Learn the three key triggers for building lean muscle. And what the stim-packed supplement companies don’t tell you…
It should be about a 6-minute read.
Building lean muscle isn’t easy.
There, I said it.
It takes discipline, motivation and a lot of sweat.
So every bit of help we can get from a clean, natural pre-workout supplement has got to be a good thing.
Performance Lab SPORT is our pre-workout of choice. We’ll explain why in this article, plus give you some pointers on what to look for when choosing yours.
Go natural, or go home…
It’s no coincidence that natural products are starting to take over the food, health and fitness industries. They are simply superior to their synthetic counterparts.
A multivitamin made up of synthetic nutrients will be mostly expelled through urine, for example. Whereas a natural multivitamin will be absorbed by your body so you can get the maximum benefit.
But we’re here to talk about pre-workout supplements…
Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements
Let’s assume you know what pre-workouts are – supplements that are specifically designed to boost your athletic performance, whether it’s in the gym or playing sport.
But because almost every pre-workout on the market contains different ingredients in different dosages, it is worth taking a moment to point out what you should be looking for in these supplements.
The right natural pre-workout will deliver:
– Improved strength and endurance
– Reduced fatigue and muscle damage
– Enhanced blood flow and muscle pumps
These benefits will allow you to train harder for longer. This will see you make quicker progress in the gym and gain lean muscle – so long as you’re consuming the right balance of macro (protein, carbs and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
You’re probably thinking “pre-workout should boost my energy levels too, right?”.
Well, that’s true. There might be an advantage of certain pre-workouts that contain stimulants like caffeine. But be warned that going down the stimulant route might also lead to unwanted side effects that you’ll want to avoid…
Stim vs Non-Stim Pre-Workouts
Some people rely on an energy boost from stimulants to improve their workout. This might seem like a good idea, but there is a danger of becoming dependent on stimulants. Which is not so good.
The more you use stims such as caffeine, the more you naturally build a tolerance to them. So you’ll need more and more over time just to reproduce the same effect, which will have long-term health consequences.
There’s evidence that prolonged use of caffeine can be damaging to your adrenal gland. And remember, even ‘healthy’ nutrients can be harmful when overconsumed.
Keep your caffeine intake out of a tea of coffee cup…
You will also get side-effects using stim pre-workouts. Jitters and energy crashes are caused by large dosages of caffeine – which in some pre-workouts can be as much as 150 mg per serving. That’s the equivalent of up to 3 cups of coffee in one hit.
For these reasons we only take stim-free pre-workouts now. We haven’t felt the gym jitters for years and we are not about to go back.
That doesn’t mean we are caffeine-Nazis. We still enjoy a regular cup of tea of coffee – and there is no reason why you shouldn’t too. It is much easier to control your intake this way.
Tip: Choose stim-free pre-workouts. If you really need that ‘kick’ of energy, then make yourself a cup of coffee before your workout and avoid jitters or crashes.
Best Natural Pre-Workout Supplement for Lean Muscle
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of pre-workouts available. You may have dipped your toe in the market before and had a bad experience. We have too. And it sucks.
So believe us when we say that Performance Lab SPORT is a pre-workout that ticks all the boxes.
It enhances your power by sparking muscle-charging ATP cell energy.
It boosts blood flow to oxygenate and nourish muscle tissue, while clearing toxins.
And extends your physical endurance by supporting your muscles against lactic acid, fatigue and dehydration.
Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout
So if you’re looking to squeeze an extra few reps in your sets, beat your PBs and feel stronger and less fatigued throughout your session, then Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout is a natural supplement we can safely recommend.
No heart palpitations, no jitters, no light-headedness, no worries.
All natural, all safe and vegan-friendly too…
The nutrients contained are scientifically-proven and all ingredients come in premium form. For example, Creapure PH10 is a 95% pure form of creatine monohydrate which has shown to have a much higher absorption rate.
The ‘cherry-on-top’ is the fact that it comes in capsule form, so you don’t have to worry about taste. And the capsule is made from tapioca and prebiotic fibre, meaning it’s vegan friendly (so everyone can take it) and easier to digestive – so no bellyaches.
As pre-workout products go Performance Lab SPORT is pretty near perfect. BUT… one slight issue is that you can only buy it on their website: www.performancelab.com
If you’re hooked on caffeine you might miss the presence of any stims too. But you won’t miss the jittery side effects, so it balances out. Highly recommended.
Where to buy: www.PerformanceLab.com
Best Natural Pre-Workout Ingredients
Okay, so we’ve told you that natural beats synthetic every time. But you want proof, right? So this is the bit where we lift the hood and show you what’s inside. Highlighting our favourite natural ingredients for pre-workout supplements.
If you every hear anyone disputing the fact that creatine is effective, you have found a fool. Or a liar. Perhaps both. But either way, stop listening to them and move on.
Because creatine is potentially THE most powerful ingredient in sporting performance available. End of debate.
So what is it and why the swagger?
Well, it’s found naturally in red meats but is also created organically in the body – highly concentrated in muscles, but also in your brain, kidneys and liver.
It boosts your ATP levels – that’s the currency of energy that your body uses – so that your strength and endurance peaks during a workout. In other words, it gives you that little extra push during those final few reps.
