Bodybuilders were already on the scene by the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that Muscle Beach became overrun with juice heads. Interestingly enough, the moniker “juice heads” stems from pre-workout supplements. With an entire group of people earning a label based on what they drink, rather than what they do, it’s safe to say that pre-workout drinks closely trailed the boom of bodybuilders.
The entire lives of these men revolved around how pumped they could get their muscles. Admirers and manufacturers, alike, were taking notice. With big names like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva crediting the success of their workouts to coffee, it wasn’t long before somebody concocted the liquid gold that would give these men even greater gains.
In 1982, the world was introduced to the first multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement (MIPS), Ultimate Orange. The company found wild success amongst gym-goers looking to beef up their routine. Where icons had previously boasted that coffee fueled their workouts, they couldn’t deny that Ultimate Orange gave their workouts an even greater boost.
How could it not? Coffee was just good old plant matter and caffeine. Ultimate Orange, however, contained far more than caffeine. The inclusion of ephedra, which is essentially a form of speed, ultimately caused the manufacturer to find themselves in the midst of multiple lawsuits by the early 2000s.
Sure, ephedra was giving these men and women all the energy their bodies could muster to motor through a workout. However, it turns out that there’s only so much watered-down speed that your body can handle before it starts having adverse effects. Some who had been drinking the liquid crack for nearly two decades learned first-hand that heart attacks were one of the most severe side effects of continually ingesting ephedra.
Alas, the FDA finally stepped in, putting ephedra on the list of banned substances. Now, years later, Ultimate Orange sill thrives while adhering to the ever-changing rules of the FDA. So while you can still get your hands on the MIPS that started it all, you would be hard-pressed to find an ephedra-containing formula nowadays.
With new research being conducted concerning how MIPS affects men and women differently, manufacturers are now starting to cater to women, or at least try to. With there being so many different formulas, many containing undisclosed amounts of ingredients, it is nearly impossible for scientists to run the proper tests and to conduct the necessary research.
However, with the tidbit of research that has been done regarding MIPS, along with the knowledge of which vitamins and nutrients women need, manufacturers have a pretty good starting point.
Most formulas are engineered to cater to the masses. What this means is that most pre-workouts for women are intended to aid in maintaining a healthy weight or burning fight while maintaining muscle. Alternatively, the majority of men who use MIPS are attempting to bulk up and become more vascular.
The ways in which you can benefit from your pre-workout supplement are multitudinous. Perhaps, after reading this, you’ll decide to stick with a regular formula that works for both men and women. If that’s the case, you will likely experience multiple benefits including:
What’s even more exciting is that with formulas now changing for women, women can receive even further benefits from their pre-workout supplements. If you opt for a formula specially formulated for women, you may experience these additional benefits:
You can thank a variety of ingredients, and oftentimes a certain combination of them, for all the benefits you gain when using MIPS. For example, chromium and biotin make a great pair in MIPS for women, as this combo works to burn fat and preserve muscle mass.
Many companies will lower the dosage of certain ingredients in formulas for women. While this may seem like a rip-off, it’s done with good intentions. The theory here is that women will get all of the fat-burning benefits, without becoming too bulky or too vascular.
Manufacturers will also often add additional ingredients, just for women. However, these ingredients can differ greatly amongst different formulas. Some of the additional ingredients you want to see in your pre-workout supplement are:
Aside from that, L-Glutamine is your small intestine’s primary source of metabolic fuel. It also works to protect your gut and keep you free of infections like sepsis.
You know that Vitamin C is important when you’re sick, but maybe you didn’t realize how critical it is to weight loss and muscle maintenance. Not only does vitamin C play a critical role in metabolism, but it is also necessary for the production of L-carnitine and collagen, which is required for proper wound healing.
By now, you’ve likely come across more than one ad featuring the latest Biotin product, proclaiming that it can bring new life to your hair, skin and nails. As it turns out, this vitamin can also bring a boost to your workout. It plays a key role in the metabolism of fatty acids and thermogenic metabolism during workouts.
