Pre-workout supplements are a great source of extra energy before a workout on days when you’re feeling groggy or down. However, there are some substances in pre-workouts that may not be the healthiest in large amounts. Caffeine is one of them.
There are many caffeine-free pre-workouts on the market. Caffeine-free pre-workouts are best for people who already consume enough caffeine daily or are trying to avoid it. A healthy adult should aim for less than 400mg of caffeine per day to be safe.
Pre-workouts work great for some people. However, some pre-workouts contain caffeine that goes above the suggested safe level. For some, that’s just a deal-breaker. Hence, we have caffeine-free pre-workouts. Although they are free of caffeine, they could still have some substances that are not always good for your body.
Take note that not everyone may respond well to pre-workouts. Going the caffeine-free route may be a personal choice or a requirement for some people. But if you are reading this article, you are probably interested in caffeine-free pre-workouts already. Rest assured, you’ll find good ones for you on the market. Just make sure to check the ingredients list properly and that the sugars and preservatives in the pre-workout do not go beyond what’s recommended.
Why Avoid Caffeine?
Caffeine has a ridiculous amount of marketing and misleading research surrounding it, similar to smoking in the 60s. While it’s ingrained into our culture and studies seem to come out all the time, showing that caffeine is good for you, it’s anything but. Caffeine is a potent CNS stimulant that gives you energy by literally stressing you out. The way it works is actually pretty similar to hard drugs.
While caffeine makes you more alert and gives you more energy, that’s because your body thinks it’s in danger and needs to get ready to perform. While this is great in caveman times or even before a workout, doing it every day compounds your chronic stress levels, which has been proven to be the root cause of many diseases.
While some studies show that coffee drinkers live longer (not all), you can get the same antioxidants from coffee by drinking tea instead, or even decaf coffee. Caffeine has side-effects that industry-sponsored studies always fail to mention. You will never see a study prove that caffeine is good for you, only that it’s not that bad.
What Are Pre-Workouts?
Pre-workout is the shortcut for the term “pre-workout supplements.” They usually come in powders that you have to mix and then drink.
The entire purpose of pre-workouts is to help boost your energy. Nobody is perfect, and you don’t always have the energy to work out. Considering that working out is a habitual task, you still need to trudge on. Pre-workout supplements are the easy answer to that problem. You just whip up a pre-workout drink, and then you’ll be good to go!
It seems like an excellent tradeoff, and in many cases, it could be. However, it would help if you were wary of some substances in pre-workouts since some of them could affect your body in negative ways. It’s not to say that pre-workouts are inherently a bad thing. They work pretty well for some people without adverse effects.
But take note that pre-workouts are not FDA approved. Supplements, generally, are not. But just because pre-workouts are not FDA approved does not mean that they’re all bad. But you may need to demonstrate extra vigilance in choosing a pre-workout that has less of the harmful stuff.
Better yet, you should consult with your physician if you have any underlying health issues that may prevent you from enjoying the benefits of pre-workout.
What Are the Common Ingredients in Pre-Workouts?
Here are some of the most common ingredients in pre-workouts and what they do to give you a guide on what to look out for.
Of course, we can’t miss caffeine. It is one of the most common components in many pre-workout supplements. Nearly all of them rely on caffeine to give that extra boost of energy. You’ll understand how this works if you need a cup of coffee to help you jumpstart your day. Caffeine is easy and works remarkably well.
There is usually about 300mg of caffeine in a single serving of pre-workout. That would be equivalent to around 2 or 3 cups of coffee. That’s within the safe amount if that’s the only caffeine you consume. But if you take coffee in the mornings and at different intervals throughout the day, it could easily stack up. Then you would go beyond the suggested (and safe) limit.
Caffeine may have positive benefits, but there are also negative ones. Balancing the line between caffeine’s benefits and the cons to it is crucial. You will not maximize the effects of caffeine if you are not careful about your caffeine consumption.
Creatine is a compound that is incredibly helpful in boosting your energy. It does so by stimulating the muscles and allows for more movement during a workout. If you have been struggling to finish a certain set or want to achieve more, creatine is a great and helpful tool.
Creatine is generally safe to ingest, even regularly. However, it would be best if you were wary about taking it in large quantities. Creatine has also had a successful reputation in increasing strength, overall muscle morphology, and fat-free muscle gain (Cooper et al., 2012). There are supposed negative side-effects with creatine use. However, most of these claims are merely anecdotal, and there are no supportive clinical studies (Kreider et al., 2017). Still, you may want to be cautious with excessive creatine intake.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps improve exercise performance. Although it’s a very well-known substance, the proof of its effectiveness is a little flimsy. For example, this research paper by Hobson et al. (2012) shows that beta-alanine did not have statistically significant results compared to placebo.
On the plus side, there is also research providing insight on the positive effects of beta-alanine. One of the most common uses of this amino acid is to help the elderly with exercise endurance. And some studies, such as the one by Furst et al. (2018), showed these results. This tells us that beta-alanine could have some positive results that help with exercise performance.
Why Do You Need a Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout?
Many of us have integrated caffeine into our daily lives. It should not be a foreign idea to us that we ingest additional caffeine in some substances. But as previously mentioned, pre-workouts can pack a lot of caffeine. The high content is necessary for the extra energy kick.
The best time to drink caffeine is before a workout. Caffeine gives you energy by stressing you out and making your body ready to perform. It does this by raising your blood sugar levels and increasing cortisol and adrenaline. That’s great when you’re about to move, but not so great when you’re sitting in an office chair.
Plus, proper intake of caffeine is good in moderate amounts. Caffeine is not an entirely bad thing, especially when consumed properly. But proper use is not given in all situations.
The rate of caffeine use is steadily increasing. With that increase also comes the additional number of people who are at risk of caffeine intoxication. Remember, caffeine is a psychoactive drug and can be addictive. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t get their fix of coffee.
Even worse, the chances for caffeine intoxication are higher in people who are not regular caffeine consumers. For example, you are a teenager who has never really gotten used to coffee or excessive caffeine intake. You would be more prone to the negative effects of excess caffeine. These effects include headaches or temporary nausea.
While there is a safety threshold for coffee, the real amount that is safe for you to ingest largely depends on your coffee tolerance and your experience with it. Do not assume that because everyone is drinking startling amounts of coffee, you can do so as well. There are genuine bodily consequences of drinking too much coffee.
Should I Use a Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout?
It depends very much on who you are and what you can tolerate. If you have a high tolerance for coffee and using reasonable amounts of caffeine, you can go for regular pre-workouts.
But if you are someone with a low tolerance for caffeine, you might benefit best from staying away from regular pre-workouts. There are caffeine-free pre-workouts that will do the same job without the caffeine jolt.
Additionally, if you are trying to wean yourself off of caffeine, then you should not worry. You probably have access to a caffeine-free pre-workout near you. Caffeine intake is habitual. If you want to get off caffeine slowly, you can start by lessening your use of caffeinated pre-workouts and moving to caffeine-free ones.
Overall, you’ll need to make the decision yourself. It’s a personal choice that has pros and cons at weights that vary depending on personal preference.