Does your pre-workout supplement contain harmful additives?
When it comes to artificial sweeteners, it’s not so much that we want to eat our cake and have it, too.
No, it’s more like we want to eat our cake without actually having to eat cake.
What we want are the nutrients of a Brussel sprout soaked in guilt-free cake-flavored artificial sweeteners.
When we bite down on a hearty stalk of broccoli, we want to “taste the rainbow”—not the earth’s unsweetened, nutrient-rich vegetation.
And this attitude has increasingly infected the realm of health and fitness supplements, namely the pre-workout supplement.
To match the sweet-toothed demands of today’s supplement buyers, pre-workout supplements are coming increasingly loaded with artificial “sugar-like” sweeteners.
Due to the numerous health issues and metabolic disorders associated with processed sugars, the appeal of a sweet, sugar-free alternative has taken the food and dietary supplement industry by storm.
As such, artificial sweeteners promise the sweetness of sugar minus the side effects.
However, as common wisdom has long taught us:
- all pleasure is bought at a price, and there’s no such thing as a biological free lunch.
And, yet, even so, this doesn’t mean you have to pick the “lesser evil” between processed sugar and artificial sweeteners.
There are healthy, natural pre-workout supplements that use healthy, natural additives with zero processed sugar—and they still taste sweet.
Even better, they taste sweet and feel sweet, too.
In this guide on artificial sweeteners in pre-workouts, we cover in-depth a few of the best natural pre-workout ingredients...
...as well as provide a full analysis of Performance Lab® Pre, the Best Pre-Workout Without Artificial Sweetener 2020.
All you need to do is read—and maybe learn a thing or two!
What are Artificial Sweeteners?
Let’s start here.
Essentially, artificial sweeteners are a class of sugar substitutes used as food additives to provide the sweet taste of sugar without the usual health hang-ups associated with sugar.
Generally, artificial sweeteners are zero- to low-calorie, giving them a certain appeal from a weight loss angle.
Likewise, as the name suggests, artificial sweeteners are “artificial,” meaning that they’re synthetically manufactured from plant extracts or processed by chemical synthesis.
But what about non-artificial sweeteners?
Conversely, non-artificial sweeteners encompass a variety of natural, unprocessed sugar (or “free sugar”) sources, such as:
- brown sugar
- fruit juice
Though relatively natural, excessive sugar intake is strongly associated with many health issues related to metabolic balance, weight gain, cardio health, cognition, and tooth decay.
In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended both adults and children to reduce their intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake in an effort to combat the harmful effects of excessive sugar consumption.
But cutting out sugar from the diet is easier said than done, especially given the habit-forming aspects of sugar.
Which is why “guilt-free” sugar substitutes, such as artificial sweeteners, have gained so much traction over the recent decades.
Yet, while the original intentions underlying artificial sweeteners may be noble...
...the long-term consequences of these lab-synthesized additives may pose other serious health risks.
The Not-So-Sweet Side of Artificial Sweeteners
The emphasis on artificial sweeteners’ lack of calories has created the illusion that artificial sweeteners have no health consequences whatsoever outside of pleasing our taste buds.
Though generally zero- to low-calorie, artificial sweeteners do have an impact on our health.
Some of the toxic side effects associated with artificial sweeteners include:[3-4]
- Inhibition of synthesis and release of neurotransmitters
- Elevation of stress hormone cortisol activity
- Production of excess free radicals (oxidative stress)
- Increased risk of preterm delivery
- Increased risk of developing depression symptoms and mood disorders
Interestingly, artificial sweetener intake hasn’t been associated with increased weight loss.
In fact, it's shown to promote exactly the opposite....
According to one mini-review from 2010, epidemiological studies demonstrate a correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain, lending to the notion that “artificial sweeteners, precisely because they are sweet, encourage sugar cravings and sugar dependence.”
This is especially important to note, considering that: “Sugar-Free” Does Not Mean “Toxin-Free”
Limiting sugar, salt, and fat intake isn’t the only way to achieve a healthy dietary lifestyle.