The latter form of chromium has proven to enhance insulin. This can make a huge difference in your workout regimen, as Chromium can greatly assist in metabolizing fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
This miracle supplement can nearly do it all. Studies are now showing exactly how beneficial this can be to workouts. It has the capability to increase your maximum oxygen consumption, speed up recovery time, and protect from and assist in the recovery of muscle injuries.
You may have noticed that none of these ingredients are detrimental to a man. However, the reason that these key ingredients are added is often to increase fat burning. This will be a welcomed gift for women who struggle with stubborn belly fat that just won’t budge no matter what they throw at it.
In addition to these bonus ingredients, there are quite a few components that you want to ensure are in your pre-workout supplement. While it would be difficult to find a pre-workout including every single item in this list, it certainly shouldn’t be hard to find multiple formulas containing the majority of the best ingredients.
Other than being known to burn fat and improve cognitive function, this popular drug has also proven to give people a performance boost in the areas of endurance, power and resistance.
Since agents are what you’re looking for, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for a couple of the ingredients that can help generate nitric oxide in your system. Arginine and citrulline are the two key players in the pre-workout game. Other companies include a dietary nitrate in their formula, which really stretches out your endurance during high-intensity workouts.
Taurine, specifically, is the key amino acid you want to see on the label. Why though? As it turns out, taurine has antioxidant and ergogenic effects, in addition to having a positive metabolic effect.
Just a little goes a long way. You only need 1.5 grams of taurine to see a significant difference during your fat-burning sessions.
If that weren’t enough to sell you on what a powerful ingredient betaine is, take into consideration that it also has considerable effects on energy and strength. The recommended dose of betaine is 1.25-2.5 grams per day.
Note: Most pre-workout supplements do not contain a full dose of betaine. You may consider searching for a specialty formula or supplementing with betaine.
Carnosine’s job is to act as a sort of muscle buffer, which is crucial to getting through a workout where the goal is to max out on weight. To ensure that you’re doing all you can to keep your muscles from tapping out, consider opting for a supplement that provides at least four grams of β-alanine.
Because of this, creatine is one of the most popular ingredients found in pre-workout supplements.
As research proves, regularly supplementing with creatine can greatly increase the amount of creatine within your muscles. As far as workouts go, creatine has been credited with speeding up recovery, improving exercise performance, preventing exercise-related injuries, and aiding in thermoregulation.
Perhaps the greatest benefits to be gained from creatine supplements are the ones to your general health. Creatine is so powerful that it often has positive effects on serious health issues including heart ischemia and neurodegenerative diseases.
The real question is ‘why wouldn’t they?’ You know that creatine can boost your workout performance, and even that creatine can positively affect certain health issues. What you don’t realize is that you’ve just started to scrape the surface when it comes to all of creatine’s benefits.
While creatine comes with a lengthy list of pros, some worry about the threats that chronic supplementation can pose. Unfortunately, a few horror stories took root and now some consumers question the safety of this supplement. You can rest assured knowing that most of these claims have little to no basis in fact.
You’ll notice that sexual effects are absent from the above list. While it’s certainly true that a handful of male users have complaints of their libido being negatively affected by creatine, there is zero scientific evidence supporting the claim. Granted, this could be due to the lack of studies carried out in this specific area.
When you weigh all of the many benefits of creatine against the few potential side effects, perhaps you will be more inclined to take these users’ claims at face value. It’s important to remember that individuals experiencing low libido may be showing symptoms that are related to the use of other supplements, herbs or drugs.
Women, specifically, have not reported experiences with low libido when supplementing with creatine.
The short answer here is no. Since creatine is naturally produced in the body, it is not directly detrimental to your health. However, creatine’s relationship to the female menstrual cycle is an interesting one.
There is no evidence supporting that creatine affects your period. Rather, different stages of your menstrual cycle can affect your creatine production and activity.
What’s even more fascinating is that creatine has an anti-depressant effect on females. These effects are further strengthened when ovarian hormone levels are raised.
After that in-depth synopsis on the wonderful powers of creatine, let’s not forget that that’s just one ingredient that makes up pre-workout supplements. In all reality, pre-workouts are packed full of ingredients that are capable of providing a number of services.
