Pre-workout and Depression: Why it Makes me Depressed?

January 8, 2024 |

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This article will investigate the association between pre-workout and depression.

It is kind of a norm to feel a little anxious after chugging in a glass of pre-workout. In fact, pre-workouts make you restless to pull you out of your couch and motivate you to lift a few weights.

But to trigger this effect, manufacturers add certain ingredients in pre-workouts that meddle with the Central Nervous System. And although anxiety and depression are different mental states, you may rightly suspect their role in the latter as well.

In this article, you will find if the research and user experience is vouching for or against the role of pre-workouts in altering mood states.

So, head on to the next section without further delay.

Can Pre-workout make you Depressed?

No, there is no established evidence to support the idea that pre-workouts can cause depression.

Pre-workouts mostly contain stimulants and caffeine that are otherwise added to positively affect your mood and increase motivation. But sometimes, overstimulation can disrupt the hormone balance and impact mood changes.

This 2019 study evaluated the effect of a multi-ingredient pre-workout on mood states after 30-minutes of consumption but did not find any correlation between the two.

Caffeine is infamous for triggering anxiety since it modulates the sympathetic nervous system, but this study did not indicate its role in causing depression in the subjects.

Moreover, the study further reported that the amino-acid L-theanine in the pre-workout crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts as neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate to promote relaxation.

In addition to this, no other ingredient of the pre-workout included in the study triggered depressive episodes. These ingredients are black pepper extract, micronized creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, Huperzine A, N-Acetyl L-carnitine, and nitrosigine.

This 2018 review analyzed different studies performed on the major components of the multi-ingredient pre-workouts. The names of these ingredients are caffeine, nitric-oxide agents, amino acids, betaine, and beta-alanine. It concluded that they don’t negatively impact mood.

This 2020 study investigating two pre-workouts with and without beta-alanine also concluded that they do not affect mood states.

Nonetheless, it is better to look out for ingredients like caffeine because research such as this one has evaluated its individual impact on mood and found that it may be associated with causing severity of depression.

depressed man

Can Pre-workout cause mental issues?

There are mixed user experiences, and no significant research was found that I can quote to provide you with a precise answer to this question.

The research on multi-ingredient pre-workouts could not fetch evidence to prove its negative psychological effects.

Still, some Reddit users have shared that they suspect a correlation between pre-workout consumption and an altered mental state which manifests itself in the form of anxiety and depression.

So, follow the Reddit stories I have included in this section to weigh your options.

Reddit Story #1:

Here is a Reddit story in which users reported facing mental issues after pre-workout consumption:

allenbaker12 started this Reddit thread with a post in which he wrote that he gets anxiety after his pre-workout (total war) wears out, followed by a wave of depression.

And he is not diagnosed with any psychiatric problems (although he feels like he is facing some).

Users have identified with his experience and suggested that it may be linked to caffeine crashes. They recommended that he try replacing his high caffeine pre-workouts with non-stim or low caffeine pre-workout as the issue seemed to resolve for them by opting for this approach.

Reddit Story #2:

‘the_shit_I_say’ is a Reddit user who made this post to ask for help because she feels angsty, angry, tensed, and kind of depressed hours after every workout session sandwiched between a pre-workout and a protein shake.

According to some users, it might be the workout instead of the pre-workout that is the culprit.

Because according to them, even though workouts are believed to trigger the release of endorphins (happy hormones), everyone’s body may not respond positively to an altered state of mind.

And she may be feeling horrible because the body is coming down from its natural high. Users have also suspected dehydration and energy or sugar crashes to be a reason for her altered mood.

Nonetheless, some replies on this thread also blamed the caffeine and stimulants in pre-workouts.

Should you take a pre-workout if you have anxiety?

No, you should keep your distance from pre-workouts if you are diagnosed with anxiety.

As you know now that research could not provide a link between depression and pre-workouts. But there is sufficient scientific evidence to elucidate the role of different pre-workout ingredients like caffeine, yohimbine, and synephrine in causing anxiety.

I will fill you in on the consequences of taking these ingredients if you are already diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to convince you to stay away from them.

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) position stand, caffeine may induce anxiety in different individuals depending on their genetic variations and caffeine sensitivity.

And this research supports the idea that caffeine may aggravate anxiety disorders.

Yohimbine is an ingredient added to pre-workouts to promote fat loss, but it has the potential to trigger anxiety. This clinical trial found that yohimbine increases the noradrenergic function, exacerbating symptoms in anxiety patients compared to healthy individuals.

Synephrine is another stimulant used in pre-workouts due to its resemblance with ephedra. Since it is a sympathomimetic, it meddles with the Central Nervous System and may increase anxiety.

Does Pre-workout make you Emotional?

Yes, science has yet to evaluate this aspect of pre-workouts, but users have reported getting emotional after consuming their supplements.

Certain pre-workouts may influence your mood more than others, and I’ve culled out this Reddit thread because the user’s conversation answers your question very effectively.

This Reddit user initiated this thread because he wanted to know user opinions on why taking pre-workout (Cellucor c4) before his workout and protein shake after makes him lose control over his emotions, and he feels annoyed, angry, irritable, depressed, and tensed even hours after he is done with his training.

Users replied that they suspect this feeling to be caused by the caffeine crashes or either a spike or crash in blood sugar that may occur from consuming pre-workouts.

The different recommendations were that he should skip the protein shake and consume a proper meal rich in carbohydrates and fats to stabilize his mood.

Or he should try lowering the dose of his current supplement or try another pre-workout as it might not be suiting him.

One of them suggested ‘White flood’ and ‘Iforce conquer’ as better workout alternatives and ‘NO explode’ as the worst.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it up, researchers have yet to explicate a link between pre-workout supplements and depression.

But user experience almost screams that there is indeed a link between the two.

According to what I have inferred from investigating the individual ingredients, caffeine is a primary stimulant in many pre-workouts, and manufacturers use quantities as high as 400 mg of it in their products, which may put you at risk of causing energy crashes or overstimulate your system if you are sensitive to it.

It is the same reason why you may face sadness and depression when the pre-workout wears out, much like the aftereffects of weed (kind of, not exactly in the same way).

You should trace out any caffeine crashes, dehydration, or blood sugar spikes or crashes that may occur after pre-workout consumption to see if they are making you grumpy.

Or you may replace your current pre-workout with a non-caffeine and non-stim supplement if it seems like it is influencing your mood.

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