List of 11 FDA Banned Pre Workouts + Can You Still Buy Them

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With so many pre-workouts available, it’s important to have a governing body like the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in your corner to make sure that the products you are using pose no significant health risk to you. 

In the past decade, the FDA has identified key ingredients in pre-workout supplements that have serious negative side effects and subsequently banned them from being sold. Despite their warnings, some companies continue to produce and sell supplements with these banned ingredients. 

To help you make an informed decision about whether or not to take supplements with banned ingredients, I’ve explained what each ingredient is and why it was banned, how different companies responded to the FDA’s warning letters, and the pros and cons of taking pre-workout with banned ingredients. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Many supplements that originally contained banned ingredients have been reformulated to remove said ingredients, making them FDA-compliant.
  • Some pre-workouts with banned ingredients are still available for purchase in the US and through international retailers for those who are willing to accept potential health risks.
  • The risks of taking ingredients with banned substances far outweigh the benefits, so I highly recommend choosing a higher-quality alternative.

Does The FDA Regulate Pre Workout Supplements?

The FDA is responsible for the protection of public health by overseeing the safety and security of food, cosmetics, and human and veterinary drugs. 

As such, the FDA plays a role in regulating both the individual ingredients found in dietary supplements, as well as the finished products that often contain blends of ingredients. 

The FDA creates rules and regulations and oversees the labeling, marketing, and safety of dietary supplements (including pre-workouts).

However, some companies choose to ignore these rules and regulations and continue to manufacture and sell pre-workout supplements that contain ingredients that have been deemed “harmful” by the FDA.

Note: Just because a pre-workout is FDA-compliant does not mean that it doesn’t contain banned substances for competing in sports. For more information on banned substances for sport, visit the World Anti-Doping Agency website.

Why Would Pre-Workouts Be Banned By The FDA?

There are four key ingredients that the FDA has banned because they pose potential health risks. 

These ingredients include (1) Ephedrine, (2) DMAA, (3) DMHA, and (4) Phenibut. 

Ephedrine was banned back in 2004, with DMAA following suit in 2013. 

In 2019, DMHA and Phenibut were also deemed unsafe by the FDA.

Companies that had DMHA or Phenibut listed in their ingredients were sent warning letters by the FDA that stated they had 15 days to outline how they were going to make their products FDA-compliant. 

Some companies did as the FDA asked, and some went the other way with significant consequences (more on that below). 

Ephedrine (ephedra extract)

  • What is it: Ephedra is a herb that comes from a plant called Ephedra Sinica, which contains a compound called Ephedrine. 

    Though marketed as a nasal decongestant that is still for sale in some countries, including Canada, the primary use for ephedrine within the fitness realm was for its stimulant properties.
  • Why was it banned: In 2004, the FDA declared ephedrine an unsafe ingredient and banned its use in dietary supplements. The FDA deemed that the potential risk and side effects of ephedrine were too great.

    Possible side effects of ephedrine use can be mild and include headaches, nausea, or anxiety. However, it can also produce severe side effects like high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, seizure, and even sudden death
  • Other names: Ephedra, Ephedrine

DMAA 

  • What is it: DMAA is a synthetically made stimulant. 
  • Why was it banned: DMAA was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s banned substance list in 2010. The FDA considers it illegal to use since it has been linked to some serious, life-threatening side effects

    These side effects are mostly due to the fact that DMAA narrows blood vessels and arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular-related issues like shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, or heart attacks. 

    It might also cause neurological problems like seizures or psychological conditions.
  • Other names: methylhexanamine, 1,3-dimethylamylamine, geranamine, geranium extract, geranium,  1,3-dimethylpentylamine, 4-methyl-2-hexanamine, 4-methyl-2-hexylamine

DMHA

  • What is it: DMHA is a central nervous system stimulant that was initially developed as a nasal decongestant. In more recent years, it’s been used to increase workout performance and fat burning. 
  • Other names: 1,5-Dimethylhexylamine, 2-amino-5-methylheptane, 2-amino-6-methylheptane, 2-aminoisoheptane, 2-Isooctyl amine, 2-Metil-6-amino-eptano, 6-Amino-2-methylheptane, Amidrine, Octodrine, Vaporpac

Phenibut

  • What is it: Phenibut is a chemical similar to GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)

    Phenibut may have relaxation-like effects on the body and may help with things like anxiety, insomnia, and depression (though scientific evidence is lacking). 
  • Why was it banned: Phenibut is addictive with potentially serious withdrawal symptoms.

