Have you experienced feeling nervous, shaky, or unable to concentrate? Have you also felt your heart may burst out of your chest at the thought of exercise?
This anxiety or jitter is common, even for gym veterans who work out daily. Some even feel a sense of panic upon entering the gym that makes them want to leave.
You don’t need to feel bad about it, but you should also not let it stop you from starting your fitness journey. This article is here to help you break that cycle of pre-workout anxiety.
So, let’s jump in on the causes of pre-workout anxiety and how to eliminate it.
Why Does Pre-Workout Give Me Anxiety?
Pre-workout anxiety is a common issue among individuals who plan to exercise. Some report feeling jittery before they even begin their workout, which persists long after exercise.
Here are some of the reasons why pre-workout gives them anxiety:
Combination of Physical and Mental Factors
Physical factors include low blood sugar levels, dehydration, and exhaustion from the last day’s activities. Meanwhile, mental factors include fearing that you won’t complete the routine, feeling intimidated by other gym goers, and worrying about the workout.
Caffeine or Other Stimulants
Many pre-workouts contain caffeine and other stimulants, which may be causing you anxiety. The challenge is that it’s difficult to determine which ingredients you should avoid and which are safe and can contribute to your fitness goals.
Don’t worry; our team researched to help you find the pre-workout components that may cause anxiety.
Pre Workout ingredients associated with anxiety attacks:
- Caffeine – is not always bad. Many people can’t function without their morning coffee hit. However, the problem is the dosage.
The average cup of coffee only has between 80 to 120 mg of caffeine. For pre-workout drinks, the strongest contains about 350 to 500 mg per serving—meanwhile, such amounts to about three to four energy drinks.
Some people are sensitive to caffeine, so even weaker pre-workout supplements can cause them pre-workout jitters.
- Yohimbe Bark Extract – is derived from the bark of the African tree and is associated with treating high blood pressure and improving athletic performance. However, this is another type of stimulant that can cause anxiety attacks, especially for people with pre-existing anxiety or heart conditions. 
- Creatine – is commonly used by those who want to make muscle gains. However, studies indicate that it comes with side effects. These include dehydration, discomfort, and gastrointestinal bloating. Those with pre-existing anxiety disorders may be vulnerable to these adverse effects.
- Bitter Orange Extract – This ingredient promotes fat loss. Yet, it contains a stimulant called Synephrine, which causes heart problems and has been banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
When you’re buying a new pre-workout, check the table of contents. If possible, avoid proprietary blends because you don’t know the exact amount of these ingredients, or you don’t even know what they contain. Moreover, check online if there are ingredients you’re not familiar with.
If you’re a competitive athlete or a fitness enthusiast who regularly takes a pre-workout supplement that causes anxiety, it can build up over time and cause a real problem.
Fortunately, you can do a few things to eliminate pre-workout anxiety and make workouts more enjoyable.
Related: Best Vegan Pre Workout
9 Simple Tricks to Reduce Pre-workout Anxiety
1. Start Slowly
Anxiety often begins because you feel overwhelmed by the goals you set for yourself. However, not jumping at the deep end is unnecessary if you’re held back by the pressure. Remember to be kind to yourself.
2. Avoid Caffeine
Avoid caffeine if you have a panic disorder or anxiety, especially before intense physical activity. Caffeine increases your heart rate and stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. 
A small amount of caffeine, such as 3 mg per kg. of body weight, can make you feel more energized. But for others, that amount can cause anxiety and other side effects, like itching.
3. Mindfulness Exercises
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to signal a threat. Hence, you can gain control over your body by knowing what triggers your brain to link workouts with danger.
Is it the fear of performance, the people, or the environment? Regardless, breathe deeply and allow yourself to feel the emotions. Studies have shown that it may not take more than 90 seconds for anxiety to dissipate if you fully allow yourself to feel an emotion in the body. 
Breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), a deep relaxation technique used to relieve insomnia, are other excellent ways to reduce pre-workout anxiety.
4. Physical Activity
Choose a physical activity you enjoy to tackle self-doubt and fear. Eventually, you’ll improve your exercise performance. The options are endless, from stretching to dancing.
5. Eat a Balanced Diet
Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are critical to maintaining your health and your body working as intended. Exercising on an empty stomach may also have its benefits. However, if you’re uneasy, it’s best to ask your doctor or a healthcare professional if it’s safe to continue working out that way.
I recommend you eat a balanced diet to avoid becoming dehydrated. You can eat whole grains, vegetables, and fruits and drink enough fluids.
6. Stay Hydrated
Speaking of drinking enough fluids, let me emphasize the importance of staying hydrated during your workout. Not only will it keep your energy levels up, but it will also help you avoid fatigue, stay physically active, and avoid anxiety. 
Water dilutes caffeine in your body, keeping you energetic and controlled.
