We all take a pre workout to either give us that performance edge, be it for a game of rugby, tennis or football.
We want to perform better than the competition. I have taken many pre workout supplements before I have played rugby and sometimes, with great success.
It gave me not only a physical but also a physiological edge too. The opponents knew I was going mental and they didn’t want to come near me.
I brought the aggression and intensity to them, I didn’t wait to get hit. I charged forward, non stop.
It won me man of the match for that game.
However, in some cases, you just want to feel a bit more alive after a long day at work or even before a long day at work and hit the gym by yourself.
It’s not all about continued competitive aggression. Sometimes, it’s about just getting through the day.
I have also found that they can be a great way to get over a hangover, too.
So, what’s not to like?
Well, in most cases these pre workout supplements are a great way to hit a new PB on the bench or get that man of the match award.
Yet, there are some supplements that are filled with chemicals and ingredients that may well be untested on humans, they could be dangerous to our health in the wrong doses and in some cases, they can be illegal in certain regions of the world.
At best you may be banned from your chosen field of sport, at worst…you could die.
Supplements fall within a grey area of regulation, they are not pharmaceuticals and they are not foods.
Therefore, many products reach the shelves with very little research or testing nor regulation.
In many cases, the ingredients can be just fine in certain doses, but, as with many things…too much can be the cause of some health issues.
Where pre workout supplements are concerned, the worry revolves around stimulants.
Stimulants are found in both pre workout supplements and fat burners.
Recent testing by researchers from a global public health and safety organization based in Michigan, US., have unearthed unapproved stimulants that are found in at least six supplements that can be bought with no prescription from many retail outlets…even by minors.
The problem lies very much not with banned ingredients themselves but very similar chemical compounds that provide similar stimulant effects to their banned or declared unsafe cousins.
This is very similar with the case of ‘legal highs’ whereby chemists would produce recreational drugs that were chemically very similar to their banned counterparts such as ecstasy.
It essentially becomes a cat and mouse game between chemists and the authorities.
Another issue faced by the authorities and those in charge of public safety is that many products may not actually be labelled in the first instance, or labeling of content can be concealed easily behind a proprietary blend…
As further testing was carried out, the findings snowballed in to a mountain of inaccurate labeling, untested, banned as well as potentially dangerous ingredients.
Most of these ingredients are chemically similar to Ephedra or Ephedrine which was banned in 2004 due to the heightened risk associated with them.
Particularly when they are taken during sport of exercise.
When coupled with other legal and ‘safe’ ingredients such as Caffeine and mixed with dehydration from sweating can start t lead to high blood pressure and an increased heart rate which can lead on to cardiovascular risks.
The problems can start when one substance is banned, chemists and manufacturers try to find the similar effects but legally.
The end result is many ingredients that are not thoroughly researched or tested.
I have personally tried and tested some pre workout supplements while playing rugby and I did not feel comfortable at all, I thought my heart was going to come out of my chest.
The most common story behind this was the death of two U.S soldiers who died when taking the pre workout JACK3D.
This supplement was loaded with 1,3-DMAA which was a chemical offering similar effects to Ephedra.
An issue here was that the two soldiers appeared to have underlying cardiovascular health problems that were not apparent until their deaths after taking the product containing 1,3-DMAA.
As a result of the tragedy, stocks of the original JACK3D were destroyed. However, that doesn’t stop stocks of the original product that eluded being destroyed appearing on ebay for inflated prices for those wanting the strong effects.
Then, furthermore, the investigators started to notice other compounds appearing in numerous products that can be bought without question in popular retailers.
Their testing found that the newly popular 2-aminoisoheptane ingredient was becoming more and more present in pre workout supplements.
Initial thoughts were that it was plant extract as many ingredients can be.
However, their initial theories were quashed when it was discovered that it was merely a rouse to divert attention away from the fact that it was a name for 1,3-DMAA (which killed two soldiers) or at least a very similar chemical cousin offering similar effects…and risks.
The story continues…
More products have been found to contain 1,3-DMAA whether in that guise or not plus additional substances that have not necessarily been tested and also banned.
In fact, several products have been unearthed containing DMAA or even Octodrine which is a chemical cousin and is also unapproved for use in supplements.
The problems is that even with accurate labeling, most people are not going to be fully aware of what they are taking.
If they are available over the counter, the buying public are going to assume they are safe regardless of the amount of shady chemical compounds included.
So in essence, are pre workout supplements bad for you?
The only way to ensure safety is to read the full list of ingredients and do your full research on them, or when you look through a review ensure that the reviews include scientific study references.
When you can see that the studies and trials for that or those ingredients is safe and positive, then the product will be safe.
If information is very hard to come by, it rings alarm bells that there’s little or no prior testing which could cause health issues.