Pre-workout supplements are one of the most popular products in the sports nutrition industry. They often contain ingredients that increase physical performance, such as strength, power, endurance, and stamina. However, they also contain various ingredients that improve mental performance.
Common pre-workout ingredients, like caffeine, alpha-GPC, tyrosine, huperzine A, Lion’s mane, Neurofactor®, creatine monohydrate, and choline bitartrate, increase energy, focus, alertness, concentration, and other cognitive functions. Not to mention, creatine monohydrate supplementation has been shown to improve memory, intelligence, and reasoning, while reducing mental fatigue.
Beyond the athletic and mental benefits of the pre-workouts, they are also advantageous because they are tasty, convenient, and more affordable than buying an energy drink or overpriced espresso from your local coffee shop.
If you analyzed the benefits of each ingredient in most pre-workouts, you would quickly realize that pre-workout supplements can be used for much more than just training in the gym.
These extra benefits leave many pre-workout users wondering if it is safe and acceptable to use pre-workout without working out. This article will discuss whether you can take a pre-workout without hitting the gym and why you may want to consider it!
Can You Take Pre-Workout Without Working Out?
Yes, you can drink pre-workout without working out!
Since pre-workout formulas vary substantially, there are several things you need to consider. For example, some contain over 400 milligrams of caffeine, whereas others don’t contain any stimulants.
Other pre-workouts contain a high amount of beta-alanine, resulting in uncomfortable itching, tingling, and a “pins-and-needles” sensation in the hands, face, and feet. Being jittery, itchy, and uncomfortable may not be ideal when studying, gaming, or working in the office.
When assessing which pre-workout to take, look at its ingredients and assess whether or not it’s right for you. Below we will cover some common pre-workout ingredients that are best for specific situations and which ones to look out for!
Is It Safe to Take Pre-Workout Without Working Out?
Yes, usually, daily pre-workout supplementation is safe even if you don’t work out. However, this depends on the pre-workout formula. There are several pre-workouts that contain high amounts of stimulants, so those should not be consumed daily.
Caffeine anhydrous is the most common stimulant in pre-workouts, but here are some others you should avoid consuming every day:
- TeaCrine® (theacrine)
- Dynamine® (methylliberine)
- Eria jarensis
- Caffeine citrate
- Dicaffeine malate
- Juglans Regia
- Phenethylamine (PEA)
Caffeine is okay to use daily; just make sure your total caffeine intake for the day is appropriate. The food and drug administration considers up to 400 milligrams of caffeine safe for healthy adults to consume daily. The other stimulants listed above have far less research on them, so it’s best to limit the consumption of those as much as possible.
Also, be mindful of taking caffeine too late in the day, whether it’s included in a pre-workout or not, because caffeine’s half-life is approximately 5 hours. The half-life means that if you take 300 milligrams of caffeine at 6 pm, you still have 150 milligrams in your system at 12 am. Caffeine can affect not only how quickly you fall asleep but also your overall sleep quality.
Another ingredient to look out for if you plan on taking pre-workout every day is huperzine A. Although this ingredient isn’t a stimulant, it affects the brain and is normally used to increase focus. The problem with huperzine is its long half-life, which is between 20-24 hours. Having too much huperzine A in your system can cause headaches, brain fog, and other adverse side effects.
Alternative Use Cases for Taking Pre-Workouts
Some of the most common alternative use cases for pre-workout supplements are:
- Taking pre-workout supplements before work
- Using pre-workout supplements as a study aid
- Replacing energy drinks or coffee with pre-workouts
- Partying with pre-workouts
Below, we will cover why pre-workout may be used in these specific scenarios.
Taking Pre-Workout Before Work
Drinking pre-workout before a long work day may boost motivation, productivity, mood, energy, and focus. If you work in an office environment, it’s a good idea to stick with low to moderate stimulant-based pre-workouts that also have nootropics.
For example, a pre-workout supplement with 150-200 milligrams of caffeine with other ingredients such as choline bitartrate, citicoline, alpha-GPC, tyrosine, and/or Neurofactor® would work well for most people. Avoid using pre-workout with high amounts of beta-alanine because it causes paraesthesia.
If your job is more physically demanding, depending on your caffeine sensitivity, you could opt for a pre-workout supplement that’s upwards of 200mg-300 milligrams of caffeine. Just be mindful of how much total caffeine you’re consuming daily.
For optimal results, drink pre-workout supplements 20-30 minutes before work.
Using Pre-Workout as a Study Aid
Using pre-workout supplements as a study aid or for school work may be beneficial for retaining information and boosting focus, energy, alertness, and productivity. Like drinking a pre-workout supplement before work, stick to low to moderate stimulant-based pre-workouts that also contain nootropics. Using a pre-workout with too much caffeine can cause jitters, anxiety, and restlessness, reducing your ability to study or do school work.
With that said, many students study or do schoolwork late at night. In this case, look for a stimulant-free pre-workout with nootropics. The nootropics will help you focus, be productive, and retain information without negatively impacting your sleep. For optimal results, you should drink pre-workout 20-30 minutes before studying or doing school work.
Replacing Energy Drinks or Coffee With Pre-Workout
If you pick up an energy drink or a coffee every day on your way to work or school but want to save money, drinking a pre-workout supplement is a great alternative.
Most energy drinks are between $2-$4, and the average cup of coffee is $2.70. Conversely, picking up a pre-workout containing 30 servings costs $29.99, and each serving is approximately $1. Over the course of a year, you will see some significant savings.
Not to mention, most pre-workout supplements contain better doses of various ingredients than energy drinks, so you will get more benefits from the pre-workout supplement. Lastly, customizing exactly how much caffeine you want to consume is easier with a powder compared to a coffee or energy drink.
Partying With Pre-Workout
It may be enticing to combine pre-workout supplements with alcohol before a long night out, but we don’t recommend it, and here’s why…
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it has the potential to mask the depressant effects of alcohol. If you’re more alert, it may lead to higher consumption of alcohol throughout the night. In fact, those that drink alcohol with energy drinks are 4 times more likely to binge drink.
Furthermore, caffeine doesn’t impact the metabolism of alcohol, so don’t think that you can “sober up” after drinking by consuming caffeine.
If you drink a pre-workout and end up not working out, it’s completely fine. As you can see, the benefits of drinking pre-workout go beyond enhancing exercise performance. Their effects can benefit you in the classroom, at work, or even at the house. Pre-workouts are usually more convenient, affordable, and beneficial than energy drinks or coffee.
Whether you decide to train or not, it’s important to assess the pre-workout formula to ensure it doesn’t contain anything that may be contraindicated. The best pre-workout supplements will have a fully disclosed label, so you know how much of each ingredient is in one serving. We always recommend checking with a qualified healthcare professional before taking any dietary supplement.
Furthermore, be mindful of your daily caffeine intake and timing because consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine and using caffeine too late in the day can have unwanted side effects. Not to mention, if you plan on working out, you should drink pre-workout before the workout rather than taking it twice.
- Avgerinos K. et al. July 2018. “Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” Experimental Gerontology, vol. 108:166-173. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093191/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Aug. 2022. “Dangers of mixing alcohol and caffeine.” https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/caffeine-and-alcohol.htm