Pre-workout supplements, also called “pre-workouts,” are meant to give you energy for when you exercise. The main ingredient in most of them is caffeine. These supplements often come in pill or powder form. Some of the ingredients in certain pre-workouts can be good for your health and your workouts. But the supplements can bring on side effects that you’ll need to be aware of.
What Pre-Workout Supplements Do
You take the supplement before your exercise. Its purpose is to help you recover and ease the fatigue of an intense workout.
Some common ingredients in pre-workouts are:
Caffeine. Product makers say pre-workouts can keep you focused, give you energy, and improve your overall performance. The main ingredient behind these promises is high levels of caffeine.
Pre-workout supplements have a range of 150 mg to 300 mg of caffeine per serving. This equals about three cups of coffee. That’s a lot. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may want to take a smaller amount or find natural ways to boost your energy before a workout.
Beta-alanine. This ingredient is meant to help you do high-intensity exercises. It may help buffer your muscles during intense workouts. Beta-alanine has been shown to lower fatigue and enhance recovery in sprinters.
Creatine. When combined with exercise, this substance helps you gain strength. Creatine works to replenish your ATP stores, which gives your muscles energy to contract. Creatine can also help you increase your levels of lean body mass.
Amino acids. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) in pre-workout supplements help increase lean body mass. BCAA has also been shown to promote muscle growth. BCAA helps reduce damage to your muscles after an intense workout.
Tips for Taking Pre-Workout Supplements
As with any supplement, you need to talk to your doctor before you take a pre-workout -- especially if you have any health conditions or you take any medicines. They’ll let you know if these supplements are safe for you to try. If they give you the green light, here are some tips on how to use them:
Take a pre-workout 20 minutes before you exercise. This gives the supplements time to kick in.
Take the pre-workout consistently. Studies have shown that this has better effects than using it once every so often. It helps the main ingredients build up in your body. After 3 weeks, your workouts may last longer, and you might feel less tired during and after them.
Don’t take too much. Some side effects of pre-workout supplements can include:
- Digestive symptoms
- Irregular heartbeat
- Rise in blood pressure
- Changes in blood sugar
If you have any symptoms that worry you, stop your workout and call the doctor right away. Remember to talk to them before you try pre-workout supplements, especially if you have underlying health conditions.