According to a study in Medicine & science in sports & exercise, about 70% of young adults consume at least one nutritional supplement, and pre workout is certainly one of the most popular categories of supplements. It’s also widely known that young adults are struggling with depression at astounding rates. That’s not to say that these two statistics are directly related, but can pre workout lead to depression? Read on to learn more about how pre workout could potentially impact your mental health.
Why Do People Take Pre Workout?
Athletes and weight lifters consume these powerful supplements to improve their performance in the gym by increasing energy and focus, improving blood flow, and to increasing motivation in the gym. Pre workouts have been shown to increase athletic performance over placebo in numerous studies.
According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition:
“Ingestion of the pre-workout dietary supplement led to significant improvements in anaerobic peak and mean power values in comparison to the placebo and baseline treatments. No improvements were observed in upper and lower body power or upper body strength.”Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Taking A Closer Look at Pre Workout
Pre workout is generally viewed as safe, however it’s key to note that pre workout is generally not FDA approved. Looking at “pre workout” as a whole is also difficult because there is so much variation in the ingredients included in the different brands and blends of these supplements. The best way to analyze pre workout and its possible connection to depression is to look at the individual ingredients commonly included in popular pre workouts.
Which Ingredients in Pre Workout Can Cause Depression?
- Dimethylamylamine (DMAA): DMAA is one of the most controversial ingredients in pre workouts. This is because it has similar effects to cocaine and methamphetamine. Consumption of DMAA isn’t directly linked with depression, but it is associated with negative side effects like nausea, vomiting, agitation, tremor, dizziness, headache, and chest pain. I would generally advise against using pre workouts that include this ingredient.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant so it excites your central nervous system. This effect is generally associated with mood improvements. However, once the effects of caffeine wear off people who already suffer from depression may find their mood worsens. Also, caffeine can disrupt sleep. This could have an impact on mood and depression, if you suddenly find your sleep and recovery hindered by your caffeine intake.
- Yohimbe: Yohimbe is a species of tree that is native to Africa. The bark of the Yohimbe tree contains a chemical called yohimbine, which is used as an aphrodisiac. This compound can increase blood flow to improve sexual function. There isn’t any solid evidence that Yohimbe improves athletic performance, although it is included in some pre workout supplements. Yohimbe can worsen depression symptoms, so you should avoid this ingredient if you suffer from depression.
- Artificial Sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and Sucralose, have been linked to behavioral and cognitive issues. Among these are anxiety and depression. If you’re using a pre workout that includes aspartame, you may want to seek an alternative to avoid these potential negative side effects. Artificial sweeteners in your pre workout could interfere with neurotransmitter synthesis and regulation, which could potentially cause depression or other mood disorders.
Can Pre Workout Cause Depression?
Generally pre workout is not associated with depression. The main ingredient in most pre workout supplements is caffeine and other stimulants, which stimulate your central nervous system and can actually improve your mood. However, some of the ingredients included in pre workouts may lead to depression or may worsen symptoms if you’re already struggling with depression. The main ingredients you should look out for and avoid are Yohimbe and aspartame. There are countless pre workout options that don’t include these ingredients, so you don’t have to avoid pre workout altogether.
Pre Workout Addiction and Tolerance May Cause Mood Issues
If you’re like me and you’ve found yourself abusing pre workout and taking multiple scoops per day, you could be negatively impacting your mood. As you build a tolerance and over consume the stimulants in pre workout, you could crash your endocrine and adrenal system. This could lead to crashes in energy levels and mood swings.
If you find yourself struggling with taking too much pre workout (and too much caffeine), I recommend cycling off pre workout and caffeine. Every month or so you should try to take at least a week or two off from high levels of caffeine and pre workout. This allows your tolerance to reset and your central nervous system to recover a bit. During this period, look into stimulant-free pre workouts or other pre workout alternatives that can still energize your workouts without a ton of stimulants.