Can Pre-Workout Cause Anxiety?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to give you an extra edge and boost in the gym. They contain ingredients that can help to increase energy levels, improve focus, and enhance strength and endurance.

Many people who use pre-workout supplements report feeling more energized and focused during their workouts and they also experience better physical performance.

However, there is also a tiny percentage of people who report feeling anxious after taking these supplements. So what’s the story? Can pre-workout cause anxiety? How do you stop anxiety caused by pre-workout supplements?  Keep Reading to learn more!

What are pre-workout supplements?

Pre-workout supplements are nutrition supplements designed to enhance athletic performance and help you get the most out of your workouts [1, 2]. They usually come in the form of a powder that you can mix with water or some other liquid to make a healthy drink before your exercise. 

Most pre-workout supplements contain a mixture of vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, and stimulants like caffeine. This combination of ingredients is supposed to give you an extra “boost” of energy, help you focus better, accelerate muscle growth and recovery, and enhance your overall performance in the gym.

Can Pre-Workout Cause Anxiety? The Effect On Anxiety

Pre-workout supplements containing stimulants such as caffeine can cause anxiety in some individuals. The risk of anxiety is higher for people who are sensitive to stimulants or have a history of anxiety disorders. Yet, not all pre-workouts cause anxiety and the risk can be reduced by choosing supplements with lower stimulant content or opting for non-stimulant options.

Certain pre-workout supplements are not for everyone. While some people enjoy the benefits of increased energy and focus, others report feeling anxious or jittery after taking them. 

The increased anxiety caused by pre-workout supplements is not really because of the pre-workout but the ingredients that are added to them.

In fact, research shows that the stimulants in pre-workout supplements can cause a spike in anxiety levels due to increased levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) in the body [3, 4].

Anxiety is usual in today’s hectic world, even if consuming pre-workout supplements is causing you anxiety once in a while, there is no problem there.

But, if you are feeling anxious regularly and you take pre-workout supplements, then you can do some tweaks while taking them and also you might want to consider changing the pre-workout you are using. 

The Link Between Pre-workout and Anxiety

As mentioned above the anxiety caused by the pre-workout supplement are generally because they contain stimulants like caffeine, which can increase the production of cortisol. 

High levels of cortisol can lead to feelings of anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. Additionally, the other ingredients in pre-workout supplements can also contribute to feelings of anxiety. 

So, the main link between pre-workout supplements and anxiety is the ingredients that are added to pre-workout supplements. Here are some of the ingredients commonly found in pre-workout supplements that can cause anxiety.

Ingredients in pre-workout supplements that can cause anxiety

pre-workout and anxiety


Caffeine is the main ingredient in pre-workout supplements and generally contributes to most of the benefits one can experience by taking pre-workouts [1, 5].

Research has shown that taking high amounts of caffeine can cause increased anxiety, stress, depression, and panic attacks [4, 5, 6, 7].

Caffeine particularly is not the main culprit here after all it’s the main ingredient of pre-workout supplements. But, here the high amounts and doses of caffeine can be the reason for increased anxiousness and panic attacks. 

According to the FDA, for healthy adults, around 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day is generally not associated with dangerous or negative side effects. Here, if you are someone who is regularly facing anxiety, stress, and panic disorders then the recommended amount of caffeine in a day is lesser.

Pre-workout supplements on average contain anywhere around 150-300mg of caffeine per serving. Some of the pre-workouts even contain more than 300mg of caffeine. A normal cup of coffee contains around 80-100mg of caffeine. If you drink 1-2 cups of coffee in a day, plus you also take a pre-workout supplement which contains more than 200mg of caffeine. You might surpass the recommended amount.

If you are taking pre-workout supplements and also some other supplements that contain caffeine, the general rule of thumb is to keep track of the amount of caffeine you are consuming in a day and make sure to not overdose to avoid anxiety and other side effects.

Yohimbe Extract

Another very common ingredient that is included in many pre-workout supplements is Yohimbe extract or Yohimbine. Yohimbe extract or yohimbine is an extract that comes from the bark of the Yohimbe (johimbe) tree [8]. It is mainly added to dietary supplements as it is believed to help with weight loss, you will find Yohimbe in many pre-workout and fat burner supplements.

Yohimbine has been correlated with not only anxiety but many other side effects as well [9, 10, 11]. Some of the side effects of Yohimbe extract include irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, seizures, stress, high blood pressure, and stomach problems [12, 13].

Because of the side effects Yohimbe drugs and supplements have been restricted and banned in some countries. As it’s still not banned and restricted in some parts of the world, you will still find supplements containing Yohimbe extract.

