Pre-Workout is arguably one of the most common fitness supplements on the market today. It’s also one of the easiest supplements to get your hands on alongside protein powders and creatine powders. Most fitness users are at least familiar with pre-workout even if they don’t use it regularly.
But what is it? To put it simply, pre-workout is a supplement created for the intended purpose of providing the user with increased energy, performance, and endurance during a workout. Pre-workout typically contains a multitude of ingredients and though there is not a standard formula, the most common ingredients include:
As with any supplement, it may not be for everyone. It’s important to do your research and determine whether a pre-workout will benefit you and what the risks might be. If you have any medical conditions such as diabetes or a heart condition, consult with your physician before taking a new supplement.
If you decide that a pre-workout might just be the game-changer you need for your fitness journey, it’s important to do things the right way. Here are some tips on how to take a pre-workout and what you should avoid.
Time It Right
Just as the name suggests, a pre-workout is meant to be consumed before you begin your fitness routine This will enable you to get the most out of your workout. Many pre-workouts will direct you to take them 30 minutes – 1 hour before your workout so that the caffeine and other stimulating ingredients can fully take effect by the time you finish your warmup.
While you can take certain pre-workouts 15-20 minutes into your workout, it’s important to take into consideration what type of pre-workout you are consuming as they all have varying levels of caffeine and other ingredients which may activate quickly or might need time to digest before you feel the effects. Be sure to read the directions on the container for safety and effectiveness.
To Eat or Not to Eat
If you have a sensitive stomach, it is suggested that you consume a small meal at least 30-60 minutes before you take your pre-workout. Most pre-workouts have high levels of caffeine in them, and this can help to minimize side effects like lightheadedness, dizziness, jitteriness, and nausea.
Additionally, the added nutrition can help to push you through the workout but be sure not to eat too much food as this could delay absorption. If you’re under a time crunch and must eat a full meal with your pre-workout, avoid eating fiber-dense foods such as whole grains and vegetables.
Avoid Dry Scooping or Risk a Pre-Workout Heart Attack
Dry scooping has recently become a popular trend in the fitness community made popular on TikTok. This trend encourages users to take a pre-workout powder without water. This can impose some potentially serious health risks to the user.
As we know, pre-workouts contain large amounts of caffeine with a single serving possibly exceeding 300 mg per dose. Consuming this amount all at once causes the pre-workout to hit your system all at once which can lead to heart palpitations and an acute increase in blood pressure. There has already been one documented case of someone suffering a heart attack as a result of dry scooping.
In addition to pre-workout powders possibly containing harmful substances, they are designed to be taken with water. Attempting to consume a pre-workout without water can result in inhalation and aspiration and possibly lead to lung infection. We’ve linked more information on the science behind the risks of dry scooping which you can find here.
Check The Ingredients and Dosage
Many pre-workouts contain filler ingredients that offer you no benefit. It’s important to check the ingredient list when shopping for a pre-workout so you don’t end up wasting money on a gimmick when you could be making gains in the gym. Avoid artificial sweeteners, flavours, and colours.
Furthermore, while we agree that the ingredients listed are extremely important, even if you find a pre-workout with all the right ingredients you will not experience any benefits if the dosage is not optimal. Be sure to verify the dosage for each of the main ingredients on the label.
Only Use Science Backed Pre-Workout
Many pre-workouts will list the ingredients as a “proprietary blend” and not specify the ingredients they used or the exact amounts. This should be a concern for anyone who takes medication as some of these ingredients may interact with them. Any supplement you chose to consume should have a straightforward ingredient list and contain formulations with clinically tested components.
Another red flag to keep your eye out for when comparing pre-workouts is a brand-new supplement company that hasn’t been around very long. This does not automatically mean that they’re not a reputable company with good products, but you should still be cautious and verify their legitimacy as a brand.
You should be skeptical when coming across ads on Instagram or Facebook promoting a new supplement with grandiose claims. Especially if they’re promoting a relatively new ingredient, you’ve never heard of before. Always do your research and ask questions. If something sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.
Know What You’re Getting Into
While there are many advantages to taking a pre-workout, there are also disadvantages. Let’s say you found the perfect pre-workout. It has all the right ingredients, dosages, and countless testimonies to its effectiveness. This doesn’t mean you will benefit from pre-workout in your fitness routine.
Over-stimulation with caffeine can cause side effects like insomnia and anxiety as well as digestive issues. There is also the possibility of tolerance build-up. This happens when you overconsume a stimulant, so your body builds up a tolerance reducing the effectiveness of your pre-workout.
It’s important to consume your pre-workout at least 30-60 minutes before you begin and make sure you’re not eating too much food with it so there is no delay in absorption. Do not dry scoop your pre-workout as this can cause life-threatening side effects including heart attack.
Be sure to adequately research the ingredients and dosage when comparing supplements and only consume science-backed formulations that do not include artificial sweeteners, colours, or flavours. Know what you’re getting into and understand that pre-workout is not for everyone. If you begin experiencing negative side effects stop taking it and consult with your physician.