As Pre-Workout supplements have developed in the past few decades (first coming into existence in 1982), they’ve complexified and branched out into numerous varieties with their own respective focal points, such as energy, focus, or promoting glorious transient hypertrophy, a.k.a. “Da Pump”. Due to this expansion though, they’ve reached a certain degree of separation, especially in the most recent decade, that now poses a more specific question for those looking to bring their workouts to the next level:
Which Pre-workout Is the Best for Me? “Normal”? Or Non-Stim?
Discovering which pre-workout suits you best without an overwhelming amount of money spent + trial & error can be difficult. Questions arise, ranging from “What exactly am I even looking for?” to “Is the dosing of L-Citrulline in this one efficacious, or would I be pointlessly oversaturating myself?”, and often times we worry if we’ll even know what questions we should be asking to begin with, let alone actually knowing the answers to them.
Thankfully, though, you’ve found your way to the right place; over the course of this article, we’re going to break down the benefits and detriments of both sides of the dichotomy before us i.e. which option is going to get you bigger, stronger, and provide a sicker pump, as well as the information you need to know so you can take in to account your own personal nuances and how each blend may affect you come time to try it yourself. After this, we’ll compare the two, and see what your best course of action will be once you’re prompted to make a decision.
With all that said, let’s dive into the first step of the process:
Non-Stim Pre-Workouts: Pros and Cons
When considering the option of “Non-Stim” i.e. the pre-workout equivalent of decaf coffee, it’s necessary to highlight what they DO provide in the absence of the energy boost. The main benefits boasted often include:
- Enhanced Focus
- Greater Blood Flow (i.e. dat pump, son)
- Improved Recovery and Endurance
- No Crash
These options work great for those that seek the concentration and performance benefits that pre-workouts boast, while also wanting to avoid the energy boost that for them may be entirely unnecessary, be it due to anxiety, caffeine-specific related issues, or because they simply need no help in that field to begin with.
The lack of any energy-related assistance, however, proves detrimental to some (dare I say most, even). The majority of those seeking out pre-workout supplements deem them almost synonymous with some sort of power “boost”, which these, as the name implies, lack completely. There are also the secondary effects of the stimulant to consider, such as the mood shift and overall euphoric feel that caffeine provides, which happens to be what a lot of people are actually looking for, rather than the energy itself, and just have the two strongly associated.
For some, the absence of caffeine is exactly what they’re looking for, and for others, it renders the product borderline pointless. For the latter, we take a look at the classics.
Traditional Pre-Workouts: Pros and Cons
Classic Pre-Workouts, on the other hand, are all about that rush, that boost, that surge of energy. The other benefits are worthwhile, but still more so revolve around the core aspect which is to get you fired up. Despite that being the main goal, though, there’s obviously still a key difference between, say, coffee, and a solid pre-workout. They don’t only offer energy, it’s simply the main selling point. Overall, the benefits include:
- Acute Energy Surge
- Temporary Strength Increase
- Heightened Endurance
- Interim Cognition Boost
All in all, a pretty strong sell also. Not only can we rely on it to pick us up when we’re sluggish, dragging our feet, but it also provides mental clarity, and most importantly temporarily boosts performance, which on a long-term basis, means a greater cumulative volume and therefore substantially more gains made down the line. All of this without even mentioning the simple enjoyment that comes alongside the effects of caffeine; the mood boost is not to be underestimated.
So, now having an accurate idea of what each product actually provides and how they contrast with one another, we find ourselves faced with the next question: which do I need the most?
Pump Focus? Energy Focus? What Do I Need Most?
Before we can make a choice, however, we need to fully understand the benefits that either option provides, not only in a general sense, but specifically how they apply to you.
There are some questions that you should ask yourself to gain a better understanding of your own needs, such as:
1. What holds you back in the gym?
Do you find yourself dragging your feet, unable to push sets to proper failure because you just can’t seem to find that “oomph” needed to get through the toughest part? Or more so easily distracted, unable to really concentrate on the workout itself, be it because you daydream, aren’t fully engaged, or simply don’t enjoy it enough to be entirely present throughout?
2. What would motivate you to push harder?
When you think of a workout and all it entails, what addition would make it that much more exciting, that much more conducive to a true effort? Do you have a generally poor mood when it comes to training, which could be relieved by the euphoric effects of caffeine? Or would you be more enticed by the satisfaction of a stronger pump, giving a more tangible, invigorating feeling throughout the workout itself, prompting you to push further and go harder in order to maximize that short-term benefit (which in turn also contributes towards the long-term reward)?
3. Am I cutting my workouts short?
Endurance being a factor in either option, but stronger in one than the other, it’s important to note whether you’re actually bringing your sessions to their programmed conclusion, or if corners are being cut in order to finish sooner, let alone skipping chunks altogether.
4. Have I made myself aware of all my options?
Seems like an odd one at first, but it refers to the specifics at play and how we can often write something off without first insuring that we’ve exhausted our options. What do I mean? Some dismiss the idea of traditional pre-workouts due to an aversion to caffeine specifically rather than stimulants in general, which can be circumvented by choosing an ephedrine-based supplement instead. Or those who dismiss pre-workouts entirely because they “make them feel weird”, without ever coming to understand that the problem lies in the nootropics within most pre-workout supplements, and that were they to choose from the wide variety of nootropic-free options, they could enjoy the benefits they’d otherwise be missing out on.
These are a few key questions that’ll help steer you in the right direction, but it’s important that you, obviously knowing yourself better than I do, stop and contemplate the nitty gritty details of your own needs to ensure that you’re not just blindly following a recommendation without knowing what’s best for you first.
Weighing the Differences and Choosing Which Option Is Best for You
With all that said, now comes the moment of truth; which option do you choose? Do you lean towards a pre-workout that brings out the animal in you and has you ready to go toe-to-toe with a silverback, or the one that’ll give you laser-sharp focus and a pump that’ll have your skin stretching? For some, it’s a no-brainer, while for others it’s a question that’ll have them on the fence, unable to commit to one side or the other lest the choice not made seem that much more appealing after locking the other in. For those in the latter group, let’s break down the factors at play:
|Traditional Pre-Workout||Non-Stim Pre-Workout|
When framed like this, it becomes clear that the main difference is the exchange of the energy boost for an intensification of focus and pump, as well as allowing one to avoid the crash for those who deem it too undesirable to be worth it.
The problem, though, is that for most, both options are viable, making the question more a matter of which benefits we prioritize most, and which we’re willing to sacrifice. Worse still, some may be unwilling to sacrifice either and are therefore forced to forgo benefits that they want and subsequently leave gains on the table. I personally have found myself frustrated with this for long enough, and have taken it into my own hands to concoct a solution.
Or, Then Again, Why Choose? The Best of Both Worlds
Having to miss out on the benefits of one for the sake of enjoying the other was a nuisance at first, and an actual hindrance later on; when you’ve gotten to the point that every little factor counts, not having that extra kick that should otherwise be at your disposal can be the issue forcing you to fall short of where you should be. And I’d had enough.
Initially, something I’d put together with myself in mind, but now turned proprietary product, my new Pre-Workout, The Razors Edge combines the best of both, using both stimulants and the same pump promoters and focus enhancers of non-stim pre-workouts, simply stacking the benefits rather than using one to compensate for the other. You’d think it’d be available, but to my surprise, it was not, and rather than mope at that fact, I set out to fix it.
You can now enjoy the same benefits I have, the best of both, fire and ice fused together to provide you with the perfect weapon to assault each workout. Click here to get your own tub, and come to your training sessions harder than ever.