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Pre-Workout Powders All Day?

  • 8 min read

by Christian Duque

Just last week, a buddy of mine from the gym was talking to me in the locker room about how amped up he was throughout his average workday. He told me that all he was taking was three energy drinks a day. It caused me a bit of a double take, because three energy drinks can mean upwards of a gram of caffeine given how powerful some of these beverages are. Don’t forget that the energy drink market has come a long way from Red Bull which has 111mg of caffeine to the 16oz revolution with Monsters and Rockstars averaging 160mg of caffeine. That was over a decade ago. Now the new norm for Bang’s, Reign’s, and Rockstars is 300mg or more. Anyone who drinks three or more of these highly caffeinated energy drinks is going to be doing cartwheels.

It also depends what kind of work is being done. If we’re talking about a line of work that involves a lot of manual labor then maybe this enormous amount of energy may be expended. However, if we’re dealing with a corporate job, for example, the effects, the effects might seem like having a heart attack!

My buddy, who we’ll call “Sam,” has an office job. He’s at the gym – like clockwork – Monday to Friday at 5AM. He’s a former Marine who’s all about discipline. In the three years I’ve known him, I can count the times he’s missed a workout. He only misses them if he’s out of town or deathly sick. There is no other way. He’s also the absolute last person you’ll ever hear complain. Not only isn’t it in his nature, but he considers it a sign of weakness. He’s a leatherneck to the core who works in an air-conditioned office, sits in a therapeutic chair, and is so organized that he rarely stresses out over anything. He’s also got low body fat so when he was telling me that his heart’s been racing, that he’s been sweating profusely throughout the day, and that he’s jittery all the time, I had to ask more. I was intrigued. And to be honest I think we had the longest chat we’ve had in three years I’ve known him.

I was curious what energy drinks Sam was consuming and as soon as he told me, I had to have a heart to heart with him. He wasn’t drinking any of the drinks sold at the gym or the grocery store, rather, he was taking in 3-4 pre-workout drinks per day Monday to Friday. He’d bought a tub of a brand I won’t mention – largely – because he was taking 3-4x the daily workout amount and I don’t want to attribute him feeling like he was one step away from death with a product that if taken as directed would probably just provide enough energy for a great workout. The product Sam was taking had 350 mg of caffeine per serving – which is a monstrous amount. When he told me the name, I got my phone and looked over the ingredients list with him.

The problem with subbing energy drinks with pre’s is that pre’s are developed with the purpose of getting through grueling workouts, combating muscle fatigue, and increasing performance. They’re not intended to be taken like Monsters or Bangs. And even though some mainstream energy drinks now have thermogenic lines, they still pale considerably in strength to pre’s.

Again, the purpose of most energy drinks is to get students or gamers to stay up a little later. Others might be used for a normal workout or simply as a kick in the pants if dealing with a hangover. These mass marketed drinks don’t have ingredients that combat muscle fatigue, lactic acid release, and/or which push large amounts of oxygen to the muscles. And in the rare event that energy drinks do have some of the same ingredients as pre’s the difference in doses is notable. These products aren’t intended to be taken multiple times a day and in fact many of these products have strong warnings against taking even full scoop dosages at first.

Sam and many people looking for an edge are literally playing with fire but they’re grown adults who aren’t going to be told what to do, especially considering the fact that countless people in the fitness industry subscribe to a more is better mentality. Training more, eating more, and outdoing the last workout is the name of the game.

After pulling up the product details on I showed Sam where the problem was. He was taking a product marketed as a super thermogenic with a truckload of caffeine, including natural caffeine which is slower releasing energy. Another interesting note is caffeine’s half-life. Caffeine stays in the body especially at huge dosages and by putting more and more into the body it could easily cause dangerous side effects.

I’m no doctor. I didn’t study medicine and don’t even like reading journals, but it’s common sense that a drug that affects the nervous system, increases heart rate, and restricts blood circulation isn’t something you want to abuse. What’s interesting is that Sam and countless others only do this on certain days. For example, my friend’s routine is limited to Monday to Friday. Then on Saturday and Sunday, he told me he’s lethargic, suffers from headaches, and sometimes can’t get around to doing very much of anything.

Imagine having as much as a gram of caffeine M-F and then suffering some of the nastiest withdrawals imaginable on the two days per week when you don’t work, you don’t train, and should be the time when you rest your mind and body. The absolute last thing you’re doing is resting. You’re in agony.

After speaking to Sam I feel like I may have reasoned somewhat with him, but most people don’t have someone talk to them or try to reason with them. Also, Sam’s no spring chicken. I’m not, either. While youngsters may be seemingly indestructible, no one really is. These powerful energy supplements can easily become abused and can have dire consequences for users at any age. The pre-workout manufacturers are somewhat covered legally because they make clear-cut recommendations and if someone like Sam opts to take 2, 3, or 4 doses a day, then that use is outside what’s intended for the product. While the supplement companies may not be negligent, legalities aside, we may have a lot of very sick people on our hands. We may also have some deaths.

Most healthcare professionals are very weary of any caffeine product especially with patients dealing with high blood pressure and hypertension. There’s countless companies putting out solid non-stimulant pre-workout powders. In fact, some energy drinks have even ventured off to non-stimulant versions of their drinks. It’s no wonder that products like Bang Energy’s Voos did so poorly. It’s more than marketing and working with influencers.

People want the rush that caffeine provides. If company X stops putting out products that leave them wired, they’ll go elsewhere. Some supermarkets like Kroger even try to move the 300mg beverages to a different part of the store in hopes that drinks in the Red Bull, Monster, and Ghost category of 100-200mg of caffeine can still sell. Those who want the strong stuff are going to find it. But as is this case with caffeine and the body’s tolerance to it, there comes a point in time when more isn’t enough. 300mg is the limit on energy drinks so more people may start switching to pre’s.

Consumers need to educate themselves. Kudos to some companies that speak to the dangers of caffeine addiction and outline the responsible limits for caffeine intake – we can’t put the blame on them. Many people want to be amped up and they never want to come down. That goal in and of itself can be very dangerous especially as we age. Sometimes the best thing to do is sleep a full 8hrs, hydrate, eat well and live fit. That’s the gold standard, but countless prefer to just chug energy drinks and take scoop after scoop of pre-workout powder. God help them!