Can You Take Pre-Workout Without Working Out ?

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Last updated on September 5, 2022

Pre-workout supplements are packed with ingredients that can help boost your energy levels. You may be tempted to leverage their benefits even if you don’t actively work out or are on a break from the gym due to an injury or an accident. This article will walk you through whether you can take pre-workout without going to the gym and what happens to your body when you do so.


You can take a pre-workout supplement without working out. However, there are specific side effects that are associated with taking pre-workouts and not exercising. Your body will quickly develop a tolerance for the effects of the ingredients in the supplement. This is why it is recommended only to take pre-workout when you need a boost of energy before going to the gym.


Pre-workout supplements are designed with ingredients that are meant to improve your physical performance and endurance during training sessions at the gym. They help in building muscles, replenishing energy levels, and recovery.


Although they have significant benefits for people that work out regularly, taking them without working out can be tricky. They contain ingredients such as caffeine, which you can easily overdose on if you’re not careful. The acceptable amount of caffeine for a day is 400mg. Suppose you take a pre-workout and also have your coffee and energy drinks. You will be at risk of being restless, having insomnia, and other health problems.


This article will list down the potential alternatives you can choose to help boost your energy levels throughout the day without having to take a stimulant or pre-workout.

Risks of Taking Pre-Workout Without Working Out

Your health can get affected by an increased heart rate and palpitations. Pre-workouts are designed to fuel your efforts at the gym. If you take them without working out or on rest days, you can start to build a high tolerance to the ingredients.


How a pre-workout will affect your body will also depend on the ingredients and the dosages in the particular brand you’re using.


Let’s look at some of the adverse effects of taking a pre-workout without working out:


1.   Caffeine Tolerance

Caffeine is a staple ingredient in almost every brand of pre-workout supplements on the market. It helps build endurance and focus. However, the recommended dosage of caffeine is limited to up to 400 mg per day. Anything above that can mean an overdose.


This could mean that your morning coffee will no longer be effective since your body will have a high tolerance to it.


2. Low Effectiveness

Again, when you take pre-workout without expelling the energy it creates within the body, you will build a high tolerance against its ingredients. As the tolerance levels increase, the pre-workout will become less and less effective for you.

3. Increased Water Retention

Pre-workout supplements create a substance called creatine. Creatine is excellent at restoring your energy stores and giving you a much-needed boost in energy before going to the gym. However, what happens when that energy isn’t expended during exercise?


Excessive use of creatine is associated with bloating, diarrhea, water retention, and even weight gain. You can suffer from these side effects if you take a pre-workout with creatine and don’t exercise.

4. Diarrhea and Digestive Issues

First of all, not having enough water with your pre-workout can cause diarrhea. Secondly, ingredients such as magnesium, creatine, and sodium bicarbonate can cause problems for your digestive tract.

5. Headaches and Migraine

One crucial ingredient in pre-workout supplements is citrulline. Its major purpose is to increase the blood flow to your muscles and vessels for building lean mass. This increased blood flow to the brain region and vessels can give you frequent headaches and migraines.

6. Insomnia and Restlessness

Being jittery and restless is a common side effect of pre-workouts, even if you work out regularly. The effect is amplified for people who take these supplements without even working out or on rest days. This is mainly due to the increased consumption of caffeine, which is a staple ingredient in these supplements.


Natural Alternatives to a Pre-Workout Supplement

Whatever your reasons behind taking a pre-workout supplement without working out are, it’s not an ideal choice for your body’s overall health. If the goal is to increase your stamina and energy levels. There are other ways to achieve this. Nature has plenty of food and drink sources that you can consume to boost your energy levels. Let’s explore a few:


1.   Coffee


This one isn’t a surprise. Caffeine is such a huge part of pre-workout supplements because it can boost your focus and endurance level. So, if you need fuel to get through the day, focus on a meeting or a project. Coffee is your best bet. You can have a hot cup to start your day, or you can keep refueling with a low caffeine iced coffee all day long.

2. Kava Kava

A lot of pre-workouts target your mental performance. If increased concentration and focus are the goals, Kava Kava is your best choice. It is a plant from Oceania and is known for its mood-boosting effects.


It enhances your cognitive functions, but it’s also great at improving the quality of your sleep. This means you will rest better and be more alert for everyday tasks.

3. Dark Chocolate

Yummy and a superfood? Yes, please. Dark chocolates contain flavonoids that can boost nitric oxide levels in your body. Increased nitric oxide levels mean an improved blood flow to your blood vessels and muscles.