Some formulas are designed to help you bulk up your muscle mass while others are designed to burn through fat and shred weight from your “problem areas”.
If your goal is weight loss, consider investing in a formula that contains a couple of these powerful fat-burning ingredients:
Due to the vast array of pre-workout ingredients and the endless combinations of them, researching MIPS isn’t an exact science. While there is an abundance of studies and research regarding the specific ingredients, it’s tough for scientists to get a thorough read on the complex combinations of all existing pre-workouts.
That being said, there are a handful of studies supporting the claim that pre-workout supplements can be a benefit to all. One study that has been run by multiple professionals questions the effects of MIPS on muscle endurance and mood. The National Institute of Health is just one source to publish their findings that pre-workout supplements do, indeed, have a positive effect on both of these areas.
Other studies take a very honest look at pre-workout supplements, revealing the benefits along with the shortcomings.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that while caffeine-containing MIPS may help give fatigue the boot, they have little to no impact on strength. In practice, this translates to consumers being able to lift the same amount of weight, while successfully increasing the number of repetitions they can complete during any given workout.
Interestingly enough, researchers are finding that pre-workout supplements have a tendency to target a specific area of your body during your workout. When conducting two entirely separate studies, both Michael Cameron and Andrew Jagim found evidence that supported each other’s claim.
The ending results confirmed that consuming MIPS prior to a workout allowed the consumers to maximize their repetitions only when exercising an isolated region. As it turned out, both men and women saw an improvement in number of bench press repetitions, but their repetitions of back squats remained unaffected.
One additional study supported their claim while verifying that varying regions of the body could also benefit from pre-workout supplementation. It was curious that these participants benefited in a different area. While they achieved an almost insignificant increase in bench press repetitions, just the opposite was true when it came time to do the leg press.
Sadly, research surrounding the safety and benefits of pre-workout supplements for women is scarce. However, researchers have revealed a study in which female participants saw an increase in both resting metabolism and diastolic blood pressure immediately following the consumption of a pre-workout. The regular inclusion of MIPS prior to workouts also improved post-workout focus, anaerobic activity and upper body muscular endurance amongst these individuals.
As is true with any other caffeinated beverage, pre-workout drinks are known to cause the jitters for more than a handful of consumers. Often, the adverse effect is due to an excessive amount of a particular ingredient or the pairing of additional dietary supplements.
Because there is an endless combination of ingredients, those who chronically ingest pre-workout supplements could potentially be putting themselves at risk for some pretty serious health risks. Thankfully, the following adverse effects are experienced rarely:
Note: Both ephedra and DMAA are FDA-banned substances. DMAA can also be listed as ‘dimethylamylamine’ or methylhexanamine’. If your pre-workout supplement contains either of these ingredients, you are at a much higher risk of experiencing extreme adverse effects.
The research is out and the verdict is in: the addition of pre-workout supplements presents far more rewards than risks. With the recent introduction of formulas designed specifically for women, this statement is made truer.
If you choose to include MIPS as part of your daily routine, consider that what works for your friend down the street may not work for you. Be sure to choose a product with your end goal in mind, but also with your overall health in mind.
If your weight has reached a plateau or you just can’t seem to drag yourself out of that rut at the gym, consider adding a fat-burning and endurance-boosting pre-workout beverage. Who knows? If you’ve been eating clean and sticking to your exercise routine, this may be just the boost that your workout and your body needs.
Pre-workout supplements have become so popular that it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t so widely available. When hitting the gym with your body-building pals it would be hard to find just one in the group who doesn’t have a particular brand that they love to guzzle down before an intense workout.
However, multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, a term that scientists have shortened to MIPS, were only introduced a few decades ago, back in 1982. In the early 1900s, they were arguing about the harms and benefits of drinking coffee, particularly in regards to staying in pristine physical health. Fast forward to 2019 and we’re having the same debate, it’s just over pre-workouts this time around.
