Pre-workout supplements have gained massive popularity in the recent decade. They claim to increase your athletic performance in the gym. But they come with some serious side effects.
Many pre-workout brands contain a large amount of caffeine, somewhere in the range of 200-400 mg. Too much caffeine can be very harmful to your body.
Every brand out there has different levels of caffeine. Some have too much of it, some in moderate amount. You have to be very cautious with caffeine.
Pre-workout if taken properly with the right amount of dosage can prove to be very beneficial. It can help you in the gym. But if it is not used properly, it can have a lot of side effects including vomiting, cramps, jitters, high blood pressure and in some severe cases can even lead to cardiac arrest.
So it is very important to read the label of the supplement and find out exactly what you are consuming.
Before we dive into supplements, let’s first discuss the basics first
- Get proper sleep
- Drink enough water
- Do cardiovascular and strength exercises daily
- Eat nutritious food
- Avoid junk foods, processed foods, sugar and soda
- Include lots of vegetables in your diet
- Stretch daily
Pre-workout ingredient beneficial for your body
Creatine Monohydrate: Creatine is found in most pre-workout supplements because it can increase your muscle power and performance in the gym.
BCAAs: BCAAs also known as branch chain amino acids can help you perform a few more reps in the gym. It helps in maintaining cell energy and protein synthesis.
Taurine: Taurine is found in poultry, mutton, beef, pork and other animal meats. Animal meats are a good source of all the amino acids that your body needs.
NO2 Boosters: Arginine is a popular NO2 booster that can perform the role of ‘vasodilator’. These boosters essentially increase the width of your arteries, making it easy for the blood to flow through them. So your body can absorb nutrients quicker.
B-vitamins: The vitamins most favorable for energy productions are B-vitamins, specifically, Vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6. Vitamin B12 helps in blood production and Vitamin B3 helps in DNA repair and also helps in keeping your skin healthy.
Pre-workout ingredient bad for your body
According to Food and Chemical Toxicology, you can intake a maximum of 400 mg of caffeine in a day. What does this mean? One medium cup coffee contains anywhere between 60 to 80 mg of caffeine. This means you can take 5 cups of coffee in a day, maximum.
Some pre-workout supplements do not give a damn to this study. For example, ProSupps Mr Hyde NitroX supplement contains 410mg of caffeine in one scoop of 7.5g. You should avoid this pre-workout.
Pros and Cons of pre-workout
- Pre-workout can improve your performance in the gym.
- It can boost your energy.
- It helps in dissolving fat.
- It can improve metabolism.
- It can increase concentration and focus.
- If you use pre-workout for a long time, your body can develop tolerance to it. To avoid this you can try cycling the timing of your dosage.
- It can even lead to a digestion problem. Ingredients like magnesium, caffeine, creatine, sodium bicarbonate can cause digestion problems.
- Some side effects are also caused by overstimulation.
- In countries like the United States, pre-workout are not regulated. This is a big concern. So when you buy any product, make sure that it is certified by some third party like NSF.
- Excessive caffeine can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, sometimes even leading to cardiac arrest.
- It can also lead to problems like nausea, diarrhea, or other gut intolerances. You need to supplement your diet with proper food for absorbing the minerals.
- Some lesser-known side effects of pre-workout are:
- Kidney damage
- Trouble in falling asleep
- Red skin
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
More about caffeine
One of the most used ingredients in all pre-workout supplements is caffeine.
For example, a can of Red Bull of 8.4 oz contains 80mg of caffeine, which is the same as a medium cup coffee and twice as much as a Coke of 12 oz.
Caffeine is a stimulant and is mostly found in tea, coffee and cacao plants. It stimulates the central nervous system, which helps you to be focused and alert.
The most useful effect of caffeine is that it can block adenosine. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that tells your brain to relax and makes you feel fatigued and tired.
Here is the amount of caffeine you can expect per 8 oz of popular beverages:
- Espresso: 240 to 720 mg
- Coffee: 100 to 200 mg
- Energy drinks: 50 to 150 mg
- Cocoa beverage: 2 to 7 mg
- Yerba mate: 65 to 130 mg
- Decaffeinated coffee: 3 to 12 mg
- Soft drinks: 20 to 40 mg
- Chocolate milk: 2 to 7 mg
Caffeine can help you improve your mood, fight depression, stimulate brain functioning and protect you against some severe diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Caffeine can also boost metabolism and help you with weight loss.
Finally, caffeine can enhance athletic performance in the gym. Make sure you consume caffeine 45 minutes to 1 hour before hitting the gym.
Make sure you always read the label of your pre-workout. Each brand out there has its own unique mixture of energy boosters.
The best way to find out the best supplement for you is to try as many supplements as you can until you find your “magic drink”. Your body is the best teacher. It knows what is best for it. Listen to it.
The psychological damage of pre-workout supplements
We all are familiar with the normal side effects of pre-workout. It is common that we gallop something; it can always have some side effects. That is not what matters. What does matter is the psychological damage that these supplements can cause?
You may become dependent on these supplements to get your dream physique. It does great harm to your mental state and your motivation in the long run.
It is important to understand the psychological damage. Why do you hit the gym? To get that athletic body. To get that confidence and charm. For longevity; or all the above. What does a person think when he completely changes his lifestyle and loses 150 pounds in a matter of a year?
All these motivations fade away when you start depending on that little boost packed in that expensive shiny can. The longer you use it, the more dependent you become.
We start to believe that we cannot get that pump without supplements. No matter how much you work hard, how much you lift, how intensely you lift, you will not get that result. Remember, the gym is more about the mental game than a physical game. Once you lose hope mentally, the effect is visible physically.
Believe me! It is very easy to fall in this trap. I know it because I have been in it.
When you depend too much in these supplements, you become addicted to it. This addiction is the real thing.
So what I want to say? Should you take pre-workout? To be honest, it is a risky thing and you must play it smart.
Play it smart
I would suggest that you should not take pre-workout just to have that little boost. You should try to avoid them.
You should understand that you don’t need any supplement as long as your body is responding to your workout. If you feel that you are not getting the required pump in your body even after proper food and exercise, then it’s time to try a supplement.
Now here are some guidelines you can follow:
- Use only as much as recommended in the label. Don’t double or triple your dosage with the thought that you will get good results. Instead, it can harm your body.
- Cycle it. If you use a supplement for a long time, your body will start developing a tolerance to it. Take one week off for every three weeks you are using it.
- With regular use, your body becomes desensitized to caffeine. So you would need a higher and higher dose of caffeine to feel the desired effect. However, this can lead to adrenal fatigue, where your adrenal glands are no longer able to produce adrenal and Crestone in the right dosage.
- Do not mix it with any other stimulant like Red Bull, Coffee, caffeinated tea or Monster. It can be a very dangerous choice.
So, basically what I am saying is that you must be smart with your choice.
If I can give you one advice, it would be to listen to your body. It knows its limits.
Understand that no matter whatever you try, there is no substitute to eating high-quality healthy foods, getting proper rest and drinking enough water.