Why pre-workouts make you poop is a common question I get from my clients who use these supplements to boost their workouts.
While abnormal bowel movements are not something I've encountered with pre-workouts, I decided to check with a nutritionist about why some people might end up with some stomach issues.
It turns out that there are some common pre-workout ingredients that occasionally cause stomach issues. So, we did some deeper research for a few weeks to see if we could figure out what causes it and whether there are ways to avoid it.
So, why does pre-workout make you poop? Let's take a look.
- Pre-workout supplements can make you poop because of the combination of the ingredients, and also depending on how you are using it.
- The ingredients that might affect your stomach are caffeine, artificial sweeteners, magnesium, and lactose.
- According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, caffeine, a common pre-workout ingredient, not only improves strength and delays muscle fatigue but is also linked to increased bowel movements.
- I believe that the key to a good pre-workout is not just about the lift it gives but also how gently it sits in your stomach.
Why Does Pre-Workout Make Me Poop?
If your pre-workout supplement sends you to the bathroom often, it's likely due to its ingredients and how you're using it. Your body's natural reaction to exercise also plays a role, as it can stir up your gut microbiome and digestion.
In my and my clients' experience, it's usually down to caffeine or artificial sweeteners.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition acknowledges caffeine as a key pre-workout component for boosting strength and staving off muscle fatigue .
Meanwhile, sources like the McGill Office of Science and Society link caffeine to more frequent bowel movements .
From my fitness training experience, I've noticed the real issue often lies in the super high doses of stimulants in some supplements. Downing a hefty dose of caffeine, especially if you've already had coffee, can really upset your stomach.
As per reports in the National Library of Medicine, the other ingredient that can cause stomach issues and even diarrhea is some form of artificial sweetener . The other thing that can contribute to bowel trouble is how much and when you take your pre-workout.
Pre-Workout Ingredients That Might Affect Your Stomach
I gathered the names of each pre-workout supplement that my clients had reported issues with and then had my nutritionist review them to see what the most likely cause was.
As per reports in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, most pre-workout supplements contain some amount of caffeine, and that is because it can help you achieve a more intense workout session .
As we’ve mentioned, caffeine has been linked to increased bowel movements, but the main reason this might cause issues more often than it actually should is a high dose of these supplements, which can even lead to diarrhea, as per reports on Healthy Women .
The products that I recommend generally have less than 200 mg of caffeine, and that's about the same as two cups of coffee. While the Mayo Clinic says 400 mg per day is safe, you don't want to get that all in one go .
In the end, if you are sensitive to it, caffeine-free pre-workouts are the best option for you.
Artificial sweeteners are common in all supplements, not just pre-workouts. Havard Medical School studies have shown that they can destabilize your gut flora, leading to many different bowel issues .
I've had clients complain about gut issues until we tweaked their supplement intake to those without sweeteners and it worked in most cases.
What happens is that undigested sweetener absorbs water, which leads to softer stool.
One problem, in particular, is diarrhea, and it's often linked to a regular and consistent intake of artificial sweeteners.
You need to watch out for this when you take pre-workout supplements four or five times a week.
Lactose is less common in these products, but one of my clients used a pre-workout supplement that had lactose, and it was causing him many stomach issues.
According to Mayo Clinic, if you have any kind of lactose intolerance, then it can make you poop a lot more often at very inconvenient times .
However, some forms of this mineral can trigger digestive discomfort in the form of cramps, bloating, and diarrhea, as per reports by the Mayo Clinic.
If you see a high dose of magnesium in a pre-workout and you take it in some other form as well, then you could end up with stomach issues.
"Magnesium supplements can cause nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. Magnesium supplements often cause softening of stool."
- R. Morgan Griffin, Writer & Editor at WebMD.com
Other Contributing Factors
Beyond the ingredients in your chosen pre-workout supplements, there are a couple of other things that can impact a timely bowel movement.
- Caffeine Overload: Mixing a caffeine-rich pre-workout with your regular coffee can lead to a caffeine overload.
- Meal Timing: Taking pre-workouts close to meal times can mess with your digestive enzymes, leading to more bathroom trips.
- Supplement Stacking: Using multiple supplements with similar ingredients at the same time can also upset your stomach. Try skipping that coffee and staggering supplement intake to see if it helps.
Related Article: Pre-Workout vs Coffee
Always read the labels for caffeine content. High doses, especially combined with coffee, can affect not just your bowels but also your brain, nervous system, and blood pressure, as noted in studies from the National Library of Science .
Taking pre-workouts on an empty stomach, especially before fasted cardio, can increase the likelihood of abnormal bowel movements, especially if they contain artificial sweeteners and magnesium.
Don't overlook the psychological angle. Stress can worsen gastrointestinal issues, and the intensity of workouts combined with pre-workout supplements might amplify this.
Tips For Reducing Pre-Workout Poops
Does Pre-workout Make Your Stomach Hurt?
Yes, some pre-workout products can make your stomach hurt. But there are supplements that have a more stomach-friendly formula to help you avoid cramps and bloating.
How Do You Stop Pre-workout Diarrhea?
You can stop pre-workout diarrhea by making sure you don't take a product with too much caffeine and artificial sweeteners. You should also try to take it with some food to avoid stomach upset.
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