Pre-Workout vs Post-Workout: Everything You Need To Know

If you are looking to take your workouts to the next level, you have probably thought about adding pre and post-workout supplements to your routine. While supplements are not necessary, they can definitely make you bring your A-game. But, which should you choose between pre workout vs post workout?
Here, we will dig into the differences between pre-workouts vs. post-workouts to help you determine which supplement is ideal for your needs and goals. 

There are several differences between pre-workout vs. post-workout. Pre-workouts are taken 30 to 60 minutes before a workout and include caffeine, creatine, BCAAs, citrulline, and beta-alanine - all you need to improve performance. Post-workouts 30 minutes up to 2 hours after a workout, and they can be whey proteins, BCAAs, and carbs to enhance recovery.

Pre-Workout vs Post-Workout

What Is A Pre-Workout?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to be taken before a workout. These are meant to boost your energy before a workout, allowing you to train harder and longer. 

There are no set guidelines for a pre-workout. So, the ingredients might vary from brand to brand. But, overall, the most common pre-workout ingredients are:

What Is A Post-Workout?

Now that we know what are pre-workout supplements, what are post-workout supplements?

A post-workout supplement is meant to be taken after a workout, typically 30 minutes to two hours after you finish. The main purpose of post-workout supplements is to promote good recovery and enough nutrient replenishment. 

The faster and the better you recover, the easier it will be to hit the gym the following day, and the better muscle gains you can have. 

The most common post-workout supplements are protein shakes. But other post-workout supplements include creatine, BCAAs, green powders, and carbs (they help with glycogen replenishment).  

pull-ups press

Pre-Workout vs. Post-Workout

There are several differences between a pre-workout and post-workout. Here, we’ll talk about the differences in nutrients, price range, benefits, and ingredients. 

Nutrient Profile

The nutrient profile between pre-workouts and post-workouts is very different. 

The following table compares the nutrients in pre and post-workouts. Remember that each brand can have different ingredients, which can change the nutrient composition. 

NutrientPre-WorkoutPost-Workout
Calories0-500-300
Carbs (g)0-52-30
Proteins (g)0-50-30
Fats (g)0-50-10

As you can see, there is a massive difference in the nutrient composition of pre and post-workouts. 

As mentioned before, the purpose of pre-workouts is to provide sufficient energy for a hard workout. And, to prevent feeling full before a workout which can result in reduced performance, typically, these are made with almost zero calories. There are pre-workouts with more calories, such as 200 kcal per serving, but we recommend keeping the low-calorie options in most cases.

The pre-workouts that contain calories are mostly given by carbs. Carbs are the preferred energy source in the body, and they take a shorter amount of time to digest compared to fats and proteins. 

On the other hand, the purpose of post-workouts is to replenish the energy lost during the exercise and promote good recovery. While there are some post-workouts that won’t provide any calories, although they contain substances that can help recovery, most of them are high in calories since they are a combination of proteins and carbs. 

Again, as mentioned before, remember that each supplement can have different nutritional values depending on the purpose of the supplement. Proteins help repair muscle damage to promote muscle growth, and carbs help replenish glycogen stores. However, if you consume enough of these nutrients with your diet, an excess will not do any good. Below we recommend a low-calorie post-workout that can help recovery.

Price Range

On average, a pre-workout supplement can range between $0.50 and $2.50 per serving. The price varies depending on the ingredients and the company’s additional benefits, such as certifications, money-back guarantees, or other benefits. 

The price range for post-workout supplements is similar. You can find post-workout supplements that go from $0.50 to $3.00 per serving. Again, the price range varies according to the number of ingredients, quality, and company traits. 

barbell lifting in the gym

Benefits

Since pre and post-workout supplements also use different ingredients, they each have different benefits. 

Pre-workout supplements can provide the following benefits. 

  • Boost mental energy, improve focus
  • Enhances productivity. 
  • Increases strength and power. 
  • Enhances endurance. 
  • Promotes muscle growth. 

On the other hand, post-workout supplements might provide the following benefits.

  • Reduces muscle breakdown. 
  • Promotes muscle growth. 
  • Helps reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). 
  • Prevents dehydration.
  • Improves recovery. 
  • Replenishes glycogen stores. 

So, as you can see, pre-workouts prepare the body for the workout, while post-workouts support recovery. 

Pre-Workout vs. Post-Workout: Summary

Both pre and post-workout supplements are safe and effective. They can provide several benefits, but they also provide some drawbacks. Let’s check the pros and cons of pre-workouts and post-workouts. 