By the early 1980s, it had become widely accepted that a pre-workout cup of coffee would only help burn fat and build muscle. This belief became so engrained in the body-building community that famous lifters such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane would religiously drink a cup of coffee with their breakfast before hitting the gym.
Another iconic figure, Sergio Oliva, was often spotted toting an entire thermos of coffee at the gym. He would drink coffee throughout his workouts because he noticed that it gave him more energy and made him sweat more.
Around this time is when the world also started to see other supplements being introduced to the body-building scene. While some were adding harmful supplements to their regiment, others were exploring with natural supplements like niacin. No matter which supplements were taken, the goal was still the same: gain more energy, build more muscle, burn more fat.
This combination prompted the introduction of the first pre-workout supplement, Ultimate Orange. Before long, Ultimate Orange became all the rage at the gym. It seemed like just about everybody had jumped on the pre-workout bandwagon.
Could you blame them? People were constantly coming out of the woodwork, proclaiming that Ultimate Orange was a gift from the heavens.
Users of the product were all reporting increased muscle mass, accelerated fat burning, and the mysterious ability to pump out even more repetitions when lifting heavier weights! The verdict was in, and gym-goers loved the benefits they were gaining from this product. That is, until, the company found themselves immersed in a range of lawsuits beginning in the late 1990s.
Alas, the handful of heart attacks that people were swearing were related to consuming ephedra, an ingredient in the original Ultimate Orange formula, did not stop the masses. Too many people had jumped on board and seen too many results from using this product. It was too late to turn back at that point.
Now, years later, regulations are still constantly being tweaked on what’s allowed and what is banned from being included in pre-workout supplements. Due to regulations, they are, arguably, far safer than they once were.
The wide range of benefits that can be gained from regularly consuming pre-workouts is what’s caused them to continue to rise in popularity. Some typical benefits enjoyed by consumers of MIPS include:
The widespread use of proprietary blends, which are not required to provide a breakdown of dosage amounts, makes it quite difficult for studies to be conducted comparing different pre-workouts. However, the National Institute of Health has determined that MIPS do, indeed, have a positive effect on muscle endurance and mood.
One study, reported by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, suggests that using pre-workouts actually has a very minimal effect on strength. However, they also point out that ingesting caffeine-containing pre-workouts can combat fatigue during workouts. This means that while you may not notice that you are able to increase the weight you lift, you will likely be able to knock out more repetitions with less of a struggle.
One very interesting thing about pre-workouts that has been discovered is that they don’t seem to benefit your entire body during any given workout session. Two separate studies were conducted by both Michael Cameron and his team and Andrew Jagim and his colleagues. Both studies found that while pre-workout supplements seemed to aide both male and female participants in completing a much larger number of bench press repetitions, there was no apparent effect on the number of back squats they were able to complete.
Alternatively, when conducting his own study, Brandon Spradley found that when his participants took a pre-workout supplement they were able to significantly increase their repetitions when doing the leg press, but there was only a very minimal increase in bench press repetitions.
One thing that researchers agree on is that different pre-workouts can have vastly different effects. While many of these supplements have many ingredients in common, they greatly alter the amount of certain ingredients. For example, one supplement may only have 50 mg of caffeine while another has 300 mg of caffeine.
This is what makes it so difficult to research pre-workout supplements. There is plenty of known information on the individual ingredients that go into pre-workouts. However, due to the varying amounts of these ingredients and the plethora of supplements, it would be nearly impossible to give a general ruling on how safe or beneficial pre-workouts are.
This is why scientists and health professionals urge users of pre-workout supplements to research the supplements they plan to use.
For now, the majority of scientists and researchers agree that MIPS, in general, are safe. However, it is important to note that the formula changes from one brand to the next, and higher doses of certain ingredients could be damaging for some.
It is also important to note that pre-workouts are only intended to be used for short periods of time, with a break in between continuing use. When using pre-workouts on an ongoing basis, or when pairing them with certain other supplements, they have the potential to become damaging to some individuals.
