You may notice that when you go to the gym, you often see people mixing powders into their water bottles. These powders are likely pre-workout supplements, which are dietary supplements that many gym-goers use to increase their energy and performance during a workout.
Do these supplements really work? Are they necessary? A 2018 study found that pre-workout supplements may be an effective way to enhance physical performance, stamina, and recovery. However, the study clarifies that more research is needed to make any further conclusions about the effectiveness of pre-workout. The study also encourages athletes to consult with a nutritionist before using pre-workout because some supplements may contain harmful ingredients.
Pre-workout also often contains a variety of well-known ingredients, including caffeine, that may help give you a boost of energy before hitting the gym. However, dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it is crucial that you pay close attention to the ingredients in your supplements, as they may include potentially harmful contaminants.
If you choose to give pre-workout supplements a go, then be sure to look out for these five things when purchasing your pre-workout:
Get in your electrolytes
Electrolytes are essential minerals that are involved in a variety of important functions, such as regulating nerve and muscle function and hydrating the body. Sodium, potassium, and calcium are three of the most common electrolytes, and if you exercise for more than one hour, you lose a significant amount of electrolytes through sweat. It is important to replenish electrolytes after your workout, and research suggests that electrolyte-loading before a workout may also be beneficial.
In 2005, a study analyzed the effects of ingesting 10 ml of sodium per kilogram of body weight before exercising. The researchers found that those who ingested the sodium had improved endurance and performance in a time trial. Similarly, in 2007, researchers found that drinking a high-sodium drink prior to working out led to a decrease in the perceived strain of the exercise and also an increase in exercise capacity in warm conditions. Therefore, look for a pre-workout supplement that contains electrolytes like sodium in order to get the most out of your workout.
Limit your caffeine
The main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements is caffeine. According to the Mayo Clinic, the safe amount of caffeine for most healthy adults is a maximum of 400 milligrams per day. Consuming high levels of caffeine can have serious side effects and even death. Thus, it is important that your pre-workout supplement does not contain a dangerous amount of caffeine.
According to a 2010 study, caffeine can be a safe and effective way to enhance physical performance in low doses. The researchers suggest a dose of approximately three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. This means that if you weigh about 65 kilograms or 143 pounds, you can safely consume between 195 and 390 milligrams of caffeine before working out or throughout the day.
Limit added sugars and artificial sweeteners
Many pre-workout supplements contain added sugars and artificial sweeteners. However, according to the Harvard Medical School, a diet high in sugar can increase your risk of heart disease. Because of the unhealthy nature of added sugars, many pre-workout supplements contain artificial sweeteners instead, which are often sugar free and calorie free.
However, the Harvard Medical School emphasizes that although these artificial sweeteners can help reduce calorie and sugar intake, there is insufficient evidence regarding artificial sweeteners’ safety in the long run. These sweeteners may be linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Thus, it is the best idea to avoid added sugars and artificial sweeteners in your pre-workout supplements all-together.
Yohimbe is a common ingredient found in pre-workout supplements, as it is associated with weight loss and increased energy. However, the US Department of Health and Human Services warns that yohimbe has been associated with heart attacks, seizures, anxiety, and other significant health concerns.
Although some athletes do not have an issue with yohimbe, it is better to be safe than sorry and skip the yohimbe in your pre-workout supplements. However, if you cannot avoid it, the recommended dosage is no more than 0.2 milligrams of yohimbe per kilogram of body weight.
Avoid acacia rigidula
Acacia rigidula falls into the category of amphetamine isomer β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), which is an organic compound that has not been tested in humans. A 2016 study found that many dietary supplements contain high doses of this compound and recommends that the FDA ban the inclusion of acacia rigidula in dietary supplements. However, as we know, supplements are not yet regulated by the FDA.
This means that your pre-workout supplement could still contain acacia rigidula. Consuming this compound may be dangerous because there is a lack of research regarding its efficacy and safety in humans. Thus, be sure to avoid acacia rigidula when you purchase a pre-workout supplement.
The bottom line is that pre-workout supplements can be an effective way to increase your athletic performance and positively impact your gym experience. However, there is always a risk associated with adding any supplement to your diet because supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Be sure to look out for these five things when purchasing pre-workout, and it is also a good idea to check with a nutritionist before adding any new supplements into your diet.