Did you know that what you eat and drink before you work out directly affects how well your session goes? A simple pre-workout habit can serve to help or hurt things like energy, performance, muscle growth, recovery, metabolism – pretty much everything about how and why you’re working out in the first place.
The pre-workout market is full of caffeine and guarana-packed energy shots claiming to super-boost your fitness routine. But is it all fads and snake oils? Or are there healthy energy shots that might revolutionize your pre-workout routine and, subsequently, your athletic health?
You should be eating a small but densely-nutritious meal 2-3 hours before you work out, and a pre-workout drink about 30 minutes before your sweat session. But the key is finding the right drink. And for that, you’ve got to know what to look for. Spoiler: it’s not a bunch of caffeine.
Bioactive Plant Compounds Offer More than Energy
The biohacking movement is booming, and it’s changing the face of how we get the energy we need to enhance our fitness level. The right bioactive plants and complementary natural compounds can help your body function at its best while you’re sleeping, sitting at your desk, or slamming weighted ropes on the gym floor.
Typically separated into adaptogens, nootropics and superfoods, we’re looking for pre-workout energy shots that do give us more than a caffeine boost that causes us to crash on that last set of reps.
- Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to outside conditions that cause stress. They offer widespread advantages to the body that promote overall resilience.
- Nootropics are natural compounds that promote cognitive health. They support attention, focus, motivation, and memory.
- Superfoods are nutrient and vitamin-dense foods that promote athletic performance, immunity, recovery, and antioxidant support.
Caffeine’s a great kick start for any of these food groups. But when the caffeine runs out, what did your pre-workout energy shot actually do? Almost nothing, really. But how do we suss out what bioactive plants and superfoods best complement a vigorous fitness routine?
Let’s get into it:
Ingredients for Muscle & Recovery Support
Most adaptogens have been used all over the world for centuries or millennia, even if we’ve only recently figured out exactly why they’re so effective at promoting physical performance:
- Ashwagandha is known as the rejuvenator of Ayurvedic medicine, supporting muscle and cell health while oxygenating the body’s systems and supporting endurance.
- Tulsi, also known as holy basil, supports muscle oxygenation, heart and lung performance, and protects metabolic functions.
Nootropics are a little more targeted in their benefits:
- Lion’s mane mushroom offers antioxidant support and is known for reducing muscle fatigue and supporting better post-workout recovery.
- Saffron is an herb that acts primarily as an anti-inflammatory, and is useful for reducing muscle pain both during and after exercise.
Arguably, any superfood supports muscle health. But a couple popular choices amongst gym rats and elite athletes alike include:
- Flaxseed, which supports musculoskeletal regeneration and homeostasis, offering long-term nerve and muscle support.
- Cordyceps, a mushroom which offers a spectrum of benefits, amongst them is reducing oxidative stress on your muscles during your workout, optimizing performance and speeding recovery.
Ingredients for Energy & Performance Support
Adaptogens, since they act on our HPA axis, offer energy for your workout through both physical and mental means:
- Siberian ginseng is a widely-used herb for immunity tonics, recovery support, and more. During your workout, it prevents the buildup of lactic acid, reducing muscle pain and fatigue.
- Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng, is known to improve work output, athletic performance, endurance and cognition when taken as a daily supplement.
Nootropics offer cognitive and central nervous system support that helps you perform at your best every workout:
- L-theanine supports attention, focus and motivation, offering many of the same benefits as caffeine, but without the jitters. You can expect a calm focus throughout your workout.
- Rhodiola rosea supports serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine signaling in the body, improving mood and motivation.
A couple superfoods beloved by fitness gurus are:
- Kale, whose nutrition profile is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fiber you need to perform your best during your workouts.
- Spirulina, a nutrient and protein-dense algae widely used for centuries. In your workout, it can increase power output, promote energy and fight fatigue.
3 Energy Shot Suggestions to Revamp Your Pre-Workout Routine
Okay, so now that we know what ingredients to look for, it’ll be a little easier to find an energy shot that not only (1) doesn’t have crappy and/or artificial ingredients, and (2) offers you way more than caffeine and other speed-and-crash ingredients. 3 of our favorite pre-workout shots are:
- Magic Mind: Uses nootropics, mushrooms and antioxidants to support overall cognitive and physical health while promoting natural energy.
- MTE: Replaces excessive caffeine with nootropics that provides healthy energy, while adaptogens and superfoods support mood, dialed-in focus and boosted recovery.
- Athletic Greens: Promotes better athletic performance by reducing inflammation, supporting energy and motivation during your workouts through 75 potent plant ingredients.
What you eat and drink before working out affects your energy, performance, and recovery. The pre-workout market is full of energy shots that claim to boost your workout, but it’s important to find the right drink.
The bioactive plant compounds that are separated into adaptogens, nootropics, and superfoods offer more than energy. They provide muscle and recovery support, energy and performance support. Some of the popular ingredients to look for in pre-workout energy shots include Ashwagandha, Tulsi, Lion’s mane mushroom, Saffron, Flaxseed, Cordyceps, Siberian ginseng, Eleuthero, L-theanine, Rhodiola rosea, Kale, and Spirulina.
Choosing an energy shot that does not contain crappy and/or artificial ingredients and offers more than caffeine and other speed-and-crash ingredients is crucial.
Looking for more resources on how bioactive plants can revamp your workouts, or your health in general? Check out these sites: