Do Athletes Take Pre-workout Before Games? (Sneaky Truth)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 2, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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As a personal trainer and strength coach, I work with many amateur and professional athletes from many different sports.

And while I recommend that all my clients take pre-workout supplements to boost their training performance, I’ve had regular questions from people wondering whether they should take these supplements before games.

My initial reaction was that this would make perfect sense. But I decided to give it some more time and research.

So, I teamed up with a few clients and my dietitian to see if we could figure out all the benefits and downsides of this approach.

Quick Summary

  • Many athletes take pre-workout supplements before games to enhance energy, and strength.
  • Pre-workout supplements can work extremely well to create a targeted performance boost and reduce fatigue during training.
  • In a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), L-citrulline was shown to effectively reduce both physical and mental fatigue, enhancing performance during crucial athletic moments.
  • In my opinion, while pre-workouts can offer a competitive edge, it's crucial to be aware of potential side effects like water retention due to ingredients like creatine.

Can Athletes Benefit From Pre-Workouts Before Games?

An athlete holding a black tumbler

Yes, athletes can benefit from pre-workouts before competitive games.

And the reason this is the case is that the same ingredients that can boost energy and strength, along with reductions in fatigue, can also help with performance during competitive games.

For example, two of the most common ingredients in pre-workouts are beta-alanine and citrulline.

Recent research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that beta-alanine, often found in pre-workout supplements, reduces muscle fatigue in high-intensity exercises, enhancing athletic performance [1].

Beta-alanine has been shown to significantly boost training results in a randomized trial, and that same boost can make a big difference in all sorts of sports [2].

And citrulline has also been shown to significantly reduce feelings of physical and mental fatigue [3].

What Are The Benefits?

Two runners doing a starting position for running

We teamed up with seven athletes to test our top pre-workout picks in competitive settings. These supplements, packed with creatine, caffeine, and beta-alanine, boost your workout by enhancing focus, energy, and muscle endurance.

Beta-alanine, in particular, ups muscle carnosine, helping you delay fatigue and go the extra mile. Including it in your routine can significantly extend your endurance and performance.

We've discovered three key benefits from these supplements.

Increased Strength

No, you won’t turn into the Hulk just in time for a game. However, we did find that the same strength increases you can get from creatine can help during games as well [4].

In my experience, this boost can add a few pounds to a bench press or bicep curl, and that can give you an edge in your sport.

“Creatine is among the most well-researched and effective supplements. It can help with exercise performance by rapidly producing energy during intense activity.”

- Antonis Damianou, Researcher & writer at Examine.com. 

Reduced Fatigue

In a pivotal study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it was highlighted that L-citrulline has the profound ability to mitigate sensations of both physical and mental weariness, suggesting a potential boost in performance during critical moments of athletic competition [5].

And being able to better handle that muscle burn in games will make a big difference in gaining the upper hand for a win.

Mental Focus

The other thing that our test group highlighted was that they felt a lot more focused and motivated during games.

And with many sports being highly reliant on your mental state of mind, this is certainly one benefit you can’t underestimate.

Basketball coach Mark Della Vedova highly advises athletes to consult a sports nutritionist or a medical professional to determine the best pre-workout regimen for specific needs and goals.

Related Article: Best Pre-Workout Supplements For Focus

Consider The Downsides

A topless man drinking a pre-workout

Be mindful of a notable downside we observed: creatine, a key ingredient in many pre-workouts, can lead to water retention.

Our tests showed that while creatine boosts strength, it can cause this mild but significant side effect. This isn't ideal in competitions where peak physical performance, including effective sweating and hydration, is crucial [6].

FAQs

Does Pre-Workout Increase Athletic Performance?

Yes, pre-workout can increase athletic performance. And this performance boost can also help with competitive games and matches where increased strength and endurance can give you an edge.

Is It Illegal To Take Pre-Workout Before Games?

No, it isn’t illegal to take pre-workout before games. As long as you’re taking a natural supplement that doesn’t contain banned substances, there’s no reason why such a product should cause any issues.


References:

  1. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/15/925
  2. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0224-0
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4759860/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6265971/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8571142/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155510/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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