Some people take pre-workout supplements to help them with energy and focus throughout their workout.
But, what are the potential effects of these supplements on blood pressure levels?
A recent study looked at the effects of a pre-workout supplement on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. The results were quite surprising.
In this article, you will find all you need to know about how pre-workouts affect blood pressure.
Pre-workouts essentially combine ingredients such as caffeine, niacin, arginine, beta-alanine, etc., that can modulate the blood flow to different organs such as the brain and muscles, contributing to increased endurance and mental focus that will accentuate your workout performance.
But these same effects can have undesirable outcomes if you are a blood pressure patient, as extremely high or extremely low blood pressure may also prove detrimental for your health and put you in life staking situation.
For this article, I compiled some facts about pre-workout supplements and the blood pressure modulating potential of some of the most common ingredients used in them so that you can look out for them during your next purchase.
How do Pre-workouts affect Blood pressure?
Considering the ability of ingredients in pre-workouts to modulate the blood flow by constricting or dilating the endothelial blood vessels, these may cause either high blood pressure or low blood pressure.
But since most pre-workouts use caffeine as the primary stimulant, most users have reported an increase in their blood pressure.
But then again, the vasodilatory properties of other ingredients like arginine and niacin may cause a decrease in blood pressure.
Hence, the information about the ability of pre-workouts to affect blood pressure has gravity for both hypertensive and hypotensive patients.
Keep reading to find out how the different ingredients in pre-workouts affect your blood pressure:
Caffeine is added to nearly all pre-workouts as a Central Nervous System stimulant to increase focus and energy.
You might be wondering that if a hot brewed cup of coffee in the morning doesn’t bother you so much so, what may be the connection between a glass of pre-workout and high blood pressure?
The reason is that one serving of your pre-workout supplement may hit you with up to 350 mg of caffeine, which is equal to approximately three to four cups of coffee.
Moreover, the maximum recommended safe dose of caffeine per day is 400mg, and this is easily approachable if you gulp in a high caffeine pre-workout in the day.
Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, and such high doses of it have the potential to increase systolic blood pressure, which may increase the risk of hypertension, heart palpitation, or even heart attack.
So, the best pre-workout for high blood pressure is the one with low caffeine content.
2. Bitter Orange (Synephrine)
Synephrine is a compound in bitter orange that resembles ephedrine.
And thus, manufacturers have increasingly shifted their focus towards it after the ban of ephedrine to impart weight loss effect, enhance energy levels, mental focus, and exercise performance in consumers.
The effect of bitter orange on blood pressure needs to be investigated more.
However, according to this review of different studies, both synephrine and caffeine are stimulants.
But instead of stimulating the cardiovascular or central nervous system, synephrine generates its effects by loosely binding to adrenergic receptors.
Thus, it does not have the potential to increase blood pressure; instead, it causes a slight decrease in diastolic blood pressure.
But this doesn’t drop bitter orange out from the suspicion of causing hypertension.
According to this clinical trial, the administration of bitter orange caused an increase in the participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
It also caused the heart rate to increase within two hours of administration of bitter orange (synephrine).
Nonetheless, bitter orange is a sympathomimetic and contains amino stimulants like synephrine, octopamine, and N-methyltyramine, which have the reputation of increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
So, bitter orange may affect your blood pressure in one way or another.
And as bitter orange is present in pre-workouts in combination with caffeine, it may have the potential to shoot your blood pressure if you are hypertensive or hypersensitive to stimulants and pose a risk of stroke or heart attack.
Therefore, it is better to check up with your doctor for his recommendation and monitor your BP after consuming pre-workouts.
3. Arginine and L-citrulline
On the other hand, Arginine and L-citrulline are amino acids added together in pre-workouts to provide ergogenic support and promote recovery from exercise.
According to this review, nitric oxide is a molecule that modulates vasodilation.