In fact, consuming the right types of sugars, salts, and fats at the right times may significantly improve your health and fitness performance.
So, really, it’s much more complicated than simply cutting out sugar. Especially if your plan relies on substituting sugar with artificial sweeteners.
Though an effective strategy to limit excess sugar intake, excessive artificial sweetener intake can also have toxic effects on the body.
Not to mention that completely removing beneficial sugars, salts, and fats from the diet while replacing them with artificial additives may have a doubly negative effect on your nutritional health status.
- By depriving your body of essential nutrients replacing them with ineffectual additives, artificial sweeteners may interfere with physiological responses that normally contribute to glucose and energy homeostasis.
In other words, artificial sweeteners not only trick our psychology, but they deceive our physiology as well.
By priming our metabolism for glucose without delivering on this promise, high-intensity sweeteners may counterintuitively worsen our metabolic efficiency and weight management capacity.
Examples of Artificial Sweeteners
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the following common artificial sweeteners:
- Acesulfame: 200 times sweeter than sucrose (common sugar)
- Aspartame: 200 times sweeter than sucrose
- Neotame: 8,000 times sweeter than sucrose
- Saccharin: 300 to 400 times sweeter than sucrose
- Sucralose: 320 to 1,000 times sweeter than sucrose
Common brand names for these sweeteners include; Sunett® (Acesulfame), NutraSweet® and Equal® (Aspartame), Newtame (Neotame), Splenda® (Sucralose), and Sweet’N Low® (Saccharin).
These types of artificial sweeteners are commonly found in processed foods, diet sodas, sugar-free foods, and powder supplements.
How to Avoid Synthetic Additives (and Ingredients)
The best way to avoid synthetic additives is to read the Supplement Facts before buying.
Look to the “Other Ingredients” section of the label and check for any of the above-listed artificial sweeteners: acesulfame K, aspartame, sucralose, etc.
Likewise, otherwise artificial additives to look for include monosodium glutamate (MSG), FD&C food coloring, sodium nitrite, and sodium benzoate.
If you’re unsure of an additive, do a quick search online before buying. Natural, effective workout supplements tend to have a clear-cut reputation as natural, effective workout supplements online.
Generally speaking, even if you’re not vegan, choosing vegan-friendly health and fitness formulas is the way to go, as they tend to not only prioritize plant-based ingredients but natural, clean additives as well. No harmful synthetics or GMOs.
Best Natural Pre-Workout Ingredients
Lacking artificial sweeteners isn’t the only criteria of an effective pre-workout supplement.
No, the best pre-workout without artificial sweeteners must also supply clean, effective pre-workout ingredients to be worth your time (and money).
Here are a few of the best non-artificial ingredients to look for in a pre-workout supplement:
Organic muscle-priming energy booster for recharging physical performance, stimulating anabolic lean muscle growth, and buffering lactic acid build-up.
As one of the most popular pre-workout performance enhancers, creatine is an organic compound highly concentrated in muscle tissue, where it is stored to fuel ATP energy production.
High-intensity exercise burns through stored creatine reserves.
When those reserves dry up, exercise performance suffers, which is why creatine is such a beloved sports nutrition supplement.
Unlike stimulants (eg. caffeine), creatine supplies natural, non-stimulatory energy that builds up in muscle tissue for long-lasting exercise performance...
...not just short jolts of stimulatory energy.
Research has consistently demonstrated long-term creatine supplementation to be an effective strategy for improving muscle, strength, and performance gains.
Creatine Case Study:
One study on the effects of creatine on muscle damage and sport performance found that 4-week creatine supplementation safely improved exercise strength performance and protected against muscle damages.
The researcher’s conclusion: “creatine supplementation combined with complex training improved maximal muscular strength and reduced muscle damage during training.”
Beyond muscle enhancement, creatine supplementation may have a positive effect on cognition and immunity, with increasing evidence supporting creatine’s regulatory role in the expression of molecules involved in recognizing infections.
Best Creatine Supplement: Creapure® pH10
- Creapure® pH10 is a 99.5% pure form of creatine monohydrate manufactured by AlzChem AG, a well-established world leader in sports nutrition.