    In the United States, phenibut is not a controlled substance but companies are prohibited by the FDA from selling products that have phenibut in them. 
  • Other names: Fenibut, Phenigam, PhGaba, Phenigamma, Phenygam, 4-Amino-3-phenylbutanoic acid, β-(aminomethyl) benzenepropanoic acid, β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid

11 Pre-Workouts Banned By The FDA

The following companies were either sent warning letters by the FDA in 2019 for the inclusion of ingredients deemed not safe by the FDA (DMHA and Phenibut), or have other ingredients previously banned by the FDA (DMAA, ephedrine). 

1. Atomixx Limitless

Atomixx Limitless

Reason for Ban: Contains Phenibut

Alternative Product: Atomixx Limitless has been reformulated, and is still available for sale WITHOUT the phenibut. 

You can buy Limitless as a 2oz energy shot that contains tyrosine, theanine, caffeine, a herb called kanna, and huperzine. 

At around $10 per single serving bottle, Atomixx Limitless is definitely not a budget-friendly energy option. If you want a pre-workout that focuses on mental focus and contains herbs that help with relaxation and mood, then try Xwerks Ignite instead. 

In place of phenibut, Ignite uses rhodiola as an adaptogen which promotes relaxation and can reduce the likelihood of side effects like jitteriness or anxiety. 

Furthermore, Ignite comes at a cost of around $1.65 per serving for twice as many ingredients.

See my full review of Xwerks Ignite here. 

2. Dark Earth Research Venom

Dark Earth Research Venom

Reason for ban: Contains DMAA and Ephedra

Alternative Product: I was surprised to find this product still available for sale, especially since it contains two ingredients known to be banned by the FDA for use in dietary supplements. 

If you don’t care about the potential side effects and you want to try Venom, you can find it at NutritionalSupplementShop.com. 

I’ll be honest, if you have tried something like Venom, not many supplements are going to feel as strong or intense. 

Venom also has a proprietary blend, meaning they don’t disclose the exact amounts of ingredients found in their formula. Based on the blend, I can see that Venom is focused almost entirely on mental focus and high stimulant energy. 

For something that provides similar benefits but has no banned substances, try ProSupps Mr. Hyde Nightmare, which has 300mg of caffeine as well as nootropics to boost alertness and focus. 

3. Dark Labs Flame Pre Workout V2/V3

Dark Labs Flame Pre Workout V2/V3

Reason for ban: Contains DMHA

Alternative Product: Dark Labs has reformulated their original Flame V1 product which contained DMHA to two new versions, Flame V2 and Flame V3

Both of the new formulas are incredibly similar, with virtually the same list of ingredients. There are some slight variances in dosing with each version. V2 is slightly higher in pump and endurance ingredients, whereas V3 goes higher on stimulants like caffeine and synephrine.  

The label for Flame V3 lists an ingredient called 2-Aminoisoheptane, which appears to be a newer name for DMHA that has helped some companies fly under the radar with DMHA products. 

They certainly don’t try to hide the fact that this product contains DMHA, though, as it’s clearly listed multiple times on the Flame V2/V3 web pages

Dark Labs has also come out with a new pre-workout called Crack Primal Edition, which features 250mg of 2-Aminoisoheptane, slightly more than the 220mg found in Flame V3. 

4. Eflow Nutrition LLC Enrage Extreme

Eflow Nutrition LLC Enrage Extreme

Reason for Ban: Contains DMHA

Alternative Product: Eflow Nutrition has reformulated its pre-workout without the DMHA. They now offer Enrage, Enrage Black, and Enrage Burn. 

