Pre Workout Side Effects & How to Avoid Them

by Matt Wilson
Last Updated: 26/10/2020
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Exercising can be a tough game, especially if you are new in the fitness world and want to achieve great results. There are negative aspects to all things in life so pay attention!

It doesn’t matter if your goal is to increase muscle strength, burn more calories or simply enhance your performance in the gym, using pre-workout supplements could help you get there faster. 

It is not a secret that quality pre-workout supplements are trendy among regular gym visitors since they can have a magnificent effect on your exercise routine. You can become Arnold Schwarzenegger in a couple of weeks, they say.

Having a great body or performing on a higher level then others can be a seducing goal but, at times, it comes with a certain price (this is true for almost everything in life!)

There are some possible side effects you should know about before deciding which pre-workout to use. The critical thing to pay attention to is the list of ingredients (really important issue!). 

When choosing your pre-workout supplements, there are several ingredients that can cause various positive or negative side effects. 

The question is, what is the tradeoff?

What Does a Pre Workout Do to Your Body

First of all, a pre-workout, as already mentioned, refers to a number of pre-workout supplements that can boost your performance in the gym. 

More technically, pre-workout supplements are a subcategory of dietary pre-workout supplements that consist of multiple ingredients that are used for the purpose of enhancing physical capabilities prior to exercise (this is a textbook definition, I swear!). 

Most frequent ingredients in pre-workout supplements are caffeine, creatine, b-alanine and multiple chain amino acids [1]. 

There are different pre-workout supplements out there, usually in the form of a pill or a powder, all of which have a certain effect on your body.

A pre-workout gives you more strength and power, which in turn makes your body more resistant for a high-performance exercise. 

After using a pre-workout supplement, your body is able to last longer without the lack of energy and your muscles will endure longer and more intense training.

Certain ingredients can help you achieve better results by altering your body. For example, nitric oxide can make your blood vessels dilate and open your capillaries for delivery of nutrients.

Since your capillary beds in muscles are normally closed, opening your blood vessels can help with protein synthesis and waste removal.

Does Pre Workout Have Side Effects?

There are some side effects you need to keep in mind, before deciding what pre-workout supplements to use. Due to the varieties of ingredients that can be found in pre-workout supplements, it is important to be careful when choosing one.

1. Insomnia 

Many pre-workout supplements have caffeine which can significantly boost your muscle strength but at the same time induce sleep problems [2]. Using pre-workout supplements with caffeine can increase your heart rate, cause anxiety and increase your blood pressure.

This pre-workout side effect can last for a long time which is why you should pay special attention when choosing your product.

2. Problems With the Digestive System

Using pre-workout supplements with creatine can lead to overweight and/or problems with your digestive system. 

There are several other ingredients, such as niacin or less common sodium bicarbonate and magnesium that can be found in pre-workout supplements and can cause red marks on your skin or upset your digestive system and cause diarrhea.

3. Paresthesia 

Another common pre-workout supplement component is beta-alanine. Alanine is great for reduction of acidity and fatigue in your muscles and longer workouts but can cause paresthesia or tingling in your hands or feet [3]. 

This is not a serious side effect but can be unpleasant and have a negative effect on your exercise routine.

4. Headaches

Also, while using pre-workouts you should watch out for high blood pressure and dehydration which can lead to headaches.

It is important to check the list of ingredients and pay special attention to those products that have an explicit warning for possible side effects.

If you decide to take pre-workout supplements, you should be mindful of the fact that many of them have creatine as their main ingredient which can significantly boost the intensity of your exercises and help you gain lean body mass [4].

How to Get Rid of Pre-Workout Sickness

The best and natural way to reduce the side effects of pre-workout supplements and eliminate pre-workout sickness is to add more water to your pre-workout mix. 

If you can, it is advisable to drink water before, during and after your workout but in moderation (don’t overdo it because too much water can be the thing that causes sickness in the first place!).

Another important way to eliminate pre-workout sickness is by having a careful meal plan, which means eating a meal at least one and a half hours before your workout (please don’t eat during workout!). 

Lack of blood sugar can cause nausea which is why, if you don’t want to have a whole meal, you need to eat at least a banana or an energy snack (or both).

Why Adding More Water Is Important

Lack of water means dehydration which can lead to headaches and sickness which is not an optimal state for doing a high-intensity workout (nothing can be achieved in that state). 

Also, if you take pre-workout with less water (350ml per serving is optimal), you can cause problems in your digestive tract which can lead to diarrhea [5].

Taking more water is essential for a workout since you are losing a lot of it through sweating which is why your body needs a constant influx of water.

Some ingredients, such as creatine, can extract a lot of water from your system in which case you need to be extra cautious.

Be careful not to overdo it with creatine, because it can produce negative effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc. 

Yes, we know – Don’t drink too much water, drink enough water. It can be confusing. What is the right amount of water? This should be intuitive.

Bottom line: if you take water every now and then and in moderation, you should be fine (after all, there are more important things to pay attention to, so don’t overthink the water issue).

FAQ

Is Pre Workout Bad for Your Health?

We have a detailed guide on whether pre workouts are bad for you.

In short, using pre-workout supplements does not come without risks. The same can be said for consuming all products with similar ingredients. 

For example, high doses of coffee are not recommended since they can lead to insomnia, irregular heartbeats, increased blood pressure, etc. All of this is due to caffeine which can be found in a lot of pre-workouts.

