Every bodybuilder or weightlifter – from the beginner to the decade-long veteran – seeks the characteristic gym pump that looks and feels so good. For those new to this, the “pump” is that unique and visually-spectacular vascularity that your muscle takes on when you’re having an exceptional gym session.
The reason for the pump is illuminated by the American Journal of Physiology in one of their many bodybuilding-centered articles. Basically, you have increased the blood flow to your muscles, which is unmistakable evidence that your body is undergoing prodigious protein synthesis. This of course leads to muscle growth during the post workout rest phase. Basically, if you can see and feel the post workout vascularity, then that means your blood is flowing very well and transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your musculature.
The official term for all of this is hypertrophy. Although this can sometimes come across as bro-science in the gym, it actually has plenty of scientific backing. In fact, the European Journal of Applied Physiology certifies that this pump provides a very important strength-training benefit: the greater blood flow ultimately leads to better muscle repair and thus muscle growth. Essentially, you’re feeding your muscles!
fIn order to get and maintain this pump, you are going to need to elevate your nitric oxide levels. As a result, you should be searching for ingredients in your pre-workout powder that accomplish this. Nitric oxide relaxes your vessels in order to improve the flow of blood throughout your body; in the following article, take a look at pre-workout ingredients that are well known for increasing your natural nitric oxide levels.
If you are into Asian cuisine, then you’ve almost certainly heard of the many health benefits of curcumin. Used liberally in Indian dishes, curcumin is the primary active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It is highly-touted for its utility in traditional medicine in that region of the continent, where it is most often used to help combat the aches and pains associated with arthritis, various skin conditions, and issues with digestion.
The highly respected Nutrition Journal published the results of a month-long medical research study in which several participants were given 80 mg of curcumin every single day. The results were conclusive: every single one of the study participants experienced a dramatic increase in their nitric oxide levels – specifically, 40%!. Keep in mind also, that 80 mg of curcumin is considered to be a low to moderate dosage. Many of the on-market supplements that you’ll find contain upwards of 470 mg of curcumin.
The study participants also experienced a reduction in their levels of plasma triglycerides. Curcumin is well known to inhibit joint inflammation when used in conjunction with turmeric. Some even consider this an essential component of pre-workout supplements because of its function as an adaptive gene that benefits bodybuilders and strength athletes.
Any serious weightlifter, bodybuilder, or fitness enthusiast likely sings the praises of beets for their nutritive benefits. In fact, there are many pre-workout supplements that specifically contain powdered beetroot or are mixed with beetroot juice because of its ability to provide nitrate supplementation (specifically, nitric oxide).
It can work as an excellent pre-workout snack due to its full-spectrum of nutrients, and the specific ability to elevate your blood vessel-dilating nitric oxide levels so that they can deliver oxygen and nutrients to crucial muscle sites. There have been many studies published that supporters, including a decade-old study from the Journal of Applied Physiology. This particular research papers show that beetroot juice features strongly in staving off exhaustion in your workout, improving oxygen uptake, and prolonging the time it takes before your muscles become fatigued from working out. Clearly, power walkers and runners can benefit tremendously from beetroot juice.
In yet another study, both women and men were given 200 g of beets to eat. This translates to 500 mg of nitrate; each of them experienced dramatic improvements in their running speed. It’s important to note that all of the participants were considered recreationally fit beforehand, however – but the benefits of pre-workout beetroot powder are undeniable.
A noted biochemist named Dr. Trevor Kashey summarizes many of the positive results from a review of such studies: “Long before the utility of elevated nitric oxide levels became popular in the sports around, the benefits that it confers on the cardiovascular system have been well known.” Some of the ways in which nitrate supplementation benefits said cardiovascular system is to induce faster response times in fast twitch muscles, improve the efficiency of the cellular mitochondrial process, and provide noticeable benefits to short duration/high intensity training performance. When it comes to nitric oxide provided by beetroot juice or other sources, it’s all about oxygen and energy economy and the enhanced performance that results.