It is supposed and marketed that Yohimbe extract can help with weight loss and muscle building, but there is not simply enough research to prove so. If your pre-workout supplement contains Yohimbe extract then it is recommended to consider changing it.

Bitter Orange

Not in all, but bitter orange is included in many pre-workouts. Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) is mainly included in a pre-workout supplement as it is claimed that it can help with weight loss and also in enhancing performance [14].

Bitter orange contains a stimulant synephrine, which is supposed to aid in weight loss and improve performance. But, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the statement.

Synephrine is restricted and banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It is known to cause heart problems in healthy adults. Some of its side effects include heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

It is recommended to stay away from any pre-workout supplements or even other supplements that contain bitter oranges.


Guarana is just another stimulant that is added to some pre-workout supplements. It comes from a plant native to Amazon. Guarana seeds and guarana seed extracts have been used as medicines and also has been included in many dietary supplements.

Guarana is generally used as a herb to treat some medical conditions and is used in dietary supplements as it is believed to help with weight loss and improve performance.

Although, neither its medicinal benefits nor its dietary benefits have been proven scientifically. There is merely not enough scientific evidence to prove its benefits.

When consumed in higher doses, guarana has been connected to anxiety, stress, insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, etc. So, if your pre-workout supplement contains guarana then, it might be one of the reasons for your increased anxiety.

Other Stimulants

Pre-workout supplements contain various stimulants like caffeine, green tea extract, and more. Some adverse side effects of stimulants include- anxiety, decreased appetite, headaches, insomnia, sweating, jitteriness, chest pain, seizures, stomach problems, etc [15].   

Pre-workouts supplements contain a mixture of more than one stimulant which when taken in higher amounts or doses can result in some unwanted side effects and increased anxiety.

If you wish you can try stimulant-free pre-workouts. There are many pre-workout supplements on the market today which do not contain any stimulants. This can help in staying away from the potential side effects of some stimulants.

How do you stop anxiety caused by pre-workout supplements?

can pre-workout cause anxiety
Image – Prostock-Studio/iStock

Now, so you know what could be the main reason behind pre-workout supplements and anxiety. The question comes “How do you stop anxiety caused by pre-workout supplements?”

Well, there are a few things you can do to tackle anxiety caused by pre-workouts.

  • Lower your doses

There might be several reasons for your anxiety, but if you think it is because of the pre-workout supplement you are using then you should try lowering your doses. Pre-workouts contain stimulants in high doses that can be the reason for your anxiety, lowering the amount of pre-workout you take might be able to tackle this issue. 

  • Change you pre-workout supplement

If you have tried lowering your dosage of pre-workout supplements, but it didn’t work out you might want to change the pre-workout you use. You should try out at least 2-3 different pre-workout supplements and see which one works the best for you.

  • Stimulant free pre-workout

The main reason for the anxiety caused by pre-workout supplements is the stimulants that are added to your pre-workout and most of the time these stimulants are added in very high amounts. 

The solution to this could be using stimulant-free pre-workout supplements. The stimulant-free pre-workouts do not contain any stimulants and can help you stay away from some of the adverse side effects of pre-workouts.

  • Keep track of the ingredients in your pre-workout supplements

As mentioned above you should at least try 2-3 different pre-workout supplements and see which one works the best for you. You should also keep a track of which ingredients were included in those pre-workouts. 

You should definitely have a note on the ingredients of pre-workout supplements with which you faced some problems so that later you can spot the common ingredients in those pre-workouts and stay away from them in the future.

What if anxiety continues?

If the steps we told above do not work out, then you could just stop taking pre-workout supplements and/or some other supplements you were consuming along with it. 

If even stopping the consumption of the supplements does not work out, then most probably it’s not the supplements you are consuming which are causing anxiety.

In this case, we recommend you seek professional medical help to find out the root cause of your anxiety and get it treated.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, pre-workout supplements can be beneficial in terms of improving performance and energy levels, but they can also come with some unwanted side effects like anxiety. If you’re considering taking a pre-workout supplement, be sure to start off slowly and pay attention to the ingredients in the product. 

Anxiety caused by pre-workout supplements is mainly because of certain ingredients and stimulants that are added to your pre-workout. You could try lowering your doses, changing your pre-workout to stimulant-free pre-workouts, and making sure to keep track of the ingredients in your pre-workout supplements.

Remember if nothing works out then most probably pre-workout is not the reason for your anxiety, if the anxiety continues, it is recommended to pursue professional help.

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Bruno Morgan


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