Training hard can take a lot out of you, and everyone is looking for an edge, so it’s no surprise that the use of pre-workout formulas is increasing.
Pre-workout formulas are designed to be taken before you exercise.
They deliver a hit of caffeine and other quickly absorbed stimulants into your body to boost energy, improve your pump, as well as amino acids and other muscle rebuilding compounds, all of which make running through your routine that much easier.
Pre-workouts work. There’s no argument there. But the sheer effectiveness of them gets people thinking…
If taking a shot of pre-workout can give you an all important edge when it comes to your lifts, what would doubling the dose do?
This leads to some potentially serious issues so read on to learn what to do if you take too much pre-workout.
Can you Take Too Much Pre-workout?
First things first. It’s important to state that every pre-workout is designed to be taken with a specific dosage.
Most, if not all pre-workout formulas are going to contain a number of compounds that should only be taken in limited amounts, both for the result (increasing the dose doesn’t always mean increasing how effective it is) and for your health.
Doubling the dose doesn’t double the buzz you get from your pre-workout. In fact, it might make it worse. This is because you will over-stimulate your nervous system and feel much worse than the expected buzz from the recommended serving size.
So yes, you can take too much pre-workout.
It’s easy to do – especially with TikTok challenges and YouTube videos showing some dangerous quantities being consumed. Just check out this scary amount of pre-workout and caffeine that this person takes below:
It’s important to stick to the recommended dosage, otherwise, you could potentially suffer from a list of serious issues or side effects that can include:
- Stomach upset, bloating, and stomach cramp
- Headaches and dehydration
- Jitters, itchy skin, or a constant nervous feeling
- Being sick
- High blood pressure, heart pumping, or arrhythmia
- Heart issues like cardiac arrest (heart attacks)
What’s in Your Pre-workout: And How It Affects You
Actually stating what’s in your pre-workout and what might be causing any side effects you’re experiencing can be surprisingly complicated.
The main problem is that many pre-workout manufacturers include a ‘proprietary blend‘ in their ingredients list. This proprietary blend contains a manufacturer-specific list of ingredients that don’t have to be disclosed in countries like the UK and the USA.
There are two big reasons companies do this.
One, the company gets to keep its ingredients list secret, so rival brands can’t steal it and make their own version of the supplement. This is surprisingly simple to do, as the laws around ingredient copyright are vague and easily exploited.
Two. You, the consumer, don’t actually know what you’re putting into your body.
This is a separate issue, and companies have run into problems after investigations have found that many supplements don’t actually contain enough of the promised ingredients to be biologically available, meaning that it’s having little or no effect.
What Are the Main Active Ingredients in a Pre-workout?
Caffeine is one of the main ingredients in almost every pre-workout. A dose of caffeine before exercise can help boost energy and increase muscle performance and strength.
But anyone who’s had too much coffee knows the caffeine jitters. The uncomfortable feelings that accompany an excess of caffeine can manifest as:
- A feeling of too much, or nervous, energy
- Inability to stay still
- Excess sweating
- Trouble focusing
- In extreme cases, a racing heartbeat, or heart palpitations
The overstimulation that comes from too much caffeine can last several hours, with the most noticeable effects lasting up to an hour.
Related – Coffee vs pre-workout
An essential amino acid, Beta-Alanine increases muscle work capacity and endurance. But taking too much is known to cause paraesthesia, which manifests as a harmless but irritating tingling of the skin, normally around the hands and face.
Beta-alanine is also known to have interactions with certain medications, mostly heart meds and erectile dysfunction pills. If you’re on either of these, speak to your doctor before you load up on pre-workout.
Creatine is another essential supplement for anyone seriously looking to improve their athletic performance. But taking too much of it at once can leave you with stomach bloating and other gastrointestinal issues.
Your body can only absorb so much creatine in one 24-hour period. The standard dose is around 3 to 4 grams per day, or double what your body would normally produce in this period.
The only time you should exceed this is the first few days of supplementing creatine, commonly called the ‘loading period’.
