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Is Pre-Workout A Steroid? (Everything You Need To Know)

Alex DePinto
Published by Alex DePinto
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 14, 2023
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Too many athletes have resorted to simply looking at anabolic steroids like any other muscle-building supplements, and the unfortunate reality is that they will inevitably run into serious health problems.

The fast impact on physical performance and increasing muscle mass is very tempting, but it’s a lot safer to focus on the right pre-workout supplements than on banned substances.

When I suggest this to the bodybuilders I work with who I know have gone through steroid cycles with a banned substance, they always want to know how much a pre-workout is like anabolics.

Here’s what my experience and research have shown.

Quick Summary

  • Anabolic steroids have been a tempting way for many professional and amateur athletes to achieve their physical fitness goals faster.
  • Bodybuilders who resort to medical hormone treatments for performance boosts often end up with serious side effects that go undiagnosed for too long.
  • With the right pre-workout supplements, bodybuilders can still support their gym workouts and notice healthy lean mass gains in less time.

What Supplement Is Closest To Steroids?

Close up image of syringe and pills

Legal steroids are the closest supplement to steroids, with an important distinction that the first usually don’t contain any banned substance.

However, out of the conventional products commonly used in a gym, pre-workout supplements are probably the closest.

The goal of these supplements is to deliver completely legal and FDA-approved ingredients that help with strength, reduced fatigue, and faster recovery times.

What they don’t do is give you a huge boost in strength within a few days. And they certainly are no replacement for a tough workout to get fit.

But by delivering certain herbs, minerals, and amino acid combinations, bodybuilders can gain a small boost that accumulates with every workout.

And the longer you take such a supplement, the more those small benefits add up to considerable gains.

Related: Is HGH Considered a Steroid?

What Ingredients Work Best?

Big creatine pill with coffee mug

There are a few pre-workout supplement products that our team at Total Shape has extensively tested and researched, where we have shown that they significantly improve performance levels.

And those products tend to contain similar ingredients like the following.


This is one of the most common ingredients in pre-workout products. Studies have shown a direct link between this stimulant and how muscles react to resistance training [1].

And getting it through a supplement is a much better idea than trying to get a few cups of Starbucks down before you head into your workout session.


Creatine is something that I advise all bodybuilders should be consuming for their tough workout sessions. Scientists have shown that it can have an impact on strength in a variety of different sports and workout situations [2].

Natural Herbs

The other thing you want to look out for is herbs like Ashwagandha and Fenugreek, which have been linked to higher testosterone levels [3].

For many athletes, this is the most important part of a pre-workout as it’s the closest to medical hormone replacement. It’s not like getting a testosterone shot that works within a few days. But if you consistently take such supplements for more than a month, you’ll notice quite a difference in your workout routines.

“​​Men who want to increase testosterone or libido could consider taking between 500-600mg of a standardized fenugreek formulation.”

- Kamal Patel, Editor & Co-founder of

Do Pre-Workouts Have The Same Side Effects As Steroids?

Man having liver ache problem

No, pre-workouts don’t have the same side effects as steroids.

Hormone replacement therapies come with many serious side effects that range from acne to mood swings and liver toxicity that can lead to organ failure [4].

When it comes to a typical pre-workout, the ingredients are classed as generally safe, and allergic reactions are very rare.

The minerals, vitamins, and amino acids are common in the food you eat, and you shouldn’t expect to have any significant reactions to them.


Does Pre-workout Mess With Your Testosterone?

No, a pre-workout will generally not mess with your testosterone in a negative way. Some of these products are ideal for bodybuilding as they can boost testosterone production naturally and result in faster growth in muscles.

Are Pre-workouts Illegal?

No, most pre-workouts are not illegal. There are a few that use an ingredient called DMAA that the anti-doping agency has added to a banned substance list. But those supplements are very rare, and I don’t recommend that bodybuilders use them.

Avoid Using Anabolic Steroids

It’s never a good idea to resort to medical drugs to boost your workout strength and endurance.

Yes, they are very effective, but the risks that athletes take with such drugs should never be worth it.

Instead, I recommend using legal steroids to boost testosterone levels and exercise strength and endurance:

It’s the best thing you can do to gain an advantage and fast-track your strength and fitness goals in the long term without wreaking havoc on your health.

And they are perfectly legal in all sports.


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