Taking an energy supplement before beginning a cardio workout is an option that's been endorsed by many in the weight training industry. How soon you should take an energy supplement before a cardio workout really depends on you but, as a general rule, 30-45 minutes is a good window.
One of the reasons this topic engenders so much disagreement lies in the difference of opinion regarding what energy supplements do for the body. Energy drinks like Red Bull, for example, are high in caffeine and sugar. They certainly will give you an energy boost as you begin your workout, but once they wear off you inevitably crash and feel more exhausted than ever. The point is, the ingredients in any given energy supplement will dictate how it affects the body.
Should I take an energy supplement before a cardio workout if it contains high levels of caffeine and sugar?
As previously mentioned, energy supplements with a high caffeine and sugar content should probably be avoided before a cardio workout. Not only do they cause jitters and a significant crash in most people, but the crash itself can be physically dangerous as your body tries to recover from the exercise. Unexpected drops in blood pressure and blood sugar levels could cause adverse reactions in even the healthiest athletes.
Another aspect to consider regarding energy supplements with high sugar content is the process of how your body uses sugar. When blood sugar levels increase, the first place your body sends that sugar is to your muscles. This may sound like a positive thing before cardio workout, but as soon as that sugar supply is depleted, the body shifts into emergency mode because it's been fooled into thinking it is being denied blood sugar. Throwing off the body in this way can interfere with normal metabolic function.
What kind of energy supplement should I take before cardio workout?
If you decide that you do want to use an energy supplement before a cardio workout, make sure you use something designed specifically for that purpose. Such supplements will contain a minimal amount of sugar and caffeine, if any at all, and will be optimal in maintaining energy over a longer period of time. The best place to find such supplements are at health food stores and sporting goods retailers that devote a significant amount of floor space to weight training and cardio exercise. Use the handy supplement finder on this page to locate a variety of sources now!
If you work with a personal trainer or other athletes who do similar exercises, they may have some helpful advice about the best energy supplements to use. Just remember to use caution where the advice of your friends is concerned. What works for them may not necessarily work for you. A personal trainer, on the other hand, should have a better handle on how to advise you regarding energy supplements.
Do I really need to take energy supplement before cardio workout?
While energy supplements sell very well on the weight loss and exercise market, they aren't necessary for a good cardio workout. In the old days, before there were entire stores devoted to exercise supplements, athletes simply drank plenty of water before, during, and after their workout. They supplemented their water with various carbs and proteins at specific times, and everything worked out well. Even today there are athletes who realize the same benefits that they would get from an energy supplement simply by planning their diet accordingly.
The truth is, proper nutrition, while ideal, is not always possible. It pays to do your homework regarding the ingredients in any given supplement, and how the human body reacts to them. And be careful to avoid being fooled by slick packaging and over-bearing testimonials. A product that legitimately works will speak for itself.
One last thing to consider: if you find that you need an energy supplement just to complete your cardio workout, you need to reconsider your workout program. Energy supplements are supposed to be just that - supplements. If you cannot successfully complete a workout without the use of an energy booster, then there's something wrong. Either your workout is too intense, you have some sort of physical restriction that's interfering, or you're not doing your workout properly. In such a case, consult the advice of a professional.