What if I told you…you were wasting money on your current pre-workout?
Look, it’s no secret that pre-workouts are some of the best supplements for enhancing immediate performance. Heralded for their ability to increase blood flow and stimulate force production, the individual ingredients in pre-workouts can make or break a workout. But is the arginine in your beloved supplement holding back results?
Arginine itself is a precursor to both creatine and nitric oxide – two powerful compounds for maximum output. However, oral administration of arginine is dampened by intestinal activity. The more arginine you take, the more it just runs right through you. So you’re wasting your money on something that doesn’t work.
To highlight the evidence behind the best pre-workout without arginine, let’s take a look at what pre-workouts are supposed to do first.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What pre-workout supplements do for you
- What L-arginine is and why oral-administration fails
- Alternatives to arginine (that work much better)
- …and finally the best supplements to choose without arginine
What are pre workout supplements?
A pre-workout supplement is something you take about half an hour before a training session. It could be anything from a sports drink to eating some candy, as long as it’s geared toward improving performance in the subsequent workout.
For example, simply eating an apple before a workout can provide you with more energy, but is it your best option? Supplement companies work to curate the best formulation of ingredients for optimal performance. Most people take pre-workout supplements in powder or pill form, as they contain isolated amino acids, electrolytes, creatine, L-carnosine, and more.
Benefits of pre-workouts supplements include:
- Increased blood flow
- Improved strength output
- Increased maximal power
- Elevated energy
- Improved mood and motivation
That being said, many companies include L-arginine for the above results. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of research behind its efficacy. So why is it often featured?
What is L-Arginine?
L-arginine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of proteins. While there are 21 amino acids, we only need to get nine of them from food. The other 12 can be manufactured within the human body from other material. L-arginine, in fact, is one that we can make already. Additionally, we get arginine from pork, turkey, soybeans, chicken, peanuts, and more. That’s why it’s not the best supplement to take.
When produced by the body, arginine activates the mTOR signaling pathway, which starts protein synthesis. In theory, adding extra arginine would translate to more muscle growth and less breakdown. In practice, however, the absorption rates are too low.
The oral bioavailability of arginine, according to one study, was only 51-87%. Not only that, but oral administration of arginine had no effect on blood pressure or vasodilation. As the other argument for arginine is “to stimulate NO for increased blood flow”, these results make that null and void.
Side Effects of L-Arginine
As a naturally produced compound, arginine has low toxicity. Some reports do show that taking more than 10 grams of arginine at a time can lead to GI distress. Other tests have shown lowered lysine levels in response to arginine supplementation. While this in itself isn’t bad, anyone susceptible to cold sores might have an issue.
Lysine is known to fight cold sores (oral herpes). Yes, it’s still caused by a virus. But if you’re worried about lysine levels as a defense, maybe avoid arginine supplementation.
Possibly the worst side effect of l-arginine is disappointment. If you’ve gone through the trouble to purchase a pre-workout, you’re probably ready to see the results. Instead of arginine, choose a pre-workout that will actually deliver.
What to look for in a pre-workout instead of arginine
Citrulline! Citrulline is the precursor to l-arginine. Added levels of l-citrulline raise conversion of arginine in the kidneys. It’s much better absorbed than its counterpart, and has been shown to be very effective at dose-dependently elevating plasma l-arginine concentration. As arginine itself isn’t the problem (just taking it orally makes it go right through you), taking citrulline is a back door to getting much more potent results.
Maritime pine bark extract – it might sound like a mouthful, but it’s actually a natural supplier of proanthocyanidins. These little antioxidants not only modulate inflammation, but they also promote production of nitric oxide. If that’s what you’re looking for from a pre-workout (it should be), take this plant extract instead to relax your blood vessels and enhance oxygen delivery to muscle.
Another key pre-workout ingredient is creatine. Creatine is a compound used to produce ATP (energy) for short, powerful bursts. Although we can make creatine on our own, it runs out pretty quickly. Supplementation with creatine before a workout can help build those stores for immediate use.
As lifting weights teeters on the ability to exert force quickly, creatine plays a massive role. Even as we get in to anaerobic and aerobic metabolism, we still have to go through creatine first. That’s why it’s so important.
Where most pre-workouts fall short, unfortunately, is thinking about the post-workout. While yes, you can lift more weights, go harder, and endure training for longer with the above ingredients, actual muscle adaptation occurs after we’re done. Elite pre-workouts consider protection of your muscles during and post-workout a critical factor of their formulation.
Best pre-workout supplement without arginine – Performance Lab Pre
After all of that is said and done, here’s our pick for the best pre-workout without arginine. You’ll notice it contains all of the performance enhancement benefits you crave without the miscellaneous, ineffective fluff.
Why Performance Lab Pre
Performance Lab Pre comes to us in a third-party tested, vegan, GMO free batch that supports high intensity training and muscle growth.
This pre-workout tops others in its field for its simple ingredient list, lack of artificial stimulants (so you won’t feel jittery and uncomfortable) and bioavailability. Not only that, many of Performance Lab’s ingredients are naturally ‘grown and harvested’ via their patented NutriGenesis system – to mimic the same exact qualities of food.
The ingredients that make Performance Lab Pre so powerful:
- Maritime Bark Extract
- Himalayan Pink Salt
In addition to the benefits of citrulline, creatine, and maritime pine bark extract, Performance Lab Pre includes carnosine and glutamine to protect skeletal muscle. They supply antioxidants to neutralize exercise-induced damage and buffer out lactic acid. As pH buffers, they neutralize the acids that lead to muscle fatigue and failure.
Glutamine in particular carries nitrogen for muscle growth and repair. It’s so important that it’s the most abundant amino acid in the body. Intense exercise depletes glutamine levels heavily, so taking a pre-workout with glutamine manages that stress.
The real takeaway is to think critically about your supplements. Just because a company is telling you an ingredient works, always do your research. Simple, effective, and bioavailable ingredients will give you the most bang for your buck.
No pre-workout is a magic pill, but the right one can definitely add an extra 5-10% to your effort and results. For us, Performance Lab Pre is the best pre-workout supplement that we’ve tried this year.