Pre-Workout Supplementation – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Ronald Snarr, PhD, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, Catherine Gallagher, Rachael Childers, Alyssa West, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, and Michelle Eisenman
Personal Training Quarterly October 2021
Vol 8, Issue 2

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Do you know what is in your client’s pre-workout drinks? This article discusses the most common individual ingredients typically found within pre-workouts and describes “the good, the bad, and the ugly” associated with its usage.

Approximately half of the United States adult population consumes some form of dietary supplementation, with that proportion rising in physically active adults and athletes (23). One of the most commonly consumed supplements is a “pre-workout.” Pre-workouts can be categorized as any supplement ingested prior to an exercise session or sporting event with the intent of increasing mental focus, endurance, blood flow, strength, power, aerobic and anaerobic capacity, or overall perceived increase in energy level.

Pre-workouts come in a variety of forms ranging from single- (e.g., caffeine) to multi-ingredients (MIPS); stimulant versus stimulant-free; and powdered, pill, or liquid form (e.g., energy drinks). While countless formulas exist, Table 1 highlights and breaks down the individual ingredients most often found in these products and how each has been demonstrated to affect the body. Despite conflicting evidence of effectiveness, pre-workouts continue to gain popularity in both recreational and athletic populations due to the anecdotal claims of increased performance, reduced recovery time, and increased perceived energy. However, along with the increased usage of these products, there is an ever-growing cause for concern pertaining to not only their effectiveness, but also safety. Therefore, this article will discuss the most common individual ingredients typically found within pre-workouts and describe “the good, the bad, and the ugly” associated with its usage.

*NOTE: While this article provides a deeper understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of pre-workout supplementation, the authors do not endorse or condone its use and recommend consulting a physician prior to consuming any dietary supplement.*

This article originally appeared in Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ)—a quarterly publication for NSCA Members designed specifically for the personal trainer. Discover easy-to-read, research-based articles that take your training knowledge further with Nutrition, Programming, and Personal Business Development columns in each quarterly, electronic issue. Read more articles from PTQ »

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Photo of Ronald L. Snarr, PhD, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT,*D, TSAC-F,*D
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Ronald L. Snarr, PhD, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT,*D, TSAC-F,*D

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Ronald Snarr is an Assistant Professor and Human Performance Lab Director at Georgia Southern University. He holds a PhD in Exercise Physiology/Huma ...

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Rachael Childers

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Alyssa Parten is a strength coach from Birmingham, Alabama. She has earned a dual MS degree in Applied Exercise Science: Strength and Conditioning, ...

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Michelle Eisenman is a visiting instructor at Georgia Southern University. She earned a MS degree in Exercise Science from Georgia Southern Universi ...

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