If you listen to someone talk about using a pre-workout and you’ve never used one before, it’s understandable why you might wonder if they’re safe.
“It feels like my skin is melting off!”
“I could pick up this whole gym and throw it right now.”
“My heart is gonna explode out of my chest.”
“I’m sweating my own pond over here!”
Pre-workouts are primarily formulated to provide energy. The longer and harder you work out, the more likely you are to reap the benefits of your efforts. But is this boost in energy safe? Are there any risks to taking a pre-workout?
The most common pre-workout ingredient is caffeine. Since it’s also present in coffee, soda, and other energy drinks, you’re likely accustomed to how caffeine affects you. However, if you aren’t familiar with an ingredient in a pre-workout, it’s smart to be wary.
Here’s a list of common pre-workout ingredients, the intended effects and the results they target:
  • Caffeine (caffeine anhydrous): Caffeine Anhydrous is a form of caffeine considered to be purer and more effective than ordinary forms of caffeine. It provides a sustained energy boost that leads to increased focus and alertness. It can also provide increased fat oxidation, which can improve muscle gains. Since a cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, this can serve as a good measure when considering dosages of caffeine in your pre-workout.
  • CDP-Choline: Stimulates mental energy and increases neurotransmitter levels
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): This neurotransmitter helps keep you alert and focused.
  • L-Carnitine Tartrate: Helps your body convert fat into energy, which can boost athletic performance. According to recent studies, carnitine may play an important role in recovery from exercise.
  • Amino acids: Taurine, Glycine, and Aspartic acid work to promote stamina.
  • Inosine (a nucleoside found in DNA): Helps to relieve tiredness and improve athletic performance.
  • Niacin (B3): A catalyst for converting food into fuel. Niacin can help to speed metabolism, which can help you burn calories and increase energy. Be aware that Niacin dilates the blood vessels and can result in a blushing of the skin or a “flush” that can be accompanied by a warm sensation.
  • Beta-Alanine: A building block of carnosine that can help improve performance and lead to gains in lean mass. Commonly causes a tingling sensation in the skin.
  • L-Arginine: An important amino acid and a building block of nitric oxide, arginine helps maintain normal blood vessel function and plays an important role in producing creatine.
  • Alpha Ketoglutarate: A source of glutamine that promotes protein synthesis and protects against the degradation of protein in muscle tissue.
  • Yohimbe: Well known for its alpha-2 antagonist, central nervous system (CNS) properties and potential ability to promote fat loss.
  • Cocoa Seed Extract: Beneficial for digestive enzymes and may play an important role in healthy weight management
  • Citrulline malate: Used as a sports performance and cardiovascular health supplement, citrulline can help to improve endurance, reduce fatigue, boost performance and provide relief for sore muscles.
  • Beetroot: Antioxidant-rich beets contain naturally-occurring nitrates that increase nitric oxide production. This may improve endurance and efficiency for better performance in the gym.
  • Betaine: Supplementation with betaine can improve muscle performance, endurance and body composition.
  • N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine: A potent antioxidant that may improve exercise performance.
Knowing what you’re putting in your body is definitely a good first step, but if you’re unsure about how you’ll react to a product, start with half or less than the recommended dose. Like any supplement, you don’t need a pre-workout to reach your goal. However, if you need a little extra motivation to get to the gym and you’re looking for a boost, the right pre-workout could be the change you need!
Read this article for help picking the BPI Sports pre-workout that’s best for you.