Does Pre-Workout Make You Fat?

Medically reviewed by Dr Dimitar Marinov

The whole point of taking a pre-workout supplement is to boost your exercise performance so you can reach your ideal body mass. Most supplements set a standard of helping you gain lean muscle mass – so the last thing you’d want is for your pre-workout to make you fat. Wait, is that even possible?

Fortunately, the short answer is no; most pre-workout supplements will NOT make you fat. Taking pre-workout is something that can actually improve your workout performance and consequently help you burn more calories and help you gain muscle mass.

So, although pre-workout won’t make you fat, it could cause you to gain weight. Keep reading to find out why.

What’s a pre-workout?

Before we dive into how pre-workout the effects of pre-workout on your weight, let’s look at what a pre-workout actually is.

Pre-workout is a supplement taken before your workout that usually contains stimulants, amino acids and nitric oxide precursors to help you smash even the most intense workouts and aid you in reaching your health and fitness goals.

Generally, people take a pre-workout for the explosive effects on their energy, focus and alertness when they’re doing activities that can be physically or mentally taxing. It’s got a combination of active ingredients that can enhance your so that you can exercise for longer and at a higher intensity.

Common pre-workout ingredients

In the past few years, pre-workouts have skyrocketed in popularity, and now there are hundreds if not thousands, of pre-workout brands and products on the market – all with varying ingredients. However, there are some common ingredients you’ll find in most of them. These ingredients are:

  • Caffeine: a stimulant that can enhance your focus and alertness and increase your energy levels. It also can reduce the perception of effort during exercise, making things feel easier than they are
  • Creatine: an ingredient that aids the production of ATP to fuel your muscles, and this leads to a possible increase in your strength and power output
  • BCAAs: also known as branched-chain amino acids, play a vital role in protein synthesis and help your body repair damaged muscles and reduce muscle soreness after exercise
  • Nitric Oxide boosters: an ingredient that dilates the blood vessels, allowing increased blood flow to improve the efficiency of nutrient transportation around your body, therefore leading to more energy being processed at a faster rate
  • Beta-alanine: an amino acid that regulates the acids in our muscles while we exercise, and it buffers acids like lactic acid to help delay fatigue and improve endurance

Do Pre-Workouts Make You Fat?

Let’s get down to the big question: do pre-workout supplements make you fat? No, most pre-workouts will not make you fat. In order for you to increase fat gain, your body needs to take more calories in than it’s burning.

Pre-workouts usually contain very few calories, in fact, manufacturers try to stay clear of anything that takes long to digest because pre-workouts should be absorbed by your body as quickly as possible. So, a pre-workout supplement shouldn’t make you fat, however, there are some factors that could lead to possible weight gain, but not in a way that would make you gain fat.

Certain ingredients in pre-workout formulas help build muscle or increase water retention in your body. Creatine supplementation is a prime example as it is known as an osmotically active substance – the more it’s consumed, the more water it causes your body to retain. Through this, you might experience an increase in your weight, but it still won’t make you fat as it’s only a temporary effect until the creatine passes through your system. When creatine levels return to normal, so should your weight.

Some pre-workout supplements also have BCAAs and other amino acids in them that help with muscle growth, and therefore, you might find yourself gaining weight – but this is an increased muscle mass and what we’d consider the good kind of weight gain.

Do Pre-Workouts Help You Lose Weight?

While pre-workouts don’t have a miraculous solution to losing weight, they definitely have some ingredients that help burn calories faster. For example, caffeine, green tea extract, and beta-alanine are all common ingredients in pre-workout supplements that have metabolism-boosting effects. Caffeine especially is known to have a positive effect on thermogenesis. So yes, pre-workout supplements can help you lose weight to a certain degree.

Benefits of Pre-Workout

Aside from having some ingredients that can potentially aid in weight loss, pre-workout supplements also have some other great benefits, including:

  • It could help increase your strength and power output
  • It could delay or reduce muscle fatigue
  • It could help you increase endurance
  • It could burst your energy levels
  • It could improve concentration

Potential side effects of pre-workouts

We’re all different, so it’s no surprise that some people could react to pre-workout in different ways. For pre-workouts, there are some ingredients that can have potential side effects for some people. These side effects include:

  • May increase cortisol secretion
  • May cause digestive issues
  • May cause headaches
  • May cause acne
  • May cause anxiety
  • May cause insomnia
  • May cause an itchy or tingling sensation

These side effects are rare and often associated with other conditions like caffeine sensitivity or a low paresthesia threshold.

Final Thoughts

With the ingredients used, it’s unlikely that they would increase body fat. That said, if your pre-workout supplement contains creatine or you’re using it to help build lean body mass then it might make you gain weight, but you shouldn’t get fat.

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