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pre-workout for women

Pre-Workout For Women: The Pros, Cons & Everything In Between

Bodybuilders were already on the scene by the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that Muscle Beach became overrun with juice heads. Interestingly enough, the moniker “juice heads” stems from pre-workout supplements. With an entire group of people earning a label based on what they drink, rather than what they do, it’s safe to say that pre-workout drinks closely trailed the boom of bodybuilders.

The entire lives of these men revolved around how pumped they could get their muscles. Admirers and manufacturers, alike, were taking notice. With big names like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva crediting the success of their workouts to coffee, it wasn’t long before somebody concocted the liquid gold that would give these men even greater gains.

In 1982, the world was introduced to the first multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement (MIPS), Ultimate Orange. The company found wild success amongst gym-goers looking to beef up their routine. Where icons had previously boasted that coffee fueled their workouts, they couldn’t deny that Ultimate Orange gave their workouts an even greater boost.

How could it not? Coffee was just good old plant matter and caffeine. Ultimate Orange, however, contained far more than caffeine. The inclusion of ephedra, which is essentially a form of speed, ultimately caused the manufacturer to find themselves in the midst of multiple lawsuits by the early 2000s.

Sure, ephedra was giving these men and women all the energy their bodies could muster to motor through a workout. However, it turns out that there’s only so much watered-down speed that your body can handle before it starts having adverse effects. Some who had been drinking the liquid crack for nearly two decades learned first-hand that heart attacks were one of the most severe side effects of continually ingesting ephedra.

Alas, the FDA finally stepped in, putting ephedra on the list of banned substances. Now, years later, Ultimate Orange sill thrives while adhering to the ever-changing rules of the FDA. So while you can still get your hands on the MIPS that started it all, you would be hard-pressed to find an ephedra-containing formula nowadays.

Pre-Workouts Aren’t Just For Men

With new research being conducted concerning how MIPS affects men and women differently, manufacturers are now starting to cater to women, or at least try to. With there being so many different formulas, many containing undisclosed amounts of ingredients, it is nearly impossible for scientists to run the proper tests and to conduct the necessary research.

However, with the tidbit of research that has been done regarding MIPS, along with the knowledge of which vitamins and nutrients women need, manufacturers have a pretty good starting point.

Most formulas are engineered to cater to the masses. What this means is that most pre-workouts for women are intended to aid in maintaining a healthy weight or burning fight while maintaining muscle. Alternatively, the majority of men who use MIPS are attempting to bulk up and become more vascular.

How Women Benefit

The ways in which you can benefit from your pre-workout supplement are multitudinous. Perhaps, after reading this, you’ll decide to stick with a regular formula that works for both men and women. If that’s the case, you will likely experience multiple benefits including:

  • Rapid recovery following workouts
  • Reduced rate of exercise-related injury
  • Improvement of blood circulation
  • Accelerated fat burning
  • Combatted fatigue
  • Better focus
  • Increases in strength and endurance
  • Overall improvement in exercise performance

What’s even more exciting is that with formulas now changing for women, women can receive even further benefits from their pre-workout supplements. If you opt for a formula specially formulated for women, you may experience these additional benefits:

  • Accelerated recovery while still in the “cool down” phase of your workout
  • Maintenance of thermogenic metabolism
  • Accelerated fat loss paired with muscle maintenance
  • Healthier hair, skin and nails

Formulated to Fuel the Modern Woman

You can thank a variety of ingredients, and oftentimes a certain combination of them, for all the benefits you gain when using MIPS. For example, chromium and biotin make a great pair in MIPS for women, as this combo works to burn fat and preserve muscle mass.

Many companies will lower the dosage of certain ingredients in formulas for women. While this may seem like a rip-off, it’s done with good intentions. The theory here is that women will get all of the fat-burning benefits, without becoming too bulky or too vascular.

