Is It Bad to Drink Pre-Workout Without Working Out?

Pre-workout supplements have become a staple for fitness enthusiasts for enhancing exercise performance, focus, and muscular endurance. However, what happens when you guzzle down a scoop of pre-workout without actually hitting the gym? You may ask, “Is it bad to drink pre-workout without working out?”

Is it a harmless pick-me-up, or could it lead to disastrous consequences?

In this article, we will delve into the world of pre-workouts. We will also explore the potential risks and benefits of consuming them outside of a workout routine. 

So, buckle up and prepare for some enlightening information to make informed decisions about your pre-workout consumption.

5 Pros of Taking Pre-Workout Without Working Out

1. Improved Cognitive Function

Drinking pre-workout without hitting the gym can lead to improved focus. Pre-workout formulas contain caffeine, a well-known stimulant that enhances focus, alertness, and overall mental performance.

So, while you may not be getting those gains at the gym, you might become a productivity powerhouse at work or in your studies. However, be careful not to overdo it on the caffeine. Otherwise, you might find yourself feeling jittery and anxious instead of focused and productive.

2. Increased Energy

A pre-workout supplement enhances your physical performance during exercise. But it can also quickly boosts energy when consumed outside of a workout routine. 

Caffeine is one of the main ingredients which increases energy levels. This ingredient also blocks the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel sleepy. As a result, it reduces fatigue.

3. Appetite Suppression

Pre-workouts often contain ingredients that reduce appetite, making them a popular choice for individuals looking to lose weight or stick to a specific dietary plan.

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and increases certain hormones that reduce appetite. Meanwhile, L-tyrosine reduces your appetite by increasing the production of certain hormones, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, that suppress hunger and improve mood.

Finally, some supplements contain fiber, which increases feelings of fullness and reduces the desire to eat.

4. Enhanced Mood

Pre-workouts can still have some mood-enhancing benefits even if you’re not hitting the weights. For example, caffeine improves mental alertness and reduces feelings of fatigue. This ingredient can especially be helpful if you’re feeling sluggish or drowsy during the day and need a quick pick-me-up.

Additionally, some supplements contain ingredients like L-theanine, which promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. 

5. Improved Cardiovascular Health

When you take a pre-workout supplement that contains nitric oxide boosters, like citrulline or arginine, these ingredients dilate your blood vessels. This increased blood flow improves circulation, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and heart.

By improving blood flow and reducing inflammation, pre-workouts lower your risk of developing heart disease.

Related: How Many Scoops of Pre-workout Should You Take?

7 Cons of Taking Pre-Workout Without Working Out

1. Risk of Addiction

Pre-workouts boost your energy and endurance so you can power through your workout. But if you’re taking them without working out, you’re not burning off that energy. 

So, what happens when you have all that excess energy with nowhere to go? Well, you might start feeling like you need that supplement just to get through your day, or worse yet, become dependent on it for a buzz.

2. Digestive Discomfort

Many pre-workouts contain high levels of caffeine, which increases stomach acid production and leads to acid reflux or heartburn. Without the activity of training sessions to burn off some of the caffeine, it remains in your system and exacerbates digestive discomfort.

Secondly, these supplements often contain a variety of other stimulants, such as beta-alanine and taurine, which can cause gastrointestinal distress. 

3. Disruption of Sleep

Pre-workouts often contain high levels of caffeine, a powerful stimulant that increases alertness and decreases feelings of fatigue. 

Too much caffeine or too close to bedtime can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. As a result, it makes it harder to fall asleep.

4. Dehydration

Many pre-workouts contain caffeine, which is a diuretic that increases urine production and causes you to lose more fluids than usual. 

Without the physical activity of a workout to regulate your body’s fluid balance, excessive caffeine intake can result in dehydration.

Pre-workouts also contain other ingredients that promote sweating, such as thermogenic compounds. These ingredients raise the body temperature and increase perspiration, leading to fluid loss and dehydration.

5. Adverse Effects on Mental Health

Taking a pre-workout supplement without working out disrupts the natural release of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that regulate mood and reduce stress. 

Without a good workout to trigger the endorphins, a pre-workout can cause stress and inflammation. As a result, it leads to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

6. Risk of Overdose

Pre-workout supplements often contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, which can cause the body to become overstimulated. 

If you take them in excessive amounts or in combination with other caffeinated beverages or medications, pre-workouts increase the risk of caffeine overdose. Caffeine overdose symptoms include rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and even cardiac arrest.

Additionally, they also contain other ingredients that are harmful in excessive amounts. For example, some supplements contain high levels of beta-alanine. This ingredient can cause a tingling sensation in the skin and may lead to nerve damage if taken in excessive amounts. 

Other supplements may contain high levels of niacin, which causes flushing, itching, and even liver damage if consumed excessively. [1]

Related: Does Pre-workout Make You Crash?

