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Fueling athletic fire: pre-workout supplements’ influence on performance

In the world of fitness, many athletes have turned to pre-workout supplements to help give them an extra boost before a workout or big competition.  

Runners are one specific group of athletes who look to use stimulants like caffeine or pre-workout to get an edge in performance are runners. 

Two runners from Lipscomb University have set out to study the effectiveness firsthand. 

These supplements, designed to be taken before exercise, are praised for their ability to provide increased energy, focus, and endurance during workouts.  

Pre-workout supplements typically contain a blend of ingredients aimed at boosting physical and mental performance 

Common components include caffeine, which is known to enhance alertness and reduce perceived effort during exercise, as well as beta-alanine and creatine, which may improve muscle endurance and power output. 

As runners look to push their limits and achieve new personal bests, understanding the science behind these supplements and their potential impact on running performance is crucial. 

In a project displayed at the Student Scholar Symposium, two sophomore biology students, Levi Streeval, and Trey Haralson, explored the effects of pre-workout supplementation specifically tailored for runners. 

Both Streeval and Haralson are competitive runners. They are cross-country and track athletes at Lipscomb and have found themselves fascinated, just like a lot of other athletes, by the potential of pre-workout. The two set out to find if they determined whether they could gain an edge through pre-workout supplementation.  

One of the pre-workout supplements both have been using is a pre-workout titled called “Enerza.”  

Enerza is a newer supplement, making its way around the running world very quickly. 

Multiple athletes at the 2024 Division One Indoor Track and Field National Championships have acknowledged taking it.  

Levi and Trey recruited eight participants, with competitive running backgrounds. They are all still fit, running around 50-60 miles a week. Each participant was around the age of 25.  

They conducted two major tests to find results and answer the simple question, “Does pre-workout actually work?” 

One test was anaerobic, meaning short, fast, high-intensity exercises that do not make your body use oxygen like it does for cardio. Anaerobic levels were gauged over 30 seconds on a Wingate bike which is a leg-cycle with an ergometer (to track total power put out by the participants) at maximum effort and measured anaerobic capacity. along with anaerobic power inputs.  

The second test focused on the potential aerobic benefits of pre-workout. Aerobic workouts focus more on the body’s ability to do longer activities with oxygen flowing through your lungs. 

Distance runners focus more on their aerobic development as opposed to sprinters who are more anaerobically focused.  

Participants wore a heartbeat monitor and ran on an incline treadmill, gradually increasing speed and intensity until they reached 90 percent of their estimated maximal heart rate (which was based on the participants’ age). 

All eight participants ran through both tests twice over two weeks. One week, they were given the actual pre-workout Enerza and the other week they were given a placebo of water with flavoring that would not boost performance metrics.  

Haralson discovered some positive remarks in favor of the pre-workout supplement. “After each test day, we asked the participants how they felt on a scale of 1-10. We found that they were consistently feeling about 1.3 rating points higher after the Enerza tests as opposed to the placebo.”  

The students found there was not a significant difference between the pre-workout and placebo when participants reached 90 percent of their maximum heart rate or with their rating of perceived exertion during the aerobic test. 

However, on the anaerobic side, the participants were found to have biked much longer distances on the Wingate bike and their average wattage (the rate at which energy is produced) was much higher on the pre-workout than the placebo.  

Streeval felt that if they were to do anything differently, they would increase their sample size of testing and diversify the test subjects better.  

“Some people who may not run as much could have seen even more improvement in the anaerobic tests and it could have shown actual differences in the aerobic tests, being non-athletes taking a major jump in energy as opposed to finely tuned runners who may not see as drastic of the difference in performance.”  

Streeval and Haralson’s research has provided valuable insights into the popular trend of pre-workout supplementation. 

Their findings suggest a positive correlation between pre-workout use and enhanced performance, particularly in activities requiring quick bursts of energy and anaerobic effort.  

Streeval and Haralson’s research fared well in the 2024 Lipscomb Student Scholar Symposium. Their findings achieved a first-place finish in their field of study. 

As athletes continually seek ways to optimize their training and performance, studies like this play a crucial role in understanding the efficacy and potential benefits of pre-workout supplements in the diverse landscape of athletics. 

Moving forward, further research and exploration into the long-term effects and specific applications of pre-workout supplementation will undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing conversation surrounding athletic performance enhancement.