Many people joke about being “addicted to pre-workout supplements” in the same way they joke about “partying too much.”
In a way, they’re humble bragging: the former implies that…
“Hey, I workout enough to be addicted to pre-workout supplements!”
Whereas the latter suggests…
“Hey, I’m fun and have friends and an exceptional liver!”
Odds are they’re not actually addicted to pre-workout supplements …and, well, maybe the second humble brag does mask a hidden cry for help.
But whatever—I don’t have friends who invite me to parties, so not my problem!!
Even so, when someone claims to be “addicted to pre-workout supplements,” whether in jest or not, the underlying anxiety is well-understood by supplement users: sometimes hitting the gym without that tasty PWO powder sounds like absolute hell.
But is this dependence on PWO stacks physical or psychological? Or both? Will I ever be able to workout again without that delicious “Arctic Razzberry” flavor in my mouth?? Likely, there is a conditioning effect that makes pre-workout addictions seem real in a sense.
In this article we’ll address the question, “Is pre-workout addiction real?” then drive into one of the best non-addictive pre-workout supplements that money can buy.
Is Pre-Workout Addiction Real?
Put another way, is anyone mugging convenience stores for some quick cash to buy their quick fix of pre-workout? I mean… actually, maybe—there’s some wild people out there…
But likely the answer here is no, and so: if pre-workout supplements are addictive, it’s nowhere near the scale of truly hardcore addictive substances.
For sake of clarity, let’s distinguish softcore addiction and hardcore addiction:
- Softcore Addiction: the common resistance we each feel towards changing up our daily routine or abstaining from a substance or behavior that we’d like to quit but are having a mildly difficult time quitting; however, if push came to shove, we could somewhat easily make the sacrifice.
- Hardcore Addiction: the deep dependence on a certain substance or behavior that becomes our central motivation, dominating every other aspect of our lives as we’re constantly preparing for the next fix.
I’ve known people with substance abuse issues, but I’ve yet to see anyone in the throes of a hardcore pre-workout addiction. And I doubt anyone’s really falling into a full-blown addiction when they talk about “pre-workout addiction.”
Instead, most people worry about whether or not they can work out without a pre-workout supplement after taking a pre-workout stack for a long time. This is a similar fear people have with stimulant cognitive enhancers: I got so much work and writing done on stims, I don’t know if I can go back!
That sort of low-grade dependence is not only annoying but a little scary. No one likes to condition their talents to require a performance-enhancing substance. And, yet, most people successfully make the choice to cut such substances from their daily routine, finding little difficulty in doing so. Disciplined by working out, they transfer that discipline towards cutting whatever substance they no longer want in their life.
And so, yes, pre-workout supplements can leave a user feeling like they can’t workout without pre-workout supplements. But, really, if they wanted to cut them from their routine, they can.
Although, some supplements do make the choice a bit harder due to a couple of factors.
What Makes Pre-Workout Supplements Feel Addictive?
Even if pre-workout supplements aren’t actually factually addictive, it’s obviously in the manufacturer’s best interest to promote a semi-addictive compulsion towards buying their product. After all, that’s the crux of capitalism, baby: just a little bit of addiction to keep the buyers buying but not enough to kill them.
That’s perhaps a bit cynical. Even so, there are two factors that make pre-workout supplements feel addictive, if they’re not outright promoting a semi-addiction to their formulas:
Some performance enhancers, especially stimulants, have a sort of “chasing the dragon” effect, which involves taking the substance, feeling good, then having to take increasingly larger amounts of the substance to achieve the same feel-good effect. This is due to tolerance build-up.
Caffeine, phenibut, phenylpiracetam—these are but a few examples of cognitive enhancers that, if used frequently (let’s say daily), require increasingly larger dosages to achieve the same feel-good results. Essentially, with each serving, the body becomes de-sensitizes to these substances, resulting in a cup of coffee feeling like half-a-cup of coffee after a few weeks of constant use. What’s worse, if you continue chasing that dragon, you can develop a dependency on the substance, leading to a feel-bad withdrawal when you finally decide to cut the substance.
While it’s somewhat a myth that caffeine is addictive, we consume caffeine like addicts. Odds are this is because we condition ourselves to expect the feel-good rush of caffeine when we take it at the same time daily—e.g., prior to working out.
There’s a funny scene from the TV show The Office when cool dude Jim Halpert conditions office dweeb Dwight Schrute to crave mints whenever his computer makes a specific “error” sound. Essentially, every time his computer makes the sound, Halpert offers Schrute a mint until Schrute eventually expects to receive a mint upon hearing the sound. This is called conditioning.
