Pre-workout. Fact, Fiction or Overblown Nonsense Claim?

There are so many claims about supplements and pre-workouts. It becomes difficult to differentiate between real science and bro science, the science of good marketing and sales tactics.

There are some simple and easy things you can do to improve performance.

  1. Consume a balanced meal containing about 30g of carbs 1-2 hours before training.
  2. Stay hydrated! Dehydration during a workout can sap performance by 5-7% on average
  3. Add in a bit of coffee or tea for a caffeine kick.

If you’re doing those, and want a little extra added benefit, here are our top 3 supplements.


Caffeine is technically a stimulant, but if you keep it to a sane amount, you shouldn’t worry. Caffeine is mainly beneficial when used as a pre-workout for resistance training. It helps reduce perceived exertion/effort and increases your tolerance to fatigue. Caffeine is also the main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements that you see at the store. Start with anywhere around 70 to 100mg before your workout. In studies, the perfect dosage is about 1.35 milligrams per pound of body weight for optimal improvement.


Creatine probably has the most studies surrounding as an individual supplement component. It has been shown to be safe for long term usage and may also have cognitive benefits. Creatine Monohydrate is also a good and safe choice. The benefits of creatine are numerous and have been shown to increase lean body mass, improve strength and performance. It also helps to delay fatigue when training and improve muscular recovery. The marketing folks will peddle all sorts of versions, but stick with creatine monohydrate. It comes as a tasteless powder you can mix with water, or as a pill. Timing doesn’t matter, just consistency. Take it everyday at a dosage of 3 to 5mg.

Citrulline Malate

This one is not as well researched but has a wide array of benefits nonetheless. There have been many studies on this supplement since the early 2000s, it just hasn’t been in circulation as long as caffeine and creatine. L-Citrulline is an amino acid that when metabolized by the body takes the form of L-Arginine. Before Citrulline became more popular Arginine was the standard, but there are clear differences between the two. Arginine is less bioavailable and once ingested it delivers a subpar benefit when compared to Citrulline.

Like Creatine, Citrulline delays fatigue when resistance training but unlike Creatine, Citrulline also reduce fatigue in aerobic exercise. It helps with recovery by decreasing soreness and showing improved lean body mass. The effective dosage of Citrulline is 6 to 8 grams timed right before training. Most supplements that carry Citrulline malate underdose it around 2 to 4 grams which can make a significant difference.

Honorable mentions:

  1. Bentaine anydrous for improvements in power output and performance at a dosage of 2.5g pre-workout
  2. Rhodiola rosea extract for its low dosage decrease in fatigue, perceived exertion and muscle damage. Side benefits to cognitive function and possibly antidepressant properties. Dosage when standardized at 5% rosavins: about 200mg.
  3. Alpha GPC for its improvements in power output while also containing some cognitive function benefits. Dosage: 300mg.

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