If you have taken pre-workout at any point in your life, then you know just how strange that first time can feel. All of a sudden, you start to get a tingle, you feel jittery, there’s this sudden rush of energy coming from inside of you, and your immediate first thought is – “Is that even safe?”.
Generally speaking, pre-workout supplements are legal, safe to use, and don’t have any harmful side effects for a large part of the population. Additionally, taking adequate dosage and choosing supplements without harmful ingredients may also help you avoid any unpleasant sensations such as headaches, digestive issues, or water retention.
In this article, we’re going to dive deep and discuss whether pre-workouts are truly safe, what their possible side effects are, and how you can avoid them.
Are Pre-Workout Supplements Safe?
You probably know that pre-workout supplements come in various forms – pills, powders, even candy, but what’s more important is that they vary in the ingredients they contain. Typically, a pre-workout supplement can contain one or more of the following substances:
- BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) – are used to improve muscle recovery caused by exercise damage and are thought to improve muscular endurance.
- Creatine – is considered to improve muscular endurance as well and is the best supplement for lasting longer training sessions.
- Caffeine – the best legal stimulant for athletes. Caffeine can improve cognition and provide energy, thus making the workout more effective and boosting your performance.
- Nitric oxide agents – used for getting a good pump, known to increase blood flow to the muscles you’re currently using
- Beta-alanine – reduces the build-up of lactic acid that causes fatigue and so makes longer endurance workouts easier to handle.
When getting your pre-workout, it’s vital to check what ingredients it contains. You want to make sure it’s FDA-approved and that all of the ingredients and their amounts are clearly listed and available for you to read. Here, it’s vital to confirm that your dietary supplement (which is what pre-workout is considered to be) contains only “dietary ingredients” such as minerals, vitamins, and herbs that are permitted for supplements.
Any pharmaceutical ingredients are not to be found in pre-workout as it’s not used to treat any disease or prevent them. If your pre-workout supplement contains only dietary ingredients and has them in proper dosage, it’s considered to be safe for you, and you shouldn’t fear drinking it before a workout.
Having said that, pre-workout supplements are not recommended for everyone. Firstly, they’re to be used only by adults, and anyone below the age of 18 should avoid them for the time being. Along with that, individuals who have a history of medical conditions such as heart issues, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or thyroid dysfunction should not be taking pre-workouts before a consultation with their healthcare professional.
And even if you’re completely healthy now, if you have any concerns, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor and discuss whether or not a pre-workout supplement is recommended for you, depending on your health history.
What are the Common Side Effects of Taking Pre-Workout?
As we mentioned, even though pre-workout supplements are considered safe and do have a positive effect on your performance, they still might have negative effects for some individuals, even if they have a clean ingredient list and are FDA-approved. Let’s now take a look at some of these common side effects.
Can Lead to Water Retention
A popular ingredient typically found in pre-workout is creatine. And while it has a great effect on improving exercising capacity and helping you increase lean body mass, creatine also typically leads to water retention. It’s why many people experience weight gain when they first start taking creatine, but once your body gets used to it, this effect tends to go away.
Can Upset Your Digestive System
There are quite a few ingredients in most pre-workouts that can lead to digestive issues. Those include caffeine, magnesium, and sodium bicarbonate. Typically, both magnesium and caffeine are known for having a laxative effect, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if your pre-workout is making you pay a visit to the toilet more often.
But, when it comes to sodium bicarbonate, it can only have that effect if consumed at a higher dose than 0.3 g per kilogram of body weight, which is not the case for most pre-workout supplements. One way to avoid getting diarrhea is using more water when mixing your pre-workout – that’s because too concentrated of a liquid is what typically has that laxative effect.
Can Make You Feel Jittery
Caffeine is a potent stimulant with many performance benefits – including increasing your exercise output. However, it also has several side effects, especially when you consume too much of it. Those include insomnia, increased heart rate, anxiety, and feelings of restlessness and jitteriness.
Typically, pre-workouts give those same feeling because they pack high amounts of caffeine – up to 500 milligrams per serving. In comparison, a regular cup of coffee contains around only 95 mg. Thus, if you want to decrease all of the negative side effects from caffeine, it’s a good idea to choose a pre-workout that either has it in a lower dosage or is no stim and avoids it as a whole.
Generally speaking pre-workout supplements are safe to use, especially if their ingredient lists are clean and approved. Having said that, they do have several side effects that may be unpleasant and are generally not recommended for people who suffer from heart conditions, anxiety, or other health-related problems. That’s why, before beginning supplementation, we advise you to consult with your healthcare professional to avoid any future concerns.