The benefits of exercise are numerous, but it’s important to understand that to optimize these benefits you have to take care of your body while you exercise. The needs of your body when you start exercising are dramatically different than when you are sitting. Once the body starts exercising, it demands more vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein. Understanding that, it makes sense that what we put into our bodies before working out can have a significant impact on our body’s ability to sustain the rigors of exercise in both the short and long term.

In addition to consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet on a daily basis, there are a few key ingredients you can take pre-workout to help maximize your workout.

Caffeine

Many people consume caffeine as a way to enhance focus as well as to get a feeling of uplifting energy before they start exercising. Many studies have documented the positive benefits that consuming caffeine as a pre-workout supplement has on exercise performance. Typically, the effects of caffeine will peak around 20 to 45 minutes after consumption, but will last for a while after that. As such, it’s suggested to consume caffeine 15 to 30 minutes before you start exercising.

Nitric Oxide Precursors

One goal of pre-exercise nutrition is to help enhance blood flow, delivering more oxygen to muscles and aiding in increased energy production. One way to do this is by using nitric oxide (NO) precursors to help the body produce NO over time. When NO is produced, blood vessels dilate and help increase blood flow.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s go-to fuel source for producing quick, easy energy. Metabolizing carbohydrates is an easier and more efficient way for the body to produce energy than using fats or proteins. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen; however, we are only able to store a limited supply of glycogen at any given time. Depleting your glycogen stores can hinder performance. By consuming carbohydrates before exercise, you can fill up your body’s energy stores to help fuel your workout.

You can consume these ingredients on their own by drinking coffee or tea (for caffeine), but many pre-workout supplements come with a combination of these ingredients to help maximize your workout. These supplements, often found in powdered form, can be mixed with water and consumed 15 to 30 minutes before you head out to train for the day.