Have you found yourself overwhelmed or intimidated when circling the aisles of a supplement store? Don’t feel bad as I’ve been researching the effects of dietary supplements on athletic performance for over 15 years and I still struggle to keep up with the new development of supplement companies that are joining the competition. Every week, there’s a new product that comes out claiming to solve all of your weight lifting and body weight challenges. The latest trend in the supplement world is the growth of pre-workout supplements, but are you getting your money’s worth or are you being scammed by the supplement industry?
About Pre-Workout Supplements
The primary purpose of a pre-workout supplement is to be consumed prior to a workout with the intent to give you more energy during your workout. Companies use marketing strategies to entice athletes, cross-fitters, and weekend warriors to use their products claiming they can experience everything from, “more energy, a greater muscle pump, enhanced strength, increased testosterone, explosive workouts, faster absorption, and increased muscle size.” When I think of what a pre-workout supplement should consist of, the ingredient profile should be designed more to improve strength, power, and muscular endurance (i.e. more reps). Unfortunately, the majority of supplements on the market do not provide any helpful benefits, especially if taking the recommended dosage by the manufacturer.
Hidden Facts about Pre-Workout Supplements
The most intimidating component of a pre-workout supplement is the supplement facts panel. The most common method for keeping the formula of a pre-workout supplement a secret is by creating a “Proprietary Blend”. This is when a variety of ingredients are combined into one big formula. When companies use a proprietary blend, this basically means they don’t want you to know the real formula or ingredient profile because it’s not effective. As someone who has worked with companies to help design supplement formulas, I’m familiar with the pricing of raw materials that go into these products. The majority of companies are spending $3 or $4 to make their product and are turning around and selling them for $39.99-$59.99.
Example of Proprietary Blend
Does your Pre-Workout Contain Banned Substances?
You would hope when an athlete walks into a supplement store, especially if this is your son or daughter, they wouldn’t have access to products that contain ingredients that are banned by MLB, the NFL, and other professional sporting agencies. If the supplements aren’t safe for professionals, they aren’t safe for our children. Unfortunately, this is not the case according to Informed Choice, a 3rd
party testing and certification company. Informed Choice reports 25% of protein powders have tested positive for anabolic steroids. Furthermore, the supplement store staff should be your biggest concern when it comes to product safety. The majority of people working in stores are not familiar with the science behind the ingredients nor how to determine if a product has been 3rd
party tested for banned substances. Recently, I had a 15 year old high school athlete come to me as a client with a goal of gaining 20 pounds for the upcoming football season. During our consultation, he informed me about a product he started taking at the recommendation of the local supplement store clerk. After reviewing the product, I advised him to discontinue immediately as it contained Synephrine (aka Citrus Aurantium or Bitter Orange), a stimulant found in numerous pre-workout supplements and is banned by the NCAA, NFL, and many professional sport governing bodies. It’s also usually combined with caffeine to create a powerful stimulatory effect on heart rate. This is one of many case studies where the supplement store staff has recommended products unsafe for youth athlete consumption. In March, a high school coach and athletic trainer informed me about three of their football players being sold a Prohormone from a local supplement store.
Example of a Pre-Workout Containing a Banned Substance
What to Look For in a Pre-Workout Supplement
When evaluating pre-workout supplements, I recommend the following characteristics to determine if the product is well formulated or poorly formulated.
Pre-Workout supplements are not magic powders and will not out perform a high quality diet with sufficient calories combined with a periodization strength and conditioning program. If you are unsure about whether or not you should be taking a pre-workout supplement or if you have a medical condition (i.e. cardiovascular disease, irregular heartbeats, etc), please be sure to speak with a physician before starting any supplement program.
Taylor Hooton Foundation has specially designed programs to help educate our youth about the dangers of pre-workout supplements as well as other harmful performance enhancing drugs. Click here
to learn more about our Hoot’s Chalk Talk programs!