Pre-workout supplements can be a game-changer when it comes to fitness, performance, and achieving fitness goals. But the side effects can be a real buzzkill. From jitters to headaches, they can make staying focused on your fitness goals hard.
Don’t throw your shaker cup across the gym just yet. Our beginner’s guide will show you how to get rid of pre-workout side effects and power through your workout with ease.
- 1 What Is Pre-Workout?
- 2 Understanding Common Pre-Workout Side Effects
- 3 Tips to Get Rid of Pre-Workout Side Effects
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Is Pre-Workout?
Pre-workout is a dietary supplement used before a workout to enhance exercise performance. Pre-workout products are available in several varieties, like premixed drinks, powders, capsules, and snack bars.
Pre-workout formulas are designed to boost energy levels, concentration, and athletic performance. Some of the common ingredients in pre-workout supplements include the following:
The above-mentioned ingredients are unlikely to cause harm if individuals adhere to the dosage guidelines, but some people may encounter unpleasant side effects. Most of the side effects are mild, causing short-term discomfort.
That said, it is crucial to understand potential side effects and take precautions to minimize any discomfort.
Understanding Common Pre-Workout Side Effects
Whether you’re a veteran lifter or getting your feet wet, pre-workout supplements can cause potential side effects. Digestive issues, jittery feelings, and headaches are common side effects.
While these side effects can be alarming, they’re often the result of active ingredients meant to enhance energy and athletic performance. Here’s a breakdown of the most common pre-workout side effects to be aware of.
Jitters and Anxiety
Caffeine is one of the most popular ingredients in pre-workout powders, drinks, and formulas.
Caffeinated pre-workout supplements can contain anywhere from 150 to 300 milligrams, which is around two to three cups of coffee. The potential benefits of caffeine are enhanced concentration, muscle strength, and reduced fatigue.
Unfortunately, high levels of caffeine can cause anxious feelings, jitteriness, insomnia, nausea, raised heart rate, headaches, and restlessness.
Nausea and Stomach Discomfort
Pre-workout formulas contain several ingredients, like caffeine, creatine, sodium bicarbonate, and magnesium. These ingredients can cause stomach irritation and digestive issues in specific individuals.
High concentrations of pre-workout blends will likely cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, or nausea. For instance, magnesium and magnesium citrate can have laxative effects. If you consume too much, you might experience diarrhea and have to run to the bathroom in the middle of your set.
There is a bright side—these digestive problems typically occur when individuals consume too much or don’t drink enough water, making them easy to solve.
Headaches and Migraines
Headaches, migraines, and throbbing sensations are common side effects of pre-workout supplements. Several factors, like dehydration, caffeine sensitivity, and vasoconstriction can cause these issues.
Dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, and reduced performance, so drinking plenty of water before, during, and after a training session is essential.
Caffeine can also cause headaches, especially if you have a low tolerance. Stim-free pre-workout supplements can be a good alternative if you suspect caffeine is the culprit behind your migraine.
Other blends contain citrulline or arginine to promote vasodilation or a ‘muscle pump.’ These ingredients cause vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels, which can cause headaches.
If you experience headaches or migraines, taking a break from your pre-workout is crucial. It may be best to adjust your dosage, find products without certain ingredients, or speak with a healthcare professional.
Have you ever felt an odd, tingly sensation after ingesting a pre-workout mix?
This is a common side effect known as paresthesia and typically affects the face, hands, and feet. The tingling sensation is caused by beta-alanine, an amino acid commonly included in pre-workout blends known to enhance workout performance.
The sensation is a harmless nervous system reaction, but many individuals can find it uncomfortable, alarming, or even painful.
If you hit the gym late into the evening, you might be well aware of how pre-workout formulas can cause sleep disturbances, including insomnia and restlessness.
The effects of caffeine typically cause sleep disturbances. The high caffeine content in specific blends can disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Caffeine has a half-life of approximately six hours, meaning it can take up to twelve hours for caffeine to be eliminated from the body.
Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Poor sleep quality can negatively impact your performance, cognition, recovery, and mental health.
Tips to Get Rid of Pre-Workout Side Effects
Pre-workout supplements are like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can give you the energy and focus you need to power through your workout. On the other hand, they can cause unwanted side effects like jitters, nausea, and headaches.
But don’t let those side effects get in the way of your fitness goals—with these tips, you can conquer them like a pro.
Choose the Right Pre-Workout Supplement
Selecting the right pre-workout supplement can make or break your fitness journey and have potential side effects. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with countless powders, drinks, and blends on the market. Here are a few factors to think about when selecting a pre-workout supplement:
Inspect the Ingredients List
The ingredients in a pre-workout supplement are vital in determining its effectiveness and potential side effects. Inspect the label for specific ingredients and dosage ranges. Prioritize products with natural ingredients and avoid artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors.
Avoid Proprietary Blends
Proprietary blends are used to hide the exact ingredients and qualities in a pre-workout product, making them a red flag. These products might contain a blend of ingredients in harmful or ineffective dosages. Instead, look for supplements with transparent ingredient lists and quantities.
