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Is Pre-workout Bad for Your Liver? Answered by a Doctor

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

The liver is one of the most important organs in your body but it may not show signs of damage unless the disease has significantly progressed.

I’ve been taking pre-workout supplements for years, so I wanted to check how they affect my liver. I talked with a doctor and spent countless hours going over the published studies on pre-workouts and liver. Here’s what I found out.

Quick Summary

  • Whether pre-workout negatively affects the liver depends on the supplement ingredients
  • You should avoid prohibited supplements, such as anabolic steroids
  • Use pre-workout as prescribed to avoid increased liver enzymes and other liver injuries

Pre-Workout and Its Effect on Liver

A woman having liver pain

For the most part, pre-workouts won’t badly affect your liver. If you’re in a fit form, take pre-workouts as prescribed, and don’t try out perilous trends, you’ll most probably be fine.

However, there are also cases in which pre-workouts negatively affect the liver. Here’s when you can suffer from a drug-induced liver injury:

  • Proprietary blends — Many dietary supplements are proprietary blends, which means the manufacturer doesn’t disclose exactly what the supplement contains and in which quantities.
  • Not FDA regulated — Dietary supplements aren’t FDA regulated, so you can’t know if they are safe or not.

This being said, you can choose a pre-workout supplement that’s been third-party tested to ensure a degree of quality.

"The FDA does not regulate herbal supplements as they do with medications. They will pull a supplement off the market but only after there have been complaints of side effects."

- Carol Denysschen, Chair of Health and Nutrition Dietetics at Buffalo State

Pre-Workout Drinks and Liver Damage: Scientific Data

A pre workout drink with shoes and exercise tools

A study tested 44 men who admitted to taking supplements to enhance their physical appearance.

The results found that many supplements they used contained anabolic steroids, which weren’t stated on the label. Blood tests discovered liver injuries in the majority of men [1].

Another study, including a 24-year-old active-duty male, found he had acute liver injury after taking a supplement containing whey protein and creatinine.

Once he stopped taking the bodybuilding supplements, the liver chemistries started to improve on their own [2].

While there’s a lot of research available that says many supplements cause liver disease, it’s not always the case.

Another study done on 44 males and females found that multi-ingredient pre-workout is safe.

The researchers did blood tests before and after the supplementation period and didn’t discover adverse effects on liver health [3].

Related article:

Supplement Ingredients and Liver Damage

A man with liver ache

Here’s which ingredients in bodybuilding supplements are and aren’t safe for your liver:

  • Protein — This is the most widely used pre-workout as it helps build muscle. You'll be fine if you take it correctly and in small doses. But if you ingest too much protein, you’ll interfere with the liver and kidney function. A good rule is to stick to 50g of whey protein or 30g daily for six months.
  • Dimethylamylamine Or (DMAA) — DMAA is seen as dangerous because it raises heart stress and blood pressure. Moreover, it can cause liver failure. Many supplements containing DMAA have been pulled from the shelves in the US, and manufacturers mostly use amino acids to mimic the DMAA effect.
  • Niacin — Niacin helps during intense workouts and doesn’t have many side effects. However, if you take a high dose of Niacin, you’ll have elevated liver enzymes.
  • Creatine — Is produced naturally in the body, but it’s also one of the most common ingredients of bodybuilding supplements. It gives a boost of energy and helps you work out for longer. The good news is that it won’t cause liver damage. However, it can cause kidney stress and dehydration if taken for too long. That’s why it’s best to use creatine in cycles.

Here is a list of pre-workouts with creatine that we tested and got approval for.

  • Nitric oxide — Nitric oxide is a compound that improves blood flow by relaxing blood vessels. Pre-workouts have compounds that the body uses to create nitric oxides, such as L-arginine and L-citrulline. It can improve athletic performance, and the current research doesn’t indicate it causes liver damage, so this is a safe ingredient.
  • BCAAsTaking Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs after a workout also increases muscle mass and eases muscle soreness. It’s found in dietary protein sources, so you don’t even need a workout supplement to get an adequate amount of BCAAs.
  • Green tea extractGreen tea helps with metabolism increasing and aids in weight loss, but some research has found it can cause liver damage and liver injury.

Overall, men's pre-workout supplements are safe. But, it’s crucial how much you take and for how long. It’s always best to choose supplements that were third-party tested and only use the prescribed dose of the pre-workout.

Also, avoid anabolic steroids, as they are among the main cause of liver damage and other health issues.

You should take supplements under medical supervision if you have existing medical issues.

FAQs

Is Taking Pre-Workout Every Day Bad Long-Term?

Taking pre-workout every day isn't bad long-term as long as you’re a healthy person. It can help you build muscle or lose weight as long as you use it as prescribed.

Can Creatine Mess Up Your Liver?

Current data says creatine can’t mess up your liver as long as you use it in cycles.

Is Protein Powder Bad For The Liver?

No, protein powder isn’t bad for the liver as long as your liver is healthy and free of damage.

Are Protein Shakes Ok For Fatty Liver?

Yes, protein shakes can be ok for fatty liver. Soy and whey protein can reduce fat buildup in the liver.

Can Pre-Workout Damage Your Kidneys?

Yes, pre-workout can damage your kidneys. However, this only happens if you have prior health issues, consume unsafe pre-workouts, or consume the supplement in incorrect doses and too frequently.

Will Pre-Workout Damage Your Liver?

There’s a high chance that pre-workout won’t damage your liver. Taking supplements is a personal choice, but you should always make sure to take supplements with safe active ingredients.

It’s best to choose supplements that have been third-party tested, as these are generally safe.

You can also check other user reviews. Most importantly, make sure to use the supplement as stated on the packaging. Don’t overdo the dose or the use duration, or you risk damaging your liver and developing other health issues.

If you’re on the lookout for safe and effective supplements, check out our round-up of the best organic pre-workouts formulated without artificial ingredients that might jeopardize your liver health.


References:

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/apt.15211
  2. https://journals.lww.com/ajg/fulltext/2020/10001/s2600_pre_workout_peril_
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471216/
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