Pre-workout boosters are a good option if you cannot muster the energy you need to pull off your training with full power. Nobody always has the maximum motivation and energy and sometimes such a training booster can compensate for a lot. Did you sleep too little or badly or have you had a long, exhausting day? For many trainees, reaching for the booster in such situations is quite normal.
I also regularly use the pre-workout booster before I start my strength training. Sometimes I want that extra kick, that little more energy and focus that pushes me and drives me to new top performances. Natural energy boosters are sometimes just not enough.
For many gym goers in particular, enjoying a training booster before a workout has become a fixed ritual. The booster before and the protein shake afterwards give the workout its framework. But how useful is it really to take such a training booster (regularly)?
Most exercisers do not know what to look for when choosing and taking a training booster. Some even see the booster as a substitute for healthy sleep . For this reason I have written this article to shed light on the phenomenon of training boosters and to provide answers to frequently asked questions.
In this article you will learn
I want to make sure that you know enough about pre-workout boosters to use them optimally to supplement your training in the future.
What are pre-workout boosters?
Pre-workout boosters are a combination of nutritional supplements, which are taken shortly before training and are intended to increase your energy, strength, motivation and concentration during training in the short term. This should improve your training performance.
For this purpose, various (legal) stimulants such as caffeine and taurine are used in training boosters. These are enriched with various amino acids and other nutrients. In combination, these active ingredients should trigger various effects in your body, which should maximize your performance and thus your training success. Boosters of this kind should be more than just a support against fatigue.
Especially when training in the early morning or in the late evening, after a strenuous day at work , it is difficult for many to get the maximum performance from their body. In these situations, a pre-workout booster can help you to temporarily push your body to a higher level of performance.
When and why does a training booster make sense?
For many exercisers, the pre-workout booster is at least included in the plan before every workout. But is such a booster really that important for a good workout? I don’t think so.
However, there are situations in which an extra dose of energy and focus can be very useful for your training. In my opinion, there are mainly the following three reasons for which you can / should take a booster. You should use your training booster specifically for these situations:
1) If you are too tired and not motivated enough for your training
Sometimes there are just moments like this: You had a long, exhausting day and all you really want to do is go to bed. Now you have to overcome your inner weaker self and motivate you to go to training. After all, you want to achieve your goals . During training, you should now still have enough energy to do your planned workload. It can happen that the necessary strength and motivation are missing here.
Now and then you may have slept just not so well or a little too little. Of course, you are then not 100 percent efficient either. Personally, after short nights I am almost always a little powerless and lackluster. The short-term, additional boost from a pre-workout booster comes in handy.
However, it is important that you know that adequate sleep is absolutely essential for your health and your training success. It does not matter whether you are building muscle mass , losing weight and defining your muscles or whether you want to run faster or further or maybe just want to get a little more athletic. So don’t try to compensate for your sleep deficit by consuming more boosters. This is really unhealthy in the medium to long term and not effective.
2) When it is difficult for you to concentrate on your training
Focus and concentration during training are very important for strength performance and also the quality of the exercise. Focus is a superpower that each of us owns. If you are unable to concentrate during training, you will be able to call up less performance and the risk of injuries increases. You won’t want either one or the other. So always try to concentrate on your training. This is especially true if you train hard and do complex exercises like the classic basic exercises .
Training boosters lead to a better ability to concentrate for many trainees and thus to an increased training focus. So if one day you have the feeling that you will find it difficult to concentrate on your workout, a booster can possibly help.
3) When you need an extra boost of strength and motivation for the next level
Do you have the feeling that things are not progressing really well and that a little extra power could help you to make the jump to the next level? Do you need a sense of achievement again? In this situation, using the right boosters can also help to get a little more performance. However, do not try to let the booster tempt you to do more than you can safely do.
The larger muscle pump that occurs after consuming many pre-workout boosters also provides an additional motivational effect. For most fitness athletes, looking in the mirror after a hard workout is an important incentive to keep going.
What’s in it and how do pre-workout boosters work?
As already explained in the section “What are pre-workout boosters”, various (legal) stimulants in connection with different amino acids and other nutrients should trigger positive effects in your body, which can increase your performance and thereby optimize your training performance.
For this section I have dealt with the most common ingredients in popular training boosters. I will briefly introduce the contents to you below and explain what role they play in your pre-workout booster.
1) Caffeine – the pick-me-up
Caffeine is the most obvious ingredient in boosters. Known from coffee and Co., this substance stimulates the organism and increases alertness and alertness, which leads to a perceived and proven increase in performance. Studies have also found a direct influence on muscular strength performance in animals (read for example in this study).
Most common training boosters contain about the caffeine equivalent of 2-3 cups of strong coffee per serving. For most people, this should be a safe dosage. Due to its important role in boosters, it is important to keep in mind that it can get used to caffeine very quickly.
