Studies have it that 54% of people who use pre-workout supplements have reported side effects like jitters and beta-alanine paraesthesia (tingling). These are common, but most reported side effects are not dangerous.
No doubt, pre-workouts have numerous side effects.
But can they kill you?
We’re about to find out.
Ultimate Orange was the first pre-workout that became popular in 1982.
And since then, fitness fanatics have sought pre-workouts, even though their safety evidence is insufficient and the efficacy of many of the ingredients put together in them is not science-backed either.
Nonetheless, the pre-workout formulation may put you at a risk of overdosing, which can hit hard on your body systems and organs, causing liver damage, digestive issues, endocrine disruption, digestive issues, heart problems, and sometimes even death.
Keep reading to find out what side effects pre-workouts may translate into.
Can Pre Workout Kill You?
Yes, pre-workouts might kill you. While pre-workouts may not be fatal on their own, you may end up in the hospital if you don’t monitor your daily intake of certain additives in them.
For instance, caffeine has the potential to take your life if consumed in excess.
One such piece of evidence is available in the death of a 29-year-old personal trainer who lost his life from consuming Pre-workout with a caffeine solution.
Overdose of caffeine, typically over 5g, can be fatal, as reported in this case report.
You can find proof of the dangers of Pre-workouts in this case of a 24-year-old man who suffered from stroke due to excessive consumption of pre-workouts, and the cause is suspected to be the Dendrobium extract found in Pre-workout supplements.
The last time we checked – pre-workout supplements are not FDA approved.
Most of them contain DMAA and ephedra, which the FDA has banned for dietary supplements as they pose risks of cardiovascular, neurological, and psychological side effects.
Although the FDA has detained many dietary supplements containing banned ingredients, many pre-workouts containing illegal ingredients are still available in the markets.
Moreover, such pre-workouts can also cause drug test failure for many athletes.
You can consult the website operation supplement safety to determine if the supplement you are using is safe enough.
Or move on to the next section to uncover the potential side effects of the multi-ingredient pre-workouts I compiled for you.
Side Effects of Pre Workouts
Many fitness enthusiasts have incorporated Pre-workout nutrition or pre-workout stimulants in their workout routines and consume them around 15-30 minutes before exercise to increase endurance and mental focus.
Pre-workouts are based on high amounts of performance-boosting ingredients like beta-alanine, creatine, citrulline, caffeine, whey powder, amino acids like L-citrulline and arginine, vitamins like niacin, etc.
These ingredients may be beneficial in most circumstances but can also harbor some side effects.
So, keep reading to find out the undesirable flip side of these pre-workout formulations.
1. Risk of Cardiovascular disorders
Pre-workouts contain about 100mg to 300 mg of caffeine, roughly equivalent to two to three cups of coffee. Such a high intake of caffeine may predispose you to cardiovascular disorders.
As mentioned in this paper, caffeine causes an adrenaline rush and thus increases the risk of high blood pressure or irregular heartbeat and may increase the risk of a heart attack if you have severe coronary disease or are sensitive to caffeine.
This article is one such piece of evidence that Pre-workout caused a heart attack in a 20-year-old female who dry scooped the supplement.
You can find another evidence of the heart-damaging potential of these supplements in this article about a 42-year-old man who went into cardiac arrest on consuming pre-workouts.
2. Adrenal fatigue
Long-term consumption of pre-workouts can put stress on the adrenal glands and lead to ‘adrenal fatigue’ or HPA-Dysfunction.
The ingredients in Pre-workouts mimic the Central Nervous system to impart their stimulation effects. Caffeine, for instance, increases the adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body to promote mental alertness and focus during exercise.
This research indicates the possibility of memory problems and impaired stress response systems from high caffeine consumption.
Other symptoms of HPA-D are fatigue, brain fog, or mood swings.
Pre-workouts can cause sleep disturbances, mostly when consumed during the evening or night.
The central nervous system stimulant caffeine increases the norepinephrine and epinephrine in the body to initiate a fight or flight state and promote mental alertness, which causes wakefulness.
As mentioned in this chapter, the half-life of caffeine is 5 hours, whereas it may take anywhere between 1.5 to 9.5 hours to flush out from our system.
And thus, it can make you turn and twist on your bed until the effects wear off.
More than one ingredient in the pre-workout supplements may contribute to causing headaches upon consumption.
