For this article, I compiled some important science-backed facts to provide you with a solid answer to one of the most frequently asked questions, “is pre-workout bad for your liver?”.
Your liver is one of the vital organs in the body, and this part of your existence won’t show any signs and symptoms of damage unless the disease is at its last stage, so it is wise of you to question the safety of your supplements in this regard.
Any junk that you put in your body will get filtered by your liver. And you are adding to its struggle by recklessly dumping in all that caffeine, proteins, vitamins, and amino acids in your gut. Thus, you may expect your supplement to show some kind of effect on your liver health – including pre-workouts.
In this article, I have added case reports, safety studies, and a Reddit story to reveal the effect of pre-workouts on your liver.
So, without any further ado, let’s dive in to find out the details.
There are variable determiners that decide whether your pre-workout consumption will damage your liver or not. But as long as you are in a fit form, take your pre-workout supplements as per the prescribed dosages, and don’t get tempted into trying out perilous trends like dry scooping, you lie within the safe zone.
There are two reasons why it is wise to suspect pre-workouts of being potentially harmful to your organs and organ systems.
One is that they are notorious for their proprietary blends, and the other is that the FDA does not regulate them.
Moreover, case reports of different adverse effects keep emerging every now and then.
But still, the third-party tested formulations ensure some quality.
And scientific studies have also been carried out to evaluate the risks and efficacy of pre-workouts. And on the basis of these studies, the manufacturers have gained some trust from the public for their formulations.
The scientific evidence I will provide in this section will help you infer the correlation between pre-workouts and liver damage yourself. Nonetheless, you may seek help from the conclusion I will draw in the end as well.
Ingredients that may or may not cause liver damage in pre workouts
Some ingredients in pre-workouts are every manufacturer’s favorite, and most safety studies target these staple ingredients to infer the overall effect of nearly all pre-workouts.
For instance, this 2014 clinical trial recruited seventeen recreationally trained and healthy college men to evaluate the effect of consuming one scoop of a pre-workout powder for 28 days.
The pre-workout formulation used in the study represented the optimal concentrations of the most common ingredients occurring in the pre-supplements available in the market. These components are BCAAs (6 g), B vitamin complex, creatine (5 g), β-alanine (4 g), citrulline malate (1.5 g), and caffeine (300 mg) as well as maltodextrin which is added to impart flavor and color to the powders.
The study concluded that similar pre-workout compositions are less likely to have adverse effects on the liver.
The study also monitored the effect of the studied pre-workout formulation on blood pressure, heart rate, and kidney, and its doses and duration seem to be safe for them as well.
Early research hints at the potential of dietary nitrates to cause cancer and organ damage, so you might have some doubts about them.
And you might be wondering if consuming more than a single scoop of your pre-workout supplement will increase your risk of liver damage.
So, I looked around and found this huge 2015 clinical trial that recruited forty-four participants from both genders to evaluate the safety of consuming a single and double dose of a multi-ingredient pre-workout for 28 days.
The pre-workout formulation assessed in the study consisted of caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, vitamins, and nitrate-bound amino acids.
The study concluded that both doses consumed for the specified duration seem safe for the liver. These doses were also safe for heart and kidney function since the observed changes were not clinically significant.
The study results also debunked the previous theories about nitrates and concluded that dosages of more than 1500mg taken for 28 days seem safe for the liver and other organs.
Synephrine is also one of the active ingredients used as a substitute for ephedrine in some pre-workouts.
This 2015 study evaluated the effect of consuming a pre-workout with and without synephrine for eight weeks. Both pre-workouts contained 3.0 g beta-alanine, 2 g creatine nitrate, 2g arginine AKG, 300mg N-acetyl tyrosine, 270mg caffeine, and 15mg Mucuna pruriens, and they were flavored with dextrose.
(The variable ingredient was 20mg of synephrine.)
The results reported no adverse effects of consuming a pre-workout with or without synephrine on the liver enzymes.
They were also found to be safe for kidney function, muscle enzymes, blood sugar, and lipid levels.
