Pre-workout Supplements: Good, Bad and Ugly

Pre-Workout supplements have been a popular topic among young athletes looking to gain a competitive edge in order to improve strength and power. The combination of multiple ingredients, especially those containing a combination of stimulants poses a concern on the safety of their use in athletes under the age of 18. Since there is no regulation on the safety of these products, high school and college athletes have easy access to several products that are on the banned substance list for the NFL, MLB, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Click Here>>Download Pre-Workout Product List

In this podcast you will learn:

  • The lack of knowledge of the supplement store staff.
  • How a 15 year old with 4 surgeries to get his heart beating correctly was recommended a stimulant?
  • Overview of the supplement industry.
  • Red Flags with looking at Dietary Supplements.
  • How do companies make the products look very attractive?
  • What is a Proprietary Blend?
  • Extensive Product Review of the most popular Pre-Workout Supplements on the market.
  • Rating of each product as Good, Bad, and Ugly.

Product Review Criteria

Good

  • Product is certified through a 3rd party testing agency and is free of banned substances
  • Product has a good ingredient profile that is based on the scientific literature
  • Product uses quality raw materials
  • Product lacks significant use of stimulants

Bad

  • Product lacks sufficient ingredient profile based on the scientific literature
  • Product is over-priced based on ingredient profile
  • Product is not 3rd party tested

Ugly

  • Product contains an ingredient on the banned substance list
  • Product has a poor ingredient profile that lacks scientific data
  • Product may pose as a health risk to the consumer Download Handout: Great to Post on Locker Room Bulletin Board

Links and Resourced Mentioned in This Episode

In order to determine if the products you are taking are certified by a 3rd party agency, you can visit any of the following sites:

Other Related Resources

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22 replies
  1. Collier Perno
    Collier Perno says:

    Tavis, I really enjoyed listening to this podcast. With the growing number of workout supplements hitting the market, its hard to distinguish the good from the bad. I particularly enjoyed your “red flags” for buying supplements and tips on reading supplement’s ingredient lists. Thanks for sharing your input, a lot of great information in this podcast!

  2. Collier Perno
    Collier Perno says:

    Tavis, I really enjoyed listening to this podcast. With the growing number of workout supplements hitting the market, its hard to distinguish the good from the bad. I particularly enjoyed your “red flags” for buying supplements and tips on reading supplement’s ingredient lists. Thanks for sharing your input, a lot of great information in this podcast!

  3. Ryan Turner, RD
    Ryan Turner, RD says:

    Young athletes can be duped so easily by the person behind the counter. I was one of those athletes years ago. It’s scary to think there could be sales people intentionally pushing unsafe products at a supplement store. However, it’s scarier knowing some people at those stores have no clue how unsafe they are and blindly recommend products; a true “recipe for disaster.” Self advocacy is SO SO SO important. Tavis, have you heard about any large or small chain supplement stores that are properly training/hiring their staff regarding this issue?

    • Nick Yonko, RD, CSCS
      Nick Yonko, RD, CSCS says:

      I would think to go beyond young athletes. There are an extraordinary amount of older athletes/people taking any supplement that allows them to feel “young” again or play like they did a decade ago. It would be interesting to see the demographics of those purchasing supplements.

      For every one person advocating good supplement advice there are 100+ people blindly spitting out nonsense.

  4. Ryan Turner, RD
    Ryan Turner, RD says:

    Young athletes can be duped so easily by the person behind the counter. I was one of those athletes years ago. It’s scary to think there could be sales people intentionally pushing unsafe products at a supplement store. However, it’s scarier knowing some people at those stores have no clue how unsafe they are and blindly recommend products; a true “recipe for disaster.” Self advocacy is SO SO SO important. Tavis, have you heard about any large or small chain supplement stores that are properly training/hiring their staff regarding this issue?

    • Nick Yonko, RD, CSCS
      Nick Yonko, RD, CSCS says:

      I would think to go beyond young athletes. There are an extraordinary amount of older athletes/people taking any supplement that allows them to feel “young” again or play like they did a decade ago. It would be interesting to see the demographics of those purchasing supplements.

      For every one person advocating good supplement advice there are 100+ people blindly spitting out nonsense.

  5. Dylan A. Bailey
    Dylan A. Bailey says:

    There are currently an insaine amount of supplements (75,000!!!) present in the market for public access, yet many of these products find their way into the gym bags, lockers, and shaker bottles of young athletes. Access to these supplements will always be easily possible, but it is how you prepare yourself to make safe choices through education and research, which will prepare you to see beyond the devious marketing tactics of the supplement industry. Improved performance or other promised effects from swallowing a pill or powder may sound too good to be true, because it is! Tavis’s supplement “red flags” prepare you to strongly challenge the claims presented on supplement labels. Always do your research. You can start by using the web links Tavis has posted above!

