Are Pre-workout Supplements Good or Bad?

December 4, 2020

Are pre-workouts bad for you?

Sports nutrition is evolving faster than it ever has. In this day and age, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that hasn’t heard about 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 they good or bad for you?

What is a pre-workout supplement?

Pre-workout supplements are formulations of dietary supplements designed to improve exercise performance. Such supplements are designed to boost energy, increase endurance, increase blood flow (vascularity), and boost strength. These supplements are taken prior to the workout and typically 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 ultimately depends on the formulation of the product and the quality of the ingredients. 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 simply ineffective. Many of these formulas contain extremely high caffeine dosages, sometimes 5-times that of a cup of coffee. These types of supplements skyrocket blood pressure, heart rate, and constrict blood vessels and provide nothing more than a temporary boost of energy followed by a crash. Long-term, these supplements with desensitize the body to caffeine and cause side effects such as fatiguing the central nervous system.

Are there any downsides to pre-workout supplements?

Just like with anything put into the human body, there is always the potential for an adverse reaction. 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 a 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 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 and Nitrosigine. The inclusion of nootropics in pre-workouts has also grown in recent years. Some common nootropics include caffeine, alpha GPC, 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.

Summary

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.