Arginine lowers blood pressure as it is the primary precursor of Nitric Oxide (NO) synthesis. On the other hand, L citrulline is converted into L-arginine and contributes to the same function by acting as a secondary precursor.
It is mentioned in this review that in one of the clinical trials, arginine lowered blood pressure by 5.39/2.66 mmHg.
Whereas the potential of L-citrulline to exert the same hypotensive effects vary between 4.1/2.08 to 7.54/3.77 mmHg.
As these two ergogenic nutrients, L citrulline and arginine, are present together in pre-workouts and act synergistically to improve exercise performance, their blood pressure-lowering potential gets combined as well.
Thus, be watchful of your blood pressure if you take anti-hypertensive medicines, as drug interactions may make it fall too low.
Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid with vasodilation properties and is another beneficial ingredient used in most pre-workouts to increase blood flow.
This ability of taurine to promote a constant blood flow to the muscles reduces muscle fatigue and improves workout performance.
This clinical trial is the first evidence that elucidates the hypotensive potential of taurine in prehypertensive individuals.
According to it, taurine reduced the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 7.2 mm Hg and 4.7 mm Hg, respectively.
You can look for pre-workouts that don’t have taurine in them or consult your doctor for possible drug interactions if you take certain medications in case taurine will make your blood pressure drop to a dangerous level.
Beta-alanine in pre-workouts helps to increase endurance and reduce muscle fatigue during strenuous exercises.
As found in this clinical trial, beta-alanine can increase carnosine synthesis.
Carnosine is an amino acid that can increase lactic acid buffering in the muscle.
Resistance exercises can lead to the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, and carnosine may prevent muscle soreness due to it.
Concerning its effect on blood pressure, carnosine is a vasodilating molecule, and according to this review that compiled different murine studies, it has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
According to the Rxlist, you have to be cautious when taking pre-workout blood pressure medicines like nifedipine, verapamil, and others that you can find in the hyperlink as they may interact with beta-alanine to make your blood pressure drop too low.
Nitrosigine is another ingredient in pre-workouts that has gained popularity due to its potential to reduce muscle fatigue post-exercise and being more beneficial than L-citrulline to increase arginine for a greater length of time.
As I mentioned above, arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide, and nitrosigine works by increasing arginine availability, thus promoting vasodilation.
This vasodilation may increase blood flow to the muscles for longer. However, this effect appears to lower both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as found in this research.
Nitrosigine is a non-stimulant molecule, and due to the properties mentioned above, it is widely employed in both non-stim and low stim pre-workouts.
If you are consuming non- stim or low-stim pre-workouts due to hypertension or sensitivity to stimulants, nitrosigine is one ingredient that may create problems for you.
Niacin (vitamin B3) doesn’t necessarily contribute to increasing exercise performance and is mainly added to induce a flushing effect and may also be the reason for the pre-workout side effect tingling.
The vasodilating property of niacin increases the blood flow to the face and upper body to cause a burning sensation that gives the impression to the user that the pre-workout they consumed is actually working.
This review compiled different clinical trials and reported that niacin supplementation might exert its hypotensive properties in hypertension patients only and has no effect in normotensive individuals.
So, with respect to the available research, you need to be especially careful with pre-workouts if you are diagnosed with hypertension, as niacin is one of the common ingredients in pre-workouts.
Wrap Up – Pre Workout and High Blood Pressure
To sum it up, the different ingredients in pre-workouts have varying vasodilatory or vasoconstrictive effects, which may either lower or increase the blood pressure.
For instance, caffeine may make your blood pressure skyrocket. And if you are already hypertensive, it may lead to more adverse outcomes.
On the other hand, ingredients like niacin may lower your blood pressure if you have hypertension.
Other ingredients may also interact with your hypertension medicines and make your blood pressure dip too low. Which again becomes a risky deal.
Thus, it is better to discuss with your doctor the possible interaction between pre-workout and blood pressure medication and the risks of using pre-workouts if you are predisposed to either hypertension or hypotension.