What Are Pre-Workout Benefits and Side Effects?

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The supplements industry has exponentially grown over the past decade as people look to improve their performance and recovery.

From protein shakes to fat burner pills, an incredible range of products now exists. Many hold much promise, while others are nothing more than a fad.

Pre-workout supplements are one of the more popular products that any gym-goers can purchase. The purpose of a pre-workout is to optimize exercise performance and improve recovery.

This article will investigate and provide detail on the potential pre-workout benefits and side effects.

What Is Pre-Workout?

Pre-workout is what is known as an ergogenic aid. It means that it is a tool that can be used to increase energy, improve performance, and enhance recovery.

Most pre-workout supplements come in a powder, liquid, or pill form. They are typically taken just before a training session to stimulate the nervous system.

There are several stimulating substances found in pre-workouts that cause this reaction. Common ingredients include BCAA’s, Beta-alanine, caffeine, creatine, and glycerol.

These substances all combine to prime the body most effectively for exercise.

Caffeine tends to be the main ingredient of pre-workout. The drug stimulates the central nervous system to sharpen focus and boost energy.

Several amino acids are also included. Specific amino acids can help fight off fatigue, allowing us to exercise for longer at a higher intensity.

Amino acids also play a huge role in muscle protein synthesis (or muscle repair). Therefore, consuming pre-workout can also enhance the recovery rate from the bout of training.

Why Do We Take Pre-Workout?

As touched on, pre-workout is taken to boost energy levels and improve exercise performance and recovery.

It appears to be effective; it is also highly convenient. Most supplements are palatable, mix well, and don’t require much prep or effort.

Pre-workout is commonly taken by athletes, lifters, and gym users. However, the purpose of taking pre-workout is very individual.

For example, the athlete may use pre-workout to give them a slight edge over their opponent. In comparison, lifters may use pre-workout to allow them to lift heavier and make substantial progress with their strength.

Finally, those looking to improve their fitness generally may consider using pre-workout. It may allow them to work harder in gym sessions and make the most optimal progress.

Pre-workout benefits

Pre-Workout Benefits

Over the years, several scientific studies have investigated the impact of pre-workouts on exercise performance.

This section will review pre-workout benefits and briefly discuss how they work in general.

1. Increased Energy

Regardless of whether we are lifting weight, distance running, or participating in sport, we all need energy. Conversely, low energy levels and fatigue can detrimentally impact performance.

Therefore, pre-workout can be used to provide energy, fight fatigue and ultimately improve how we perform.

Caffeine will help stimulate the nervous system, whereas creatine and specific amino acids can directly boost energy.

Feeling energized will allow us to exercise at a high standard for longer. In addition, pre-workouts may help minimize the impact of fatigue, thus enhancing endurance.

2. Enhanced Blood Flow

Several substances, such as arginine and citrulline, have been found to enhance blood flow (1).

When these substances are consumed, the body produces a compound known as nitric oxide. This compound causes vasodilation and allows blood to flow more freely.

Improving blood flow to the working muscles will allow for critical nutrients and oxygen delivery. As well as this, waste products can be removed more efficiently.

This will cause improvements in muscular endurance and athletic performance.

3. Improved Muscular Endurance

One of the most well-studied substances in sports science is creatine. The research indicates that creatine can be supplemented to improve muscular power and endurance (2).

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is stored with muscle. Therefore, its primary function is to provide the muscle with energy.

Therefore, by consuming creatine, we can effectively improve the amount of energy produced by the muscle. The more energy available, the more endurant the muscles will be.

In addition to this, it has also been associated with enhancing muscular strength, size, and exercise performance.

4. Better Mental Focus

For many years, caffeine has been considered an effective ergogenic aid. In addition, research has indicated that caffeine onsets a range of physical and mental changes.

It energizes the body to boost performance and sharpens mental skills to contribute to better performance (3).

Studies have shown that it explicitly impacts mental alertness, mood, attention, and concentration.

This may allow us to maintain focus throughout training sessions and perform to a better standard.

Pre-workout side effects

Pre-workout Side Effects

While pre-workouts have the potential to impact performance, they may also come with specific side effects.

This section will detail several potential side effects associated with pre-workout supplements.

1. High Blood Pressure

A typical pre-workout may contain up to 300 mg of caffeine, three times the amount found in a cup of coffee.

Because caffeine is a stimulant, it has dramatically increased blood pressure in the short term.

Having high blood pressure can put excess strain on the heart and blood vessels. It may also lead to cardiac diseases like coronary heart disease.

2. Tingling sensation

One of the most common side effects of pre-workout is the sensation of tingling or prickling. This is caused by ingredients in the pre-workout, mainly beta-alanine and niacin.

Some individuals may be more sensitive to specific substances than others and may experience this to a higher degree.

While this sensation may be upsetting and unpleasant, it’s not usually a sign that something is wrong.

3. Dehydration

Several ingredients in pre-workout increase water retention and contribute to dehydration.

In addition, intense exercise will cause the body to sweat and the working muscles to use up water.

A combination of these things can severely impact hydration levels. As a result, dehydration has a detrimental impact on health, performance, and cognitive abilities.

4. Headaches

Headaches are not uncommon for pre-workout users. Two main mechanisms appear to contribute to this.

As mentioned in the above section, pre-workouts may cause dehydration and, often, dehydration can lead to a headache.

Additionally, caffeine may also be a contributing factor. As caffeine wears off, a substance known as adenosine builds up, which may cause a headache (4).

5. Diarrhea

Some of the ingredients and combinations used may have a laxative effect and cause diarrhea.

Therefore, those with sensitive stomachs should be wary of pre-workout use.

Diarrhea has the potential to cause other issues too. For example, it increases the amount of water lost from the body and can contribute to dehydration and headaches.

6. Insomnia

Considering that many of the pre-workout ingredients stimulate the body and increase alertness, sleep can be affected.

The effects of substances like caffeine take a long time to wear off. Studies have shown that taking caffeine up to six hours before bed can significantly impact sleep. (5)

Therefore, if the pre-workout is taken in the evening, it is more likely to interfere with sleep.

How To Avoid Pre-Workout Side Effects

Some actions can be taken to minimize the risk of experiencing these side effects.

Firstly, it would be wise to consult a medical professional before taking pre-workout regularly. This is essential for any who suffers from pre-existing medical conditions.

Next, consider the quality of the pre-workout supplement. Again, using a popular pre-workout that contains high-quality and safe ingredients is essential.

Many cheap pre-workouts will have been manufactured poorly and may have many side effects. In addition to this, these products may even be ineffectual or even hazardous.

Finally, consider the ingredients used in the product. Always read the nutrition label carefully to ensure that the product is most suitable.

For those who are particularly sensitive to stimulants, starting with a low-dose pre-workout is recommended. Using a highly stimulating product may increase side effects.

Several other steps that may be useful to reduce or avoid side effects include:

  • Avoiding extremely stimulating products
  • Lowering the dosage
  • Avoiding pre-workouts that contain tingling ingredients
  • Maintaining hydration levels throughout the day
  • Adding more water to powder products
  • Avoiding taking pre-workout in the evening


If we seek to improve performance, purchasing a pre-workout may be worthwhile. Pre-workouts are quick and convenient, and scientific research has also demonstrated their effectiveness.

A high-quality supplement must be chosen and used responsibly when selecting a pre-workout. If this is not adhered to, side effects may be experienced.

Ultimately, whether or not pre-workouts are used comes down to a personal choice. However, any supplement that interferes with sleep, diet, or hydration should be used considerately.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683098/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11828245
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209050/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5366829/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3805807/