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Pre-workouts don’t work – debunking the myth.

August 03, 2020 4 min read

Pre-workouts don’t work – debunking the myth.-VPA Australia

As a sports nutritionist, there are plenty of things that annoy me when engaging in the health and fitness community online. Right near the top of my list are people that think a keto diet is the solution to improving everyone’s sports performance. Hint: keto is not the answer. Not too far behind, are those that believe that pre-workouts don’t work, and that you shouldn’t take one. Now it’s true, you don’t *need* to take a pre-workout to train or compete. However, it’s absolutely not true that they don’t work. In fact pre-workout supplements can be very useful for many people in different situations.

What is pre-workout?

A pre-workout is a powdered supplement that blends together performance promoting ingredients. A pre-workout will improve your alertness, extend your endurance, and help you recover between high intensity efforts. Whether that’s hitting the ball up on the rugby paddock, or completing a near maximal set of squats. Many pre-workouts also contain nitrate promoting ingredients which not only improve your endurance but provide a good muscle pump.

What makes a good pre-workout?

Not all pre-workouts are created equal. When deciding on a pre-workout, be sure to read that the ingredients panel! Check that you are not buying something with ingredients that are banned by ASADA / WADA or illegal in Australia. If you compete in a tested sport, you shouldn’t take supplements, especially pre-workouts, without approval from a sports dietitian first. You should only purchase from a company that independently and regularly tests the safety and compliance of their products – like VPA!

In addition to not containing banned ingredients, most of the ingredients in good a pre-workout should appear on the AIS Group A list of supplements. Anything that is classed as a Group A supplement has “Strong scientific evidence for use in specific situations in sport using evidence-based protocols”. In short, there is consensus that group A supplements work and aid your sporting performance. VPA Kleos Pre-Workout has been formulated using Group A supplements, and a few bonus cognitive enhancers, to provide you with the strongest pre-workout available.

What’s in Kleos Pre-workout?

VPA abides by both FSANZ and WADA/ASADA for all of our ingredient dosages. To meet clinical efficacy for some ingredients such as creatine we are unable to have serving sizes large enough that also abide by the above governing bodies. If you feel the need and under the correct dietetic advice you are welcome to adjust your serving size or take additional supplements.


The first of our Group A supplements, caffeine is a stimulant that decreases the rate of perceived exertion, making exercise feel easier than it actually is.


The second Group A supplement, creatine plays a role in energy production, and specifically increases energy production during intense exercise. In this way, it increases power output during training. Some individuals may want to top-up their daily creatine intake to clinical dose by purchasing it in pure form and adding it to their daily supplement stack.


Our third Group A supplement, beta-alanine helps buffer the muscles against acid produced during intense training. It increases the reps that can be done at a given weight. Beta-alanine also improves performance in moderate to intense cardio activities such as sprinting, rowing, or intermittent sports (2-5g not time-dependent).


Our fourth Group A supplement, sodium bicarbonate acts as a buffer against acid produced during intense training. It increases the reps that can be done at a given weight and recovery between intense and short bouts of exercise.

Nitrate supplements

AAKG, Citruline Malate are nitrate promoting ingredients that open the blood vessels and improve blood and nutrient delivery. The provide a mean muscle pump and deliver oxygen to muscles at a higher rate.

Cognitive Enhancers

Taurine, Siberian Ginseg, Ashwaganda. A big part of training and hitting goals is being able to switch on mentally and dedicate yourself with focus to the task ahead. These ingredients will help you do that.

So, do pre-workouts work?

Yes! The right pre-workout, when correctly formulated with scientifically backed ingredients, can improve your sporting performance.

Can’t I eat a banana and drink a coffee as a pre-workout?

Yes, a banana and a coffee make a perfectly good pre-workout meal for most people. In fact, it’s important to note that taking a pre-workout alone is not optimal prior to training. You should also be eating some kind of carbohydrate energy before you train or compete. Food options like a banana, a crumpet with topping, or rice crackers are decent examples. On the run and need of something fast? VPA Performance Gels provide a 25g serve of easily digested carbohydrate for a kick of energy. However, here are some good reasons why choosing a pre-workout over natural foods might work better for you some of the time.

Advantages of using pre-workout over food and coffee

  1. The caffeine content of coffee is totally unpredictable and you never know how much you are obtaining through your coffee. A properly measured pre-workout will provide you with a known dose.
  2. A coffee doesn’t provide other performance boosting ingredients like beta-alanine, bicarbonate, creatine etc.
  3. Training or competing, especially at high intensity, with too much food in your stomach may cause digestive discomfort and result in sub-optimal performance.
  4. It’s convenient and you always have it on hand.

So there you go, as you can see, a good pre-workout does work to improve your sports performance.

Sally Mitchell

Sally Mitchell (BSc, MHumNut) is a scientist, university qualified nutritionist and VPA staff member. She brings a nerdy love of numbers, data, and science wit her to VPA. Her favourite VPA product is coffee Breakfast Shake. She enjoys powerlifting and running but, sadly, does both poorly.

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