Find Third-Party Tested Products
Supplement companies do not have a set of testing criteria in the United States, meaning manufacturers don’t have to prove the safety or effectiveness of a product before putting it on the shelf.
This makes it crucial to select pre-workout supplements tested by third-party agencies to avoid harmful, ineffective, or banned ingredients.
There are countless third-party agencies, but If you aren’t sure where to start, head over to NSF Certified for Sport to see a complete list of trusted pre-workout blends.
Look for Quality
Besides third-party audits, it’s a good idea to research a brand’s reputation and reviews before swiping your debit card. Look for products made by reputable brands with a history of creating high-quality, safe, and effective supplements.
Inspecting online reviews from other individuals can also give you an idea of the effectiveness and potential side effects.
Start With a Low Dosage
Starting with a low dosage when taking a new pre-workout supplement can help minimize unwanted side effects and gives your body time to adjust. Taking too much of a supplement can lead to adverse reactions, including jitters, nausea, and even heart palpitations.
Here are some crucial points to keep in mind when starting with a low dosage:
- Read the label carefully and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding dosage and usage.
- Start with the lowest possible dosage recommended by the manufacturer and gradually increase it over time, as needed.
- Pay attention to your body’s response to the supplement and adjust the dosage accordingly. If you experience adverse side effects, decrease the dosage or discontinue use altogether.
- Give your body time to adjust to the supplement before increasing the dosage. It’s essential to start with a low dosage to minimize the risk of adverse side effects and tolerance buildup.
- Consult with a healthcare professional before taking any pre-workout supplement, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medication that may interact with the supplement.
- Keep track of your progress and any side effects you experience. This can help you determine whether the supplement is adequate for your body and fitness goals.
It’s important to note some supplements may recommend consuming them with food or at certain times of the day. Other products may recommend avoiding specific foods or drinks. Following these instructions can help ensure that the supplement is absorbed and utilized by the body properly.
Hydration is critical for anyone who trains, but it’s especially important when using pre-workout formulas. These supplements can cause dehydration, leading to headaches, dizziness, performance decreases, upset stomach, and other health complications.
One way you can get rid of pre-workout side effects is to mix your product with 8–12 ounces of water. The American Council on Exercise also recommends the following:
- Drink 17–20 ounces of water two hours before exercise.
- Drink 7–10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during training.
- Drink 16–24 ounces of liquid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.
This is equivalent to two to three cups of water before a session and about 1 cup of water every 10–20 minutes during training.
Not only will this reduce unpleasant symptoms, but it will help you maintain performance and concentration during an intense session. You’ll experience the benefits of drinking plenty of water, like flushing toxins and reducing the risk of kidney stones.
Eat a Light Meal
A light meal before consuming pre-workout mixes can help give you an energy boost without weighing you down. Light snacks will also help you avoid any adverse gastrointestinal side effects. Here are some examples of light meals and snacks that can be eaten before taking a pre-workout supplement:
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- A banana with almond butter
- Whole-grain toast with avocado and a boiled egg
- Oatmeal with berries and nuts
- A smoothie with protein powder, spinach, and berries
These meals offer a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to fuel your workout without causing stomach irritation. Be sure to avoid heavy meals or foods high in fat, as they can make you feel sluggish.
Additionally, you may want to eat at least 30 minutes to an hour before consuming pre-workout, as your body needs time to digest.
Always listen to your body and choose meals and snacks that work best for your individual needs. Eating a light meal before taking a pre-workout supplement can help provide the energy and nutrients you need to power through your workout and achieve your fitness goals.
Watch Your Timing
Paying attention when you take pre-workout can help you avoid insomnia, restlessness, or unwanted side effects. Many products take around 20-30 minutes to kick in, so you may want to take your supplement around this time or as recommended on the label.
If you use stimulant pre-workout blends, avoid taking them no later than 8 hours before bed to avoid potential effects on your sleep quality.
Stim-free pre-workout supplements can come in handy if you work out late into the evening or after work. Stim-free pre-workout supplements don’t contain any caffeine, so you won’t experience any sleep disturbances while still getting the performance benefits.
If you have a longer training routine, you may want to take your pre-workout drink at the start of the workout and drink it throughout the session. This method can prolong the effects, but inspecting the guidelines to prevent going overboard is best.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Long Do Pre-Workout Side Effects Last?
The positive and negative effects of pre-workout will depend on the ingredients and length of the workout. Average pre-workout supplements last between 30–150 minutes from the time they kick in. The effects of caffeine in stimulant blends can last much longer, between 6–8 hours.
Why Do I Feel Sick After Pre-Workout?
Pre-workout can cause nausea depending on the ingredients and dosage. Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after taking pre-workout can reduce these side effects. A light meal of carbs, protein, and healthy fat can also help. If you continue to experience issues, stop taking the supplement and contact your healthcare provider.