While pre workouts are a good way of getting your body pumped up for your gym session, they can sometimes lead to overstimulation. This overstimulation can lead to anxiety.
If you have noticed yourself getting anxiety attacks and you think consuming a pre workout supplement may be the reason for it, keep reading. We will tell you everything you need to know - from the symptoms to its prevention.
What Is A Pre Workout?
The name explains when it is taken, but let’s first talk about it.
Pre workout is a supplement that is usually taken before working out. The usual consumers of these supplements are athletes and bodybuilders, as they increase energy levels and improve performance during exercise. However, it is not limited to just these consumers.
Pre workout supplements contain different ingredients aimed at helping you gain muscle mass. Pre workouts are available in the form of pills or powder, which is to be mixed and taken as a drink.
Can Pre Workout Supplements Cause Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural thing that almost everyone experiences in their lives. There is a chance your anxiety is because you are a competitive athlete or maybe due to other reasons.
However, many pre workout supplements can indeed cause anxiety. As already mentioned, they contain ingredients meant to energize you for the workout. If those ingredients like caffeine, Yohimbe Bark Extract or other stimulants are taken in an excessive amount – whether through these pre workout supplements or any other means – they will lead to anxiety.
If you have been taking pre workout supplements regularly, your anxiety is likely caused by them. It is not because of the ingredients in the pre workouts themselves; instead, it is the number of pre workouts you are consuming.
If you have been mixing many pre workout supplements, that can also cause anxiety as you may be overdosing on it.
Symptoms Of Pre Workout Anxiety
If you have the following symptoms, you may be experiencing pre workout anxiety. In such a case, you should avoid taking them.
The symptoms contain the following: (1)
How Does Pre Workout Cause Anxiety?
It may be shocking, but many pre workout supplements contain ingredients known for either causing or worsening anxiety. These pre workout ingredients are likely the reason for your anxiety.
Ingredients That Cause Anxiety
Yohimbe Bark Extract
Yohimbe Bark Extract, also called Yohimbine, is one of the ingredients used in pre workout supplements.
Despite being a natural ingredient, it is not a safe one to consume. Yohimbine is considered a prescription drug in the United States. (2) Not only that, its synthetic version is illegal to sell as a dietary supplement, yet it is widely used.
Consuming anything with this ingredient or mixing pre workout supplements with it can lead to several side effects, including anxiety.
Yohimbe Bark Extract is not suggested to take at all, let alone in excessive amounts. The side effects of consuming it include restlessness, rapid heartbeat, sleep problems, seizure, kidney failure, and anxiety. In worse cases, it can lead to heart attacks as well. (3)
If you already have anxiety, it is advised to stay away from this ingredient. More caution is necessary if you have any of the following conditions as it will only make it worse:
- Chest pains.
- Heart disease.
- High blood pressure.
- Low blood pressure.
Yohimbe is not only known for making the anxiety worse but also for causing it. If your pre workouts contain this ingredient, it is most definitely the reason for your anxiety.
You may wonder why bitter orange is on this list. After all, what harm can an orange possibly do?
Bitter orange is commonly used in pre workout supplements because it helps lose weight. It contains synephrine, which acts as a stimulant in your body and aids in losing fat.
However, synephrine is also linked to heart diseases and strokes. It is a banned substance by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). (4)
This is because Synephrine works similarly to ephedra –which was also used for weight loss. However, it was banned by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2004 due to being linked to heart problems. (5)
No evidence shows bitter orange improves an individual’s performance during the workout. (6)
So, in reality, it only does more harm than good.
Almost everyone commonly consumes caffeine in the form of coffee and tea.
Caffeine is also used in pre workouts. It helps increase your energy and focus and ultimately improves your exercise performance. Like caffeine in coffee helps you wake up and gets you running, caffeine in pre workouts does the same.
Caffeine is not always bad. Only excessive consumption of caffeine causes anxiety. It would help if you were careful of the dosage you consume.
According to the FDA (Federal and Drug Administration), a healthy adult should only consume 400 milligrams of caffeine daily. That means about four to five cups of coffee a day. (7)
Let’s break it down and go one by one.
Let’s say you begin your day with a cup of coffee. An average cup of coffee may contain between 80 to 120 milligrams of caffeine.
Then, you take a pre workout supplement. Most pre workout supplements contain from 150 to 300 milligrams per serving. But 300 mg is not the limit. Some of the most potent pre workouts have between 350 to 500 mg.
The problem here is consuming over 400 mg of caffeine. This will lead to anxiety, faster heartbeats, headaches, insomnia, dizziness, etc.
Some people are overly sensitive to caffeine and may not be able to take even 400 mg of caffeine.
Like caffeine, the stimulants themselves are only a problem if you overconsume them. Overdosing on stimulants will only make you more anxious.
Whether it is overdosing on just one stimulant or overdosing on several different stimulants, it will cause anxiety, increase your heart rate, and make you feel tired.
How Do I Stop Pre Workout Anxiety?
