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April 29, 2022
Pre-workout is everyone’s favorite supplement (or one of them). It gets you hyped for the gym and makes you want to lift some heavyweight. Or, if it’s one of those days where you’re just not feeling the gym, it can help motivate you to get your ass there (you just need to wait 30 minutes). However, what does pre-workout actually do? And can it help you gain weight?
The short answer is yes, pre-workout can help you gain weight. If you want a more in-depth explanation, read on my lifting friend. In this article we’re going to cover:
If you’ve been wanting to gain some weight, pre-workout might be able to help, but you still need to put in the work. Let’s find out how.
Pre-workout is that powder you see on Tiktok with kids daring other kids to dump dry scoops into their mouths. Why? Not really sure, but it’s a thing.
Other than lame Tiktok vids, pre-workout is a branch of sports supplements that are made to be taken before your workout with the intent to get you hyped up for your next gym session. As pre-workout is actually a type of supplement, every one will be different in the compounds found inside and the doses. That being said, the vast majority will have either one of or all of the following compounds:
As mentioned, regardless of what pre-workout you take, the primary purpose is the same. A pre-workout's main function is going to increase the intensity of your workout and let you train harder and longer.
We’ve written a ton on pre-workout ingredients before, so we won't get too in-depth here.
When it comes to pre-workout and gaining weight, you either want it to help you gain weight, or you are worried about it making you gain weight. We are assuming it's the former, so we'll dive into how it can help you gain weight below, but if you are worried about it making you fat, just know that it is VERY low calorie - ranging from like 0-10 calories per serving on average.
Now, let's look at how pre-workout can help you if you want to gain weight, or better yet, build muscle...
The thing about pre-workout is that it kind of helps you achieve whatever goal you have. It’s kind of a “do everything” type of supplement. Pre-workout can help you lose weight, build strength, build muscle, kind of whatever. This is due to how it affects your body.
Remember that a pre-workout's main goal is to increase the intensity and length of your workout. What this ultimately does is it improves your overall workload or total volume. This is important as total volume has been found to be the main driver of muscle hypertrophy (or muscle growth). Therefore, if a pre-workout can help you achieve more volume, there’s reason to believe that it could help you grow more muscle.
We should mention now that by gaining “weight”, we are referring to increasing your muscle mass and not so much total body weight - however, a study below shows this to be true as well.
That said, if you are a “hard gainer”, pre-workout probably won’t do much in terms of overall mass as it has nothing to do with calories, which is what you need.
So now we need to talk about how much muscle you can really gain with pre-workout. Surprisingly, there have actually been quite a few studies that specifically looked at this with pretty surprising results. And to be totally honest with you, we were a bit surprised reading these studies.
The first study examined the pre-workout NO-Shotgun, which is primarily a nitric oxide booster, on 18 non-resistance trained males for 28 days. These males were split into two groups, a placebo group and NO-Shotgun group. They then followed the same resistance training protocol for 28 days. At the end of the training plan, while both groups improved, the NO-Shotgun group basically improved significantly more on everything, including strength and myofibrillar protein content. But we’re here to talk about mass.
The NO group increased muscle mass significantly greater than the placebo group, with percent changes of 1.69% vs. 4.75%. As far as an absolute value, this equated to a .95kg vs. 2.51kg gain in mass which is a 1.56kg difference or 3.43 pounds. That’s pretty impressive.
This study used the Xpand 2X pre-workout in their study on 20 resistance-trained males for a total of 8 weeks. The same setup was basically the same with a placebo group and Xpand group who followed the same resistance training program. After the 8 weeks, they too saw similar results, with the pre-workout group gaining significantly more muscle mass.
This study used DEXA to measure total body composition and found that the Xpand 2x group increased their lean body mass by 7.8% and their quadriceps muscle thickness by 11.8%. This is compared to the 3.6% increase in lean body mass and 4.5% increase in quadriceps muscle thickness of the placebo group. Again, pretty impressive.
While this study didn’t measure body composition, it did calculate the total volume performed. Same idea as the others; 12 men performed the same resistance training program, with one taking a “multi-ingredient” workout and the other taking a placebo. They found that the pre-workout group performed 14% more total volume in lower body exercise and 7% more volume in total body exercise with no differences in upper.
If we had to guess why there was a difference in volume performed with upper and lower body exercises, we’d guess it’s because lower body exercises are harder. Basically, having a pre-workout that gets you hyped makes doing unfun things fun, like heavy squats. Just a guess, but regardless, more volume was performed.
Last one. This study simply used the energy drink Bang in their study. Again, same study design used 16 trained men following the same resistance training program for 4 weeks. They found that the Bang group saw a greater increase in total body mass (3.19kg vs. 4.40kg; difference of 1.98kg) and lean body mass (3.15 kg vs. 4.49 kg; difference of 1.93 kg). Again, it really looks like a good pre-workout gives you more Bang for your buck (pun totally intended).
So using pre-workout to gain weight really just depends on following a great resistance training program with a good hypertrophy aspect. Also, you need to bust your ass when you are in the gym. To be clear, taking a pre-workout and then playing video games isn’t going to do anything with your muscle mass. Taking a pre-workout and then going to the gym only to perform the same amount of volume isn’t going to do anything. A pre-workout will only help you gain muscle mass if you use it to get amped up and push out more reps.
Further, you’re going to have to EAT! Remember the study above where the pre-workout group gained an extra 3.43 pounds? That equates to 12,005 calories! Over 28 days, that equates to a daily 429 caloric surplus! Now, this is completely theoretical as many factors are going on, but the point is that if you want to get big, you need to eat big.
Related: Clean Bulk Workout & Diet Plan
One other factor to consider when taking a pre-workout to gain weight is taking other supplements. You can take anything as far as what supplements you can take with a pre-workout. Therefore, we will tell you what supplement you should take with a pre-workout.
Creatine is an awesome supplement to take if you want to gain weight…well, actually an awesome supplement to take for just about anything. We have a saying, “if you’re not taking creatine, you’re doing it wrong." It works and you can definitely expect to add at least 5-10 pounds total weight in your first month.
You’re going to need protein to help your muscles recover from all of that extra volume you put on them from the pre-workout. Protein powder is an efficient, effective, and cost-effective method to get in your protein if you are having trouble meeting your protein requirements. Or if you just want an easy snack or post-workout meal. Or maybe you just want to make some awesome overnight oats and protein. It doesn’t really matter what your reason is; protein powder is fantastic and cheap and will help you reach your goals.
We advise most guys to consume 1.6-2.2g of protein per kilogram of weight for weight training to build muscle.
“It works if you work it!”
The same could be said about using a pre-workout to gain weight. It can give you the energy you need to train harder and faster, but it won’t make you. If you want to gain weight, you still need to put in the hard work; it’s just that a pre-workout can make it a more straightforward process.
If you’re looking for a great pre-workout to pack on some muscle, check out this article on the best pre-workouts! Also, be sure to look out for key ingredients, like GlycerPump, when searching for a pre-workout - it'll give you the best shot at building serious mass.
Frequently asked pre workout questions:
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December 09, 2022
December 09, 2022
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