- Creapure® pH10 is pH-balanced to enhance bioavailability and reduce typical absorption issues with creatine associated with bloating and gastric distress.
- The bioavailability advantages of Creapure® pH10 ensure a higher creatine uptake in muscle tissue, thereby lowering the dosage requirements.
Creapure® is highly bioavailable and more efficiently elevates creatine stores with a lower dosage than standard creatine supplements.
Because creatine builds up in muscle tissue, the typically high dosages provided by other creatine supplements are often unnecessary and may even negatively affect kidney health. As such, Creapure® offers a creatine form that’s easy to absorb and safe for daily use.
Associated with watermelon, L-citrulline is an amino acid that converts to L-arginine, the pre-workout compound best known for its N.O.-boosting properties.
Long believed to be the king of nitric oxide (N.O.) boosters, L-arginine has been dethroned by L-Citrulline, an amino acid precursor to bioactive L-arginine.
For both aerobic and anaerobic athletes—long-distance runners to bodybuilders—L-citrulline is the preferred pre-workout ingredient for enhancing exercise endurance and catching the much sought-after muscle pumps. This is thanks to L-citrulline’s effects on N.O. production, which occurs via the following steps:[10,11]
- Once absorbed, L-citrulline converts to L-arginine in the kidneys.
- L-arginine synthesizes nitric oxide via the enzyme N.O. synthase.
- Nitric oxide promotes cGMP, which signals smooth muscle relaxation.
Though L-arginine is the precursor to N.O. production, dietary L-arginine is greatly inhibited by digestion in the liver.
By bypassing the liver and converting to L-arginine in the kidneys, L-citrulline contributes to greater N.O. boosts than L-arginine supplementation.
In terms of muscle and strength gains, L-citrulline (in combination with glutathione) has been shown in clinical research to increase bioactive nitric oxide levels, lean muscle mass, and strength.
L-Citrulline Case Study:
One group of researchers observed, “supplementation of [L-citrulline + glutathione] during resistance training increased lean mass after four weeks of [resistance training] and was positively associated with muscle strength.”
Best L-Citrulline Supplement: Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline
- Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline is an ultra-pure L-citrulline form manufactured by using a proprietary plant-based fermentation process.
- Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline is a superior precursor of arginine and N.O. than supplementary L-arginine itself.
- The combination of Kyowa Quality® L-citrulline with Setria® glutathione (see below) works even better than citrulline malate alone.
Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline is a pure and cleanly sourced amino acid demonstrated to significantly improve N.O. activity and muscular circulation.
Over the past century, the Kyowa Quality® brand has demonstrated itself to be a top global leader in manufacturing pure, clean amino acids of exceptional quality, and Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline is no exception. Paired with the next pre-workout ingredient, this L-citrulline form may significantly boost N.O. levels for enhanced exercise performance.
Master antioxidant enzyme that protects against muscle-damaging oxidative stress and strengthens immunity against exercise-related pathogens.
Exercise breaks down muscle prior to building new muscle tissue. Due to this observably weakened state, it is widely believed that a single bout of exercise temporarily suppresses immunity, referred to as an “open window” opportunity for pathogens to invade and infect the body.
No doubt, sickness is a major gains killer. However, one often overlooked factor in the “exercise-induced immune suppression” theory is the role of Glutathione, an antioxidant that spikes within muscle tissue during exercise.
Supplementing L-glutathione prior to exercise may help elevate the body’s natural immune response to heightened oxidative stress and pathogen exposure.
As a pre-workout supplement, L-glutathione may improve exercise performance and fitness health by protecting muscle tissue again exercise-related free radicals and pathogens.
In terms of performance enhancement, glutathione seems to work by reducing muscle fatigue.
L-Glutathione Case Study:
Animal and human research on the effects of glutathione supplementation on exercise-induced muscle metabolism found improvements on muscular pH levels and fatty acid metabolism (in mice), reductions in blood lactate levels and psychological fatigue (in humans).