Due to large amounts of caffeine, pre-workouts are known to cause overstimulation, or a case of the jitters. However, due to the varying combinations that can be found in different formulas, some more serious adverse effects have been experienced by those who regularly ingest MIPS. These include:
As is mentioned on the nutritional label, if you have any concerns, you should consult your physician regarding the consumption of pre-workouts. If you experience severe heart palpitations or heightened gastrointestinal pain, you should immediately quit ingesting any and all pre-workout supplements until you discuss your symptoms with a physician.
When adding pre-workout powder or beverages to your workout, you want to be intentional to thoroughly examine the list of ingredients. Often, you will notice that ingredients and their amounts are hidden under monikers like “proprietary blends”.
Even if all you care about is the effectiveness of the formula you choose, you want to stay away from products containing large levels of unknown ingredients. While the ingredients may not be harmful, they are likely to be ineffective.
If an ingredient is hidden, it’s impossible for you to know the true amount. If you’re somebody who tosses back a pre-workout several times a day, there’s no way to know if you’re actually ingesting four times the recommended amount of L-arginine, for instance. Maybe that’s what’s causing that bloated and gassy stomach at the gym, as it’s a common symptom of overconsumption.
While side effects of pre-workout supplements are often due to overconsumption, other times these side effects can be related to ingredients that you want to try to avoid. What you will find are a few common food additives that have been linked to potential health risks. You’ll even find ingredients that have been outlawed by the FDA!
After learning which ingredients can be harmful, it’s important to remember that pre-workouts aren’t all gloom and doom. There are supplements out there that contain all of the good stuff and none of the bad; you just have to hunt to find them.
Below you will find the list of ingredients that you should ensure are present in your pre-workout. Keep in mind, higher doses of certain ingredients will give you a better boost during your workouts.
In theory, adding pre-workout supplements to your workout regimen is a great plan. In fairness, it isn’t necessarily a bad plan. In reality, it’s a plan that requires necessary research to ensure that you have no adverse effects.
For those interested in introducing MIPS into their routine, knowing all of the upsides and downsides should prepare you in choosing one that will best suit your needs. While an overwhelming amount of formulas contain one or more ingredients you should avoid, not all of them contain harmful ingredients.
Alternatively, the clean pre-workout formulas that exist can be a fantastic addition to your routine. When going this route, it would be hard to present an argument against the benefits of pre-workout supplements.
Most medications and supplements, alike, come with risks. The ultimate question you have to ask yourself is whether the reward outweighs the risk
Pre-workout supplements, also referred to as pre-workouts, typically contain a blend of ingredients – most commonly caffeine, B vitamins, creatine, and amino acids, that are designed to work together to improve physical stamina and during exercise and training for greater results.
Many brands offer pre-workouts in various forms, including liquids, drink mixes, tablets, capsules, and bars; however, each brand differs in ingredients and amounts, which means one brand may be more stimulating, or intense, than other.
Pre-workouts are used by both men and women who are looking to get fit and maintain a sleek, toned body.
Pre-workout supplements have long been used by fitness gurus, trainers, bodybuilders, athletes, gym-goers, and individuals alike for the increased energy they provide that help users improve their performance during even the most grueling exercise session.
Many fitness gurus and trainers use pre-workout supplements as part of their own workouts for a boost of performance in the gym, and some also recommend pre-workout supplements to clients, so they get the most of their workout.
Many bodybuilders and powerlifters also use pre-workouts before heavy lifting, which requires intense strength and focus. The amino acids contained in pre-workout supplements also help improve muscle growth and recovery faster post-training.
Some athletes have been known to use pre-workouts as part of a low carb diet when trying to burn body fat. Some athletes also use them prior to short burst exercises, such as swimming and sprinting, which can otherwise lead to exhaustion and a decrease in physical performance.
Some gym-goers use pre-workout supplements prior to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and Crossfit, which includes a vigorous mixture of aerobic exercise, bodyweight exercises, weight lifting and other exercises that require a high energy throughout. Some people also use pre-workouts to lower their risk of injury during training, as well as to increase their tolerance for more intense training.
