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The Ultimate Guide to PreWorkout Supplements - Part 1


Beta-alanine or creatine? What's the best BCAA ratio? What makes whey protein so good at building muscle? And is there a supplement that actually burns fat?

If you're new to the preworkout world, it may seem like navigating a mine field. Don't sweat it; we've got you covered. In this three-part series, we'll break down the 15 best preworkout supplements that will help you push yourself harder and finally give you the results you want.


Arginine, also called l-arginine, is an amino acid found in meat, poultry, and dairy products. When metabolized, arginine converts into a chemical called nitric oxide, which helps blood vessels dilate and increases blood flow. (x) It also stimulates insulin release, removes toxic ammonia from the blood, boosts immunity and heart health, and reduces inflammation. (x)

Energy and endurance

Because arginine increases oxygen and blood flow to the muscles, it may make it easier for you to work out harder, longer, and increase recovery time. One study found that participants who took l-arginine before a workout were able to cycle 20% longer than those who took the placebo. (x)

Increase strength and accelerate fat loss

During exercise, arginine may boost growth hormone levels that increase muscle strength and accelerate weight loss. (x) A 2013 study of fourteen healthy men ages 50-70 found that after six months, those who took growth hormone significantly increased their lower body strength when performing a leg press. (x) Growth hormone (and, by extension, arginine) has also been found to increase lean body mass and accelerate fat loss. (x)

Nitric oxide pump

You can thank nitric oxide for muscle pump you get after banging out extra reps. Because it stimulates blood flow and relaxes the blood vessels, arginine may help your muscles work harder, recover faster, and get a bigger pump post-workout (and who doesn't want that?). (x)


Second only to creatine in preworkout popularity, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs for short) consist of the essential amino acids leucine, valine, and isoleucine. The body can't make essential amino acids on its own, which is why dietary supplementation is essential.

As building blocks of protein, BCAA supplements are taken to increase muscle growth, enhance athletic performance, and improve post-workout fatigue and recovery.

Boost muscle growth

BCAAs signal enzymes in your body that activate protein synthesis, meaning they contribute to muscle growth and maintenance during and after exercise. (x) BCAA supplementation can also stimulate testosterone, which increases lean body mass and decreases fat mass in both men and women --meaning you'll get a leaner, fitter physique. (x)


BCAA supplement labels usually include ratios that reflect the amount of each amino acid present in the powder or capsules. BCAA supplements with a higher leucine content are more effective in stimulating protein synthesis--which is why the best BCAA powders have either a 2:1:1 or a 3:2:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, respectively. (x)

Weight loss

Taking BCAAs may also boost weight loss.  Because diets high in protein are known to torch fat (and since amino acids are the building blocks of protein) research suggests that adding BCAAs to your supplement routine may reduce the likelihood of weight gain. (x)

Leucine especially has been shown contribute to a healthy metabolism: in one study that examined the effects of BCAA supplementation among wrestlers, participants who took BCAAs lost an average of eight pounds, decreased their body fat by 17%, and significantly reduced their amount of abdominal fat. (x)

Reduce muscle soreness & shorten recovery time

Is the post-workout muscle burn slowing your progress? BCAAs may help. They've been shown to reduce blood levels of lactate dehydrogenase and creatine kinase--both enzymes associated with muscle damage and fatigue. (x) Female participants in one study reported a 33% decrease in post-workout muscle soreness after taking BCAAs, and also recorded that their soreness dissipated faster after supplementation. (x)

Increase energy

BCAAs may reduce mental fatigue during exercise by up to 15% (x). In one study, BCAAs allowed participants to exercise 17% longer than the placebo group and increased the rate fat was converted to energy. (x)


Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body produces enough on its own to meet dietary needs. But many bodybuilders and athletes take beta-alanine because it has a proven track record of improving athletic endurance.

