Too Much Caffeine?

Caffeine Based Pre-Workout Supplements…Friend or Foe?
Written by Dave Lipson

If you have flipped through any popular fitness magazines you have probably seen advertisements for products like “N0-EXPLODE”, “Jacked-3D”, “Black Powder” “Hemo-Rage” and “Assault.” While these may sound like new band names on the “Warped Tour”, these are actually pre-workout supplements that you could find at your local vitamin/sport supplement store. They are coupled with tag lines like “Amazing Pumps!”, “Unleash Hell in Your Workout!”, and “Ignite Yourself!” These products claim to increase performance in workouts, providing more mental focus, energy, endurance and blood flow to extremities…but what do they really do? How do they work? And what are the real risks and benefits of consuming them?

Most of these supplements are based on caffeine, containing anywhere from 100-300 mg of caffeine in a serving. Just to compare, there is about 100 mg in an 8 ounce cup of coffee. When caffeine enters the body, systems start working harder to evacuate the substance from inside. There are events in the body like increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, the kidneys working harder causing frequent urination, and mental excitement. Make no mistake, caffeine is a powerful drug and has been associated with such silent killers as hypertension. Like many drugs, people tend to develop tolerances and are de-sensitized to the effects of caffeine, resorting to larger doses to achieve a mental high. Chronic and immoderate caffeine use can put undue stress on the adrenal glands and even lead to symptoms such as adrenal fatigue.

Having said that, there are also many advantages to using pre-workout supplements. I use pre-workout supplements from time to time, but I try to do it with an understanding and respect of their power, and a strategic application to my training. These products work. There is definitely a performance advantage when applied in the correct doses to the correct training. The University of Connecticut performed a study clearly showing an increase in bench press and grip strength for groups using pre-workout caffeine stimulants. Research has also confirmed the increased mental focus and acuity from the use of caffeine. For individuals who are trying to loose weight, caffeine can serve as an appetite suppressant and has been shown to increase both lipolysis (breakdown of fat) and thermogenesis (calorie burning).

In addition to caffeine, these pre-workout products are often stacked with other substances such as arginine (N.O.) a powerful vasodilator that is used to increase blood flow to the extremities – providing the “pump” to your arms. The intent is that the increased blood flow will increase performance.

Many of these products contain stimulants that are banned in significant doses for competitions by organizations like the USOC and the NCAA. I would recommend being careful and cross-referencing all the ingredients with a banned substance list in your sport. (Remember, even caffeine is banned in certain doses, so make sure you clear the substance with the appropriate organization.)

Due to the fact that these substances increase heart rate and blood pressure, I would not recommend them for activities where heart rate is already elevated, such as endurance events and metabolic (lactic) training. I have heard of many athletes that claim to feel like they are drowning due to overuse of caffeine in conditioning workouts and end up with nausea and vomiting.

To avoid becoming desensitized to the effects of these products I would recommend using them sparingly. I only use my pre-workout go-go-juice for a long and heavy strength training session to help with the mental fatigue that often accompanies such a stressor. Cycle these products on and off. Take a break after a few weeks and let your body normalize for a while with no or less caffeine. This will help you avoid many of the potential side effects of these pre-workout supplements. Remember, choosing the right supplements, like choosing the right diet, can assist you in your training, but in the end YOU are the determining factor in your training success.

Here is a quick overview of all the Pro’s and Con’s of pre workout stimulants:
Advantages

  • Increased Focus
  • Increased Energy
  • Increased Upper Body Strength
  • Fat Burning
  • Weight Loss

Disadvantages

  • Increased Blood Pressure
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Possible Drug Test Failure
  • Feeling of racing heart couple with nausea and vomiting
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LAB700
LAB700
August 17, 2015 3:52 pm

Update // We just released an improved version of Amino Ignite. The original was awesome, but we made it even better. New label, still non-stimulant and naturally sweetened/flavored; non-GMO.

pure whey protein
pure whey protein
July 2, 2014 1:26 am

To avoid desensitized to the repercussions of these products I would recommend using them sometimes.

Sport Nutrition
Sport Nutrition
March 17, 2014 11:28 pm

To avoid becoming desensitized to the repercussions of these products I would recommend using them sometimes.

Advanta Maxreduce
Advanta Maxreduce
March 12, 2014 4:48 am

To prevent becoming desensitized to the consequences of these items I would suggest using them occasionally. I only use my pre-workout go-go-juice for a lengthy and large durability exercise to help with the psychological exhaustion that often comes with such a stress factor.

Mark Tennis
Mark Tennis
December 1, 2013 11:47 am

I would work out everyday and be really sore the next morning when I woke up. Since I have been taking Dr Max Powers Anabolic Stack I have been waking up refreshed and ready to hit it again. The Dr Max Powers Stack gives me a lot of energy and that extra little push in the gym. I have been taking 1 packet per day and it has been going great. I plan to increase scoops next week to see what happens, Im anxious!!

Max Savin
Max Savin
October 2, 2013 4:05 pm

I’m the maker of a pre-workout called PHISM and a CrossFit.. just wanted to share that “possible drug test failure” is not a result of the pre-workout.. its just that some companies spike their products to get people raving about it.

Funsize JAimeson
Funsize JAimeson
August 4, 2013 6:38 am

This was super helpful, thanks!

himanshu rakheja
himanshu rakheja
July 14, 2013 12:38 pm

sir, i was used two black powder box with reboxin (inosin)i starting i feel good but after 4-5 days my body going striff and striff , i think my flexiblity is over, sir i continues used black powder 8 month i mean 20 days in one month. some time i used weider high energy two tablets, now i try weider arginine xplode after using this my body going striff more, i mean my legs and my back is more striff than my upper body,sir i am athelte i mean fast bowler, please help sir, suggest me some product with comes… Read more »

Maria Giz
Maria Giz
June 19, 2013 6:45 am

I’ve been taking The Dr Max Powers BURN for a little bit (not done with the bottle yet) but I already like how it’s working. I feel an increased amount of energy that’s helping me get motivated to go to the gym (and stay there longer than 15 minutes) and I’m seeing the numbers on the scale dropping consistently. It’s affordable, it arrived quickly, and I don’t experience any side effects from it. I drink at least 12-16oz of water in the morning when I take it before the gym. By the time I make it to the gym around… Read more »

himanshu baliyan
himanshu baliyan
May 13, 2013 11:49 pm

I want to ask you that Can we go for a cup of coffee before workout?
does it work as a pre workout supplement?

Devan
Devan
December 4, 2013 10:42 am

Yep.

MikeE
MikeE
January 9, 2013 3:47 pm

Awesome picture; Great Article! I remember researching usage of caffeine in endurance activities such as long distance running and found a document that had some proven/tested positive results with supplementing caffeine in both regular and non-users. In general, I like to pre-wod (any type of workout) with caffeine and do my best to not use it for every workout and not have it otherwise :).. Works pretty good for me I think.

Cheers,
Meberts

Jesse
Jesse
January 9, 2013 10:52 am

Thanks Dave!

Lulu
Lulu
January 8, 2013 8:02 pm

OMG, I almost peed my pants when this picture popped up. Dave please tell Cami that I laughed my ass off. Cami on Caffine, LOL. Big hugs and GOOD ADVICE 😀