What Is DMAA Pre-Workout? (Should You Avoid It?)

While looking for the best pre-workouts, you probably have encountered a wild mixture of insights about DMAA pre-workouts.

On the one hand, this metabolism-boosting stimulant can be dangerous and has been removed from many products.

On the other hand, serious lifters still seek it out because of its unique ability to boost athletic performance.

So, exactly what is a DMAA pre-workout? This article discusses the risks of using DMAA pre-workouts, then guides those seeking a DMAA pre-workout alternative.

DMAA (1,3 dimethylamylamine) is a nervous system stimulant that works much like caffeine to provide physical energy for long, intense workouts, making it a popular pre-workout for serious lifters.

However, in 2012, the US military reported problems with DMAA as a pre-workout supplement–it was linked to a fatal heart attack in service members.[1]

It was subsequently not allowed in any part of the US military. It had already been banned in the 1970s as a nasal decongestant ingredient.

In 2013, the FDA warned against its use in pre-workout and weight-loss supplements. Most companies complied.

Pre-workout and fat-loss supplement company USPlabs fought back until 2020, when it finally took its DMAA products off the market.[2]

USPlabs maintains that DMAA is an herbal supplement, geranium extract. The FDA counterargues that 1,3-DMAA is an amphetamine derivative, not a dietary supplement.[3]

Pre Workout Capsule

Why Is DMAA Used In Some Pre-Workouts?

Products containing DMAA are considered the strongest pre-workouts.

This is because DMAA works with caffeine and other ingredients to make the perfect energy booster for athletic performance.

Basically, it makes it easier to get through a harder workout.

Harder workouts, along with sufficient food and proper nutrition, lead to faster bodybuilding and better performance.

That said, exactly what does DMAA do in pre-workout products? (Why not just add more caffeine, since they have similar effects?)

Users seem to like the duration and robustness of its effect; most do not experience mood disruptions or severe side effects.

DMAA increases metabolic rate, so many have used it as a weight-loss supplement, too.

Note: While many safely use a pre-workout with DMAA, no research suggests it is actually good for your health.

Dangers Of 1,3 Dimethylamylamine (Common Side Effects)

Young people might use DMAA recreationally, often combined with the caffeine in energy drinks. They might even use other supplements or drugs at the same time.

On the other hand, some might use DMAA alone or with other medications as an energy booster or a focus enhancer.

Of course, these are not examples of DMAA safe usage.

So, is DMAA bad for you? It depends. It is not, either way, a form of nutrition.

As a central nervous system stimulant, DMAA works the body into an excited state. The heart rate increases; the blood pressure rises as vessels tighten to expedite the delivery of blood to muscles.

If blood vessels become overly constricted, however, blood flow becomes compromised.

According to the FDA, DMAA side effects include a tight sensation in the chest and difficulty catching breath.

As with other stimulants, you could find you have too much energy or are otherwise uncomfortable, to the point that you cannot focus on your intended activity.

In more extreme cases, this effect can produce cardiovascular problems, even heart attack–this is really what made it a banned pre-workout supplement ingredient.


What Are Some DMAA Alternatives? (Safer Stimulants)

Yes, it is possible to get similar results with other supplements. Create your own pre-workout regiment with these powerful alternatives:

Consider non-stimulant pre-workout ingredients–vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and amino acids.

Be aware of macronutrients–healthy fats, slow-release sugars, and high-quality protein–for healing, recovery, and long-term nutrition.

Also, remember antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories.

Caffeine

It is arguably the most popular performance enhancer, a famous central nervous system stimulant and the star ingredient of most pre-workouts (even those containing DMAA).

While generally viewed as a safe way to gain energy and focus, it, too can be dangerous at high doses.[4]

Caffeine as DMAA Alternatives

Synephrine

Also known as p-synephrine, it is a naturally occurring compound in bitter orange; it has very similar effects (and side effects) to DMAA.[5]

Theacrine

It naturally occurs in Kucha tea and Cupuacu (a South American tree).

A 2015 NIH research article suggested that Theacrine has a negligible effect on blood pressure and heart rate but still makes people feel like they can focus, work with more energy, and get happier–even outperforming caffeine in these areas.[6]

Cacao/Cocao

It is hard to find scientific evidence, but many assert that cacao promotes weight-loss and enhanced performance, along with boosting mood.

