The downsides, health concerns of pre-workout

It’s hard for busy college students to have the energy to juggle classes and homework, let alone get to the gym every day. Relying on a caffeine supplement to give you a boost of energy may seem like a solution, but it can have its downfalls. 

Pre-workout is a powder meant to fuel a workout by being consumed right before. Different brands such as Bang, C4 and Optimum Nutrition claim it adds advanced strength, immediate focus and increased energy. But this workout product can actually be harmful. 

Pre-workout contains up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per serving. This, on top of other caffeine sources, can add up to almost twice the amount of caffeine your body can handle. Tanya Falcone, director of Kent State Wellness, said it can be detrimental to your health down the road when consumed every day. 

“It really has no benefits, the energy you feel is mostly mental,” Falcone said. “Too much and it can cause tingling and niacin flush which then results in a constriction of blood vessels.” 

Niacin flush is the result of taking large doses of vitamin B3, which is a main ingredient in pre-workout. According to Falcone, the small blood vessels in the skin dilate which causes a lot of blood to flow through. This is harmful to the liver and can cause stomach ulcers.

Pre-workout is made up of caffeine, B-vitamins and BCAA’s (branch-chain amino acids). According to Mayo Clinic, taken in small doses, BCAAs can be useful in helping muscle growth and performance, but the extra B vitamins are not. 

“Essentially, your body only consumes what it needs and anything extra comes out in your urine which is hard on the kidneys,” Falcone said. 

Sour gummy worm, cherry bomb and pink lemonade might be enticing pre-workout flavors, but they contain artificial sweeteners that do more than just spike your blood sugar levels. 

According to, aspartame, a sugar substitute with over 200 times the amount of sucralose, is often the main ingredient in these powders. This is why products can be labeled as sugar-free. 

“It (pre-workout) not only severely dehydrates you, it also disrupts the GI tract and and hardens arteries,” Falcone said. “These products, like pre-workout, only speed up these problems.” 

Falcone said your early 20s is the time to start paying attention to what you are putting in your body. Things you do now will pave the way for your health in years to come. said the demographic for pre-workout is college-aged students. Matthew Sunthimer, a senior biology major, said he relies on pre-workout to get him through his early morning gym sessions. 

“I’ve been trying to wean myself off of it and stick to just coffee in the mornings, but I feel like pre-workout just gives me the ability to lift heavier,” he said. “I realize that [it’s] probably all in my head, but after hearing about the side effects of it, I don’t think I will be re-buying it.”

Contact Sarah Arnold at [email protected].