Many ingredients in pre-workouts are supported by research as beneficial when used as part of a workout regimen. In fact, the ingredients in pre-workouts have been shown to provide the following benefits:
Pre-workout supplements often contain some type of caffeine, which is the same ingredient found in coffee and tea, which have long been used to combat decreased energy and mental fatigue.
Many studies show that, when taken as a supplement, caffeine increases energy and endurance during exercise and sport activity, as well as reduces fatigue for improved mental clarity and mood. Caffeine’s effects are said to be due to the stimulating action it has on the nervous system, which thus increases energy and mental alertness.
Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), Choline, and Huperzine A found in some supplements are also believed to improve brain function.
Some ingredients found in pre-workouts, such as Caffeine and Green Tea Extract, help you lose weight by helping your body burn fat for fuel.
Research shows that caffeine helps you burn brown fat, or good fat, which helps boost energy and heat in the body, thus burning calories and leading to weight loss. Research suggests that it also helps turn white fat, or bad fat, which is associated with obesity, into brown fat where it is more easily burned, which further facilitates weight loss.
Creatine is also commonly found in pre-workouts.
The body naturally creates creatine, which is mainly reserved in the skeletal muscle, where it contributes to muscular strength and the production of energy. However, in supplement form, it is derived from amino acids, which, when ingested, boosts creatine levels in the muscular tissues for increased energy. It also improves muscle size and strength, which is why it is often a favorite of power athletes and bodybuilders.
In fact, some studies show that creatine improves maximum strength by up to 15%. Meanwhile, other studies show
that creatine can also improve muscle retention and increase muscle mass, depending on your muscle creatine stores.
Pre-workouts also often contain various B vitamins, such as B12 and B6, which promote energy and keep your metabolism in check, thereby helping the body effectively process fats, carbohydrates, and protein, so they are used for energy as opposed to being stored as fat, which helps support a healthy weight.
On the other hand, studies show that low levels of B vitamins can negatively impact athletic performance.
Beetroot juice root is also usually found in pre-workout supplements and is beneficial for increasing nitric oxide, which opens the blood vessels, enabling more blood to flow through the body, thereby improving cardiovascular performance, which puts less strain on the heart during intense training.
One study conducted on competitive cyclists showed that after consuming about 17 ounces of beetroot juice just under 3 hours before embarking on a 2.5 mile cycling endurance test, the cyclists performance improved by over 2 percent, concluding that beetroot juice supplementation lowers the oxygen demand of exercise and improves performance in endurance sports.
Some supplements may also contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), such as leucine, which help promote muscle protein synthesis, or the process of building new proteins or muscle mass, which is important for adaptation and recovery following exercise.
According to one study, after consuming a 5.6-gram BCAA drink following resistance training, participants showed more than a 20% increase in muscle protein synthesis as compared to those who had none. These effects were further enhanced when combined with other amino acids.
Another study showed that BCAA was also effective at preventing muscle soreness and fatigue following exercise.
L-arginine is another BCAA commonly found in pre-workout supplements, which increases growth hormone secretions. In fact, studies show that L-arginine is effective at increasing growth hormone levels by more than 90%, while L-arginine used in combination with exercise was shown to improve growth hormone levels by up to 200 percent.
B-alanine, taurine, and betaine are naturally occurring amino acids that are also commonly found in pre-workouts, which on their own, provide various benefits that research shows are only heightened when combined.
B-alanine is naturally produced in the liver and is responsible for managing nerve signal function. When used as a supplement, it may improve physical performance, as well as help stave off the onset of neuromuscular fatigue.
Taurine is mostly found in the brain, organ tissues, and muscles, where it acts as a neurotransmitter that regulates the transfer of nutrients throughout the body and maintains cell membranes. As a supplement, it is believed to help improve athletic performance and regulate metabolic function.
Betaine maintains normal liver function and also helps process fat. In supplement form, it has been shown to increase muscle size, improve body composition, and work capacity in over 20 participants of a six-week study.
