Stepping up your training with a good pre workout supplement is key. It takes you from gym bro to gym god and from wannabe to I wanna be that person.
But with so many different pre workouts available, how do you know which is best and which you should avoid?
In this article we pit two popular supplements against each other to see what the science says.
Is pre workout powder superior to gel? Which should be your number one on your radar?
Let’s take a look…
What is Pre Workout Powder?
Pre workout powders contain a mix of nutrients that boost energy, help to increase muscle pumps and cognitive enhancers to help focus and motivation. In a good quality product you’ll find ingredients such as caffeine, citrulline malate, L-theanine and red beet. These find a good balance between giving you energy for your workout, but keeping it dialled in too.
Pre workout powders are designed to ramp up your endurance and stamina, increase maximal strength and power, and drive nutrients to your muscles by dilating your blood vessels and redirecting blood flow to where it’s needed most.
Ingredients are derived naturally, and some are made into powder form by removing water until only a powdered, crystalline substance remains. This is why you’ll see the term anhydrous on some labels. Adding water to it helps it return to a fluid state.
Because pre workout powders are mixed with water, they absorb very quickly. As soon as it hits your gut it begins entering your bloodstream. To make things easier, they are often flavoured with refreshing and natural flavourings such as lemon and lime, fruit punches or berry. You can find one that suits your individual taste quite easily.
Powdered supplements can be adjusted to suit individual tolerance. If you want to double-scoop for an extra boost you can. If you want to only have half of a scoop for a more directed, relaxed workout you can – they are a very versatile type of pre workout.
Advantages of pre workout powder
- Blends well and easy to drink. Good quality supplements mix to a fine consistency and are practically unnoticeable.
- Contain a potent amount of each ingredients in dried form that become liquid when they come into contact with water.
- Not hard to swallow or overly chewy like pills.
- You can adjust the dose – if you want more or less you can adapt very easily.
- Absorbs quickly into the bloodstream .
- Can be expensive compared to other types of pre workout due to high quality and high-dosed nutrients.
- Often come in large tubs which are less portable than individual gel sachets. This can be overcome by putting some in a drinks shaker prior to your workout.
What is Pre Workout Gel?
Pre workout gels are a viscous, jelly-like substance that is often flavoured to help make them palatable. They come in individual sachets, pods or blister packs.
They were made popular off the back of the carb gel boom in middle- and long-distance running. For that reason, many pre workout gels contain added glycogen to ‘fuel’ exercise, rather than caffeinated, calorie-free stimulants.
Gels are somewhat an acquired taste due to their consistency (think oysters or over-ripe avocado). As thick, syrup-like pods, gel packs are much denser than powders – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they contain more effective nutrients as they often contain filler ingredients to make them gel-like.
It is usually advised that because gels are so thick, you take them with water. You can’t take them with energy drinks as they contain many of the same stimulatory ingredients.
They can take longer than powders to absorb as they have to be broken down in the stomach before they can be absorbed.
The problem with many gels is that they are packages into pre-determined doses. That means that once you open a gel pack you either need to finish it or find somewhere to store it. You can’t store them for long though as you risk it drying out or leaking over your gym clothes.
One of the biggest problems with pre workout gels is that they can cause stomach cramps, nausea and bloating – particularly during intense exercise. So whilst they might be suitable for a moderate-intensity long run or a light session on the mats, they certainly don’t suit a tough strength session or intense HIIT workout.
- Portable and easy to carry in your gym bag. You can take just one gel sachet if you need to, rather than the whole box.
- Contain ingredients that will enhance exercise – you’ll still find caffeine and other useful ingredients in these products.
- Can be difficult to consume due to their thick consistency, particularly during an exercise session where you may already be thirsty.
- Gels can take longer than powdered supplements to absorb into the bloodstream.
- Many contain simple sugars from glycogen – this can be an issue if you are tracking calories as they’ll need to be factored into energy balance.
- Because they are individually packaged they can be expensive when bought as individual portions.
- Can significantly increase thirst due to high sugar content and viscosity.
Which is the Most Effective Pre Workout – Powder or Gel?
Ultimately, your preference comes down to whether you prefer to take your pre workout supplement as a drink or a gel. When it comes to quality, it’s just as much about the ingredients as it whether it comes as a powder or a gel.
When it comes to taste and palatability, powder taken the win on that score. They can be blended easily to form a nice-tasting, watery beverage.
Gels on the other hand are tough to drink (or is that eat) and can leave you feeling thirsty and dehydrated. For many people, there’s also the risk of stomach upset and gastrointestinal discomfort too.
In terms of nutrient content, powders are typically concentrated and potent in their effects – they’re the real deal when it comes to a quick and effective energy boost. Some gels however are high in simple sugars and act much slower due to absorption.
Smash Your Workouts With 4 Gauge
4 Gauge is an exhaustively researched, all-natural pre workout designed to rip the lid off your gym sessions, sports games or workouts.
Packed with performance-enhancing nutrients such as caffeine, L-theanine and creatine, 4 Gauge will take your training to a completely new level.
Smash your workouts – feel your nervous system firing on all cylinders
Cell-splitting muscle pumps – harness the power of vasodilation and deliver more nutrients to your muscle cells
Determination like never before – feel unparalleled focus and motivation
Relentless energy – train for longer without fatigue