  6. Dylan A. Bailey
    Dylan A. Bailey says:

    There are currently an insaine amount of supplements (75,000!!!) present in the market for public access, yet many of these products find their way into the gym bags, lockers, and shaker bottles of young athletes. Access to these supplements will always be easily possible, but it is how you prepare yourself to make safe choices through education and research, which will prepare you to see beyond the devious marketing tactics of the supplement industry. Improved performance or other promised effects from swallowing a pill or powder may sound too good to be true, because it is! Tavis’s supplement “red flags” prepare you to strongly challenge the claims presented on supplement labels. Always do your research. You can start by using the web links Tavis has posted above!

  7. Alain Luu
    Alain Luu says:

    Great information about pre-workout supplements! Anyone who is taking pre-workouts should be aware of its ingredients. Many companies try to add unknown inferior ingredients with no scientific evidence, while advertising that it’s superior to known safe ingredients found in high quality products. You should always do your research, or even better, consult with a Sports Dietitian before you purchase and consume pre-workout supplements. Great job Tavis!

  8. Alain Luu
    Alain Luu says:

    Great information about pre-workout supplements! Anyone who is taking pre-workouts should be aware of its ingredients. Many companies try to add unknown inferior ingredients with no scientific evidence, while advertising that it’s superior to known safe ingredients found in high quality products. You should always do your research, or even better, consult with a Sports Dietitian before you purchase and consume pre-workout supplements. Great job Tavis!

  9. Nikki Jupe, MS, RD, LD
    Nikki Jupe, MS, RD, LD says:

    I think this is a great starting point for young athlete’s. Some may or may not exactly understand what it is saying due to hard vocabulary. However, I think this is such a great starting point because some young athletes do not know what to even look for; therefore, a pretty easy or nice looking label will grab their attention. This helps at least provide a guideline for young athletes that do go into the supplement store and have a reliable resource. To all the athletes out there, if you have questions FIND a SPORTS RD! Email, facebook, tweet the individual and simply ask for help! Your health is important, and even if you think a supplement could be safe because of what it claims, if it is too good to be true, IT IS! Great podcast, interesting product list for the good, bad, and ugly. Crazy how the Bad list is so popular…!

  10. Nikki Jupe, MS, RD, LD
    Nikki Jupe, MS, RD, LD says:

    I think this is a great starting point for young athlete’s. Some may or may not exactly understand what it is saying due to hard vocabulary. However, I think this is such a great starting point because some young athletes do not know what to even look for; therefore, a pretty easy or nice looking label will grab their attention. This helps at least provide a guideline for young athletes that do go into the supplement store and have a reliable resource. To all the athletes out there, if you have questions FIND a SPORTS RD! Email, facebook, tweet the individual and simply ask for help! Your health is important, and even if you think a supplement could be safe because of what it claims, if it is too good to be true, IT IS! Great podcast, interesting product list for the good, bad, and ugly. Crazy how the Bad list is so popular…!

  11. Katie Pawelczyk
    Katie Pawelczyk says:

    The supplement industry is a tough industry to navigate, and many young athletes are unfamiliar with the risks and regulations (or lack there of) that exist within the industry. This is a great podcast to help young athletes (that may not have direct access to a sports dietitian) cross into these uncharted waters! With so many supplements on the market, using all the marketing schemes in their toolbox, it is becoming even more difficult to make the distinction between the “good”,”bad”, and “ugly”. Athletes, you are ultimately responsible for what you put in your body. Do your research (the links mentioned above are an excellent place to start) and make an informed choice!

  12. Katie Pawelczyk
    Katie Pawelczyk says:

    The supplement industry is a tough industry to navigate, and many young athletes are unfamiliar with the risks and regulations (or lack there of) that exist within the industry. This is a great podcast to help young athletes (that may not have direct access to a sports dietitian) cross into these uncharted waters! With so many supplements on the market, using all the marketing schemes in their toolbox, it is becoming even more difficult to make the distinction between the “good”,”bad”, and “ugly”. Athletes, you are ultimately responsible for what you put in your body. Do your research (the links mentioned above are an excellent place to start) and make an informed choice!

  13. Lisa Hansen
    Lisa Hansen says:

    There are plenty of supplements on the market, all promising some drastic improvement in performance with use. What is not marketed by these companies is the harmful side effects that can occur with prolonged use and consumption. The easy to follow guide provided is a great tool for athletes that would like to try out supplementation. Tavis does an awesome job explaining the certain pros and cons of pre workout supplements and it’s a great reminder of how easy it is to fall for deceptive marketing!