This is usually attributed to the components of theobromine and caffeine. An added plus: cacao does not typically cause adverse blood pressure effects.

Kola Nuts

As with cacao, there is little hard science supporting the benefits of kola nuts.

However, like cacao, they contain caffeine and theobromine, which likely explains their effectiveness as an energy booster.[7]


Things To Keep In Mind When Buying DMAA Pre-Workout

Thoroughly Examine Ingredient List

  • Alternative Names:
    The most common alternative names for DMAA (1,3 dimethylamylamine) in pre-workouts are methylhexanamine, dimethylamine, and other similar chemical names. You also might see it on proprietary blend labels as geranamine or geranium extract.
  • Interactions With Other Ingredients:
    Note ingredients that could have an additive effect with DMAA: avoid consuming more than one product containing DMAA at the same time; avoid large doses of caffeine with DMAA supplements, as this contributes to overdose or severe side effects.

Avoid Proprietary Blends

Proprietary blends usually will not disclose ingredient proportions (supposedly to protect themselves from copycats).

The upshot is that you could be getting way more or way less of a given ingredient than you assumed.

Check Correct Dosages

  • Consider Your Body:
    If you have a pre-workout with a completely transparent ingredient list, consider the serving size and whether you are okay with the listed amount of each ingredient. Consider your sensitivity to stimulants–not everyone’s central nervous system works the same.
  • DMAA Safe Doses:
    25 mg allegedly does not present health risks for most individuals (but this 2013 article gives a disclaimer that it received funding from USPlabs).[8] Among DMAA pre-workout users, around 55 mg is regarded as ideal, with some taking more or taking this amount more than once per day without adverse effects.

When taking any substance to increase energy, there is always a temptation to overdo it–especially if you are going through a tough time physically or emotionally.

While DMAA 1,3 dimethylamylamine is not an illegal drug,  it definitely creates some health risks.

So, if you still want to use DMAA pre-workouts–be careful: start small and work up gradually. Definitely cut back if you notice nausea, headaches, irregular heartbeat, or chest pain.

(In fact, the above is a good policy when using any pre-workout or supplement.)

Bear in mind that many great athletes get through their workouts without anything containing DMAA. Some just have a cup of coffee or tea, amino acids, and vitamin supplements.


Frequently Asked DMAA Pre-Workout Questions

Can you get addicted to DMAA?

There is not much risk of becoming physically dependent on a DMAA pre-workout, but some people love the energizing effect enough for there to be some psychological addiction.

What popular products contain DMAA?

OxyELITE Pro and Jack3d, both from USP labs, are the most popular DMAA pre-workout and weight-loss supplements, respectively.

Supposedly, they have been reformulated, but OxyELITE Pro’s formula shows “geranium extract.” Furthermore, Jack3d is on the market with DMHA (a similarly banned stimulant).

So, possibly the company is not using appropriate DMAA pre-workout alternative substances.

Will DMAA pre-workout products fail a drug test?

Often, yes. Professional athletes have been disqualified for testing positive. Most athletic organizations do not allow DMAA pre-workout supplements.

It usually will not cause a false positive on a test for a different drug, unless it is for another amphetamine derivative.[9]

Where can I buy DMAA pre-workouts?

The US is one of several countries that have banned DMAA. "Illegal" is not its status, though. In fact, alternative terms for DMAA make it easier to keep it on the market.

A 2021 NIH article describes some products that were caught recently.[10] Jack3d still has a reputation as the best DMAA pre-workout, despite some uncertainty about its actual ingredients.


Conclusion

You can still buy DMAA pre-workout supplements; they are mostly safe with judicious use.

However, there are health (and other) risks that can be avoided by choosing from the variety of alternative supplements instead.

Be smart: Weigh risks and benefits; consider your short- and long-term goals; and, most of all, listen to your body, even when you are seriously pushing yourself.

References: 

1. https://academic.oup.com/milmed/article/177/12/1455/4336776?login=false
2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2013/04/12/is-dmaa-dangerous-to-your-health/
3. https://www.fda.gov/food/dietary-supplement-products-ingredients/dmaa-products-marketed-dietary-supplements
4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/does-taking-a-pre-workout-actually-work/
5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/synephrine
6. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/11/5484
7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319626
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3852303/
9.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21439156/
10. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15563650.2021.1894333?journalCode=ictx20

Last Updated on November 16, 2022