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Is Pre-Workout Bad for Teens? (Everything You Must Know)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: January 19, 2023
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Today, many teens take pre-workouts to improve athletic performance, and concerned parents of these teenagers often approach me about whether pre-workout is a safe option for their children.

Since many ads on dietary supplements tend to target young minds with sketchy products, I took a few weeks to research the matter with our dietician.

So, in this article, I will outline my findings on whether pre-workout is safe for teenagers or not.

Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary

  • Although teenagers don’t need to take pre-workout formulas or energy drinks, no scientific evidence demonstrates that consuming them harms young athletes.
  • Teenagers should avoid taking multiple supplements to prevent ingesting excessive quantities of chemicals like caffeine.
  • For teenagers, eating a meal or having a protein shake might be better than taking a pre-workout drink.

Can Teenagers Take Pre-Workout Supplements?

Teenager pouring pre workout supplement on hand

Yes, teenagers can take certain pre-workout supplements that don’t contain banned compounds or high amounts of stimulants. If they do, parents need to watch out for two things:

  • Quality of the product
  • Potential misuse of the supplement

Quality of the Product

A parent's primary concern in choosing a pre-workout supplement for their teenager is the product's quality.

Firstly, the product should come from a reputable brand that manufactures high-quality products that only contain natural and safe ingredients.

Secondly, parents need to read the ingredient list to ensure that the product doesn’t contain anything that could be potentially harmful (like allergens).

The supplement shouldn't contain artificial sweeteners or high amounts of caffeine and other harmful ingredients. If the teen ends up having a caffeine sensitivity, it could cause them to start feeling tingly and jittery. Worse, they might end up not getting a lot of sleep at night.

Parents need to make the extra effort with this by talking to a physician and understanding the pros and cons of every ingredient in the supplement. This also applies to any other supplements their teens may be taking.

As long as the product comes from a reputable brand and contains natural ingredients backed by science, it may be safe for teenagers to consume.

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Potential Misuse

A teenager shocked while holding a pill

Many teenagers tend to be more reckless and irresponsible, so parents should watch out for misuse of pre-workouts.

There are two ways young athletes can misuse pre-workout: overdosing and dry-scooping.

A teenager might think that if one scoop of pre-workout gives them more energy, two would be better.

It is important for parents and coaches to explain to their young athletes the dangers of overdosing on pre-workouts.

The second way a teen could misuse pre-workout is by dry-scooping.

Dry-scooping is when you consume pre-workout powder without water or any liquids. I’ve noticed this trend with young lifters, and it’s a choking hazard waiting to happen. Tell your teens to avoid doing this at all costs.


Why Would a Teenager Need It?

A teenager might need some form of pre-workout to build muscle and strength, improve athletic endurance, achieve their fitness goals, and do well in any sports they compete in.

Although these products are definitely not required for them, and most teens can perfectly go without them, sometimes, a teenager might require an extra boost to throw harder, run faster, and jump higher.

A pre-workout formula might give them more energy before a workout, allowing them to train more effectively and achieve their athletic goals.

What Are Some Alternatives for Teens?

Rich-protein foods in isolated background

There are a couple of excellent pre-workout alternatives for teens to help them build muscle and gain strength, and those are pre-workout meals and teenager-friendly protein powders.

Let's find out how they work as pre-workout alternatives.

Pre-Workout Meals

Pre-workout meals are great for boosting your energy levels before a workout.

Teens who want to build muscle and improve endurance with resistance training should eat protein-rich foods [1]. Foods such as fish, poultry, eggs, beans, lentils, and nuts are excellent protein sources [2].

Research has shown that consuming 1.6 and 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is ideal for increasing muscle size [3].

Teens who simply want enough energy to push through other workouts should focus on consuming enough carbs before exercising. Complex carbs are one of the best sources of slow and longer-term energy — enough to fuel young athletes through a grueling workout.

Eat at least one to two hours before your workout, so you don't experience the discomfort of exercising on a full stomach.

Teen-Friendly Protein Supplements

An athletic teenager cheering

Several studies back up the relation between pre-workout protein consumption and better athletic performance.

Consuming protein before exercise can increase muscle-protein synthesis [4].

It can also improve your muscles' anabolic response (the difference between net protein synthesis and breakdown) [5].

Other benefits of taking a protein powder as a pre-workout include:

  • Better muscle performance [6]
  • Improved post-workout muscle recovery [7]
  • Increased muscle growth [8]
  • Increased strength [9]

“For teens, or anyone who is looking to protein powder as a supplement in their diet, they should look for and choose protein powders that have been tested by third parties. A third-party testing allows us to verify that the supplement contains what it advertises.”

- Dr. Eleanor Baker MS, LDN, RDN, Dietician


Is Taking Pre-workout Safe for Teenagers?

Yes, taking pre-workout can be safe for teenagers. The best products for teenagers contain comparatively smaller amounts of caffeine, BCAAs, beta-alanine, and creatine monohydrate.

Should Teenagers Avoid Taking Any Dietary Supplements?

No, teenagers should not avoid taking any dietary supplements. But, all the ingredients in the supplements they consume should be natural, safe, and backed by science.

At What Age Is It Safest To Take Pre-Workout?

The safest age to take pre-workout is after 18 years. However, muscle mass, pre-workout quality, and caffeine intake can influence this.

What Pre-Workout Ingredients Should Teenagers Avoid?

Teenagers should avoid pre-workouts with artificial sweeteners, high-caffeine content, and artificial coloring. They should avoid any pre-workout that does not contain science-backed ingredients.

So, Is Pre-workout Bad for Teens?

There is no scientific evidence that pre-workout is harmful to young athletes, but bad products and misuse can still be problematic.

To be on the safer side, I recommend parents check our guide on the best pre-workout supplements for teens and buy only from trustworthy sources.

While they're not meant to be a replacement for a healthy and well-balanced diet, they work as a safe alternative to pre-workouts. Not only do they taste good and mix well, but they also provide high-quality whey protein for your teens.

Look through the list and see what's best for your teenagers' needs.


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