This led to the conclusion that “glutathione supplementation improved lipid metabolism and acidification in skeletal muscles during exercise, leading to less muscle fatigue.”
The combination of L-glutathione + L-citrulline seems to be particularly effective at both protecting and promoting muscle performance during exercise.
Best L-Glutathione Supplement: Setria®
- Setria® is a highly absorbable, pure form of glutathione manufactured from an innovative, proprietary fermentation process.
- Setria® Performance Blend pairs L-glutathione with L-citrulline for a sustained boost on N.O.-enhanced circulation and antioxidant muscle protection.
- The combination of L-glutathione + L-citrulline improves N.O. activity beyond the bio-benefits of L-citrulline alone.
Setria® Performance Blend elevates the performance enhancing results of L-citrulline with complementary antioxidant L-glutathione.
For an increase on “muscle pumping” nitric oxide activity, L-citrulline works really well. However, for an even BIGGER boost on N.O. circulation, L-citrulline + L-glutathione works even better. By pairing the two together, the Setria® Performance Blend promotes and protects muscle performance against the deleterious side effects of high-intensity training.
Pro-carnosine amino acid that supports muscle performance and recovery by promoting fast-twitch muscle activity and neutralizing protein-damaging toxins.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that’s naturally produced in the body and aids in the production of carnosine, a dipeptide molecule highly concentrated in muscle tissue—namely fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Due to carnosine’s high concentration in fast-twitch muscle fibers, higher carnosine levels have been associated with increased strength and muscle performance during high-intensity (typically, anaerobic) exercise and competition.
As a carnosine precursor, beta-alanine supplementation seems to substantially elevate carnosine content in muscle tissue, even by up to 80%.
Carnosine, a major contributor to H+ buffering during high-intensity exercise, may improve exercise capacity by neutralizing exercise-induced lactic acid buildup in muscle tissue.
The sports performance benefits of beta-alanine’s muscle-buffering effects include:
- Increasing working capacity of muscle
- Delaying onset of muscle fatigue and failure
- Boosting overall muscle strength and endurance
Despite encompassing a relatively recent, growing area of research, beta-alanine supplementation carries significant potential in naturally promoting exercise performance, namely for sprinters, bodybuilders, and other anaerobic athletes.
Additionally, there’s an increasing amount of evidence in support of beta-alanine’s use with creatine and other pre-workout supplements for further ergogenic benefits.
Best Beta-Alanine Supplement: CarnoSyn®
- CarnoSyn® is a hugely popular, world-renown beta-alanine supplement, the only patented beta-alanine on the market backed by clinical research.
- Over 55 scientific studies have performed on CarnoSyn®, elevating this research-backed beta-alanine form above generic, untested beta-alanine supplements.
- CarnoSyn® is the only beta-alanine with New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) status and a self-affirmed GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.
CarnoSyn® is the go-to supplement for high-quality, pre-workout beta-alanine.
Intimately involved in the research and development of beta-alanine as a viable pre-workout ingredient, CarnoSyn® has made major, contributive strides in providing safe and effective performance enhancement options. CarnoSyn® + Creapure® comprises one of the best beta-alanine + creatine combos available on the market.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
A multi-purpose herbal extract rich in proanthocyanidins, a class of potent antioxidants that help soothe and protect muscle tissue during intense training.
Often found in nootropic supplements, due to this herb’s association with cognitive performance enhancement, maritime pine bark extract is one of the most unique and versatile pre-workout supplements.
Maritime pine bark extract works primarily by supplying proanthocyanidins, a concentrate of water-soluble antioxidants.
All the above may benefit exercise health and performance by:
- Combatting Oxidative Stress – clinical research has suggested pre-workout supplementation of maritime pine bark extract to be effective at protecting against exercise-related oxidative stress.
- Promoting Endothelial N.O. Production – by improving endothelial (blood vessel lining) N.O. production, maritime pine bark extract may improve delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissues.
Maritime pine bark extract’s simultaneous boost on antioxidant capacity and muscle circulation elevate this natural PWO to “secret weapon” status.
