Leading an active and healthy lifestyle is a good way for you to maintain your physical and mental well-being. While some hit the gym for a relaxing workout, there are others who love hard-hitting and challenging training sessions.
For those really looking to push themselves to the limit to get fitter and stronger, they often turn to pre-workout supplements. Pre-workouts can help prevent fatigue, a common side effect of working out that can slow your progress, and increase strength, energy and performance.
If you’re looking to find out more about pre-workout, you’re in the right place. Here’s a breakdown of what pre-workout is and six potential side effects that may occur. Fret not, as we’ll tell you simple remedies to either treat these side effects or prevent them altogether.
What Are Pre-workout Supplements?
Let's start with the basics. Pre-workout supplements are taken to improve athletic ability. Consumed in various forms, pre-workouts help to fuel recovery after your workout and give you an energy boost for better performance during your workout.
Pre-workout usually comes in powder form and is mixed with water to be consumed as a drink. Like protein powder, pre-workouts come in a wide range of flavors, from cookies and cream to blue raspberry. Ideally, they should be taken about 30 minutes before starting your workout, although specific instructions may differ from brand to brand.
Ingredients also differ between pre-workout brands, though they usually include caffeine for focus, creatine for muscle mass, and compounds like L-arginine and L-citrulline for the production of nitric oxide which improves blood flow.
Thanks to these ingredients, people have found pre-workout supplements increase the efficacy of their workouts and training sessions. However, pre-workouts may also come with some side effects if not consumed properly.
What Are the Side Effects of Pre-workout Supplements?
The good news is that most of the side effects of pre-workouts are quite mild. However, if left unchecked, they could become more serious. If you find yourself experiencing any negative side effects, adjust your intake accordingly, or follow the preventive tips to avoid them altogether. If any side effects worsen or cause you concern, don't hesitate to consult your healthcare provider.
Taking pre-workout can increase your risk of dehydration
Even without a pre-workout, dehydration is a risk factor for those who do strenuous activity. Your body sweats to regulate body temperature, and if you don’t replenish with water, dehydration occurs. In fact, it’s recommended that you drink about eight ounces of water after your workout or 150% of the water weight you’ve lost while training.
With pre-workout, however, you may need to drink even more water as some of the pre-workout ingredients can pull extra water from your body. For instance, though caffeine doesn't pull water from your body, it is a mild diuretic that causes your kidneys to work harder and flush more water from the body. In other words, caffeine makes you urinate, which can lead to dehydration if you don't replenish your fluids.
Your water levels are also important to ensure your pre-workout is its most effective. Creatine, an ingredient common in pre-workouts, pulls water into your cells, so it needs water in order to do its job.
It is extremely important for you to stay hydrated while working out, especially if you are taking pre-workout supplements. Dehydration can cause you to lose power during your workout and result in symptoms like tiredness, extreme thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow or strong-smelling pee, as well as headaches.
Taking pre-workout can cause headaches
Headaches are another possible side effect that can be caused by pre-workouts. As mentioned, dehydration can lead to headaches. Without water, the fluid around your brain gets thinner, causing your brain to bump into your skull. Ouch!
Another way pre-workouts can lead to headaches is through ingredients that promote vasodilation. Vasodilation expands the blood vessels within your body, allowing for increased blood flow, which is generally a good thing and helpful for muscle strength. However, this can also cause discomfort as the blood vessels in your head are also expanding. As a result, some people report pulsing headaches before, during, and after their workout.
To avoid this, consider cutting back on your pre-workout dosage. You may also want to look for a pre-workout lower in the ingredients that promote vasodilation, such as citrulline malate or beta-alanine.
Taking pre-workout can make falling asleep difficult
After a long day and a challenging workout, hitting the hay for a restful night of sleep is a top priority. However, if you’ve taken pre-workout before a night training session, you may find yourself tossing and turning, unable to get the sleep you need.
