There are a number of reasons you may be looking for alternatives to pre workout supplements. You may be taking a break from pre-workout after finding yourself building up a tolerance, and no longer getting the beneficial effects of these supplements. Maybe you just want something more “natural” that doesn’t include a long list of complicated sounding ingredients. If so, read on to find some of the best alternatives to pre workout supplements.
What Are The Best Alternatives to Pre Workout?
Pre workout is great for some people. However, many people find that the high-stimulant formulas lead to uncomfortable jitters and anxiety. Others don’t particularly enjoy the itchy feeling caused by the beta alanine found in many pre workout supplements.
Pre Workout Alternatives with Caffeine
The benefits of caffeine for athletic performance are numerous. This is why most pre-workout supplements include caffeine in relatively high doses. If you are looking for alternatives to pre workout that include caffeine, there are plenty of options. The primary caffeinated pre workout alternatives are coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Consuming caffeine from these sources before working out can give you many of the benefits of pre workout without the negative side effects of pre workout.
Stimulant-Free Pre Workout Alternatives
If you’re sensitive to stimulants like caffeine, ephedrine, or DMAA, you may want to avoid taking pre workouts that are high in these compounds. You can still get a pre workout boost of energy and focus from other pre workout alternatives. Vitamin C, carbohydrates, or other anti-oxidants may provide you with the fuel and energy you need for your workout. Beyond stimulant-free pre workouts, you can look for sources of easy-to-digest carbs to fuel your workouts.
Fruits provide easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars in a healthy pre-workout snack. Choose easy-to-digest fruits like apples or bananas to avoid stomach discomfort during your workout. The carbohydrates in fruit act as fuel for your muscles, which will help keep your energy stores topped off during your workout. Fruits are among the best foods to replenish muscle glycogen, which can directly lead to improvement in athletic performance. The fiber in fruit helps to slow the digestion of the fructose in fruit, which will help avoid your blood sugar from spiking and subsequently crashing and leading to a drop in energy levels.
Oats are another great natural source of energy. Similar to fruit, the fiber in oats helps to slow down the absorption of the carbs in oats to prevent blood sugar spikes. Oats are easy to digest, so you can enjoy an intense workout shortly after eating them without worrying about digestive issues.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, oats are high in a type of soluble fiber called beta gluten, which is what makes cooked oats sticky and gooey. Beta gluten helps slow the absorption of carbs over a couple of hours, which can be incredibly beneficial to endurance athletes like runners or cyclists.
Salt often gets a bad wrap from people in the health and medical community, but salt isn’t a bad thing in healthy doses. In fact, consuming salt before working out can help increase your energy levels through increased blood volume, improved blood flow, and easier access to energy reserves. Sodium can help your body deliver energy and nutrients to your muscles, thus improving athletic performance. Additionally if you’re working out in a hot environment, or will be sweating a lot during your workout, salt can help replenish the sodium you’ll lose due to sweating.
Some pump-focused pre workouts include pink Himalayan sea salt to help improve blood flow and to increase the pump you get from your workouts.
Natural Alternatives to Pre Workout
If you are looking for natural alternatives to pre workouts without crazy additives and scary ingredient lists, there are plenty of options. Whether you’re looking for natural sources of caffeine or stimulant-free alternatives, there are plenty of options to fit your needs and preferences.
Coffee is a great source of natural caffeine, and there are countless ways to drink it. You can drink brewed coffee, straight espresso, or lattes depending on your personal preferences. Another benefit of using coffee is that it is more affordable than pre workout supplements and you can find it almost anywhere. If you forgot your pre workout or are just looking to take a break, you can stop at the gas station or your local coffee shop on the way to the gym for a cup of joe.
Green or Black Tea
Caffeinated teas can provide you with a pre-workout energy boost, and similar to coffee – these are accessible almost anywhere. Green tea, which is relatively low in caffeine compared to other teas, contains L-Theanine which can have a calming effect. This can help minimize the unpleasant effects of caffeine. Additionally L-Theanine combined with caffeine can help improve your focus over consuming caffeine alone.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar might as well be a super food, because it seems to have benefits to nearly every aspect of human health and wellness. Apple cider vinegar contains electrolytes which can help avoid muscle cramps by improving delivery of fuel and nutrients to your muscles. Consuming electrolytes will also help you stay hydrated in hot environments, which has a measurable impact on athletic performance.
What Should You Avoid Eating or Drinking Before Your Workout?
If all of the pre workout alternatives listed above are beneficial to athletic performance, what then should you avoid consuming before your workouts?
High Fat Foods
While fat can be a useful fuel for endurance athletes who are competing in ultra-long distance events, it’s not advisable to consume fat shortly before working out. Fat takes a lot of energy to digest, so it can have an undesirable effect on energy levels during a workout. This digestion takes energy and blood flow away from your muscles which is detrimental to athletic performance.
While vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet, eating them before your workout isn’t a good idea. Vegetables high in fiber, like broccoli and other greens, are relatively difficult to digest. The high demand that these place on your digestive system requires use of energy that could otherwise be directed towards your workout. Additionally digesting these during your workouts can cause discomfort and make it difficult to sustain high-effort sessions.
This one is likely a no-brainer if you’ve been training for some time. Dairy, like high-fiber vegetables, can cause some digestive issues. This is especially true when you eat dairy right before a hard training session.