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Can Pre-workout Cause Kidney Stones? (How to Prevent)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 21, 2022

Every fitness enthusiast I know, myself included, chugs down the pre-workout before hitting the gym. Developing kidney stones by drinking workout supplements is a rumor that has gained traction among gym-goers.

I set out to find out if there was any truth to this theory, so I spent many hours doing online research, reviewing studies, and consulting with our dietician to get to the bottom of it.

So, can pre-workout cause kidney stones?

I believe I can take a solid stand on the debate, so read on to find out.

Quick Summary

  • A kidney stone recurrence is higher if you don’t take preventative measures like proper hydration or dietary changes.
  • Ensuring appropriate water intake, especially during exercise, can reduce the chance of a kidney stone episode.
  • Calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin D can instigate a kidney stone flare-up.

What Does the Research Say About Pre-workout and Kidney Stones?

Woman holding two stones to symbolize kidney

Research shows that pre-workout supplementation is generally well-tolerated and probably doesn’t cause kidney stones (renal calculus) in individuals whose overall health is good and who don’t have pre-existing kidney issues [1].

Some studies link an increased occurrence of kidney stones with certain supplements, particularly calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin D [2].

The results offered at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society found elevated calcium in the blood and urine of many of the participants taking supplementation.

This 12-month study didn’t include any cases of kidney stones, but additional research shows that elevated calcium levels can contribute to the development of renal calculus.

“The use of calcium and vitamin D supplementation may not be as benign as previously thought”

- J. Christopher Gallagher, M.D., principal investigator  

In my research, I found in at least a couple of areas where creatine, a common pre-workout ingredient, got a bad rap for potentially causing renal problems.

Studies don’t appear to link creatine to kidney problems for those in good health but advise against the use for those with existing renal issues [3].

It is worth bearing in mind that while the research suggests these supplements are not a catalyst for kidney stones, there seem to be ingredients in some that can exacerbate the problem, especially for individuals with pre-existing kidney issues.

Prevention Tactics

Having a headache and body pain

If you have ever had a kidney stone, you know the pain is extreme and is not something you soon forget.

A kidney stone flare-up comes with several intense symptoms, including severe, sharp pain in the back or side, burning feeling when urinating, frequent urination, fever and chills, bloody urine, nausea, vomiting, and cloudy or odorous urine [4].

According to our dietician, the following are essential things to remember when trying to prevent a kidney stone occurrence.

Remember, there are many other factors, and you should always consult your doctor for advice.

1. Drink Water

Avoiding dehydration is one of the best preventative measures you can take. The standard advice is 2-3 quarts or 8-12 cups of liquid per day and to avoid sugary drinks like soda and juices [5].

2. Drink Coffee

Besides its many health upsides, coffee seems to reduce the formation of “stones” in the kidneys [6].

“Our findings strongly suggest that regular coffee consumption reduces the risk of kidney stone formation.”

-Susanna C. Larsson, PhD

3. Avoid High-Oxalate Foods

Reduce intake of oxalate, a naturally occurring chemical, as calcium oxalate is the most common type of kidney stone. Lowering the intake of oxalate-rich foods like rhubarb, spinach, some berries, chocolate, beets, wheat bran, and some nuts can reduce the likelihood.

4. Control Protein Intake

A high amount of animal protein can contribute to the problem. Eating animal protein like eggs, beef, fish, poultry, and cheese can offer other health benefits; keep the amount moderate.

5. Reduce Salt

Avoid too much salt in your diet. High sodium means more calcium in your urine, increasing the likelihood of a kidney stone outbreak. Your blood pressure is also affected by sodium in your diet, so it is best to be careful here.

6. Manage your weight

Being overweight contributes to many health conditions, including kidney stones. Some pre-workout supplements might help you with weight loss.

The Type of Pre-workout You Choose Matters

Pre workout pills

A pre-workout has its place in the quest to build a robust and durable body as they improve your focus and increase your endurance and stamina for working out.

Read the ingredient label and follow the manufacturer’s dosing guidelines to reap the most benefit from these supplements.

Here are some useful tips: 

  • Avoid proprietary blends; these conceal just what ingredients and amounts are in the supplement; you need to know what you are putting in your body.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners; consuming them offers no added health benefit [6].
  • Avoid supplements with complicated chemical substances used as additives and fillers.

The takeaway is to pick a supplement with a short list of natural ingredients that will work with your body and not add calories or a health gamble with potentially harmful or banned substances.

FAQs

Does Creatine Cause Kidney Stones?

Creatine seems unlikely to cause the formation of kidney stones in individuals who are in good health. Creatine supplementation is not advisable for individuals with existing renal conditions.

Is Pre-workout Harmful?

Pre-workout does not appear harmful in recommended doses and can provide benefits like an energy boost, improved focus, increased muscle gain and recovery, and enhanced athletic performance.

Overdosing on pre-workout supplements, especially for susceptible individuals, can be dangerous.

So, Can Pre-workout Cause Kidney Stones?

After examining all of my research data, I still feel very confident recommending pre-workouts as kidney stone likelihood for healthy individuals with no history of kidney problems is virtually non-existent.

Furthermore, the benefits to physical performance seem to outweigh any potential risk when high-quality supplements are concerned.

I encourage my clients to read labels and opt for an all-natural pre-workout with a short list of ingredients void of any unnecessary additives or fillers.

Along with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper fluid intake, it will help you meet your fitness goals and steer clear of kidney stones.


References:

  1. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-016-0159-2
  2. https://blog.providence.org/archive/do-supplements-cause-kidney-stones
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31859895/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5685519/
  5. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/diet
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34690004/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198517/

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