If you pay attention to pre-workout supplements you’ll notice the current trend is to make them with smaller and smaller serving sizes. Some pre-workouts currently on the market use amounts as small as 3g or even lower.
Anyone who knows anything about science would immediately recognize that as a red flag. Yet, supplement manufacturers see the lack of science know-how most consumers have as an opportunity to sell them less for more.
They do this by claiming these tiny serving sizes are possible because the products have been ‘concentrated’. It’s the dirtiest trick in the book. Read this article to ensure that you are no longer the fool.
The science of concentrates
It is actually possible to concentrate certain supplements, but this pertains mainly to herbs and other plant-based ingredients. Take green tea as an example. The main active ingredient in green tea is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).
When you drink green tea, you are consuming the whole plant, which provides very little EGCG. Green tea extract, however, is concentrated to provide a certain percentage of EGCG. This involves an extraction process using a solvent that has a strong affinity for the EGCG. Most green tea extracts are standardized to provide anywhere from 25–50% EGCG.
But one concentrated form of a herb can also be more concentrated than another. For example, if you had 200mg of green tea extract standardized to provide 25% EGCG, that would provide 50mg of EGCG. So if you had an extract that was standardized to 50% EGCG, you would only need 100mg to provide that 50mg.
So the green tea extract providing 50% EGCG is more concentrated than the extract providing 25%, therefore you could take less of the more concentrated green tea extract to get the same amount. This is one example where the concentrated claim holds up.
Ingredients, such as isolated amino acids, which would be branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), beta-alanine, citrulline, glutamine, taurine, or tyrosine, as well as amino-acid-derived ingredients, like creatine and carnitine, cannot be concentrated like herbs.
These ingredients already exist in an isolated form, which is as concentrated as you can get. For example, 1g beta-alanine is 1g beta-alanine.
Pre-workout supplements focus on, or at least should do, providing amino acids, such as BCAAs, beta-alanine, arginine and/or citrulline, taurine, tyrosine, and creatine. The pre-workout category also happens to be the one where you’ll find the term ‘concentrate’ and ‘concentrated’ most used – or abused, I should say. This is a complete fallacy as these types of ingredients cannot be concentrated.
Let’s consider a pre-workout supplement that has a 5g serving size. The product lists creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, citrulline and arginine on the label, along with caffeine and a few other ingredients you’ve probably never heard of. Reading that ingredient list, this seems to be a pretty good pre-workout. It has the creatine and beta-alanine you need for more strength and energy. It also has citrulline and arginine for a better pump. And, of course, there’s the caffeine and other stimulants to ramp you up. But how can they cram all of those ingredients into a tiny 5g serving? That’s a very good question.
We know you need a bare minimum of 3g creatine monohydrate to be an effective dose. You also need a minimum dose from beta-alanine of 1.5g. And you need minimum doses of 3g each for citrulline and for arginine. When you add up what those ingredients alone should tally, you get 10.5g. And that doesn’t include the caffeine and other ingredients.
So is that 5g dose just as effective as the required 10.5g dose of those ingredients? No! It’s half as effective at best. So how do they get away with this? It all comes down to the word ‘feel.’
Most people aren’t supplement savvy enough to know what ingredients they need before workouts, let alone the proper doses they need of those ingredients. So many supplement firms under-dose on the critical ingredients and claim they’re ‘concentrated.’
What they don’t skimp on is the caffeine and other stimulants. But luckily you only need 200–300mg caffeine, along with anywhere from 10mcg (micrograms) to a couple hundred milligrams of some other stimulants to give quite a wallop. So with less than 500mg you can create a pre-workout that ‘feels’ like it works, even though the lack of proper doses of critical ingredients means it doesn’t.
This is one of the problems with the pre-workout category. Most products have done away with providing the critical nutrients essential for more strength and endurance in the gym, and focus solely on providing a ‘high.’
The pre-workout category has sadly become a stimulant war between companies to see who can create the most intense-feeling pre-workout on the market. The uneducated consumers’ demand for these over-stimulated products has allowed these firms to rake it in with cheap pre-workout products they claim are ‘concentrates.’
So don’t fall for the scam. For a pre-workout product to provide you everything you need, it should be well over 10g per serving, if not 20g.
A quality pre-workout product should also have the dose of each ingredient listed on the ‘Supplement Facts’ panel on the label. And be sure the doses listed are at the proper amounts shown to be effective. If you’re uncertain about the proper dose of an ingredient, you can get more info at Bodybuilding.com. Take the time to educate yourself on supplements. The more you know, the bigger you can grow.
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