Top 6 Pre-Workout Supplements for Healthy Green Athletes

Ergogenic aids are substances or devices used to improve athletic performance by improving the production of energy in the body.  These substances can be nutritional or non-nutritional and can exhibit physiological or psychological effects.

Nutritional ergogenic substances can range from those that are natural such as macronutrients and herbs to man-made compounds such as pharmaceutical drugs and synthetic hormones.  According to Dr. R.J. Maughan (1), these nutritional aids fall into 4 different categories including those that:
  1. Provide an energy source
  2. Enhance metabolism for body composition changes
  3. Provide essential cellular components for optimum performance
  4. Enhance recovery

For this post, we are only going to focus on the first category of ergogenic aids because these are most often used (and misused) by athletes as part of a pre-workout routine to enhance performance during a training session or competitive event.  These particular types of aids typically contain some combination of herbs or chemicals that have stimulating, vasodiolating or glycolytic properties.  While they may be legal in most sports, pre-workout products and supplements are unregulated by the FDA and often contain synthetic compounds that provide a short-term boost in energy but can exhibit negative effects on physical and mental performance (2).

At Healthy Green Athlete, we believe that certain nutritional ergogenic aids can have a positive impact but this impact is highly variable from person to person.  The benefit is not only dependent on the sensitivity of the individual but also dependent on the chemical makeup of the ingredients and how often they are used.  As always, athletes should consult their doctor before trying out any supplement or over-the-counter drug and never rely on a pre-workout supplement as their only source of energy.  Pre-workout supplements work most effectively when used in ADDITION TO a real food diet with an adequate amount of calories to support the athlete’s optimum performance needs.

A word of caution to those looking for a pre-workout: tune into how your body responds to specific ingredients in the supplement.  Many pre-workout supplements contain ingredients that some athletes are more sensitive to than others.  In large enough doses, these ingredients can be detrimental to performance rather than enhance it.  For example, a large enough dose of arginine can cause flare ups of cold sores and fever blisters in individuals with Herpes Simplex Type 1 (the non-STD kind); too much biphosphate can cause severe gastrointestinal distress; and excess caffeine can lead to ulcers, dehydration and/or insomnia.  Creatine is also a popular ingredient in many pre-workout supplements and while it’s safe in low doses, those who are sensitive may experience stomach cramping or a decrease in energy.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way here is our list of HGApproved pre-workout nutritional ergogenic aids and reasons for why they are on our list.

1. Nature’s Pre-Workout

Studies have consistently shown that simple carbohydrates consumed immediately before or after exercise enhance performance by increasing glycogen stores and delaying fatigue (3).  According to Thomas, et al (1991)(4), (and for non-ketogenic or fat-adapted athletes we agree) the safest option for a pre-workout ergogenic aid is to consume low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates at least an hour before exercising.  Low GI is defined as less than 55 and examples include: beans, hummus, grapefruit, apples, berries, and non-starchy vegetables.  For a complete list of low GI foods, check out this list from the smarty pantses over at Harvard University.

2. PureWod PRE

PureWod products are one of our favorite brands because of they produce some very high-quality and tasty products for athletic performance that are backed by sound science.  One of their products is called PRE and is a pre-workout powder made with real food sources such as coconut water, green tea, pineapple juice, apple juice beet root and goji berries.  We also love that Dr. Gustin, the creator of PureWOD products also scoured the scientific literature to determine which natural ingredients and at what amounts would positively affect athletic performance.   This product was also featured in our February HGABox along with several other eco-friendly and chemical-free goodies for athletes.
Contains: 4 grams of creatine (as creatine monohydrate), 150 mg of caffeine and 500 mg of L-arginine 

3. Paleo Pump by Functional Fitness

This pre-workout is certified vegan, paleo, non-GMO and contains no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. The high-quality ingredients include science-backed adaptogenic herbs for sustained energy, mental focus, endurance, strength and over all performance such as yerba mate, shilajit mushrooms, shisandra, rhodiola, and goji berries.  Paleo Pump also uses safe performance enhancing proteins and amino acids for optimum power and muscular strength such as creatine, beta-alanine, and acetyl tyrosine.
Contains: 1.7 g of creatine (as creatine monohydrate)

