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Is It Bad to Drink Pre-Workout Without Working Out? 

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 1, 2022

I rarely miss a day of drinking pre-workout before training sessions to give my body a jump start, and therefore I often advise my clients to do the same to fuel their workouts.

One of the questions I have heard recently around the gym is whether taking pre-workout without working out is a good idea.

Whenever I drink pre-workout, I exercise, so to answer the question, I spoke with our dietician, I’ve asked my clients, friends, and followers who have done this to give me their honest feedback and I also tested this with a couple of my colleagues from TotalShape.

Read on to find out if you should drink pre-workout outside the gym or not.

Quick Summary

  • It might be safe to drink pre-workout to boost energy levels and improve focus outside when not exercising.
  • There is a growing trend to use pre-workout without working out for the same kick as an energy drink.
  • Taking a pre-workout regularly is considered generally safe, with the only caveat potentially being too much caffeine.

How Do Pre-workouts Work in Your Body?

A man looking at a metal bottle

Pre-workouts work in your body as a stimulant, boosting your energy levels and improving focus and performance.

To fully understand how a pre-workout works in your body, you should consider the most common ingredient - caffeine.

On the ingredients label of most pre-workout supplements, caffeine is at the top of the list with a range of 150-300 mg per serving, which equals approximately one to three cups of black coffee.

Caffeine can be great in moderate amounts because it can crank up your central nervous system, improve reaction time, and combat fatigue, but too much can cause anxiety [1]

However, it is crucial to understand your caffeine tolerance when evaluating supplements because stimulant-free pre-workout options are available if this is an issue.

The key for me and many in our group was drinking pre-workout in place of our daily coffee intake.

Other Common Ingredients

Beta-alanine is also often found in pre-workout supplements because it may lower fatigue and increase high-intensity exercise performance, simply giving you a good workout [2].

Creatine aids in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body, which provides energy for muscles. Many believe it improves strength, increases lean muscle mass, and aids in muscle recovery [3].

Studies show when you combine creatine with resistance training, you may gain more strength than with just resistance training itself [4].

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are another common ingredient in pre-workout supplements. BCAA may promote muscle growth, increases lean muscle mass, and reduces muscle damage in high-intensity workouts [5].

Nitric Oxide Boosters like citrulline, arginine, and betaine are ingredients you should look for when choosing a pre-workout supplement because nitric oxide plays a role in relaxing blood vessels and increasing blood flow, giving you increased energy and enhanced workout performance [6].

"[BCAAs] are of interest to those who want to build muscle because of their role in protein synthesis and turnover and energy regulation. BCAAs also play a role in glucose metabolism and immune and brain function." - Ashley Leone, Sports Dietician

Why Do People Take Them on off Days?

A muscular man sitting in the dark

People take pre-workouts on off days because drinking pre-workout without working out still offers a considerable kick start and produces the same effect as drinking energy drinks.

A survey of study participants showed the top three goals in taking pre-workout were increased energy and focus, muscular endurance, and blood flow or “pump.”

This same study showed that the key ingredients of pre-workout supplements most sought after are caffeine, b-alanine, creatine, vasodilators, branched-chain amino acids, and vitamins [7].

These ingredients are all related to increased alertness, blood flow, and decreased fatigue, which are all benefits users want to experience on their off days as well.

I also noticed some of the benefits of using the pre-workout supplement without working out during our trial phase, and I must say I understand the appeal.

Is It Bad to Take a Pre-workout Supplement and Not Workout?

A fit man looking down with earphones on his ears

It is not bad to take a pre-workout without working out if you take it in moderation.

It seems the most adverse effects of drinking pre-workout on a regular basis would be from the stimulants.

The most common side effects include insomnia, increased heart rate, restlessness, and nausea [8].

My colleagues and I replaced our morning coffee intake with the pre-workout supplements for a week and did not perform any exercise afterward.

The effectiveness of the pre-workout supplement on motivation, focus, and alertness was significant, and the side effects were not too problematic.

In the beginning, a few in the group experienced a bit of jitteriness that comes with increased caffeine intake, but with a few dosage adjustments, this issue went away.

FAQs

Is It Bad to Take a Pre-workout Every Day?

It is not bad to take pre-workout every day, but your body could build up a tolerance to some of the ingredients.

Can You Take Pre-workout as an Energy Drink?

You can take pre-workout as an energy drink but keep in mind pre-workouts are specifically designed to improve workout performance by enhancing strength, focus, stamina, and endurance, so forgoing the gym may waste some of these benefits.

Are There Benefits to Taking Pre-workout Outside the Gym?

Yes, there are benefits to taking pre-workout without going to the gym, and these include improved cognitive focus and attention, an energy boost, and increased blood and oxygen flow.

Should You Take Pre-workout and Skip the Gym?

To drink pre-workout without working out is not for everyone, but those who tolerate several cups of coffee a day well should do okay.

Most people in our trial group, including myself, tolerated pre-workout on a daily basis with no major adverse effects, which I believe is also due to the quality of the products we were using.

I would advise you to opt for one of these best pre-workout options if you are looking to boost energy, focus, and motivation without compromising either your health or the results.


References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/news/20190719/is-caffeine-fueling-your-anxieties
  2. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-9-39
  3. https://www.webmd.com/men/creatine
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14636102/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/health-benefits-pre-workout-supplements
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22260513/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520716/
  8. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-979/caffeine

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