Are Pre-Workout Supplements Good or Bad for You?

December 4, 2020

Are pre-workouts bad for you?

Sports nutrition is evolving faster than it ever has. Most athletes and gym-goers have tried dietary supplements to help them achieve their goals. What was once basic milk powder, sports nutrition has grown to include various classes of products ranging from protein powders, BCAAs, testosterone boosters, and nootropics. The most common supplement athletes take to improve performance in the gym are pre-workout supplements. Whether used for building muscle or improving sports performance, pre-workout products are used by everyone from the average gym-goer to professional athletes.

So, what are pre-workout supplements, and are pre-workout supplements good or bad for you?

What is a pre-workout supplement?

A pre-workout supplement is a dietary supplement formulated to improve exercise performance during your workout. Normally taken within an hour before exercise, these supplements are designed to increase energy, increase endurance, increase blood flow (vascularity), boost strength, and help stimulate muscle growth. These supplements often contain stimulants such as caffeine or may be stimulant-free. These supplements come either as a flavored powder or in pill form.

Do pre-workouts really work?

The first question most people have when deciding on whether to use a pre-workout is does it work? The answer to this question depends on what your expectations are and the product itself. Many supplement companies have sold people the idea that taking their product will turn you into a superhero. They use colorful exaggerated language to convince people that their product will give you infinite strength, grow muscle faster than anything else, and give you so much energy you never have to sleep. If these are your expectations for any supplement, unfortunately, you will be disappointed. If you expect your pre-workout you help you increase your performance to a reasonable degree, or help you power through a workout after a challenging day at work, there are supplements that can meet those expectations.

Are there any downsides or side effects to pre-workout supplements?

Just like with anything put into the human body, there is always the potential for an adverse reaction. Unfortunately, many companies have appeared on the market in recent years seeking to jump in on the growing pre-workout market. Many of these formulas are over-priced, under-dosed, and can have unwanted side effects or be simply ineffective. These formulas, particularly those sold as energy drinks, can contain extremely high caffeine dosages, sometimes exceeding 400mg of caffeine per serving. This amount of caffeine is roughly equivalent to drinking four cups of coffee! These types of supplements skyrocket blood pressure, heart rate, and provide nothing more than a temporary boost of energy followed by a crash.

Caffeine, like most stimulants, is a vasoconstrictor meaning it causes blood vessels to shrink. This is not what you want to happen if you want to improve blood flow and see veins popping out while your workout. Long-term, excessive use of stimulants can fatigue the central nervous and adrenal systems. Stimulants can also cause insomnia and associated sleep deprivation issues if taken too close to bedtime.

Always consult your healthcare provider prior to taking a new supplement to ensure it is safe for you. It is also recommended that you start with a half dose to assess tolerance before trying a full dose.

Does quality matter?

Absolutely. You want to make sure all supplements you take are manufactured in cGMP, FDA-certified facilities to ensure what you are taking is produced in compliance with current regulations. Also, if a product is cheap, more than likely it was made with cheap ingredients. Always use high-quality products.

What pre-workout ingredients should I look for?

Studies on athletic performance are always evolving and so too are studies on dietary supplements. Although it is very rare that a finished product undergoes a study, the best supplements on the market always contain ingredients backed by solid research.

Some of the most common well-studied ingredients include beta-alanine, creatine, and nitric oxide precursors such as citrulline, citrulline malate, agmatine, glycerol powder, and Nitrosigine. The inclusion of nootropics in pre-workouts has also grown in recent years. Some common nootropics include caffeine, alpha GPC, theobromine, theanine, and tyrosine. Some pre-workouts contain amino acids, specifically branch chained amino acids, although these are more useful in an intra-workout supplement. You also want a supplement that contains ingredients that will boost the bioavailability of what you are taking. The two most common nutrient uptake ingredients are Bioperine and Astragin.

M.A.S.S. Nutraceuticals INITIATE provides a comprehensive blend of performance boosters and nootropics (cognitive enhancers) to enhance the mind-body connection, increase energy, prolong endurance, sharpen focus, and give you some powerful pumps. Our DOMINATE pump pre-workout is a stimulant-free formulation that not only increases vasodilation, vascularity, and blood flow, it improves the body’s stress response to ultimately increase workout performance and output.

What ingredients should I stay away from?

The best thing to do before purchasing a product is to do some research on its ingredients. Stay away from ingredients that have research suggesting they may be harmful to the heart, liver, kidneys, or any other part of the body. Also, check to see if the ingredient is banned or illegal in your country. If completing in a professional or sanctioned sporting body, make sure none of the ingredients in the supplement are on their lists of banned substances. Consuming such ingredients may result in you being disqualified from competition.


Do your research before trying a new pre-workout supplement. Look for high-quality products containing a variety of high-quality, research-proven ingredients. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking a new supplement.