This will give your body an extra pump and boost your energy levels throughout the day.

4. Guarana

Feeling a bit tired and beat up recently? This magic fruit from the Amazon rainforest can do wonders to relieve fatigue and stress. This plant is available in the form of supplements and can help improve blood flow to your brain for better focus.

5. Matcha Tea

Matcha tea isn’t just great for the skin. It helps burn fat and is super rich in antioxidants. It helps clean your blood of toxic radicals and also boosts your overall energy levels for better performance and focus.

6. Oats

Oats are the best complex carb out there. They’re yummy and also super-rich in Vitamin B and thiamin, which play a crucial role in energy replenishing and production in your body. They are great for keeping your weight in check.

7. Sweet Potatoes

More taste and fewer carbs. Sweet potatoes are also a complex carb that is rich in essential nutrients like potassium and magnesium. These nutrients help fuel recovery from fatigue and aches.

8. Coconut Water

Need something that boosts your electrolytes but isn’t loaded on artificial sweeteners. Coconut water is your answer. It is rich in electrolytes, and it doesn’t contain the extra sugar that energy drinks do. So, the next time you feel drained and exhausted, try coconut water

9. Bananas

Bananas are a great source of carbohydrates, and they’re packed with magnesium and potassium. They can help you battle most aches and pains and provide an instant boost in energy for the day.

10.  Rice Cakes

Like your pre-workout in a bottle, rice cakes are an awesome snack for when you’re on the go. They are rich in carbs and energy. You can add peanut butter, honey, and berries to make things interesting and more energy-packed.

You also may want to read 12 Safest Pre Workout Supplements Ingredients.

What Are The Most Common Ingredients In a Pre-Workout?

If you don’t work out or are on a break, it is best to switch to some natural energy sources, as mentioned above. However, if you must take a pre-workout supplement and feel it fits your body’s needs, you need to have a grip on the ingredients in these supplements and what is an acceptable quantity for you to consume.




Ingredient Recommended Dosage
Caffeine 1.4-2.7mg / pound of body weight
Beta-alanine 4-6 grams daily
L-theanine 900mg  daily
Vitamin B6 100mg daily
BCAAs 5 – 20 grams daily
Nitrate 2.7-5.9 / pound of body weight
Creatine 25mg daily


Let’s look at the common ingredients in a pre-workout:


1.   Creatine

Creatine aids in the production of new muscle cells and recovery from workouts in general. The most commonly used form of this is creatine monohydrate. It occurs naturally in your muscles and is responsible for fueling your body’s ATP stores.


Creatine consumption can lead to digestive issues and water retention for people who don’t work out. So it’s best to stick with a supplement without it or with it in minimal amounts.

2. Caffeine

The primary ingredient fueling energy and focus in a pre-workout is caffeine. An acceptable daily consumption limit for a normal human is around 400mg per day. If you are taking a pre-workout, it is advised to skip other sources of caffeine, such as coffee, tea, or energy drinks.

3. BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs are great for protein production and regulation in the body. They help in building muscle mass and reducing fatigue. Since the body can’t produce these essential amino acids on its own, this ingredient can be useful in helping you have better energy levels throughout the day.

4. Vitamin B-6

This one is crucial to muscle buildup and weight loss. It can help restore your energy levels and keep you upbeat all day. It functions the same way amino acids do and is a good ingredient to consume in a supplement.

5. Nitric Oxide

Increased blood flow to the brain is great for improved focus. However, too much of this can cause headaches and migraine. Watch out for this ingredient and get a supplement that has nitric oxide in the least quantity. You don’t want extra blood pumping to your brain without exercising or expending that energy.

6. Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is great for increasing your endurance and surviving that extra hour throughout the day. However, if you are on rest or not working out, you may not need energy for that extra push. Beta-alanine is an ingredient you should watch out for because it is known to cause a tingling sensation in consumers.

7. L-theanine

This one is found in tea. So, if you need the benefits of caffeine yet, you want to avoid consuming it in the pre-workout. You can look for a supplement containing L-theanine instead.


A related article is Coffee vs Pre-Workout – What to Take Before Workout?

What are the Different Types of Pre-Workouts?

The fitness industry has evolved tremendously in terms of product variety. Pre-workouts are available in the market in different forms. Let’s look at the different categories of pre-workout supplements you can choose from:

1.   Drinks

The powdered form is the most common form of a pre-workout in the market and online stores. This is the most versatile because you can mix it with water or add it to your regular smoothie. Adding it to water and smoothies can help hydrate your body and take the side effects down a notch.

