What are the side effects of pre-workouts?

If you’ve used a pre-workout in the past, you may have experienced the following:

  • You measure out your scoop, mix it with water, and ingest the sickeningly sweet concoction. After drinking it as fast as possible, you make your way to the gym.
  • You feel like the strongest human on the planet for about 40-60 minutes. You notice some tingling that might get uncomfortable and agitate you.
  • With your workout complete, you go home and crash hard. You’re jittery for the rest of the day and struggle to get a decent sleep.

If this is true for you, you’ve probably experienced some pre-workout side effects. Fortunately, you can avoid the side effects by choosing a pre-workout formulated with natural ingredients.

Read on to learn more about the side effects of pre-workouts, what ingredients cause them, and a more natural option for a pre-workout boost.

In need of a natural, low-stimulant pre-workout right away? Check out the Vivo Life Pre-workout


What’s in a pre-workout?

Pre-workout powders are dietary supplements designed to enhance exercise performance. As the name suggests, you’ll want to consume them before a workout.

There is no universal definition for what should be in a pre-workout, but there are some common ingredients, including:

Caffeine: Caffeine is a staple ingredient in pre-workout supplements, known for its fatigue-fighting and alertness-enhancing properties. Most pre-workouts contain high levels of caffeine, ranging from 150 mg to 300 mg. For context, your standard cup of coffee has around 80-100mg of caffeine.

Creatine: One of the most well-researched supplements on the planet, creatine is commonly found in pre-workouts in doses ranging from 2g to 5g. This supplement increases total creatine content and phosphocreatine stores, enhancing strength and exercise endurance. (Kreider et al., 2003)

Beta-alanine: Many Pre-workouts often contain 1.6g to 3.2g of beta-alanine. This amino acid is thought to improve exercise capacity and overall performance – but it does have some unpleasant side effects (more on that below). (Hobson et al., 2012)

Nitric oxide: Nitric oxide precursors play a pivotal role in post-ischaemic vasodilatation. You'll typically find them in pre-workouts to support optimal muscle blood flow. Basically, this means you’ll have more endurance in the gym and get a better pump.

Electrolytes: Electrolytes are crucial for maintaining hydration levels and ensuring peak
performance during workouts. They are often included in pre-workout formulas.

Vitamins and minerals: B vitamins are essential for energy metabolism and cell regeneration during exercise. They can give you a natural boost of energy. (Manore et al., 2007)

Artificial sweeteners, additives, fillers, and binders: Besides the active ingredients, many pre-workout supplements include artificial sweeteners, additives, fillers, and binders to enhance flavour, shelf-life, and texture. Common sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium are designed to reduce calories and improve taste. However, people may experience headaches, digestive issues, or allergic reactions to these sweeteners in the short term. There are also ongoing debates about their long-term health effects.

Fillers such as cellulose, silica, and starch are often added to bulk up the product and make it easier to process. Binders like gelatin or gum hold the ingredients together cohesively, especially in pills and capsules. These ingredients don't contribute to the nutritional value or effectiveness of the supplement and can be problematic for those with allergies or dietary restrictions. (Soffritti et al., 2006; Magnuson et al., 2016).

At first glance, many of these ingredients sound like pretty logical additions to a pre-workout supplement. But what’s the catch?


What are the side effects of pre-workouts?


Caffeine side effects

You already know that caffeine can significantly increase alertness and reduce fatigue: however, consuming high amounts of caffeine each day may lead to adverse side effects such as insomnia, jitters, increased heart rate, and anxiety.

These effects can be more pronounced in individuals sensitive to caffeine or those with pre-existing heart conditions. To avoid these side effects, opt for a pre-workout that contains a more gentle dose of caffeine (around 40-70mg). (Lieberman et al., 2002; Warburton et al., 2001; Temple et al., 2017).

If you like to exercise in the evening, then most stimulant-heavy pre-workouts probably aren’t a good idea if you value a good sleep!

Creatine side effects

Creatine is widely used to improve muscle power and performance and is an extremely safe supplement. When used in overly high doses (over 10g a day),creatine may cause water retention, digestive issues, and muscle cramping.