This is a period of 5 to 7 days where you take around 20 grams of creatine, split into multiple doses, to super-saturate your muscles and build up a ready supply inside your body.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Another essential in many a gym goer’s supplement stack, it’s important to follow the dosage recommendations when taking BCAAs, because taking too high a dose can lead to a whole list of issues that include:
- Loss of coordination
Most importantly, long-term overuse of BCAAs might also lower your insulin resistance, which can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes.
What to Do If You Take Too Much Pre-workout?
So you’ve accidentally taken too much pre-workout, and you’re having a reaction. What now?
The next steps are split between short-term fixes that can help you feel better and get on with your routine, and long-term solutions to stop the problem from recurring.
For a brief summary, if you take too much pre-workout you should do some of the following steps:
- Drink water and rehydrate
- Eat something to help absorb some of the active ingredients from the pre-workout
- Try to relax – you don’t want to do anything that could increase your heart rate
- Seek medical attention if necessary
Short Term: Feeling Better Today
Drink More Water
Dehydration is a serious issue, and it’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you’re exercising and expecting to sweat out more water.
Just being dehydrated by itself can bring a ton of issues, like headaches, dizziness, and lightheadedness, as well as sapping muscular strength.
Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water alongside your pre-workout, staying hydrated throughout your exercise routine, and if you start to feel dehydrated take a short break.
An empty stomach can make the symptoms of taking excess pre-workout worse, as there’s nothing that can soak up the active compounds, which can increase the speed that they enter your bloodstream.
Eating a quick snack, especially something carb and protein-rich, can help by rebalancing your stomach contents and soaking up excess pre-workout before it can be absorbed.
Take a Break From Stimulating Supplements
Even if you feel well enough to continue your routine, don’t take any more supplements.
Side effects tend to fade as your body absorbs the compounds that are causing them, but it’s still going to take several hours for the contents of your pre-workout to completely break down, so taking more pre-workout formulas is only going to bring the issues back.
You should also avoid taking any post-workout supplementation until at least 24 hours later.
Seek Medical Attention
If the problems last longer than a few hours, or you feel any heart palpitations or chest pains, contact a health professional immediately for further advice.
Long Term: Avoiding the Problem
Drink Less Caffeine
The most common issues from too much pre-workout all stem from caffeine. If you keep having side effects, it’s worth cutting down on your caffeine intake and seeing if it makes a difference.
This is also one of the reasons people can become addicted to pre-workouts that have a high caffeine content.
Caffeine tolerance varies. So try having fewer morning coffees, fewer energy drinks, and potentially, if your choice of pre-workout is high in caffeine content, switch to a lower caffeine or caffeine-free brand.
Related – Stim-free pre-workouts
Change Your Supplements
As we’ve already stated, what goes into each pre-workout can be entirely different. So if you keep having an adverse reaction to one brand, switch to another and see if it keeps happening.
How to Avoid Issues With Your Pre-workout
- More pre-workout doesn’t mean more energy and bigger lifts; follow the manufacturer’s recommended amount
- Always test new supplements by taking a lower dose first – known as the minimal viable dose
- If you feel any side effects, drink some water and don’t do anything strenuous for a few minutes, or until you feel better
- If the problems continue, always seek medical attention
Take Home Message
When pushing hard in the gym, it’s natural to keep looking for an extra edge to push even harder. Pre-workout is a commonly used supplement for fueling an intense workout and boosting motivation, however, people can take this too far and take too much pre-workout in one sitting.
Pre-workouts are an effective stimulant and contain ingredients that can lead to over-stimulation or more severe health risks if you ignore the recommended dosages and take too much.
So, what should you do if you take too much pre-workout?
If you take too much pre-workout, you should rehydrate and eat a meal containing carbohydrates and protein. This is to minimize the absorption of excess stimulants like caffeine. If the effects don’t subside, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately for advice.
The human body is quite resilient, however, when using stimulants like pre-workout there is always a danger that you consume too much if you don’t follow the manufacturer’s recommended dose.
Therefore, always try to consume the minimum amount and make adjustments based on the effects you feel. It might also be worth checking out our articles on pre-workout tolerances and pre-workout not working before you think about upping your pre-workout dosage and end up taking too much!
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