Manufacturers will also often add additional ingredients, just for women. However, these ingredients can differ greatly amongst different formulas. Some of the additional ingredients you want to see in your pre-workout supplement are:

L-Glutamine:
It’s the most abundant amino acid created by your body, and with just reason. L-Glutamine has the ability to contribute to the production of varying minerals in your body, including glucose, protein and other amino acids.

Aside from that, L-Glutamine is your small intestine’s primary source of metabolic fuel. It also works to protect your gut and keep you free of infections like sepsis.

Vitamin C:
Here’s a vitamin that you’re likely all too familiar with taking, particularly when you’re feeling a little under the weather. But did you know that humans are one of the only animals unable to create this vitamin naturally within our bodies?

You know that Vitamin C is important when you’re sick, but maybe you didn’t realize how critical it is to weight loss and muscle maintenance. Not only does vitamin C play a critical role in metabolism, but it is also necessary for the production of L-carnitine and collagen, which is required for proper wound healing.

Biotin
Biotin is one of many B vitamins that you want to look for in your pre-workout. B vitamins, in general, are an excellent thing to have packed into your MIPS.

By now, you’ve likely come across more than one ad featuring the latest Biotin product, proclaiming that it can bring new life to your hair, skin and nails. As it turns out, this vitamin can also bring a boost to your workout. It plays a key role in the metabolism of fatty acids and thermogenic metabolism during workouts.

Chromium
Chromium is a mineral that is concerning to some, and rightfully so. Hexavalent chromium, a form of industrial pollution, is toxic. Trivalent chromium is what is found in some food sources and dietary supplements, and is actually quite beneficial to human life.

The latter form of chromium has proven to enhance insulin. This can make a huge difference in your workout regimen, as Chromium can greatly assist in metabolizing fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

L-Carnitine:
L-Carnitine is a compound naturally produced by our body that lends itself to physical health in a major way. L-Carnitine has a leading role when it comes to energy metabolism and fatty acid oxidation.

This miracle supplement can nearly do it all. Studies are now showing exactly how beneficial this can be to workouts. It has the capability to increase your maximum oxygen consumption, speed up recovery time, and protect from and assist in the recovery of muscle injuries.

You may have noticed that none of these ingredients are detrimental to a man. However, the reason that these key ingredients are added is often to increase fat burning. This will be a welcomed gift for women who struggle with stubborn belly fat that just won’t budge no matter what they throw at it.

In addition to these bonus ingredients, there are quite a few components that you want to ensure are in your pre-workout supplement. While it would be difficult to find a pre-workout including every single item in this list, it certainly shouldn’t be hard to find multiple formulas containing the majority of the best ingredients.

Caffeine:
While some are too sensitive to overstimulation and choose a pre-workout that is caffeine-free, the majority of consumers should consider a formula featuring caffeine as a primary ingredient. The reason that caffeine is so often a major component of MIPS is due to how quickly it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Research indicates that caffeine reaches its peak about an hour after consumption, meaning that you can start noticing its effects on your workout just 30 minutes after you crack open your pre-workout drink.

Other than being known to burn fat and improve cognitive function, this popular drug has also proven to give people a performance boost in the areas of endurance, power and resistance.

Nitric Oxide Agents:
As is true with so many other vitamins, minerals and molecules, nitric oxide is self-generated by your body. Its primary job is to improve circulation by widening the muscular lining of your blood vessels. If you frequent the gym, then you know good and well how important it is to have great circulation.

Since agents are what you’re looking for, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for a couple of the ingredients that can help generate nitric oxide in your system. Arginine and citrulline are the two key players in the pre-workout game. Other companies include a dietary nitrate in their formula, which really stretches out your endurance during high-intensity workouts.

Amino Acids:
Be aware that some companies will generalize amino acids and put just that on the label. Other manufacturers include branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). It’s true that BCAAs aren’t bad, but it’s also true that they provide little benefit to your workout.

Taurine, specifically, is the key amino acid you want to see on the label. Why though? As it turns out, taurine has antioxidant and ergogenic effects, in addition to having a positive metabolic effect.

Just a little goes a long way. You only need 1.5 grams of taurine to see a significant difference during your fat-burning sessions.

