5 Real Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements Explained

Looking for a way to take your workouts to the next level? Pre-workout supplements are popular go-to products when it comes to enhancing performance and gaining an extra edge during a hard workout.  

These products promise to boost your energy, focus, and endurance during tough training sessions. But with great power comes great responsibility. Before you take that scoop of powder or gulp down that energy drink, it's crucial to understand the potential side effects of pre-workout supplements. It's important to be aware of the potential side effects of pre-workout supplements before consuming them. Despite their growing popularity, there seems to be a lack of information on how to apply pre-workouts effectively and minimize possible adverse consequences. 

But don't worry, because this article has got you covered. I'll guide you through everything you need to know, including key considerations and practical tips, to help you achieve your best possible performance.

So what are side effects of Pre-workout supplements? They can have side effects like jitters, tingling, insomnia, nausea, and palpitations. These effects are generally not harmful if supplements are used properly, with precautions such as starting with a low dose, staying hydrated, and checking ingredient labels.

woman in gym drinking protein shake

Maximize the Benefits and Minimize the Risks: Understanding Pre-workout Side Effects and Safe Usage

1. Jiggering

The main active ingredient in most pre-workout supplements is caffeine. 

Its effectiveness as a performance booster has been supported by numerous studies and research. For example, researchers show that caffeine consumption prior to exercise enhances power output and muscular endurance in both trained and untrained individuals. The effects differ depending on the athlete's genetics and physiology, but in most cases, caffeine can help push your limits.

However, caffeine can also cause side effects, such as increased heart rate, restlessness, and anxiety. One of the typical side effects of caffeine is jitters or jiggling, which can be uncomfortable and distracting during a workout. The jitters are caused by the stimulant effect of caffeine on the central nervous system, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline levels. The effect is similar to a sudden fright when a portion of adrenaline in the bloodstream makes the heart leap out of the chest and causes hands to tremble.

Individual tolerance to caffeine plays a role in experiencing jitters. Genetic differences affect caffeine metabolism and the balance between dose and effects. Also, caffeine causes tolerance. Those who regularly consume caffeine may be less susceptible to jitters, while those who are caffeine-sensitive may experience jitters even with small amounts of caffeine.

Keep in mind that caffeine is found in many beverages, such as tea, coffee, and cola. According to the FDA, a daily caffeine intake of up to 400 milligrams is generally considered safe for healthy adults, which roughly equates to four or five cups of coffee. The most positive results on athletic performance are about the same doses, 300-500 mg (depending on the weight of the athlete) of caffeine per day. If the daily dosage is exceeded, athletic performance is not further improved, and may even worsen due to side effects!

athlete with chains on bars

Thus, if you add a pre-workout supplement to your 4-5 cups of coffee and tea a day, you can get jigger without any positive effects. However, if you cut down on your caffeinated drinks throughout the day and get your entire dose of caffeine with your pre-workout, you can get the most out of your workout without hassle.

Some pre-workout supplements may contain high doses of caffeine, which can increase the likelihood of jitters and other side effects.

It's important to note that while jitters may be uncomfortable, they are generally not dangerous. However, excessive caffeine intake can lead to more serious side effects such as nausea, headaches, insomnia, and increased anxiety. It's recommended to start with a low dose of caffeine and gradually increase it over time to find your optimal dose and minimize the risk of side effects. A safe starting dose for most people is around 100-200 mg of caffeine, which is roughly equivalent to a cup of coffee. 

If you are new to caffeine, start with low doses, such as 100mg, and gradually increase by 25-50mg per week until reaching the desired dose. Try not to exceed the maximum recommended dose of 400 mg, considering the caffeine content of all beverages and foods you consume. It's important to note that some pre-workout supplements may contain higher doses of caffeine, so always check the label and adjust your intake accordingly.

