Today, we'll discuss pre-workouts and their effects on weight gain and overall body composition.
Considering it is easy to point fingers when the scale tips the other way, we'll delve into the science and look past the bro science to determine whether pre-workouts are truly to blame or if there's more to the story.
- Will Pre-Workout Cause Weight Gain?
- Factors That Contribute To Pre-Workout Weight Gain
- Will You Gain Weight By Using These Popular Pre-Workout Brands?
- 4 Tips For Not Gaining Weight While On Pre-Workout
- What Ingredients Are In Pre-Workout?
- Pre-Workout & Weight Gain Questions
Will Pre-Workout Cause Weight Gain?
Pre-workout supplements don't directly cause weight gain. On average, pre-workouts typically contain minimal calories, ranging from 0 to 10 calories per serving, which is not enough to cause any sort of significant weight gain.
For a noticeable weight gain, you need to be in a caloric surplus of 10%-20% of your daily calorie intake. Depending on your BMR, activity level, age, and sex, that caloric surplus could be anywhere from 150 to 700 calories, meaning a single serving of 10-calorie pre-workout is effectively negligible.
Factors That Contribute To Pre-Workout Weight Gain
While pre-workouts themselves aren't the culprit to weight gain, there are other factors that contribute to weight gain that can be associated with pre-workouts.
Increased Water Retention
One of the side effects of taking pre-workout ingredients is water retention and bloating.
Water weight is one thing that contributes to minor, temporary weight gain and can make the scales read higher than you think they should.
Active compounds such as taurine or glycerol can be the cause of increased water retention, as both have osmotic effects that influence fluid balance in the body,
Another culprit could be sodium because when the sodium levels in the body rise, the body fights back by retaining water to keep the sodium-to-water ratio stable.
Newbie Gains And Increased Muscle Mass
As someone who's helped a lot of beginners, I often saw them gaining 4-6 pounds of lean muscle within the first three months.
In other words, if you are a beginner and you start with pre-workouts right away, you could mistakenly believe it was pre-workouts that helped you gain weight.
In reality, this is just your body reacting to training and pushing your muscle protein synthesis into overdrive, resulting in additional muscle and possibly weight.
Overeating And Fat Gain
Because the pre-workouts give you an energy boost, you will likely exert yourself more during your training session. Once you've emptied out your glycogen stores and you've left drained and fatigued, you will get hungry in order to replenish your energy.
From my experience, you'll crave fatty and sugary foods, which are often very high in calories. If you succumb to your desires, it is very likely you'll eat more than you should, which will result in weight gain.
While these calories will eventually be worked off, you may gain weight as you get accustomed to the nutrition requirements of your new lifestyle.
Sometimes found in pre-workout supplements, creatine is one compound that is often blamed when we discuss water retention, bloating, or weight gain. While there is some truth to this, it's often misunderstood.
Creatine draws water directly into your muscle fibers, so while the difference may show up on the scale, you'll hardly see it in your tummy.
In other words, subcutaneous (under the skin) water retention and puffiness shouldn't be an issue with creatine.
Will You Gain Weight By Using These Popular Pre-Workout Brands?
Let’s look at some of the most popular brands to find out what issues they may have for your weight loss experience.
LIT powders have caffeine, citrulline, taurine, and other active ingredients and amino acids designed to give you energy for exercise performance.
Since there's creatine and taurine in there, theoretically, water weight may be an issue. Also, the serving size is 20 calories, which is on the higher end of the pre-workout spectrum. But then again, 20 calories is 0.5-1% of your daily calorie intake, so I wouldn't even think about it.
In addition, I've used LIT AF on numerous occasions and have never experienced any weight gain. On the contrary, due to its potent formula, I'd usually get the ton of energy needed to exercise vigorously and burn off calories, leading me to finish the session two to three pounds lighter.
So, no, LIT pre-workout will not make you gain weight.
Related Article - Beyond Raw Lit AF Pre-Workout Review
Cellucor C4 is one of the most popular and purchased pre-workout powder mixes on the market and the one I used a long time ago.
From my experience, C4 will not make you gain weight. If anything, the included caffeine will help you to lose weight rather than gain some, and since the serving size is a measly 5 calories, you won't even feel it.
While the formula contains creatine, its 1-gram dose is highly unlikely to contribute to your weight in any significant way.
Related Article - Cellucor C4 Pre-Workout Review
Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs BULK pre-workout will not make you gain weight.
BULK pre-workout is one of my favorite pre-workout formulas because it is well-dosed and very potent, with only 5 calories per single serving. I've used several tubs over the years, and I haven't noticed any issues with my weight.
