Pre-workout and Epilepsy: Can workout drinks cause seizures?

January 8, 2024 |

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In this article, I’ll discuss if it is safe to take pre-workout with epilepsy.

It is possible that workout supplements can cause seizures, though it is not common – as it depends on the ingredients used and the health condition of the individual.

No matter how innocuous pre-workout drinks might seem, they do carry a bad reputation of causing seizures in consumers and thus are likely to be unsafe in epilepsy as well.

Nonetheless, the potential of pre-workouts to cause seizures cannot be shrugged under the rug just like that, as the research available on individual ingredients like ginseng, Guarana, caffeine, or Ginkgo Biloba reveal their potential to cause spasms or interfere with anticonvulsant medicines.

So, I have included different case reports, research papers, and user experiences to help you make an informed decision on your next purchase of pre-workouts or enable you to track the cause of your convulsions if you are already consuming different supplements.

Taking pre-workout with epilepsy – Is it safe?

A simple answer would be ‘No’ because taking pre-workouts with epilepsy carries its fair share of risks.

Multiple banned ingredients such as Ephedra and DMMA have been detected in pre-workouts over the years since the government does not regulate them, and these may trigger epileptic seizures.

Moreover, epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system. And pre-workouts are based on the stimulants and nootropics like caffeine or Guarana that modulate the Central Nervous System to bring out desired outcomes.

Thus, taking pre-workouts with epilepsy might not be safe for everyone. But user experiences vary.

According to epilepsy specialists, certain herb extracts such as Ginseng or Ginkgo Biloba might also react with epilepsy medicines, so it is pertinent that you discuss your prescription with your doctor before picking up any multi-ingredient pre-workout from the store.

Moreover, pre-workout companies are not obligated to perform and provide safety studies for their products; thus, they may make epilepsy worse.

Some authenticity, warranty, and quality assurance that we might get are from the third-party verified (e.g. NSF certified) products only.

In addition to this, the manufacturers are not obliged to issue their complete ingredients list so that their competitors can’t replicate their recipes.

Thus, they can get away with whatever they want to add to their powders behind the ‘propriety blend’ tag.

Lack of ingredient disclosure may make it hard for your neurologist to assess the safety of products if you have epilepsy because he cannot identify the triggers. And no matter how much you read on the safety of individual ingredients, you can never know how their combined effect will strike our body.

Keep reading to find out why you should avoid pre-workouts if you have epilepsy.

Why avoid pre-workouts if you have epilepsy?

Here are valid reasons epileptic patients should avoid taking pre-workouts:

Banned Ingredients

FDA does not regulate pre-workouts and energy drinks, and thus many manufacturers get away with using banned ingredients like Ephedra and DMMA in their products.

Before its ban in 2004, Ephedra was one of the most wanted ingredients in pre-workouts, and there are numerous case reports that present evidence of its potential to cause seizures.

This article by Harvard medical has also listed seizures as one of the dangers of Ephedra.

DMMA is another ingredient that FDA banned due to its side effects, and one of these is the potential to cause seizures. Despite this, many companies fail to comply and continue using it in their pre-workout formulations.

But starting in 2012, warnings are being issued, and other steps are taken by FDA to bring products containing banned stuff off the shelves.

Nonetheless, this study found seizures as one of the side effects of using DMMA as a dietary supplement.


Pre-workouts exploit the stimulatory effects of caffeine and Guarana for imparting mental alertness and giving an energy boost.

But many workouts go overboard with their caffeine content, and the energy crash after over caffeination may increase the risk of seizures, especially in people with underlying epileptic disorders.

And since it is highly possible for the content of ingredients to fluctuate in different batches, pre-workout drinks may bring undesirable effects even when you closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions for their consumption.

Moreover, caffeine is a diuretic, and it may cause dehydration and salt losses such as magnesium, calcium, and sodium, which can result in an osmotic shift. And an electrolyte imbalance has already been reported to provoke seizures in this 2016 study.

According to another review, caffeine gets absorbed in the brain and inhibits adenosine- a neuromodulator that mainly exerts inhibitory effects, to stimulate the Central Nervous System, and thus a caffeine overdose may cause seizures.