Pre-workouts can benefit you ultimately by improving your stamina, energy, and body composition; however, depending on the ingredients, as well as their use, they can cause harmful effects on the body. In fact, when considering incorporating pre-workout supplements into your workout and training regimen, there are some precautions to keep in mind that will help ensure you make the transition as safe as possible for best results, including:
The main concern with pre-workout supplements is that they are not regulated by the FDA, which means they are not held to strict research standards, regarding their safety and effectiveness.
This means there is always a risk that the supplement may contain unknown compounds, including banned substances, such as ephedra, synephrine, or bitter orange, and Dimethylamylamine, as well as unknown amounts of certain compounds, which can be unsafe, as product labels can be misleading or inaccurate since the product is not strictly monitored. However, the FDA will remove a product from the market or ask the producer to recall the product on their own, if they deem a supplement unsafe. Regulatory actions will also be taken by the FDA along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against supplement companies who make falsified or unsubstantiated claims regarding their products.
Companies can, however, offer independent assurance that their products do not contain banned substances and do contain the labeled amounts of ingredients by hiring a third-party certification company, such as NSF, to verify their claims, which will then result in the product being stamped with the third-party certifier’s official logo.
Some pre-workout brands contain up to 400mg of caffeine per dose, which is equivalent to consuming four cups of coffee prior to your workout. However, for some individuals, this can be excessive. Meanwhile, other products contain high doses of guarana, which is a plant extract that behaves similar to coffee beans but with double the amount of caffeine per gram, which can also be excessive for certain individuals.
Caffeine in excess can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, which can lead to heart issues. It can also disrupt your sleep cycle and cause nausea and gut issues, as well as dehydration.
Therefore, it is recommended only consuming 3 grams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight to lower the risk of adverse reactions. You should also be sure you are not ingesting caffeine from other foods and drinks throughout the day, which can cause your caffeine intake to be too high for the day.
High levels of creatine, which is also a diuretic, can cause dehydration similar to excessive caffeine; therefore, you should monitor your intake of creatine, as well.
Nitric oxide in high doses can also cause some individuals to experience mild cardiac issues.
Lastly, B-alanine can sometimes overstimulate nerve cells, especially in high doses, which can cause tingling sensations; therefore, experts recommend starting with the lowest dose and then working your way up to see what works best for you.
It is also not uncommon to experience jitters as well as headaches when first taking pre-workouts, which usually only occur in individuals who are sensitive to certain ingredients or if you exceed the daily recommended dose. It is also not uncommon to experience itching when first taking pre-workouts that contain B-alanine because it stimulates the nerves, which can cause you to become itchy and flushed in some spots. However, it typically only lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.
Some pre-workouts, especially powders, drink mixes, and bars, also contain sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, to add sweetness sans the calories; however, some individuals are sensitive to artificial sweeteners, which can cause intestinal issues. Furthermore, sugar alcohols have been known to cause bloating, as well as diarrhea and gas, which can affect your workout.
Some ingredients contained in pre-workouts may hinder the effects of certain medications. For instance, some medicines used to treat ulcers, such as Tagamet HB, actually cause caffeine to remain in the body longer, which increases the risk of side effects from caffeine.
Therefore, if you are considering pre-workout supplements and are taking prescribed or over the counter medications, be sure to consult your physician to be sure it will not have a negative interaction with your medications.
Since pre-workouts hit the scene and become popular, they have been a subject of research regarding their efficacy and safety, which have also raised the eyebrows of many consumers. However, the fact is, pre-workouts, though not for everyone, are deemed safe and effective, when used as prescribed and taken in the right amounts.
In fact, research shows that it is only products that do not list the ingredients in their “proprietary blend, that are of main concern because the ingredients and amounts are not clear, which makes it hard to determine if key erogenic ingredients are present and in sufficient amounts to render them effective. Otherwise, to find a well-formulated brand, simply check that it lists individual ingredients, uses branded ingredients, is free of banned substances, and it contains dosages based on research.
For best results, experts recommend taking the supplement at least 30 minutes prior to your workout, which will enable you to feel the energy boost right before your workout. During this time, beginners, or if you are trying a new product, should also time when you feel the boost of energy to determine how long it takes your body to digest the ingredients, so you can time it for future workouts.