Jitter-Busting Tips

  • Find your ideal dosage by starting with a lower dose, such as 100-200 mg per serving and increasing it gradually.
  • Consider all daily caffeine intake. Focus on your caffeine intake before your workout and reduce it at other times.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the workout and avoid consuming too much caffeine too quickly, even with lower caffeine-content products.
  • Experiment! For example, if you consume food before a workout, try taking a supplement with it. This will slow down the entry of caffeine into the bloodstream and may reduce the negative effects of pre workout if they occur.
  • Look for L-Theanine, an amino acid found in tea, in your pre-workout supplement, as it may help to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, further minimizing the effects of caffeine-induced jitters.

athlete push ups

2. Tingling

Supplementing with niacin and beta-alanine can result in a tingling sensation caused by the dilation of blood vessels, which increases blood flow and causes the skin to flush. 

Niacin enhances blood flow to working muscles and increases energy production to help improve exercise performance, but high doses can cause severe flushing and itching. Beta-alanine helps increase carnosine levels in the muscles, which is crucial for buffering lactic acid to delay muscle fatigue during high-intensity exercise. However, it can cause an uncomfortable tingling sensation known as paraesthesia. This sensation typically occurs within 15-20 minutes of taking beta-alanine and can last up to an hour.

Interestingly, some athletes perceive this tingling as pleasant and tonic!

Skip the Tingle, Keep the Gainz: Tips for Beta-Alanine and Niacin Use

Similar to the tips for avoiding jitters and other side effects caused by caffeine, when it comes to preventing paraesthesia caused by beta-alanine or niacin in pre-workouts, we can take similar steps, such as starting with a lower dosage, taking the supplement with food, or splitting the dose into smaller amounts taken throughout the day.

Also, try to change your attitude. Take the tingling as a sign that the supplement is working, increasing blood flow not only through your skin but also your muscles! (Which does not mean that the tingling must necessarily occur, not everyone experiences it with the same positive effect on performance).

female athlete squatting

For beta-alanine:

  • A common dosage range is 2-5 grams per day, taken in divided doses.
  • Starting with a lower dose of beta-alanine, such as 800 mg, and gradually increasing it over time is recommended to avoid or reduce the intensity of paraesthesia.
  • Taking smaller doses at least 3 hours apart or using extended-release formulations can also help avoid paraesthesia.

For niacin:

  • A common dosage range is up to 35mg per day, but higher doses may cause more severe flushing and itching.
  • Starting with a lower dose, such as 10mg, and gradually increasing it over time is recommended to avoid or reduce the intensity of flushing caused by niacin.
  • Taking niacin with food or using extended-release formulations can also help reduce the intensity of flushing.

3. Insomnia

Insomnia caused by pre-workout supplements can be a result of stimulating ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine and yohimbine. These ingredients can ramp up our nervous system, elevate our heart rate, and increase blood pressure. That's good for training, but it can negatively impact sleep.

If pre-workout supplements are taken in the late afternoon or evening, close to the time when people typically wind down and prepare for sleep, it can disrupt sleep patterns and make it difficult to get a restful night.

How to Deal Pre-workout-Induced Insomnia

  • Take your pre-workout supplement at least 4-6 hours before bedtime to allow enough time for the stimulating ingredients to be processed by your body.
  • Some people need more time to metabolize stimulants, in which case the time can increase up to 9-12 hours, then such supplements can only be used for morning workouts.
  • Consider reducing your dosage or selecting a pre-workout product that contains lower amounts of caffeine, beta-alanine, or yohimbine.
  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath before bed to promote better sleep.
  • If these methods don't work, seek advice and support from a healthcare professional.

4. Nausea

Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, can be used in pre-workout supplements to help improve exercise performance by reducing the build-up of acid in the muscles. While sodium bicarbonate can be effective in improving exercise performance, it can also cause some unpleasant side effects, including nausea

Sodium bicarbonate is a base and when ingested, it can raise the pH of the stomach. This can lead to a decrease in the activity of digestive enzymes, which can result in slower digestion and the accumulation of gas. The buildup of CO2 in the gut, resulting from supplementation with sodium bicarbonate, may cause bloating, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

athlete deadlifting in gym

Sick of Nausea? Tips to Try For Pre-workout-Induced Nausea

It's important to note that not everyone will experience nausea when taking sodium bicarbonate in pre-workout supplements. Nonetheless, here are some tips that can help you reduce the risk of experiencing side effects: 

