As a self-proclaimed gym rat for almost a decade, I have tried many different types of pre-workout supplements. However, as I got older, I started to fall out of love with the way most pre-workout powders make me feel. In his early 20s, the itch “LET’S DO THIS!” The wave of energy he injected into me before training was exciting, but now that I’m almost 20 years old, it becomes a bit disconcerting. More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve had to stop lifting weights due to pre-workout jitters. I even had to stop mid-set due to the sensation of invisible ants crawling on my skin (IYKYK).
Due to these physical side effects, I also started to experience high anxiety at the beginning of my workouts. The rapid increase in heart rate and hyperfocus that accompanied my pre-workout dose often left me feeling paranoid and self-conscious, and the crash that followed the initial wave of energy made me leave the gym sooner than I’d like.
Apparently, I’m not alone in my recent pre-workout disappointment. According to a 2019 study, 54% of subjects who regularly drink before training reported side effects such as nausea, skin reactions, and even heart rate abnormalities. And while some evidence suggests that pre-workout supplements are generally safe for most people to consume in small doses, the side effects alone have led me to seek a gentler alternative. So when I had the opportunity to try Liquid IV’s ultimate pre-workout energy drink for work, I jumped at the chance.
What is IV Fluid?
Liquid IV is a powdered supplement that promises to hydrate you 2-2.5 times faster than drinking H2O alone, without overstimulating you. It contains 3 times the amount of electrolytes found in other sports drinks (think Powerade or Gatorade), and contains vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12, and C. The powder comes in individual bars, each with enough powder to mix with 16 oz. of water.
The ratio of potassium citrate, dipotassium phosphate, sodium and glucose make up what Liquid IV calls Cellular Transport Technology, also known as the group of ingredients that can hydrate you faster than water. Free of artificial colors and sweeteners, Liquid IV is also vegan, non-GMO, and dairy-free.
After the initial success of Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier, the company developed and launched Liquid IV Energy Multiplier, an energy drink with the same hydrating power as the original Liquid IV.
L-Theanine + caffeine = an energizing combo
Pre-workouts and energy drinks often contain a mix of l-theanine and caffeine to provide a pre-workout energy boost. David Culpepper, MD and clinical director of LifeMD, says that the combination of the two can pack a punch of energy.
“L-theanine is a water-soluble amino acid that is not a stimulant, but still provides a level of focus and energy when supplemented,” says Culpepper. “The unique combination of l-theanine and caffeine actually supports a more sustainable approach; the caffeine acts as a stimulant, and the unique properties of l-theanine eliminate the jitters that often accompany caffeine consumption.”
Liquid IV Energy Multiplier also contains l-theanine and caffeine, just in smaller doses. One packet contains about 100 mg of caffeine, comparable to one or two eight-ounce cups of coffee. Most pre-workouts contain up to 300mg of caffeine in a serving, as well as beta-alanine, the non-essential amino acid that causes pre-workout skin tingles. This amount of caffeine at one time can lead to nausea, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure.
Although problematic in high doses, caffeine and l-theanine can be helpful for lifting your mood before exercise, Culpepper adds.
“Both caffeine and l-theanine are two great ingredients that support sustained energy in the body,” says Culpepper. “There is plenty of research to support an increase in performance and energy output when supplemented with the proper dose of caffeine prior to training.”
Electrolytes keep you active
Staying properly hydrated during your workout is just as important as drinking enough water throughout the day. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, the electrically charged minerals in our blood that regulate chemical reactions, control muscle contractions, and keep us hydrated. Low electrolyte levels can lead to fatigue, nausea, headaches, and muscle cramps.
Registered dietitian and nutrition coach Tiffany Ma says you can replace lost electrolytes by fueling yourself with an electrolyte-rich drink like Liquid IV to help you get through a particularly sweaty workout.
“Electrolyte-focused beverages are a means of replenishing electrolytes lost through exercise, allowing a person to train harder and more effectively,” says Ma. “Research reports that excessive sweat loss can result in a 10% performance deficit, which is why staying hydrated is so important!”
Try Liquid IV as part of my pre-workout routine
In my quest to find a pre-workout alternative, I drank Liquid IV Energy Multiplier before my workouts for a full week. I opted for Yuzu Pineapple, the latest flavor to join the Energy Multiplier roster. Bright, tart, and tropical, the flavor was super refreshing. The drink had a slight salty taste, but was pretty par for the course for such electrolyte-heavy drinks.
In addition to the Energy Multiplier, I tried drinking Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier for half of my workouts, hoping to see some more positive results in the hydration department. The summer heat has left me more dehydrated than usual and I needed all the help I could get. I chose the Lemon Lime flavor, which tasted similar to a light margarita.
During the week, I drank an Energy Multiplier packet during my warm-up, which is usually a 15-minute incline walk on the treadmill. I then drank a Hydration Multiplier packet during my strength routine, and once I was done I followed up with regular H2O as usual.
An unexpected advantage that I found in this powder was the lack of tint; Many pre-workouts come in bright, wacky colors that can leave temporary stains on your teeth. Because the color was a super pale yellow, I also didn’t have to worry about staining my workout gear.
This is what happened when I switched my pre-workout to Liquid IV
1. I felt energetic, but not anxious.
My gymxiety has officially left the building. While I felt a huge boost in energy after drinking the Energy Multiplier, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or shaky during my workout. The feeling I got after drinking it was similar to the feeling I got after drinking a strong cold drink: upbeat and excited. I found the 100mg of caffeine in the Energy Multiplier to be a sweet spot, leaving me energized for my workout but not overwhelmed with energy. Without the anxiety, I felt better in my skin and more comfortable in the gym.
2. My dehydration headaches disappeared.
During the week, I found that my late afternoon dehydration headaches had almost disappeared. While I’m pretty diligent about taking my daily dose of H2O, I rarely (if ever) opt to have a sports drink when I’m thirsty. Drinking something with electrolytes helped combat these headaches, recharging my body with the electrolytes I lost from sweating.
3. I was able to concentrate on my exercises.
Since Liquid IV does not contain beta-alanine, I did not experience any of the uncomfortable skin tingling that previously came with my pre-workout. And because I was no longer obsessing over my racing heart rate or tingling skin, I was able to be more present during my lifts. In fact, I found that I was able to perform better in the gym than before, now that I wasn’t too focused on managing the negative side effects of my previous training.
4. I did my workout without failing halfway through.
There’s usually a terrible mid-workout crash that accompanies my pre-workout, but I didn’t experience a drop in energy level with Liquid IV. I felt upbeat throughout the duration of my lifting session and found the 100mg of caffeine that the Energy Multiplier produces to be an energy sweet spot for me.
While there’s something romantic about the ritual of swallowing neon-colored powder “to make money,” swapping it out for Liquid IV has been a welcome change of pace for this gym lover. Even though my experiment is over, the clarity and calm I feel after leaving my pre-workout has made me consider quitting for good.
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