Can You Take Pre-Workout Without Working Out? (What Happens)

Pre-workout supplements are designed to give you mental alertness, focus, and a boost on your workout days. These benefits keep you aware and balanced and can add muscular endurance, stamina, and even lower muscle fatigue.

What about on the days you do not go to the gym? Can you achieve the same rewards on off days, and if so, are there any drawbacks or side effects to doing so?

In this pre-workout formula review, we will look at the answers to these questions to help you decide just how much supplementation you need.

Moderation is the key factor here. It is not a bad thing to take a pre-workout supplement without working out. There are a few things to make note of, though, and the ingredients in your pre-workout drink will be a big determining factor.

Stimulant intake levels need to remain low. When you take a pre-workout supplement that uses caffeine as the stimulant source, a single scoop can be the equivalent of 4 or 5 cups of coffee in your body. Different brands will have different amounts, but more caffeine does have drawbacks.

Taken on a daily basis, you may experience headaches, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, nausea, upset stomach, and even insomnia.

You can boost energy levels for a good workout or even a day off. If you want to reach your fitness goals, though, taking a pre-workout daily may be the powerful ergogenic aid you need.

If you already start your days with a cup of coffee, you may want to skip it on non-gym days. The stimulant levels in your pre-workout will last longer because you aren’t stressing your body with vigorous exercise.

You also want to ensure you stay under the 400 mg per day upper limit of caffeine.

Man promoting C4 Pre-Workout Supplement

Risks Of Taking Pre-Workout When Not Doing Workouts

As we mentioned, taking pre-workout supplements or drinks without working out that day can have some risks or drawbacks.

Caffeine Tolerance

If you take pre-workout supplements daily, even on days you are not working out, you will increase your tolerance for its ingredients, namely, caffeine.

Many gym goers wake up with a cup of coffee or tea every morning. On average, these will contain about 75 to 125 mg of caffeine. Your pre-workout will double, triple, or even quadruple this amount.

If you build up a tolerance to the stimulants, you will need more of them on your workout days to feel the effects and get that energy boost. At that point, you risk overdose levels and heart issues or blood pressure spikes.

Natural caffeine supplement formulas can cause brain fog midway through a normal day. If you aren’t taking physical measures to avoid cognitive stress, the fog can last longer or come on faster.

Low Effectiveness

The more you take, the less it works. Most research and fitness professionals advise you to cycle your pre-workout and other supplements. Most will have a loading phase of 3 to 4 weeks and then a rest phase of at least a week.

The rest days are important. Like a work shift, your gym session and pre-workout stacks need a break to continue enhancing exercise performance.

If you don't cycle or take days off, your tolerance will increase, and the benefits you get from the pre-workout ingredients will slow. Your body needs a break from taking a pre-workout regularly from time to time to stay fresh and recover properly.

Find Out More - Pre-Workout Not Working? (10 Reasons Why & What To Do)

Increased Water Retention

Creatine, especially creatine monohydrate, is commonly found in pre-workout supplements and as a stand-alone supplement because of its many noted benefits to your workout and recovery cycles.

However, one of the primary functions is to store water to carry it to the muscles for recovery.

If you aren't working out and you take your daily dose of creatine, that water storage has nowhere to expel from. This can lead to excess water retention, bloating, cramping, and water weight gain.

If weight loss and muscle mass are your primary fitness goals, creatine supplementation is the way to go. However, the initial water retention can have adverse effects on the scale.

Beta-alanine and other amino acids act as precursors to niacin, and this conversion can also add to water retention.

Diarrhea and Digestive Issues

As odd as it sounds, not enough water in your system when taking a pre-workout can lead to digestive upset, including diarrhea. Dehydration and the water retention properties of the ingredients can lead to severe cramping and bloating.

Taking your pre-workout with enough water and drinking more during the day will help eliminate or at least lessen these side effects.

Headaches and Migraine

Along with beta-alanine and niacin or nitric oxide, l-citrulline also works to increase blood flow and as a vasodilation agent for the smaller blood vessels in the face, extremities, and skull.[1]

The increased blood flow in these areas when you aren’t working out can quickly cause a headache.

If you add in the dehydration effects and stimulation, that headache can easily turn into a migraine. When striving for better focus and cognitive measures, black coffee, B vitamins, and the best pre-workouts have the same effect.

That effect, though, increases heart rate, raises blood vessel pressure and dilation, which all lead to an increase in the possibility of migraine headaches.

Migraine and Headache Pre-Workout Side Effect

Insomnia and Restlessness

Another side effect of excessive caffeine intake is a jittery feeling, including restlessness, jumping knees, busy hands, etc. If you take the pre-workout and do not proceed to work out, the jittery feeling can be prolonged and even disrupt your daily life.


Are There Benefits To Taking Pre-Workout Outside Of The Gym?

With the known downsides and some prevention methods out of the way, let’s look at why you would want to take your pre-workout.

The most obvious reason is the boost from caffeine. You can get the same effects from your normal morning coffee or an energy drink.

However, you won't get the added benefits of branched-chain amino acids, creatine vitamin B complexes, and minerals.

To get the full benefit from these amino acids and creatine, you need to perform a loading cycle. This includes taking enough of each ingredient every day for 3 to 4 weeks.

Once the loading phase is over, you must stop using the pre-workouts for a full week.

To complete a loading phase, you need to take the supplement every day, even when you don't go to the gym. However, you also need to quit entirely for at least a week, which defeats taking pre-workouts every day.