And as you might suspect, caffeine is one of them. Other contributors might be L-citrulline, arginine, and whey protein.
The primary mechanism behind the property of these ingredients to induce headaches is their ability to cause vasodilation of blood vessels.
This study explains how the L-citrulline is converted into arginine in the body.
Arginine acts as a precursor for Nitric oxide- the key modulator of migraine due to its role in vasodilation. This paper includes evidence for their potential to cause chronic tension-type headaches and cluster headaches as well.
Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, but when it starts to subside, the blood vessels will dilate again, which may cause migraine headaches.
The high quantity of whey protein could be another culprit as this paper identified that it could produce a neuropeptide that can cause migraine-like headaches in specific individuals.
5. Digestive issues and dehydration
You might end up taking frequent visits to the bathroom or face excessive thirst after consuming pre-workout supplements.
The dehydration may be ascribed to the irreplaceable active ingredient ‘Caffeine.’ caffeine is a diuretic that can cause frequent urination, as explained in this article.
According to International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, it can also cause diarrhea. These symptoms may combine to cause dehydration.
Overdosing of ingredients such as niacin can cause nausea, constipation, and vomiting.
6. Skin rash and Paresthesia
Users, especially females, have reported some skin rash due to consumption of pre-workouts, even with the manufacturer’s prescribed doses.
Although these symptoms are not dangerous, they can be unsettling for some.
Paresthesia is characterized by burning and tingling sensation in the body, red splotchy, itchy and tingling skin, and facial flushing.
The potential of beta-alanine to cause Paresthesia is reported in this paper.
On the other hand, this paper found that short-term supplementation (less than eight weeks) of niacin is safe. And Skin rash due to niacin is one of the Long term effects of Pre-workout, as reported in this clinical trial by users who consumed it for more than a year.
7. Risk of Liver Damage
The constituents of pre-workout formulations increase the risk of liver damage.
Pre-workout supplements contain about 15 mg-25 mg of niacin which is easily approachable to the tolerable upper limit of 30 mg -50 mg.
Niacin overdosing may lead to acute hepatitis and liver failure, as reported in different case reports compiled in this review paper.
This 2021 review highlights the potential of overconsumption of whey protein in pre-workouts to adversely affect liver function.
Also read: Does Pre-Workout Go Bad or Expire: How long?
FAQs on the safety of Pre-workouts
Can Preworkout be fatal?
Yes, pre-workout risks reaching the upper dose of certain ingredients like caffeine that may prove fatal in high concentrations.
Can pre-workout give you a heart attack?
Yes, consuming pre-workout in excess, being sensitive to specific ingredients in it, or an overdose of certain ingredients like caffeine can give you a heart attack. Also, dry scooping pre-workout could also lead to serious cardiovascular issues.
Can pre-workout give you a stroke?
Yes, it might. There is a documented case of a 24-year-old who suffered from stroke due to an ingredient, Dendrobium extract, in pre-workout supplements.
How much pre-workout is too much?
It is recommended to take one to two scoops of pre-workout every day, and exceeding this quantity can be too much pre-workout. Regardless, in all you do, make sure you always read product labels and instructions on how to take them.
What happens if you take a pre-workout every day?
You become less sensitive to the pre-workouts and will eventually require larger doses to feel the same effects.
Taking pre-workout every day can lead to dependence on the caffeine in the supplement for energy. This can cause headaches and other withdrawal symptoms when the person stops taking the supplement. Additionally, overuse of most pre-workout supplements can cause nausea, vomiting, and cramping.
Is it bad to dry scoop pre-workout?
Yes, pre-workouts have a high amount of concentrated ingredients, and dry scooping poses the risk of overdosing and side effects of ingredients like caffeine.
In a nutshell, don’t go overboard with pre-workouts, as the ergogenic ingredients that rev you up for your workout may also bring some undesirable effects.
You should always consume pre-workouts according to the manufacturer’s instructions to minimize the onset of adverse outcomes.
Test different Pre-workout supplements to check which one suits you best or if your body even tolerates them before spending heaps on them.
And as FDA does not regulate pre-workout supplements, look for third-party certifications such as Informed Choice, NSF, and the Banned Substances Control Group on the canisters to ensure their quality.
More importantly, if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients in pre-workouts or suffer from any health condition, work out an equation with your doctor and trainer to find out what works best for you.
Also read: Can Pre-workout Make You Sick?