Is Pre-Workout Bad? The Answers to Your Pre-Workout Questions

Pre-workout supplements have exploded in popularity in recent years within the fitness world! Pre-workout is an umbrella term for an extensive range of supplements formulated to help boost and improve your performance. Many athletes and weightlifters utilize them to enhance energy and endurance, seeking extra support for their fitness regimens.

But, is pre-workout bad? In short, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate pre-workout supplements, but they are generally considered safe.  

They can present potential health risks and side effects in certain people, so it's essential to be well-informed about pre-workout before trying it. It's also always best practice to speak with your physician, who can advise how to exercise and safely use pre-workout according to your needs. 

Let’s dive in.

Five Ingredients to Look for in Pre-Workout 

Because pre-workout can refer to a wide range of different products, you can't always expect to find the same ingredients in each blend. However, many contain many of the same ingredients known to have benefits. Here are five of them: 

1. Caffeine

Caffeine can help boost energy and focus during your workout, helping you get a more satisfying workout. 

2. Creatine

Creatine is a kind of amino acid created by your pancreas, liver, and kidneys. It helps energy levels and performance. 

3. Taurine

Taurine is another essential amino acid. Bodybuilders and athletes often use it to aid muscle performance.

4. Citrulline

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid that helps support your blood vessels, heart, and immune system. 

5. Electrolytes

It would help if you also looked for a blend that contains electrolytes like potassium. Electrolytes are crucial for supporting cardiac health while exercising and regulating your fluid levels. They also aid your blood pressure, muscle, and nerve function. 




Three Ingredients in Pre-workout to Avoid 

Not all pre-workout supplements are created equal, so selecting a blend with high-quality ingredients is paramount! Now that you know which ones to look for, let's review three ingredients to avoid in your pre-workout. They include: 

1. Excessive Amounts of Caffeine

Too much caffeine can be dangerous, especially while working out. Most pre-workout powders have around 150 to 300 mg of caffeine per serving, equivalent to one and a half to three cups of coffee. Skip ones that contain caffeine levels higher than that.

2. Artificial Sweeteners

Many artificial sweeteners can cause gastrointestinal distress and discomfort. For these reasons, it's best to skip this particular ingredient.

3. Proprietary Blends

Avoid any pre-workout blend that keeps its ingredients or ratios secret because it's impossible to know what you're consuming, which can be dangerous. 


ingredients to avoid in preworkout


Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements 

Pre-workout supplements can sometimes come with side effects. These generally include: 

  • Caffeine-Related Side Effects: Caffeine in larger doses can cause jitteriness, anxiety, and a rapid heartbeat. If you're sensitive to caffeine, ensure your pre-workout doesn't contain it. 
  • Dehydration: Caffeine and diuretics can lead to increased fluid loss through urine. Intense workouts can further dehydrate you through sweating, so proper hydration is crucial. 
  • Skin Tingling: Alanine is an amino acid that is a common ingredient in many blends. It can sometimes cause tingling sensations in the skin (paresthesia). 
  • Heart and Blood Pressure Issues: Taking too much pre-work supplement can increase your blood pressure and place stress on the heart. 
  • Insomnia: Due to their stimulating effects, pre-workout supplements can sometimes make it difficult to wind down and sleep, primarily if you work out later in the day. 

Four Possible Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements 

Here are some of the benefits that pre-workout can offer.

1. Increased Energy and Focus

Pre-workout supplements often contain stimulants like caffeine, which can provide a quick energy boost and enhance mental focus during your exercise routine.

2. Enhanced Exercise Performance

Many pre-workout supplements include ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine, which can help enhance muscle strength and endurance while at the gym. Creatine, in particular, helps replenish ATP (adenosine triphosphate), your body's primary energy source.

3. Improved Endurance

Nitric oxide (NO) boosters such as citrulline and arginine may increase blood flow and vasodilation, improving oxygen and nutrient delivery to your muscles. Improved circulation helps preserve your endurance.