Betaine:
Betaine, also known as trimethyglycine, derives directly from another amino acid called glycine. Just like arginine and citrulline, betaine raises the levels of nitric oxide in your system. In addition, it is also capable of increasing creatine synthesis and promotes homeostasis.

If that weren’t enough to sell you on what a powerful ingredient betaine is, take into consideration that it also has considerable effects on energy and strength. The recommended dose of betaine is 1.25-2.5 grams per day.

Note: Most pre-workout supplements do not contain a full dose of betaine. You may consider searching for a specialty formula or supplementing with betaine.

Beta-alanine:
The magic isn’t in the β-alanine, it’s in the carnosine. There would be no carnosine without β-alanine, as it acts as a precursor.

Carnosine’s job is to act as a sort of muscle buffer, which is crucial to getting through a workout where the goal is to max out on weight. To ensure that you’re doing all you can to keep your muscles from tapping out, consider opting for a supplement that provides at least four grams of β-alanine.

Creatine:
Following caffeine, creatine is one of the leading ingredients in most MIPS formulas. Sure, just like every other ingredient in this list, creatine can give your workouts a boost. However, creatine also offers an abundance of benefits to your general health.

Because of this, creatine is one of the most popular ingredients found in pre-workout supplements.

As research proves, regularly supplementing with creatine can greatly increase the amount of creatine within your muscles. As far as workouts go, creatine has been credited with speeding up recovery, improving exercise performance, preventing exercise-related injuries, and aiding in thermoregulation.

Perhaps the greatest benefits to be gained from creatine supplements are the ones to your general health. Creatine is so powerful that it often has positive effects on serious health issues including heart ischemia and neurodegenerative diseases.

Should Women Take Creatine?

The real question is ‘why wouldn’t they?’ You know that creatine can boost your workout performance, and even that creatine can positively affect certain health issues. What you don’t realize is that you’ve just started to scrape the surface when it comes to all of creatine’s benefits.

While creatine comes with a lengthy list of pros, some worry about the threats that chronic supplementation can pose. Unfortunately, a few horror stories took root and now some consumers question the safety of this supplement. You can rest assured knowing that most of these claims have little to no basis in fact.

Pros Cons
Increases the concentration of
creatine within the muscular system;
Causes weight gain;
Enhances strength and the recovery period following a workout; Can contribute to, or worsen, issues with renal failure;
Assists with thermoregulation; Some consumers experience muscle
cramps; and
Improves workout performance; Occasionally causes gastrointestinal disturbances.
Aids in injury prevention and
rehabilitation;
Positively effects symptoms of varying neurodegenerative diseases and fibromyalgia;
Acts as an anti-depressant for
women;
Significantly impacts cognitive function;
Provides spinal cord
neuroprotection;
Improves overall brain and heart function;
Has antioxidant properties;
Works to lower cholesterol;
Reduces fattiness of the liver; and
Minimizes bone loss.

Does Creatine Affect You Sexually?

You’ll notice that sexual effects are absent from the above list. While it’s certainly true that a handful of male users have complaints of their libido being negatively affected by creatine, there is zero scientific evidence supporting the claim. Granted, this could be due to the lack of studies carried out in this specific area.

When you weigh all of the many benefits of creatine against the few potential side effects, perhaps you will be more inclined to take these users’ claims at face value. It’s important to remember that individuals experiencing low libido may be showing symptoms that are related to the use of other supplements, herbs or drugs.

Women, specifically, have not reported experiences with low libido when supplementing with creatine.

Can Creatine Affect Your Period?

The short answer here is no. Since creatine is naturally produced in the body, it is not directly detrimental to your health. However, creatine’s relationship to the female menstrual cycle is an interesting one.

There is no evidence supporting that creatine affects your period. Rather, different stages of your menstrual cycle can affect your creatine production and activity.

What’s even more fascinating is that creatine has an anti-depressant effect on females. These effects are further strengthened when ovarian hormone levels are raised.

