Pre-Workout Pills: Red Flags to Watch Out For

Posted by Patrick Domkowski on Fri, Mar 20, 2020

Boosting your motivation and effectiveness before you go workout can be a benefit if you are trying to kickstart a weight loss routine. Pre-workout pills and powders seem like a great idea when you first look at them. Many claim to boost your energy levels, allowing you to workout harder and longer, while providing you with an increase in focus, blood flow, and pumping up your heart rate. Turns out, the way many of these pre-workout supplements provide these “results” can be dangerous to your health.

Here are some of the red flags you should look out for before you decide whether it is safe for you to use pre-workout pills.


No Caffeine Listed? RED FLAG

Remember the claim that these pills and powders can boost your energy and heart rate? That’s partly due to the high levels of caffeine mixed in most of these supplements. If you already drink a caffeinated beverage daily, unknowingly consuming large amounts of caffeine in one sitting can be extremely dangerous.

High levels of caffeine have been linked to cardiac arrest and heart distress. These levels for an average person remain very high, at over 500 mg. The average cup of coffee has anywhere from 80-100 mg of caffeine. Consuming more than 687 mg a day increased the risk of cardiac arrest (heart stopping) by 44%. If you also have a pre-existing heart condition, the risks can be worse when you consume too much caffeine.

In a study that was self-published by Labdoor, pre-workout pills and powders were tested to see what exactly they contained. Out of the 51 tested supplements, only 22 listed caffeine as an ingredient. It was found that 24 of the remaining 29 products contained caffeine that was not reported on the label. In addition, 14 of the supplements exceeded 200 mg per serving, equivalent to more than 2 times the caffeine in some popular energy drinks, and 5 exceeded 300 mg per serving. If you take one dose of pre-workout supplements on an average day with 2 cups of coffee, you may have already exceeded the average person's safety threshold without even knowing it.


Vague or Complex Ingredients Listed? RED FLAG

Reading labels can be a tricky thing to do when most of the ingredients listed don’t make any sense. It gets even more difficult when ingredients are being left off the label, or placed on it under a pseudonym.

In a study run by NSF International, researchers tested six different pre-workout pills and powders. The researchers found the supplements contained four unapproved stimulants mixed into the formula. These included two banned stimulants: 1,3-DMAA and 1,3-DMBA, and two previously banned stimulants: 1,4-DMAA and octodrine. None of these stimulants were directly listed on the label, but some were listed under pseudonyms.

Ingredients like octodrine (DMHA) and the others above directly affect your nervous system in different ways. DMHA works by increasing your body’s production and absorption of dopamine, giving off a high that helps you feel “pumped” at the gym. Manufacturers commonly label it as a “fat burner” on supplement packages. This is a hazard because your body will crave that high after long-term use of the product, just like any other stimulant that affects your nervous system. If you don’t know what an ingredient on the label actually is, search for it before you start to use it.


No Warning Label? RED FLAG

Most, if not all, pre-workout pills and powders don’t require FDA approval to be sold in the U.S.A. That also means most don’t come with a comprehensive list of warnings. Even if you do research on these products, it’s possible that you could be missing out on key information about the ingredients when they aren’t made clear by the company. Warnings should be stated clearly and made obvious to the consumer. If the pre-workout you are looking at using has no warnings listed, step away and reassess it. Here are the most common side-effects from using pre workout supplements.

  • Vomiting
  • Tingling/numbness in the face, lips, or extremities
  • Jitters
  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Flushed and red skin
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Itching
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Chest pain

Before you start using any supplements it is always a good idea to consult your physician or weight loss surgeon to determine whether a new pill or supplement is right for your body. If you’d like to set up a consultation with our experienced team to discuss how to lose weight safely for long-term results, click here. Our team at Steward Bariatric and General Surgery Center is always happy to help you on your health journey!

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