6 Spooky Reasons Why You Might Need to Ditch Pre-Workout + What To Do Instead
While pre-workout used to be mainly popular among bodybuilders and those who are heavily invested in their fitness routines, pre-workout is now trendy and has skyrocketed in popularity with the rise of fitness and athlete influencers on social media boasting about pre workouts’ ability to increase their energy and improve workout results.
Today everyone from casual to routine gym-goers are turning to pre-workout because of their touted benefits. This supplement comes in many forms such as powders, hydration mixes, and capsules, and is usually taken before you start your exercise.
If you're currently a regularly pre-workout consumer or just considering using it yourself, you need to read what we’re about to reveal.
Pre-workout supplements and energy drinks are sometimes what we can rely on to give us a kick to push harder when we feel like we have nothing left to give after a long and exhausting day at work. Whether it’s simply practicing yoga, going for a run, or dragging ourselves to the gym when we’re tired any form of physical activity can feel like climbing Everest.
What is seemingly fortunate for us is that pre-workout is supposedly packed with all the vitamins and ingredients we need for not just stronger and faster results from our workouts but also the energy we need for motivation and determination during a workout. And for most of us, pre-workouts do just this, enhancing our mental fortitude and physical activity. However, this comes at a cost.
If you regularly swallow a couple of pre-workout supplements? Or chug down a chemically formulated pre-workout powder before heading to the gym? You should probably know that commercial pre-workout supplements and drinks might cool and maybe even give you a quick high, but they may also be doing you more harm than good.
Pre-workout may kick you onto the right track for quicker and faster-achieved fitness goals such as weight loss, muscle building, or longer-lasting better endurance, but there are quite a few emerging commercial pre-workout side effects that you shouldn’t ignore.
Just to give you the general idea of how bad pre-workout can be for your health - the awfully unpleasant most common pre-workout supplement side effects may include:
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Chest pains
- Tingling and numbness
- Kidney damage
Now let’s get into the details of the evidence from emerging studies revealing pre-workout effects and look at a couple of the main reasons why you should ditch commercial pre-workout. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re destined to go to the gym without being able to grab a boost of workout efficiency.
We’ll also look at what you can replace your current pre-workout with, to achieve the same positive workout results, without all the nasty symptoms.
1. Dangerous Chemical Compounds
Some pre-workouts contain dangerous chemical compounds that have slipped past regulatory agencies and can wreak havoc on your health. These stimulants found in regular over-the-counter pre-workout and dieting supplements are said to lead to health conditions from increased heart rate to cardiovascular problems.
As an example, researchers at NSF International, a public health and safety organization, tested six different random pre-workout supplements for harmful ingredients. They said they were shocked at the results when saw the results and found that the supplements contained four unapproved stimulants mixed into the formulas.
The research uncovered two of the four unapproved stimulants were banned stimulants 1,3-DMAA and 1,3-dimethylbutylamine (1,3-DMBA). While the safety of 1,3-DMBA in humans is unknown, most worrisomely, 1,3-DMAA has apparently been investigated as potentially contributing to hemorrhagic strokes and sudden death after the death of two U.S. soldiers who took a pre-workout supplement JACK3D.
As for the other stimulants, they are two previously unidentified stimulants 1,4-DMAA and octodrine. To make matters even scarier, the quantity of octodrine found in this study was more than twice the largest pharmaceutical dose.
2. Excessive Caffeine
No matter what pre-workout supplement brand you buy, it’ll most likely contain a large dose of caffeine as the main active ingredient. This of course makes sense; caffeine is incredible at enhancing your energy and workout.
When you drink caffeine, it raises your levels of epinephrine or adrenaline (the hormone responsible for the “fight or flight” response) in your blood. Adrenaline releases a shot of energy, which causes a noticeable increase in quicker response times and heightened strength during physical activity.
Problem is that pre-workout supplements contain a whole heap ton of caffeine. On average pre-workout supplements caffeine per serving ranges from 150 mg to 300 mg. A cup of coffee contains around 80 mg of caffeine, so, this means that pre-workout can contain more than three times as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Which is a heck ton, especially when you consider that most of us take 2 scoops of pre-workout.
It’s important that you don't consume too much caffeine. Some of the severe effects of caffeine toxicity include abdominal pain, increased blood acid levels, and reduced blood flow to the heart.
That's why the FDA says to not consume more than 400 milligrams a day—that's about four or five cups of coffee. You should consume less than that depending on caffeine tolerance.
3. Unknown Ingredients
In addition to all those dangerous chemicals that pre-workout supplements can contain, they may also be formulated with an assortment of unknown ingredients.
Manufacturers don’t have the proper oversight that they need. So, instead of transparency, they hide the real ingredients in a pre-workout, labeling ingredients as a part of a “proprietary blend,” hiding them as a “natural extract”, and obscuring the precise number of contents. This way they don’t get caught unless people take a closer look, which most people don’t.
