Pre workout supplements are some of the most popular supplements for fitness enthusiasts, but many can become psychologically addictive and cause a form of dependance if not used properly. There are multiple factors for this, including ingredients, the synergistic effect they have on the body, and psychological effects.
We’re going to look at each of these in more detail here, as well as offer some advice on how to use pre workout supplements appropriately in order to avoid addiction.
Can Pre Workout Supplements Cause Addiction?
Generally speaking, no, but some ingredients in pre workout supplements such as caffeine can cause psychological dependance. While dependance is considered different from addiction as it does not trigger the brain’s reward system, there are many aspects similar to the ones seen in addictions.
The most common cause behind pre workout supplement dependance is the stimulants found in the ingredients, which include high doses of caffeine.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring and addictive substances, with high doses leading to tolerance and dependency (1). The more caffeine you take into your system, the higher your tolerance becomes, and, in turn, the more caffeine you need to feel the desired effects. As such, ingesting too much caffeine creates a cycle of dependency and tolerance.
Different people have different tolerances for substance addiction and dependency, but this doesn’t mean that even if you are able to tolerate high doses of caffeine without being affected, you can’t become addicted to pre workout.
Many pre workout users experience an intense boost of energy from the supplement, which is part of the point of taking it.
You may find that you’re unable to get these same psychological effects without the use of pre-workout, and, as a result, the dependency and addiction to it begins to kick in.
The Naysayer’s Opinion
There are some who believe that becoming dependent on pre workout isn’t possible. As we’ve mentioned above, everybody has their own tolerance level when it comes to dependencies, and you may find that you don’t experience any issues with pre workout.
However, just because you personally don’t have this experience, it doesn’t mean that other people can’t become addicted to pre workout. It’s something that is personal to each person and comes in varying levels.
What Are The Signs You’re Dependent On Pre Workout Supplements?
As with any addiction, it’s important to know the signs if you think you might be dependent on caffeine or pre workout supplements. These symptoms will include when experiencing signs of withdrawal from the supplement or the caffeine in it, and include:
- Decreased energy/activeness
- Decreased alertness
- Decreased contentedness
- Depressed mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling foggy/not clearheaded
You should consider cutting down on your use of pre workout or seeking help from a medical professional if you’ve been experiencing any of these signs of addiction. You might choose to try and quit cold turkey, which works well for some people, although not always the best choice – especially if you believe your addiction has been going on for a while. In this instance, it’s better to wean yourself off and lower your dosage slowly under medical supervision.
Can You Get Withdrawal Symptoms From Pre Workout Supplements?
As mentioned, withdrawal to caffeine and pre workout supplements may include:
As we mentioned earlier, the best way to quit a pre workout supplement addition is by lowering and managing the dosage slowly. This will change your tolerance level over time until, eventually, you are no longer dependent on the supplements.
It’s also important to reiterate as well that different people are more susceptible to dependency than others. As a result, the length of time it can take to overcome a dependency to pre workout will differ depending on each individual’s personal experience with dependency.
How Can I Avoid Becoming Dependent on Workout?
We’re not saying that you should stop taking pre workout altogether. Some people find it hugely beneficial to their workouts and are capable of regular use without suffering from dependency.
However, it is very important to always keep dependency in the back of your mind when taking any supplements, especially pre workouts with their stimulating ingredients.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to avoid pre workout dependency.
Ask A Professional
One of the best things you can do in order to avoid pre workout supplement dependency is to seek professional help before you start taking pre workout.
Fitness industry experts, personal trainers, and nutritionists will have a wealth of experience with supplement intake and the recommended dosage.
They’ll also be able to assess your goals and determine whether or not you actually need to take pre workouts or whether you can continue your training sessions without it.
Assess Your Tolerance Levels
Don’t go straight in with the recommended dosage on the pre workout packet. Instead, start with a lower dose and gradually start increasing until you find that perfect balance between boosted energy and non-dependency.
You may find that taking only half of the recommended dose is enough to help you achieve your goals while avoiding developing a pre workout dependency.
Cycle Usage of Pre Workouts
It’s a good idea to take a break from using pre workouts every so often as this may stop you from developing a dependency on it. Taking this break from your usual pre workout intake also gives you the opportunity to see how much you’ve progressed without the need for a central nervous system stimulant, and you’ll have a much better idea of your ability to burn fat and increase muscle mass naturally.
Taking the time to look into what each ingredient contained within your chosen pre workout does is also really important. Some are there to improve focus and blood flow, while others boost energy. Each, however, has the ability to become addictive.
So, read the label and look into the dependency properties of pre workout ingredients (such as those found in caffeinated pre workout) as well as the other side effects they may cause, including insomnia.
You might also want to consider an alternative to pre workout if you’re looking to avoid dependency or reduce your caffeine dependence. This could be a non-stim pre workout made with natural ingredients, for example.
There are also ways of getting to and through your next workout without depending on supplements at all, including stretching after a training session, staying hydrated, and getting adequate rest. Doing this will help you prevent injury, naturally boost your mood and energy levels, and potentially take away the need for pre workout supplements altogether (2).
A Word on Pre Workout Marketing
It is also very important not to get sucked into the marketing machine when it comes to pre workout products. As with energy drinks, most pre workout supplements promise to do a hell of a lot in terms of performance and to boost energy levels to places you’ve never been before.
But, while this may be true for some of them, it doesn’t mean that the ingredients used to formulate them are high-quality. More importantly, it could be a sign that they contain some highly addictive, stimulating ingredients.
So, be sure to do your research and look at each ingredient used while keeping your own tolerance levels in mind. If you have suffered from dependency in the past or you’d rather not run the gauntlet, it would be best to go for a non-stimulant pre workout.
When Is It Time To Seek Professional Help For Pre Workout Addiction?
For some people, dependency is a real struggle, and if you have found yourself suffering from any of the symptoms we’ve listed above or are particularly concerned about your dependency on pre workout, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.
This could be from your doctor, personal trainer, or nutritionist. Asking for help from any of these people will help put you on the road to recovery and ensure you’re able to overcome your dependency to pre workouts the right way.
Many people find pre workout addictive, and it really isn’t uncommon to develop a physical dependence on it, much like your morning coffee. However, if you feel you have started becoming dependent to pre workouts, it’s important to start monitoring your use of it and educating yourself on the ingredients it contains. Doing this gives you the best chance of recovery and, most importantly, prevents it from becoming an ongoing or recurring issue.
- “Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine” sourced from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/neuropsychiatric-effects-of-caffeine/7C884B2106D772F02DA114C1B75D4EBF
- “Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood” sourced from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/effects-of-hydration-status-on-cognitive-performance-and-mood/1210B6BE585E03C71A299C52B51B22F7