Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Workout Supplements, According to a Dietitian

If Instagram ads boasting a more energized exercise session have sparked your interest in pre-workout supplements, you may want to think twice before impulse buying.

"You never know what you're truly getting in a supplement. They are not regulated by the FDA, so the supplement label (note: not the food label) is a farce," Nyree Dardarian, MS, RD, and an assistant clinical professor at Drexel University, said of protein-powder performance enhancers.

If an energy boost is a driving force behind your attraction to pre-workout supplements, Dardarian insists that sipping on a cup of coffee is a much safer alternative.

On average, added supplements contain 150 to 300 mg of caffeine per serving, which equals around three cups of coffee. According to Dardarian, too much caffeine can increase your blood pressure and impair sleep patterns.

You may be looking to pre-workout products for added nutrients that'll impact the outcome of your sweat sessions. To this, Dardarian said eating fast carbohydrates — something as simple as a banana, for example — will do the trick naturally.

Having a coffee and a banana before exercising could prevent you from consuming unhealthy ingredients you may not even realize are possibly in pre-workout products, too.

Dardarian used ephedra as an example. In 2004, the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids (compounds found in some ephedra species) due to increased risk of heart problems, stroke, and other health complications amongst users.

Another ingredient to look out for is a performance-enhancing amino acid called beta-alanine, which Dardarian warned could cause you to feel tingly all over your body.

"You cannot improve your overall health with one shot of a mixed cocktail," Dardarian summarized.

Despite how sore and tired you may feel before a gym session, the risks associated with pre-workout supplements may outweigh the rewards. Talk to your doctor before incorporating any new supplement into your routine and listen to your body by resting and fueling it with natural, healthy foods.

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