As men of advancing years, we are constantly trying to find ways to make gains, be as strong and fit as we used to be, and keep our declining energy levels on the up and up.

I don't know about you, but at 47, I don't have nearly the energy I had 15 years ago and with all of life's stresses, sometimes it's a struggle to even get into the gym at all.

So over the last few years I've been taking pre-workout supplements to give me a little extra motivation and boost in the gym. And what started out as just drinking a Red Bull in the morning has turned into a daily dose of my favorite pre-workout from Transparent Labs.

I actually decided to write this post because of a question I posted to the #FitDadNation on Facebook a while ago asking "what supplements are you taking and why".

The responses I got led me to believe that a lot more men are taking them than I thought and clearly this is an issue that holds an interest for my readers.

But I didn't want to jump on the bandwagon and just talk about the benefits and instead looked into the other side of taking pre-wokout supplements. The dark side...

The dark side is all the pre-workout supplement side effects you may or may not experience (or even be aware of).

In case you aren't familiar with them, some of the most popular pre-workout supplements right now are:

pre-workout supplement side effects

These are all stimulants with ingredients ranging from caffeine, creatine, niacin, beta-alanine, betaine, taurine, tyrosine, yohimbe, and B vitamins with each carrying their own unique blend of some or all of these ingredients and dozens more.

Dads, Think Long-Term! Pre-Workout Supplements Are NOT Long-Term!

Taking any one of the these popular powders will most certainly give you a boost in energy, focus, motivation, and even strength. I do have to attribute a certain amount of these to the placebo effect, but overall, they do work.

In the short-term.

But you're not interested in the short-term are you? You want to be healthy, fit, and energetic permanently, right?

As a fitness coach, I rarely if ever recommend my clients take a pre-workout supplement (or any supplement for that matter). Instead I teach the basics first.

  • Get enough sleep
  • Drink enough water
  • Do strength and cardiovascular exercise regularly
  • Eat high quality foods and in moderation
  • Avoid junk, processed foods, refined sugar, and soda
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Get enough sunlight
  • Stretch daily

In fact, our 90-Day Transformation Program, The Fit Dad Blueprint, is built entirely on the basis of sound nutrition, consistent exercise, and avoiding "quick" fixes like pre-workouts.

I mean, you can't reasonably expect to sleep for 5 hours per night, drink little or no water, eat a marginal diet, and then take a pre-workout supplement and expect to kill it in the gym and make incredible gains.

Not long-term anyway.

With that said, I will tell you that I have used and continue to use pre-workout supplements and other than a protein powder, that's all I use. But I also do the right things to take care of my body and don't just rely on the boost to get me through my workouts.

Right now I'm using Transparent Labs Lean Series Pre-Workout (strawberry lemonade and orange are the best flavors IMO) and haven't had any negative side effects other than the occasional jitters from all the caffeine and maybe a headache or two, but that's really it.

But for the freaks like me who want that rush of energy to help them through those brutal workouts and don't mind throwing caution to the wind, be aware of some of the dangers that lie within.

It's not all crazy energy and kick ass training sessions. There are downsides to taking pre-workout supplements as well.

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Pre-Workout Supplement Side Effects You Need to Know About

Most of us will never read past the first two or three ingredients on any supplement we take; we just don't really care all that much. We know that there are a ton of people already taking them, so what could it hurt to take them too?

Sure there's the chance you'll have an massive heart attack due to all the stimulants (and the fact that you're probably lifting more weight than you need to), but that's a very rare occurrence.

A few of the most common (and quite unpleasant) pre-workout supplement side effects are:

  • Vomiting
  • Tingling/numbness in the face, lips, or extremities
  • Jitters
  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Flushed and red skin
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Itching
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Chest pain

Don't be surprised if you experience one or several of these given that you're taking in large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants.

How About a Little Caffeine?

Across the board, one of the most prevalent ingredients in pre-workout supps is caffeine. And with good reason; it works!

For example, a 8.4 oz. can of Red Bull has 80mg of caffeine, which is about the same as a cup of coffee and twice as much as a 12 oz. Coke. A scoop of C4 Extreme has 135mg. Keep in mind that many people (including me) take 2 scoops before a workout. That's a shit ton of caffeine.

Now I don't have a sensitivity to caffeine but there a lot of people who do.

And while the labels of these supps usually tells us the caffeine content, the rest starts to get a little fuzzy.

The main problem with the labels is that we really don't know what's in it because each product has their own unique "proprietary blend" of energy boosters.

For example, here is the label for C4 (left) and Jack3D (right):

pre-workout supplement side effects

We can see some of the ingredients listed out with their doses, including 135 mg of caffeine for C4 and 100mg for Jack3D, but what about the rest of the "Explosive Energy Blend" or "Proprietary Blend"?