  • Starting with a lower dose (such as 0.1-0.2 grams per pound of body weight) and gradually increasing it can help to minimize the risk of this side effect
  • Staying well-hydrated and taking the supplement with food may also help to reduce the risk of nausea.
  • To reduce side effects, the recommended timing of sodium bicarbonate ingestion is between 60 and 180 min before exercise or competition
  • If you are prone to nausea or have a history of stomach issues, it may be best to avoid pre-workout supplements that contain sodium bicarbonate altogether and opt for alternatives that do not contain this ingredient.

5. Increased Heart Beating/Palpitations

Palpitations are an unsettling and uncomfortable sensation of a fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat. Unfortunately, some pre-workout supplements can cause palpitations as a side effect due to the presence of stimulants like caffeine and yohimbine. These stimulants can increase heart rate and blood pressure, leading to palpitations, especially in those sensitive to caffeine. 

Additionally, high doses of beta-alanine can cause a tingling sensation that can be mistaken for palpitations. While palpitations caused by pre-workout supplements are usually not harmful, it's important to pay attention to any other symptoms that may be present, such as dizziness or chest pain.

Healthy Heart, Healthy Workout: Managing Palpitations from Pre-Workout Supplements

  • Avoid combining pre-workout supplements with other stimulants. Mixing pre-workout supplements with other stimulants such as energy drinks, coffee, or even certain medications can increase the risk of palpitations. It's best to avoid taking pre-workout supplements with any other stimulant-containing products.
  • Monitor your heart rate: Using a heart rate monitor can help you keep track of your heart rate during exercise and alert you if it becomes too high or irregular. If you experience palpitations, stop exercising and take a break until your heart rate returns to normal.
  • Start with a low dose: If you're new to pre-workout supplements or have experienced palpitations in the past, start with a lower dose and gradually increase it over time to allow your body to adjust.
  • Talk to your doctor: If you have a history of heart problems or are concerned about getting an allergic reaction to pre workout, it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement or exercise routine.
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can exacerbate heart palpitations, so it's essential to stay well-hydrated before, during, and after your workout.

athlete in flat shoes

Universal Guidelines: How to Avoid Pre-workout Side Effects?

  • Start with a low dose and gradually increase it
  • Check the label for ingredient amounts and avoid high doses
  • Take the supplement with food
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Avoid consuming too much caffeine too quickly
  • Look for L-Theanine in your pre-workout supplement to reduce the effects of caffeine-induced jitters
  • Start with a lower dose of beta-alanine and gradually increase it over time to avoid tingling sensations
  • Take pre-workout supplements at least 4-6 hours before bedtime to avoid insomnia
  • Avoid pre-workout supplements that contain sodium bicarbonate if prone to nausea or stomach issues
  • Monitor your heart rate and stop exercising if you experience palpitations
  • Talk to your doctor if you have a history of heart problems, you are taking any medications that may not be compatible with supplements, or are concerned about side effects

Benefits vs Side Effects of Taking Pre-workouts

The question of whether pre-workout is dangerous is a hotly debated topic, with some experts warning of potential risks and others arguing that they can be used safely and effectively. The dangers of pre-workout supplements are often scrutinized, yet the next question to consider is how individuals can mitigate these risks while still reaping the benefits for their fitness goals. 

Using pre-workout supplements can undoubtedly enhance your workout performance, increase energy levels, improve focus, stamina and motivation, but it's important to consider the possible side effects. To get rid of pre workout side effects, follow the tips mentioned earlier, such as starting with a low dose and carefully monitoring your body's reaction. For some, cycling or rotating the use of caffeine-containing pre-workouts can help maintain their effectiveness and reduce the risk of adverse effects. 

Be mindful when choosing the right product, considering your individual needs and sensitivities. Remember, it's up to you to decide whether the benefits outweigh the pre workout supplements dangers. By being cautious and following the guidelines, you can make an informed decision that best suits your fitness goals and overall well-being.

athlete deadlifting

How to Choose the Best Pre-workout Without Side Effects?

