1. What Pre-Workout Energy Supplements?
The category of products that include common stimulants such as caffeine, but also include the essential amino acids, single amino acids, and non-essential amino acids.
2. Who Needs Them?
These pre-workout energy products can be used to 1) enhance acute exercise performance and 2) promote a faster recovery from exercise. Anyone interested in improving his or her body composition or performance should utilize this supplement strategy.
3. What Does The Science Show?
Arginine: Chronic L-arginine supplementation improves insulin sensitivity in nonobese type 2 diabetic patients; one study looked at the effects of a long-term oral L-arginine therapy on adipose fat mass (FM) and muscle free-fat mass (FFM) distribution, daily glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, etc in obese type 2 diabetic patients with insulin resistance who were treated with a combined period of hypocaloric diet and exercise training. L-arginine supplementation decreased fat mass and waist circumference while preserving fat free mass.(1) Not bad for a single amino acid.
AAKG: Let’s look at what L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) does to trained adult men. AAKG supplementation appeared to be safe and well tolerated, and positively influenced 1-RM bench press and Wingate peak power performance.(2) So if strength and anaerobic power is what you want, AAKG is what you need.
Beta-Alanine: No longer the new amino acid on the supplement block, beta-alanine (BA) has a growing body of supportive evidence. University scientists found that beta-alanine supplementation delays the onset of neuromuscular fatigue and the ventilatory threshold (VT) at submaximal workloads, and increases in time to exhaustion during maximal cycle ergometry performance. Beta-alanine supplementation appears to improve submaximal cycle ergometry performance and TTE in young women as a result of an increased buffering capacity due to elevated muscle carnosine concentrations.(3)
Caffeine: I love caffeine! It’s the best drug on planet Earth. In a recent study using a double-blind placebo-controlled design, 15 well-trained and 15 recreational runners completed two randomized 5-km time-trials, after ingestion of either 5mg caffeine per kg body weight of caffeine or a placebo. Caffeine ingestion significantly improved 5-km running performance in both the well-trained and recreational runners.(4) If you don’t want to perform better, then don’t take caffeine.
Citrulline Malate: Previous studies have shown an antiasthenic effect of citrulline/malate (CM) but the mechanism of action at the muscular level remains unknown. Also, CM may promote aerobic energy production.(5)
Essential Amino Acids: Perhaps one of the most exciting avenues of research is in the EAA category. In this study, 32 untrained young men performed 12 weeks of resistance training twice a week, consuming ~675 ml of either, a 6% CHO solution, 6 g EAA mixture, combined CHO + EAA supplement or placebo (PLA). Muscle fiber areas increased across groups for type I, IIa, and IIb fibres with CHO + EAA displaying the greatest gains relative to PLA. These data indicate that CHO + EAA ingestion enhances muscle anabolism following resistance training to a greater extent than either CHO or EAA consumed independently.(6) So this is an instance where adding sugar to your EAAs is a good thing!
GAKIC: GAKIC is glycine-arginine-alpha-ketoisocaproic acid (GAKIC); Ten men completed a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled exercise protocol of two sessions separated by 7 d. One study supports an ergogenic effect of GAKIC for lessening the decline in mean power during repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise.(7)
OKG: Ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG) is a salt formed of 2 molecules of ornithine and 1 alpha-ketoglutarate. For years, OKG activity has been associated with its ability to induce the secretion of anabolic hormones, such as insulin and growth hormone, and to increase glutamine and polyamine synthesis. Recent studies using chemical inhibitors of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) suggest that nitric oxide derived from Arg could be partly involved in OKG activity.(8)
Protein Hydrolysates: Hydrolysates or chopped up little proteins. Why are they special? One study found that co-ingestion of a protein hydrolysate with or without additional free leucine strongly augments the insulin response after ingestion of a single bolus of carbohydrate.(9) In essence, this can lead to a better anabolic (or muscle building) response.
4. Are These Supplements Safe?
Yes. All of these supplements are very safe. Be cautious with beta-Alanine in that you might feel a tickling or tingling sensation on your skin. Some find it annoying whereas others don’t seem to mind. Also, keep the dose of caffeine to ~5mg/kg b.w.
1. Lucotti P, Setola E, Monti LD, et al. Beneficial effects of a long-term oral L-arginine treatment added to a hypocaloric diet and exercise training program in obese, insulin-resistant type 2 diabetic patients. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2006;291:E906-12.
2. Campbell B, Roberts M, Kerksick C, et al. Pharmacokinetics, safety, and effects on exercise performance of l-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in trained adult men. Nutrition 2006;22:872-81.
3. Stout JR, Cramer JT, Zoeller RF, et al. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on the onset of neuromuscular fatigue and ventilatory threshold in women. Amino Acids 2007;32:381-6.
4. O'Rourke MP, O'Brien BJ, Knez WL, Paton CD. Caffeine has a small effect on 5-km running performance of well-trained and recreational runners. J Sci Med Sport 2008;11:231-3.
5. Bendahan D, Mattei JP, Ghattas B, Confort-Gouny S, Le Guern ME, Cozzone PJ. Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. Br J Sports Med 2002;36:282-9.
6. Bird SP, Tarpenning KM, Marino FE. Independent and combined effects of liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptations following resistance training in untrained men. Eur J Appl Physiol 2006.
7. Buford BN, Koch AJ. Glycine-arginine-alpha-ketoisocaproic acid improves performance of repeated cycling sprints. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2004;36:583-7.
8. Cynober L. Ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate as a potent precursor of arginine and nitric oxide: a new job for an old friend. J Nutr 2004;134:2858S-2862S; discussion 2895S.
9. Manders RJ, Koopman R, Sluijsmans WE, et al. Co-Ingestion of a Protein Hydrolysate with or without Additional Leucine Effectively Reduces Postprandial Blood Glucose Excursions in Type 2 Diabetic Men. J Nutr 2006;136:1294-9.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.