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Does Yohimbine Work as a Pre-Workout? (From a Dietician)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

My fitness clients want to ensure they get the most out of their workout efforts. Our discussions often revolve around the best pre-workout supplements to aid fat burning.

Yohimbine is coming up more frequently in these conversations, so I sat with our dietician to take an in-depth look at this ingredient’s 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

  • Traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, manufacturers now promote yohimbine (or Yohimbe) as a pre-workout supplement to help you lose weight and enhance athletic performance.
  • Yohimbine hydrochloride (yohimbine HCL) is a standardized form of yohimbine extracted from Yohimbe bark and paired with hydrochloride, available only by prescription in the United States.
  • Using Yohimbe as a supplement can seriously affect blood pressure and heart rate.

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 is an alkaloid found in Yohimbe bark, an evergreen tree native to central and western Africa.

Its use in traditional African medicine includes erectile dysfunction (ED) treatment and boosting sexual health, which currently is a promised benefit in many supplements with active ingredients in the U.S.

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

Yohimbine HCL is yohimbine 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 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 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 Yohimbe Safe?

A buff male holding supplements

Yohimbe 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.

FAQs

Is Yohimbe Like Caffeine?

Yohimbe is like caffeine because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and increases BP [13].

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 [14].

So, Should You Use Yohimbine as a Pre-Workout?

Yohimbine may be appropriate for some as a libido booster or treatment for ED, but I definitely believe there are much more effective and safer pre-workout supplements available.

We have compiled a list of the best pre-workout supplements for both men and women who are looking to boost exercise performance, increase muscle mass, improve body composition, and increase energy levels:

We test and review these products thoroughly so you can easily figure out which supplements are the best to help you hit your fitness goals.


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/consumer_yohimbe/drugs-condition.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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