Are Pre-Workout Supplements Worth It, Or Just Placebo? A Trainer Weighs In

Nicole Nam has a Bachelors of Science in Public Health Nutrition Specialization and a Masters of Science in Kinesiology. She has a personal training certification from the American Council of Exercise, and has trained a variety of clients, including a contestant in this year’s Miss Nevada competition. Follow her on Instagram here.

Sometimes you just need something to get you going. No one is going to be ready and hype for the gym every day—trust me, there are days that I dread the gym—and you’re just f*cking TIRED, PERIODT. If you find yourself CONSTANTLY lagging (or in general just lazy for the gym), pre-workout might be a useful supplement to take before you leave the house for the gym. I get it, the sheer variety of pre-workouts available alone makes the choice seem confusing and some people wonder if the pre-workout even works at all or if it’s just a placebo effect.

Pre-workouts usually contain caffeine, essential amino acids (amino acids which the body cannot produce and must be consumed via diet), and arginine (this is actually nitric oxide, a naturally occurring gas that helps dilate blood vessels to increase circulation). If the pre-workout contains the essential amino acid beta-alanine, it is completely normal for your body to feel tingly after taking the pre-workout. Some people actually come to crave that feeling. The beta-alanine isn’t there just for sh*ts and giggles, though. It is an amino acid that can increase the levels of carnosine (another amino acid that is created from beta-alanine and histidine) in your body, which directly effects the performance of your workout by reducing the rate of fatigue while lifting/running/etc.


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It’s cocaine, Austin

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Ok, a lot of scientific sh*t, so why don’t I summarize that up. BASICALLY, the ONLY ingredient commonly found in pre-workouts (I said “commonly” because if you buy some outlandish sh*t on the black market/internet I don’t know what’s in that, girl) that is a tried and true stimulant is caffeine. Everything else are ingredients that help the mechanisms within your body to help you workout heavier, harder, longer and aid recovery.

A scientific study in 2010 showed that pre-workouts showed that there were differences in performance and muscle gains in the group that took the pre-workout versus the placebo group. Another study in 2014 claimed that while performance and gains did not differ between the supplement and the placebo groups, the supplement group were able to perform better at the next workout. This is due to the amino acids present in the supplement that help muscle repair.


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it’s a strict regimen but someone has to do it | @betches

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Sounds great, right? But what if I told you that a coffee works just as well as a pre-workout if all you needed was a kick in the ass to get moving?

I’ve tried pre-workouts before, both the tingly and non-tingly kinds. I will say it worked, but I took myself off of them after about 1 month of regular use. I honestly didn’t feel the need for the pre-workout beyond the caffeine (tbh, that’s me every day). Did I lift better when I took the pre-workout? Maybe, but I can lift that well without it, too. Did I feel a tolerance to the pre-workout rapidly develop after regular use? Definitely. I didn’t want to get to the point where I NEEDED a supplement to workout, so I stopped taking it.

But what about how it helps muscle recovery? I am a fan of sore muscles. I need that. Because my workouts are designed to make you LOOK BETTER, not turn you into a power lifter, we don’t need to rush back into the gym like you’re pushing for personal records in lifts, you know? I’m not training you for the Olympics, I’m just trying to get you abs. Physical changes in the body happen during the muscle repair process, so I’m not going to take supplements that expedite or dull that process (should I write a whole article about the mechanisms of recovery? Let me know!).

The Bottom Line: While I personally do not take them, I absolutely have nothing against pre-workouts and if my clients ask me about them, I won’t say no. Cellucor makes really good ones called C4 and Kaged Muscle makes Pre-Kaged. Both of these I’ve tried personally and stand behind, just be mindful of the tolerance that could develop. Please keep in mind that none of the supplements on the market are monitored by the FDA. 

New Study Finds You Literally Can’t Help It That You’re So Popular

You know that feeling you get that you’re better than everyone else? Well, you’re actually right about that. It turns out the ability to social climb is embedded into your genes. So you literally can’t help it that you’re so popular. Sorry for letting you fall, Gretchen. You were right all along.  A new study by Kings College in London found that your genes actually determine 50% of whether or not you will be socially mobile. The other half is basically determined by being rich which like, yeah duh we knew that already. According to the study, children who were born with the popularity genes tended to score better on all of their tests, regardless of how educated or wealthy their parents were.

This probably explains why even when we don’t want to do work, we still succeed at everything we do. Think Elle Woods in Legally Blonde just casually taking her LSATs and getting into Harvard. 

This study was the first to find substantial proof of “genetic influence on children’s social mobility” aka, what we’ve known all along, that some people are just born popular. Using a sample of 6,000 twin families (it’s always twins, isn’t it?), researchers measured whether or not children were able to measure up to the education status of their parents. So like, if your kid scores high on their tests even though you didn’t go to college and just run like an Etsy shop or whatever, that child is upwardly mobile. If you’re rich AF and went to an Ivy but your kid failed their tests, then your kid doesn’t have the popularity gene and isn’t upwardly mobile. Honestly, this test seems kind of mean, which I guess is perfect for popular people. 

Unfortunately, this also means some people are just born to fail, which explains the trust fund bro we dated who had everything handed to him yet still ended up arrested for selling oregano to a police officer. Even when their parents were already educated and successful, the kid could still end up becoming a DJ or street magician so like, thank god we were born with the right genes. Can’t help that things come so easy for us!