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Why Does Pre Workout Make Me Nauseous? (And How to Avoid It)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 14, 2023
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Recently one of my old clients had nausea during a workout. I know his abilities, and the training for that day wasn't anything he couldn't handle.

Being in the fitness industry for a long time, I had an approximate assumption about what went wrong. The client told me he took a pre-workout formula he had never used before.

So I decided to conduct my study on this topic and spend six weeks researching why pre-workout supplements may cause nausea to some.

Let's see what I discovered.

Quick Summary

  • Pre-workouts may cause nausea if they contain high doses of stimulant ingredients or have potentially harmful components.
  • Other side effects include water retention, jittery feeling, headaches, sleep issues, and hypertension.
  • To avoid potential pre-workout side effects, drink enough water, don't take them on an empty stomach, and watch the dosage.

Why Do Pre-workout Supplements Make You Nauseous?

A woman feeling nauseous

Pre-workout supplements could make you nauseous because of the inappropriate dosage, harmful ingredients, or ingredients that don't suit your particular system.

Many pre-workout supplements contain higher doses of stimulant ingredients than some people can tolerate.

Most of the time, the main culprit is caffeine. Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine daily intake [1].

Therefore, a common opinion is that pre-workouts shouldn't have more than 300 mg of caffeine per serving, yet companies are pushing the limit to 400 mg per serving and above.

Many pre-workouts have higher doses of caffeine in the formula because the more caffeine it has, the faster the effects arise, believing that the pre-workout is the real deal.

Too much caffeine leads to several side effects, including jitters and feeling sick. One of the reasons this may happen is because caffeine stimulates the stomach to produce acid, provoking acid reflux [2].

Some companies also develop their formulas with questionable ingredients such as Synephrine and DMAA (banned in the USA). These ingredients may cause adverse effects, and feeling sick is among the mildest.

How To Get Rid of The Sickness?

The first thing you should consider to get rid of pre-workout sickness is prevention, which means reading the pre-workout supplement label. If it contains high doses of potential trigger ingredients, you should avoid that pre-workout supplement altogether.

If you still want to use that pre-workout, try lowering the dose. You could start with a half scoop, and you could gradually increase with time, as your body may begin to build a tolerance to certain stimulants.

It would be best to take some general actions before consuming pre-workouts, such as avoiding taking it on an empty stomach.

If you take pre-workout on an empty stomach, ingredients will quickly enter your bloodstream, causing your body to cope fast with all the effects of pre-workout. It would be enough to take pre-workout with some simple carbs or mix it with a protein shake to avoid this.

The other rule everyone should follow is to consume adequate amounts of water pre-workout. Mix it with water, drink it about 30 minutes before exercise, and drink water during and after the training.

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What Other Side Effects Could It Cause?

A man palpitating while seating

Other side effects pre-workout could cause primarily refer to jittery feelings, water retention, digestive issues, and headaches.

In rare cases, pre-workout may yield more severe conditions such as hypertension, heart palpitations, and sleep issues.

Pre-workout ingredients other than caffeine could also lead to health issues for some gym-goers.

A common pre-workout ingredient, creatine, besides muscle growth, may cause digestive issues such as bloating due to water retention it provokes [3].

These side effects often happen in the first few days of using creatine or if dosages are above recommended.

One study also showed that pre-workout has the potential to raise diastolic blood pressure [4].

A beta-alanine, an amino acid that lowers the acidity in your muscles during the workout, may cause uncomfortable tingling sensations that people mostly feel in the back, neck, hands, and face.

It's a soothing neurological effect called paresthesia that usually stops 60-90 minutes after use [5].

Citrulline malate is added to some formulas to increase blood flow by raising nitric oxide levels, leading to blood pressure changes in the brain's small blood vessels, causing headaches and migraines.

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Ways to Reduce Pre-workout Side Effects?

Ways to reduce pre-workout side effects include watching your daily intake and using pre-workouts that state the exact amounts of ingredients, as many pre-workouts hide behind a proprietary blend.

If you experience some side effects, you should either start to lower your dose or figure out what ingredient doesn't suit you. Try eliminating them one by one.

"Pre-workouts can be beneficial and safe to take if the ingredients are correctly listed on the label and the company is credible."

- Kate Patton, Dietitian at Cleveland Clinic

Also, you should avoid using pre-workout in the afternoon to make sure the stimulants are worn off before going to bed. It's an especially important step if you're caffeine-sensitive. Otherwise, you might end up destroying sleep schedule and feel more worn-out during the day.

If, after all, you continue to experience side effects, maybe you should consider visiting your doctor to be sure you don't have any underlying disease.


How Long Does Pre-workout Stay in Your System?

Pre-workout might stay in your system for 4 to 6 hours, but it usually depends on the ingredients. That means that 4 to 6 hours is needed for pre-workout to wear off, but you could only feel the ingredient's benefits for about two hours.

Could pre-workout Cause Depression?

Pre-workout could cause depression if the ingredients in the formula are questionable. Dimethylamylamine, Yohimbe, and artificial sweeteners like aspartame may lead to mood swings, resulting in symptoms of depression.

Is BCAA Better Than Pre-workout?

No, BCAA is not necessarily better than pre-workout because they have different effects. Pre-workout's primary goal is to give you more energy and improve focus, whereas BCAA's goal is to help muscle recovery. So pre-workout is there to prepare your muscles and BCAA to repair them.

What to Do If Pre-workouts Make You Feel Sick?

If pre-workouts make you feel nauseous, you shouldn't give them up altogether. First, you should try different methods to eliminate those effects or find out what ingredient mainly makes you feel sick.

Pre-workouts have numerous benefits that can enhance your training session, and maybe only one ingredient or its dosage is what causes you to feel sick.

We’ve tried and thoroughly tested the best pre-workout supplements on the market, so make sure to check our guide to find the one that suits you best. Always read the label to see what ingredients and dosages it contains to ensure the formula is right for you.


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