Pre workouts and Anxiety: Can it make you anxious?

January 8, 2024 |

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Can pre-workout supplements cause anxiety attacks?

Should you avoid pre-workout if you have anxiety?

Yes, pre-workout supplements can cause anxiety in some people. Many pre-workout supplements contain caffeine and other stimulants which can cause racing thoughts, anxiousness, and other negative side effects.

In this article, you will find out everything you need to know about pre-workout and anxiety.

Pre-workouts contain a cocktail of stimulants that you can take to pump up the body for some physical training.

But any overstimulation may make you feel anxious.

And if you are already sensitive to ingredients like caffeine or are diagnosed with anxiety disorders, this stimulation may work up your anxiety a bit more than others.

Some of the anxiety symptoms you may encounter after your pre-workout drink are jitters, sweating, or restlessness.

Keep reading to discover why pre-workout might be anxiogenic and what you can do to counter these effects.

Can pre-workout make your anxiety worse?

Yes, some, if not all, pre-workout supplements have certain ingredients that can cause anxiety.

Pre-workouts have ingredients that may improve mental focus and endurance to enhance performance during your gym session.

But that stimulant effect of the ingredients in the pre-workout concoction has anxiogenic effects.

Preworkout for Anxiety

The ergogenic constituents like caffeine, Yohimbe, and bitter orange can mess with your central nervous system, and if you are sensitive to them, these may also worsen your anxiety.

In this section, I have included the research on these ingredients so that you know what to avoid when buying your next pre-workout batch and why.

  • Yohimbe

Yohimbe is one of the ingredients used in pre-workouts for its potential to promote fat loss.

From my research, I found out that anxiety is one of the side effects of Yohimbe. Which I suppose might be the first evidence of Yohimbe’s potential to exacerbate anxiety in patients with depressive and anxiety disorders.

The observed effects are restlessness, panic attacks, heart palpitations, nervousness, and restlessness.

  • Bitter orange

Bitter orange, also known by the scientific name Citrus aurantium, is used as a stimulant in pre-workouts to promote weight loss and enhance performance.

Since the FDA banned the use of ephedrine in pre-workouts, manufacturers have resorted to bitter orange (synephrine) in their formulations.

Synephrine resembles ephedra, and it interacts with the central nervous system, as explained in this paper.

It functions as a sympathomimetic and is suspected of causing anxiety like ephedra.

But, as reported in this study, the quantity of synephrine in pre-workouts is not standardized, and most of them contain 0.013 mg – 0.43 mg bitter orange (synephrine) per serving.

Moreover, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has also banned synephrine because of its resemblance to ephedra. And this is another reason why you should look out for it in the pre-workout ingredients.

  • Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the central ingredients used in pre-workouts to energize the body before you hit the gym.

Your sensitivity to caffeine can vary from other people because of genetics.

Most pre-workouts have a caffeine content that ranges from 150 mg to 350 mg, which is very near to the safe dose of 400mg per day.

And according to this research, supplementation with even 150 mg caffeine was enough to cause caffeine-induced anxiety in the study participants.

Caffeine is a Central Nervous System Stimulant. It activates the sympathetic nervous system and induces a ‘fight or flight’ response’ in the body to increase mental focus and performance during exercise.

Some caffeine symptoms you might face are increased heart rate, sweating, jitters, nausea, and increased sweating.

How do I stop pre-workout anxiety?

This section of the article will cover all your pre-workout anxiety issues.

Whether you are looking for the best pre-workout for anxiety, or you want to stick to your favorite pre-workout and find ways to countervail its anxiogenic potential, you will find all the answers right here.

  • Drink water

Dehydration can make the effect of pre-workouts more pronounced. And flushing out the stimulants that are jacking up your central nervous system might be the best way to reduce anxiety.

Guzzling down a lot of water, approximately two glasses for every glass of pre-workout, may help.

  • Exercise

Stimulants in pre-workouts energize your body and cause restlessness.

Expending some of that energy with mild exercise may help relieve such anxiety symptoms.

Try stepping out for a jog or lifting some light weights at the gym to utilize the energy gushing in your body because of the pre-workout.

But don’t go too overboard with your exercises, as anxiety is already making your heart beat faster and strenuous training may escalate your heart rate even further, increasing your risk of a heart attack.