4. Natural Force Raw Tea

Contains 15 organic herbs and superfoods for natural energy, endurance, focus, vascularity, fat utilization and taste.  Some of our favorite ingredients found in this supplement which aren’t typically found in pre-workout powders include: bee pollen, cinnamon bark, royal jelly extract, yohimbe bark and bitter orange fruit extract. This product contains a natural amount of caffeine from the green tea, but it’s relatively low dose compared to most products.
Contains: 100 mg caffeine

5. DOPE Naturally Velocity Blend

Using the power of beets, cocoa powder and exotic fruits such as baobab and mangosteen.  These ingredients have been found to have a positive effective on performance when consumed before exercise.   Since they are also high in anti-oxidants, these ingredients also help with recover after a workout.  DOPE Naturally products are all 100% organic, vegan, gluten-free and free of anything artificial.
Contains: A small amount of natural caffeine from the cocoa powder

6. Vega Energizer

This vegan pre-workout contains high-quality herbal ingredients for stamina such as rhodiola root, devil’s claw extract, ginseng, turmeric, ginger and yerba mate.  They sell a low-carb version and a version for those who aren’t as carb conscious.  The low-carb version (0 grams of carbohydrates per serving) is sweetened with stevia while the higher-carb version (16 grams per serving) is sweetened with sprouted whole grain brown rice syrup.  Our favorite flavor Vega Energizer is the Sugar-Free Lemon Lime!
Contains: 100 mg of caffeine

6 thoughts on “Top 6 Pre-Workout Supplements for Healthy Green Athletes

  1. come on now says:

    Raw Tea has Bitter Orange in it which is linked to strokes, angina, and ischemic colitis. It can give you a heart attack. Just because it’s “organic” doesn’t at all mean it’s healthy. As a health blog you should know this.

    • Karen Simpson says:

      Thank you for letting us know about the potential dangers of bitter orange. We will most certainly look into the science behind that and if the scientific evidence is strong, then we will remove this product from our list. And, we totally agree with you about the term “organic”. We always say: “An organic cookie is still a cookie!”.

      • Tony Federico says:

        We appreciate your concern and comments and would like the opportunity to address them.

        First, the quality of our products and the health of our customers is of utmost concern to us at Natural Force and because of that, we develop our formulas in conjunction with the best current scientific data on safety and efficacy.

        In keeping with this commitment, we included a small amount (25mg extract standardized to 8mg synephrine per serving) of bitter orange extract in our Raw Tea pre-workout as part of a synergistic blend of herbs and superfoods.

        Scientific study of healthy individuals shows that doses as high as 49mg synephrine (vs 8mg synephrine in Raw Tea) showed no adverse effects over a 60 day period which included “No significant changes” in systolic or diastolic blood pressures, blood chemistry or blood cell counts.

        Bitter orange also has a long history of traditional/medicinal use, which provides an additional source of anecdotal/historical use data and further supports our decision to include it in our formula.

        As the saying goes, ”sola dosis facit venenum” (“the dose makes the poison”), which is why we do not include mega doses and excessive amounts of any nutrient, herb, or ingredient in any of our products. Even pure water, when consumed in excess, can cause health problems.

        Lastly, while we do use organic, raw, and all-natural ingredients in Raw Tea, we do not claim that the entire product itself is organic. If you are interested in a fully organic pre-workout product, we suggest our Organic Matcha Ignite instead.

        Thank you again for your comment and let us know if there are any additional questions about Raw Tea, or any of our other all-natural products, that you might have.

        -Tony

        Natural Force Raw Tea – https://naturalforce.com/product/natural-pre-workout/

        “A 60 day double-blind, placebo-controlled safety study involving Citrus aurantium (bitter orange) extract” – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691513000355

        WebMD “Bitter Orange” – http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-976-BITTER%20ORANGE.aspx?activeIngredientId=976&activeIngredientName=BITTER%20ORANGE

        “Hyponatremia” – http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyponatremia/basics/symptoms/CON-20031445

        Organic Matcha Ignite -https://naturalforce.com/product/organic-pre-workout/

        • Karen Simpson says:

          Tony – Thanks so much for chiming in on this and providing some of the science behind the effectiveness and safety of bitter orange! We think it’s incredibly important to educate our athletes and ourselves on the stuff we are putting into our bodies.

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