Protein Powder vs Pre Workout
I was challenged on social media recently that my statement about pre workout myths was incorrect. I said that protein shouldn’t be taken as a pre workout, that it wouldn’t give you any more energy. My friend here says,
Here’s the thing, he’s not really wrong, but he's definitely not right. It has more to do with what you think pre workouts and protein shakes actually do for you.
What does a Pre workout do?
First things first we’ve got to define what we mean by pre workout. If you want to get super into the semantics, it could be anything that you take before a workout to improve your performance in that workout. The purpose of the pre workout is to give you power and focus throughout the workout in order to push more, especially at the end of sets when it matters most when building muscle. You’re trying to cause those micro-tears in the muscle fibers that then heal to build even more muscle fibers, thus making those arms and legs stronger, and, depending on the workout, bigger.
With that definition, a protein shake may fit into the category of pre workout because it may give you a boost during the session, especially if you haven’t eaten much leading up to the workout. The reason is that protein supplements, usually in the form of a shake, typically have sugars and other carbs that will increase your blood sugar and therefore supply working muscles with power needed to push harder. AND the protein itself can be metabolized into working energy.
There is a huge BUT here though. BUT protein is used only as a tertiary source of energy. Your body wants to use the sugar in your blood first, then it will start to use fat and then and only then if all those stores are unavailable, protein can be broken down and used as energy. It is incredibly inefficient for the body so it doesn’t work well for a pre workout, where your body needs immediate energy to the working muscles.
What does a Protein supplement do?
Let’s make it even more clear here that protein supplements are targeting muscle regeneration, meaning they are helping muscles recover from being shredded by curls and squats. Protein shakes do this by keeping protein levels high so that you have the ingredients needed to maintain good repair rates on muscles.
So what's the difference between the two?
The difference is a bit murky, but to make it as simplistic as possible
Pre workouts help to shred the muscles
Protein Supplements help recover shredded muscles, making them stronger.
The murkiness lies in the fact that Protein supplements have some ingredients that also supply power, mainly sugars. Those sugars are used to supply muscles with energy.
So Protein can’t be used as energy?
Um, well, yes it can BUT do you want to is the question. Protein is broken down into amino acid if needed, and during a process called gluconeogenesis, the body can turn those amino acids into sugars for energy. But do you see the dog chasing the tail a little bit here? Our bodies are all about efficiency and it doesn’t want to go through protein to get to carbs. It wants to just get the carbs ingested and used immediately.
So how does a pre workout provide energy?
They do this by combining a stimulant, like caffeine with other amino acids and other micronutrients to produce energy, vasodilation and focus. The good pre workouts can stimulate. The BEST do this without any calories added, and when you’re trying to be careful with those calories, this really matters.
If you want to take a protein supplement as a pre workout you can. But it’s a bit like walking to work instead of taking your brand new Tesla.
If you’re looking for a low calorie, powerful workout supplement click the link to check out 4 Gauge’s 4 in 1 Pre workout that will help you put up more weight or sustain that workout like you’ve never done before.