There's one thing almost every pre-workout supplement has in common – caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant commonly found in pre-workout powders as a way to increase energy levels, it's mixed with other ingredients that help improve focus and overall training performance.
However, not everyone loves caffeine or needs an energy boost for their workouts. Some gym-goers and lifters just need something to help improve their endurance or help them achieve a better pump. Luckily, there are stimulant-free pre-workout products!
Caffeine-free pre-workout might seem counterproductive, but they're not. They're a great way to improve your training sessions but without the adverse effects of caffeine. So, if you want to avoid caffeine, or are still deciding between a stimulant vs non-stimulant pre-workout keep on reading to learn everything there is about them so you can find the best stim-free pre-workout for you!
Non-stim pre-workout vs stimulant pre-workout supplements
The biggest difference between these two pre-workout supplements is caffeine, the stimulant! It's also the main reason their benefits vary. Pre-workout powders use caffeine as a stimulant to help block the brains adenosine receptors. They do this because high levels of adenosine are responsible for making you feel sleeping! By blocking the receptors and keeping those levels low, you'll feel more energized and alert, aka ready to crush your workout!
However, stim free pre-workouts can also give you energy without the use of caffeine! Although they don't use any stimulant the directly blocks adenosine receptors, they do contain other ingredients that increase blood flow, alertness, and focus. One of those ingredients is beta-alanine (which is actually in our naturally caffeinated Pre-Workout) which helps improve your training performance, and works similarly to creatine! Having a stim-free pre-workout with beta-alanine, and other ingredients, can help provide you with the same performance-boosting benefits that caffeinated pre-workouts have.
So, is there a winner?
No – both are great pre-workout supplement options! In fact, research shows that pre-workout supplements, of any kind, can help give your training the edge it needs! A 2018 review of 80 different studies done on pre-workout powders found that they are beneficial at improving muscular endurance, mood, and with a consistent strength training program it can have positive long-term changes in body composition!
Both stimulated and non-stimulant pre-workouts are beneficial at giving your training sessions the oomph they need. But the perfect pre-workout comes down to what your goals and needs are. Only you can decide if a stim-free pre-workout is for you!
Benefits of stimulant-free pre-workouts
Anyone can start taking a stim-free pre-workouts, but it all comes down to which benefits align better to what your needs are. Here are three benefits (or reasons) that may sway you to switch over to a stim-free pre-workout...
No crash or side effects
Pre-workouts can sometimes contain up to 400 mg of caffeine per serving, and while some love the energy boosting benefits from it, the side effects of too much caffeine may not be so pleasant...
Drinking too much caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness, gastrointestinal distress, nausea, and it can even accelerate your heart rate and breathing. Although these unpleasant side effects don't happen to everyone, there's another downside to loading up on caffeine that everyone experiences.. crashing. One minute your pushing through reps like a champ, the next you've hit a wall and feel fatigued and unmotivated throughout the day. This happens because caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors to stop the fatigue-inducing effects. Blocking those receptos doesn't necessarily mean your body stops adenosine, it actually keeps pumping it out. So, as the caffeine begins to clear from your system, the excess adenosine floods the brain, leading to what's known as the pre-workout crash!
To avoid crashes you can take a pre-workout with natural caffeine and keep your dosage low. But if you want to avoid the other side effects of drinking too much caffeine in a day then consider taking a stim-free pre-workout! You may find that your performance is just as good as it is when ingesting a caffeinated pre-workout! Also if you're a heavy coffee drinker, or just want to minimize the amount of caffeine you consume daily then using a non-stim pre-workout will help make room for other of your favorite caffeine sources.
It doesn't interfere with your sleep
Good, deep sleep is crucial for muscle recovery! Recovery from high-intensity training is so important because it maximizes muscle growth. Heavy weight lifting, or any type of high impact, high intensity exercise, causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. At night, your body is working hard to repair your muscle tissue, along with other important processes. Disrupting that deep sleep process can result in ineffective recovery, and a higher risk of muscle soreness.
If you're working out in the afternoon or evenings and drinking a 200mg+ caffeinated pre-workout you're increasing your chances of being kept up at night. Caffeine, even if you're not drinking it right before bed, can disrupt your sleep. Aside from making it harder for you to fall asleep, one study found that it even affects your body's internal clock (circadian rhythm)! It was found that it can delay the timing of your body's clock thus reducing the amount you sleep.