Backed by several clinical studies that have associated MPBE’s antioxidants with a range of brain and body benefits, maritime pine bark extract is an ultra-healthy, ultra-powerful performance enhancer whose pre-workout benefits are matched only by its long-term benefits on general health and cognition.
The Ultimate Nitric Oxide Stack: Setria® Performance Blend + Maritime Pine Bark Extract
- Setria® Performance Blend elevates N.O. levels.
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract regulates nitric oxide synthase (NOS).
- NOS catalyzes the conversion process from L-arginine to N.O.
Individually, Setria® Performance Blend’s L-citrulline and maritime pine bark’s proanthocyanidins may help improve N.O. production. However, together, these pre-workout ingredients may synergize for even better results, with some research associating improvements on male health in particular with a combination of maritime pine bark extract and N.O.-boosting amino acids (including L-citrulline).
Best Pre-Workout Without Artificial Sweeteners:
Performance Lab® Pre
Performance Lab® Pre packs all-natural pre-workout ingredients in safe, synthetic-free NutriCaps® capsules.
Performance Lab® Pre boosts athletic performance by:
- Increasing N.O. activity to enhance circulation and oxygenation in muscle tissue for better “muscle pumps.”
- Fueling muscle-priming ATP energy levels for enhanced aerobic and anerobic exercise and athletic competition.
- Accelerating clearance of lactic acid build-up from muscle tissue, potentially extending muscle activity until failure.
- Replenishing hydration-supporting electrolytes to sustain circulation, cardio health, and all-around muscle performance.
All-natural pre-workout ingredients for all-natural performance enhancement.
Performance Lab Pre Supplement Facts:
- Sodium (from Himalayan Pink Salt), 140 mg
- NutriGenesis® Iron+, 5 mg
Setria® Performance Blend, 2,200 mg
- L-Citrulline (Kyowa Quality®)
- L-Glutathione (Setria®)
- Creapure® pH10 (83% Creatine), 1250 mg
- CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, 800 mg
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract (95% proanthocyanidins), 100 mg
- Himalayan Pink Salt, 350 mg
Cutting against the grain established by the overwhelming multitude of stim-loaded, synthetic-infused sports supplements, Performance Lab® Pre promotes exercise performance without use of synthetic stimulants, additives, or any other risky ingredients typically found in your run-of-the-mill pre-workout stack.
Instead, what you’ll find here is easy-to-absorb Creapure® pH10 creatine for natural ATP energy enhancement, a Setria® combo of muscle-protecting L-glutathione and N.O.-boosting L-citrulline for overall optimized muscle health, CarnoSyn® beta-alanine for enhanced exercise endurance—and much, much more.
What’s more, Performance Lab® Pre uniquely encapsulates its all-natural formula in NutriCaps®, a patented capsule constructed out of fermented tapioca, or pullulan.
As a plant-based, prebiotic-infused capsule, NutriCaps® lacks the usual GI side effects associated with artificially sweetened and preserved pre-workout supplements, allowing Performance Lab® Pre customers to safely use this formula on a daily, long-term basis.
All-in-all, Performance Lab® Pre is 100% natural, vegan-friendly, eco-friendly, non-GMO, gluten-free, artificial sweetener/ingredient-free—and, really, just free from all the usual BS found in your usual pre-workout stack.
Performance Lab® SPORT Pre is the Best Pre-Workout Without Artificial Sweeteners
As we increasingly dive into this artificial, electronic world, many of us are realizing that what’s old is new again—and this certainly includes the recent demand for non-artificial health and fitness supplements.
In other words, what we want are the same, natural, Earth-grown performance enhancers that have been used to great success by our ancestors—and their ancestors—for many, many centuries.
Which isn’t to say that we’re totally against new clinical discoveries and technological innovations in sports nutrition. Only that these innovations align with our body’s natural demands.
By stacking all-natural & organic pre-workout ingredients in non-artificial NutriCaps® capsules, Performance Lab® SPORT Pre fulfills the natural demands of an active body.
