Pre-workout supplements are designed to give you more energy during your workout so you can push yourself a bit further and achieve the workout goals and gains. Many of them may have stimulants like caffeine and guarana, which gives the ‘kick’ that these products are well known for.
Taking your pre-workout every day can have some negative side effects, and there are many cases of people becoming addicted to these products and having long-term adverse reactions and after effects – so taking it every day may not be the best idea for you.
Rather than take a risk with these supplements, let’s look at the best way to use them effectively and safely and understand why it may not be advisable to use your pre-workout daily.
When Should You Take Pre-Workout?
These supplements are specifically designed to boost energy before working out, so the best time to take them is on your workout days, about 30 minutes before you start training.
Pre-workout should only be taken on your training days and is not recommended for use outside of that. There are several reasons why taking your pre-workout on days when you are not training is not advisable.
When you work out, your body uses the energy provided to it by the pre-workout, and once your training is done, that energy has dissipated. While there may be some lingering after-effects (which we’ll discuss later on), the effects of the pre-workout should largely fade within an hour or so after training.
When used correctly and carefully, pre-workouts taken on your training days will add value and benefit you. Let’s examine these in more detail to understand why taking them on non-training days may have some serious health consequences.
What Are Pre-Workouts And What Do They Do?
When the workout explosion hit, a flood of supplements accompanied it from protein powders to BCAA products, pre-workout and post-workout drinks, and everything in between!
Today this is a multibillion-dollar industry, and one of the primary markets is pre-workout products. The goal of the pre-workout is to give you that extra energy boost and focus in your training
Pre-workout are often added to water and taken about 30 minutes before starting your workout. To boost your energy, many of these products have high levels of caffeine, which range from 200millgrams to 400milligrams, and some may even have more.
They consist mostly of caffeine and creatine, while some may have other stimulants, including some that may not be entirely legal, like ephedra and Yohimbe. These are often amphetamine derivatives, and while they certainly will boost your energy, taking these chemicals is not recommended.
While caffeine is safe, anything in excess is unhealthy, and caffeine is no exception.
What’s A Safe Level Of Caffeine?
As one of the major ingredients, caffeine is no stranger to anyone who drinks coffee, but in concentrated doses like this, it gives that extra ‘zing’ to your body and is used properly to benefit your training.
The maximum recommended dose of caffeine per day for an adult is 400mg, and if you consider that a decent espresso has about 60mg-80mg of caffeine, standard black coffee may have around 95mg of caffeine.
Looking at those numbers, a single dose of pre-workout can have up to 5 times that amount.
Before looking at any pre-workout supplement, you need to know how you react to caffeine, especially in high doses, and check the caffeine level on the product information sheet before you buy it.
What Are The Side Effects Of Caffeine?
Overdosing on caffeine is extremely unpleasant and can cause jitters, anxiety, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, and even cardiac arrest. It can also lead to lack of sleep due to the body being ‘amped up,’ which has its own set of health issues.
Not only does it have some ugly side effects, but as a drug, it can build both resistance and dependence, and this is one of the considerations when using pre-workouts, and that is to cycle both on and off and use different pre-workout products to reduce tolerance.
What Are Some Of The Other Ingredients In Pre-Workout?
While caffeine and creatine are the main products , some pre-workout supplements have other compounds included and let’s take a look at what they are and the side effects they can cause.
Creatine is very safe for use and only at levels of around 1200mg does it present with some negative symptoms. Creatine has been shown to be highly effective in increasing lean body mass gains as well as increased exercise capacity.
Side effects of overdose include digestive issues, weight gain, bloating and water retention.
Beta alanine And Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Anyone who has read the ingredients on a cereal box has seen the name Niacin or vitamin B3. Beta alanine reduces the acidity in your muscles while training and this can have some positive effects for training.
The main side effect of Beta alanine is the tingling felt in the hands and feet which is a nervouse system conditon called parasthesia and while it is uncomfortable, it is totally harmles.
Niacin plays a role in metabolism and is produced naturally in your body. It can cause flushing of the skin in doses of 500mg or more.
Some Ingredients Can Also Cause Digestion Problems
Some pre-workout supplements also contain other compounds such as sodium bicarbonate and magnesium along with creatine and caffeine and taking these daily can lead to diarrhea – especially magnesium.
If you arent mixing your pre-workout properly or have enough water included, diarrhea can also occur so it is important to mix the correct amount of water in your pre-workout as per the manufacturers instruction.
Citrulline Can Cause Headaches Or Migraines
Another additive to pre-workout supplements is citrulline.This is an amino acid and works to increase blood flow to your muscles during exercise by expanding the blood vessels slightly.
