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The proudly touted statement: “I only use that powder before my workouts. I get some great energy and the workouts are amazing!”

If you only knew what was in those powders.... I am talking about the stimulant-loaded, caffeine-spiked, skin crawling, pre-workout powders. Before I proceed, let's get one thing straight, I am NOT anti-pre-workout.

Onward. A lot of these pre-workout formulas (sometimes marketed as an “energy formula”) are loaded with a lot of things that are absolutely HORRIBLE for you. Think about a few energy drinks and throw in some other stuff that makes your face itch and you have the basic preworkout formula.

You might say that your “energy formula” does not do those weird things and maybe you think it doesn’t contain that much caffeine. Maybe it doesn’t, but is there a proprietary energy blend that lists 50 ingredients that you have no clue how to pronounce? Are there things like green tea extract? Gingseng? Taurine? Tyrosine? Niacin? Beta-Alanine? Do these ring a bell? Are they bad? Absolutely NOT. However, they can be lethal when combined.

Recommendations for pre-workout powders:

  1. Find a company that 3rd-party tests. Unfortunately nearly all the formulas on the market are NOT 3RD-party tested. Hmmmm.. I wonder why?

  2. Find a label that is completely transparent. No blends of any sort. Ingredient for ingredient. Line by line.

  3. Look at the caffeine or energy formula (if it has energy formula, reread #2). How much is in there? I would suggest no more than 100mg of caffeine per serving! That is not all the hidden caffeine either.

  4. How do I dose? Try ½ of what the recommended serving size is. Don’t try 1 scoop. Do 1/2. You are looking for the minimum effective dose.

  5. Why don’t you drink something else like coffee so you can actually stop when you want? Once you have drunk the pre-workout you cannot regurgitate the entire drink you just slammed.

Maybe you should even question why you “need” a pre-workout powder to begin with. Most likely there is a system issue that needs to be dealt with. For now, be cautious and check out the company and label of your “energy formula”.

Thank you for investing in your health.

Joseph Champa, RD, CSCS

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