Look, I understand. You know you’ll feel better when you exercise. But maybe your alarm was extra unwelcome this morning, or you’ve had an exhausting day. And you know that with a little boost, you’re not only more likely to actually feel like you’re exercising—you’re also more likely to crush that workout.
And that makes pre-workout pretty appealing, but this rapid rise comes with serious downsides that you need to be aware of.
Why I don’t use pre-workout
You all know I take my sweating seriously. So many people are surprised to hear that I never do a pre-workout part of my routine. I mean, it’s a pretty standard part of the fitness lifestyle for a lot of people.
But that’s the point. Pre-workout is FILLED with synthetic ingredients like artificial sweeteners and untested supplements. Like, you’re really getting that boost from the chemicals coupled with a VERY heavy dose of caffeine. And that means it comes with side effects like:
- The ensuing energy crash
- Tingling and redness of the skin
- Water retention (read: bloating)
You might think that these side effects are probably very rare – but you would be wrong. A 2019 study found that 54% of people who used pre-workout experienced side effects, and these side effects were more common in women than men. This means that if you and your boyfriend both pre-work out, it’s very likely that at least one of you will have to deal with nausea, a skin reaction, or some other issue.
On top of all that, pre-workout raises your heart rate. If you’re going to do some serious cardio, this can put excessive (read: dangerous) strain on your heart.
As we learn more about what pre-workout does to the body, more and more health and fitness experts are speaking out against it. And I’m there with them.
What to watch out for
I’m not saying all this to scare you. But I think if you’re using a pre-workout it’s important to put some thought into it. Read the label and look for ingredients you don’t know. Here are a few common ones I would avoid:
- Excess caffeine: Many pre-workout products have over 250mg of caffeine per serving. Add to that your daily cup (or two) of coffee and you’ll quickly reach or exceed the FDA’s recommended caffeine intake of up to 400 milligrams. It is important not to shock your system and overload it too quickly.
- Beta-Alanine: This compound is supposed to help prevent muscle fatigue and soreness. But it also affects your skin. If you’ve ever felt a tingling sensation after taking a pre-workout, beta-alanine was probably to blame.
- niacin: Aka vitamin B3, niacin plays an important role in your metabolism. But if you eat a healthy diet, you should already be getting enough of it. And high levels of niacin in the pre-workout period cause reddening of the skin, so much so that many people develop red blotches on their skin.
- Creatine: Creatine is quite a popular fitness supplement because it helps increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance. But you know what else is empowering? Water retention. This is such a common problem that it has a name: creatine bloat.
- Citrulline: This amino acid is supposed to help your body build muscle mass by supplying more blood to the muscles. But it also increases blood flow to your brain, and this increased pressure can cause headaches.
I know there are some people who swear by pre-workouts and I get it. I’m not trying to argue against using what you have available to make you feel your best during your sweats! I’m just trying to say that there are some natural, much healthier ways to pump yourself up.
Basically, before reaching for this quick fix, consider what your body really needs. A healthy and varied diet has a big impact on how you feel, both during exercise and in general. And eating right doesn’t have to be hard. Don’t forget we have our LSF Nutrition Plans and Protein + Wellness Boosts to help!
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