By increasing the level of nitric oxide in your blood, the blood vessels dilate and the smaller ones in your brain experience changes in blood pressure and this leads to headaches and even possibly migraines.
How To Avoid The Side Effects Of Pre-Workouts
A great way to do this is to always check the levels of the stimulants on the list of ingredients so you know what the recommended dosage would deliver into your body.
Another sensible option is chat to the assistants in the store as to which pre-workout would be best for your type of training. Many of them have good knowledge about both the product , the potential side effects and the type of training they are best suited for.
Be clear about your training goals and don’t be shy to ask real questions and get some real answers. Some staff may be incentivised to sell certain products and of course, if they recommend taking it every day, that just means you’ll use it up sooner and will need to buy more.
Know your body. If you know you don’t have a high tolerance to caffeine or any of the other ingredients, don’t buy something that obviously has very high levels in it’s make up.
Be aware of the ‘hype’ around ‘super strength builders’ or ‘amazing power’ as currently the FDA Federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe to FDA’s satisfaction before they are marketed.
Check For Reputable Testing Laboratory Credentials
Often these products may have additional ingredients that may not be clearly defined on the ingredient list and always check for reputable test stamp from an independent laboratory.
Reliable testing companies included ConsumerLab.com, USP, and NSF International. Checking for these stamps gives you peace of mnd that what is labelled as the ingredients ARE actually the ingredients and the dosages listed.
If you don’t see a credible stamp, then perhaps that one is best left on shelf.
Start Your Pre-workout With Lower Doses And Build Up
Whether you have or haven’t taken pre-workout before, it’s always wise to err on the side of caution when adding these products to your workout and dietary regimen.
Starting off with a third or half the dose will give you an idea of the strength and effect and how you feel when using it in training. When starting like this, don’t take it every day as low doses could build up tolerances.
Taking a pre-workout in smaller doses has another advantage as you are unlikely to build up tolerance if you only use it on your workout days and you could find that you don’t even need a full dose to experience the effects.
Another consideration for starting small and building up is that if there are any side effects from the pre-workout ingredients, you will know which one is causing it and you can then look for another supplement that doesn’t have that ingredient.
For example , if your pre-workout has beta alanine and you find that you experience the ‘tingling’ in your hands and feet as discussed earlier on, you can then avoid any pre-workout that has beta alanine included.
Finally, using a lower dose to start with will reduce the severity of any side effects. This is especially true if you haven’t used pre-workouts before or you are trying a new one.
While the ‘balls-to-the’wall’ approach has a certain machismo to it, not sleeping for three days and having diarrhea with headaches may not be be worth that risk!
Taking Pre-Workout Every Day Can Build Up Tolerance
Over time if you use the same product all the time, you’ll find that the energy boost you used to get when you first started is not as ‘high’ or intense as it was. This is due to your body getting used to its effect, and over time it becomes less effective.
This is good reason why you should not take pre-workout every day, as if you start building tolerance, you may need to start increasing the dose to get that same effect, which can be risky.
One of the ways to reduce the build-up of tolerance is to cycle on and off the pre-workout, so look at days when you don’t take it or use a different one. Taking black coffee before your workout, especially when your training load is lighter, can be a good alternative.
Using different products also has this effect, so your body doesn’t get used to one particular one, and the effect in your training stays consistent.
Don’t Mix Pre-Workout And Fat Burners- Ever.
Many of the fat burners that people use have high caffeine content as well as this stimulates the metabolism to run faster and so burn more calories during the day. As discussed already, most pre-workouts contain high doses of caffeine, and combining the two could easily lead to an overdose.
Between both products, you could end up with more than 500mg of caffeine, and while you may have plenty of energy, the side effects and potential health risks of such a large dose are not worth it.
It may be an alternative to take only the fat burners when you are not working out and then use the pre-workout on your training days.
How ‘Cycling’ Your Pre-Workout Is Beneficial
Cycling your pre-workout means coming off it for a period of 6-8 weeks to allow your body a chance to recover. This doesn’t mean not taking pre-workout during that time but rather a variation on the pre-workout options.
During this time, you can opt to take an alternative product depending on the type of training you are doing. The common ingredients of pre-workouts are mostly creatine and caffeine , and some also have vitamins and minerals, as well as amino acids and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s).
Many of these are naturally created by the body and creatine is one the most common amino acids in the body and using this on its own prior to training can be useful as a pre-workout supplement as well.
Based on the discussion above, it would not be a good idea to take your pre-workout every day. The risks outweigh the benefits by some margin and this is especially valid if you aren’t training every day.
The best course of action before taking ANY supplement is to have a discussion with your doctor, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions that could be aggravated by the pre-workout ingredients. When it comes to making informed choice regarding your health , it’s always better to be safe.