Pre-workout powders have become an essential ritual for many gym-goers, who find it difficult to get motivated without an additive laced pick-me-up. With names like Nitro-Oxide-Anabolic-Grenade-Mutilator it is no surprise they have ingredients lists longer than a Geoffrey Archer novel! It is hard to deny that these products provide a massive energy boost. However many people are uncomfortable putting substances they can’t pronounce into their bodies.
There are several key active ingredients in pre-workout supplements, some of which like amino acids can be easily obtained naturally from plant-based foods and lean sources of protein. Another major component is caffeine and as we know coffee is a great, natural source of this. Not only does coffee provide a good dose of caffeine, it only has one ingredient: roasted coffee beans.
It is pretty much universally accepted that consuming caffeine prior to exercising increases endurance, power and anaerobic outputs. Caffeine can also be helpful for improving tasks requiring accuracy and concentration in team sports such as rugby. Caffeine can also enhance the rate in which your body’s glycogen stores are replenished during recovery after exercise.
For an even greater boost try adding some healthy fats such as cacao butter or coconut oil to your pre-workout coffee. (See our recipe page for more information). These are examples of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT's) - types of fats which are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and used by the body for energy. They are also a type of fat which provide energy to the brain. Other fat sources are broken down more slowly over time and aren’t as useful.
For those wanting to go a step further try MCT Oil where the MCTs have been isolated from coconut oil. Grass-fed butter can also be a good addition. This is a type of Short-Chain Triglyceride (SCT) which behaves in much the same way as an MCT. Make sure you use grass-fed butter though – it contains loads more nutrients like Omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLAs) than other types of butter, and none of the toxins.
Consuming fats in this way can help achieve something called ‘ketosis’. This is where the body burns fat stores for energy instead of using glucose. Advocates of lifestyles such as the paleo diet claim that using MCTs can help train the body to become more efficient at this process. If your goal is to burn a bit of fat then this is potentially great news. Alternatively if like us you just want a great tasting and natural pre-workout boost then a strong coffee with a bit of coconut oil is perfect.