Pre-workout supplements are some of the most popular workout supplements that bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts love to take before hitting the gym. Pre-workout supplements must be effective enough to warrant the attention of the most casual gym goers and for the most part, they do. In fact, there is a huge market of pre-workout supplements in the fitness industry and countless consumers keep touting their benefits.
So, if you are pretty serious about your fitness goals and have decided to take pre-workout supplements, that’s a good decision. But do you really know- what does pre workout do to your body or the side effects that you might experience? Here I have listed down all the possible pre workout side effects with a detailed explanation of those ingredients that might be responsible for those side effects.
Pre Workout Side Effects
Tingling and Itching Sensations
These effects are also called Paresthesia. This is a totally harmless side effect of beta-alanine – a common ingredient found in most pre workout supplements. There’s really nothing you can do about this issue, other than buying a pre-workout supplement that doesn’t contain beta-alanine at all.
Many pre workout powders contain a high amount of vitamin B complex, including vitamin B3 (niacin). The high amount of niacin in these supplements may cause skin flushing, burning, or may give tingling or itching sensations. These effects of niacin usually stay for an hour and the tolerance level of your body will develop over time.
If you really want to stay away from this particular side effect, avoid the pre workout that contains ingredients like beta-alanine. For the flush effects make sure your supplement doesn’t contain any niacin or look for a pre workout that contains a lower percentage per serving. You can even lower the dosage and see how your body reacts.
If there is a high level of nitric oxide in your body, this could expand the blood vessels in your brain and cause headaches. Vasodilators such as nitric oxide are commonly found in pre workout supplements and they come in many forms, such as Agmatine, Citrulline, and Arginine. Caffeine withdrawals also often result in serious headaches. You may have severe headaches if you’ve cycled off your pre-workouts because they usually contain a lot of caffeine.
If you’re constantly having headaches due to your pre workout, you can try to avoid any pre-workouts that contain vasodilators or minimize the serving size. Besides that, it is also beneficial to drink water right before and after your pre workout consumption.
You will not be surprised to know that some pre-workout shakes could also make you insomniac. You may find it difficult to have a sound sleep at night or may not be able to sleep at all. If you have such effects then you’re probably consuming over 300 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Although caffeine provides you enough energy to handle a tough workout by activating the epinephrine and norepinephrine in your body, you would not be able to sleep well if you take it in the evening.
For example, if you generally go to bed at 11 pm, you should never take your pre workout after 6 pm. It is important to assess your own bodily response to caffeine both positively and negatively before taking in. Plus, the effects of pre-workouts are indeed much greater on an empty stomach, so plan accordingly. If you simply don’t want to spend money on expensive pre-workout supplements, homemade pre workout meals are definitely a great alternative.
If your pre workout contains high levels of caffeine, magnesium, sodium bicarbonate, taurine, arginine, yohimbe and creatine, you may have diarrhea because of these ingredients. If you have a sensitive stomach, these ingredients could have a laxative effect, compelling you to get to the toilet immediately.
This may also occur if you do not prepare your pre workout drink as per the manufacturer’s directions since you do not know how they are going to react or be absorbed in your body. So, it is essential for you to find out how much water you should mix with your drink or shake. If you do not mix enough water a less concentrated solution will form in your gut. Due to this reason, your body will pull more water out of the cells to break down the solution into a more concentrated form. As a result, too much water will enter into your intestine and give you the sense of urgency to poop. This process is actually known as osmosis. Another common pre workout side effect is osmotic dehydration where your body absorbs way more amount of water than what we consider normal.
To fix this problem, mix more water with your pre workout supplement. If you have picked a new pre workout, make sure to follow the direction mentioned on the label and if you still have the urgent need to have a bowel movement, add more water than directed. I will also recommend you to drink more water consistently during your workout session so that no gastronomical effect could bother you.
High Blood Pressure
Caffeine is a widely known stimulant that could raise your blood pressure. Caffeine is the most effective and common stimulant found in almost all the pre workout supplements on the market. This is the same thing you will find in your morning coffee.
Caffeine consumption can also influence factors such as wakefulness, alertness, aerobic capacity, power output, fat breakdown, and exercise time to exhaustion.
It would not be the ideal supplement for you if you have any cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or high blood pressure. Try to find a supplement that is mildly dosed with caffeine or that has no caffeine at all.
Anxiety and Jitters
As you have seen, an enhanced level of caffeine that your pre-workout has could cause different kinds of side effects that could affect you in different ways. Anxiety and jitters are two other common side effects of these energy boosters.
If your pre-workout formula makes you feel uneasy or anxious, try to cut down on the servings or buy supplements that have lesser amounts of caffeine. Supplements for anxiety could also be helpful in this regard.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to know which supplemental facts attribute to nausea, though it is one of the most-common pre workout side effects. Nausea can be caused by a single ingredient or a blend of other ingredients in the supplement’s formula. If you think that your pre-work formula makes you feel nauseous, try to reduce the size of the dosage in half and mix your formula with more water than directed.
So, Which Ingredients Should You Be Looking For?
Taking a quick glance at any pre-workout supplement label, you’re bombarded with a rather ridiculous list of almost unpronounceable ingredients and some of them are indeed helpful while some are placebo.
No doubt these common pre workout ingredients are there because they are more or less helpful. Also, these ingredients can be easily found in your diet. However, with the exception of creatine supplements, buying a pre-workout supplement just for these ingredients can be a waste of money.
Ingredients that Really Work
- Trimethylglycine (TMG): It can improve heart health and ensure power output.
- Beta-alanine: It can help decrease fatigue, meaning you can possibly run longer or eke out a few more reps.
- Citrulline and Arginine: These are called nitric oxide boosters that help you achieve a greater pump.
- Creatine: You’ll definitely find creatine in almost every pre-workout supplement out there. This is some form of an extremely popular supplement in its own right, known for improving energy production during anaerobic activities
Ingredients That Are Not so Helpful
- Glutamine: Although workout supplement manufacturers heavily market glutamine as a muscle builder and power booster, but a recent study has shown that this is nothing but a placebo.
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA): Some manufacturers claimed that this will help burn more fat during the exercise session. However, much like glutamine, its effects are unsubstantiated.
- Stimulants: Along with the above-mentioned ingredients, pre-workout supplements also have ingredients known as stimulants. Stimulants serve the general purpose of increasing one’s performance through the improvement of multiple physiological and mental factors, such as heart rate, alertness, and Vasodilation. You’ll most likely find a stimulant called yohimbine in your pre workout, a substance found within a Yohimbe tree bark that can improve blood flow and use fat for energy. Other stimulant ingredients you might also find are theobromine, paraxanthine, and theophylline.
Two very popular stimulants commonly used by bodybuilders in the past were ephedrine and DMAA. Both of them were known to stimulate the central nervous system, essentially kicking your body into a hyper mode and driving up your adrenaline levels, heart rate, blood pressure, and fat breakdown. However, they were later banned as dietary supplements by the FDA due to a handful of cases that had linked them to death.
Before wrapping this up, I found it important to mention that some users also complained about muscle cramping due to the creatine present in most of these pre workout supplements. In my opinion, this is quite improbable because of two reasons- there’s no medical evidence proving cramping is caused by creatine and most pre workout supplements contain a very small amount of creatine that may not have such an effect at all. This is because you only need a fraction of creatine to find the desired results, so there is nothing to worry about having creatine as an ingredient for your pre workout supplement.
The above information will definitely make you think twice about whether your pre-workout good or bad for your health. For more information on pre workout pros and cons and other important factors like how long they last, don’t forget to check our detailed review on the best and safest pre workout supplements on the market.