Delay exercise fatigue

Because it reduces muscle acidosis, supplementing with beta-alanine may decrease workout fatigue. Beta-alanine can increase carnosine levels during exercise by up to 80%, reducing muscle fatigue and increasing endurance, especially during short bursts of high-intensity exercise. (x) (x)

Improve performance

In one study of elite rowers, those who supplemented with beta-alanine for seven weeks were 4.3 seconds faster in a 2,000 meter race than those who did not. (x)

This may be due to beta-alanine's ability to increase ventilation. A month-long study of 22 women found that beta-alanine increased ventilation rate by 13.9%. (x)


Betaine is a chemical involved in liver function, cellular processes, and the production of carnitine, a compound that helps the body convert fat into energy--making it a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders. (x)

Improve body composition

A 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined betaine's effects on a group of 23 strength-trained men. After six weeks, those who had taken betaine prior to exercising significantly decreased their body fat percentage and increased their lean body mass. (x)

Boost athletic performance

By regulating muscle acidity and reducing workout fatigue, betaine may also improve performance. After supplementing with betaine for 14 days, men in one study significantly increased their bench throw power, isometric bench press force, vertical jump power, and isometric squat force. (x) Adding betaine to your preworkout shake could also increase your total number of reps by 6.5%. (x)


If you roll out of bed in the morning and want nothing more than to roll back into bed, what's the first thing you do? Drag yourself to the coffee pot.

You're used to caffeine fueling you during the work day, but supplements containing caffeine are also used in preworkout drinks. Why? Energy, focus, and, some studies suggest, improved metabolism.

Green tea extract

A natural source of caffeine, green tea extract is made from the Camellia chinensis plant, which is rich in antioxidants. Its multiple health benefits include improving heart health, boosting immune function, fighting inflammation, and giving you a serious boost in the gym. (x) (x) It doesn't contain as much caffeine as coffee, meaning you won't get the jitters--just focused, sustained energy.

Silhouette woman run under blue sky with clouds and sun

Burn fat and boost metabolism

As a source of caffeine, green tea is thermogenic, meaning it heats the body up and stimulates fat burning. (x) Compounds in green tea called cachetins have also been shown to have fat-burning and metabolism-boosting properties, and multiple studies have found that cachetins may be responsible for significant reductions in body fat percentage and body weight. (x)

And here's more good news: if you can't seem to get rid of that pesky pouch around your middle, green tea is particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat. (x)

Green tea's cachetins may also curb your appetite, meaning you're less likely to overeat after a particularly difficult workout. (x)

Improve physical endurance

Caffeine is a well-known energy-booster, and if you add green tea extract to your preworkout, you may notice a significant difference in your athletic performance. A 2005 study found that supplementing with green tea extract over 10 weeks increased endurance by up to 24%; other studies found that it may increase endurance by 11-14%. (x) (x) (x)  Long story short: if you can work out longer, you may be able to work out harder and see results faster.

jumping_rope_guy_mainImprove focus

You're ready to hit the gym after work but you've got a major case of brain fog and all you want to do is collapse on the couch. The solution? Green tea extract, which research shows can improve focus and alertness.

So how does it work? Caffeine blocks adenosine (a neurotransmitter in the brain that promotes sleep and drowsiness) and activates the release of  neurons responsible for feelings of alertness like dopamine and norepinephrine. (x)

Research has also found that caffeine may improve cognitive performance, so if you're feeling extra focused and dedicated in the gym, thank the green tea extract you put in your preworkout. (x)


Talk to your doctor before taking any of these preworkout supplements, and stay tuned for Part 2!


2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to PreWorkout Supplements - Part 1”

  • Ricky Raper

    Great information, I love it! I am 58 years old, type two diabetic that is near remission due to exercise and diet. Searching for information that will help me to rebuild my body after losing 40 pounds in nine months. I am ready for part two ASAP! I love this website!

  • mark mcgibbon
    mark mcgibbon May 24, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Any indication that Bulk Sups. will sell bioperine which is used the enhance absorption of multiple sups. including chrysin and curcumin? Many customers are blending their own specialised mixtures which could use bioperine.

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