Pre-workout supplements are designed to give people a boost before they work out. They provide a variety of benefits that could include an energy boost, increased strength, better workout performance, and reduced fatigue. Pre-workouts achieve their effects by utilizing natural ingredients – most often, a combination of herbal extracts, amino acids, and stimulants like caffeine.
Protein shakes, on the other hand, are great additions to a healthy diet because they provide you with the extra protein your body needs to build lean muscle and other tissues. Protein shakes are a perfect meal replacement in the morning and a quick snack or lunch replacement in the afternoon. They are rich in protein, contain low sugar, and are easy to make.
Both protein shakes and pre-workout supplements can be useful for weight loss in the context of increased physical activity and caloric restriction. But which one is better?
Our team looks into the science behind the ingredients in pre-workouts and protein shakes to see which one could give you faster weight loss results.
Benefits of Pre-Workout for Weight Loss
Pre-workout supplements are often considered a supplement that can help with weight loss. The reason for this is that they increase your energy, which will in turn make you more active and therefore burning more calories throughout the day.
According to WebMD, pre-workout ingredients like synephrine have been shown to increase metabolism and decrease appetite. Taking a supplement with this ingredient before you exercise can help with weight loss. However, these results are only seen when you combine the pre-workout with diet and exercise – meaning that taking this supplement alone may not help you lose any weight.
In addition to synephrine, these supplements also have ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine and creatine which can be useful for increasing your energy levels or building muscle mass during a workout. The increased muscle mass will, in turn, raise your basal metabolic requirements so you’ll burn more calories even at rest.
The Science on Pre-Workouts and Weight Loss
Studies have been done on many common ingredients in pre-workouts and their effects on appetite suppression & fat burning in the body.
For example, there is strong evidence that shows a link between caffeine consumption and weight loss. It has been found that caffeine can help promote fat oxidation, which is the process in which your body burns fat for energy.
The studies have also shown an increase in the basal metabolic rate, which is the number of calories that you burn while carrying out basic daily tasks such as sitting down and reading. This means that if you drink coffee before exercising, you will be able to exercise for longer than if you did not drink it beforehand.
A reputable study review from 2018 found that caffeine doesn’t only promote direct fat burning in the body (through increased calorie consumption), it also promotes appetite-suppressing hormones like serotonin, epinephrine amongst others.
Some other ingredients in pre-workout supplements that have been shown as beneficial for weight loss include:
- Green Tea Extract – increases thermogenesis, a process where your body’s core temperature rises, which forces the metabolism to burn more calories in the process.
- Cayenne Pepper – similar to green tea, this is a potent natural thermogenic that helps you burn more calories throughout the day.
- Chromium – a natural trace mineral that promotes healthy blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces cravings and energy swings.
- Glucomannan – a type of fiber that, once ingested, swells in your stomach and promotes satiety and fullness.
Benefits of Protein Shakes for Weight Loss
Protein is helpful for weight loss because it keeps people fuller longer, which leads them to eat less without trying. Protein also has a heavier molecular structure which means it takes your body longer to digest it, further promoting satiety. As well as that, higher molecular density of proteins means that your metabolism has to work harder – aka burn more calories – to break those proteins down.
The average person needs to consume at least 1 gram per kilogram of body weight, or about 56 grams a day, according to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Protein helps build and maintain muscle tissue, which in turn burns more calories than other tissues do at rest. As protein intake go up, so do thermogenesis levels (the rate at which your body burns calories while digesting food).
The Science on Protein and Weight Loss
Many studies have found that higher protein diets and weight loss are indeed linked. For example, a study looking at two different weight loss diets found that a high-protein diet was more effective in achieving weight loss as compared to a low-protein diet. In this particular study, the participants were put on either a high-protein diet (30% protein) or low-protein diet (15% protein). The results showed that those on the high-protein diet lost more weight at the end of six months than those on the low-protein diet.
Another recent meta-analysis looked into how both long-term and short-term protein intake affect body composition changes during an energy-restricted intervention. This study concluded that increased protein intake promotes lean body composition in the favor of muscle tissue, while helping to reduce BMI. Interestingly, the longer you’re eating a diet higher in protein, the more the weight loss benefits accumulate – creating a compound effect where you have more muscle, thus burning more calories, and on the positive cycle goes…
What is Better for Weight Loss: Pre-Workout or Protein Shake?
While both pre-workout and protein supplements have their pros and cons, when it comes to weight loss, a combination of both is ideal. A pre-workout will give you more energy to push harder in your workouts, which will in turn make you burn more calories. A protein supplement, on the other hand, will give you more of a long-term weight loss support as you start building more muscle – making your metabolism faster in general.
If you had to pick only one, we’d go with a protein supplement because in addition to all of the aforementioned benefits, it also keeps you satiated so you’re less likely to consume too many calories.
Don’t forget that neither a pre-workout nor a protein supplement will make you lose weight on their own. A clean, calorie-controlled diet with high amounts of protein from whole foods, along with a regular resistance training regimen are arguably “a must” when it comes to successful weight loss. A good-quality supplement like a pre-workout or a protein shake is an excellent add-on that will help you get better results, faster.
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