The current Enrage formula is a pretty basic one, with beta-alanine, creatine, citrulline, and an energy blend. This product is likely a suitable one for people who are new to pre-workouts. 

Enrage Black is their more intense formula which has higher amounts of caffeine (370mg vs the 275 found in Enrage). Enrage Black is also a pretty basic formula, with only citrulline (6g), beta-alanine (3.2g), and taurine (100mg) as key performance ingredients. 

Finally, Enrage Burn is their thermogenic fat-burning pre-workout formula. It has 350mg of caffeine and 3.2g of beta-alanine, very similar to Enrage Black. Enrage Burn, however, drops the pump ingredients in favor of some that increase core temperature and fat burning like l-carnitine and GBB.  

No matter which way you spin it, these new formulas will be a far cry from the intensity of the original Enrage Extreme formula that had DMHA. If you are looking for that intensity, consider some of the DMHA-containing products still available on the market like Ultimate Orange or Dark Labs Flame.  

5. Evol Nutrition Associates, Inc. Red Dawn Liquid & Sleep Walker

Evol Nutrition Associates, Inc. Red Dawn Liquid & Sleep Walker

Reason for Ban: Contains Phenibut

Alternative Product: Evol Nutrition has reformulated its products to remove phenibut. They currently have a few different forms of Red Dawn Liquid shots available on their website, as well as multiple Sleep Walker formulas. 

The current Red Dawn Shot offers a blend of caffeine, B-Vitamins, and different herbs and amino acids shown to help increase energy, mental focus, and neurotransmitter function. 

Red Dawn Black Label features many of the same ingredients as Red Dawn but has the addition of yohimbine, a potent central nervous system stimulant. 

Sleep Walker, despite its name, is another high-caffeine formula available in pills or as liquid shots. Where Red Dawn focuses predominantly on energy and mental focus, Sleep Walker adds ingredients to help boost mood. 

6. Forbidden Labz Chaos Unleashed

Forbidden Labz Chaos Unleashed

Reason for Ban: Contains DMHA

Alternative Product: You can still buy Forbidden Labz Chaos Unleashed pre-workout, but the nutrition label is hidden from its website so I cannot verify whether or not it still contains DMHA. 

Chaos Unleashed advertises itself as an extreme thermogenic and hyper-focus pre-workout. 

If you are looking for a high-energy formula that encourages fat-burning, Superhuman Burn Pre-Workout by Alpha Lion offers 300mg of caffeine as well as multiple fat-burning ingredients like MitoBurn® and Grains of Paradise

7. Goldstar Performance Products Triple X Pre Workout

Goldstar Performance Products Triple X Pre Workout

Reason for Ban: Contains DMHA

Alternative Product: Goldstar Performance Triple X pre-workout, complete with DMHA is still available for sale online, though it seems to be exclusively on European websites. 

While you might pay more for shipping, it is still available to order and ship to the United States. 

Triple X uses a proprietary blend, so we don’t know exactly how much of each ingredient is found in the formula. Based on its ingredients, if you are looking for a formula similar to Triple X but without DMHA, consider Kaged Pre-Elite

Read my review of Kaged Pre-Elite after testing it for several weeks.

8. Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ultimate Orange

Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ultimate Orange

Reason for Ban: Contains DMHA

Alternative Product: The Ultimate Orange formula which contains DMHA is still available for purchase. This product also contains ephedra and is likely to pack an absolute punch as far as energy is concerned. 

That being said, with 2 banned ingredients, if you do give this one a try it’s imperative to assess your tolerance first with a quarter to a half serving first. 

Secondly, do not exceed more than one scoop in a 24-hour period. 

If you want a high-stim pre-workout that is FDA-approved, consider Wrecked Pre-Workout (click to read my review), which has high doses of caffeine (350mg) as well as a blend of other ingredients to help increase energy and mental focus like yohimbine, lion’s mane, and alpha-GPC. 

