Which preworkout supplement ingredients work best?K
Since the early days of N.O. Xplode and Jack3d, the preworkout market has boomed. The Supplement Database now contains over 1,000 preworkouts, making it the most populous product category. Are these supplements effective in doing anything? The answer depends on its ingredients. In this article, we’ll briefly look at the research behind the three most popular ingredients found in preworkouts: caffeine, beta-alanine, and tyrosine.
TL;DR: There is a good reason caffeine and beta-alanine are the two most popular ingredients found in preworkout supplements. There is plenty of research on both ingredients, and the research is overwhelmingly positive on their ability to improve workout performance. The same is not true for tyrosine. Verdict: caffeine and beta-alanine will enhance performance, tyrosine probably won’t.
Caffeine is the most popular preworkout ingredient; it’s currently found in 88% of them! Unlike most supplement ingredients, the research on caffeine is plentiful and clear. Caffeine is a valuable ingredient capable of increasing performance in several activities. A review of 21 studies found caffeine was effective in improving performance in endurance athletes1. In another review of 28 studies, caffeine improved performance in team sports and high-intensity exercise2. Another review of 19 studies found caffeine improved muscular endurance and strength3. Finally, a review of nine studies found caffeine improved performance in combat sports4.
Verdict on Caffeine: The evidence is abundant that caffeine improves performance in many activities.
Beta-alanine is the second most popular ingredient; it’s found in 76% of preworkouts. A review of 19 studies found beta-alanine could improve power output, decrease fatigue, lower perceived exhaustion, and improve body composition5. Another review of 23 studies found beta-alanine could lower perceived exertion, decrease fatigue, and improve exercise performance6. Finally, a review of 15 studies found the supplement could improve performance in high-intensity exercise7.
Verdict on Beta-Alanine: The evidence on beta-alanine shows that this ingredient is also valuable in improving performance in many activities.
Tyrosine is the third most popular ingredient. It is found in 55% of preworkouts. In two studies, tyrosine did not improve performance in endurance activities8,9. Another study found no improvements in endurance, strength, or anaerobic power10. A final study, however, did see improvements in performance after tyrosine use11.
Verdict on Tyrosine: Unlike caffeine and beta-alanine, there is not much research on tyrosine’s role in exercise. The conclusions of the four studies highlighted here are mixed but point to tyrosine being ineffective.
The Bottom Line
There is a good reason caffeine and beta-alanine are the two most popular ingredients found in preworkout supplements. There is plenty of research on both ingredients, and the research is overwhelmingly positive on their ability to improve workout performance. The same is not true for tyrosine. Verdict: caffeine and beta-alanine will enhance performance, tyrosine probably won’t.
- Ganio, M. S., Klau, J. F., Casa, D. J., Armstrong, L. E., & Maresh, C. M. (2009). Effect of caffeine on sport-specific endurance performance: A systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(1), 315-324. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31818b979a
- Astorino, T., & Roberson, D. (2010). Efficacy of Acute Caffeine Ingestion for Short-term High-Intensity Exercise Performance: A Systematic Review. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 24(1), 257-265. doi: 10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181c1f88a
- Ferreira, T. T., Da Silva, J. V., & Bueno, N. B. (2020). Effects of caffeine supplementation on muscle endurance, maximum strength, and perceived exertion in adults submitted to strength training: A systematic review and meta-analyses. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1-14. doi:10.1080/10408398.2020.1781051
- López-González, L. M., Sánchez-Oliver, A. J., Mata, F., Jodra, P., Antonio, J., & Domínguez, R. (2018). Acute caffeine supplementation in combat sports: A systematic review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0267-2
- Quesnele, J. J. (2014). The Effects of Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Performance: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Human Kinetics Journals, 24(1). doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2013-0007
- Zanella, P. B. (2016). Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on performance and muscle fatigue in athletes and non-athletes of different sports: A systematic review. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.16.06582-8
- Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: A meta-analysis. Amino Acids, 43(1), 25-37. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z
- TUMILTY, L., DAVISON, G., BECKMANN, M., & THATCHER, R. (2014). Failure of oral tyrosine supplementation to improve exercise performance in the heat. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(7), 1417-1425. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000243
- Chinevere, T. D., Parcell, A. C., Sawyer, R. D., Creer, A. R., & Conlee, R. K. (2002). Effects of carbohydrate and l-tyrosine ingestion on endurance exercise performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(5). doi:10.1097/00005768-200205001-00015
- Sutton, E. E., Coll, M. R., & Deuster, P. A. (2005). Ingestion of tyrosine: Effects on endurance, muscle strength, and anaerobic performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 15(2), 173-185. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.15.2.173
- Tumilty, L., Davison, G., Beckmann, M., & Thatcher, R. (2011). Oral tyrosine supplementation improves exercise capacity in the heat. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111(12), 2941-2950. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-1921-4