Are Pre-Workout Supplements Healthy?   

Are Pre-Workout Supplements Healthy?

A woman takes a drink from her water bottle during a workout.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Robert Hildebrandt, RDN, CDCES

Pre-workout supplements—marketed to athletes or those trying to build muscle—are a growing multi-billion-dollar industry. These products claim to increase energy, focus, stamina and performance. But are they healthy for you?

Robert Hildebrandt, RDN, CDCES, a dietitian with the Diabetes Management Center at Southern Ocean Medical Center, says it can be difficult to tell. While a few third-party organizations have their own standards for analyzing and approving supplements, Robert says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any other government oversight organization does not regulate these products.

Because of this, it’s important to pay attention to an individual product’s ingredients to determine safety.

“Pre-workout supplements are a mix of ingredients. Some contain just a few, while others contain dozens,” says Robert. These ingredients may include caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, beta-alanine and creatine, among others.

How to Choose a Healthy Supplement 

Robert advises selecting one that has just a few ingredients and doesn’t have a lot of caffeine. Excessive caffeine intake, which can cause jitteriness, anxiety and sleep issues, is the most common risk with pre-workout supplements.

Robert also suggests using just a portion of the recommended serving size when starting off, as labels may not be accurate. Onesmall study found that just 11 percent of the 60 supplements tested contained accurate amounts of ingredients listed on their label. Approximately 40 percent didn’t contain any detectable amount of the specified ingredient at all.

How to get more out of your workout

“Pre-workout supplements aren’t necessary to have a good workout and feel better,” says Robert. In fact, if you are struggling with your workout or feeling extra fatigued, he advises analyzing your sleep and nutrition. Simple adjustments in these areas may help make the difference.

It’s also important to give yourself rest and breaks. If you don’t sleep well for a night or two don’t force yourself to go to the gym. “It’s okay to skip a workout or do an alternative such as yoga or going for a walk,” says Robert.

Pre-workout products, while marketed to the general public, aren’t necessarily needed for the average person to get a beneficial workout. But if you are struggling with energy during workouts, Robert suggests making your own “supplement” with “some coffee and a light meal, such as a smoothie, to get you the needed carbohydrates and electrolytes for a good workout.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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