9. Iron Brothers Supplements Relentless V1

Iron Brothers Supplements Relentless V1

Reason for Ban: Contains DMHA

Alternative Product:  Relentless V1 has been reformulated to Ruthless, with the removal of DMHA. 

The current Ruthless formula provides a high amount of caffeine (360mg), plus Bitter Orange Extract, another central nervous system stimulant. Ruthless provides a great, well-rounded formula with ingredients for pump, strength, energy, and mental focus. 

Honestly, it looks like a great pre-workout to try. If you’re set on trying something with DMHA, I recommend Gold Star Triple X or Dark Labs Flame V2.  

10. Metabolic Nutrition ESP Extreme

Metabolic Nutrition ESP Extreme

Reason for Ban: Contains DMHA

Alternative Product: ESP Extreme has been reformulated to remove the DMHA. The formula that is currently available features three different types of caffeine, as well as a blend of choline, tyrosine, and eria jarensis for increasing mental focus. 

Each scoop of ESP Extreme offers 250mg of caffeine. For reasons that I honestly don’t understand, they provide dosing information for a 2-scoop and 3-scoop serving, the latter of which would provide over 1g of stimulants providing 750 mg of caffeine. 

I cannot stress enough that in my professional opinion, after more than a decade of experience in the supplement industry, I absolutely do not recommend a 3-scoop serving of this product. 

Even a 2-scoop serving of ESP Extreme exceeds the FDA’s recommended upper limit of 400mg of caffeine daily.

If you want a pre-workout that offers a variety of stimulants at high doses while also offering clinical doses of pump and strength ingredients, try Wrecked Pre-Workout by Huge Supplements.  

11. USP Labs Jack3d

USP Labs Jack3d

Reason for Ban: Contains DMAA

Alternative Product: Jack3d by USP Labs is one of the most notoriously banned pre-workout supplements. 

The original formula contained DMAA, an ingredient that is now illegal in the United States and many other countries. 

In fact, in 2020, the former USP Labs CEO and President were each sentenced to prison time for using false certificates of analysis and false labels to continue to include DMAA in their products. 

As of 2019, Jack3d is back available for sale online, this time with DMHA in place of DMAA. 

Jack3d is another formula with a proprietary blend but features Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate, citrulline, and beta-alanine followed by 5 stimulant and nootropic-based ingredients. 

For a similar product without any banned ingredients, try Legion Pulse or Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite.

Can You Still Buy Pre Workouts That Are Banned By The FDA?

Some pre-workouts that contain FDA-banned ingredients are still available for purchase online. While the ingredients are banned and it goes against the FDA’s rules to sell them, it is not illegal to purchase or own products which contain banned ingredients. 

Here are 6 pre-workouts with banned ingredients that are still available to buy:

Dark Earth Research Venom

  • Caffeine content: 350mg
  • Flavors available: Riot, Antidote, Sour Symbiote, Poison Peach
  • Ingredients: Beta-alanine, Agmatine, Caffeine, DMHA (Juglans Regia), l-Norvaline, DMAA, Synephrine, Choline, Hordenine, Ephedra, Yohimbine
  • Available at: NutritionalSupplementShop.com

Dark Labs Flame V2

  • Caffeine content: 400mg
  • Flavors available: Blueberry Lemonade, Watermelon, Rainbow Candy
  • Ingredients: Agmatine, Beta-PEA, Eria Jarensis, Theobromine, Caffeine Anhydrous, DMHA (Juglans Regia), Caffeine Citrate, Synephrne, Naringin, Yohimbine
  • Available at: Darklabs.pro

Dark Labs Flame V3

  • Caffeine content: 500mg
  • Flavors available: Blueberry Lemonade, Watermelon, Rainbow Candy
  • Ingredients: Agmatine, Arginine AKG, Beta-PEA, Caffeine Anhydrous, DMHA (2-Aminoisoheptane) , Eria Jarensis, Caffeine Citrate, Synephrine, Naringin, Yohimbine
  • Available at: Darklabs.pro

