Man can this be a hot topic! The question whether pre-workout supplements are safe or not divides health and fitness personalities. People either see them as perfectly safe and wonderful in every way, or that they are literally poison.
A little background on me, I have used a lot of pre-workout supplements but I don’t tend to use them regularly. There was a time when I would use the more consistently, but now I tend to only use them sporadically.
THE MAKING OF A PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENT
There’s an unending list of various ingredients that can be found in pre-workouts. The supplement industry has largely been able to do what it wants with little oversight from government agencies. So there are a whole lot of supplement companies out there! With so many companies, they all want to get the edge and use new and exciting ingredients. In most pre-workouts you’ll find creatine, caffeine, and beta alanine.
CREATINE – Yes it is safe. Let me say it again and again and again LOL It is the most researched in most proven supplement you can take. It works. Creatine helps you exert maximal energy and get those extra last reps. It also draws water your muscles. Over time, that extra work will help you get stronger and stronger. Get the scoop on creatine here.
CAFFEINE – Another highly studied and proven supplement! Caffeine is a great performance enhancer. If you are not sensitive to caffeine, most pre-workouts won’t be an issue. You should take caution if you have a large caffeine intake outside of your pre-workout. Caffeine is been shown to increase power output and have an anti-fatigue affect on running.
BETA-ALANINE – This is another supplement to help with muscular endurance. It is well studied, and like creatine, it’s not dependent on when you take it. You want to take it regularly to benefit from BA. One side effect of beta alanine is itchy or tingling feeling. It’s not harmful, outside of being annoying, and it does nothing.
So what gets people so mad about PWOs?
Much of the debate is centered around what’s in supplements. Again, with little oversight supplement companies can really put any and everything in their supplements. A lot of companies like to hide behind “proprietary blends.” Never telling you exactly what is in their products. I think the danger here is that more likely than not you are getting weaker supplement more fillers.
I believe there are valid concerns around caffeine in your stimulant intake. In moderation, I don’t believe caffeine is bad for you. If you consume a lot of caffeine through coffee, soda, etc. then you might want to be concerned with adding a pre-workout on top of it. Most pre-workout supplements only have the equivalent of a couple cups of coffee of caffeine. Large amounts of caffeine can stress the body and slightly increase your blood pressure. So proceed with caution if you have a history of sensitivity to caffeine. And take a break if caffeine stops being effective. You’ve created a tolerance and need a month off or so.
There are also many new and more powerful stimulants on the market. You might remember Jack3d. It was wildly popular and had a supplement called DMAA in it (or 1,3-Dimethylamylamine). DMAA is a powerful stimulant and acts more like an amphetamine. Many companies pulled DMAA as the FDA put on some pressure. There were some deaths linked to its use, but in most cases I recall it was actual abuse and overuse. The big thing with DMAA and all these supplements is dosing. That is why having a trusted company for your supplements.
DMAA is coming back on the market from some companies. So do your research! If you were to ask me my advice, I would stir clear and use what you know is safer.
In the end, I come away with two answers to some questions I get a lot:
Are PWOs safe? Yes, in most cases and for most people. You need to assess your own tolerance and always consult your doc before starting any new supplement.
Are PWOs effective? Again, yes but to a point. PWOs are Great for a boost of energy, increase of power, and endurance. They aren’t going to add 30 pull-ups to each set, but they are a piece of the puzzle. If I’m investing so much time into workouts and my nutrition, I want to maximize my efforts with the edge that supplements give.
Over all of this, I would encourage you to always use PWOs in moderation and always pick a trusted, well-respected company to buy your PWOs from.
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