What Does Pre-Workout Do?

by Nader Qudimat
Updated June 29, 2023

If you've ever set foot in a gym or scrolled through a fitness blog, you've likely heard of pre-workout supplements.

These powerful concoctions promise to supercharge your workouts, boost your energy levels, and help you get the most out of every sweat session.

But what exactly do these supplements do, and how do they work?

Let's dive in and find out.

What Does Pre-Workout Do: Quick Overview

Pre-workout supplements are specially formulated products designed to enhance your workout performance.

They typically come in powder form and are mixed with water to create a pre-workout drink.

These supplements aim to increase your energy, improve your focus, and help you achieve your fitness goals faster.

Understanding Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-workout supplements are a popular tool among fitness enthusiasts and athletes.

They're designed to help you push through your workouts, especially when you feel low on energy.

But it's important to remember that while these supplements can give you an extra boost, they're not a magic bullet.

The key to getting the most out of your pre-workout supplement is to use it with a balanced diet and a well-planned exercise routine.

The video below explains what a pre-workout is.

Key Ingredients in Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-workout supplements contain a variety of ingredients, each with a specific purpose.

Here's a look at some of the most common ones:


Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can increase alertness and reduce perceived effort and pain, leading to longer and more intense workouts.

According to the Nutrients study, the average caffeine content in pre-workout supplements is around 254.0 mg.


Creatine is a substance naturally found in muscle cells.

It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise, improving strength and power.

According to a study published in Nutrients, the average amount of creatine per serving in pre-workout supplements is around 2.1 grams.


Beta-alanine is an amino acid that can help delay muscle fatigue, allowing for longer, more intense workouts. The same study found that the average amount of beta-alanine in pre-workout supplements is 2.0 grams.

Citrulline Malate:

This compound helps increase nitric oxide production in the body, improving blood flow to your muscles during exercise. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness.


Agmatine is a metabolite of the amino acid arginine and is often included in pre-workout supplements for its potential to improve muscle pumps and nutrient partitioning.

However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims, and more research is needed to understand the effects of agmatine supplementation on exercise performance fully.


Betaine is a compound found in foods like beets and spinach. It's often included in pre-workout supplements for its potential to improve muscle endurance and increase strength.

A study found that a multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement containing betaine improved subjective workout experiences such as energy and concentration. Still, it did not significantly improve body composition or performance.

Caffeine Malate:

Caffeine malate is often included in pre-workout supplements for its potential to improve focus, energy, and endurance.

It's believed to provide the same benefits as regular caffeine but with less potential for stomach upset.

A study found that a multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement containing caffeine improved bench press performance, but there was no significant difference between the supplement's effects and caffeine alone.


Citrulline is an amino acid that improves blood flow to body tissues.

This can be especially beneficial during high-intensity exercise, as better blood flow allows more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to working muscles.

The average amount of citrulline in pre-workout supplements is around 4.0 grams, as per the same study.

Taurine is an amino acid that plays a key role in muscle function.

It's included in pre-workout supplements due to its potential to improve athletic performance.

According to the Nutrients study, the average amount of taurine in pre-workout supplements is around 1.3 grams.


Tyrosine is an amino acid that can help improve alertness, attention, and focus, which can be beneficial during intense workouts.

The average amount of tyrosine in pre-workout supplements is around 348.0 mg, as per the same study.

How Does Pre-Workout Work?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to enhance your workout performance and endurance.

They contain a combination of ingredients, each serving a specific purpose.

For instance, caffeine, a common ingredient in stimulant-based pre-workouts, is known for its energy-boosting properties.

It stimulates the central nervous system, increasing alertness and reducing the perception of effort, which allows you to train harder and longer.

Another key ingredient often found in pre-workouts is citrulline, an amino acid derived from watermelon.

Citrulline is known to boost nitric oxide production in the body, improving blood flow to your muscles during exercise.

This increased blood flow enhances pumps, endurance, and overall workout performance.

The combination of these ingredients and others like beta-alanine and creatine work synergistically to provide a comprehensive performance boost.

They help you push past your limits, making your workouts more effective and efficient.

Check out this article for a deeper understanding of how pre-workouts can benefit beginners.

The Effects of Pre-Workouts

Pre-workout supplements can have various effects, depending on whether they are stimulant-based or non-stimulant. 

(Read: What Does Non-Stimulant Pre-Workout Mean?)

Stimulant-Based Pre-Workouts

Stimulant-based pre-workouts primarily contain caffeine or other similar compounds. They are designed to:

  • Increase energy and alertness
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Enhance endurance and strength
  • Boost metabolic rate and fat burning

Non-Stimulant Pre-Workouts

Non-stimulant pre-workouts, on the other hand, do not contain caffeine or similar stimulants. They typically focus on the following:

  • Enhancing blood flow to the muscles
  • Increasing muscle pump
  • Boosting endurance
  • Promoting muscle growth and recovery

For a more detailed look at the safety and effects of pre-workout supplements, refer to this article.

Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-workout supplements offer a range of benefits that can enhance your workout performance and results. These include:

  • Increased Energy: The caffeine in pre-workouts provides a quick energy boost.
  • Improved Focus: Many pre-workouts contain nootropics, which enhance cognitive function and focus.
  • Enhanced Endurance: Ingredients like citrulline improve blood flow, leading to better endurance.
  • Boosted Metabolism: Certain ingredients can help increase your metabolic rate, aiding in fat burning.
  • Better Pumps: Improved blood flow to the muscles can result in more intense muscle pumps.

For more information on how long the effects of pre-workout last, you can read this article.

How to Pick Pre-Workouts

When choosing a pre-workout supplement, there are several factors to consider:

  • Ingredients: Look for supplements with proven ingredients like caffeine, citrulline, and beta-alanine.
  • Fully Disclosed Label: A fully disclosed label means the manufacturer lists the exact amount of each ingredient rather than hiding them in a proprietary blend.
  • Your Fitness Goals: Different pre-workouts are designed for different goals. Some are geared towards muscle building, while others focus on fat burning or endurance.

Here are some resources to help you choose the right pre-workout:


What are the potential side effects of pre-workout supplements? While pre-workout supplements are generally safe for healthy individuals, they can cause side effects in some people. These may include jitteriness, increased heart rate, upset stomach, and difficulty sleeping, particularly if taken late in the day. It's always best to start with a lower dose to assess your tolerance.

How long before a workout should I take my pre-workout supplement? Most pre-workout supplements should be taken 20-30 minutes before your workout. This allows enough time for the ingredients to be absorbed into your bloodstream and start working. Read more: How Long Does Pre-Workout Take To Kick In?

Can I take pre-workout supplements on non-training days? While taking pre-workout supplements on non-training days is not harmful, it's generally not necessary. These supplements are designed to enhance workout performance, so taking them on rest days won't provide much benefit.

Are pre-workout supplements safe for everyone? While pre-workout supplements are safe for most healthy adults, they may not suit everyone. People with certain medical conditions, pregnant or breastfeeding, should consult a healthcare provider before using these supplements.

Bottom Line

Pre-workout supplements are a powerful tool to enhance your workout performance and help you reach your fitness goals faster. They increase blood flow to your muscles, boost your energy and focus, and aid in muscle recovery.

However, it's important to remember that these supplements are not a magic bullet.

They should be used with a balanced diet and a well-planned exercise program. Always start with a lower dose to assess your tolerance and adjust as needed.

Check this out: The Ultimate Guide to Pre-Workouts

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by iron and cold steel, I'm Nader, a mid-30s natural bodybuilder. Once a 100lb skinny guy, I've transformed into a 200lb muscular athlete with over 15 years of lifting experience. Today, I leverage my transformation and extensive experience to guide countless individuals on their fitness journeys.

Click here to check out my 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

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