We live in a world that benefits from centuries of scientific learning in many disciplines, including the human body and health in general. It’s hard to believe that a scant few centuries ago, almost everything we know about the body now was unknown. Concepts such as the humors and other now-debunked ideas dominated what passed for medical science.
We haven’t unlocked all the secrets yet. There are countless illnesses and diseases awaiting cures, and of course, we can’t fight old age entirely just yet. However, when it comes to fitness and general daily health, it’s safe to say we know enough to do some amazing things. We have a good understanding of molecular and cellular biology and biochemistry. This enables us to study a person’s body chemistry and makeup, and determine very precise dietary and fitness regimes tailored specifically for them.
It’s easy to overlook how amazing this knowledge really is. Many people realize that dietary and fitness scientists can do amazing things with this knowledge by way of supplements. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of products that aren’t so amazing, and don’t do what they claim to do.
It can be hard to tell which ones are legitimate, and which ones are just a lot of talk. Most recently, there’s been a lot of debate about the concept of pre-workout drinks and supplements and ultimately, any kind of pre-workout nutrition as a whole.
Does this actually give you more energy, more endurance, and make your workout more effective? Can it, as some claim, help you lose weight? Well, this isn’t a clear-cut thing to answer, because as I hinted a moment ago, everyone’s body is somewhat unique, within reason, so a “yes” for even a lot of people, could be “no” for just as many. It’s cloudier with this because admittedly, pre-workout supplements weren’t designed with weight loss as a direct goal. Let’s unpack this a little bit.
The idea of pre-workout supplements has been to give you more energy and increase the intensity at which your body works. This is to serve two purposes – to potentially allow you to work harder longer and to give you the boost of energy you need.
As we’ve said before, most of the body’s energy comes from carbohydrates. These come in the form of sugars, starches, and the like. These aren’t innately bad things – they become unhealthy when we binge on them but don’t burn them, at which point they become fat. We need these for energy.
The body can metabolize protein too, but it’s harder to do, produces lactic acid as a byproduct (which is a contributor to soreness in joints and muscles), and provides less energy per unit. Protein supplements are designed to give your body the basic materials it needs to build muscles.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of electrolytes, carbohydrates, and other natural forms of energy in pre-workout drinks and supplements. They also tend to be vitamin-loaded, which can also help to boost energy by fine-tuning your body’s various chemical and electrical systems better.
However, pre-workout doesn’t always take the form of supplements or drinks, as a lot of people eat a healthy snack before their workout. These are usually foods like fruit and a little bit of cheese, meat, or dairy, to provide protein for muscle growth and some energy for the workout.
Do these pre-workout drinks and supplements work for their initial goals? On average, sure. The amount of energy and endurance they provide will vary wildly from one product to the next, and one person to the next. However, they do work if you consume them a half-hour to an hour before your workout (your body needs time to absorb them).
How Weight Loss Works
Before we can touch on whether or not they can help weight loss, let’s touch briefly on how weight loss works. First, remember that if you’re building muscle, you may gain weight, as it does weigh more than fat. If we’re just talking about fat, however, the concept is pretty straightforward.
Our bodies store calories we don’t immediately use as fat. We developed this ability (actually most mammals can do this) to avoid starvation during rough seasons or times of famine. If we eat a lot of donuts but don’t get out of our recliners, our body stores all those sugars, carbs and fats as body fat.
To burn off body fat, we have to work the body to the point it metabolizes those fat reserves. This means working harder than the fuel we usually provide it. That’s a simplification, but it’s basically the idea.
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So, Does This Work For Weight Loss?
We know that we’re supposed to force the body to tap into its reserves due to a lack of energy input. So, anything like pre-workout drinks, supplements or snacks sounds instantly counterintuitive, but that’s not entirely the case. A little initial unprocessed energy from something like this won’t prevent your body from tapping into reserves, provided you use moderation and push yourself in your workout.
Do they actually enhance weight loss, though? It’s possible. Given the boost of initial energy they give you, the better body tuning from the vitamins and minerals, and the overall increased body temperature and respiration that they do promote, this could improve the impact of a workout. The better a workout’s impact, the more weight, in general terms, you’re likely to shed.
The energy and stamina benefits make pre-workout supplements worth trying. These aren’t dangerous for most people to try out, and if weight loss increases do come of it, consider it an added perk. We’d say not to expect this as a definite result of these supplements though.
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