So, the best thing to do to improve your recovery is to get better sleep – and if caffeines getting in the way of that consider switching out your pre-workout!
Help maximize the benefits of regular pre-workouts
You might be missing out on the benefits of caffeine, but you'll be maximizing the effectiveness of all the other performance-boosting ingredients!
The best caffeine free pre-workouts contain ingredients (like l-arginine and l-citrulline) that produce nitric oxide, which allows nutrients, water, and most importantly, blood flow into the muscles. Some of these give you some pretty insane pumps that caffeinated pre-workouts don't! Most also contain nootropics which helps you dial in your focus. So, although non-stim pre-workouts don't directly increase energy the way caffeine does, they do help you attain better focus and alertness to help you get the most out of every rep and set!
Pretty much everything caffeinated pre-workouts can do, stim-free ones can do too! It all comes down to finding the best one and that's by knowing what key ingredients to look for...
What ingredients to look for in a stim-free pre-workout
To look for the best stim-free pre-workout that helps enhance your focus, endurance and recovery, look for all or a few of these ingredients (also commonly found in regular pre-workout powders):
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, therefore if you have muscle-building goals to achieve look for a pre-workout with EAAs, BCAAs, or at least arginine and citrulline malate. There are nine essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), three of the most important are called BCAA's (isoleucine, leucine, and valine). These amino acids are linked to assisting in muscle growth, healing and repairing muscle, and even providing sustainable energy.
L-Arginine and L-Citrulline-Malate are considered non-essential amino acids since our body produces them. However, supplementing with them is a good way to increase nitric oxide levels to increase blood flow during high-intensity training. One study found that arginine helped extend joggers runs by two minutes. Another study showed that citrulline malate helped perform more reps during a leg press exercise. Not only that but citrulline is also linked to reduce muscle soreness!
Beta-alanine is another non-essential amino acid to look for in your pre-workout! It helps reduce lactic acid build up and fatigue to help promote greater power output and improves exercise capacity so you can push through a few more reps and go harder, for longer!
Betaine anhydrous is technically an amino acid, it consists of glycine with three methyl groups attached. Its main function is to help prevent the build up of homocysteine in the blood, high levels of it can cause the disruption of normal functions in the entire body from your blood to your bones to your brain!
Bodybuilders and athletes often look for a pre-workout supplement with betaine anhydrous for its benefits of improving hydration, stimulating better pumps, improving endurance, and its ability to support muscle protein synthesis. In fact, it's often compared the other widely loved pre-workout supplement, creatine monohydrate.
Beet root extract may seem like a strange ingredient, but its quite common in pre=workouts. It helps increase your nitric oxide levels for better blood flow, and even cardiovascular levels. Its a natural approach to increasing endurance and muscle pump!
Also popularly known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate is an ingredient you should look for in any pre-workout! It's main responsibility is helping maintain your body's pH levels neutral. High-intensity exercise can reduce the body's pH levels which can lead to fatigue and a reduction in exercise performance. Supplementing with sodium bicarbonate before hand can help boost your pH levels to keep them neutral.
Sodium bicarbonate supplementation has been linked to improving endurance and even muscle strength. A review of studies found that supplementing with sodium bicarbonate helped improve performance in high-intensity exercise like swimming and rowing!
These are just a few of the key ingredients to look for to find the perfect stim free pre-workout. Others you might see and can benefit from are are choline, agmatine sulfate, electrolytes, and even creatine monohydrate (if you're not already supplementing with it).
In summary, there is no winner between caffeinated and caffeine free pre-workouts. They both provide excellent training benefits that anyone can benefit from! At the end of the day, finding the best pre-workout supplement for you comes down to your fitness goals and lifestyle. But whether you choose a caffeine or caffeine free pre-workout, always avoid proprietary blends. Transparency is key, so look for a pre-workout that tells you exactly what you're ingesting and how much of it!
What if you need a big boost of energy in the morning and want to avoid the pre-workout crash?
373 Lab's Pre-Workout is the answer to your solution!
One scoop of our Pre-Workout Supplement provides 150 grams of natural caffeine, along with effective doses of Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, Arginine, Tyrosine, and Theanine. Plus, it's free of unnecessary additives and fillers, and we're completely transparent about the dosages (no proprietary blend here)! All to provide you clean, sustainable energy that will enhance your exercise performance.
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