Every one of us likes to gain the edge when it comes to Jiu Jitsu. Some people get this edge by consuming a pre workout supplement (either in the form of stimulants, caffeine such as energy drinks, etc) in order to gain a slight boost to their energy levels, strength and mental awareness. There is nothing wrong with that, however, in this article we will analyse the effects of such drinks on your Jiu Jitsu workout.
First, let’s see what are the most common ingredients in a preworkout drink and learn more about them.
Vitamin and Mineral Complex. Most preworkout drinks come with a dose of vitamins and mineral. This is important, recommended and totally safe. Vitamins keep the body running like a well oiled machine. In preworkouts, the most common complex is the Vitamin B Complex which has a important role in your physical performance. The B complex has been shown to increase physical output by increasing energy metabolism aswell as increase protein synthesis and red blood cell production. Having a deficiency in any of the B vitamins will result in decreased physical and mental performance, particularly during high intensity effort , which is exactly what we do when we train Jiu Jitsu. Regarding minerals, calcium and magnesium deserve to be highlighted. We already know that our bones need calcium in order to repair themselves and, despite the wear and tear on the bones not being as big as in kickboxing for example, we still need plenty of calcium to keep our bones healthy, especially our fingers (looking at you Spider-player over there). Magnesium on the other hand, is required for muscle contraction. A magnesium defficiency will lead to muscular weakness. Verdict of the ingredient: SAFE.
Creatine. Very common in preworkouts. Creatine is the most studied supplement in the world right now, it’s effects are well documented. Creatine has many properties, but the most important to us is increasing power output, as has been demonstrated over and over again by studies. A undesired effect by us when supplementing creatine for longer periods is water retention. Creatine makes the body hold onto it’s water, a positive effect but not when you’re trying to make weight. The water retention is around 5 kgs which can prove problematic and might move you up one weight class. Verdict of the ingredient: SAFE
L-arginine. Arginine is a essential amino acid. It has been shown to increase blood flow to the muscles, thus allowing more oxygen and protein to reach them, resulting in increased performance. Verdict of the ingredient: SAFE.
Beta-alanine. Another common ingredient is Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine is a non essential amino acid but has recently become an ingredient with a very high importance in pre workouts. Studies have shown that beta-alanine increases muscle endurance in sub maximal efforts (60-240 seconds of duration)  aswell as increased anaerobic capacity . One side effect of supplementing Beta-Alanine is itching. Depending on your body’s reaction you might get itchy skin for a few minutes on your first few usages of this ingredient, however it is completely safe. Verdict of the ingredient: SAFE.
Caffeine. Common in pre workouts, energy drinks and coffees. Coffeine has a wealth of effects, most notable of which is increased mental awareness and slightly increase power output. It also has an increased effect on fat oxidation. However, large does of caffeine are detrimental. It will increase blood pressure and heart rate which are effects you might not desire. It should also be noted that there is a tolerance build up to caffeine, so you will generally need more after a while than you needed at the beggining to get the same effect. Consumption of caffeine should be with precaution not to overdo doses. Especially considering that pre workout drinks have a huge amount of coffeine, getting more coffeine from other sources (like energy drinks) will be a bad thing. Verdict of the ingredient: RELATIVELY SAFE.
Ephedrine. A very controversial ingredient. Ephedrine is one of the four active components of Ephedra. It is commonly found in ECA stacks (ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin). It has been shown to increase metabolic rate by up to 5%, while also preventing muscle breakdown to a degree. Side effects include an increase in blood pressure and in some blood parameters (Glucosamine, Insulin) , both go away with cessation of use. There have been reported cases that implicated ephedrine as the cause of serious health problems such as strokes, seizures and even death.  It should also be noted that Ephedrine is banned in the US. Verdict of the ingredient: USE ONLY AFTER CONSULTING WITH A DOCTOR.
These are the most common ingredients used in pre workout supplements. Most of them are safe to use in HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS, however avoid ephedrine if possible. When taking pre workout supplements, dosage is very important. Most recommend starting with half the dose building to a full dose. This is to make sure the body responds well to the ingredients and you don’t experience nausea and other such effects.
If you are skeptic when it comes to pre workout supplements, you can always build your own preworkout supplement right at home.
Next, I will present a few ingredients that you can combine in whatever way you like, in order to make a natural preworkout right in your home.
Bananas. Rich in magnesium, potassium and the B complex (we talked about it earlier). Not to mention it’s a great source of carbs. Should not miss in any preworkout shake. They are also good post workout in order to replenish glycogen stores.
Coconut water. Four times as rich as bananas in potassium, low in calories and very hydrating. Just few of the benefits of coconut water. It might be considered nature’s energy drink. Should be used instead of water.
Oatmeal. Rich in complex carbs, ensures that you will have energy for all your workout and that you will not crash.
Nuts. Rich in fats and protein which will help keep your testosterone levels high aswell as fiber to keep your blood sugar levels steady. They also contain magnesium which is important in converting sugar to energy.
Honey. Nature’s sugar. Honey is rich in the B complex vitamins, aswell as providing a great source of simple carbohydrates. It should not be your only source of carbohydrates though, as you need some complex carbohydrates aswell. Can be used as a sweetener in your shake.
Finally, it is up to you whether you prefer a natural shake or a premade supplement that you bought. Supplements are safe (ephedrine excluded), as long as you are a healthy individual and you do not increases dosages to more than required. More than that, it is recommended that you start with half the dosage and increase to the full dosage over time. It is also recommended to supplement with a vitamin and mineral permanently in order to keep your body running like a well oiled machine (this should come first before a preworkout shake).
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 Rodriguez NR, DiMarco NM, Langley S, Denny S, et al. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2009;41(3):709-31
 Woolf K, Manore MM. B-vitamins and exercise: Does exercise alter requirements? Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 2006;16(5):453-84.