Most pre-workouts won’t contain this much. But if you already supplement with a high-quality creatine powder and then take a pre-workout also containing creatine, you may end up with side effects. These are generally mild but still unpleasant. (Kreider et al., 2003).


Beta-alanine side effects

Possibly the most well-known side effect of most pre-workouts, beta-alanine can cause a tingling sensation on the skin known as paresthesia, even at relatively low doses (800mg-1g). While this sensation is generally harmless, it can be uncomfortable and agitating for some individuals. (Hobson et al., 2012).


Nitric oxide side effects

Nitric oxide Precursors such as L-arginine and L-citrulline are used to improve blood flow and muscle oxygenation. However, overconsumption can lead to gastrointestinal distress, including upset stomach and diarrhoea. When using a reliable pre-workout, you won’t be taking enough of a dose to experience side effects. (Bailey et al., 2010).

Electrolytes side effects

While electrolytes like sodium and potassium are crucial for hydration and muscle function, excessive consumption can lead to imbalances, which in turn can cause issues like hypertension (from too much sodium) or hyperkalemia (from too much potassium). To avoid these potential side effects, it's important not to exceed the recommended daily intake and to be mindful of additional sources of electrolytes in your diet, especially if you consume a lot of processed or salty foods (Shirreffs & Sawka, 2011).

Vitamins and minerals side effects

B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 are essential for energy metabolism and cell regeneration. However, taking these vitamins in very high doses can lead to imbalances and side effects, such as nerve damage or liver toxicity. To avoid these issues, adhere to the recommended daily allowance and consult with a healthcare provider if you're considering higher doses, especially if you have existing health conditions or are taking other medications (Manore et al., 2007).


Are there pre-workouts with no side effects?

Everyone’s physiology is different, and there can be no guarantee you won’t get side effects from a supplement. If you’re in doubt, always contact a medical professional before you take it.

That being said, there are some high-quality pre-workouts on the market that are not stimulant-heavy, are made from natural sources, and are unlikely to cause side effects.

The Vivo Life Pre-workout is formulated to maximise physical and mental performance using a blend of ingredients like beetroot powder and extract – rich in nitric oxide – for increased blood flow and better exercise performance.

It also contains fermented L-citrulline malate for endurance and Guarana Extract for a gentle release of natural caffeine (50mg) for sustained energy. For a natural boost in energy, the Vivo Life pre-workout includes a Vganic™ Vitamin B Complex for mental focus, and pink Himalayan salt for electrolyte balance.

Our pre-workout doesn’t contain high levels of caffeine, beta-alanine, or creatine: so you won’t be at risk for those common pre-workout side effects. Using natural ingredients, our pre-workout will give you a natural, sustained boost without crashes, jitters, or interrupted sleep.

We don’t use artificial flavourings, fillers, or binders, so you’re not risking your long-term health for a short-term effect.

All Vivo Life products are third-party tested for contaminants and delivered through a carbon-neutral service. With our subscribe and save service, you can get your pre-workout delivered straight to your door at 15% off the normal price.

Try the Vivo Life Pre-Workout



Hobson, R.M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R.C. and Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids, 43(1), 25-37.
Kreider, R.B., Ferreira, M., Wilson, M., Grindstaff, P., Plisk, S., Reinardy, J., Cantler, E. and Almada, A.L. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30(1), 73-82.
Magnuson, B.A., Burdock, G.A., Doull, J., Kroes, R.M., Marsh, G.M., Pariza, M.W., Spencer, P.S., Waddell, W.J., Walker, R. and Williams, G.M. (2007). Aspartame: a safety evaluation based on current use levels, regulations, and toxicological and epidemiological studies. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 37(8), 629-727.
Manore, M.M., Meyer, N.L. and Thompson, J. (2007). Sport Nutrition for Health and Performance. Human Kinetics.
Soffritti, M., Belpoggi, F., Degli Esposti, D. and Lambertini, L. (2006). Aspartame induces lymphomas and leukaemias in rats. European Journal of Oncology, 10(2), 107-116.