Sure they tell us the active ingredients, but we have no idea in what doses. This is significant because every person is going to have a different tolerance to different blends and it comes down to a matter of Russian Roulette, where we just have to try the supplement to see if it fucks us up.

Essentially, we are just trusting that it will work and that it won't kill us!

The good news is that companies are removing ingredients that are killing people, either by choice or by law. For example, USPlabs, (maker of Jack3d) removed DMAA from its products after a link to a U.S. Army soldiers death was reported. What they replaced it with might not be as effective, but at least it's potentially less of a risk.

But let's be honest here, we've heard about deaths linked to all kinds of products and if you dig deep enough, you can probably find people who have died from eating Twinkies or drinking Iced Tea.

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The Psychological Dangers Of Pre-Workout Supplements

What really concerns me as a fitness professional is not so much the physical dangers of taking these products. We all know on some level that there is a risk of having our hearts explode in our chest while squatting 315 for reps right after gulping down 2 scoops of your favorite pre-workout powder.

No, what I'm more concerned about is the dependency on supplements to get us through our workouts and what it does to our mental state and motivation in the long-term.

I'm fascinated by the psychological reasons behind why people exercise. It it for aesthetics? Longevity? Confidence? All of the above? What makes people get up and run 20 miles? What causes a man to turn his life around and lose 150 pounds in a year?

But what happens when we come to depend on that little extra boost that comes in a shiny can? What happens to our mental state when we don't take it after using it for long periods?

We come to believe that we cannot get a great workout, lift as much, work out as long or as intensely, or make the gains we want  without it. It's not so much our bodies, but rather our minds that begin to rely on this stuff to get us through our workouts.

Things like drinking lots of water, eating foods rich in complex carbs, and properly warming up take a back burner to ingesting some sweet tasting powder lined with chemicals, creatine, and ultra high doses of caffeine.

It's easy to fall into this trap. I know because I've been in it.

When we lean too much on these stimulants, it can become an addiction. Addiction to pre-workout supps is a real thing. I liken it to a junkie needing a fix and although I never got into drugs at all, I used to find myself jonesing for a hit of C4 each morning, hoping for that forgotten high I use to get.

I can't speak for any of you, but I've felt the need to have my powder every day, regardless if I was working out or not. It's a habit. A routine. And not a good one.

But if I sit here and tell you not to take pre-workout supplements, I would be a hypocrite. Like I mentioned, I have been taking them for years and for me, it's a risk I'm willing to take.

pre-workout supplement side effectsPlay It Smart

Straight up, I do not recommend taking any pre-workout supplements. I take them and won't tell you not to, but I would suggest weaning off or avoiding them altogether.

Why? Because you don't need them to get a great workout or to feel all pumped up. If you're eating right and living a healthy and active lifestlye, you really don't need that boost. But GNC and Bodybuilding.com will tell you that you do...so you go out and buy it.

But if you choose to ignore me (and I know you will!), here are few guidelines that may help you in the long-term:

  • Use only the recommended dosage. Don't get all fancy and double or triple up on the dose because you don't feel 1 scoop anymore. This is dangerous territory.
  • Cycle it. It's easy to want to use it every single time you exercise, but your body will adapt and also will come to depend on the chemicals. Try taking one week off for every three you use it.
  • Keep in mind that if taken regularly, you will become desensitized to caffeine and require higher and higher doses to feel the effects. This can put a great deal of stress on your adrenal glands and possibly lead to adrenal fatigue. Not good.
  • Don't mix it with any other stimulants like coffee, Red Bull, Monster or caffeinated tea. You'll get more than enough caffeine from a single scoop to last you through the day. Too much caffeine will leave you feeling like shit and your workout will suck. Believe me, I know.
  • Don't be a fucking idiot like this guy and put your CNS to the test. You just might lose.

So what I'm really telling you is to be smart about this stuff. Know your limits and listen to your body. And remember, there is no substitute for eating high quality foods, getting enough rest and drinking enough water.

These things will have a far greater impact on your performance than any amount of powder!

What The Supplement Industry Doesn't Want You To Know!

As I said, I've used pre-workouts regularly for years. I've tried dozens of them, researched dozens more, and spoken with numerous supplement companies. All because I want to know what's in them and which ones are legit.

Keep in mind that I recommend not taking these, but let's face it, you're going to take them anyway. So if that's the case, this guide will help you navigate through the ones that will kick your ass and the ones that will put you on your ass.

Don't say I didn't warn you!

Your turn

What pre-workout supplements are you taking right now?

Learn The 5 Most Critical Things You Need To Know Before Ever Taking Pre-Workouts… So You Can Take Them As Safely And Effectively As Possible. Download your guide, It’s FREE!









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