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Pre Workout, Do I Need It?

Have you ever considered purchasing a pre workout supplement? Pre workout is often sold as a powder performance enhancer that is to be mixed with water and ingested before exercise. Pre workout products have grown in popularity and are marketed to consumers to provide an immediate dose of caffeine to increase alertness, strength, and performance. However, nutrition experts claim that pre workout can be a waste of money and potentially dangerous. 


What is the risk of pre-workout supplements?

Unlike food, supplements are not inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. This may pose a risk for active individuals with or without existing health conditions. Athletes who compete professionally or collegiately, may be at risk for consuming a banned substance or consuming an excess of caffeine. Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, supplement companies are free to be as transparent or (not) as they wish when it comes to product ingredients and amounts. Although there are a myriad of pre workout brands, there’s little consistency in terms of ingredients between pre-workout products. Some pre-workout products include amino acids, B vitamins, caffeine, creatine, and artificial sweeteners, but quantities can vary widely depending on the brand. Harmful stimulants such as ephedra and yohimbe may also be included in a product without warning. In some instances, one scoop of pre-workout may have up to 500 milligrams of caffeine. Too much caffeine consumption can lead to side effects such as jitters, anxiousness, fast heart rate, upset stomach, nausea, headache, and insomnia. (1) For this reason, nutrition experts recommend using only 3rd party tested products or adjusting your nutrition or environment to provide the most energy for exercise. 


If you are having trouble feeling energized before a workout, you may want to try these low risk alternatives.

  • A balanced diet. Nothing beats adequate intake of calories, particularly carbohydrates around your workouts. Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred source of fuel. Combine this with a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein and you have a recipe for fueled workouts and an inflammation fighting diet.
  • Coffee. For healthy adults, the FDA has cited 400 milligrams a day—that's about four or five cups of coffee. (1) One cup of coffee has 100 milligrams of caffeine, is free of harmful ingredients, and has been shown to have antioxidant properties. 
  • Adequate sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. (2) Getting enough sleep on a consistent basis will allow you to rely less on high dose caffeinated beverages such as pre-workout and more on safer products such as a cup of coffee or tea for stimulation. 


Studies do not reliably show pre-workout supplements to be effective. In addition, they cannot replace a balanced diet, quality sleep, and adequate hydration. If you prefer to use one anyway, choose NSF certified products and be conscientious about its ingredients and total intake.




  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352721815000157

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