If you have been experiencing pre workout anxiety, do not worry. There are ways you can stop it and prevent it from occurring in the future. You can do so by observing the following things:
Carefully Reading The Ingredients
Before you purchase a pre workout supplement, carefully scan through the ingredients to look out for the ones mentioned above. (Especially bitter orange and Yohimbe)
This is very important as these ingredients are the leading cause of your anxiety.
Moreover, if you already have pre workouts containing these ingredients, it is time to throw them out and buy a new one.
Avoid Caffeine Before A Workout
Overdosing caffeine will make you anxious. If you plan on working out later that day, avoid having a cup of coffee or anything that contains caffeine.
Although a healthy individual can consume 400 mg of caffeine, there can still be a possibility that you are oversensitive to it. In such cases, consuming even 400 mg of caffeine can lead to anxiety and rapid heartbeats.
To avoid anxiety, you need to plan out your dosage of caffeine for the day to ensure you don’t overdose. It would help if you did this daily in order to prevent anxiety from caffeine entirely.
First, figure out how much caffeine you can take before the anxiety kicks in, and then plan accordingly. Moreover, there are many low caffeine pre workouts available on the market.
Taking Pre Workouts With L-Theanine
L-Theanine is an amino acid that can help calm your anxiety. It contains anxiolytic properties. (8)
This is one ingredient that is good for pre workouts as it can increase your exercise performance without causing any anxiety.
It keeps you calm without compromising on your attentiveness.
You can either take pre workouts that already have L-theanine as an ingredient. Otherwise, you can take anywhere between 100 to 200 mg of L-theanine with your usual pre workout supplements. If it calms you down, then it works!
Avoiding Pre Workouts With Stimulants
You can search for pre workouts that do not contain stimulants. There is a chance that they may not be as effective as those containing stimulants. However, you will not be dealing with any more anxiety attacks.
We did research for you to know the stimulants, and choose pre workout supplements without any stimulants!
Trying Herbal Drinks
Herbal drinks can help neutralize the effect of certain stimulants in your body and can relieve your anxiety.
Chamomile tea and lavender tea are two herbal drinks known for helping anxiety. (11)
If you feel pre workout anxiety, try drinking a herbal drink to calm yourself down. It will reduce your anxiety, but it also has several other benefits.
You cannot go wrong with it!
Drinking More Water
It is a known fact that you can flush out the caffeine in your body by drinking more water. The same applies to other stimulants as well.
You can reduce the effect of the stimulants, particularly caffeine – that is causing your anxiety.
If you are already dehydrated, the pre workouts can worsen your anxiety.
For every pre workout you have taken, drink two cups of water to wash down its effect and calm your anxiety.
Focus On Your Diet
Your workout performance can improve even without pre workouts, as long as you manage to focus and keep a healthy diet.
You can find natural ways to give you the energy boost you need for the workout. You can consume foods and drinks with the same ingredients in the pre workout meant to energize you.
Some foods that can replace them are:
- Oatmeal: Oats contain thiamin, phosphorus, and magnesium, which play a significant role in keeping your energy levels high.
- Fruits: Like apples and bananas, Fruits can provide your muscles with a quick fuel compared to other carbohydrates.
- Popcorn: Popcorns are an excellent source of glycogen, our body’s favorite source of energy.
Some more tips from health experts to improve your diet so you can improve your workout are: (12)
- Stay hydrated before, throughout, and after the workout
- Eat carbohydrates and protein snacks before the workout
- Your meal should ideally be 1.5 to 2 hours before the workout and not more
One way to stop anxiety is to put the energy boost to use.
The stimulants in the pre workouts are made to give you an energy burst. It will cause you to be restless, and you will not be able to sit down calmly.
So why not make use of that energy and work your anxiety out? Mild exercise can help relieve some of your anxiety. You can go out for a jog or do some mild exercises. Ensure not to exert too hard, which will only contribute to your anxiety and increase your heart rate. This will put you at risk of having a heart attack. Just do some low-intensity exercises to get that anxiety out.
Giving It Time
Mostly, the effects of stimulants go away on their own with time. You can give it time to subside on its own.
While that happens, you can lie down and try to relax as much as you can. Search up some deep breathing exercises on the internet as they can significantly help calm down your anxiety.
You can try other ways to calm anxiety while letting the stimulants go down on their own. Once they are, you will feel better.
However, you need to stay alert and be careful next time.
Consult a dietician before you take any pre workout. They can tell you exactly what will work right for you as they will have all the information needed relevant to your body. They can advise you on which pre workout to take and whether to take any.
With enough knowledge about pre workout anxiety, you can determine whether you are experiencing it or not.
Even if you are not, you now know how to prevent it from ever happening.
It is better to take action for your pre workout anxiety before it gets severe and leads to long-term health problems. Never ignore them! It is better to be safe than sorry.
William Toro ‧ CPT & Nutritionist
William is a certified personal trainer from NASM, he has also been a rehab physiologist for sports persons. He has more than 15 years of experience training people. And has featured in multiple publications like FoxNews, CNBC, Bustle, and other.