This side effect is not surprising, especially if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Compared to a cup of coffee, a typical serving of pre-workout contains up to 4.5 times the amount of caffeine, hovering at an average of 200-400mg.
For comparison: a serving of coffee has 95mg of caffeine, while a decaf has only 3mg. A mug of green tea contains about 50mg of caffeine, and a can of soda has roughly 40mg.
As such, the obvious fix here is to either consume less pre-workout before a late-night training session or to switch to a caffeine-free, stimulant-free pre-workout.
That said, even if caffeine doesn’t seem to impact your sleep, do keep in mind the safe daily limit of caffeine (400mg per day according to the FDA). If you’re taking pre-workout, be mindful of your other caffeinated drinks so as to not exceed the recommended daily intake!
Taking pre-workout can cause "pins and needles"
Not everyone experiences this, and even those who do usually find the sensation bothersome, more so than painful. However, we’ve included this side effect on our list as a heads up to those who may be trying pre-workout for the first time.
Often described as a tingly sensation around the body, the feeling of pins and needles occurs when your body’s nervous system reacts to the input of new ingredients. Beta-alanine and niacin (a type of vitamin B3) have been known to cause this tingly feeling, especially if you have a sensitivity to it.
Luckily, most cases of pins and needles caused my pre-workout ingredients are harmless and subside over time. Some people even find it enjoyable as it gives them a tangible indication that the pre-workout has an effect. If the tingling bothers you, you can eliminate it by decreasing your pre-workout dosage or drinking more water.
Note that tingling in your body can also be a sign of other issues, such as nerve damage, diabetes or vitamin deficiencies. If you notice pins and needles occurring when you're not taking a pre-workout, consult your healthcare provider.
Taking pre-workout can cause diarrhea
Needless to say, this side effect is quite an unpleasant experience for both newbies and experienced athletes alike. Luckily, it is easily avoided.
Sometimes diarrhea is caused by a poor combination of pre-workout ingredients, which can have a laxative effect. As such, it’s important for you to do your own research, get recommendations from people who are already using supplements, and turn to a trusted pre-workout brand.
However, if the brand of pre-workout you are consuming is reputable and there's not a problem with the blend, diarrhea could also be a result of your dosage. Pay attention to how much pre-workout you're consuming and whether it's diluted enough. With ingredients like magnesium, creatine, caffeine, and sodium bicarbonate, the body is unable to absorb them if they're not mixed well with water, resulting in an urgent trip to the bathroom.
Always choose pre-workouts that are third-party tested to ensure that they are of the highest quality standards. Make sure the blend of ingredients is backed by scientific research and that you're following dosage recommendations on the label.
Taking pre-working can lead to hypertension in some people
As with all kinds of energy-boosting supplements, be it a mug of coffee or some vitamin B tablets, pre-workout can cause your blood pressure to rise. This is usually a non-issue for healthy adults but can be dangerous for two groups of people.
First, it can pose a threat to people with pre-existing hypertension or other blood pressure issues. Taking too much pre-workout can cause blood pressure to skyrocket, and may increase your risks of cardiac disease. If you fall into this group, consult your healthcare provider before beginning a pre-workout regiment.
Second, people who do high-intensity interval workouts or HIIT may also be at risk. These types of workouts are focused on elevating the heart rate to improve cardiovascular health. As such, taking pre-workout may increase your blood pressure to unhealthy levels when doing HIIT. Therefore, you want to reserve your pre-workout for other forms of exercise, like strength training, or work with your healthcare provider, trainer and pre-workout supplier to find a pre-workout that better fits your goals.
Taking pre-workout may have a host of benefits, but knowing and avoiding the side effects is just as important. This process of finding the right brand and quantity of pre-workout may require some trial and error, but don't get discouraged.
With reputable brands like ProSupps that provide holistic and recommended supplements, it won't be long until you find the effective, safe and powerful pre-workout blend for you.