Sometimes these unknown ingredients are banned substances. Scientists ran tests on mainstream pre-workout supplements found chemical stimulants such as amphetamines and multiple forms of methylphenethylamine. Some of these stimulants can act like adrenaline and have led to failed drug tests among athletes who take pre-workout supplements.
4. Artificial Sweeteners
Most commercial pre-workout supplements contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. The idea of sweetness and enhanced flavor without adding calories may seem appealing, but the consumption of some artificial sweeteners may come with some physical discomfort, especially for your digestive system.
High consumption of sugar alcohols can cause symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Plus, to make matters worse, researchers fed healthy mice either water, water containing glucose/sucrose, or water containing an artificial sweetener. Interestingly, the mice consuming artificial sweeteners developed glucose intolerance, but mice consuming sugar or plain water didn’t.
Additionally, studies have found that regular intake of artificial sweeteners can lead to abnormal pancreas functioning and insulin levels, and other metabolism-related malfunctions.
Emulsifiers are synthetic substances that are added to pre-workout to allow the ingredients to mix smoothly or dissolve easily. This may seem like an innocent ingredient, but we’ll tell you this, some emulsifiers found in pre-workout supplements can put you at a higher risk for some unpleasant consequences.
For example, the emulsifiers made from seaweed carrageenan and processed euchema seaweed have been the subject of a mixed debate for a while. Some researchers argue that these emulsifiers are cause for concern because of their potential carcinogenicity or genotoxicity, however, there is missing data on this subject.
However, a couple of studies have linked carrageenan with glucose tolerance impairment in mice liver and human HepG2 tissue cells. They have linked these effects with a result of carrageenan-induced inflammatory response.
Two other common emulsifiers carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 have also been shown to promote inflammatory diseases. They were shown in research to change the formation of the microbiota in the guts of mice, causing intestinal lining damage. Increasing the risk of several health problems such as leaky gut syndrome, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea.
6. Diuretic Effect
Diuretics are medications, sometimes called water pills that help treat water retention by encouraging your kidneys to rid of excess sodium and water. Now, this may be helpful for people who struggle with water retention and high blood pressure, but the diuretic effect from some pre-workout supplements when combined with the high loss of water during exercise can cause severe dehydration, especially because the high levels of caffeine and concentrated plant extracts from the pre-workout.
There are many side effects due to this dehydration including headaches, tiredness, dizziness, etc.
What To Use for A Workout Energy Boost: Natural Pre-Workout
We’ve now seen how ugly pre-workout can be, does this mean it’s all bad? The bottom line is that after outlining these six science-backed reasons to consider ditching your pre-workout, we think that these scary facts are valid enough that you should skip your basic commercial pre-workout.
It’s not all bad though. If you want to still find the energy to work out after a tiring day or get that boost of workout efficiency without relying on these pre-workout drinks that are packed with harmful substances? Well, the answer is simple - rely on nature.
There are plenty of natural pre-workout options that can be just as and maybe even more effective than your basic over-the-counter pre-workout supplement. Some of our favorite healthy and natural pre-workout choices that you can opt for without worrying about unknown ingredients, banned chemicals, and odd side effects, include:
- Tea: Not only is tea and clean beverage choice - full of antioxidants, containing no calories, with a balanced caffeine content, and super hydrating. Tea has been shown to rev up your metabolism, regulate blood sugar, and increase fat loss. Take a deeper look at why tea makes an awesome pre-workout drink. Click here to read: Why Tea Is The Best All Natural Pre-Workout Drink.
- Adaptogenics: Adaptogens are herbs that can regulate the body’s stress response and may have the capability to boost your energy and work to protect your body from workout fatigue.
- MCTs: Research has found that MCT oil pre-workout consumed 30 to 45 minutes before physical activity can improve the intensity and total energy output during exercise.
- Natural Pre-Workout: If you still want to opt for a traditional pre-workout powder or supplement, then we recommend looking for brands that list all their ingredients and their quantity per serving. Make sure the brand is transparent with every ingredient and research or make sure that you recognize every added ingredient on the label. Confirm that it also doesn’t contain: wheat, gluten, dairy, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or sugar.
Personally, our favorite natural pre-workout is adaptogenic tea because it combines two powerful workout-boosting components into one drink. Actually, here at Wise Ape Tea, we combine premium tea with adaptogenic herbs, crafted to create bright, flavorful organic wellness-driven tea combos. This is the evolution of tea.
Of course, always speak with a physician before making any significant changes to your normal diet.
This informative article is written, by Sophia McKenzie. Sophia is head content creator and writer, for several premium websites, where her expertise lies in health, nutrition, and wellness. Her content focuses on providing and sharing doable solutions to help people truly thrive and live their happiest, healthiest, fulfilled lives.