We do it to ourselves by repeating the same behaviors in the same patterns every day. This is why powder scoop supplements pack their formulas with potent, tasty, artificial flavors: prior to working out, your mouth almost begins to water in anticipation of your pre-workout’s flavor. Combine that flavor with the feel-good rush of caffeine and it’s easy to see how we might begin to crave pre-workout supplements prior to working out.
How to Identify Addictive vs. Non-Addictive Supplements
What’s important to note in the last section is how the effectiveness of a pre-workout supplement doesn’t seem to be much of an addiction factor. This is for two reasons: (1) returning to an effective formula because it’s effective isn’t a matter of addiction but of customer satisfaction; and (2) it’s the flavors and caffeine rush we crave prior to working out, not so much the antioxidant protection against oxidative stress.
While most pre-workout supplements aren’t actually addictive, there are certain pre-workout stacks that reduce any distracting factors that might contribute to feelings of addiction. Here’s how to identify a pre-workout stack that doesn’t rely on cheap conditioning tricks to earn returning customers:
- No stimulants: the formula doesn’t rely on stimulants to achieve its “health” benefits, not even caffeine;
- Effects build-up: tolerance build-up is almost synonymous with addiction; however, PWO ingredients that become more powerful over time are almost inherently non-addictive;
- No artificial flavors: this is somewhat of a buzzkill, as, yes, supplement flavors can be tasty; yet, supplements that avoid the synthetic blast of synthetic flavors won’t take advantage of your greedy taste buds.
Okay, but aren’t the flavors intended to mask all of the natural nasty flavors of the health ingredients? Yes, this is one of the functions of artificial flavors in powder scoop supplements.
But capsulated formulas don’t come with this issue. Making capsulated pre-workout supplements, like Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout, particularly non-addictive.
Best Non-Addictive Pre-Workout Supplement
Again, we don’t mean “addictive” in the literal, clinical sense of the word “addiction” here.
Our idea of a “non-addictive pre-workout supplement” is one that works without conditioning its users through taste or stimulants or any other ingredients with tolerance issues.
And the best non-addictive pre-workout supplement that matches these criteria is Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout, an all-natural, stim-free, capsulated PWO stack that improves exercise performance by:
- Increasing natural ATP energy levels;
- Enhancing muscle-pumping circulation;
- Reducing free radical damages;
- Neutralizing protein-damaging acids;
- Protecting against dehydration;
- And more…
Which all sounds great, but let’s take a closer look at the ingredients to see how they work individually.
Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout Ingredients
No stimulants, no caffeine, no tolerance building substances—Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout’s formula is safe and all-natural, including even the vegan, food-based Plantcaps® capsules. But how do the ingredients work?
Creatine (as Creapure® pH10)
Energetic exercise requires energy …and, well, exercise, but no duh, so let’s focus on energy here. Specifically creatine, a natural cellular energy that’s highly concentrated in muscle tissue and important to exercise endurance.
Compared to stimulants, which supply a synthetic jolt of feel-good energy, creatine subtly builds up in the system over time, saturating muscle tissue with natural energy. Whereas stimulants dramatically increase vigilance upon intake, creatine supplementation elevates your energy baseline with ongoing daily supplementation. What’s more, this means that there’s no follow-up crash to taking creatine, nor does your body build up a tolerance to creatine’s effects.
Quite the opposite actually.
In terms of exercise enhancement, creatine not only supplies extra fuel for ATP energy replenishment but the organic compound also stimulates growth factors for muscle growth and buffers lactic acid accumulation, allowing your muscles to workout harder for longer.
Cordyceps Sinensis (as Cordyceps Super™)
Larval fungus. That’s what Cordyceps sinensis is. I know. But it’s awesome, especially if you’re an athlete.
Cordyceps is interesting. In the wild, the fungus controls insects, hijacking their nervous system and turning them into zombies, essentially. For us, Cordyceps doesn’t do any of that (phew!), but it does improve our exercise capacity by:
- Promoting and protecting mitochondrial ATP energy production;
- Enhancing cell oxygen utilization for greater endurance.
While the exact bio-mechanics of this ergogenic remain somewhat unknown, Cordyceps has earned a reputation as an effective and healthy performance enhancer. And Cordyceps Super™ is produced without the use of larvae, protecting the formula against any safe risks or insect after-taste.
L-arginine used to be the N.O. king, until we learned that much of L-arginine fails to even absorb into the body to enact it’s N.O. boosting benefits. Now, L-citrulline, the precursor amino to L-arginine, is the N.O. booster of choice.
Essentially, L-citrulline may better survive digestion, after which L-citrulline converts to L-arginine in the body to deliver all of that N.O. goodness. But why do we want N.O. (nitric oxide) in the first place? Well, N.O. increases vasodilation, thereby boosting blood flow throughout the body. (This also makes L-citrulline somewhat of a sex enhancer as well… fun fact.) This increase in circulation enables the “muscle pump” feeling we so crave when we workout, filling muscle tissue with much-needed oxygen and nutrients.