Learn More - Pros And Cons Of Using Pre-Workout Supplements


Safe Alternatives For Days Off (Food and Drink)

No matter what you decide about taking pre-workout supplements every day or not, there are alternatives to get the same rewards directly from your diet. Let’s find out what you should be eating or drinking instead of taking a pre-workout supplement.

Bananas

Bananas, as almost everyone knows, are packed full of potassium. However, lesser known are the fact they also contain a lot of magnesium and carbohydrates. Combined, having a large banana daily will help stave off cramping and give you a decent boost.

Rice Cakes

Rice cakes are simple, easy to travel with, and high in carbohydrates. Providing energy to your muscles, you can also add toppings to increase nutritional value and other benefits.

Carbohydrates work well with creatine found in your pre-workouts or as a stand-alone supplementation.

Oats

Oats, specifically steel rolled oats, are high in complex carbohydrates, thiamine, and vitamin B complexes.[2] These work in the body to replenish muscle energy and produce fuel for your muscles to keep you moving and motivated.

Sweet Potatoes

Like bananas, sweet potatoes contain carbs, potassium, and magnesium. With your daily banana, additional nutrients during lunch or dinner with sweet potatoes can help you recover from muscular fatigue and diminish aches.

Coffee

As you would suspect, replacing the caffeine from a pre-workout supplement isn’t very difficult. Coffee or a morning tea can boost your energy and provide alertness and mental focus to get your going.

The main difference, of course, is that a single cup of coffee won’t come close to the amount of caffeine in your pre-workout. Multiple cups may not be the best answer, but one or two can boost your daily energy levels.

Hot coffee with beans

Kava Kava

Kava Kava is a plant harvested in the South Pacific, including Hawaii. The “intoxicating pepper” rootstock contains kavalactones which is known for its cognitive enhancement properties. Kava Kava can help you sleep better at night and be more alert when you wake up.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is well known for its healthy properties (in moderation, of course). Flavonoids in dark chocolate reduce the sweetness but increase nitric oxide levels. Increasing blood flow and relaxing blood vessels give you a boost to energy levels. This is similar to the BCAAs found in pre-workouts.

Guarana

For natural energy, little works better than the sugar found in fruits. The Amazon rainforest produces one of the best fruits for this purpose. The guarana is believed to relieve stress and lower fatigue. You don't have to eat it, either.

Because of the possible effects from ingestion, guarana is now found in pill and powder form as a supplement that can also improve blood flow to the brain for increased focus.

Matcha Tea

The properties of matcha tea are well documented for skin care and its antioxidant properties.[3] It is also great for an energy boost, burning fat cells, and can push your body to flush toxins.

A daily glass will help you feel alert, fresh, and motivated throughout the day.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is high in natural sweeteners and electrolytes. Since there are no artificial sweeteners or excess sugar, this latest power food can help you gain energy, feel more awake and prevent exhaustion.


Choosing The Right Pre-Workout Supplements For Sporadic Training

When you aren't working out regularly, you need to find the right supplements to meet your needs and provide you with the energy, focus, and recovery benefits you are after.

Check the Ingredient List Carefully

Now that you know what to look for and what to avoid on pre-workouts ingredient list, you can check the labels to find the supplements, amino acids, and the levels you require. With the right formula, you can get all the bonuses even when you aren't working out that day.

Double-Check Caffeine Content

Caffeine levels are an important ingredient to track. For those that are caffeine sensitive, lower levels are needed, or you may be interested in a non-stim pre-workout mix. The other option is to drink pre-workout mixes that contain l-theanine, which will provide the same kick without the caffeine volume.

Only Purchase Tested and Certified Products

Certified testing by third-party labs will let you know that the brand contains what is on the label and in the amounts listed. You can look for the USP or ConsumerLabs label. These will tell you that the ingredients are pure and weighed properly.

You can also look for the Informed Choice label or the NSF International label.[4] These will tell you that the brand doesn't include any banned substances and has been thoroughly tested for ingredients and amounts.

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Taking Pre-Workout Without Working Out FAQs

Is taking a pre-workout before work a good idea?

Drinking pre-workout without working out but before clocking on for work can be beneficial. A pre-workout may be a good idea if you have a physically demanding job or one that requires long, mentally draining hours.

Taking a pre-workout and then subsequently lifting heavy weights is expected. Drinking pre-workout supplements strictly to drink them, however, is not.

There are better ways to lose fat, gain increased energy, cognitive performance, and intense focus on your off-gym days. However, just like you break from training sessions to recover, it is also wise to recover from taking a pre-workout daily.

Can I use pre-workout as an energy drink?

Pre-workout drinks are designed to provide energy, blood flow, recovery, and more. Energy drinks are designed to give you a sugar rush and energy without many other benefits.

Full of artificial flavors and colors, an energy drink is not a substitute for pre-workouts. Not all pre-workouts should be used as energy drinks.

How long will the pre-workout effect last if I don't work out?

If you do not follow the ingestion of your pre-workout with strenuous exercise, high-intensity workouts, or endurance training, the effects can be wasted. While it may be prudent to load up on amino acids, vitamins and creatine from a pre-workout, even on non-workout days, there are no real other benefits.


Conclusion

Working out takes a lot of your mental abilities, physical performance, and energy levels. Drinking pre-workout is specifically designed to start your workout, push through the entire routine and recover faster.

If you drink pre-workout on non-workout days, there isn’t much benefit.

While there isn’t much downside, our final thoughts are that you can achieve the same benefits through your diet or even energy drinks and not have any of the possible negative effects.

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073798/
2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Thiamin-HealthProfessional/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7796401/
4. https://choice.wetestyoutrust.com/

Last Updated on September 30, 2022