as there might be an excellent pre-workout for women behind the brash designs.
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How long does pre-workout last?
We’re going to define ‘how long does a pre-workout last’ by how long you feel energized when you take it.
To get the most out of your pre-workout, you should aim to hit the gym around 15-30 minutes after you’ve taken it. This should allow you to make the most of the peak caffeine levels you’ll be experiencing.
This should be enough to power you through a 1-2 hour training session.
However, the effects of the caffeine will usually continue after that. Even if you’ve pulled in a hard workout, you should expect the stimulant to still be in your system around 5 hours after you’ve taken it.
So, if you’re going for an evening workout, be aware that you will struggle to sleep if you’ve taken a pre-workout within 5 hours of heading to bed. The more time you can leave between taking your pre-workout and going to sleep the better.
Should I take pre-workout?
If you believe you’ve found a safe pre-workout supplement for women that serves caffeine in a responsible way, and that seems widely backed by science, then you may benefit from taking it.
Certainly, the pre-workout market is a big one, and many people claim they feel energized and work harder whenever they take one, so the numbers would suggest it’s worth it.
If you do decide to take a pre-workout and think it ticks all the boxes for reliability and safety, be sure to test your tolerance to it before you go in for a full serving.
Start with a half serving and build up to the recommended amount. Otherwise, if your caffeine tolerance isn’t very high, you might feel the effects more strongly than you’d like.
What is the best pre-workout for women?
The best pre-workout for women is something that’s safe, has a reasonable caffeine serving, is entirely natural and completely backed by scientific research.
We’ll say now – these types of pre-workout supplements are not the most common to find and they’re not the cheapest options available.
It’s very likely you’ll have to pay a little more for something that’s reliable, safe and effective. Having said that, we’d wholeheartedly recommend you pay extra for something that ticks all the boxes, as there are many potentially dangerous supplements out there.
Outside of that, here are the best pre-workout ingredients you should be on the look out for if you do decide to use one of these supplements. We’ve backed up all of our choices with science so you can rest assured they’re both safe and effective.
Best pre-workout ingredients
Caffeine Anhydrous – This is widely used throughout the world to provide energy, but it’s also a big player in the pre-workout supplement industry. It’s been proven to stimulate the nervous system, which can lead to increased endurance and strength during resistance training . It’s also been shown to improve alertness and wakefulness, which can improve motivation ahead of a workout .
Creatine Monohydrate – Creatine is one of the most studied compounds in the world of supplements and has been proven to enhance power output and endurance during workouts . This has been shown to lead to an increase in fat free mass over time .
L-Theanine – This is well known as a nootropic, however it can also be very beneficial in a pre-workout supplement. When paired with caffeine it helps to counteract the jitters you might feel, providing a clean energy lift and a more focussed mindset .
L-Citrulline – Taken from watermelon, this is known for it’s ability to boost nitric oxide levels, which dilates your blood vessels. Although commonly known as ‘muscle pumps’, it can actually offer performance enhancing benefits as well as aesthetic. Muscle pumps have been shown to enhance muscle protein synthesis to promote muscle growth . L-Citrulline has also been shown to reduce the feelings of muscle fatigue .
After reading this article, we hope you have everything you need to answer the question: is pre-workout for women?
We’ve covered everything from what it’s used for to does it work, whether it’s safe to the best ingredients to use.
Now, when you go out to look for a pre-workout supplement for women, we hope you can find a quality product that will help you get more out of your training sessions, and accelerate your progress.