  • Relax for a bit

The stimulants you are gulping in will not last forever, and the anxiety they are causing may fade away eventually once their half-life completes.

Caffein, for instance, may stay in your system for about 1.5 to 9.5 hours. And while you wait to let the symptoms clear up on their own, you may take on some breathing exercises.

Since one of the effects of anxiety is increased breathing and heart rate, deliberately taking slow deep breaths may help calm down your hyperactive nervous system.

  • Herbal drinks

Herbal drinks may help attenuate the effect of the stimulants in the pre-workouts that are causing anxiety.

Caffeine is metabolized in the liver by the CYP1A2 enzyme.

And according to this murine research, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, and dandelion tea extracts may affect the metabolism of caffeine-containing preparations in the liver. Moreover, these teas also have an anxiolytic effect that may help ameliorate the anxiety caused by pre-workouts.

  • Brassica vegetables

According to this study consuming Brassica vegetables before caffeine consumption can increase the activity of the enzyme CYP1A2 in the liver.

Which reduces the half-life of caffeine by 20% as the caffeine metabolism in the liver becomes faster.

However, in contrast, apiaceous vegetables may slow down caffeine metabolism.

You can consume broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage at least 3 hours before pre-workouts with high caffeine content to reduce the duration of anxiety-like symptoms, as these vegetables may promote faster elimination of caffeine from the body.

  • Opt for Less stimulating pre-workouts

The primary purpose of pre-workout is to rev you up for your gym session, and nearly all of them use caffeine as a stimulant in one form or another to make them work.

However, stimulant-free and low caffeine supplements are available that may not trigger your anxiety. Moreover, you can also give some organic pre-workouts a try.

Nonetheless, you can also raid your kitchen to find stuff that will energize you for workouts.

Stim-free pre-workouts focus on ingredients other than caffeine that can have a stimulant effect.

Such components can be beta-alanine to increase muscle endurance and nitrosigine to increase blood flow and enhance energy.

On the other hand, low caffeine pre-workouts may also prevent stirring up anxiety.

Look for those with a caffeine content between 80 mg to less than 150mg.

Some such stim-free and low caffeine options are C4 sports pre-workout, ProSupps Jekyll NitroX, Pre-lab pro, and performance lab supplement.

Organic pre-workouts are based on natural ingredients that can energize you.

For instance, some ingredients that can help with performance are maca, pomegranate, beetroot, etc. organic muscle is one such example of organic pre-workouts that claims to prevent jitters.

You can always ditch processed powders and replace them with pre-workout foods like banana, oatmeal, apple, peanut butter sandwich, or a bowl of yogurt.

The nutrients in these foods will energize your body before a workout and eliminate the risk of anxiety stepping in.

  • Use L-theanine

L- theanine is an amino acid with anxiolytic properties that may help ease down those jitters. It works by counteracting the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.

L- theanine is one of the desired ingredients in pre-workouts that can help calm you down without having a sedative effect.

Thus, it increases your performance at the gym by reducing anxiety while maintaining alertness.

Reddit users approve of the anxiolytic effect of L theanine on pre-workout anxiety, and one such piece of evidence can be found in this thread.

You can look for pre-workouts that already have L theanine in the ingredients, such as the 4-gauge pre-workout.

Or you may try supplementing 100mg- 200mg of L-theanine with your regular pre-workout drink and see if it helps calm down the adrenaline rush.

Other amino acids that can have a calming effect are L-taurine and L- lysine.

Taurine is the precursor of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. You can look for advice from your trainer or doctor for their supplementation to counterbalance pre-workout-induced anxiety as well.

How long does pre-workout anxiety last?

The effects of pre-work anxiety last around an hour, but it could stay in your system for up to 4 hours after you’ve taken the pill.

After an hour, the anxiety will start to wear off and you’ll feel more relaxed.

However, if the anxiety is caused by stress, it could take a few hours for the effects to wear off.

Wrap Up

To wrap it up, if consuming your pre-workout kicks in some uncomfortable symptoms, pay attention to them rather than ignoring them.

Most of the stimulants used in pre-workout are not even scientifically proven to produce the effects they are added for, so it is wise to be skeptical about the link between pre-workout powder and anxiety.

Moreover, long-term anxiety may be health-damaging and cause heart problems and irritable bowel syndrome.

So always act fast when your pre-workout makes you feel overanxious or stressed.

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