L-Glutamine (from Ajinomoto®)
The most abundant amino in the body, L-glutamine plays a key role in protein metabolism in muscle tissue, assisting with muscle growth and repair. Taken in a pre-workout context, L-glutamine acts on-the-spot to replenish exercising muscles and protect them against damaging lactic acid. These replenishment + protective bio-activities potentially extend exercise performance until failure, allowing you to add more reps and sets to your workout and get the most out of your visit to the gym.
Concentrated in fast-twitch muscle tissue, L-carnosine levels heighten with anaerobic exercise like bodybuilding and sprinting (activities that require fast-twitch muscle movements). Taken as a supplement, L-carnosine seems to help protect muscles by:
- Neutralizing oxidative stress accumulated by exercise;
- Inhibiting muscle-damaging glycation end-products (AGEs);
- Buffering catabolic acids.
Paired with the rest of Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout’s formula, L-carnosine helps extend exercise time until muscle failure.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Plenty of sports coaches recommend adding salt to water to “stay hydrated.” This sounds counter-intuitive, especially when you consider how drinking saltwater from the sea leads to further dehydration through the, uh… increased release of water from the butt, you could say. But it’s all about the electrolytes.
By supplying sodium and other trace minerals, Himalayan pink salt helps replenish the electrolytes lost through sweating. This is the problem with drinking water after working out: it fails to stay in your body without H2O-sustaining electrolytes. You sweat, you lose water and you lose electrolytes, and both need to be replenished to stay hydrated.
The addition of Himalayan pink salt helps keep water levels intact to reduce the likelihood of dehydration, which can be a major muscle-killer.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pinus pinaster)
Do any other pre-workout supplements supply maritime pine bark extract? Not too many supplements offer maritime pine bark extract at all, and the few that do tend to be nootropic stacks.
Best known for improving attention and mental performance, maritime pine bark extract also possesses significant ergogenic advantages due to the herb’s rich complex of antioxidants. These antioxidants assist with exercise health in at least two ways:
- Increases circulation throughout the brain and body;
- Neutralizes muscle-damaging free radicals.
Without this ingredient, Performance Lab SPORT Pre would’ve still qualified as an impressive pre-workout supplement. However, this unique extract ranks this formula up a notch with its boosts on cognition and longevity.
How to Use Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout
Let’s start with when to take Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout as well as when to expect results. As the label suggests, the directions for this supplement are: “On training days, take 4-6 capsules 45-60 minutes pre-workout with 16-32oz. of water. For best results, take consistently.”
Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout works upon taking the first serving. Or at least most of the ingredients work with perhaps exception to creatine, which requires a build up period to reach peak effect. All of the other ingredients, especially the N.O. boosters, work quickly, increasing circulation throughout the body and raising the internal protective barriers against muscle-damaging factors, such as oxidative stress and lactic acid.
When the creatine does kick in, you’ll notice that you don’t tire as easily, making each set much easier to get through. Use this as an opportunity to crank up the weight, the reps, the sets, etc. It doesn’t make sense to load up your body with additional cellular energy and not use it!
On that note, be sure to stay hydrated, as creatine does suck up a significant amount of water.
Are there any side effects?
Just because a formula is non-addictive doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe. For example, supplements that use a heavy dose of Mucuna pruriens at a potent 98% L-dopa threaten health issues related to the endogenous dopaminergic system when taken daily for too long. Fortunately, Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout keeps its formula simple and reasonably dosed.
All in all, this is a non-addictive and safe pre-workout stack that you can supplement daily for the long run.
Do I need to cycle creatine?
If this is the only creatine you’re taking, not really. Thanks to the bio-enhanced potency of this creatine, you don’t need too much to achieve the positive effects of creatine. While some exercisers take upwards of 5,000mg creatine daily, the modest amount here works without causing any issues down the road. And, yes, unless you’re burning off all of that creatine, issues related to dehydration and tendonitis may occur with taking too much creatine for too long without an on/off cycle.
This isn’t a worry with Performance Lab’s creatine content.
Is Pre-Workout Addiction Real? Our Final Thoughts
Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout qualifies as “non-addictive” by avoiding stimulants and artificial flavors. But does that mean you shouldn’t stack stimulants, even caffeine, with this formula? Really, that’s up to you. If you want to down these pills with a cup of coffee, all the power to you. Just be sure to double up on the post-workout water to stay hydrated, as caffeine + creatine isn’t the best combo for staying hydrated.
Beyond that, Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout is an impressive PWO stack, one that works very well without resorting to cheap tricks and gimmicks. Safe to use for daily, long-term use—or, if not daily, then however often you find the time to get your ass to the gym.
To learn more about Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout, click here.