Selecting the ideal pre-workout with minimal side effects can make a significant difference in your workout experience. When choosing a product, consider your individual needs, sensitivities, and fitness goals. Opt for pre-workout supplements with transparent labels clearly listing all ingredients and their quantities. 

To select a pre-workout with fewer side effects, focus on lower caffeine content (100-200 mg), L-Theanine inclusion (1:1 or 2:1 ratio to caffeine), and moderate beta-alanine amounts (800 mg to 2 grams). Avoid supplements with excessive stimulants or additives that may cause adverse reactions. Look for pre-workout supplements with fewer stimulants and gentler ingredients. Read product labels carefully and research the ingredients to ensure they are safe and effective. 

Our Recommended Pre-workout Pick

When considering a pre-workout supplement that incorporates all the tips we've mentioned for minimizing side effects, 4 Gauge stands out as a prime example. This all-natural, carefully formulated supplement is designed to enhance your workouts while reducing the risk of adverse reactions.

4gauge pre-workout supplement

4 Gauge contains a moderate caffeine content (150 mg per serving) and includes L-Theanine, providing an energy boost without causing jitters or anxiety. The 2 grams of beta-alanine per serving offer improved endurance without excessive tingling sensations. With transparent labelling, you know precisely what you're consuming, which is essential when prioritizing your health and well-being.

The product also contains key ingredients such as citrulline malate and creatine monohydrate, further enhancing workout performance. It's evident that 4 Gauge has been developed with the user's best interests in mind, ensuring a well-rounded pre-workout experience.

man with 4gauge pre workout

We genuinely believe in the 4 Gauge brand and its commitment to providing a high-quality, effective pre-workout supplement. By choosing 4 Gauge, you can trust that you're making a smart decision for your exercise performance while minimizing the risk of side effects.


Are Pre-workout Drinks Bad for You?

Pre-workout drinks can be beneficial when chosen wisely and used correctly. Paying attention to your body's feedback and following the guidelines we've discussed can help you enjoy the benefits while minimizing potential side effects.

Is Pre-workout OK to Take Every Day?

Using pre-workout daily is generally safe, provided you follow the recommended dosage, combine them carefully with other beverages and food containing caffeine, and pay attention to your body's response. However, consider cycling off pre-workout occasionally to prevent developing a tolerance.

Can Pre-workout Cause Kidney Stones?

Although there is no direct link between pre-workout supplements and kidney stones, it's essential to stay well-hydrated and follow the recommended dosages for all supplement ingredients to maintain overall kidney health.

Does Pre-workout Dehydrate You?

Some pre-workout ingredients, like caffeine, can have a mild diuretic effect. Although it cannot cause dehydration, ensuring you stay well-hydrated before, during, and after your workout can help counteract any potential risks.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Pre-workout Supplements?

Key components, such as caffeine, have been studied for a very long time and the accumulated data suggest that we are on the safe side if we follow current recommendations. Whatever, use them responsibly, follow recommended dosages, and consult a healthcare professional if concerned about potential health impacts.


In conclusion, using pre-workout supplements responsibly and listening to your body can help you reap their benefits without risking your health. Choose high-quality products like 4 Gauge and follow the safety guidelines to maximize your workout experience. Don't hesitate to ask questions or share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Also read:


  • Caffeine and exercise performance // biomedcentral: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4
  • How Much Caffeine is Too Much? // fda: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much#:~:text=For%20healthy%20adults%2C%20the%20FDA,it%20(break%20it%20down)
  • International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: sodium bicarbonate and exercise performance // National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8427947/

Oleksandr is a professional fitness nutritionist, certified by FPA (Fitness Professional Association). Oleksandr adheres to the principles of evidence-based dietetics and instills in his clients a healthy relationship with food - without strict prohibitions on favorite foods and regular disruptions. His main task – not only get a result for you, but also maintain it for many years, enjoying tasty and delicious food.

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