Pros And Cons Of Pre-Workouts

Positives:

  • Might increase focus. 

  • Can boost mental energy. 

  • May reduce time to exhaustion. 

  • Might improve motivation. 

  • Can enhance power. 

  • May deliver more nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. 

Could be better:

  • Might produce jitters.

  • Can produce insomnia due to the high caffeine content

  • May produce an energy crash. 

  • Might cause an upset stomach. 

  • Can increase the risk of side effects such as skin issues or headaches. 

Pros And Cons Of Post-Workouts

Positives:

  • Can improve recovery. 

  • Might promote muscle growth. 

  • May reduce muscle loss. 

  • Easy way to get extra nutrients. 

Could be better:

  • Might cause digestive issues. 

  • If you are not careful with your calorie intake, it might produce weight gain. 

  • The effects might vary for each individual. 

  • They can be expensive. 

 Price range per servingCaloriesBest forValue for moneySide effect risks
Pre-Workout$0.5 - $2.50-50All purposesMid/HighModerate
Post-Workout$0,5 - $30-300BulkingLow/MidLow

Pre-Workout vs. Post-Workout: When To Use Each

The main purpose of pre-workout supplements is to give sufficient energy prior to a workout. For that reason, they are meant to be taken 30 to 60 minutes before a workout. 

On the other hand, post-workout supplements are taken 30 minutes to two hours after training. 

In the beginning, people often referred to an “anabolic window,” meaning you needed to consume a post-workout almost immediately after training. 

While it is true there is some muscle damage after training, research shows that you still have more time than 30 minutes after a workout. You can have good muscle growth as long as you get the daily recommended calories and macros. 

Now the question relies on which pre and post-workout supplements you should take.

Naked Nutrition

A good pre-workout supplement is the one from Naked Nutrition. It has effective doses of beta-alanine, creatine monohydrate, L-arginine, and natural caffeine. It also contains vitamins C, B3, B6, folate, B12, calcium. It can help boost energy, strength, and power to take your training to the next level. 

Naked Nutrition
photo by @mpprincesstv

If you want a post-workout supplement, one of the best available in the market is Post supplement from Transparent Labs. It offers L-glutamine, betaine anhydrous, L-carnitine, tart cherry powder, and Astragin

Post supplement from Transparent Labs

While Post doesn’t contain calories, it has several ingredients that can help support muscle recovery. For example, in a 2015 study, people who were supplemented with L-glutamine had a faster recovery and decreased muscle soreness. Another ingredient, betaine-anhydrous, could potentially decrease cortisol levels and decrease lactate response, which can improve post-exercise recovery. 

But, keep in mind it doesn’t offer any protein or carbs. So, make the necessary adjustments based on your recommended intake and goals. 

FAQ

Do I Need a Pre and Post Workout?

Pre-workout supplements help increase energy and reduce early fatigue. On the other hand, post-workouts help recovery and muscle growth. While they are not mandatory, they are worth trying, especially if you feel tired before a workout or your body is not recovering properly. 

When Should I Take Pre and Post Workout?

You should take a pre-workout supplement 30 to 60 minutes before a workout. On the other hand, you should take a post-workout supplement 30 minutes to two hours after a workout. 

Conclusion

So, which should you choose a pre or post workout? The answer is: it depends on your goals and needs. 

Pre-workout and post-workout supplements, while not mandatory, can be a good way to enhance performance and promote better recovery. Different supplements are available in the market, so choosing the one that fits your needs and goals will be crucial to have the best results. 

Do you use a pre-workout or post-workout supplement? Let us know in the comments! 

Also read:

References:

  • Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245118/
  • Protein and Amino Acids // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234922/
  • Effects of Whey Protein Alone or as Part of a Multi-ingredient Formulation on Strength, Fat-Free Mass, or Lean Body Mass in Resistance-Trained Individuals: A Meta-analysis // Pubmed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26403469/
  • Protein – Which is Best? // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/
  • International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise // Pubmed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28642676/


Oleksandr is a professional fitness nutritionist, certified by FPA (Fitness Professional Association). Oleksandr adheres to the principles of evidence-based dietetics and instills in his clients a healthy relationship with food - without strict prohibitions on favorite foods and regular disruptions. His main task – not only get a result for you, but also maintain it for many years, enjoying tasty and delicious food.

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