With Performance Lab® SPORT Pre you can say goodbye to artificial sweeteners, flavors, and dyes, as well as the subtle, sinister feeling that your so-called “health” supplements aren’t actually all that healthy for you at all.
As the first “ultramodern” pre-workout stack, SPORT Pre supplies all the best, natural, time-tested herbal extracts and compounds in their most innovative, bio-advanced forms. Both powerful and safe, SPORT Pre is a pre-workout stack you can supplement daily to greatly improve your exercise performance without any fear of adverse health effects.
Especially if you’re exercising that frequently (i.e., daily), in which case: wow!
Other Workout Supplements Without Artificial Additives
Like Performance Lab® SPORT Pre, all Performance Lab® products use only all-natural ingredients paired with a minimal selection of natural additives—no artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.
Just the good stuff.
With that in mind, a few all-natural sports supplements that stack well with Performance Lab® SPORT Pre include:
Performance Lab® Protein
The world’s cleanest, most effective protein powder powered by Oryzatein®, the only certified organic brown rice protein with anabolic effects comparable to whey protein.
The protein powder market has an additive problem. In fact, all powder supplements have an additive problem, as many supplement manufacturers are afraid to sell “natural tasting” powder formulas. Flavored and sweetened with organic cocoa, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and more, Performance Lab® SPORT Protein shows that “natural tasting” actually tastes really good, finally giving sports nutrition customers a protein powder that not only tastes great but feels great, too. No bloating or gastric distress—no worries over toxic artificial additives—only a clean, clinically backed source of great-tasting plant-based protein.
- Supplement Facts: Protein (from Oryzatein® - Certified Organic Brown Rice [Oryza sativa] Protein Concentrate), Himalayan Pink Salt, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese
To get the best deal on Performance Lab® SPORT Protein:
Performance Lab® Post
Innovative sports-drink-in-a-capsule post-workout formula designed to support muscle growth, promote quicker exercise recovery, and stimulate muscle stem cell activity.
Complementing the muscle-priming effects of SPORT Pre, Performance Lab® SPORT Post provides safe, natural support for post-exercise muscle development and long-term muscle health. Next to the exercise itself, the second most important aspect of fitness is recovery. Days of exceptional productivity require nights of exceptional sleep. Likewise, exceptional exercise requires exceptional post-workout recovery to achieve maximum anabolic muscle and strength gains. With muscle-replenishing creatine and muscle-protecting pomegranate extract, as the powerful P40p™ extract, SPORT Post promotes and protects muscle tissue against the deleterious side effects of high-intensity training.
- Supplement Facts: Sodium (from Himalayan Pink Salt), NutriGenesis® Potassium+, Creatine (as Creapure® pH10), SR CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, Ajipure® L-Glutamine, Pomegranate Extract (as P40p™) (std. for min. 40% punicosides and min. 50% total polyphenols), Himalayan Pink Salt
To get the best deal on Performance Lab® SPORT Post:
Performance Lab® Stim
The ultramodern “Caffeine 2.0” pill supplying performance-enhancing caffeine with a stim-balancing complex of nootropic amino acids and vitamins.
Up there with artificial sweeteners, the excessive dosages of caffeine have caused much worry and scrutiny among pre-workout supplement buyers. And, yet, it remains a popular topic of discussion because caffeine works really well at boosting exercise performance and energy.
Enter: Performance Lab® Stim, the new caffeine pill on the block, featuring a modest, scalable amount of caffeine (50 mg) in an all-natural, amino-enhanced formula. With L-theanine, a relaxing amino acid, to smooth out caffeine’s jittery side effects, and a short stack of L-tyrosine and B-vitamins to replenish the catecholamine neurotransmitter loss to caffeine’s stimulatory effects, Performance Lab® Stim supplies a manageable burst of caffeinated workout energy without any follow-up crash or comedown.
- Supplement Facts: NutriGenesis® Caffeine Balance B-Complex: Riboflavin+ (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B6+, Folate+ (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12+; Natural Caffeine (from Coffea robusta seeds), Suntheanine® L-Theanine, Ajipure® L-Tyrosine
To get the best deal on Performance Lab® Stim:
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