L-citrulline is an amino acid used to improve blood flow and boosting muscle growth and recovery.
Naturally found in watermelon, it works by converting to l-arginine in your body which boosts your nitric oxide levels. The increased blood flow means more oxygen is being pumped through your muscles, which helps fight fatigue.
L-citrulline is another tried and tested supplement, producing solid results in the most demanding of sporting environments. A recent scientific study demonstrated significant improvement in the endurance and performance of elite cyclists.
Check out the supplement stack of your favorite athlete and there’s a good chance it contains l-glutamine. We’d almost guarantee it, in fact. This is one of the most important amino acids in your body and a primary factor in whether you perform to your best or not.
The benefits of l-glutamine are many and varied. It’s great for your immune system, it will help restore energy, it can even help you relax. But your levels will get depleted during intense exercise. So topping up pre-workout ensures you make the most of your time in the gym, on the track or on the field.
Like creatine, l-carnosine is also highly concentrated in muscle tissue. And the bigger muscles you have, the higher levels of l-carnosine you will naturally have. So if you’re a high-level athlete it’s especially important to keep yourself stocked up in this nutrient.
Exercise depletes your l-carnosine levels, which will reduce your performance level. The answer is, of course, to protect against this by loading up pre-workout.
L-carnosine has anti-aging qualities and studies have shown that l-carnosine can delay muscle failure by building up tolerance to lactic acid.
Tip: These studies are fairly recent. If you see l-carnosine in pre-workout supplement, you know that the company behind it is on top of the latest research.
Worst Pre-Workout Ingredients
That’s the good, now it’s time for the bad and the ugly.
Here is a summary of the ingredients you should look to steer clear of to avoid potential side effects.
Bitter Orange Extract
We mentioned that creatine is one of the very best ingredients you can get your hands on. Well, bitter orange extract is at the opposite end of that scale. This is some seriously nasty stuff that you want to stay away from at all costs.
This is just our opinion, of course. But you only need a quick look through the forums to see that this stuff is bad. There are numerous reports of heart palpitations, light headedness and some that suggest it can cause high blood pressure too.
In the interests of balance, we should mention that a few studies have shown it to be beneficial for weight loss. However, due to its risk of serious side effects we recommend that you look for safer alternatives to bitter orange extract.
Yohimbe is another skid mark on the underpants of many supplement fact labels for pre-workouts.
Like bitter orange extract, yohimbe has shown to be capable of promoting fat loss. But it also comes with the risk of a long list of serious side effects, including high blood pressure, heart palpitations, anxiety and insomnia.
The National Institutes of Health even mentions that yohimbe has been linked with heart attacks and seizures. Yep, stay away from yohimbe…
Overload of stimulants
We prefer non-stim pre-workouts. So our advice would be to have a cup of coffee before a workout if you think you need a little boost. That’s what Starbucks is for.
But many supplement companies continue to add bucket loads of caffeine into the pre-workouts. This reason for this – in our humble, but honest opinion – is that you feel the effects of caffeine very quickly and some companies rely on this to convince people that it’s working.
It’s your call, of course. But we recommend that you research your ingredients to make sure that the kick you feel is not JUST caffeine based. And to avoid the gym jitters, don’t stray over the 50-100 mg caffeine dose per serving.
Tip: If you’re okay with stims, but want to avoid gym jitters make sure your pre-workout caffeine dose doesn’t go over 50-100 mg per serving.
Tips for Building Lean Muscle
We’ve provided some pretty in-depth information on pre-workouts, including our favorite product – Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout.
Before you leave, we’ll finish the job with a few tips to help you build lean muscle mass. After all, a supplement can help boost your performance and workout, but you’ll still need to make the right changes to your lifestyle to get the results you want.
Track your Macro & Micronutrient Intake
We all know how important protein is to making muscle gains and the chances are you’re already tracking your protein intake, but don’t overlook your micronutrients.
Ultimately, micronutrients support your general health and immune system. And if you’re sidelined through illness, or just feeling lethargic then you’re not making progress in the gym. To avoid this, we stack our pre-workout supplement with a quality multivitamin – going back to Performance Lab for their Whole-Food Multi.
Yep, this company thinks of everything!
Whether you enjoy loading up the barbell or performing bodyweight exercises, resistance exercise of any kind should be a key part of your lifestyle.
No-one really questions its effectiveness in promoting muscle gains, it is broadly accepted as a universal truth. But in 2016 a clinical study concluded that taking part in resistance exercise 1-3 days per week has shown to help maximise muscle growth.
Another study by Brad Schoenfield proved that significant improvements in strength and endurance were possible through just 3 x 13-minute weekly weightlifting sessions over the course of 8 weeks.
That’s a total of just 39 minutes week, folks! Something that everyone hastime for, surely.
The main thing is not to be fooled by fancy advertising when it comes to supplements – especially pre-workouts.
Many will be labelled with evocative, sexy words like ‘powerful’ or ‘strongest’, but that might only be referring to the dose of caffeine (or other stimulant) in it.
Our favorite natural pre-workout supplement is Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout.
It’s non-stim, all natural and contains only premium ingredients that are scientifically-backed to work.
And to ensure that your nutrition is really on point, we recommend Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi to fill the gaps in your micronutrient intake.