Pre-workout is a dietary supplement used by athletes and weightlifters to enhance athletic performance. It is taken to increase endurance, energy, and focus during a workout. Pre-workout supplements contain a variety of ingredients such as caffeine and creatine, ranging by product. It can be taken in a variety of forms including capsules and powder. The first pre-workout entered the market in 1982, and since then they have grown in popularity. Some pre-workouts contain ingredients linked to adverse effects. Although these products are not banned, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers to be cautious when consuming pre-workout.
Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, consumers alleged that an active ingredient in Ultimate Orange, called ephedra, caused high blood pressure, strokes, seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, and heart attacks.
In the early 2000s, supplement companies created more potent forms of pre-workout that caused the blood vessels to enlarge temporarily, giving lifters a better “pump." These more potent supplements are called Arginine AKG, Arginine Malate, and Citrulline.
In 2005, chemist Patrick Arnold formulated a pre-workout called Jack3d, which contained a new ingredient called DMAA (dimethylamylamine). Jack3d quickly gained notoriety for its potency, but its high concentrations of DMAA were suspected of causing shortness of breath, chest pain, and an elevated risk of heart attacks.
Jack3d was banned in 2012 by the FDA.
Pre-workout supplements are available in different forms including tablets, capsules, liquids, powders, and bars.
One common ingredient found in pre-workout is caffeine, which is found in 86% of the bestselling pre-workout supplements. Caffeine is a popular ingredient in pre-workout because it increases alertness, mental concentration, and energy.
Another ingredient commonly used in pre-workout is methylhexanamine which is also known as DMAA. Methylhexanamine is an amphetamine that is marketed as an alternative or supplement to caffeine claiming to improve energy, mental concentration, perception and decrease tiredness. The FDA has warned that DMAA "is known to narrow the blood vessels and arteries, which can elevate blood pressure and may lead to cardiovascular events ranging from shortness of breath and tightening in the chest to heart attack". DMAA is also considered a prohibited stimulant by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
Beta-alanine is another ingredient that can be found in leading pre-workout formulas. Beta-alanine has been found to decrease fatigue during high-intensity exercise by increasing the muscle carnosine concentration which creates a buffer against muscle fatigue.
Taurine is also a common ingredient in pre-workout, and can be used as a supplement taken alone. It is similar to creatine in helping muscle hypertrophy that increases strength, endurance, reduced muscle damage, and helps with a faster recovery.
|Ingredient||How Much Per Day|
|Caffeine||200 mg (equal to 2 cups of coffee)|
|BCAA||10 grams before and 10 grams after workout|
Pre-workout Retail Supplements
Pre-workout supplements are sold in a variety of retailers. The top-selling brands of pre-workout supplements in 2019 included Pre JYM Pre Workout by JYM Supplemental Science, ENGN Shred Pre Workout by EVLUTION Nutrition, and C4 Original Pre Workout by Cellucor. These brands were the top three in the overall bestseller category on leading bodybuilding informational website bodybuilding.com. Some variations on common pre-workout products include creatine-free and stimulant-free options. The market size for pre-workout products was a $2.7 billion industry in 2008.
Purported benefits of pre-workout
Impact on muscles
An increase in muscle endurance is primarily attributed to the large amounts of caffeine in pre-workout supplements. The ingested caffeine acts as an adenosine receptor antagonist, which serves to reduce overall pain experienced by the consumer and allowing them to work for longer periods of time.
Pre-workout has shown to decrease time it takes for muscles to recover from intense exercise, allowing athletes to reduce time between training sessions. The improvement in muscle recovery is associated with the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) found in pre-workout, particularly, glutamine.
Pre-workout has shown to make athletes feel more energetic during exercise, but the higher energy levels are based on subjective judgement and there is little quantitative proof of an increase in energy. The improvement in perceived energy is associated with the large amounts of caffeine typically found in pre-workout supplements.
Those who have taken a pre-workout supplement may also feel tingling sensations. This sensation is called paresthesia. Although this may be an uncomfortable feeling, the condition poses no threat to the body's central nervous system.
Drawbacks of using pre-workout are:
- Over stimulating.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Adrenal fatigue.
- Drug test fail (if a competing athlete in particular sports)
- Energy crash.
Food and Drug Administration
The FDA has minimal control when regulating dietary supplements like pre-workout. Product manufacturers are responsible to verify that dietary supplements are safe for consumption. Financial limitations prevent the FDA from testing dietary supplements before they enter the marketplace. Once a supplement is available for sale, the FDA is responsible to document and monitor manufacturer reports of adverse effects. Manufacturers are obligated to report documented adverse effects to the FDA.
The FDA recommends speaking with a healthcare professional before using dietary supplements. Ingredients in pre-workout can have negative side effects or contraindications with other medications. Taking dietary supplements may have life-threatening consequences if taken with pre-existing health conditions. Federal laws state that a supplement does not have to be declared safe by FDA standards when labeled. Most supplement businesses hire third-party companies to identify the contents of their supplement to ensure it enhances athletic performance. This also aids in assuring that a product’s labeled ingredients are free from illegal substances.