2) Taurine – the caffeine synergist
Taurine is involved as an intermediate and breakdown product in various processes in the human metabolism. It was historically extracted from bull gall. That’s probably where the cool name comes from (more on Wikipedia).
Taurine is said to have an invigorating effect. This is particularly evident in the interaction with the previously mentioned caffeine. The taurine increases the effect of the caffeine. For this reason, these two synergists are usually included together in training boosters.
3) L-arginine – the door opener for fat muscles
L-arginine is a semi-essential amino acid. This means that your body can produce them itself, but (mostly) not in sufficient quantities. For this reason, an external supply is necessary. Especially in athletes and with increasing age, the body needs more L-arginine (more on Wikipedia).
L-arginine has a vasodilating effect at higher doses. The blood circulation is improved and the nutrient supply in the muscles is optimized. In addition, the enlarged vessels also have the effect that your muscles and veins swell more during exercise. Many strength athletes and bodybuilders appreciate this “pump” very much.
4) L-ornithine – the tag team partner of L-arginine
L-ornithine also plays a crucial role in human metabolic processes. However, your body can produce it itself in sufficient quantities. An increased intake of L-ornithine favors (at least theoretically) in combination with a simultaneous, increased intake of L-arginine and hard hypertrophy training the release of growth hormones and thus muscle building.
5) Citrulline – the better arginine?
Citrulline (like ornithine and arginine) is an intermediate product in the human urea cycle. When ingested, it increases the arginine levels in the blood more strongly than when ingested L-arginine itself. As a result, the intake of citrulline also has a very positive effect on blood circulation, nutrient transport and the muscle pump. In some cases it differs from person to person whether they respond better to L-arginine or citrulline. I personally get a much stronger pump from Cirtullin.
Incidentally, citrulline is also one of the few (really useful) substances that can be in a pre-workout booster that can effectively neutralize the soapy taste of BCAAs. This means that you have to waste less space for flavors in your booster.
6) Creatine – the strong maker
Creatine can be found almost everywhere in your body and is also supplied through your daily diet. In the muscles, creatine plays a key role in the energy supply processes. Creatine in muscles is a great help, especially for the short-term energy supply, which is crucial in strength training.
By additionally taking creatine, the creatine storage in the muscles can be increased by up to 20%. This demonstrably leads to an increase in strength and performance. For the optimal benefit of creatine on your training success (strength and muscle building ) you should take about 3-5 grams a day according to current scientific knowledge.
Since Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most sensible dietary supplements for strength athletes, I wrote my own article about it. It also appears as a recommendation in my articles about useful supplements and healthy muscle building supplements . However, the effect on training performance is more relevant in the long term, which is why long-term intake is significantly more effective than a creatine regimen . A short-term increase in performance has not been proven.
Because of its clearly positive effect on performance, creatine is still used in most pre-workout boosters. However, it is not really effective here. If you take a booster with creatine, you can in any case subtract the amount contained from your daily dose.
7) L-tyrosine – the happiness maker
The amino acid L-tyrosine is best known for its mood-enhancing effect. A deficiency has a negative effect on dopamine levels, stress tolerance and general well-being. Ingestion (if there is a deficiency) also has a positive effect on the ability to concentrate. Athletes have a significantly increased need for the amino acid.
In addition, tyrosine is said to have a positive effect on fat loss. However, I couldn’t find any convincing study results on this. In addition, this effect does not play a decisive role for the effect of a pre-workout booster anyway.
By nature, tyrosine occurs in large quantities, especially in casein . It is used in boosters because of its potentially mood-enhancing and concentration-enhancing effects.
8) Beta-Alanine – the power donor
The long-term intake of beta-alanine has been shown to increase the carnosine level in the muscles. This in turn delays the change in the pH value in the muscle to the acidic range and thus ensures that the muscle does not become over-acidic as quickly. As a result, you can do more repetitions with the same weight. Due to the greater stress potential, you can also set a greater growth stimulus.
Incidentally, the beta-alanine causes the tingling sensation under the skin, which is typical for many boosters. Some find the tingling annoying, others just love that about their training booster. Many derive the effectiveness of the booster from the tingling sensation, but this is unfounded. This tingling sensation is usually harmless, but there are also people who are allergic to it in large quantities. If this is the case with you, you should rather avoid a booster with a lot of beta alanine.
Like creatine, I also see beta-alanine more as a supplement that does not necessarily have to be in a booster because it primarily develops its performance-enhancing effect over the long term. As with creatine, daily intake is recommended for maximum benefit. You should also subtract the booster content from your daily dose here.
