Pre Workout Ingredients That Cause Side Effects

Pre Workout Ingredients That Cause Side Effects

Pre workout supplements have gained a bad reputation in the past – especially after the media covered horror stories about these supplements causing side effects.

As a result, certain ingredients were banned from use in the UK and Canada – but some are still added into products in the USA.

When it comes to gym supplements. it’s truly what’s inside that counts; a pre workout’s ingredients determine how effective it is, and whether it’ll cause side effects – which is why it’s important to know which nutrients to avoid.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What Are Pre Workouts?
  • Ingredients To Avoid
  • Gimmicks To Avoid
  • Conclusion

What Are Pre Workouts?

As you’ve probably guessed, pre workout supplements are taken before your workout; typically companies recommend that you consume these products 20-30 minutes prior to entering the gym – but this is dependant on the product.

What do they do?

Simply put, pre workouts are designed to improve your performance in the gym. The best products on the market contain ingredients that deliver benefits, such as:

  • Improved Strength
  • Enhanced Endurance
  • Increased Focus
  • Intense Muscle Pumps

However, companies often add overdoses of stimulants or potentially harmful ingredients – to try and make their pre workout the ‘strongest’ on the market.

Ultimately, this increases your risk of suffering from side effects – and is the reason why people experience jitters, energy crashes and a tingling (or itch) on their skin after consuming certain pre workout supplements.

Read on to find out what to avoid.


Ingredients To Avoid

As we’ve mentioned, there’s a reason why some pre workouts cause side effects; they contain potentially harmful ingredients, or an overload of stimulants.

In this section, we’ll take you through which ingredients to avoid – to stay safe from unwanted side effects.

Beta Alanine

This molecule is a non-essential beta-amino acid that’s known as a ‘building block’ of carnosine. Basically, elevated carnosine levels enables you to train harder for longer (increasing your muscular endurance) – which supplementing beta alanine can result in.

However, this ingredient is equally known for causing a tingling or itchy sensation called ‘paresthesia‘ [1].

Although this side effect isn’t life threatening, paresthesia can be distracting when you’re trying to focus on your workout – which can impact your performance in the gym.

Beta alanine is one of the most common nutrient seen in pre workouts. There’s no denying it can improve muscular endurance – but due to causing paresthesia, it’s on our list of ingredients to avoid.


Synephrine is actually a chemical shown to promote fat loss, but companies still include it in their pre workouts. You might have seen this  on ingredients list as ‘Bitter Orange’ or ‘Citrus Aurantium’, and it’s a big reason why many experience side effects with supplements.

For this reason, synephrine has been banned in the UK and Canada (among others). But here’s the problem; it’s still legal in the USA, and is fairly common in both fat burners and pre workout supplements.

Here’s the side effects that synephrine’s been reported to cause [2]:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Upset Stomach

As this ingredient’s main benefit is to promote fat loss, it’s not needed in a pre workout – which only adds to the reasons you should avoid synephrine.


Yohimbine is a compound that’s shown to promote fat loss and raise your libido. However, these aren’t direct benefits of taking a pre workout – meaning they’re unnecessary additions to these products.

So why do companies add this ingredient?

But don’t be fooled – yohimbine has a high risk of causing unwanted side effects [3], such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

As this compound offers no key benefits to improve your gym session, but can cause numerous side effects, it’s high up on our list of ingredients to avoid.

pre-workout-ingredients-that-can-cause-side-effects---headaches from yohimbine and synephrine.


This is known as a ‘brain booster’ compound that’s shown to reduce cognitive decline associated with age. While an increase in focus can help strengthen your mind-muscle-connection in the gym, DMAE has been reported as teratogenic (meaning it can cause defects to unborn infants) [4].

This is a side effect that should be avoided at all costs; there are many other ingredients that provide the same benefit, so there’s no need for DMAE to be in pre workouts.

For this reason, 4 Gauge contains Rhodiola Rosea – this is often seen in nootropic supplements and is known for promoting cognitive vitality.

High Dosages of Stimulants

At the start of this article, we mentioned that some companies add potentially harmful ingredients, or high dosages of stimulants in their supplements – to make their products seem ‘stronger’.

Well, this is the main cause of experiencing jitters or energy crashes after taking pre workouts (potentially the most common side effects reported after taking these supplements) [5].

