In the final installment of our ultimate preworkout guide, we talk energy-boosting glutamine, good fats for weight loss (you read that right), and why the all-powerful whey protein gets you such impressive results. (Catch up with parts 1 and 2.)
CLA (short for conjugated linoleic acid) is a type of fatty acid called an omega-6, found commonly in vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, and nuts. Meats and dairy products are also rich sources of CLA. (x)
Don’t let the “fatty acid” thing scare you away–CLA is one of the good guys, a type of fat your body needs to function properly. In fact, supplementing with this fat may actually help you lose weight.
Improve body composition
CLA may boost lean body mass and promote weight loss. It has been shown to decrease fat mass, waist-to-hip ratio, and cholesterol levels. (x) One study found that participants supplementing with CLA over a six-month period lost up to five pounds, while another study showed that CLA helped participants lose three more pounds on average than those who had taken a placebo. (x)
Combining CLA with creatine may further enhance its benefits. Researchers administered a combined CLA and creatine supplement to 19 men and 20 women who underwent a six-month long resistance training program. At the end of the six months, those who had taken CLA with creatine significantly improved their muscular endurance, strength, lean body mass, and weight loss. (x)
The right dose
Make sure you stick to the recommended dosage of CLA for your preworkout (2000 mg for powder; 1000 mg for softgels). Taking too much could harm the liver and cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that helps transport nitrogen between tissues. Nitrogen plays a key role in cell and muscle health. If the body can’t use amino acids for protein synthesis, it breaks them down into components like nitrogen to produce energy. (x)
Glutamine is also essential for healthy immune function. Have you ever hit the gym extra hard for a few weeks only to wind up feeling run down? Maybe you’ve noticed you’re catching colds a lot more often since you started intensifying your workouts. What’s the deal?
Blame lack of glutamine. Prolonged intense exercise has been shown to significantly decrease glutamine stores, which then makes it harder for your immune system to do its job. (x) Of course, low glutamine levels alone may not be responsible for your constant colds, but if you’ve been beating it a little too hard at the gym, it could be a contributing factor. Keep your workouts moderate and talk to your doctor before supplementing if you suspect you’re glutamine deficient.
Glutamine may help maintain and even increase energy expenditure during exercise. In a study from the American College of Sports Medicine, participants took either glutamine or a placebo before their workouts for six days. At the end of the trial, those who had supplemented with glutamine were able to train longer and maintain their muscle strength, while those who had taken the placebo experienced a drop in energy that negatively impacted their athletic performance. (x)
Glutamine has also been found to increase tolerance to lactic acid buildup during exercise (lactic acid is responsible for that intense burn you feel on your last few reps that may slow your progress). (x) Without lactic acid slowing you down, you’ll finally be able to bang out more reps.
There’s even more good news: glutamine continues to increase the metabolic rate at rest, meaning you’ll torch calories even after you’ve left the gym. (x)
HMB is short for beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (say that five times fast). It is produced when the body breaks down the amino acid leucine.
Maintain muscle mass
HMB’s primary role is preventing muscle breakdown. (x) It seems to benefit those who are new to training more than seasoned athletes, so if you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey, you’re in luck: HMB may boost your strength. In one study, untrained participants who took HMB supplements were able to increase the total amount they could lift by up to 18%, while those who did not supplement increased weight by only 8%. (x)
Taurine is an amino acid found in meats, fish, and dairy. Unlike most amino acids, taurine isn’t a building block for protein, but does play an important role in maintaining cell health, hydration, and digestion. It also helps regulate the immune system and antioxidant function. (x)
In the gym, taurine may boost your performance in several ways.
Taurine has been shown to significantly improve exercise endurance. Though scientists aren’t sure exactly how it works yet, it’s believed that taurine interacts directly with muscle tissues, coordination, and force to improve performance. (x) Whatever the case, it yields results: in two separate studies, both trained runners and cyclists covered longer distances and reported less post-workout fatigue after supplementation (x) (x)
Remove waste products that cause fatigue
Taurine may decrease lactic acid buildup in the body, which can reduce muscle soreness during and after your workouts. A study of 36 men found that taurine supplementation had not only reduced their muscle soreness after high-intensity exercise but had also improved signs of muscle stress and damage. (x) Taurine may be particularly effective at cutting fatigue and soreness during long-distance running. (x)
Increase fat burning
If you’re struggling to lose those last few pounds, you may want to consider adding taurine to your preworkout. A study of 11 endurance-trained male cyclists found that taurine supplementation increased their fat oxidation rate by 16% over the course of 90 minutes. (x)
Whey is a protein derived from milk and is the go-to supplement for a good reason: it contains all the amino acids your body needs to build, maintain, and repair muscle. It’s also easy for the body to digest (if you’re lactose-intolerant, opt for non-dairy products like pea, egg, or soy protein).
While whey protein is most popular as a post-workout supplement to repair muscles after weight training, research shows it’s also effective when taken prior to exercise. (x) Experiment with timing to see what works best for you.
Whey’s complete amino acid profile makes it the most effective protein for building new muscle. (x) Because it increases blood levels of amino acids, whey helps your body continue to synthesize proteins even after you leave the gym, meaning your muscles grow in the days after you lift. (x) Whey may also help you maintain lean muscle mass. (x) (x)
Reduce appetite and support weight loss
A diet rich in protein may help you maintain a healthier weight by suppressing or reducing your appetite. Whey protein especially has been shown to curb appetite and improve metabolism by increasing energy expenditure, allowing the body to burn calories more effectively both during and after workouts. (x) (x) One study reported that diets high in protein and low in fat increase thermogenesis (the process by which your body burns calories to produce heat) by a whopping 100%. (x) So don’t be afraid to mix some whey into your preworkout shake: your waistline (and your muscles) will thank you.
Consult your physician before taking any supplements, and remember: everyone is different, and results may vary. Try several different supplements to find out which ones work best for you.