An age old question has come to the forefront of my life because a few short years ago, I was diagnosed with very high blood pressure. I had to evaluate everything I was putting into my body, and make some decisions on some products that I was supplementing with. At one point, I posed the question, are pre-workouts safe?
My Doctor explained to me many things about what caused blood pressure to rise, and of course, my ridiculous amount of uppers I was putting into my body certainly contributed to the problem. While it wasn’t all to blame on pre-workout supplements, the topic of safety was a discussion we had, and today I’ll delve into my take on the safety of these supplements aimed to get you jacked up to hit the gym or do some cardio.
Analyzing the Safety of Pre Workout Supplements
There is no question that the best pre workout supplements will get you amped up and really improve your workouts. But if you are aren’t careful, you can potentially do some damage to your body while putting some horrible ingredients into your system.
The fact is that many of the pre-workout drinks are packed with ingredients that do nothing for your health while the ingredients that are hyped and trending are only added in very minimal amounts. The end result is that many of these products are simply cheap stimulants with some magical dust splashed on top to add some punch to the label.
Other products are just pure garbage.
Some are even highly dangerous. I read on Legion Athletics that the USPLab’s supplement, which you’ve probably seen – called “Jack3d,” contains a banned stimulant known as DMAA.
What’s worse? There is a supplement called “Craze” that contained a chemical akin to methamphetamine.
You need to be very careful when selecting these drinks. It can be hard to find a blend that is not only easy on stimulants but loaded with stuff that is proven to work and help your mind and body through a workout.
In my situation, I was doing a lot of things prior to working out. Let me walk you through my day.
Wake up at 6 AM, read emails and organize my day. Consume two cups of coffee. Have a diet pill with green coffee bean extract and some BCAA’s.
Around 11 I start getting ready for the gym. Have a pre-workout drink and hit the gym (fasted) at 12:00.
***This all posed a major problem for me. I was on so many uppers that yes, I was feeling great and getting great results, but I was also succumbing to migraine headaches. This was all due to an elevated blood pressure thanks to all of these stimulants.
So while a pre-workout (I choose wisely and selected one that isn’t harmful) was something safe, when I consumed it in tandem with all of the other things you read about above, it was overkill on my body. Yeah, bone-headed move. No wonder I got to a weight I hadn’t seen since college! However, it wasn’t worth it. Living on Advil to ease the pain of migraines is no way to live. This was by far the worse pain I’d ever experienced and I needed it to stop, immediately.
I made some changes, cut out the coffee and stopped taking diet pills. I chose either a pre-workout or BCAA’s, but never both. I’m happy to report that it’s under control.
Why Are Most Pre Workout Drinks Bad for You?
According to Legion Athletics owner Mike Mathews, to make a good supplement, the cost is quite high. Forget manufacturing costs for a moment, and you have to know that each product has to go to a distributor, and then to a retailer. Of course, everyone named in that last sentence is in the business to make a margin.
The logic is simple, the cost to make a drink that’s worthwhile is very high. Very few companies put out a drink that is worth a damn.
Facts to Know:
Most of the hyped ingredients are in VERY low doses.
Many of the ingredients are garbage fillers.
Credible evidence is basically zero backing up the claims made by most companies.
Which Ingredients in General are Bad for You?
With so many options out there at your local nutrition store, Amazon.com, or other online supplier, it’s hard to siphon through all the crap out there and find something that actually works.
Mathews laid out a great example (Which I’ve used below – and all credit goes to him) about not putting any faith in “proprietary blends.” What this is in simple terms is the fact that the blended together a bunch of ingredients under one label. See the image below for an example:
eNos Super Performance System” and “CNS Contractile Stimulant System” are examples on this label of what you’d see as a “proprietary blend.”
The issue Mathews points out is that you have no idea as to what you are purchasing!
In any nutritional label, you’ll find that the ingredients are shown in descending order by weight. In skin care you’ll hear this being “percent of active ingredients.” So the first listed ingredient has the highest concentration and so on, and so forth. However, you have to take one thing into consideration here: a blend can be 99% of one ingredient and just a tiny sprinkle of the others.
As Mathews continues, these products are made to deceive and fraud.
Effective ingredients are all over Google – you’ll find no lack of information on “what works.” Anything touted as some “hack” or “magic formula” is pure garbage.
If you don’t know what you are buying into, it’s because the company doesn’t want you to know.
Pro Tip: Don’t Buy Pre Workouts Made with “Proprietary Blends.”
What a Label Should Look Like:
On this label, you’ll find that every ingredient is made clear to you without any “blends,” or “complexes.” It’s all very clear.
When you can review a label like the one above, you have a clear path to judge any supplement. You can do your own research on ingredients and deem them worthy – or not – as you try to decide on a product that will work. This works with skin creams, weight loss products, vitamins, and testosterone products for men.
As time passes on, I’ll come back to this post to link you to studies of ingredients commonly found in diet pills and pre-workout supplements. You can also look at products our crew has analyzed and tested, such as the female pre-workout supplement list.
So far, I have research on the following: