It’s no secret that for many, finding the energy to hit the gym can be difficult. Pre-workout supplements claim to remedy that problem by giving users a boost of energy that will carry them through their workout and possibly lead to better results. But are these supplements safe – or even effective?
To start, pre-workout supplements take a variety of forms. Many are sold as flavored drink mixes, while others come in the form of pills or snack food. These supplements contain a mix of ingredients including beta-alanine, creatine, amino acids or caffeine. The intended purpose of pre-workout is to give users a kick of energy by increasing focus, blood flow and heart rate. Unlike protein supplements which are typically taken following a workout, pre-workout is not intended to inherently increase mass or stimulate weight gain.
However, scientists argue the effectiveness of pre-workout supplements at providing any real energy boost for users, and some argue that the supplements could even be dangerous.
Do they work?
Studies have shown that caffeine, in particular, is effective at providing an energy rush after consumption. After all, many people drink coffee first thing in the morning to kickstart their day. However, scientists note that people with a regular caffeine intake eventually develop a tolerance to it, rendering its consumption for energy purposes useless over time. After a tolerance is developed, more caffeine is required for its effects to be felt. This can lead to health problems further down the road.
Carbohydrates are often found in pre-workout as well. Carbs are essential to our bodies for energy and should be a central part of any health or fitness plan. Whether taken as a supplement or consumed as food, carbs are effective at boosting energy levels for athletes when taken in before a workout.
Are they safe?
The safety of any supplement should be properly vetted before consuming the product, and pre-workout is no exception. Like most supplements, many supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which essentially means a product can be sold in stores as mentioned previously, caffeine is an ingredient that is often used in these supplements. Too much caffeine intake can lead to high blood pressure and risk of heart disease. While some pre-workout supplements avoid using caffeine for these reasons, many contain it. Be sure to check the label of any supplement you purchase before making a decision.
Some studies have also linked high intake of certain nutrients to a variety of health issues. Many pre-workout supplements contain these nutrients as a way to make the product more comprehensive. Studies have linked excessive beta-carotene intake to different forms of cancer and excess vitamin A intake to liver damage. Typically, however, the amounts of these nutrients in pre-workout should not lead to these issues with regular use.
Overall, most studies have shown that pre-workout is generally safe to consume by adults in regular doses over time.
So.. should you take pre-workout supplements?
Overall, most studies have shown that pre-workout supplements are generally safe to consume by adults in regular doses over time. While pre-workout supplements can increase energy and alertness for some users, however, studies have not entirely backed up its effectiveness in the long-term. Many of the benefits one can get by using pre-workout supplements can be achieved by simply eating a healthy snack before hitting the gym, such as a banana, a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit or a protein smoothie. At the end of the day, the investment may not be worth the payoff – and keeping your wallet healthy is always a good call.