The tingling sensation caused by taking beta alanine can also have a very positive effect on training motivation. In addition, this tingling sensation only noticeably subsides after about 20-30 minutes or with heavy training. For this reason I think beta alanine is a useful part of a pre-workout booster.
9) BCAAs – essential muscle protectors?
One or the other pre-workout booster contains BCAAs in addition to the amino acids already mentioned. These semi-essential and essential amino acids , which are important for muscles, are intended to promote muscle growth and protect against muscle loss during training.
Taking BCAAs before training can be useful, especially in a restrictive reduction diet. This is at least the subjective perception of many fitness athletes. In general, however, a regular protein intake from high-quality, protein-containing foods should ensure that the muscles are adequately supplied with these amino acids.
10) Sugar and other carbohydrates – unnecessary filler
In addition, some training boosters also contain carbohydrates (e.g. sugar). Quickly available energy is the argument here. However, these carbohydrates in the booster are primarily a cheap filler whose use is hardly justified by the high price of many boosters.
If you need a few carbohydrates before training, then you can get them much more sensibly and, above all, cheaper from other sources. Therefore, when buying a pre-workout booster, I always make sure that different carbohydrates are not on the list of ingredients in large quantities. Instead, I have an oat bar or shake if it’s been too long since my last meal before training.
How often should you take a pre-workout booster?
For some, (strength) training is no longer even imaginable without a training booster. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t drink such a booster before every workout. A lot helps a lot is the wrong motto in this case. interject in the hope that a lot will help a lot.
I recommend that you never take your booster for more than 2-3 days in a row and regularly pause it for several days (and training). Your body quickly develops a tolerance, especially to the effects of caffeine. Then you no longer have the desired effect. It is therefore best to rarely take a pre-workout booster before individual training sessions.
How much caffeine in the training booster is still healthy?
Some training boosters contain a lot of caffeine (in some even over 500mg per serving). From a lethal dose ( which is about 10g in 24h ), all the boosters I know are still a long way off, but negative health effects threaten even with significantly lower amounts. The reaction depends to a large extent on how you are used to caffeine.
You can tell that you have consumed too much caffeine by symptoms such as diarrhea, circulatory problems, severe headaches or even anxiety. If you never or only rarely consume beverages containing caffeine, you should therefore keep your hands off boosters with high caffeine doses.
If you regularly drink a cup or two of coffee, you shouldn’t have any problems with the usual caffeine doses of up to around 200mg per serving. The (German!) Recommendation for use on boosters must be followed and I can only advise against taking double and triple doses.
Since every training booster contains different levels of caffeine, you should feel your way slowly with the dosage. I vomited in the gym after an “overdose”. That didn’t work out very well. So always start small!
Which boosters / substances you should keep your hands off of
Not all pre-workout boosters are safe in terms of their ingredients. This applies in particular to “black box” boosters imported from abroad, which come along with imprecise information about their ingredients and advertise miracle effects.
Unfortunately, it has often happened in recent years that particularly hyped training boosters have turned out to contain illegal, dangerous and highly addictive substances. That something like this is possible is due, among other things, to the fact that the controls and approval processes for dietary supplements in the USA are much less strict than they are in our country
I would no longer consume a booster from the USA if it did not have an official release for distribution as a dietary supplement for the German market. Some substances that are associated with diseases of the heart and the nervous system and that are potentially highly addictive are still not banned in the USA. If something is not approved for sale in Germany, it is often with good reason.
Basically, I advise you to inform yourself about all substances that are in a booster before you take it. If you can’t understand the ingredients, then better keep your hands off them.
What are good training boosters? Which is the right booster for you?
Up to this point you have learned a lot about the advantages and disadvantages as well as the mode of action and correct use of training boosters. Now you are probably asking yourself which of the many boosters on the market is the right one for you.
Of course, I also don’t have a look at the entire supplement market. However, I have already tried some boosters and studied their ingredients. In the following I would like to recommend a really good booster of each of these boosters, depending on your purpose.
1) Synforce Matrix – My training booster favorite
I have already tried a few training boosters and my favorite pre-workout booster is the Synforce Matrix from Supplement Union. The booster is a good all-rounder that gives me a good energy boost, increases my focus and gives me a really good pump. It has everything I want in a solid booster. The ingredients are presented transparently and make sense. You can include the creatine contained in your daily dose.
No experiments with questionable ingredients are made here. You get a booster that is not fancy and where you know what you are getting. The booster is made in Germany. That always makes me feel good about dietary supplements. You can get the Synforce Matrix Booster at our partner shop Bodybuilding-Depot * – it has a great price / performance ratio and with my code Fitvolution5 you save another 5 on all products %.