On an equally bright note, BULK is also free of any artificial flavorings or colors, which may be calorie-free but can be detrimental to your health.
Related Article - Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout Review
4 Gauge Pre-Workout
4 Gauge is a mild and beginner-friendly formula with only 4 calories per serving, making it the least likely pre-workout formula to cause weight gain.
Its ingredient profile is clean and well-dosed, the powder is free of any artificial colors or flavors, and its sodium content is so low it won't make any difference whatsoever.
I often recommend 4 Gauge to people who want to lose weight, as it isn't too stimulatory and can be easily handled, so no, 4 Gauge pre-workout will not make you gain weight.
Related Article - 4 Gauge Pre-Workout Review
4 Tips For Not Gaining Weight While On Pre-Workout
There are a few things you can do to lower the chances of gaining weight even further.
1. Mix A Pre-Workout With Water Only
Mixing your pre-workout with water only is the ironclad way to ensure your pre-workout shake is extremely low in calories.
While mixing pre-workouts with cranberry juice or drinking a pre-workout shake with loads of whole foods has its advantages, being low in calories isn't one of them.
2. Inspect The Ingredient Label And Nutritional Facts
It is highly unlikely that a pre-workout will be more than 20 calories per serving, but inspecting the label and knowing exactly how much you're ingesting is the only correct way to go about monitoring your calorie intake.
3. Monitor Your Calorie Intake By Tracking Macros
Tracking calories and macros is the most effective method for monitoring calorie intake. It involves keeping a close eye on the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and counting the total calories eaten.
You can easily do this through an app or just by manually adding up the calorie and macro content of your food. To make it even easier, do what I do.
Devise a meal plan for your week and write down exactly what you're going to eat and how much you're going to eat. I usually go for the 30/40/30 split (protein, carbs, fats), but you can adjust that according to your needs.
As long as you keep everything planned, you'll always know just how much food, calories, and macros you're getting in, which will prevent you from gaining or losing weight.
4. Prioritize Restful Sleep
Intense workouts powered by pre-workouts take a toll on your body, so make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Restful sleep will help you recover and regain your energy, which will help you avoid stress and overeating.
What Ingredients Are In Pre-Workout?
These common ingredients and find out which ones contribute to weight gain.
The caffeine content in pre-workout won't cause weight gain. In fact, it is more likely to lead to weight loss.
However, caffeine can lead to sleep deprivation, which has been associated with weight gain and obesity, so avoid taking pre-workouts close to bedtime.
Learn More - Does Pre Workout Keep You Awake?
When taken as a supplement or as a part of a pre-workout, creatine increases the body's creatine phosphate stores, enhancing energy production, which can lead to improved exercise performance, muscle growth, and strength gains, but not unhealthy weight gain.
Read Also - Pre-Workout Vs Creatine
Nitric Oxide Boosters
Nitric oxide boosters help increase the amount of NO in your blood vessels. Nitric oxide precursors such as L-citrulline or Nitrosigine can synthesize NO as they break down, improving vasodilation and nutrient delivery to the muscles, but they do not cause direct weight gain.
Beta-alanine, a non-essential amino acid, helps improve endurance and reduce muscle soreness if supplemented daily.
Weight gain isn't a known side effect of beta-alanine, but it can cause skin tingling, much like niacin flush.
Learn More - Why Does Beta Alanine in Pre-Workout Make You Itch?
L-tyrosine is a cognitive enhancer and a catecholamine precursor commonly found in pre-workouts.
While it is highly unlikely that oral tyrosine will cause weight gain, a study from 1984 did note an increase in body weight in diabetic rats following tyrosine supplementation.
Pre-Workout & Weight Gain Questions
Pre-workout supplements, like all supplements and vitamins, are not regulated by the FDA. Controls and legislation require labeling, amounts, and disclaimers. However, until there is a reason for the FDA to step in, these items are not regulated.
Almost every ingredient found in pre-workouts can cause bloating if consumed in excess. When dosed correctly, it is highly unlikely any of them will cause bloating in healthy population.
You can't gain weight simply by taking pre-workouts. Consuming enough calories to cause weight gain directly from pre-workouts would be impossible without putting your life in danger first.
Some ingredients found in pre-workout drinks can curb your appetite potentially helping with overeating. However, it is highly unlikely that a pre-workout will have a significant effect on hunger and dietary habits.
Weight gain is not directly caused by a pre-workout supplement, as their calorie content is simply too low, and the only way to gain weight is to eat more calories than you need.
Some side effects, like bloating and water retention, could occur as a result of improper ingredient dosing, but those changes are mostly visual. They won't reflect on the scale in any significant manner.
Last Updated on November 2, 2023