Many supplements are viewed with a tinge of suspicion. Unfortunately, this is especially true when those supplements produce any sort of noticeable effect.
For that reason, pre-workout supplements are a natural target for misunderstanding – even though many athletes and fitness enthusiasts swear by them. Of course, it’s always important to understand and be sure of the safety of any supplement.
But there’s no need to be unnecessarily fearful of supplements, especially when you actually enjoy the effects. So, are pre-workout supplements safe? Do pre-workout supplements have any unwanted or harmful side effects?
Read on for everything you should know before using these supplements.
Are Pre-Workout Supplements Bad for You?
When used appropriately and according to the package instructions, pre-workout supplements are generally safe. In this situation, pre-workout can give you that boost of energy you need to make it into the gym and perform your best, which is a great thing for your health in the long run.
However, one important thing to be aware of is that these supplements do often contain stimulants like caffeine. So if you’re naturally sensitive to caffeine or have a health concern that requires you to limit your caffeine intake, then you should be careful when taking any pre-workout supplement.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid supplements that contain “proprietary blends” on their labels. This is when multiple ingredients are listed together under a single label, without specifying the amount of each ingredient used.
Some manufacturers attempt to hide exact numbers behind proprietary blends, which can be dangerous to a user’s health.
Additionally, pre-workout supplements often contain many more ingredients than just one stimulant. The safety and side effects of that product, then, will depend entirely on those other ingredients.
How to Read a Pre-Workout Supplement Label
It’s nearly impossible to determine if a given pre-workout supplement contains unsafe ingredients or dosages without studying the label. Remember, the label is your friend!
You can scope out proprietary blends by looking for terms like “trade secret” or “special formula” on the label, as well as words like “blends” or “complexes.” If you see any of these (or similar) terms listed, run far away! Instead, you want to make sure that each individual ingredient has an exact amount specified.
Any quality supplement manufacturer will be open and clear about how much stimulant is in each dosage, which can make it easier to determine if the supplement is the right choice for you.
Naked Energy's label clearly states that each serving contains 200mg of caffeine, which is about as much as you'd get in two cups of coffee.
It’s also a good idea to get familiar with common stimulants and ingredients used in many pre-workout supplements, to ensure you fully understand what you’re putting into your body. This is the only way to know for sure whether or not your pre-workout should be considered safe.
How to Use Pre-Workout Effectively
To get the best results out of your pre-workout, one of the best steps you can take is simply to follow the manufacturer’s directions. Yes, it’s really as easy as that!
Remember: these supplements are designed to increase your energy and focus. So, it’s entirely possible that you may feel too energized, leading to nerves and jitteriness. Start out with the minimum dose – typically one scoop – to assess your tolerance and gradually increase the amount from that if you feel the need.
This can help prevent unwanted and uncomfortable feelings associated with consuming too many stimulants. This leads to another important question: how long do the effects of pre-workout last? This will depend on the exact product consumed, but generally the supplement will start to wear off within about two hours.
If you’re still feeling the effects of your pre-workout several hours after taking it, or if you experience any rashes or other allergy symptoms, see your doctor.
The bottom line: there’s no cut and dry answer to the question “are pre-workout supplements safe.”
Instead, it comes down to the specific brand of supplement used, and the ingredients and amounts contained in each dosage. But in general, if you’re checking the label, avoiding proprietary blends, and following package instructions, more likely than not you do not have anything to worry about when using your pre-workout supplement.