Your Workout’s Best Friend, Always Take It With You!

Copyright 2006 J Lance Curtis

Workout pros (bodybuilders, fitness models, athletes, etc.) have long sought after anything that will give them the edge in workouts. Like looking for the Holy Grail that takes the workout to the next level. What is available, without resorting to drugs that will give you an edge to your workouts and thus increase your results?

Some time ago it was discovered that coffee has a beneficial effect when taken on an empty stomach or with a high protein/very low carbohydrate meal or snack (like a protein shake). In the 1970’s Dr. Dave Costill studied the effects of caffeine on cyclists. The study group was able to ride, on average, 21 minutes longer post-caffeine ingestion.

What we now know is that coffee, while safe in moderate amounts, can also lead to other problems. The high acid content in coffee presents a host of potentially unwanted issues. Then there is the taste. For many people coffee involves the ‘yuck’ factor. Since the workout benefits of coffee are seen when it is drunk black that leaves little room for ‘doctoring’ the taste. And always please consider that coffee can dehydrate you, so limit your intake.

You do have options when it comes to pre-workout drinks to give you a boost. The ever popular energy drink is available to you almost everywhere. Now there are almost as many energy drinks out there as grains of sand on any Florida panhandle beach, so how do you choose the right one.

Here are a few quick tips for you to start down the road to getting the right energy drink for you.

1) Always, always, always get an energy drink without sugar. While sugar can give you a quick burst of energy, it is detrimental in other ways. If your goal is to burn as much body fat as possible then sugar in your blood stream will put a stop to that. Your insulin level spikes when a simple carbohydrate is dumped into your bloodstream. This drives your blood sugar into your cells to be used as energy. The result, sugar is burned for fuel, not fat.

2) Look for one that has a high level of B-Vitamins listed on the label. B-Vitamins are the energy vitamins. These vitamins are pre-cursors to energy producing enzymes in your body. Without enzymes, it is like having all the materials to build a house without any workers to put it all together. And B-Vitamins are necessary for many of these enzymes to develop and work.

3) Other ingredients to look for are choline, taurine, L-carnitine, GABA, and L-tyrosine. These amino acids are essential for a number of functions in your body. In addition to direct cellular energy, the amino acids contribute to nerve development and function.

4) And don’t forget the ingredient that gives coffee its boost, caffeine. Caffeine is a direct nervous system stimulant, but it does other beneficial work for you. One of these is acting as a potentiator for the other ingredients. Potentiate is a $10 word that means ‘helping everything work better together’. Many pain relievers add caffeine to the pill because, it works with the other ingredients to get rid of your headache faster. The same is true in energy drinks. It stimulates the nervous system and potentiates the other ingredients.

Now that you know what to look for; how is the best way to take an energy drink to achieve better results from your workout? Here are a couple of pointers that will benefit your workout.

1) Take your energy drink on an empty stomach. If it is the first thing in the morning, no problem, take it right after you get up. Otherwise, an empty stomach is usually defined as ‘two hours after eating, and one hour before eating’, although this is not a hard and fast rule. The reason for the ‘empty stomach’ rule is the uptake of the ingredients into the blood stream is more efficient, and, as a result it is more bio-available to get the job done quickly. With food in your stomach there is competition for absorption.

2) And drink your energy drink 20 to 30 minutes before your workout to give it time to begin working. As a rule, I like to mix up my drink at home and drink it on the way to the gym. By the time I arrive, put my gear in a cubby hole and get started I can feel it ‘kick in’.

Put this all together with the other ‘7 Keys’ and your workout results will show in no time.