Does Yohimbine Work as a Pre-Workout?

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 6, 2023
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In my experience, clients often ask about effective pre-workout supplements for fat burning.

Yohimbine has been a topic of interest, prompting a detailed analysis with our dietician on its risks and benefits.

I analyzed several studies and reviews and used our collective fitness and dietary knowledge to compile all you need to know about Yohimbine as a pre-workout.

Read on to learn more.

Quick Summary

  • Yohimbe might work as a pre-workout to boost fat burning, which increases blood flow and heart rate.
  • Some types of erectile dysfunction can be treated using Yohimbe.
  • A study with elite male soccer players showed that Yohimbe supplementation resulted in an average weight loss of 2.21 kg.
  • I find the potential of Yohimbine in improving workout efficiency intriguing, especially considering its diverse benefits and historical use in traditional medicine.

Can Yohimbine Work as a Pre-Workout?

A person holding yohimbine supplements

Yohimbine may work as a pre-workout to boost fat burning by triggering the body’s “fight or flight” mode, which increases blood flow and heart rate, and by preventing the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in the fat cells [1].

The alpha-2 adrenergic receptors inhibit the breakdown of fat in the body, so in theory, blocking these receptors can boost fat loss.

But before we discuss using yohimbine as a pre-workout, let’s look at what yohimbine is.

What Is Yohimbine?

Yohimbine, derived from Yohimbe bark, is traditionally used in African medicine for treating ED and enhancing sexual health, now a common benefit in U.S. supplements.

Yohimbine can dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow to the genital area of both men and women, and counteract the sexual side effects of some antidepressants [2].

Yohimbine HCL is paired with hydrochloride, creating a standardized form, and is available in the United States by prescription [3].

Beyond ED treatment, Yohimbine supplements may benefit exercise performance, weight loss, angina, and diabetic neuropathy.

Benefits

A runner jogging outside

Yohimbine supplementation to treat ED has a long history and solid reputation for its efficacy [4].

The conclusions on using Yohimbine for weight loss are less concrete.

One commonly cited randomized control trial of elite male soccer players published by Res Sports Med shows that oral supplementation of Yohimbe is an effective weight loss strategy [5].

Another 3-week study of 20 obese females from the National Library of Medicine restricted to a 1000-calorie diet found that those in the Yohimbe supplement group lost more weight than those in the placebo group [6].

On the flip side, another study from the Library shows Yohimbe does not affect fat distribution in men [7].

Additional research suggests that Yohimbe is ineffective at influencing the alpha 2-adrenoceptors or promoting the release of fatty acids and thus should not be considered a part of an effective strategy for obesity treatment [8].

“Some studies have found that taking yohimbine led to greater weight loss and decreases in body fat. However, other studies found no effect. More research is needed to evaluate if yohimbe is an effective weight loss supplement.”

- Keith Pearson, PhD, RD

Is Yohimbine Safe?

A buff male holding supplements

Yohimbine is safe for some individuals, but this doesn’t mean its addition to dietary supplements doesn’t come without the possibility of some negative effects [9].

Here are some side effects:

  • Agitation/excitation
  • Anxiety
  • Bloating
  • Cardiac failure
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fluid retention
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Hypotension (low BP)
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach upset

Serious side effects of pre-workout, such as Yohimbe, include irregular or racing heartbeat, kidney failure, seizure, and heart attack.

A key point to remember is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate workout supplements, increasing your risk of consuming a sub-par product with a lack of label transparency.

Research suggests this is particularly true for Yohimbe supplements, showing highly inaccurate label reporting regarding Yohimbe quantities in the product [10].

The FDA has launched a great tool - “Supplement Your Knowledge,”  to help inform consumers about herbs, minerals, vitamins, and supplements [11].

I often recommend the FDA initiative to my clients. Still, I remind them that consulting their doctor is the best way to evaluate any possible medication interactions and risks to health before beginning any supplements.

Who Should Avoid Yohimbine?

You should avoid yohimbine if you have a history of heart disease, kidney or liver disease, hypertension (high BP) or hypotension (low BP), or take certain antidepressants [12].

Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women and children should avoid dietary supplements with the active ingredient yohimbine.

Yohimbine for Targeted Fat Loss

Yohimbine's ability to antagonize alpha-2 adrenergic receptors makes it effective for targeted fat loss, especially in stubborn areas like the abdomen and hips.

This action is most potent during fasting or low-insulin states, such as before morning workouts.

While its effectiveness varies based on individual body fat percentage, incorporating yohimbine into a pre-workout routine can help you achieve more defined muscle tone in specific areas. However, it should be complemented with a balanced diet and regular exercise for best results.

FAQs

Is Yohimbe Like Caffeine?

Yohimbe is like caffeine because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and increases BP. Theoretically, using stimulants like Yohimbe and caffeine is a good fat loss strategy as they may boost metabolism, thus promoting increased calorie burn and weight loss.

Do I Need to Cycle Yohimbine?

You should cycle yohimbine for optimal fat loss results, as tolerance can happen quickly. Additionally, long-term use of Yohimbe may affect behavior response to stressors.


References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/yohimbe
  2. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-759/yohimbe
  3. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yohimbe
  4. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/841798/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17214405/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1955308/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1960007/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3795978/
  9. https://www.rxlist.com/yohimbe/generic-drug.htm
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26391406/
  11. https://www.fda.gov/food/information-consumers-using-dietary-supplements/supplement-your-knowledge
  12. https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2013.3302
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12460875/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3110826/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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