It’s no secret that to perform your best, you have to make sure your body and mind are ready for action. Without quality sleep, nutritious foods, and the right mindset, you won’t be able to get the most from your workout or sporting event.
Even in traditional eSports like League of Legends, Fortnite, and Dota 2, the world’s best athletes focus on bringing their best by preparing their bodies. Top teams have access to gyms, personal trainers, healthy food, and meditation to give them an edge. The difference between first and second place can come down to just a little extra focus and quicker reaction times.
It’s common to see eSports athletes drinking Red Bull or other energy drinks to help keep them focused. Caffeine has been proven to work if used in moderation. They may not be running or jumping, but these players need to be able to sustain their attention and reaction times for hours at a time.
What about virtual reality sports like Echo Arena, Onward, and VR fitness apps like Beat Saber and BOXVR? These games mix the fantasy worlds of video games with the physical demands of real sports. Energy drinks can be helpful, but to perform at your best, you need to supply your body with effective nutrients, not just your brain. Here we can learn from the world’s top athletes, fitness models, and bodybuilders.
That’s where pre-workout supplements come in.
Nutritional supplements get a bad rap because there are a lot of gimmicks out there that are only good at taking your hard earned money. It’s an industry that’s easy to get into so it seems like every fit guy or gal has their own line of products, promising miraculous results from just a few pills per day.
Just because there are some bad products out there, that doesn’t mean that all supplements are worthless. Rigorous scientific studies have shown the efficacy and safety of whey protein, creatine, vitamin D, fish oil, and many other staples of the supplement industry. They won’t give you a beach body overnight, but they will help you get faster results from your hard work.
Pre-workout supplements are powders that give you a cocktail of nutrients to help you perform better during an upcoming workout or competition. Most of them are to be taken 30 minutes before you need them to kick in.
Most pre-workout supplements do not contain carbohydrates, creatine, or protein. These are important performance ingredients that you can get from food or from other supplements, so we won’t cover them here.
There are many different brands and types of pre-workout supplements out there. Some have 50 ingredients and some have only a few. So what should you look for? What actually works and is worth the money? Here are a few of the key ingredients to look for.
(*As with anything, it’s smart to check with a doctor before changing your diet or taking supplements if you have any health concerns.)
This is everybody’s favorite ingredient and obviously gives an immediate surge in energy, feelings of well-being, and focus. It’s not all mental though. Rigorous studies have shown that caffeine can increase power output, increase anaerobic running capacity, increase aerobic capacity, and even make exercise feel easier than it would otherwise.
Of course, too much can increase tolerance and create feelings of jitteriness and anxiety. Everybody processes caffeine at different rates, so you can experiment with what feels best for you.
A recent study showed that the total weight lifted for back squats was significantly higher for those taking caffeine vs. a placebo.
Scientific studies: Caffeine Human Effect Matrix
Have you ever tried a pre-workout product and started to feel tingly all over? That’s a harmless side effect of Beta Alanine. Beta Alanine is a modified version of the amino acid Alanine. It can help improve your muscular endurance, which can help you last a little longer in a race or get a few extra reps in your workout. That difference can compound over time to give you better fitness results.
A 2018 study had 15 athletes take Beta Alanine and 15 take a placebo. Each group worked out three days a week for five weeks. The results were impressive:
Beta Alanine is worth the money.
Scientific studies: Beta Alanine Human Effect Matrix
L-citrulline is a naturally occurring amino acid that is converted into L-arginine. It can increase blood flow, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach your muscles. L-arginine is converted into nitric oxide and acts as a vasodilator which causes your blood vessels to expand.
It’s nice to feel a “pump” during your Hot Squat VR workout, but does that really mean anything? Well, according to studies L-citrulline has been shown to decrease muscle soreness, reduce fatigue and increase growth hormone during exercise. Sounds like a winner to me.
Scientific studies: L-Citrulline Human Effect Matrix
L-carnitine helps transport fat into the mitochondria of cells where they can be used as fuel to generate ATP. When used during exercise, it can be very effective at burning fat, reducing fatigue, and improving recovery.
Acetyl L-carnitine (ALCAR) can be found throughout the human nervous system and is considered a more effective way to supplement. Many experts recommend taking it together with carbs.
Scientific Studies: Acetyl L-Carnitine Human Effect Matrix
These are just a few of the ingredients found in popular preworkout supplements. Choosing a trustworthy brand like Optimum Nutrition, Dymatize, Cellucor, JYM, or Kaged Muscle helps you to be sure you are getting what you are paying for while avoiding sketchy ingredients that haven’t been proven.
The worlds of sports, fitness, and video games have collided. Take advantage of the time-tested strategies in each to break new personal records. Next time you are getting ready to compete in your favorite vSport or sweat it out during your morning VR cardio, consider taking a pre-workout supplement to increase your results