  14. Lisa Hansen
    Lisa Hansen says:

    There are plenty of supplements on the market, all promising some drastic improvement in performance with use. What is not marketed by these companies is the harmful side effects that can occur with prolonged use and consumption. The easy to follow guide provided is a great tool for athletes that would like to try out supplementation. Tavis does an awesome job explaining the certain pros and cons of pre workout supplements and it’s a great reminder of how easy it is to fall for deceptive marketing!

  15. Jessica Bichler
    Jessica Bichler says:

    It is terrifying to know how easy supplements can be made without any specific regulations and they aren’t banned until there’s a negative claim/occurrence. This podcast is really useful and an informative on supplement red flags as well as beneficial supplements to enhance athletic performance most effectively. Clean quality ingredient profile (no prohibited ingredients as seen on WADA), third party tested, and consulting a registered dietitian are key when purchasing supplements before you waste your money or putting your health at risk! False advertising is tricky, many words such as “all natural”, “increase muscle”, “fat burning”, and “energize” are most likely not true. Don’t be fooled by ‘proprietary formulas’ because of the high cost and lacking quality ingredients.

  16. Jessica Bichler
    Jessica Bichler says:

    It is terrifying to know how easy supplements can be made without any specific regulations and they aren’t banned until there’s a negative claim/occurrence. This podcast is really useful and an informative on supplement red flags as well as beneficial supplements to enhance athletic performance most effectively. Clean quality ingredient profile (no prohibited ingredients as seen on WADA), third party tested, and consulting a registered dietitian are key when purchasing supplements before you waste your money or putting your health at risk! False advertising is tricky, many words such as “all natural”, “increase muscle”, “fat burning”, and “energize” are most likely not true. Don’t be fooled by ‘proprietary formulas’ because of the high cost and lacking quality ingredients.

  17. Jay Short
    Jay Short says:

    With so many brands with so many ingredients it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to distinguish what supplements are beneficial and which ones are simply a cool name. Tavis does a great job in this podcast explaining what to look for and what to avoid. He provides several examples of very well known and highly touted supplements and breaks them down to inform us whether or not they’re worth the money. For anyone considering taking a supplement to help their performance they should listen to this to gain a better understanding of what to look for to make sure their choice is safe and actually offers the benefits they’re seeking.

  18. Jay Short
    Jay Short says:

    With so many brands with so many ingredients it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to distinguish what supplements are beneficial and which ones are simply a cool name. Tavis does a great job in this podcast explaining what to look for and what to avoid. He provides several examples of very well known and highly touted supplements and breaks them down to inform us whether or not they’re worth the money. For anyone considering taking a supplement to help their performance they should listen to this to gain a better understanding of what to look for to make sure their choice is safe and actually offers the benefits they’re seeking.

  19. Chelsea Rae Smyth
    Chelsea Rae Smyth says:

    Very interesting podcast with very helpful information. I am so glad that Tavis mentioned how supplements are a billion dollar industry. It is important for athletes at the high school and college levels to remember that the majority of supplement companies have one interest in mind and that is to make money. Your health and athletic performance rank dramatically below their desired profit margin. As a former college athlete, I am aware of the many terrible side effects that can result from taking a mis-marketed supplement. I witnessed several athletes struggle with health complications and/or lose their eligibility due to NCAA regulations. The risk is just not worth it. I am a huge advocate for proper/proactive nutrition paired with healthy sleep habits. If you are committed to your sport and feel that spending a large amount of money on supplements is your ticket to the next level, I suggest taking a step back and assessing room for improvement in your sleep and nutrition habits first. If you do feel the need for supplements and you have a credible source for guidance, utilize them because there are a number of beneficial supplements out there that will fit certain lifestyles and needs. However, like Tavis said, don’t simply trust the label or the person behind the counter. Do your research and be picky about what you put in your body.

  20. Chelsea Rae Smyth
    Chelsea Rae Smyth says:

    Very interesting podcast with very helpful information. I am so glad that Tavis mentioned how supplements are a billion dollar industry. It is important for athletes at the high school and college levels to remember that the majority of supplement companies have one interest in mind and that is to make money. Your health and athletic performance rank dramatically below their desired profit margin. As a former college athlete, I am aware of the many terrible side effects that can result from taking a mis-marketed supplement. I witnessed several athletes struggle with health complications and/or lose their eligibility due to NCAA regulations. The risk is just not worth it. I am a huge advocate for proper/proactive nutrition paired with healthy sleep habits. If you are committed to your sport and feel that spending a large amount of money on supplements is your ticket to the next level, I suggest taking a step back and assessing room for improvement in your sleep and nutrition habits first. If you do feel the need for supplements and you have a credible source for guidance, utilize them because there are a number of beneficial supplements out there that will fit certain lifestyles and needs. However, like Tavis said, don’t simply trust the label or the person behind the counter. Do your research and be picky about what you put in your body.

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