Simply put, a high dosage of any stimulant will give you a quick burst of energy – but you’ll find that your energy levels will dip during your workout, leaving you feeling exhausted.

How do you avoid jitters and energy crashes? 

The general rule you should follow to avoid unwanted side effects, is to consume dosages below 200mg caffeine per serving at first. This will allow you to experience the full benefits of this stimulant, while staying safe from jitters and energy crashes.

Basically, everyone has different tolerances to caffeine – so a dosage under 200mg per serving will allow you to asses how you handle caffeine.

One of the best features of 4 Gauge, is that it’s designed so that you can safely consume a ‘double serving’ if you want an extra ‘kick’; 1 serving contains 150mg caffeine (safe for even those sensitive to this stimulant), with the double serving containing 300mg – which will provide bigger energy boosts to those tolerant to caffeine.


Gimmicks To Avoid

Now you know the main ingredients that can cause side effects in ingredients, it’s also important to know which ones are ineffective.

Why? Because wasting your cash on a supplement that doesn’t work, is just as bad as suffering side effects. For this reason, we’ll take you through the most common ingredients seen in pre workouts, that aren’t proven to deliver any benefits.


You might be surprised seeing L-Arginine on this list, because many companies fool their customers into thinking it’s a great ingredient.

What it’s claimed to do 

L-Arginine is marketed as a nutrient that’ll enhance your benefits – but unfortunately, studies have shown l-arginine to have a poor absorption rate when orally supplemented (meaning it’s ineffective in pre workouts) [6].

If you’re looking to experience skin-splitting muscle pumps, then citrulline malate is your best option; CM has shown to improve your nitric oxide levels, resulting in more blood rushing to your muscles while you exercise (which also improves your muscular endurance and reduces fatigue) [7].

AAKG & Agmatine Sulfate

These 2 nutrients are sourced from L-Arginine – as a result, both AAKG (arginine alpha ketoglutarate) and agmatine sulfate are also marketed as muscle pump boosting ingredients in pre workout supplements.

However, these are both ineffective for the same reason; l-arginine has a poor absorption rate, so anything extracted from it will too [8]. As we’ve mentioned above, citrulline malate is the most reliable ingredient to enhance your muscle pumps in the gym.


Ultimately, it’s the ingredients inside a pre workout that determines how safe and effective it will be; if a supplement contains nutrients that are shown to cause side effects, then your risk of suffering side effects increases – it’s as simple as that.

If you avoid the potentially harmful ingredients that we’ve listed in this article, then you’ll stay safe while experiencing numerous benefits that improve your gym session.

4 Gauge

4 Gauge has been extensively researched to provide you with key benefits such as: 4 Gauge Pre Workout Supplement

  • Explosive Power – Form stronger mind-muscle-connection to make the most of every rep.
  • Laser Focus – Concentrate of your session without any distractions from the outside world.
  • Extended Stamina – Be more productive in your workouts by performing at your peak for longer.
  • Incredible Muscle Pumps – Experience skin-splitting pumps by looking thicker and tighter.



  1. Jacques D. Effect of slow-release β-alanine tablets on absorption kinetics and paresthesia. July 2012, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 67–76.
  2. Arbo M. D. Concentrations of p-synephrine in fruits and leaves of Citrus species (Rutaceae) and the acute toxicity testing of Citrus aurantium extract and p-synephrine. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Volume 46, Issue 8, August 2008: Pages 2770–2775.
  3. Amy M. Refractory priapism associated with ingestion of yohimbe extract. Journal of Medical Toxicology
    December 2009, 5:223.
  4. Melanie C. F. Perturbations in choline metabolism cause neural tube defects in mouse embryos in vitro. April 2002: The FASEB Journal; vol. 16 no. 6 619-621.
  5. Everett H. E. Stimulants: Interaction with clinically relevant drugs. December 1976, Volume 281, Interactions of Drugs of Abuse
    Pages 393–408.
  6. Edzard S. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine: impact on nitric oxide metabolism. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Jan; 65(1): 51–59.
  7. Pérez-Guisado J. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May; 24(5): 1215-22.
  8. Wax B. Acute L-arginine alpha ketoglutarate supplementation fails to improve muscular performance in resistance trained and untrained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Apr 17; 9(1): 17.

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