What is it, how does it affect your body, and what are the risks?

Sport Nutrition
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Going to the gym day in and day out can be exhausting; after working long hours or going to school, it can be hard to find the energy. That is why many companies have invested their resources into developing supplements known as pre-workout, which can give you that extra boost you need. Although many users report subjective benefits, understanding the science behind pre-workouts and any potential concerns could help you make informed decisions about using them in your fitness regimen.  اضافة اعلان

Pre-workouts are multi-ingredient dietary supplements whose main purpose is to help boost your energy levels and athletic performance. Most commonly, they come in the form of a dry powder you mix with water and drink 30–60 minutes before working out. According to the general consensus, pre-workouts are safe and do not appear to lead to any medical issues for healthy people. However, no long-term studies have been conducted on the topic of pre-workouts, and some people may experience adverse effects depending on their physical condition.

The term pre-workout supplements covers a broad range of products  made by several different companies, each with their own specific formulas. However, the majority of pre-workouts tend to have similar ingredients, although the quantity of each ingredient may vary. The most common ingredients found in pre-workouts include nitric oxide precursors, caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids, and vitamin Bs.

Nitric oxide is a simple molecule commonly found in the body but has a profound effect on our cardiovascular system. It is naturally produced and causes blood vessels to relax, resulting in a widening of the blood vessels (vasodilation) and therefore increased blood flow. Vasodilation can help reduce blood pressure while also improving the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. Pre-workouts often contain compounds that the body later converts into nitric oxide such as L-arginine, L-citrulline, and even dietary nitrate sources, such as beetroot extract.

Caffeine is widely known for its effects as a stimulant and is commonly consumed as a cup of coffee in the morning. It is known to improve mental alertness, memory, and exercise performance, while also helping to reduce body fat. However, it is important to note how much caffeine is in pre-workout. A cup of coffee typically has 40–100mg of caffeine depending on the type. Pre-workout, depending on the brand, can contain 150–300mg per serving. Large amounts of caffeine can cause your heart to race (tachycardia), a tingling sensation, high blood pressure, and nausea.

Creatine is another naturally occurring compound in the body. It is mainly stored in the skeletal muscles and helps the body maintain a continuous supply of energy to muscles during exercise. Additionally, some research seems to suggest that it can help reduce recovery time and improve muscle mass, strength, and performance.

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is produced in the body and also found in our diet, particularly in meat products. Since it is an amino acid, it acts as a building block for more complex compounds known as peptides. One important peptide created by beta-alanine is carnosine, which plays a special role in skeletal muscles. When skeletal muscles are in use, particularly during strenuous activity, they produce acid and free radicals which contributes to muscle damage and fatigue. Carnosine acts as a buffer which prevents the buildup of acid and also has antioxidant properties which reduces free radicals. However, beta-alanine contributes to the tingling sensation felt which is harmless but may be unpleasant for some.
The term pre-workout supplements covers a broad range of products made by several different companies, each with their own specific formulas.
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. We must therefore obtain them through our diet. These BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs play a role in building muscle and reducing muscle fatigue and soreness.

Finally, many pre-workout formulas contain various types of vitamin B, most commonly vitamin B12 and B3 (niacin). Vitamin B12 has a variety of functions in the body, as it relates to pre-workouts, it is used for its effects on the metabolism. People with vitamin B12 deficiencies commonly experience fatigue. Niacin has a similar effect to that of nitric oxide, albeit modest in comparison. However, it is important to note that it may cause flushing of the skin, most commonly on the face, chest, or arms.

At the molecular level, all of a pre-workout’s ingredients seem to offer benefits that could improve energy and performance when exercising. Although pre-workouts may not live up to all the promises they make in their advertising, studies have found that there may be real, tangible benefits.

A 2016 study set out to assess the effects of pre-workout on power and strength performance. In this study, they focused on anaerobic power (the performance of a work with maximal speed), upper and lower body explosive power, and upper body strength. While the study found there was no improvement to explosive power in the upper or lower body, it did find significant improvement in anaerobic power. What this means is that pre-workouts could be potentially perform high to vigorous intensity workouts for a longer duration. Additionally, this increase anaerobic power was seen without any side effects.

A later 2018 study corroborated these findings, noting that there was no significant effect on maximal power but instead an improvement in time to fatigue. In essence, it would seem that the greatest benefit pre-workout has on performance relates to endurance instead of an increase in overall power and strength.

It is important to note that some studies have noted an increase in strength and power for those who use pre-workouts long-term (longer than 10 days), but this is likely due to the increased endurance and ability to work the muscles at higher intensity for longer. Additionally, pre-workouts may have benefits when it comes to muscle damage and recovery. It has been found that certain biochemical markers for muscle damage, such as creatine kinase and myoglobin, were significantly lower in those who took pre-workout compared to those who did not.


There is no literature available on pre-workout’s safety for those who consume regularly and long-term (longer than 1 year). To date, most studies seem to find pre-workouts to be relatively safe with minimal side effects, but, it is important to note that the majority of studies only focus on the acute effects of pre-workouts.

Although generally safe, they are not completely risk free. Specific ingredients such as caffeine, niacin, beta-alanine, and creatine can have side effects related to increased intake. However, most side effects were commonly associated with those who took more than the recommended amount. Additionally, side effects may worsen if you have an underlying condition. As a result, it is important to consult your fitness trainer and doctor before considering pre-workout. Lastly, the supplement market is woefully unregulated by governmental agencies. This is because supplements such as pre-workout are often classified as food products instead of drugs. As such, these supplements rarely undergo third-party testing. In conjunction with consultation for use, ask your trainer which brands are best and can be trusted, and consider researching on your own to see which is best for you.

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