A good alternative, which is also available at Amazon, is the Tunnelblick from ProFuel *. This is also made in Germany and is a very “round” pre-workout booster overall. I can fully represent the composition of the ingredients since version 2.1. In addition, the source of caffeine is now guarana, which significantly reduces the slump after training because the effects wear off noticeably more slowly. The recommended dosage of 18g per serving is a good guideline for men (80kg +) who are experienced in booster and training. I would recommend everyone else to start with half a serving.
2) Caffeine booster for the maximum energy kick
If you only want to increase your energy and alertness in the short term, then you need caffeine and taurine above all. If you prefer to do without all the other typical substances that many boosters bring with them, then I would advise you to get a few energy drinks or an energy drink concentrate.
I used to like Red Kick from Multipower * very much. This is now only available mixed in bottles. However, Supplement Union also has a pretty cool product called Energy Flavor *. It is a sugar-free instant energy drink. I like both flavors and with less than 30 cents per serving, I find it very cheap (my discount code Fitvolution5 works here too).
3) A booster for maximum concentration and training focus
If your head is once again not after training and you are looking for a quick solution for more concentration, you should look around for a booster that has a high proportion of L-tyrosine. In addition, rhodiola rosea, black pepper extract and ginko can be a useful addition. The tunnel vision from ProFuel * has these ingredients and always gives me a very good training focus.
Unfortunately, I have not yet found a really good booster that combines these substances without caffeine, beta-alanine and Co. If you know one, please write it to me in the comments, then I’ll try it out and add it if necessary.
What worked really well for me in terms of long-term increase in concentration and focus (also outside of training) is the following combination:
If you have a lot of stress and concentration problems, I recommend that you just try it for a month. That helped me a lot in such a phase. Today I only take my Athletic Greens * greens every morning and I’m doing very well. However, my work is not quite as stressful anymore. 🙂
4) A pre-workout booster for the largest possible muscle pump
Perhaps the largest possible muscle pump is most important to you during your training. In this case, arginine, L-ornithine and citrulline are particularly useful ingredients. Of course, you want to have this pump if you go out to train late in the evening. But then there shouldn’t be too much caffeine in the booster. That’s why I’d like to introduce you to a good pump booster with and one without caffeine.
If you want an energy boost in addition to the muscle pump:
In this case I recommend Olimp Redweiler *. Before the S.U. SYNForce Matrix * (which also makes a great pump for me), it was my absolute favorite booster. The training booster is designed to maximize vascularity and thus your muscle pumps. The taste is a bit intense for some, but the effect, as far as the pump is concerned, is really awesome. It should be noted that this booster also contains creatine. If you take it you can do without your daily creatine dose.
For maximum muscle pumps without caffeine:
I’ve been looking for a good, caffeine-free pump booster for quite a while. The best I could find is the Performance NOX from Pharmasports *. Here you get a really good pump and can still fall asleep 1-2 hours after training. However, this booster also contains a lot of creatine, which is why you can do without your creatine dose of the day by taking it.
5) Healthy alternatives to the powder booster
It doesn’t always have to be a pre-workout booster. As I wrote before, you shouldn’t consume a booster too often before training. There are also natural and healthy alternatives that also have a certain energy-increasing effect, but are significantly healthier.
These alternatives are called tea and coffee. Very often a cup of strong coffee before training is also good. A cup of freshly brewed green tea is even healthier. It doesn’t seem as strong, but a little longer and healthier. So before training, think about whether it really has to be a booster.
By the way, you can also put together your own pre-workout booster. This is a bit more complex, but in many cases it is even cheaper. You also have the option of combining your booster so that you have exactly the ingredients in the booster that you want. I also have a very good recipe for a useful self-made training booster. Most of the time, however, I am too lazy to mix and use a pre-mixed one instead.
Your conclusion on the topic of training boosters
If you have a hard day behind you and need energy for training, then a training booster can help you with a unit at short notice. However, you shouldn’t use such a booster all the time to support training. This will lose its effect over time and you will potentially become dependent on it. It’s not particularly healthy in the long run either. Therefore, use your booster specifically. This is how you get the most out of it.
Some ingredients ensure better blood circulation in the muscles, better strength development or increased strength endurance and can therefore help you to break your limits both in strength and cardiovascular training. Incidentally, the type of (strength) training you do and your goal only play a subordinate role when using a training booster. Whether you are currently doing a bulk phase and following a muscle building training plan or you currently want to train your maximum strength , a pre-workout can be used specifically Booster can be a valuable tool. Even if you want to run faster or want to lose weight with training and a crash diet , you can benefit from it.
It is important that you are aware of how the ingredients work and not overdo it. So take a look at my recommendations and explanations again if you are unsure.
I hope with this article I was able to answer some questions about training boosters and you will soon come back to my blog. It’s best to follow me directly on Facebook or Instagram and sign up for the newsletter so that you don’t miss any new articles. If you have any questions, just write me a comment or an email.
Have fun with your training!