But don’t be too fast to develop your final thoughts based on these safety studies because here is scientific evidence that reported a case of liver damage linked to pre-workout consumption.
According to this 2020 case report, a 24-year-old air force male was diagnosed with Drug-induced Liver Injury (DILI), and the pre-workout ‘Mr. Hyde’ seemed to have caused it because it started to clear up after he discontinued its use.
The caffeine and theacrine in the formulation were the suspected liver toxins causing the liver damage because the caffeine was found to increase the bioavailability of theacrine, which amplified its potential to induce liver damage.
Keeping all this evidence in view, it seems that pre-workouts are generally safe in healthy individuals.
But there are some exceptions, so you may look out for ingredients like niacin.
As this 2020 book fetched data from different case reports and concluded that niacin might cause a slight or moderate increase in serum aminotransferase levels, and specific niacin formulations may also cause acute liver injury.
Pre-workout and Liver Damage – Reddit stories
Skimming through Reddit while I was looking for user experience to add to this section was a relief because I could not find Reddit threads in which users reported any signs, symptoms, or diagnoses of liver damage after long-term use of pre-workouts.
A slight elevation in the liver enzymes is not a cause of concern because your liver has to secrete additional enzymes to detoxify and metabolize all those chemicals and supplements you are putting in your body.
So, here is a Reddit thread that tells about the user perception and experience about the correlation between liver damage and pre-workouts.
‘RoughStage’ is a Reddit user who initiated this Reddit thread by making a post in which he mentioned that he has been feeling pain in his right side, and the reports showed elevated liver enzymes (ALT, AST, GGT).
And to him, his pre-workout (C4) seemed to be the only factor to blame, as he was eating healthy and didn’t smoke or drink.
He was wondering if others had a similar experience as well.
Repliers have assured him that a high quantity of liver enzymes is normal with strenuous exercise.
And they have also had similar results from getting tested after intense training, so he should get retested on a resting day to rule out this possibility.
One of the users shared that she has AST and ALTs in 100s just because she drinks five mugs of strong green tea daily.
A user recommended using milk thistle because it brought his liver enzymes down from 100 to 41 within two months.
FAQs on Pre-workouts and Liver
Can pre-workout damage your kidneys?
No, the safety studies performed have concluded that pre-workouts are safe for kidneys if consumed by healthy individuals.
However, creatine supplementation may cause higher serum creatine levels, which is a false indicator of kidney damage in healthy individuals.
Nonetheless, pre-workouts may aggravate symptoms in people diagnosed with renal disease and may be harmful to people who are taking nephrotoxic medicine.
Is pre-workout bad for your heart?
Yes, pre-workouts with higher than the recommended doses of caffeine, which is more than 400 mg, should be avoided.
There are reports of heart attacks and strokes caused due to dry scooping pre-workouts, and supplements with a high caffeine level may cause irregular and fast heartbeat. But otherwise, they are safe for the heart in healthy individuals.
Is c4 bad for your liver?
No, there are no documented cases of liver damage caused by C4 pre-workout consumption. But since it does have ingredients like niacin, artificial sugars, and other chemicals, it may elevate liver enzymes.
Can pre-workout drinks cause liver damage?
Yes, one case report documents a case of Drug-induced liver damage caused by pre-workouts.
And it may be suspected to aggravate symptoms in liver disease patients. But other than that, pre-workouts have significant research that backs up their safety in healthy individuals.
To wrap it up, pre-workouts are widely considered safe for consumption in healthy individuals. So, to unlock their risk of damaging the liver, you need to be diagnosed with an underlying medical condition first.
However, it would help if you especially stay careful about consuming the ‘Mr. Hyde’s pre-workout because both user experience and scientific evidence warn against its potential to cause liver damage.
Moreover, you’re advised to consult a doctor if you feel unusual symptoms like nausea or liver pain.
And be extremely cautious of taking pre-workout supplements if you are on any prescription medicines or have underlying liver disease.