Forbidden Labz Chaos Unleashed

  • Caffeine content: not listed
  • Flavors available: Sour Apple, Bomb Pop, Blue Raspberry
  • Ingredients: There is no current ingredients label available on the shopify website associated with Forbidden Labz to know if the product does still contain DMHA, or what other ingredients it has. 
  • Available at: Forbidden Labz Shopify Page

Goldstar Triple X 

  • Caffeine content: 350mg
  • Flavors available: Watermelon, Green Apple, Orange
  • Ingredients: Tyrosine, Arginine AKG, Citrulline, Caffeine Anhydrous, DMHA (2-aminoisoheptane), Beta-Alanine, Di-Creatine Malate
  • Available at: Bodyshock.pro

HiTech Ultimate Orange Pre-workout: 

  • Caffeine content: 100mg
  • Flavors available: Original Flavor
  • Ingredients: Taurine, DMHA, Ephedra, Caffeine, Tyrosine, Whey, Vitamin & Mineral Blend, QuadraCarb
  • Available at: Bestpricenutrition.com

USP Labs Jack3d

  • Caffeine content: 135mg
  • Flavors available: Fruit Punch, Grape, Watermelon, Rocket Pop, Pineapple, Dragon Fruit
  • Ingredients: Arginine AKG, Creatine Monohydrate, Beta-Alanine, Caffeine, DMHA, Geranium Extract, Yohimbe Extract, Schisandra Chinensis
  • Available at: Supplementwarehouse.com 

Pros Of Using FDA-Banned Pre Workouts

The potential benefits of using FDA-Banned pre-workouts are:

Intense Energy

Since the majority of the banned substances have intense stimulant-like properties, the effects of pre-workouts that contain ingredients like DMHA include intense, long-lasting energy. 

Increased Fat Loss

 Ingredients like ephedra have been associated with increased fat loss and prior to being banned, ephedra was a common ingredient in fat-burning supplements. 

Ingredients that have stimulant properties, like DMHA, also have appetite-suppressing properties that can contribute to fat loss.  

Cons Of Using FDA-Banned Pre Workouts

The drawbacks of using FDA-Banned pre-workouts are:

Significantly Higher Risk

Frankly, the FDA has deemed these unsafe for a reason. 

In some cases, like with ephedra and DMAA, the side effects like heart attack and sudden death happened frequently enough that the governing bodies intervened and banned these ingredients entirely. 

In the case of DMHA, since its effects are so closely related to those of DMAA, there is insufficient evidence to prove that it’s safe to consume.

In the case of phenibut, there is a significant risk of dependency and, as a result, severe withdrawal symptoms associated with it. 

Ultimately, the risks associated with these products far outweigh the potential benefits, especially when ingredients which can provide similar effects are available. 

Unreliable Inventory 

As mentioned above, it’s legal to purchase and possess these banned ingredients, but companies are not permitted to sell them. 

The FDA has sent warning letters to the companies mentioned above. If the FDA investigated the products further and moved to enforce the consequences of those letters with the products that still contain DMHA, then these products could disappear from retailers with little to no warning. 

Since some products are only available through international retailers, if you order a product with ingredients that are illegal in the United States, like ephedra, you run the risk of your product getting stopped at the border and possibly never arriving. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it illegal to buy some pre-workout supplements?

The responsibility lies with the supplement company to remove any banned substances from their products. It is not illegal to buy pre-workout supplements with banned ingredients, but it is prohibited to sell them. The FDA monitors dietary supplements, and the federal government can take action if necessary. 

How do you know if a pre-workout is banned?

The best way to know if your pre-workout is banned is to cross reference your product’s ingredient list with the FDA’s dietary ingredient list to see if any ingredients in your pre-workout are banned. Anything with DMHA, DMAA, ephedrine, or phenibut is not approved for sale. 

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About The Author

Jennifer Vibert

Jennifer Vibert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Nutrition Coach, and supplement store manager. She has a Bachelor of Kinesiology with a major in Fitness and Lifestyle and a minor in Psychology from the University of Regina. She is a Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition, with a passion for helping clients learn the fundamentals of nutrition and supplementation in order to build healthy, sustainable habits.

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