2.   Food

Certain kinds of food are great for fueling your energy stores and overall endurance and activeness levels. These include complex carbs, proteins, and certain plant sources. These are much better for people who want a pre-workout supplement’s boosted energy levels but don’t regularly work out.


How to Find the Best Pre-Workout If You Don’t Work Out


The key to choosing a good pre-workout is the same for anyone that does workouts or doesn’t. Here are some tips you can use to identify the right formula for your needs:

1.   Read the Ingredient List

We’ve walked you through each ingredient that can be a part of a pre-workout in detail. You can now determine which ones suit your needs, especially if you are taking a break from the gym or don’t work out at all.


Make sure you choose a supplement with the right dosages for the ingredients best suited to your individual needs. For example, if caffeine intolerance is a concern, go with a supplement that contains L-theanine instead.


2.  Check Caffeine Content

We know we keep harping on about caffeine and its side effects. It’s because it’s a part of almost every pre-workout supplement on the market and can have potentially adverse health effects for you.


You want to know the exact amount of caffeine in every scoop of pre-workout you are consuming. This is so you don’t over consume it by taking it as part of your coffee or energy drink.


One thing you can look out for is a stimulant-free supplement that will give you all the benefits of caffeine but without it.

3. Buy Tested and Approved Products

Most brands on the market have no scientific formula to back up their dosages and ingredients. You need to look for a pre-workout that has been approved and tested by authorities like NSF International,, and Banned Substances Control Group.

How to Safely Take a Pre-Workout?

Again, if you don’t work out, it’s probably best to avoid taking a pre-workout. If you must take it, then there are some tips you can follow to ensure you don’t suffer from major side effects.

1.   Keep switching between formulas.

You are likely to develop a high tolerance for the ingredients in your pre-workout if you are a regular consumer of the same brand. It is always a good idea to challenge and surprise your body by switching between formulas and ingredients.

2.   Stack stimulant and stimulant-free formulas

Another way to keep your body challenged and avoid building tolerance is to stack your stimulant and stimulant-free formulas. So you can have each on alternative days.

3.   Stay away from proprietary blends.

Your goal should be to be able to make informed choices. You can’t do that when the label on your pre-workout says it’s a prosperity blend, and you don’t know what exact ingredients you are putting in your body. So it’s best to go with brands that display the full list and dosages of ingredients.

4.   Avoid taking it on an empty stomach.

Remember, your pre-workout will likely contain caffeine, and taking that on an empty stomach can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and jitteriness. Go with a meal that has a nice balance between digestible carbs, healthy fats, and protein before taking your pre-workout.


5.   Drink water and stay hydrated

It’s essential to drink a good amount of water when you take a pre-workout to ensure you don’t get diarrhea from ingredients such as magnesium, creatine, and sodium bicarbonate.

6.   Supplement with rest and sleep

There is no better cure for your fatigue and lack of focus than rest. Don’t let the boosted energy from your supplement ruin your sleep schedule or rest. No matter how awesome you may feel throughout the day. Your body will still need rest to recover from the fatigue and stress from daily activities.

7. Take a break

Cycling off your pre-workout supplement is a norm even if you work out regularly. It’s good to take a break from taking the supplement now and then to allow the body to forget its effects. Otherwise, it won’t be long before you build high tolerance for all the ingredients. If that happens, taking a pre-workout will be useless for your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.   Can I take a pre-workout for increased energy?

Pre-workouts contain 150mg to 300 mg of caffeine. This ingredient is linked with improving endurance, focus, and energy levels. So, yes, you can take a pre-workout for energy.

2.   Can pre-workouts help burn fat?

Pre-workouts can help you lose fat by improving your performance during a workout. However, the ingredients in a pre-workout have no direct impact on burning fat.

3.   Can I drink a pre-workout every day?

You can safely drink a pre-workout every day. You have to stick within the defined dosage limit for the day to avoid overdosing on any ingredients.

4.   Are pre-workouts good for cardio?

Pre-workouts can supply the necessary amounts of energy required to do cardio exercises and HIIT sessions.


Final Thoughts

Pre-workouts are great for individuals who work out regularly. They do have their benefits for improving overall focus and endurance. However, this extra boost in energy can cause problems if you don’t expand it during a workout or training session. It is best to stick to natural energy sources rather than taking a supplement if you don’t work out regularly.

About the author  Steve

Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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