So you did it: you chose a healthy lifestyle. Congratulations! You are on the way up: to your best health, shape, mindset, and life. Now, it’s time to start finding ways to optimize your efforts so you get even more from your healthy habits, and one way to do that is by using pre-workout supplements.
If you’re like most people, you may not know too much about pre-workout supplements. What are the best pre-workouts for women, and which will help you the most for your unique goals?
It can all be very confusing, but we’re here to help. In the guide below, you’ll learn exactly what pre-workouts are, how they work, what to look for when choosing one, and some of our favorite pre-workouts for women.
What are Pre-Workout Supplements for Women?
As the name suggests, pre-workout supplements are pills, powders, or snacks consumed around 30–60 minutes before exercise.
If you had a long day at work and are dragging your feet to a gym, where a heavy barbell is menacingly awaiting for your tired self, a pre-workout supplement will provide you with energy to power through your workout and not miss a set.
Usually, you will do fine with a couple of bananas or a granola bar (added watch out, sugar alert!). However, research suggests that short-term supplementation positively influences performance, can help with training adaptations, and is generally safe in otherwise healthy consumers.
In other words, the right pre-workout supplement might help you work out harder, longer, and more effectively.
Are There Specific Pre-Workouts for Women?
The second big question is probably: do you need to choose pre-workout supplements targeted at women, or can you equally benefit from the unisex products?
While at some stages in life women’s and men’s demand for certain microelements might be different (for example, expecting women are always advised to take folic acid and calcium – for both the baby’s and their own health), in case of pre-workouts, the needs are much less gender-specific.
So, it is better to choose a supplement with your health and fitness goals – not your gender – in mind.
Do You Really Need Pre-Workout Supplements?
Now that we have figured out the general concepts and definitions, we get to the main question: do you need pre-workout supplements at all?
Now, there are two camps: the purists and the, well, non-purists.
The purists are those who are against any “artificial” supplementation: in their opinion, we can get all the necessary micro- and macronutrients from a well-balanced diet. And that is a great opinion and worldview!
Great but, unfortunately, a tad bit idealistic.
With our hectic, fast-paced lifestyles, we may not always have the time, will, and opportunities to stock our fridges with a full periodic table of elements, and unless you are a professional athlete and sport is your livelihood, it is not always possible to time your protein, carbohydrate, and caffeine intake to a specific workout. And while we also strongly advocate for getting most of your nutrients from whole and healthy foods, we understand that no-one lives in an ideal world. That is when supplements come handy.
With the right balance of a healthy diet and wisely selected, quality pre- and post-workout supplements, you have a greater chance of reaching your performance goals.
Are Pre-Workouts for Bodybuilders Only?
Now, many will associate pre-workout supplements with gyms, bodybuilding, strength training, and such, that is, activities where you need and want to build muscle mass and be able to perform strenuous physical activity (e.g. lift Atlas stones) in short bouts of time.
But what if you are not a powerlifter or aren’t doing a lifting program like Strong Curves or StrongLifts 5×5? What if you are a long-distance runner, play tennis, prefer cardio workouts like Insanity, or chose dancing as your sport of passion?
Good news: pre-workout supplements are not targeted exclusively at heavy lifters.
If you are more into aerobic and endurance training, you will benefit from such supplements as the good old beetroot (pills, juices or powders). If you are a long-distance runner, you definitely know that you will need a hefty amount of energy for many hours ahead (hence, carbs). You will also need to cover for the loss of electrolytes which comes with massive sweating (hence electrolytes).
What’s Inside Pre-Workout Supplements?
Many (if not most) pre-workout supplements combine proteins, carbs, and caffeine – to prevent fatigue, boost and retain energy, with an addition of a number of specific microelements.
Caffeine warning: Pay attention to the caffeine content of a supplement. If you are a late gym-goer or runner, taking a caffeine supplement a few (even as early as 8 hours) before sleep may drastically disrupt your sleep cycle.
Meanwhile, as you know all too well, sleep is crucial not only for your athletic recovery – but for the quality of life and good health in general. In his book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, a neuroscientist and sleep researcher Matthew Walker mentions that “caffeine has an average half-life of five to seven hours. Let’s say that you have a cup of coffee after your evening dinner, around 7:30 p.m. This means that by 1:30 a.m., 50 percent of that caffeine may still be active and circulating throughout your brain tissue.”
Other common components of pre-workout supplements for women (and not only):
- EAAs (essential amino acids). There are 20 amino acids which make up the proteins in our body, 11 of which the body can make, and 9 that it cannot. The latter nine are the essential amino acids: meaning that it is essential to get them from your diet. Essential amino acids are said to kickstart muscle protein synthesis and provide amino acids necessary to build and repair your muscles.
- BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). The three BCAAs – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – are part of the EAAs. They are known to prevent fatigue and muscle damage.
- Creatine. This substance is naturally occurring in muscle cells, aids your muscles in creating energy when lifting or doing intense exercise. Besides, research shows that it can increase muscle mass, strength and exercise performance.
