Pre-workout is one of the most frequently used supplements by those who regularly exercise. It is especially popular in resistance training circles. It is often the first supplement purchased/used by beginners just starting to partake in resistance training. Considering the popularity of pre-workout, today we’ll take a look at how safe and effective the supplement is.
***(Note:There are a number of pre-workouts on the market. Today we won’t be looking at any specific one but rather just discussing pre-workout in general based on a generic ingredient label.)***
What’s in a typical pre-workout?
Before we can discuss how safe and effective pre-workout is, let’s list the most common ingredients found in a typical pre:
- Vitamin B
- Beta Alanine
These are the most common ingredients found in pre-workouts across the board. Note: These are NOT the only ingredients found in pre-workouts. You will likely find many others if you check various labels around the market but these additional ingredients are mostly fillers and thrown-ins to be used as marketing tactics.
All the common ingredients listed have been studied on numerous occasions and have been proven to be relatively safe. Additionally, MIPS (multiple-ingredient pre-workout supplements) have been independently studied and have also proven to be safe for use. According to the ISSN study labeled “Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review” in regards to the safety of pre-workout supplements, “relevant literature suggests that the consumption of many MIPS appears to be relatively safe with minimal reported adverse effects.”
The ISSN does have one caveat attached to that statement, however, as they note we are still relatively unsure of any potential long-term health implications that may arise with the use of pre-workout as most studies tend to span only a few months in duration.
The ISSN doubles down on their statement regarding the unknown long-term effects of ingesting MIPS with regularity as they say “additional research is needed to examine the long-term effects of MIPS ingestion on measures of clinical health and training adaptations in female populations,” in a study labeled “The acute effects of a multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement on resting energy expenditure and exercise performance in recreationally active females”.
To the bottom line question of whether or not pre-workout is safe: While we can’t say conclusively that it is safe for long-term use it’s highly likely that it is. All the common ingredients have been studied and MIPS have been independently studied and shown no detrimental health effects so enjoy your pre worry free!
The main purpose of taking a pre-workout is enhanced exercise performance. This is why the main ingredients to look at when shopping pre-workout supplements are caffeine and creatine.
Put simply, caffeine is a stimulant that helps to increase endurance and decrease fatigue. It appears there is a dose-response relationship when taking caffeine meaning the more you take the higher the effect. (That said, there are diminished returns past a certain point.)
Creatine is produced naturally in the body and supplementing with it can aid in increasing ATP production (the primary energy source of high intensity exercise). With creatine, in order to get the full effect you must be “saturated” which generally takes weeks of constant use (5g daily).
The other ingredients in pre-workout like beta alanine and citrulline are also said to enhance endurance, nitric oxide, nerve signal function, etc. but these effects tend to be much less extreme than the effects garnered from the acute caffeine consumption and long term creatine supplementation.
Again to the bottom line question of whether or not pre-workout is effective. The answer is yes but it is likely dependent on the caffeine content (somewhere in the 200-350mg range is probably optimal for most people) and the individuals level of creatine saturation (if a 5g dose is consumed daily then the individual will likely be “optimizing” this pathway so to speak).
Given pre-workout's effectiveness and safety level, it can be very useful in practice. If your looking to purchase some, focus on the key ingredients listed above and enjoy the awesome workouts!