The best pre-workout supplements
Pre-workout supplements are dietary formulas designed to enhance energy and sports performance.
Best nitric oxide precursor
Nitric oxide is a compound your body naturally produces to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Some of the common compounds that your body uses to make nitric oxide are included in pre-workout supplements such as L-citrulline, L-arginine and sources of dietary nitrates such as beetroot juice.
After citrulline is consumed, some is converted to another amino acid called arginine. Arginine is converted into nitric oxide. Interestingly, consuming citrulline may increase arginine in the body more than consuming arginine itself. This is because of differences in how the body processes and absorbs arginine and citrulline.
What are the benefits of Citrulline (L-Citrulline)?
Citrulline is an amino acid that was first found in watermelon. It is considered nonessential, meaning that your body can naturally produce some on its own. Unlike some amino acids, it is not used to build proteins.
Increasing your intake may have beneficial effects on health and exercise performance. The increase in nitric oxide and blood flow may be one of the processes involved in citrulline's beneficial effects. But it has also been shown to increase protein synthesis by stimulating an important signaling pathway involved in muscle building. Citrulline may also reduce the liver's uptake of certain amino acids and prevent their breakdown. Through these dual effects on protein synthesis and amino acid breakdown, it may contribute to maintaining or increasing muscle mass.
There are two major forms of citrulline in dietary supplements:
1.L-citrulline: this simply refers to citrulline by itself with nothing else attached.
2.Citrulline malate: this refers to the combination of citrulline and another compound called malate, which is important for energy production.
Citrulline and endurance exercise
This supplement may beneficially affect oxygen usage in muscle, which could improve endurance. In one study, cyclists taking citrulline were able to cycle for 12% longer before exhaustion than those taking a placebo.
Citrulline and weight training
Researchers have found that citrulline malate decreased fatigue and increased lower body weight training performance. Another study of 41 men assessed the effects of citrulline malate on the ability to perform repetitions during upper body exercise. Participants were able to perform 53% more repetitions after ingesting citrulline malate, compared to a placebo (5). In both of these studies, participants took the supplement 60 minutes before exercise.
Is L-Citrulline safe to take?
Doses of 3–6 grams of L-citrulline or 8 grams of citrulline malate may be optimal and no known side effects have been reported with doses of up to 10 grams. Based on current information, citrulline is safe and well-tolerated.
What are the benefits of Arginine (L-Arginine)?
L-arginine is an amino acid that helps make proteins. Good food sources of L-arginine include eggs, meats, milk, soy proteins, peanuts and walnuts.
Dietary supplements containing arginine could enhance the production of nitric oxide in the body and significantly boost stamina during high-intensity exercise. Researchers at the University of Exeter in England studied males 19 to 38 years of age who consumed either a beverage with 6 g of L-arginine or placebo one hour before exercise on a cycle ergometer. The results suggested that the group taking L-arginine were able to exercise up to 20 percent longer due to enhanced high-intensity exercise tolerance.
Other studies show no benefit at all therefore more research is needed to determine the benefits, if any, of L-arginine supplementation.
Is arginine safe to take?
About three grams per day is a safe and effective dose.
What are the benefits of beta-alanine?
The top food sources of beta-alanine are meat, poultry and fish. Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid which is not used to build proteins. Instead, together with histidine, it produces carnosine which is then stored in your skeletal muscles. Carnosine reduces lactic acid accumulation in your muscles during exercise which leads to improved athletic performance. Supplementing with beta-alanine has been shown to elevate carnosine levels in muscles by 80%.
What does carnosine do during exercise?
Glucose is broken down by glycolysis and is the main source of fuel during high-intensity exercise.
As you exercise your muscles break glucose down into lactic acid. This is converted into lactate, which produces hydrogen ions (H+).
The hydrogen ions reduce the pH level in your muscles, making them more acidic.
Muscle acidity blocks glucose breakdown and reduces your muscles' ability to contract which causes fatigue.
Carnosine serves as a buffer against the acid, reducing the acidity in muscles during high-intensity exercise.
Since beta-alanine supplements increase carnosine levels, they help your muscles reduce their acid levels during exercise which lessens overall fatigue and gives you a pump.
Beta-alanine is most effective in exercises lasting one to several minutes. It can help reduce fatigue while increasing exercise capacity and muscle endurance. One study revealed that six weeks of taking beta-alanine increased time to exhaustion (TTE) by 19% during high intensity training.
Is beta-alanine safe to take?
It is generally recommended to consume 2–5 grams of beta-alanine daily. Taking it with a meal may be even more effective. Side effects include tingling and decreases in taurine. The data is limited but beta-alanine seems safe for healthy individuals.
The bottom line
Although supplementing can be a key piece of your exercise regime, it is always best to check ingredients and opt for supplements certified by a third party. Nitric oxide precursors and beta-alanine are the most proven, effective supplements you can use to boost your sports performance and energy.
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