Is pre workout bad for you?

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Pre workouts have been available for a long time now, but are they safe? Is pre workout bad for you? Or is this just an illusion?

In this article I’ll break down what a pre workout supplement is, what are its benefits and side effects, and what ingredients you should be most cautious of.

What are pre-workout supplements?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to enhance athletic performance and energy levels during exercise. Typically available in powdered form, they often contain a blend of ingredients such as caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. 

These components are intended to provide a temporary energy boost, improve focus, and reduce fatigue, making them popular among fitness enthusiasts.

However, the safety and effectiveness of pre-workout supplements can vary widely, prompting debate on whether they are ultimately beneficial or potentially harmful.

a picture that shows two labels: good and bad

Is pre workout bad for you?

The question of whether pre-workout supplements are detrimental to your health lacks a one-size-fits-all answer. It largely depends on various factors, including your individual health, sensitivity to certain ingredients, and how you use these supplements.

For some individuals, pre-workout supplements can offer valuable benefits such as increased energy, enhanced focus, and improved exercise performance. These advantages can be particularly helpful when tackling intense workouts on a bad night of sleep.

However, concerns arise when pre-workout supplements are misused or when individuals have underlying health conditions. Excessive consumption of certain ingredients, such as caffeine, can lead to side effects like jitters, heart palpitations, and sleep disturbances. 

Moreover, some people may be sensitive or allergic to specific components found in these supplements, which can result in adverse reactions.

Ultimately, the key to determining whether pre-workout supplements are “bad” for you lies in responsible usage and individual suitability. 

It’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating these supplements into your supplement stack, especially if you have pre-existing health concerns. 

Additionally, always follow recommended dosages and pay attention to how your body responds, as what works well for one person may not be suitable for another. In summary, pre-workout supplements can be beneficial when used wisely, but their effects and safety depend on individual factors and responsible consumption.

Benefits of pre workout supplements

Pre-workout supplements can offer several potential advantages:

Increased Energy

Perhaps the most well-known benefit, pre-workout supplements often contain caffeine and other energy-boosting ingredients that can help you power through intense workouts. This heightened energy can be especially beneficial during early morning or post-work training sessions.

Enhanced Focus

Many pre-workout formulas include compounds like L-theanine, which can improve mental clarity and focus. This heightened concentration can be valuable for maintaining proper form and technique during exercises.

Improved Exercise Performance

Ingredients such as creatine and beta-alanine may enhance physical performance by increasing strength and delaying muscle fatigue. This can help you push your limits and achieve better results in your workouts.

Better Pump and Vascularity

Some pre-workout supplements contain nitric oxide boosters like L-citrulline, which can increase blood flow to your muscles. This results in a “pump” effect, making your muscles look more defined and aiding nutrient delivery during exercise.

It’s important to note that the benefits of pre-workout supplements can vary from person to person, and not all individuals may experience the same effects. Furthermore, responsible use is essential, as excessive consumption or reliance on these supplements can lead to negative side effects.

Before incorporating any pre-workout supplement into your regimen, consider your specific fitness goals, sensitivities, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions. 

When used wisely, pre-workout supplements can be a valuable tool in optimizing your workouts and achieving your fitness objectives. If not, then you might run into some negative side effects.

Potential side-effects of pre workout

While pre-workout supplements offer several benefits, they also come with potential side-effects, especially when not used correctly or when containing certain ingredients. It’s crucial to be aware of these possible adverse reactions:

Caffeine-Related Issues

Most pre workout supplements contain caffeine. And it’s important to note, because caffeine is a stimulant.

Excessive caffeine intake can lead to restlessness, jitteriness, increased heart rate, and even anxiety. It may also disrupt sleep patterns if taken too close to bedtime. Sensitivity to caffeine varies from person to person, so it’s important to monitor your tolerance.

Digestive Distress

Some pre-workout supplements can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, including nausea, cramps, or diarrhea. This is often due to ingredients like creatine or high doses of certain amino acids. Starting with smaller servings and gradually increasing your intake can help mitigate these issues.