So, Can You Take a Pre-workout Supplement Without Working Out?

Is it a bad idea to down a pre-workout without working out?

Yes, you can. Although we do not generally recommend it (due to all the negative side effects), some individuals choose to take pre-workouts without working out for reasons such as mental clarity and focus benefits. 

If you choose to do so, it’s important to follow the recommended dosages and be mindful of any adverse side effects.

7 Alternatives to Pre-workout Supplements

1. Green Tea

Green tea is a natural and delicious alternative that can give you the energy boost you need without any sketchy side effects. It also contains caffeine, a well-known stimulant that increases alertness, focus, and fat-burning. 

Additionally, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. [2]

When these two compounds combine forces, you get a nice, smooth, focused burst of energy to power you through your day without feeling like you’re about to have a heart attack.

2. Beetroot Juice

Whether going for a jog in the park, crushing a home workout, or just trying to tackle your to-do list, beetroot juice’s nitrates improve your endurance and overall performance. 

Plus, its ability to lower blood pressure means you can take on any task with a calm and focused mind. [3]

3. Herbal Supplements

With herbs like ginseng, maca, and ashwagandha, you can get a natural energy surge without the crash or jitters that come with some pre-workout supplements.

In addition, many herbal supplements have adaptogenic properties. These help your body better handle stress, whether you’re dealing with a tough workout or a tough boss. 

So why not ditch the artificial stuff and give Mother Nature a try?

4. Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 supplements are loaded with anti-inflammatory fatty acids that reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time. [4]

Plus, omega-3s enhance brain function and mood, which can come in handy when you need to stay focused and motivated during your workout (or during a boring work meeting).

5. Dark Chocolate

Not only is this delicious treat a mood booster (thanks to its serotonin-boosting compounds) but it’s also loaded with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect your heart. [5]

The caffeine in dark chocolate can give you a little energy boost without the jitters or crashes that come with some pre-workouts.

6. Oatmeal

Oats are packed with complex carbs that give you sustained energy for your workout (or your workday, for that matter). Plus, their high fiber content keeps you full and satisfied, so you’re not distracted by hunger during the day.

7. Greek Yogurt

This creamy and tangy snack is packed with protein to build and repair muscles, making it a perfect pre-workout option. 

Additionally, its high calcium content strengthens your bones and its probiotics aid digestion, ensuring you’re not feeling weighed down during your day. [6]

Related: Best Pre-workout Fat Burner for Weight Loss

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you take a pre-workout and don’t work out?

It’s like putting on a superhero costume and then binge-watching Netflix. Sure, you might feel a burst of energy and focus, but without a workout to channel that energy into, you’re just left with a bunch of unused superpowers (and maybe some jitters too). 

So if you find yourself in this situation, try going for a walk or doing some bodyweight exercises to put that pre-workout to good use.

Can I drink a pre-workout as an energy drink?

While pre-workout supplements provide an extra energy boost, they’re not the same as your run-of-the-mill energy drink. You could chug a pre-workout as a quick fix for an energy slump. But be warned that it’s specifically designed to be taken before exercising. 

So if you’re not planning on hitting the gym, you might end up feeling a little wired and jittery rather than energized and focused.

Plus, most pre-workout supplements contain a hefty dose of caffeine and other stimulants. If you’re sensitive to these ingredients (or already consume a lot of caffeine throughout the day), you may want to think twice before guzzling down that pre-workout.

What happens if you take a pre-workout on an empty stomach?

While taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach might give you a quick burst of energy, it’s generally not the best idea.

You see, pre-workouts give your body the energy to power through an intense workout. If you haven’t eaten anything, your body might not have the fuel to sustain that energy boost.

On top of that, taking a pre-workout while hungry increases your risk of experiencing unpleasant side effects, like jitters, nausea, and even fainting.

Does taking pre-workout without working out make you gain weight?

Taking pre-workout without hitting the gym won’t necessarily make you gain weight. However, some pre-workout supplements contain added sugars, calories, and other ingredients that could contribute to weight gain if you’re not burning them off through exercise.

In other words, if you’re chugging pre-workout regularly without using that extra energy to fuel your workouts, you could be consuming more calories than your body needs.

If you consistently consume more calories than you burn, you might start to see the numbers on the scale creep up. Remember to check the label for the number of calories and sugars.

Final Words

Is it a bad idea to down a pre-workout without working out?

So, is it a good idea to drink pre-workout without actually working out? It seems like the answer is not so cut and dry.

While it might not cause immediate harm, using pre-workout as a substitute for exercise and healthy habits could hinder your fitness progress. 

So, drink up if you’re looking for a boost before hitting the gym. But if you’re planning on lounging around, you should skip it. At the end of the day, it’s all about moderation and listening to your body.

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Nathan Lloyd, MSc

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.