4. Reduced Muscle Soreness

Many pre-workout supplements contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs can help protect muscle tissue from breakdown during intense exercise and support post-workout repair and growth. 


benefits of preworkout

What are the Potential Risks of Pre-workout? 

Pre-workout supplements can present potential health risks, so selecting a reputable brand is as essential as evaluating your fitness goals and speaking with your doctor and personal trainer (if you have one) before beginning any new supplement. 

One of their most significant risks is the amount of caffeine they contain, which can be dangerous for people who are sensitive to it or do high-intensity exercise. It can trigger cardiac problems, such as: 

  • Heart palpitations 
  • Elevated blood pressure 
  • Cardiac arrhythmias 

You must listen to your body and regularly check in with yourself while exercising. Keep an eye on heart rate and breathing (such as with a fitness watch), and always maintain regular hydration and breaks. Stay within your limits and always stop when you feel fatigued.  

Another potential problem with pre-workout supplements is that the FDA doesn't regulate them. This can lead to a huge variance in quality and reputability from brand to brand. Not every brand adheres to safety regulations; many contain proprietary blends with undisclosed substances.  

These can present numerous health risks and cause athletes to fail drug tests if they don't know what they are taking. Some people may also develop a tolerance for them and have to take more to experience their desired results. This can have long-term health implications and lead to withdrawal symptoms.  

Taking pre-workout precisely as directed is essential to using it safely. You should always consult your healthcare professional before incorporating them into a fitness regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or concerns.  

Always choose products from reputable manufacturers that prioritize safety and provide a list of ingredients and ratios. It's also good to look up reviews and speak with other athletes or fitness experts who can provide helpful recommendations. 


preworkout faq

Pre-Workout FAQs 

Now that we've covered pre-workout basics and what it does, let's go over some common pre-workout questions. Here are eight FAQs: 

Is it safe to take a pre-workout supplement? 

In general, pre-workout is safe. However, you should always speak with your doctor about any new supplements you're considering. Don't take it if you're sensitive or allergic to the ingredients in pre-workout. 

When should you take pre-workout? 

To improve athletic performance, you should consume your pre-workout thirty to sixty minutes before your workout begins. Be sure to read and consult your label for specific instructions for your blend. 

How often can you take pre-workout? 

In most cases, you don't need to take pre-workout every day. Three to five times a week is sufficient for most people, depending on how often you go to the gym. You can also take it every other day, but always consult with your doctor and read the directions on the label. Some brands may have their recommendations to follow. 

Is pre-workout bad for you? 

Pre-workout has potential side effects, some of which can present risks to people (such as those sensitive to caffeine). It's always a good idea to select a high-quality product from a reputable brand and, again, discuss it with a medical professional before taking it. 

Do you really need to take pre-workout? 

Pre-workout can help improve your workouts, but it is not required. Balanced nutrition, safe workouts, and sufficient sleep all play a massive role in your exercise success, too!

Is pre-workout a steroid? 

It is important to be cautious when taking pre-workout. While not every blend contains steroids, one study conducted in 2021 that analyzed thirty different supplements in the market found that one-third contained trace amounts of anabolic steroids.

For this reason, many college athletes and professionals tend to avoid them. Checking ingredients and buying from a trusted brand is crucial.

Can pre-workout affect your heart? 

Yes, many ingredients can increase your blood flow or heart rate. This can be dangerous for people who already have cardiac issues or high blood pressure. If you're in one of these demographics, do not take pre-workout. 

Can you take pre-workout while pregnant? 

You should always talk to your doctor about exercise or supplements during your pregnancy. Ingredients can vary from supplement to supplement, so it is important to speak with a knowledgeable medical professional who can examine the ingredients and answer your questions.

Everybody reacts differently to supplements, and pregnancy can throw an additional curve ball, so talk with your doctor. 

Remember, you won't be pregnant forever, and you can always return to taking pre-workouts in the future. Never take new supplements without first consulting with your doctor.