My Experience with Pre-Workout Addiction
I started taking pre-workout early on in my weight training days. I started going to the gym and lifting consistently in 2015, when I was 21 years old. I would go to the gym with my college roommate and we had a great time getting those beginner gains and playing pickup basketball. I quickly went from 165 pounds and weak as hell to over 200 pounds and kinda strong in a period of about 6 months. During this same time I also went from one scoop of pre-workout I bought at the grocery store to two-and-a-half scoops of some much stronger stuff.
I remember driving to the gym with my roommate/workout partner absolutely JAZZED on our pre-workout. We’d blast some 2 Chainz on the way to the gym and literally dance our asses off on the way. Drinking pre-workout was so fun, that it really helped create a habit of going to the gym and working out consistently.
This was us ⬇️
My Early Experience with Pre-Workout
After taking pre-workout I remember feeling like I couldn’t miss when shooting around on the basketball court. I’d have endless energy to sprint up and down the court and nearly dunk (despite not actually being able to come close to dunking).
It’s funny because I probably didn’t NEED pre-workout at this time. Because I was just starting lifting, I would have gotten stronger and bigger by doing any lifting at all. If you’re trying to get into the habit of going to the gym, pre-workout makes it much more exciting. You can actually get yourself addicted to drinking pre-workout, and as a result going to the gym.
Which Pre-Workouts Have I Tried?
Ok, so now I’ve been in the game awhile and I’ve taken more than a handful of trips to my local supplement stores. I’ve tried a long list of pre-workout supplements. Here’s a list of the ones that I can remember:
- Explosion Pre-Workout
- Bucked Up
- Bucked Up WOKE AF
- Metabolic Nutrition E.S.P.
- Beyond Raw LIT
- Kino Octane
- Stage One
- Mr. Hyde
- Freedom Pharma Rambo
- Muscle Pharm Assault
- Transparent Labs Lean
- Transparent Labs Bulk
- Transparent Labs Pump
- 1st Phorm Project-1
- 1st Form AlphaSurge
Which Pre-Workout Is My Favorite?
I’ve taken some of these for a month, while others I’ve taken for years. And still there is no clear winner. I find that with pre-workout supplements novelty makes the experience better. So if I become adapted to a certain product, I’ll switch it up. Because many of these pre-workouts rely on the exact same ingredients in slightly different dosages, I do have some favorites based on flavors. The standout in this list is Bucked Up WOKE AF. I’ve had many of their flavors (Grape, Rocket Pop, Killa OJ, and Watermelon Lemonade) and they are all DELICIOUS.
If you’re looking for a stimulant-free pre-workout, I’d definitely recommend Transparent Labs Pump. I have a bottle of the Strawberry Lemonade flavor right now, and it’s great. If I’m working out later in the day, I’ll substitute this for my regular pre workout so I don’t have trouble sleeping. It delivers a solid pump and tastes amazing.
Mr. Hyde Fueled My Pre-Workout Addiction
I think the one standout from a stimulant perspective in this list is definitely Metabolic Nutrition E.S.P. with 500 mg caffeine per scoop. Fortunately I never worked my way up to multiple scoops of that one. With Mr. Hyde however, I found myself slowly increasing my dosage until I was taking two heaping scoops. That worked out to over 550 mg of caffeine. This was in addition to the 3 or 4 cups of coffee I would drink at work during the day.
Thankfully after awhile I realized that I wasn’t getting any benefit from this absurd dose of caffeine anymore, so I took some time off and went with a stimulant-free pre workout. In addition, I also started drinking decaf coffee at work. This gave my body (and central nervous system) a chance to reset and chill for a bit.
How Do You Break a Pre-Workout Addiction?
So I don’t know if I’ve fully kicked my “pre-workout addiction”, because I still use pre workout most of the time when I workout. However, I am far less dependent on it, and I stopped over-doing it. I substitute stimulant-free pre workout every so often if I’ve had a lot of caffeine throughout my day. I don’t take more than the recommended dose either. However, here are some strategies I’ve used to scale back my pre workout use:
Choose a Stimulant-Free Pre Workout
If you enjoy drinking something tasty before going to the gym, a stimulant-free pre workout can fulfill your cravings without fueling your stimulant tolerance. These will still provide you some benefit from a pump and hydration perspective, so they aren’t entirely useless.
Cycle On and Off Your Pre-Workout
It can also be helpful to cycle on and off of pre workout. For example, you may take pre workout for one month and then take the next month entirely off from it. This will allow your tolerance to reset a bit, and will reduce the likelihood of you getting addicted (or developing a dependence).
Read More: 12 Signs of Pre Workout Withdrawal
Try Working Out Without Pre-Workout
If you’re well-rested and doing a workout you enjoy, you probably don’t need pre workout to perform well. If you are competing in a sport, it can be a good idea to train without the pre-workout and only use the pre-workout when competing. Pre-workout can reduce your rate of perceived exertion during your workout, but the performance benefits aren’t massive. So while you may lose out on the top 1% of your potential, you won’t be dependent on pre-workout.
Take The Pre Workout as Directed
Pre-workout supplements give directed use instructions. For example, take one scoop 15-30 minutes prior to working out. If you want to keep your tolerance managed, you should stick with the recommended dosage. When you gradually increase the dosage over time, you’ll continue to build your tolerance. This will lead you to needing more and more pre workout to get the same effects.
What is Pre-Workout Addiction?
So, you really can’t get addicted to “pre-workout”, however some of the ingredients and compounds found in pre-workout can lead to dependence. Caffeine is the primary culprit in pre-workout that leads to dependence and “addiction”.
The Caffeine in Pre Workout Hooks You
Caffeine provides the majority of the benefit from pre workout. Over time you can easily find yourself ingesting 500mg of caffeine before hitting the gym. That’s beyond the Mayo Clinic’s recommended daily limit. You would have to drink about 5 cups of coffee to get the same amount of caffeine, where as with pre workout it could just be one or two small scoops of powder.
DMAA Could Also Be A Problem
DMAA (1,3 Dimethylamylamine) is a potent amphetamine derivative found in some pre workouts. That’s right an amphetamine derivative – in pre workout. This ingredient can drastically boost your energy levels and performance, but it could also play a role in your dependence on pre workout. In 2013, the FDA banned any pre workout supplements that contained DMAA. However, the supplements use is still fairly widespread in the fitness and bodybuilding communities.
The FDA warned the DMAA could cause respiratory issues like shortness of breath, and could even cause heart attacks. This potential risk is elevated further when combined with other stimulants (like caffeine). It’s unlikely that you’re using a pre-workout that contains DMAA, but you should still check your label to make sure.
Beware of Proprietary Blends
I typically advise people to avoid pre-workouts that use proprietary blends. Supplement manufacturers will use blends to hide sketchy ingredients, or to include useless fillers in their products. Additionally these blends allow manufacturers to include less of the active ingredients and more of the cheaper, less beneficial ingredients.
Here is an example of a pre-workout label with proprietary blends included. You can usually find the blends if they are trademarked (as seen here):