Should You Use Pre-Workouts & Thermogenics?

I’m sure you’ve all heard of pre-workouts and thermogenics…and some of you probably use them or have in the past. I know I have.

So what’s the deal with them?

pre-workout supplements
Photo Credit: John Jeddore via Compfight cc

In short, a pre-workout supplement is usually one that uses caffeine to give you energy and a “pump” before your workout. Some also include BCAAs and other compounds. This article highlights the different types of pre-workout supplements that exist.

Thermogenics are another name for pre-workout supplements which include a fat burner or are intended to burn extra calories. An example of this is when I used to take GNC GenetixHD Pro-Sculpt. It certainly did give me a boost in energy!

But pre-workout supplements have been controversial. Should you or should you not use them? I don’t think there is a right answer. But as always with my “Thinking Out Loud” posts, I will explore both sides.


 The most obvious benefit is that it gives you a boost of energy. Pre-workouts usually have a bit more caffeine than just a cup of coffee. Therefore, when you’re driving to the gym after a long day at work, a pre-workout will give you the energy you need to nail your workout. Here are a list of benefits from the website listed above:

  1. Greater pumps
  2. Stronger lifts
  3. Greater amount of repetitions performed
  4. Longer sustained energy
  5. The ability to push through plateaus
  6. Improved focus
  7. Increased nutrient delivery
  8. Decreased muscle breakdown

I’ve had friends who use pre-workout drinks tell me they definitely feel the difference in terms of pushing through reps/being able to do more reps. Honestly, I never felt much of a huge difference, but a key thing to remember about pre-workouts is that they work differently for everyone.

In a scientific study where participants took a pre-workout supplement, and then were asked to do 4 sets of 10 reps at 80% resistance, these were the results found:

  • The total number of repetitions achieved for the given exercise was significantly greater during the testing following supplementation than that of the testing following the placebo.
  • Power output readings recorded for the given exercise were significantly greater during the testing following supplementation than that of the testing following the placebo.
  • There were no significant differences following supplementation and placebo regarding feelings of focus, fatigue and energy levels.

Hmmm…very interesting! So it seems there is a big difference with the actual supplement and placebo.

So what are the disadvantages?


The main disadvantage for me was that it was too much caffeine. Sure, I felt ramped up during my working…but then continued to feel so afterwards. My mom tried a scoop of my Pro-Sculpt once and couldn’t sleep at night. This is just something to think about if you’re sensitive to caffeine! Here are a few other possible disadvantages:

  • Could be dangerous if you have a heart issue you’re not aware of.
  • The FDA does not issue warnings unless there are a lot of complaints on these supplements, which means eventually it could be recalled, and you’ve been taking it for an extended period of time. In fact, according to this article, 70% of supplement companies violate agency rules. Yikes.
  • Some can contain sketchy ingredients. The FDA found anabolic steroids in one company’s Vitamin B supplements!
  • Possible to plateau. So, they work initially, but eventually your body will get used to the effects. Similar to coffee.

“So what should I do?”

Do your homework. If you want to try a pre-workout or thermogenic, research the product and the ingredient list. Read lots of reviews. I actually liked the Pro Sculpt and it did give me energy, but I was kind of nervous to take it when I was already going to be running and increasing my heart rate even more.

Now, I usually have a cup of coffee an hour before a workout or run. My brother and I both tried EnergyBits, which is an all-natural supplement, and we both loved it. He actually hit a few weightlifting personal records after taking EnergyBits!

If you can, consult your doctor and ask him about different products. If you have a trainer, talk to them about their thoughts. I asked 3 different trainers their thoughts and surprisingly all 3 told me to stay away from supplements. Regardless, I still tried it out because I was curious :-P

If you do decide to try a pre-workout, start with a small scoop or serving size at first to see how your body reacts. Some people can take 1/2 the serving size and feel ready to go. Make sure it doesn’t affect your sleeping patterns, since sleep is the most important factor when it comes to making gains!

I’m neutral on the whole issue since I have only tried one supplement out of the many there are. I just choose to go with coffee or EnergyBits now!

Do you take a pre-workout or thermogenic supplement? Which one?

What do you think about pre-workouts?

Disclaimer: Contains an affiliate link. I may earn a small commission, which can help me save up for my next race :)


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  1. Great article. I take Energy Bits, but that is it…I am a bit scared with all the options and potential side effects of a lot of the supplements on the market, Energy Bits are all natural so it makes me feel more confident in taking it.
    Sara @ lifebetweenthemiles recently posted…A quarter of the way through the yearMy Profile

    • I agree, that’s why I really like energy bits! Some of those other products just make me nervous because you really never know what ingredients are in them

  2. I don’t take pre workout supplements! I try to get my workout done in the morning after my coffee, so that’s all the supplement I need for that! I do have a Shakeology everyday to help me get the nutrients my body needs to stay healthy! :)
    Heather @floridafitnessmom recently posted…Summer Slim Down SupportMy Profile

    • I’m all about the coffee too! I need to be better about making more protein/green shakes…I’m just too lazy to clean the blender ;)

  3. Very good information! I usually eat a little something or take some kind of race fuel like Clif Shot blocks before an afternoon or evening workout for a little extra pep. I go empty in the mornings though. Definitely something to think about. You hear so much about the stuff people consume after a workout that it’s easy to over look the stuff people consume BEFORE a workout too.
    Courtney @The TriGirl Chronicles recently posted…Tri Tip Tuesday – RecoveryMy Profile

  4. My husband and big into pre-workouts, I could take them or leave them. I’ve used Pro Sculpt and C4 in the past and while I like them on my long run days, I do worry about the side effects. or potential long-term effects. Very informative post, thanks for sharing!
    Sarah @ Run Shop Eat Repeat recently posted…Spring Time is the Best TimeMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment! I have the same concerns…while I like feeling good and ready to go I’m kind of nervous about it too. Glad someone feels the same way and I’m not just paranoid!

  5. I use DMG before a ferocious workout. It gives me the extra endurance without the disadvantages of caffeine e.g. energy let down, post workout jitters, and sleep disorders. That’s just my two cents. I am not hawking any supplements.
    Erika recently posted…Fun Yoga Clothes For Trendy WomenMy Profile

  6. A proper workout is still the best supplement you need. Workout supplements are just for assistance.
    ENGN supplements Green Apple recently posted…Special DealsMy Profile

  7. jetgirl says:

    Great article!
    I take pro-sculpt and love it. I work a 10 hour shift as an aircraft mechanic (very physical job) and I struggle at the gym after work if I have forgotten to take my little scoop of magic (the pro-sculpt). I get off work at 2 am and have found that if I take it any later than 11 pm, I will NOT be able to get to sleep, even after pumping out a killer workout. But when you say that everyone’s experience is different, you’re not kidding! A guy at work wanted some energy, so I gave him a scoop. He got a crazy niacin flush (or something)…he looked like a big ol strawberry and he got really really itchy. He said he only got 2 hours of sleep that night and his chest felt funny. So if anyone is going to try this kind of stuff….listen to Patty’s advice and try half a scoop first.

    • I’ve been taking SuperHD by Cellucor and I can see the benefit of taking a definitely gives you energy! What I’m afraid of is getting dependent on it, so I try not to take it on weekends. We’ll see how it goes!

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