You’re unlikely to find too much information about agmatine in the literature – insofar as scientific backing is concerned, anyway. However, here are the basics: agmatine is a metabolite stemming from arginine; the latter is commonly found in pre-workout powders. You might be thinking, “Well what does agmatine actually do?” As was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, studies show that agmatine dilates blood vessels – similar to nitric oxide – to facilitate blood flow throughout the body.
It turns out that the precise chemical reaction that induces this is quite complicated – but the gist of it is that agmatine can slow down the chemical dissolution of nitric oxide in the body. Because there’s not as much information on it as there is on beetroot and nitric oxide, the recommended supplement hovers around 1.5 g.
The benefits of antioxidants are robust and undeniable – so much so that one hardly needs to be a fitness enthusiast to reap its rewards fully. One such antioxidant is known as epicatechin; although it’s rare, those who do know about it are often confused for cocoa extract. Although the latter is itself an excellent provider of antioxidants, epicatechin can stand on its own for the benefits it provides.
A couple of natural sources of epicatechins are apples and certain teas. Although primarily known for the role they play in scooping up harmful free radicals that would otherwise damage your cells, antioxidants such as epicatechin are also known to facilitate the absorption of nitric oxide by your blood vessels. More specifically, they elevate its bioactivity and thus prolong its operational lifetime before it undergoes oxidative dissolution.
You’re probably wanting more specific information on the parameters of epicatechins effectiveness. Studies show that it improves the flow of blood through your vessels by 2%; additionally, it modestly stifles insulin production by increasing your body’s insulin sensitivity. As far as adding epicatechin to your diet, you can get it from authentic dark chocolate. A sizable daily dose can be had by eating just 200 cal of the delicatessen. You can also get it from dietary supplements available on the market.
Widely regarded as the preferred ingredient of pre-workout powders marketed for power increases prior to your gym session, Citrulline malate is a combination of nonessential amino acids and malic acid. It’s only real competitor for the spot as best pre-workout for power is arginine – you cannot lose picking either one. It probably boils down to which one has better absorption for your specific body constitution.
There is one advantage possessed by Citrulline malate as shown in multiple studies when it is an ingredient in pre-workout powders: it has better absorption than arginine. Indeed, it often functions as a precursor to the latter, and when it is not combined with malic acid its absorption is slightly superior.
Both the European Journal of Applied Physiology and the International Journal of Cardiology found that it takes a dose of 5 g to noticeably improve the nitric oxide in your system. This is why it’s important to check the labels on pre-workout supplements to make sure that enough Citrulline malate is included to be effective.
As important as protein is for general exercise, weightlifting and bodybuilding, you actually still need more carbohydrates than the muscle-building substances. This stands true, of course, you are indulging in a keto or similar type of diet. Most pre-workout supplements aren’t big on including carbohydrates, since they would likely have to come from sugars.
However, there’s a lot of medical research out there that strongly suggests taking some carbs in your pre-workout – even if you have to add them artificially. For those who are not lactose intolerant, for example, you can simply mix it with milk. Carbs cause an uptake in insulin – which is known to enhance blood flow through your veins.
Dr. Mike T Nelson of the Carrick Institute, is a well-known nutrition consultant and physiologist. He maintains that simple carbohydrates digest easily and induce a superior insulin release than complex carbs. And since insulin is a powerful vasodilator, it will prime your blood vessels to shovel the much needed oxygen to your joints and muscle sites. The fast digestion of simple carbs also ensures that it will inhibit your workout by consuming the energy you need for the gym session in favor digestion.
This name is quite a mouthful, which is probably why it’s also known by the more common denotation of betaine. It is another nonessential amino acid, which means that your body cannot produce it naturally and so you must get it from your diet. As such, betaine can be found in sweet potato, leafy green spinach, beets and quinoa.
As for the effect of insomnia/betaine, there is a medical research study showing that if you imbibe 6 g of it daily, then by the end of the week you could measure a nearly 200% increase in the amount of nitric oxide in your system. There have been other studies showing similar results, although the increase was lower than 200%.
So how do you get the 6 g? Well if you check most pre-workout powders or supplements, you’ll find that they contain less than 3 g of insomnia in its betaine form. Therefore, you may need to perhaps blend beets or spinach into your protein shake if you want to take full advantage of the nitric oxide elevation properties.