- "Best Pre-Workout Supplements - 2019 Top 10 List". Bodybuilding.com. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- Heffernan, Conor (2017-04-10). "A History of Pre-Workout Supplements". Physical Culture Study. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- Jagim, Andrew R.; Harty, Patrick S.; Camic, Clayton L. (2019-01-24). "Common Ingredient Profiles of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplements". Nutrients. 11 (2): 254. doi:10.3390/nu11020254. ISSN 2072-6643. PMC 6413194. PMID 30678328.
- Gugliotta, Guy (2000-07-23). "Ephedra Lawsuits Show Big Increase". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- Commissioner, Office of the (2019-02-09). "FDA 101: Dietary Supplements". FDA.
- "jack3d". Physical Culture Study. 2017-04-10. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- "Office of Dietary Supplements - Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance". ods.od.nih.gov. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
- "Caffeine". medlineplus.gov. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- Nutrition, Center for Food Safety and Applied (2020-02-04). "DMAA in Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements". FDA.
- "Athlete Advisory - Methylhexaneamine And Dietary Supplements". U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- Cooper, Robert; Naclerio, Fernando; Allgrove, Judith; Jimenez, Alfonso (2012-07-20). "Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update". Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 9 (1): 33. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-33. ISSN 1550-2783. PMC 3407788. PMID 22817979.
- Hobson, R. M.; Saunders, B.; Ball, G.; Harris, R. C.; Sale, C. (July 2012). "Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis". Amino Acids. 43 (1): 25–37. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z. ISSN 0939-4451. PMC 3374095. PMID 22270875.
- Ambrose, Peter J.; Martinez, Carlos A.; Luu, Daniel; Lee, Vivianne; Lee, Daniel A.; Hockaday, Brandon C.; Gordon, Lindsay L.; Eudy, Anne E. (2013-04-01). "Efficacy and safety of ingredients found in preworkout supplements". American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 70 (7): 577–588. doi:10.2146/ajhp120118. ISSN 1079-2082. PMID 23515510.
- Tzemis, Peter (24 June 2018). "Pre-workout". Healthtrends.
- Roosevelt, Max (2010-01-13). "When the Gym Isn't Enough". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- Sökmen, Bülent; Armstrong, Lawrence E.; Kraemer, William J.; Casa, Douglas J.; Dias, Joao C.; Judelson, Daniel A.; Maresh, Carl M. (May 2008). "Caffeine Use in Sports: Considerations for the Athlete". The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 22 (3): 978–986. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.524.1504. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181660cec. ISSN 1064-8011. PMID 18438212.
- Davis, J. K.; Green, J. Matt (2009-10-01). "Caffeine and Anaerobic Performance". Sports Medicine. 39 (10): 813–832. doi:10.2165/11317770-000000000-00000. ISSN 1179-2035. PMID 19757860. S2CID 31365235.
- Grgic, Jozo; Trexler, Eric T.; Lazinica, Bruno; Pedisic, Zeljko (2018-03-05). "Effects of caffeine intake on muscle strength and power: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 15: 11. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0216-0. ISSN 1550-2783. PMC 5839013. PMID 29527137.
- Blomstrand, Eva; Eliasson, Jörgen; Karlsson, Haåkan K. R.; Köhnke, Rickard (2006-01-01). "Branched-Chain Amino Acids Activate Key Enzymes in Protein Synthesis after Physical Exercise". The Journal of Nutrition. 136 (1): 269S–273S. doi:10.1093/jn/136.1.269S. ISSN 0022-3166. PMID 16365096.
- Newsholme, P. (September 2001). "Why is L-glutamine metabolism important to cells of the immune system in health, postinjury, surgery or infection?". The Journal of Nutrition. 131 (9 Suppl): 2515S–22S, discussion 2523S–4S. doi:10.1093/jn/131.9.2515S. ISSN 0022-3166. PMID 11533304.
- Hoffman, Jay R.; Kang, Jie; Ratamess, Nicholas A.; Hoffman, Mattan W.; Tranchina, Christopher P.; Faigenbaum, Avery D. (2009-01-06). "Examination of a pre-exercise, high energy supplement on exercise performance". Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 6 (1): 2. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-2. ISSN 1550-2783. PMC 2621122. PMID 19126213.
- Bergstrom, Haley C.; Byrd, M. Travis; Wallace, Brian J.; Clasey, Jody L. (June 2018). "Examination of a Multi-ingredient Preworkout Supplement on Total Volume of Resistance Exercise and Subsequent Strength and Power Performance". The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 32 (6): 1479–1490. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002480. ISSN 1064-8011. PMID 29401192. S2CID 20639856.
- Spradley, Brandon D.; Crowley, Kristy R.; Tai, Chih-Yin; Kendall, Kristina L.; Fukuda, David H.; Esposito, Enrico N.; Moon, Sarah E.; Moon, Jordan R. (2012-03-30). "Ingesting a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, B-vitamins, amino acids, creatine, and beta-alanine before exercise delays fatigue while improving reaction time and muscular endurance". Nutrition & Metabolism. 9 (1): 28. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-28. ISSN 1743-7075. PMC 3361498. PMID 22463603.
- "5 Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements". Healthline. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- "The pros and cons of pre-workout supplements". M Club Spa and Fitness. 2017-09-25. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
- "Ephedra". Findlaw. Retrieved 2020-04-03.