The Truth About Pre-Workout Drinks

Chris Schattschneider
Pre-workout drink

The newest craze in the fitness/performance world is the addition of a pre-workout drink. This supplement is meant to serve as a “boost” to get you through your routine with greater outcomes.

This may sound like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t I want to make the most of my workout especially if these drinks all claim increased performance? What could go wrong? To find out, let’s look at what these latest supplements contain that are said to improve your performance.

Pre-workout drinks on the market vary greatly in ingredients, and since supplements are not regulated by the FDA, there is no guarantee on what is truly inside.

However, despite these differences, there some common ingredients.

  • Caffeine. A majority of the pre-workout drinks include large amounts of caffeine, significantly more than a soda or a cup of coffee. The claim is that caffeine will wake you up and activate the fight or flight hormones. While this may be the case, these effects may take three to five hours before they diminish, which could negatively affect sleep patterns. Additionally, your tolerance to caffeine will increase, requiring more and more of the product to have the same result.
  • Arginine. Some supplement formulas contain the amino acid argenine, which is a vasodilator thought to allow the removal of waste products faster. Since it’s not restricted to a certain area of the body, this vasodilation can result in significant headaches after intake.
  • Beta-alanine and niacin. Many pre-workout drinks contain this acidity buffer and niacin. Niacin has been known to cause your skin to become red, splotchy and tingly. Beta-alanine can cause a nervous system response leaving your fingers and hands tingly as well. Combine these two with caffeine and the supplement can leave you feeling worse than expected.

These products contain a large variety of ingredients that have no clinical testing or scientific basis for use. So whether they provide an improvement in performance is still up for debate. What is clear is that the ingredients in some can cause significant side effects. Finally, if you are an athlete who participates in NCAA or WIAA events, you may be risking eligibility by ingesting a product that is banned or contains banned ingredients. In the end, nothing replaces hard work.

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