It is also recommended that you take a break from the product every so often to prevent your body from adapting to it, which will decrease its effects. In fact, experts recommend anytime you stop feeling the energy boost to go off the supplement for anywhere between 2 to 3 days to a month to get the boost back. Furthermore, taking a pre-workout supplement for over 28 days is deemed unsafe as researchers have not yet studied the long-term effects of pre-workouts.
When taking pre-workouts, staying well hydrated can help reduce the risk of side effects. In fact, experts recommend consuming at least 100 ounces of water a day to help prevent side effects.
If your goal is to lose weight from your workout, consider choosing a pre-workout that includes fat-burning benefits, which will enable your body to get the nutrients it needs without consuming too many calories and carbohydrates before your session. Otherwise, eating too many calories and carbohydrates prior to your workout can prevent you from losing weight.
If you are looking to gain muscle mass, consider a mass gainer pre-workout supplement to help you put on weight. Experts also recommend eating a meal high in carbohydrates and carbs at least an hour prior to your workout to help increase muscle mass. However, avoid foods with a high fiber content, which can alter your digestive system and affect your training.
Pre-workout supplements are not a quick fix, which means you still need to focus on proper nutrition to both get and maintain results. In fact, according to experts, these supplements are for individuals who already have their nutrition in check and are just looking to improve small little problem areas where they can.
As we discussed, there are different types of pre-workouts for different types of goals; therefore, understanding your goals will help ensure they get the best product for you. For instance, for cardio workouts, look for ingredients like B vitamins, BCAA, Taurine, and Beta-Alanine, which will help you get the most of your workout.
On the other hand, if your goal is to do some serious lifting, consider supplements with Arginine, Citrulline, GPLC, and Pycnogenol. Meanwhile, to build muscle, look for ingredients like Creatine, BCAA, Nitric Oxide, Carnitine, Glutamine, Beta-Alanine, and Betaine, which have been proven to increase muscle mass.
To burn fat, consider supplements that contain Caffeine and Green Tea Extract, which have been proven to provide weight loss when combined with regular exercise.
Finally, remember Caffeine, Green Tea, B vitamins, and Guarana have been shown to increase energy as do Yerba Mate, Tyrosine, Rhodiola, Taurine, Rosea, and Schisandra Chinensis.
When in doubt, seek expert advice.
Not only can a sales professional help you choose the best product for your goals, but since some supplements contain ingredients that can cause side effects, they can also alert you of such issues before purchasing a pre-workout product. Furthermore, the list of banned substances is ever-growing, which they can update you on to help prevent you from purchasing a product that includes banned substances. Also, not all pre-workout supplements are approved by sports regulating bodies, so if you are training for an event, be sure the supplement is approved.
When it comes to are pre-workouts bad for you, as we just witnessed, the majority of studies show that the main ingredients in these supplements have been found safe and effective for improving energy and stamina, building muscle, and burning fat as part of an exercise routine. In fact, caffeine, one of the main ingredients found in pre-workouts, was also shown to improve mental clarity for better focus during training.
However, because some ingredients and doses can cause adverse effects in some individuals, it is best to begin with a low dose of the product to see how it will affect your body before graduating to the recommended dose. Some experts also suggest simply purchasing the ingredients individually or in smaller quantities, which will enable you to control the dose to test how they will react in your body.
When purchasing pre-workouts, remember, since they are not FDA approved, they are not regulated, which means they can contain banned substances, as well as other contaminants, which can render them unsafe. You should also check that the ingredients listed are present in sufficient amounts to ensure the product is effective. For added safety, you should look for the logo of an official certifying third party, such as NSF, USP, or Informed Choice, which means it has been thoroughly tested by the third party to ensure its purity and quality.
Lastly, when selecting the best pre-workout for you, knowing your goals ahead of time will help you select the right supplement for you. It is also best to consult a doctor prior to taking supplements, especially if you are taking other medications, to ensure your safety and to prevent allergic reactions, and under no circumstances should you ever take supplements while pregnant or nursing without your doctor’s permission.