I had an ‘experience’ recently where I took some of a coworker’s preworkout and literally felt like I was on crack. My skin was red, itchy, and on the verge of full-fledged hives; my heart was pounding, my palms were sweating, and I was freaking the f*ck out.
Have you ever been really drunk at a party and looked around and realized you could physically see all the other people at your stupefied level? Looking around the gym, I felt exactly like that – as if I had x-ray vision to single out every other individual going through a pre-workout induced high.
I was so panicky and paranoid, in fact, that my friend made me run on the treadmill until I calmed down and could rejoin society over by the squat rack. I wondered how many people were constantly ingesting neon-colored elixers promising everything from heavier sets to longer workouts, boosted energy or long-term results. After asking around and sharing my experience, I was shocked to discover that most of the people I knew swore by their favorite brand of pre-workout.
And the side effects? “yeah, that’s normal – my skin always feels like it’s on fire.” Um, excuse me?
Logically, nothing that comes in creepily neon colors can be too natural. But what’s exactly in pre-workout?
Most are a mix of beta alanine, which increases blood flow and dialates blood vessels, caffeine, vasodilator, and keto-glutarate. This mix gets you pumped up before and during a workout, but can have prolonged effects such as difficulty sleeping, increased risk of stroke and damage to the heart. And that’s just from the fact that it increases your heart rate, not from all the other effects of artificial coloring and chemical components.
What are some natural alternatives to pre-workout?
Naturally-occurring sources of caffeine, such as coffee and green tea, are wonderful alternatives to the fake stuff. Plus, both coffee and tea have other healthful benefits, such as a boosted metabolism & blood flow, increased focus, and regulation of blood sugar.
Green tea, in addition, helps fight cancer, is jam-packed with antioxidants, and even helps lower cholesterol. Coffee touts nutrients such as magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, and niacin, and boosts brain function and packs its own antioxidant punch. Furthermore, coffee is believed to help boost brain function and fight Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Despite their nutritional prowess, it’s still possible to overdo it. Loading up on caffeine, even the natural way, isn’t great for the heart. But sticking to 3-4 cups of either a day, particularly a cup before the gym, is a great way to pick yourself up without putting your health down.