“I’ve got the itch.”
“It’s a double-scoop kind of day.”
“PR or ER (personal record or emergency room).”
These common gym phrases all refer to taking — and the effects of — pre-workout supplements. Consistent gym goers typically consume pre-workout as a powder mixed with water.
One thing that many of the most popular brands — Ryse, Ghost, C4 — have in common, besides their increasing popularity, is their ridiculously harmful caffeine content.
A new wave of fitness culture has washed over young adults, as social media influencers — most notably “Cbum,” the “trentwinss” and Bradley Martin — advertise their virtually unattainable bodies and misleading health products.
Millions of young men around the world worship these people, copying their routines — which include pre-workout — in hopes of attaining 40 inch biceps and zero percent body fat.
There are pre-workouts with lower caffeine content such as C4 (150 milligrams per scoop) and Optimum nutrition (175 milligrams per scoop), but one of the most popular brands of pre-workout, Ryse, contains 390 milligrams of caffeine per scoop. That’s equivalent to chugging four cups of coffee at once. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t recommend consuming more than 400 milligrams in one full day.
As one can imagine, consuming 24 hours’ worth of caffeine in a matter of seconds isn’t healthy — and it’s especially bad for your heart. Taking pre-workout, on top of consuming other caffeinated items throughout the day such as soda and coffee, will exceed your daily recommended allowance, which can lead to an increased risk of a heart attack and high blood pressure when done frequently enough.
In a study conducted by Mayo Clinic, a total of 1,045 frequent pre-workout users, both male and female, took an online survey about their pre-workout use. 54% of the sample reported side effects. Of that subset, 23.4% reported heart abnormalities like heart palpitations and rapid heart rate, 25.6% reported nausea, and 34.3% had skin reactions such as rashes and itchiness.
I should also mention that the FDA doesn’t review any pre-workout supplements for safety or efficacy, according to Harvard University, which also recommends talking to a physician before using pre-workout.
A common misconception among new wave fitness gurus is that pre-workout improves your performance, which isn’t necessarily true. Some say that pre-workout is beneficial because of the presence of the amino acid beta-alanine, which can help “increase duration of high intensity movements” in relatively high doses. While beta-alanine is present in pre-workout, it’s also possible to buy it by itself without additives like caffeine.
Most gym goers don’t necessarily need pre-workout, and taking excessive amounts of caffeine on a day-to-day basis will increase your risk of heart problems as well as other strange side effects. It’s just not worth it.
Dylan Greco is the opinion editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org