Before heading to the gym, many people take pre-workout supplements (also called “pre-workouts”). These substances are said to act as performance enhancers by boosting energy levels, improving blood flow, and making you more focused.
Pre-workout supplements can be addictive, especially if they contain caffeine. A single scoop of some pre-workout powders contains 400 milligrams of caffeine. That’s equal to about four or five cups of coffee.
Caffeine & Pre-Workout Addiction
Tolerance means you need an increasingly larger amount of caffeine to feel the desired effects. Physical dependence means your body can’t function normally without caffeine. If you stop using it, you’ll experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms like:
- trouble concentrating
Some pre-workout supplements don’t contain any caffeine. Instead, they consist only of non-addictive ingredients such as:
- amino acids
- B vitamins
- beta alanine
- nitric oxide
Supplements with these ingredients usually won’t cause tolerance or physical dependence.
However, they can still be addictive in the sense that you might start feeling unable to work out without them.
You may become irritable or even depressed when you run out of the supplements. You may also try to maximize their effects by taking more than the recommended dosage.
Dangers Of Pre-Workout Addiction
People who become addicted to pre-workout supplements face the following risks:
If you regularly ingest large doses of caffeine via a pre-workout supplement, you may have a higher risk of cardiovascular problems such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart palpitations
- heart disease
- heart attack
This is because caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. That means it speeds up your heart rate. When you use too much caffeine, the significant increase in heart rate takes a toll on your cardiovascular system.
Extreme Weight Loss
Weight loss is a common side effect of caffeine. If you’re addicted to a pre-workout supplement that contains caffeine, you may lose an unhealthy amount of weight. This can lead to issues such as:
- muscle loss
- hair loss
- irregular menstruation
When you use large amounts of a pre-workout supplement that contains caffeine, you may overdose. Common symptoms of a caffeine overdose include:
- increased thirst
- trouble sleeping
If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor.
Some people who overdose on caffeine experience more severe symptoms, including chest pain, trouble breathing, and confusion. If you have these symptoms, call 911 right away. When left untreated, a severe caffeine overdose can be life-threatening.
All pre-workout supplements (including ones that don’t contain caffeine) can increase your risk of muscle damage and other injuries. That’s because they boost energy and focus. These effects may cause you to push yourself too hard when working out.
Like other supplements, pre-workout supplements are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means they could contain unsafe ingredients that pose additional health risks, especially if you’re addicted to them and take high doses.
Pre-Workout Addiction Treatment Options
If you think you might be addicted to pre-workout supplements, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine whether you have an addiction and how to treat it.
When you’re addicted to a supplement that contains caffeine, it’s usually best to reduce your dosage slowly. If you quit cold turkey, you face a higher risk of withdrawal symptoms.
If you find it difficult to stop using pre-workout supplements on your own, consider attending a substance abuse treatment program. These programs offer a variety of services to help you recover from addiction, such as:
- medical detox, in which doctors help you manage withdrawal symptoms as you stop using addictive substances
- mental health counseling, in which a therapist helps you cope with cravings and other psychological symptoms of addiction
- support groups, in which you can share your experiences with other people recovering from addiction
To learn more about pre-workout addiction treatment options, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist. Our treatment programs offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one stay healthy.