Pre-workout jitters, literally

Woman drinking water
Woman drinking water

Four to five times a week, I lace up my sneakers, throw on my most darling workout attire and hit the gym running. Okay, well not literally running – I hate running – but I am there and that’s what counts.

My workouts consists mostly of strength training – sure a few times a week I’ll go for a hike, but nothing beats the feel of your muscles feeling like they’re going to rip out of your clothes from a good lifting session.

I use to take pre-workout drinks which claim to improve stamina and give you energy for your workout, but I didn’t find they did much for me. However, a friend of mine had a different reaction. She called me one day and said she needed me to take her to the hospital – she was shaking, couldn’t see, and was throwing up. I had no clue what was happening and rushed her to the hospital!

Her EKG showed everything was normal and the more we talked to the Emergency department physician the more it was clear – she was having a reaction to the caffeine in her pre-workout drink. To get a better understanding of what’s in these kinds of drinks, I turned to an expert matter, Frank LoVecchio, DO, physician at Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center.

“Pre-workout drinks are similar to those of energy drinks,” Dr. LoVecchio said. “Both have extremely high amounts of caffeine and often have other ingredients that provide an additional stimulant effect.”

So why would people take caffeine prior to working out? Because in simple terms, caffeine blocks a chemical that provides a calming effect on the body and instead releases adrenaline which gives people the feeling like they have all the energy in the world.

Dr. LoVecchio went on to explain that it is also possible these drinks can impact the heart. The stimulants, like caffeine, in these drinks increase one’s heart rate and raise their blood pressure. And, in some individuals who are susceptible, these drinks can cause heart rhythm and other problems.

Many don’t realize that dietary supplements, like pre-workout drinks, are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed to consumers, Dr. LoVecchio said.

The FDA’s website states: “Although dietary supplement manufacturers must register their facilities with FDA, they are not required to get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.”

Dr. LoVecchio recommends the best way to get an effective workout is to make sure you have a well-balanced diet, that you’re getting enough sleep and that you complete regular check-ups with your physician to make sure you’re healthy enough for your workout routine.

“I’m not saying that all caffeine is bad, it can actually have benefits to your health, but moderation is important and understanding your body’s response to the effects of caffeine is just as equally important,” Dr. LoVecchio added.

He also added that the actual benefits of many of the other ingredients found in these pre-workout supplements remain unproven.

My takeaway in all of this? Stick to the good old fashion way of kicking butt in the gym – eat right and rest often!

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