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Is Pre-workout Bad For Your Heart? (From A Doctor)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

I've been taking recommended amounts of pre-workouts before my gym sessions for some time now, but I’ve always wondered whether that might affect my heart.

After days of research and a lengthy conversation with a doctor friend, I finally understood how pre-workouts and their elements work and their effects on your heart which I'll share in this article.

Let's get started.

Quick Summary

  • Pre-workouts enable you to stay focused during your workout and master the mental aspect of workout efficiency
  • Taking a pre-workout boosts your metabolism for enhanced strength as you exercise and gives you extra strength even after a workout
  • Excessive caffeine consumption in pre-workout doses is harmful and might lead to hypertension, sleep disruption, and heart attack

Pre-workout and Its Effect On Your Heart

Man holding his chest with red glow

Pre-workout supplements increase blood flow to your body extremities and raise your heart rate during any exercise performance.

The pre-workout supplements act like energy drinks that give you long-lasting energy levels, motivating and pushing you further on your fitness journey.

Pre-workout supplements have been shown to boost physical performance and aid in cardio aerobic training.

They may help you get the most out of your HIIT workout and enhance your attention and stamina for slower, more steady exercises like jogging or swimming.

A solid pre-workout supplement's contents can aid with any type of physical activity and can assist you to maximize your aerobic activities.

Since taking a pre-workout can increase your heart rate, using them with vigorous physical exercise might burden your heart. This is because pre-workout supplements contain different substances that affect your heart and lungs differently, as you'll see in the next section.

5 Pre-Workout Components And Their Impact On Circulatory System

Top view of scooping a pre workout supplement

Pre-workout supplements have different components that may affect your cardiovascular system differently. Here are some of these elements and their effects.

Caffeine

Many pre-workout supplements have a 150-300g caffeine level per cup, equivalent to three times the caffeine levels in a cup of coffee [1].

These doses of caffeine are unhealthy if you're a moderate coffee drinker.

While this element may boost mental clarity, cognition, and athletic performance, excessive caffeine intake might lead to hypertension and poor sleeping habits.

Too much caffeine also causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which elevates blood pressure. In the long run, high blood pressure can progress to persistent hypertension, which is associated with many cardiovascular issues.

If you currently have high blood pressure, taking a dose of caffeine in excess can skyrocket your condition and increase your risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, or arrhythmias.

"Caffeine is included in many supplements taken before any workout performance because it makes you feel good, gives a slight sense of euphoria, and gives you a burst of energy during your workout."

- Nicholas Paivanas, MD

L-Arginine and L-citrulline

Muscular man holding two bowls

Increasing your consumption of these two substances may improve your overall health and athletic performance in the gym.

Still, these two elements operate primarily by promoting vasodilation or widening major blood vessels. They are also linked to decreased blood pressure and enhanced blood flow [2].

Arginine is turned into the compound nitric oxide, which induces blood artery vasodilation by relaxing the smooth muscle cells, tightening them in the process.

This expansion enhances the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles while lowering blood pressure.

By boosting nitric oxide generation, blood flow increases. This component may also benefit your muscle by increasing protein production and lowering amino acid degradation.

Remember that if you are also on blood pressure medicine, the combined impact of these pre-workout powder elements and your prescription may cause your blood pressure to drop severely. It would be best to consult your doctor before taking any pre-workout products.

Taurine

Taurine is essential for appropriate water intake and electrolyte balance inside the cells. Also, it controls the amounts of certain minerals within cells, such as calcium; hence Taurine has a role in the overall functioning of the nervous system.

Taurine is considered to improve athletic efficiency by minimizing muscle exhaustion, allowing athletes to maintain more energy for longer. With healthy nutrition, Taurine may also boost muscle force production, keeping your muscular contractions strong [3].

Besides boosting athletic performance by improving muscle energy metabolism, excessive Taurine intakes affect your health by lowering blood pressure.

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Yohimbine

Close up image of powder supplement

Yohimbine is known to be an alkaloid that is put in pre-workout drinks to help with weight reduction. This compound possesses stimulatory properties and effectively engages with adrenoreceptors [4].

Taking yohimbine orally or as a pre-workout powder component is related to an increase in blood pressure and sympathetic nerve reactions in hypertensive people [5]. However, people without hypertension are still equally sensitive to its effects.

The elevation in blood pressure appears to be connected to an increase in plasma norepinephrine concentrations, which go up two to three levels following a yohimbine consumption.

If you have hypertension, sympathetic nervous system disorders, or take antidepressant medications, you should see your physician before adding a pre-workout supplement to your fitness regimen.

Vitamin B

B vitamins are commonly present in foods including fish, poultry, and dairy.

Many pre-workout pills contain B vitamins because they aid in the production of energy, which can, in turn, aid in the performance of the athlete throughout a workout [6].

However, unless an individual is lacking these vitamins, taking a supplement containing them is unlikely to be beneficial - though exercise may raise the need for some B vitamins, particularly B2 and B6.

The majority of the chemicals found in pre-workout supplements have been demonstrated to be safe at modest levels. However, ingesting them in the evenings may be a terrible idea since the caffeine in them may interfere with sleep.

4 Alternatives to Pre-workouts

Pouring oatmeal inside a blender with supplement container background

Here are four alternatives to pre-workouts that are actually good for the heart.

Green Tea

Drinking green tea as a pre-workout helps to reduce your cardiovascular risk. According to research, this light, fragrant tea may cut LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which may explain the tea's relationship with a lower risk of mortality from heart disease and stroke [7].

Oatmeal

You can never go wrong with a good old-fashioned plate of oats as a pre-workout alternative. Oat consumption has been related to improved health in patients with cardiovascular disease and infections. Oatmeal includes soluble fiber, which lowers your LDL (bad) cholesterol [8].

Soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol absorption into your system. This prevents fat from clogging your arteries and veins and allows your heart to pump blood optimally.

Yogurt

Organic yogurt with wooden spoon

Yogurt is especially beneficial to heart health: it has been related to normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Yogurt, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, can help avoid long-term weight gain, which is beneficial to the heart.

Peanut Butter Sandwich

The potassium concentrations in peanut butter assist to regulate the salt levels in the body, which benefits your heart health.

Furthermore, the butter's beneficial fat concentration helps keep your cholesterol levels low and your heart healthy.

FAQs

Can Pre-workout Cause Health Problems?

Pre-workout can cause health problems if you consume more than recommended.

Can You Have A Heart Attack Dry Scooping Pre-workout?

Yes, you can have a heart attack dry scooping pre-workout because you can accidentally inhale some of the powdered particles which are bad for the heart.

What Happens If You Take Too Much Pre-workout?

If you take too much pre-workout, there will be a couple of harmful effects including a jittery feeling, high blood pressure, chest pain, heart disease, breathing problems, heart palpitations, or lung disease.

How Safe Is Pre-workout?

Pre-workout is safe to use if you take the recommended amount

Can Pre-workout Give You A Stroke?

Pre-workout can give you a life-threatening stroke if taken in excessive amounts.

Pre-workout and Heart Health

Pre-workouts are known for the benefits they provide. However, when misused, they can bring forth many life-threatening side effects, including high blood pressure and other heart problems.

If you have heart concerns and want to play safe with your pre-workout, take a look at the best caffeine-free pre-workout supplements that won’t produce jitters and heart palpitations related to stimulants frequently found in these products.


References:

  1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/does-taking-a-pre-workout-actually-work/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469824/
  3. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15438620600987106?
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/green-tea-may-lower-heart-disease-risk#
  6. https://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1029&
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7690091/
  8. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/health-benefits-pre-workout-supplements
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