Pre-Workouts, Fat Burning and Weight Loss

After that in-depth synopsis on the wonderful powers of creatine, let’s not forget that that’s just one ingredient that makes up pre-workout supplements. In all reality, pre-workouts are packed full of ingredients that are capable of providing a number of services.

Some formulas are designed to help you bulk up your muscle mass while others are designed to burn through fat and shred weight from your “problem areas”.

If your goal is weight loss, consider investing in a formula that contains a couple of these powerful fat-burning ingredients:

  • African mango
  • Caffeine
  • Chitosan
  • Green coffee bean extract
  • White kidney bean

Pre-Workout Research & Studies

Due to the vast array of pre-workout ingredients and the endless combinations of them, researching MIPS isn’t an exact science. While there is an abundance of studies and research regarding the specific ingredients, it’s tough for scientists to get a thorough read on the complex combinations of all existing pre-workouts.

That being said, there are a handful of studies supporting the claim that pre-workout supplements can be a benefit to all. One study that has been run by multiple professionals questions the effects of MIPS on muscle endurance and mood. The National Institute of Health is just one source to publish their findings that pre-workout supplements do, indeed, have a positive effect on both of these areas.

Other studies take a very honest look at pre-workout supplements, revealing the benefits along with the shortcomings.

The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that while caffeine-containing MIPS may help give fatigue the boot, they have little to no impact on strength. In practice, this translates to consumers being able to lift the same amount of weight, while successfully increasing the number of repetitions they can complete during any given workout.

Interestingly enough, researchers are finding that pre-workout supplements have a tendency to target a specific area of your body during your workout. When conducting two entirely separate studies, both Michael Cameron and Andrew Jagim found evidence that supported each other’s claim.

The ending results confirmed that consuming MIPS prior to a workout allowed the consumers to maximize their repetitions only when exercising an isolated region. As it turned out, both men and women saw an improvement in number of bench press repetitions, but their repetitions of back squats remained unaffected.

One additional study supported their claim while verifying that varying regions of the body could also benefit from pre-workout supplementation. It was curious that these participants benefited in a different area. While they achieved an almost insignificant increase in bench press repetitions, just the opposite was true when it came time to do the leg press.

The Rarity of Research

Sadly, research surrounding the safety and benefits of pre-workout supplements for women is scarce. However, researchers have revealed a study in which female participants saw an increase in both resting metabolism and diastolic blood pressure immediately following the consumption of a pre-workout. The regular inclusion of MIPS prior to workouts also improved post-workout focus, anaerobic activity and upper body muscular endurance amongst these individuals.

Atypical Adverse Effects

As is true with any other caffeinated beverage, pre-workout drinks are known to cause the jitters for more than a handful of consumers. Often, the adverse effect is due to an excessive amount of a particular ingredient or the pairing of additional dietary supplements.

Because there is an endless combination of ingredients, those who chronically ingest pre-workout supplements could potentially be putting themselves at risk for some pretty serious health risks. Thankfully, the following adverse effects are experienced rarely:

  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Glucose intolerance
  • High blood pressure

Note: Both ephedra and DMAA are FDA-banned substances. DMAA can also be listed as ‘dimethylamylamine’ or methylhexanamine’. If your pre-workout supplement contains either of these ingredients, you are at a much higher risk of experiencing extreme adverse effects.

All Aboard the Bandwagon to Better Workouts and Better Results

The research is out and the verdict is in: the addition of pre-workout supplements presents far more rewards than risks. With the recent introduction of formulas designed specifically for women, this statement is made truer.

If you choose to include MIPS as part of your daily routine, consider that what works for your friend down the street may not work for you. Be sure to choose a product with your end goal in mind, but also with your overall health in mind.

If your weight has reached a plateau or you just can’t seem to drag yourself out of that rut at the gym, consider adding a fat-burning and endurance-boosting pre-workout beverage. Who knows? If you’ve been eating clean and sticking to your exercise routine, this may be just the boost that your workout and your body needs.