Tingling (Paresthesia)

Beta-alanine, a common pre-workout ingredient, can induce a harmless tingling sensation on the skin, known as paresthesia. While not dangerous, it can be uncomfortable for some users. Adjusting the dosage or choosing supplements with lower beta-alanine content can alleviate this sensation.

High Blood Pressure

Stimulants like caffeine and Yohimbe can raise blood pressure in some individuals. If you have hypertension or are prone to elevated blood pressure, it’s advisable to use caution or avoid supplements containing these ingredients.

Allergic Reactions

Pre-workout supplements can contain a variety of compounds, some of which may trigger allergies in susceptible individuals. Always check the ingredient list for any allergens and consult with a healthcare provider if you have known allergies.

Proprietary Blends

Supplements with proprietary blends make it difficult to gauge the precise amounts of each ingredient, which can increase the risk of unexpected side effects. Opt for products with transparent labeling to better control your intake.


Regular and excessive use of pre-workout supplements can lead to a dependency on these products to achieve optimal performance. This may not be ideal for long-term fitness goals, as it’s essential to maintain a balanced and sustainable approach to training.

It’s crucial to approach pre-workout supplements with caution, especially if you are new to them or have underlying health conditions.

Before using any supplement, consult with a healthcare professional or a nutritionist to ensure it aligns with your fitness goals and won’t negatively impact your health. 

Try to adhere to recommended serving sizes and be attentive to how your body responds, adjusting your usage as needed. Responsible and informed use is key to reaping the benefits while mitigating the risks of pre-workout supplements.

a tub of pre workout with a question mark on its label

Ingredients to look out for

When evaluating the potential risks associated with pre-workout supplements, one must have a look at the ingredients list. Here are some key components to pay close attention to:


Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients in pre-workout supplements. While it can provide a noticeable energy boost and enhance alertness, excessive caffeine intake can lead to restlessness, jitters, increased heart rate, and sleep disturbances.

The recommended dosage of caffeine to improve performance is 3-6 mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight. Going over 6mg is unlikely to provide more benefits to performance, but it does increase the risk of developing the aforementioned side-effects.

Beta Alanine

Beta-alanine is often included in pre-workout formulas to help delay muscle fatigue. Some individuals may experience a harmless tingling sensation, known as “paresthesia,” as a side effect. This tingling can be uncomfortable and disturbing, but it doesn’t pose a threat to one’s health.

Proprietary Blends

Some pre-workout supplements contain proprietary blends, where the exact quantities of individual ingredients are not disclosed. 

This lack of transparency makes it challenging to assess the safety and effectiveness of the product. 

To avoid any issues, opt for supplements with transparent labeling that clearly specify the amounts of each ingredient.


Yohimbe is an herbal extract sometimes included in pre-workout supplements due to its potential to increase energy and fat loss.

However, it can also lead to side effects such as anxiety, increased blood pressure, and digestive issues. 

If you’re sensitive to stimulants or have pre-existing health conditions, it’s advisable to avoid products containing Yohimbe or consult a healthcare professional beforehand.


Before incorporating any pre-workout supplement into your routine, carefully review the ingredient list, and consider your own health and sensitivities.

If you’re unsure or have already used some and seen symptoms of certain side effects, then don’t take anything. I would argue that the benefits are actually not that significant.

However, if you do feel like you want to experiment with pre workouts, take a look at my other article on the best pre workouts to get an idea what might be the best option for you.


Is pre-workout bad for you long term?

Taking pre workout supplements should be safe as long as you don’t regularly go over the recommended dosage. 

Is it safe to take pre-workout everyday?

Taking a pre workout every day is fine as long as you take moderate doses. The main ingredient to look out for is caffeine, as it can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and affect the quality of your sleep if taken daily, in high doses.

Should you actually take pre-workout?

Whether or not to take pre-workout supplements depends on the individual. They are potentially beneficial in various situations, but the effects tend to be marginal.

Are amino acids beneficial?

Amino acids can be beneficial under certain conditions. An amino acid is a molecule that is used in your body to create protein molecules. Amino acids can reduce muscle soreness and improve muscle growth if the dietary protein intake isn’t sufficient.

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