However, using pre-workouts in moderation and taking the right dosage is quite safe for a healthy individual. There are no recorded cases of serious health deterioration from using pre-workouts.

Therefore, they are not necessarily bad for your health. This doesn’t mean you should totally relax, but have in mind it is not a life or death situation.

How Long Does Pre Workout Affect You?

While there are some regularities, the duration of pre-workouts effects could vary depending on your body size, your metabolism, the dosage, the intensity of your workout, etc. 

Usually, a pre-workout lasts like a LOTR movie, which means between one hour and two and a half/three hours, but the effects of exact ingredients do tend to vary (like the outcome of battles in Middle-earth).

For example, beta-alanine lasts for an hour, while L-arginine can be effective for up to three hours. Creatine and caffeine could last between one and two hours. 

In order to maximally utilize a pre-workout supplement, you should pay attention to the list of ingredients and adjust your workout routine accordingly.

We cannot stress this enough – pay attention to the list of ingredients! Aside from that, relax, there is nothing to worry about.

What Are the Side Effects of c4 Pre Workout?

Among many powders on the market, c4 is the one you should be very careful with. Like many pre-workout supplement powders, it is mixed with water and used for performance enhancement.

However, due to its many ingredients such as creatine nitrate, caffeine and beta-alanine, c4 is very powerful but has been banned in some sports for its ingredient synephrine, which can help athletes achieve better results [6]. 

After this ban, c4 was reformed so that synephrine is replaced by theacrine which has a similar effect as caffeine on your nervous system.

It is not recommended to use c4 for a long period of time. Also, you should not consume caffeine when taking c4. 

Most common side effects of c4 are nausea and heart arrhythmias. There are additional side effects such as skin arousal, loss of peripheral vision and high blood pressure.

Can Pre Workouts Cause Heart Palpitations?

While it is true that pre-workout supplements can and most certainly will produce high blood pressure and increase your heart rate, it is safe to say that they will not cause heart palpitations if you are careful with the pre-workout supplement dosage. 

It is well known that almost every workout stimulant will produce high blood pressure and increased heart rate which is why a healthy individual has nothing to worry about (when pre-workout supplements are used in moderation). 

However, if you already have heart problems…Well, that is another story. 

In that case, heart palpitations can be caused by pre-workout supplements, which is why you should be very careful if you already have a pre-existing heart condition.

This is really important: If you have heart problems or high blood pressure it would be best for you to reconsider using pre-workout supplements or at least consult a doctor before taking them.

Does Pre Workout Affect Skin?

For a person, it is not that common to experience skin problems when using pre-workouts. Usually, some side effects could occur if a pre-workout product has niacin or vitamin b3.

If that is the case, there are two things that could happen. 

First one is a possible skin rash, that you can expect in some cases while using pre-workout supplements with beta-alanine or niacin. Another one is a tingling sensation in your fingers or skin. 

It is worth noting that these side effects could be avoided if you use products that do not already have the above-mentioned ingredients. 

If you, however, choose to use them, you should be careful with the amount of those ingredients in your chosen pre-workout products. 

This means that if you feel these side effects you haven’t checked the list of ingredients on the product and didn’t remember what was told to you in this article (so please focus!).

Can Pre Workout Affect Mood/Depression?

Using pre-workouts on a regular basis can create a dependency which can significantly affect how we feel when deprived of “our precious” pre-workout supplements. 

Using pre-workouts with caffeine can create powerful mood swings, from euphoria like states to depression. 

While drinking coffee is relatively safe, if it’s done in moderation, taking pre-workouts can be quite intensive for your mental health since the amount of caffeine in a pre-workout is usually equivalent to several energy drinks or dozens of coffee cups.

More common than depression is anxiety and increased sweating or urination, which is a regular side effect (that we all accept!) for those who drink coffee. 

Using a pre-workout product means taking in around 400-500 mg of caffeine per workout which can be quite a lot for some people. Too much caffeine can induce insomnia in some cases.

Therefore, be careful with products that are packed with caffeine unless of course, you are not a person that can stay up all night watching a whole season of The Office (in which case I am happy to learn that I am not the only one crazy enough to do it).

Does Pre Workout Cause Any Long Term Issues?

When using any enhancing substances for a long time, it is normal to expect some consequences. While there could be some potential long term issues, using pre-workouts is relatively safe.

First thing you should watch out while using pre-workout supplements is not to become too attached. Our mental state is a fluid thing that can adjust over time to almost anything. 

After being exposed to a pre-workout supplement for long our nervous system can create a dependence which leads to addiction. Addiction could become a serious problem since it is not easy to get over it once it’s there.

There is some evidence that using pre-workouts with creatine can affect your kidneys but not significantly as one study suggests [7]. However, among those who use pre-workouts, only a small number of individuals have serious long term problems.

The Bottom Line

Using pre-workout supplements are relatively safe to use if we pay attention to the ingredients and consume them at a tolerable level.

It is important to be aware when deciding which product to buy since a specific ingredient can trigger a side effect that will prevent us from giving our maximum or even jeopardise our health.

The most important thing to remember is to read the list of ingredients in your pre-workout supplement.

 References

  1. https://minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/1793/76890/Zajac_Brooke_Thesis.pdf 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5306327/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24276304/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/  
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538472/   
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30089501/ 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661339/ 

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