Fit Knowledge

5 Pre-Workout Side Effects and How to Avoid Them

Find out more about pre-workout side effects and how to avoid them for a better experience with your supplement.

Pre-workout supplements are marketed as a way to help you power-up your workout, motivate you and improve endurance levels. All in all, they’re sold as something that will help you get more benefit from your workouts.

While this may sound good on paper, the pre-workout supplement market is unregulated, so a lot of products aren’t third party tested and companies are not held responsible for the formulas they create.

Supplement manufacturers might not want you to know, but pre-workout side effects are far more common than you know.

When you take a pre-workout supplement, you’ll likely feel a sudden rush of energy. If you look at the formula profile, you’ll see that this is the result of taking a portion of caffeine.

While this can be beneficial, as caffeine is proven to energize you and even increase strength during a workout [1].

However, issues arise when manufacturers begin to compete with each other to offer higher and higher servings of caffeine. Needless to say, too much caffeine can be dangerous and lead to a range of unwanted pre-workout side effects.

Unfortunately, these types of over-served supplements are common throughout the market, making it hard to find a more tolerable option.

On top of that, there are some ingredients that can cause reactions within your body, however once you know what they are you can accommodate them easily.

However, we’ve got some hints and tips on what potential pre-workout side effects you need to look out for, and how to avoid them in the first place.

[Related Article: Pre-Workout for Women – Should You Use it? ]

Pre-workout side effects 

1. Interrupted sleep

The caffeine content within pre-workout supplements can have an effect on your sleep. As caffeine stimulates the nervous system, it can leave you unable to sleep.

While this is undoubtedly one of the most annoying pre-workout side effects, it’s also the one you can easily do something about.

How to avoid interrupted sleep

Our first tip is to take a look at the supplement facts of your product. You don’t want to be taking anything that comes in at more than 200mg of caffeine in one serving. The safe recommended upper limit of caffeine is 400mg a day spread over several servings [2]. So, if you opt for something with 200mg of the stimulant, you’ve reached half your maximum intake in one go. Needless to say, this could have an impact on your sleep.

Our next recommendation is to put as much time between taking your pre-workout and going to bed as possible. We’d suggest leaving a minimum of 5 hours between taking a pre-workout supplement and going to bed. Anything less than that could leave you awake staring at the ceiling for hours.

Finally, we’d suggest adjusting your overall caffeine intake to avoid drinking too much, as too much in your system could impact your attempts to fall asleep. As such, think about cutting back on coffee and tea on the days you plan to take your pre-workout.

2. Diarrhea

This is a very unfortunate side effect of some pre-workout supplements. Some ingredients that are commonly used in products in this category can cause diarrhea.

How to avoid diarrhea

To avoid this, simply look out for the following ingredients:

  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Taurine
  • Arginine
  • Yohimbe
  • Creatine
  • Magnesium
  • Caffeine

While these ingredients may cause this reaction, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid them altogether. Your body may react to them in different ways, or one supplement may offer serving sizes that are too large.

The best thing to do is to compare supplement profiles to see if servings seem large comparably, and to check out reviews to see how others have reacted to the products.

3. Headaches, migraines and dehydration

pre-workout side effects headache

Certain elements of pre-workouts may leave you feeling dehydrated, which can lead to headaches and migraines.

This occurs when the protective layer of water around the brain becomes depleted, which can result in your brain bumping against your skull. It can be very uncomfortable and leave you with headaches. Lack of water in the brain can also lead to reduced cognitive performance.

How to avoid headaches, migraines and dehydration

To avoid this, there are a few ingredients you need to be aware of. Caffeine is one of them, as it is a diuretic, which means you may need to pee more often than normal.

On top of that ingredients like arginine, citrulline malate and beta-alanine are vasodilators, which means they can cause your blood vessels in your head to expand. This can also lead to headaches, so watch out for supplements with high levels of these ingredients.

The best way to avoid dehydration and the headaches that can come with it is to ensure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Also aim to drink a glass before you take your pre-workout, and sip water throughout your training session.

4. High blood pressure

The very nature of a pre-workout is that it is meant to stimulate your body to work harder – and that includes your heart.

You may feel this when you have coffee and when you work out, which is completely normal. However, this can become a problem if you already suffer from issues that can case high blood pressure.

How to avoid high blood pressure

If you’re in good health and simply don’t like the sensation of having a higher blood pressure, the best way to avoid this may be to look for a stimulant free pre-workout.

However, if you have a pre-existing condition we strongly recommend you seek the advice of your doctor before you decide to take a pre-workout supplement.

[Related Article: What is Whey Protein?]

5. Tingling sensations

One common, and very strange, pre-workout side effect is an itchy, or prickly sensation throughout your body. People mostly feel this in their extremities, for example hands and feet are usually affected the most.

The effects of this can vary from person to person depending on their tolerance and on whether you’re simply just more sensitive to this affect than others.

While this is a very strange feeling, and may be a little worrying the first time you feel it, this isn’t something you need to be worried about. It’s something called paraesthesia, which isn’t harmful or permanent, it’s simply a side effect of the way the ingredient interacts with the ingredient.

The symptoms should subside after about an hour [3].

Often, it’s a response to certain ingredients within the supplement. Look out for these ones if you’re concerned about this:

  • Niacin
  • Beta-alanine

How to avoid prickly or tingly skin

The easiest way to reduce the risk of itchy, prickly skin is to look for a supplement that doesn’t contain niacin or beta-alanine.

However, as beta-alanine in particular can offer some beneficial endurance boosting properties [4], we’d suggest instead looking for something that offers a lower dose. Research has shown that servings over 800mg appear to result in reactions [5]. Therefore, we’d recommend looking for something with a serving lower than that.

Final word – gymgirlfit hints and tips

Pre-workout side effects are common, however if you know how to deal with them, it means you can still get the most out of the supplement, without cutting it out completely.

While some of them are straight forward, like caffeine interrupting sleep, others, like prickly skin, might be a little more unexpected.

The key to staying safe when taking a pre-workout is to avoid high amounts of caffeine, do your research into the ingredients on the supplements label and avoid proprietary blends at all costs. These are blends many manufacturers use so they can add undisclosed ingredients to the formula.

This is generally not a good practice, as it means you can’t guarantee what’s inside your supplement or how you’ll react to it.

Once you’ve found a product that ticks all those boxes, you should have a more enjoyable experience with your pre-workout supplement.

Lauren

Lauren is a health and fitness enthusiast, powerlifter and writer who's written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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