Designed to give you that surge of energy and unparalleled mental focus to help increase the performance of your training sessions, pre-workout supplements are an incredible gem!
Typically, supplement companies will include carefully selected ingredients that have the backing of science in their product, more so, in the proven-to-work dosages. If you look at the ingredients label, you’ll find a range of ingredients such as caffeine, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, l-tyrosine and many more. You’ll also see the recommended serving size and when to take it, let’s say, it’s absolutely essential that you follow these recommendations… they’re there for a reason!
So, from your pre-workout supplement you can expect to experience tunnel vision focus, prolonged muscular endurance, sleeve-tearing muscle pumps, electrifying energy and more. These sound like the perfect effects, right? After all, they are designed to help you to push past your limits!
But as with any product, side effects can occur. Unfortunately, these are quite common as each individual will have a different level of tolerance to the ingredients. However, the good news is that these can be managed and avoided. So in this blog post, we’re going to take a look at the common pre-workout side effects and how you can possibly avoid these to have a pleasant experience.
We’d like to start by absolutely suggesting that you follow the instructions listed on your pre-workout supplement. As obvious as it sounds, this is typically an overlooked aspect that could cause potential side effects. This includes the serving amount and recommended amount of water to mix with.
So now let’s take a look at the most common side effects that users can experience when taking a pre-workout supplement.
1. Difficulty sleeping
This is down to the stimulants that are labelled in your pre-workout. They can contain anywhere from 100mg of caffeine per serving, right the way to 400mg of caffeine! Essentially, caffeine acts on the central nervous system and causes an increase in alertness, energy and focus, thus making it harder to wind down and fall asleep.
The effects of caffeine and other stimulants do vary from person to person. This is because people have different levels of tolerance to stimulants. For example, one person may immediately feel the effects of caffeine and have trouble sleeping at night if they take caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime, and another person may be able to take 200mg of caffeine even 3 hours before bedtime and have no trouble sleeping.
How to fix
If you are sensitive to stimulants, then it is best advised not to take any stimulants around 8 hours before bedtime. We would recommend that you assess your tolerance level for stimulants and see how you feel. You could start with a smaller dosage of pre-workout and work your way up, this way you can judge how you feel, your workouts and your sleep quality.
So if your pre-workout has 400mg of caffeine per serving, you could start with a quarter of this and work your way up.
Oh, and we recommend that you do not exceed the recommended servings per day!
2. Muscle cramps
The common ingredients found in pre-workout supplements can cause muscular cramps. Notably, ingredients such as caffeine, creatine and beta-alanine can increase muscle contractions and cause dehydration, which can lead to cramps.
Even other stimulants that are often in pre-workouts can increase the body’s demand for oxygen, thus leading to dehydration and cramps.
With caffeine in particular, it can act as a diuretic, making you lose more water and electrolytes than you take in. So when this happens, your body does not have the electrolytes that it needs to contract muscles properly, which can lead to muscle cramps.
How to fix
In order to help avoid muscle cramps caused by pre-workout supplements, be sure to stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise. Water is essential for muscle health and you can even add electrolytes to your water to help replenish these and stay hydrated.
We would also recommend that you stretch and warm up correctly before beginning your workout. When your muscles are nice and warm, they are less prone to cramping, so be sure to do some dynamic stretching and warm-up exercises before starting your main workout.
Additionally, we recommend eating a nutrient-rich meal before your workout. By eating the right foods, you can minimise the risk of having muscle cramps. So opt for foods such as bananas, avocados, leafy greens and others.
Pre-workout supplements can indeed cause headaches for some people. Most likely due to the stimulants that are often added to pre-workouts such as caffeine, niacin and guarana.
Caffeine is the most common ingredient in stimulant-based pre-workouts and for good reason, it can increase energy levels, enhance concentration and make you more alert… all of which are perfect for when working out. However, if you are sensitive to caffeine or consume too much of it, it can cause unpleasant effects such as headaches.
Citrulline, which is rightly added to many a pre-workout for its ability to increase blood flow to muscles, resulting in a prized muscle pump. However, this increase if blood flow can affect your brain in addition to your muscles too, which can lead to people experiencing headaches.
How to fix
To help avoid experiencing headaches from your pre-workout supplement we recommend that you ‘get to know’ your pre-workout. What we mean here is that you should read what’s in your pre-workout and why it’s actually in there. By conducting this research, you’ll be better able to understand the ingredients and dosages, and in turn, you can judge how much you’ll need. We do recommend starting with a smaller dose than what is recommended on the label for the first few times and then working your way up. Again, we recommend ensuring that you are hydrated before, during and after taking your pre-workout as dehydration is a common cause of headaches. We also recommend consuming a balanced meal that is high in protein and contains complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
4. Increased blood pressure and heart rate
When taking pre-workout supplements, the stimulants within these products can have a direct effect on blood pressure and heart rate. The risk is higher when high amounts of stimulants are consumed, but what is determined as ‘high’ can vary massively depending on the person. As we mentioned before, people react differently to stimulants. So 200mg of caffeine could cause one person to have an increase in heart rate and make them hyper and alert, whereas the same 200mg of caffeine could barely affect another person.
So consuming high doses of caffeine from your pre-workout supplement, on top of your typical caffeine daily intake from other sources such as coffee or energy drinks, can potentially lead to a variety of heart-related side effects.
How to fix
As we’ve recommended above, it is best practice to start with a smaller amount of pre-workout, especially if your pre-workout has a large amount of caffeine. We would recommend that you work your way up to the standing serving size, this is to help assess your tolerance to the stimulants.
Of course, you could opt for a stimulant-free pre-workout altogether!
It is also best to try to avoid caffeine from other sources such as soda, coffee and energy drinks on the days you decide to take your pre-workout supplement. In addition to ensuring you are hydrated throughout the day, you could monitor your blood pressure too.
5. The caffeine crash
When taking a stimulant-based pre-workout product that has a large amount of caffeine in it, there is a chance that you could experience a caffeine crash. So, we know that caffeine can increase alertness and energy, this can be followed by a crash! Your adrenaline can raise high enough that your body will come back down and you could experience both mental and physical fatigue. If you’re taking your pre-workout supplement in the morning in particular, this can affect the rest of your day!
How to fix
There are a few ways to help minimise the risk of experiencing a caffeine crash from your pre-workout supplement. The first is to again, start with a smaller dose of pre-workout and work your way up. In addition to drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated, you could also snack on something nutritious such as fruit or some protein oats prior to taking your pre-workout. If pre-workout is taken on an empty stomach, yes you’ll feel the effects quicker, but you may also experience a crash too as your body will absorb the caffeine faster than normal. Having a snack can help to avoid any digestive issues and help avoid having low energy levels too.
If your pre-workout supplement doesn’t contain L-theanine, you may choose to consume this alongside. L-theanine can help to let caffeine work its charm by providing you with energy and focus without potentially causing you to feel jittery and crashing.
So there you have it, five common pre-workout side effects. The most obvious fix is to start with a lower dosage and to work your way up to the standing serving size of your product but we’ve given a few other potential fixes too.
If you’re keen to explore a new pre-workout supplement, we have a range to choose from and even have a stimulant-free version too!