The Potential Benefits & Downsides of Pre-workout Supplements

The Potential Benefits & Downsides of Pre-workout Supplements


Has anyone noticed that pre-workout supplements are becoming more popular by the day? Yes, they are.

Advocates of pre-workout supplements believe that these supplements can boost your energy levels and also improve your fitness while you engage in challenging workout sessions.

But there’s a snag. Most experts think that pre-workout supplements are not necessary and are in fact, potentially dangerous.

This article will discuss pre-workout supplements in detail, including their benefits and downsides. Are pre-workout supplements good for your health? Or do they cause harm? Let’s see what the research says.

Pre-workout supplements
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What are pre-workout supplements?

Pre-workout supplements are also known as “pre-workouts.” They are dietary formulas with multiple ingredients designed to improve athletic performance and energy.

Most pre-workout supplements come in the form of a powdery substance. You can dissolve it in water and drink before hitting the gym for your next workout session.

The truth about pre-workout supplements is that so many formulas exist, although there’s little consistency in the ingredients. Common ingredients that are used include artificial sweeteners, caffeine, creatine, B vitamins, and amino acids, but the quantities vary.

Pre-workout supplements improve athletic performance

Very limited research has been done on the effectiveness of pre-workout supplements. But that notwithstanding, studies have shown that some ingredients used in pre-workout supplements may benefit athletic performance (1).

Precursors of nitrogen oxide

The human body produces nitric oxide. This compound helps to relax your blood vessels and improve the flow of blood.

Your body uses several compounds to produce nitric oxide. Some of these compounds are included in pre-workout supplements. These compounds include L-citrulline, L-arginine, beetroot juice, and other sources of dietary nitrates (2).

Some studies have shown that supplementing with these compounds enhance the transport of nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, thus boosting athletic performance (2).

Most research on pre-workout supplements focused on young men, and so it is not clear whether the results apply to others or not. There’s, therefore, the need for more research on this.


Caffeine is a very common ingredient of pre-workout supplements. It is used to increase focus and energy.

Caffeine is a popular stimulant. It improves memory, mental alertness, fat burning, and exercise performance (3, 4).


Your body produces creatine naturally. It is stored in the skeletal muscles, where it is involved in muscular strength production of energy (5).

Creatine is often used in the production of pre-workout supplements, and also as a standalone supplement. Bodybuilders, weightlifters, and power athletes use a lot of creatine.

Studies show that usage of creatine can increase its reserve in your body, thus helping improve muscle mass, recovery time, exercise performance, and strength (5).

Pre-workout supplements have some downsides

Pre-workout supplements are generally safe, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely risk-free (1).

If you intend adding pre-workout supplements to your regimen, ensure that you take note of their potential downsides.

Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners

Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners are frequently added to pre-workout supplements.

They enhance the flavor even though they don’t contain calories, but at the same time, some sweeteners cause intestinal discomfort and distress in some people.

Consuming too much sugar alcohol can cause uncomfortable symptoms in your gastrointestinal tract, such as diarrhea, bloating, and gas – all of which can interfere with your workout (6).

Similar effects are experienced from eating some artificial sweeteners such as sucralose. However, there’s no scientific proof of this (7).

Avoid pre-workout supplements that are loaded with these artificial sweeteners. You can also do a little test – try a small amount and see how well you can tolerate it.

Too much caffeine

Caffeine is the most important energy-booster in most pre-workout supplements.

Taking too much caffeine can cause some negative side effects, such as impaired sleep, high blood pressure, and anxiety (8).

The amount of caffeine in most pre-workout supplements is as high as what you’d get in two cups of coffee (240 – 475ml). The thing is, if you are getting it from other sources during the day, you might take too much of it without knowing.

Safety & quality of the supplement

Dietary supplements are not closely policed in the United States and other countries. As such, information on product labels may be misleading or inaccurate.

If the quality and safety of your supplement is compromised, you may by mistake consume substances that may have been banned or dangerous amounts of some compounds (1).

To be sure of what you’re consuming, buy supplements that have been tested by the USP, NSF International, or other third parties.

Should I take a pre-workout supplement? Is it right?

Not everyone can take pre-workout formulas.

If you easily feel fatigued or you find it difficult to complete your daily workout sessions, then you shouldn’t resort totally to supplements.

Adequate sleep, hydration, and a healthy diet will boost your energy levels and facilitate muscle repair.

Also, because of the wide range of ingredients used, it is somewhat difficult to determine the effectiveness of pre-workout supplements.

Here’s another fact – pre-workout supplements are not cheap! And also, there’s no scientific proof showing that they are better than whole foods that provide the same nutrients. Yes! I’d take a cup of coffee and a banana over a pre-workout supplement.

But that notwithstanding, if you are comfortable with pre-workout supplements, go ahead and use it. Just be sure that you use it under the guidance of your doctor.

The summary

Pre-workout supplements enhance energy and physical performance, but there’s no evidence-based research to back up their supposed benefits.

They contain some ingredients that may boost your performance no doubt, but there’s no standard formula, and they also have a lot of downsides.

To boost your workout, eat foods that contain lots of nutrients, such as coffee and bananas.

But if you’d like a workout formula, then you should study the ingredients and choose the supplements that have been pre-checked by a third party.

It is also important that you get sufficient sleep, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and drink lots of water.

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