Furthermore, Guarana is a kind of herbal caffeine linked to seizures, especially epileptic seizures.

Four case reports of patients who suffered from seizures because of the consumption of energy drinks have been compiled in this review. And the potential triggers were identified as Guarana, taurine, and caffeine.

Herbal extracts

Different herbal extracts like Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba are added to pre-workouts to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, or other benefits that may help improve performance during workouts.

Of these herbs is Gingko Biloba is used in pre-workouts to increase blood flow to the muscles, which improves the availability of nutrients and oxygen to them and thus, helps you to muscle up.

But in 2001, seven reports of seizures linked to Ginkgo Biloba containing preparations were listed in the US FDA’s Special Nutritionals Adverse Event Monitoring System, and many other reports have been coming in since.

Out of these reports, four documented the incidence of seizures due to multi-ingredient supplements such as pre-workouts.

This review compiles the different case reports that serve as evidence of the seizure causing the potential of Ginkgo Biloba.

Ginkgo Biloba is also suspected of causing episodes because it may increase the activity of an enzyme CYP2C19 which is involved in the metabolism of anticonvulsant drugs. Moreover, there is a neurotoxin ‘MPN’ present in the Ginkgo Biloba seeds, which may also trigger seizures.

It is documented in this case report that a 55-year-old man suffered from fatal seizures when his anticonvulsant medicines reacted with the ginseng, saw palmetto, and Ginkgo Biloba herbal extracts in the supplements he was taking and resulted in his death.

Research has mostly reported the anticonvulsant effect of ginseng, but this case report documented two patients who suffered from recurrent epileptic seizures within two weeks of consuming ginseng extract.

Further research is needed to clarify the link between the two.

Can pre-workout drinks cause seizures?

Yes, it is highly probable for pre-workout drinks to cause a seizure.

There are multiple case reports of the onset of seizures linked to consumption of pre-workouts, energy drinks, and weight-loss products, but no effort has been made to determine the root cause of the convulsions in such supplements.

In this case report, a 17-year-old girl was taken to the hospital two times due to seizures linked to her weight-loss supplements intake.

And upon further investigation, certain ingredients like phentermine, caffeine, and amphetamines were suspected of causing the acute episodes.

These ingredients can also be found in pre-workouts, hinting at their potential to cause fits.

This review has identified suspected seizure-causing ingredients in supplements by evaluating different case reports. These are amphetamines, caffeine, Ephedra (banned), creatine (requires further investigation), Ginkgo Biloba, and St. John’s wort.

According to this case report, a 34-year old man who had no history of seizures was taken to the hospital due to tonic-clonic seizures and stroke after consuming energy drinks with alcohol on an empty stomach which hint at the potential of such beverages to trigger convulsions in different cases.

Epilepsy and workout supplements – Reddit Stories

After all that science, I might have bored you within the above two sections. So, here, I have picked out some Reddit stories to fill you up on what the actual user experience tells.

A Reddit user ShockWaste replied to this thread and shared that pre-workout (C4) and energy drinks (5-hour energy) precipitated breakthrough seizures in him, which he suspects were triggered by creatine.

Many others in this thread agreed to get auras of getting a seizure after pre-workouts, but it didn’t end up in one for everyone.

Users in this thread have shared their experience of using pre-workouts with epilepsy, which triggered absence and grand mal seizures.

Two Reddit users have also shared that they suspect their creatine supplements to have caused and aggravated auras into grand mals, as they found relief in discontinuation of the supplement.

In this thread, a girl mentioned that she suspects creatine of reacting with her anti-convulsion medicines, namely Lamictal and Topamax, and causing breakthrough seizures.

Wrap Up

You should avoid supplements that contain stimulants since they may exacerbate or precipitate an underlying seizure disorder like epilepsy, interact with anticonvulsant medicine, or increase the risk of acute seizures.

Moreover, as reported in various case studies, herbal ingredients like ginseng in pre-workouts may react with different anticonvulsants.

Hence, you should consult your doctor for sound medical advice before using pre-workouts if you have a history of convulsive disorders.

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