- Beta-alanine. It is a non-essential amino acid, produced naturally in the body, that may prevent the buildup of acid in muscle tissue, subsequently enabling your muscles to work harder, plays a role in muscle endurance on the course of high-intensity exercise.
- L-citrulline. It is a non-essential amino acid normally made by the body. It was first found in watermelons (“citrullus” is the Latin term for watermelon). It has been shown to open up blood vessels – to improve blood flow, thus helping to build muscles and improve athletic performance, and reduce blood pressure.
Are Pre-Workouts Safe?
Just like with everything that you put into your mouth: read the list of ingredients before you decide on taking a supplement. Remember: safety – first; your goals – second.
- When checking the list of ingredients and what they do, rely on the information on trusted, non-commercial sites (FDA for USA, MDA for Europe); be picky about information and larger-than-life promises from sellers.
- Double-check for allergens (especially in protein supplements). Also, be mindful that it might not be a great idea to mix certain supplements with certain medications, also to take them if you are expecting or breastfeeding.
- If you are diabetic (even if not), check whether the supplement uses sugar or artificial sweeteners.
- Again: be careful about taking caffeinated supplements later in the day.
- Keep in mind that “natural” ≠ “safe”.
If not sure, consult the manufacturer, distributor and your doctor. Even better: after talking to your GP, take your blood tests result and your goals – and take them to a Sports Medicine Doctor, who will (or at least should) have more sports-specific knowledge to help you align your supplement needs with your goals.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Pre-Workouts?
Do not ever believe anyone who tells you: “This has no drawbacks”. Everything does. The main thing is: do those drawbacks really matter, or are they just minor annoyances in the grand scheme of things?
- Don’t misunderstand the purpose. Some people still mistake supplements for food. Remember that fine print on your vitamin bottle: “This food supplement is not meant to substitute for a varied diet”? Supplements can plug dietary gaps, but nutrients from food are most important. So, before you dive headfirst into the world of supplements, figure out a well-balanced diet first: satisfying your energy, micro- and macro-nutrient needs.
Pre-workout supplements are not supposed to fill the gaps in your diet if you think that you hate greens or legumes. They are supposed to fuel you throughout your workout – but the bulk of your nutrients must come from food.
Sometimes a beautiful label covers a poorly compiled list of useless ingredients. When picking a pre-workout supplement for women, consider what you are paying for: a nice packaging or an actually good list of ingredients.
- Pay attention to any possible side effects. When consuming supplements which may just be inefficient (or not as efficient as you wish), the only thing that you waste is your money. However, when consuming supplements which have been proven hazardous (or consuming inappropriate dosages), you also risk damaging your health. Such ingredients include, for example, synthetic (and illegal) anabolic steroids. Again, whenever not sure, consult your doctor.
- Spend extra time on research. If you do not like or have no extra time to spend on research, here are a few good options to cover your pre-workout needs.
The 3 Best Pre-Workouts for Women
This ready-to-mix pre-workout powder has been mixed for both professional strength, team sports, and endurance athletes and for routine gym-goers: to sharpen your alertness and focus, increases physical performance, reduce tiredness and fatigue, and boosts blood flow to the muscles.
Ingredients include Vitamin D, caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, acetyl-L-carnitine HCL, and N-acetyl-L-tyrosine. It’s also been banned substance tested, so if you compete in any sports, you can be confident you’re not putting anything into your body that will get you in trouble.
Taste isn’t an afterthought here either. This pre-workout comes in a number of great flavors, including Blueberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Green Apple, and Watermelon.
You might not like beetroot, but if you want your cardiovascular performance to be top-notch, you’ll want to choose pre-workout beetroot juice, powder, or pill supplements.
Research showed that supplementation with beetroot juice may improve cardiovascular performance by increasing the body’s levels of nitric oxide, which helps supply oxygen to the working muscles, thus boosting your cardio and muscular endurance.
“Beetroot juice increases levels of nitric oxide (NO), which serves multiple functions related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction. These biomarker improvements indicate that supplementation with beetroot juice could have ergogenic effects on cardiorespiratory endurance that would benefit athletic performance,” a 2017 study found.
If you want to go caffeine-free, here’s a noteworthy option: a pre-workout powder without caffeine, relying on ergogenic boosters and brain-enhancing nootropic ingredients.
The full ingredient list looks like this: L-Citrulline 5g, Betaine Anhydrous 2.5g, Taurine 2g, Alpha GPC 150mg, Huperzine A 50mcg, Astragin 25mg.
This pre-workout for women and men alike comes in a number of flavors, including Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Cucumber Lime, Raspberry Peach, Strawberry Lemonade, and Watermelon.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the best pre-workout for women really depends on your own unique goals and preferences. The right pre-workout can help you better reach your fitness goals giving you more energy, improved performance, and better recovery. You can analyze the effects and benefits with your fitness tracker and see how a pre-workout benefits you.
But remember, you need to do your research and consider your own goals. Don’t fall for the pretty label or the tasty-sounding flavors. Make sure the ingredients are quality, safe, and effective.