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Can You Take Pre-workout While Pregnant? What You Must Know

Christiana Mikesch
Published by Christiana Mikesch
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 17, 2022

Many of my fitness clients are pregnant women focused on staying fit and healthy for themselves and their developing babies.

Often these clients come to me with questions about the safety of supplement ingredients, and recently one of them asked me about pre-workouts.

Before the conversation gets very far, I advise them to consult their doctor before taking any supplements. Still, I am able to provide information based on in-depth online research, my experience as a fitness coach, and discussions with our nutritionist.

Read on to learn what I know.

Quick Summary

  • Experts say to maintain a healthy pregnancy, limit caffeine intake to less than 200 mg daily.
  • Many pregnant women continue to work out throughout their pregnancy and look for the performance boost pre-workout supplements offer.
  • Protein powder can be a great alternative to pre-workout supplements while pregnant.

Should You Take Pre-workout While Pregnant?

Taking pre-workout pills during pregnancy

You may be able to take pre-workout while pregnant, but I can not stress enough how important it is to talk to your doctor first.

When deciding whether taking a pre-workout supplement is the best choice for you and your unborn baby, there are some critical factors to consider.

Look at the ingredients and avoid proprietary blends.

I advise my clients, pregnant or not, to avoid these proprietary blends because you do not fully know what is in them, like how much caffeine or artificial ingredients are in the formula.

A pre-workout supplement may also contain unnecessary additives and fillers, and the safety of these additions could be unknown.

What Ingredients Can Be Harmful to Your Baby?

A pregnant woman holding pills with coffee beans

Let’s look at the common ingredients in a pre-workout supplement that may affect your baby.

Caffeine

Caffeine is the most common ingredient in pre-workout supplements because it can significantly enhance your exercise by boosting energy, improving focus, and increasing stamina [1].

Many experts will say you should avoid caffeine altogether. Recently, though, the consensus is that limited caffeine is ok and should not exceed 200 mg daily.

Caffeine content is where the challenge lies in pre-workout supplements, as a single serving can far exceed 200 mg, that's why in these cases we recommend pre-workouts without caffeine.

Artificial Sweeteners

A scoop of artificial sweetener

The safety of artificial sweeteners depends on which sugar substitute you are considering.

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose are considered safe during pregnancy but should be used moderately [2].

Another option that some people choose over artificial sweeteners is Stevia, a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant.

It has gained traction as an all-natural option and is popping up more and more on the ingredient lists of many pre-workout supplements.

Many believe it is safe, but research is ongoing.

Creatine

Research continues on whether creatine supplementation is suitable during pregnancy.

Many gym-goers, including pregnant women, look for creatine on the label of their dietary supplements because it can aid muscle recovery during exercise [3].

But is it safe?

Studies are showing that creatine may not only be safe during pregnancy but can be beneficial to the baby’s health, so looking for a pre-workout that contains creatine may be a good idea [4].

Are There Pregnancy-Friendly Pre-workout Options?

Forming a heart on her pregnant stomach

Non-stimulant pre-workout can be a pregnancy-friendly pre-workout option but again, consult your doctor first.

Whole foods can be a great way to enhance performance for exercise. Some good food choices include:

  • A nutrient-packed smoothie and the ingredient combinations are endless. Add a scoop of protein powder and take a couple of hours before working out.
  • A nut butter and fruit preserve sandwich on whole-grain bread is a good choice a couple of hours before exercise.
  • Greek yogurt with your favorite fruit is an excellent option if your workout starts within an hour.
  • Whole-grain cereal and milk are best if your workout begins in a couple of hours.
  • A piece of fruit like an apple, orange, or banana can be eaten right before working out.

“Carbs help maximize glycogen stores for high-intensity exercise, while fat helps fuel your body for longer, less intense workouts. Meanwhile, protein improves muscle protein synthesis and aids recovery.”

- Arlene Semeco, MS, RD.

What Can I Use Instead?

Instead of pre-workout, you can use an all-natural protein powder. Many protein powder formulas can benefit the health of a pregnant woman and her developing baby.

A minimum of 60 mg of protein daily is advisable for women during pregnancy.

A single scoop of protein powder can give you up to half of that recommended dosage [5].

FAQs

Does Pre-Workout Cause Congenital Disabilities?

Pre-workout may cause congenital disabilities if it contains DMAE, as this compound has been linked to Spina Bifida (a spine birth defect).

Can You Have Caffeine When Pregnant?

You can have caffeine when pregnant, but it should be limited to less than 200 mg daily or approximately a 12-ounce cup of coffee. It may be best to look for a supplement with no or low stimulant content.

So, Should You Take Pre-workout While Pregnant?

It is possible to maintain your fitness routine while pregnant, but you may have to tweak the intensity, duration, and dietary supplements you take before working out.

Just to be safe, it may be best to put any commercial pre-workout supplement on the shelf during your pregnancy, as some commonly used ingredients are not fully tested for safety in pregnant women.

Instead, I would suggest you try some natural pre-workout alternatives, as these are mostly foods that can give you a slight edge during training but won’t compromise your or your baby’s health. However, keep in mind that caffeine is still off the table.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11583104/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4229159/
  3. https://www.webmd.com/men/creatine
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007139/
  5. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/eating-right-before-and-during-pregnancy

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