Additionally, dehydration can cause a decreased ability to think, fatigue, and headaches. It also leads to an impaired immune system and dizziness.
7. Safe Ingredients
Choosing safe ingredients is one of the best ways to eliminate pre-workout anxiety. These ingredients include BCAA, L-Citrulline, Beta-Alanine, and Niacin.
In addition, these pre-workout formulas focus on helping you achieve better physical performance, adding muscle tissue, and improving blood flow.
Other pre-workout components without documented side effects include organic pea protein and whey isolate (often in powder formulation). Those with vitamins B3, A, C, D, and E and minerals, such as potassium and calcium, are also generally considered safe for healthy individuals.
You can also opt for stim-free pre-workouts. There are plenty of supplements out there that provide pre-workout benefits without relying on stimulants. A good example is the Precium Nutrition Stim Free Pre Workout. Moreover, check for unfamiliar ingredients online.
8. Talk to a Trainer
Dealing with anxiety alone can be a difficult task. Thus, having someone to talk to helps. Speaking with a trainer helps you properly manage anxiety before workouts. A trainer provides tips to prevent anxiety or teaches you to reduce stress and manage emotions for better training.
9. Shift Your Mindset
Worry, fear, and nervousness arise from the uncertainty of the outcome of an event. To combat this, shift your mindset to parts of your training that you can control. Focus on the effort and purpose of each exercise and concentrate on achieving that outcome.
Pre-Workout Supplements That Don’t Give You Anxiety or Jitters
Choosing a pre-workout supplement while keeping in mind your intolerance to certain stimulants and your anxiety issues can be intimidating. To cut the hassle of searching through many pre-workouts in the market, here’s a list you can choose from:
Legion Pulse Pre-Workout Supplement
The Legion Pulse Pre Workout Supplement is a stimulant-free pre-workout. A Virginia-based company manufactured it due to products with excessive ingredients in most supplements.
The Citrulline Malate content also improves concentration and mood, decreases tiredness, and boosts athletic endurance and strength. It’s also safe for those with anxiety, being caffeine-free. Instead of caffeine, it includes alternative ingredients to boost energy without any anxious or jittery feelings.
RSP Pump Boost
Another caffeine-free pre-workout on our list is the RSP Pump Boost. It is also focused on taking your physical performance to the next level. What I like about this pre-workout is it’s affordable too, and it contains natural ingredients.
It’s even Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-certified, making it an excellent gift for someone with a history of anxiety. It is formulated with 1.5g of HydroMax, which fuels pumps by increasing fluid concentration in muscle tissue and blood.
In addition, it has an excellent reputation for enhancing pumps, although it may lack muscle recovery and endurance departments. Instead, you may also opt for a smaller dose of caffeine or stimulant and observe how your body reacts.
If that’s the case, our next option is a good choice.
ATH PRE Natural Plant-Based Pre Workout
This ATH PRE Natural Plant-Based Pre Workout uses caffeine from green tea, yerba mate, and intelligent carbohydrates, Palatinose, for zero jitters or energy crashes. The caffeine is enough to keep you energized for long competition days.
This low-stim pre-workout is made from natural foods and contains zero artificial sweeteners. However, one downside is it includes a proprietary PEAKO2 adaptogen blend.
Although the purpose is it allows users to overcome both mental and physical stress by decreasing lactic acid buildup in the muscle during training, there are no precise data on the exact content of this proprietary blend.
Nevertheless, you’ll find the list of ingredients on the back of its container. But since it still contains caffeine, I encourage you to determine your tolerance level first. For example, know how many cups of coffee you usually handle daily.
Opting for a caffeine-free pre-workout is unnecessary if you consume about two to three cups of caffeine almost daily. It is the way to go if you want a quality pre-workout.
ProSupps Dr. Jekyll Signature Pre-Workout Powder
ProSupps Dr. Jekyll Signature Pre-Workout Powder supports muscle strength, endurance, power, and performance.
This stimulant and caffeine-free pre-workout powder contains Calcium, Potassium, Beta Alanine, and Creatine HCL, which increases blood flow for pumps, delays workout-induced fatigue onset and maximizes training output.
Related: How to Make Pre-Workout Taste Better
Final Thoughts on Getting Rid of Pre-Workout Anxiety
A good pre-workout supplement indeed helps you squeeze more out of your workouts. However, some of these supplements rely on vast amounts of caffeine that make you jittery and anxious.
All the tips we shared above can improve your overall mental health and reduce anxiety symptoms, if not eliminate them. After all, it may not have anything to do with it all but a combination of physical and mental factors.
Still, finding a pre-workout mix specifically designed for your needs and body is excellent. This supplement allows you to avoid ingredients you don’t respond well to without the adverse side effects, like anxiety.
For more information on fitness, bodybuilding, and nutrition, visit ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.