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With names like “shred” and “thermo,” many pre-workout supplements straddle the line between so-called “fat-burning” supplements and pre-workout supplements, and that might have you wondering whether pre-workout will help you lose weight.
So, does pre-workout help you lose weight? Yes, pre-workout can help you lose weight. While it does not directly cause weight loss, it can help you increase your total daily energy output, which can lead to a caloric deficit. The key is to combine your pre-workout with an effective training and nutrition plan.
I’ve written this article to help you know what is hype and what is fact.
- Pre-workout can help increase lean muscle mass achieved through resistance exercise, by allowing you to push harder, for longer, and this increased muscle mass helps you burn more calories.
- Pre-workout may suppress your appetite, making it easier for you to stick to a calorie deficit which is necessary for weight loss.
- Pre-workout does not replace the need for the basics of good nutrition, consistent exercise, getting enough sleep, and drinking enough water.
Do The Ingredients In Pre-Workout Promote Fat Loss?
The most important determinant for losing weight is achieving an overall calorie deficit, where your daily intake is less than your energy expenditure.
So, while the ingredients in pre-workout can help to increase your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), they cannot specifically target body fat stores.
Your TDEE comes down to your training and nutrition, which I’ll discuss next.
Pre-workout + Training
Pre-workout ingredients can support the preservation and growth of lean muscle mass. They can also give you more energy than you otherwise would have for your workouts, especially when you are training in a calorie deficit.
When pre-workout energizes you to train harder and complete more reps at heavier weights, you are giving a bigger stimulus to your body to signal it to build more muscle.
So, those extra (or heavier) sets cause you to burn more calories during your workout itself, and the enhanced muscle mass also means that you will be burning more calories all day long because muscle tissue is more “metabolically active” (it burns calories) than fat mass.
As you can see, pre-workout alone doesn’t achieve these results; it has to be combined with appropriately challenging workouts in a progressive training program.
Pre-workout + Nutrition
Also, while it’s great to be burning more calories, this will only translate to fat loss if you are able to manage your food intake so that you eat less than you burn.
Many of my clients will come to me in frustration when they are working out more but not losing weight, and it’s because they are eating more, too, so the increased activity is matched by increased intake and their weight doesn’t change (or, even worse, their weight is going up).
To know for sure, it’s important to track your intake using a calorie or macro-tracking app. We’ve recently reviewed many popular apps, and our top picks include:
Does Pre-Workout Suppress Your Appetite?
Yes, some pre-workout ingredients lead to suppressed appetite, at least in the short term. Caffeine is a common stimulant in pre-workout, and it can suppress appetite. However, on the whole, there is inconsistent evidence that coffee, green tea, or hot pepper extracts are clinically effective in suppressing appetite.
Even high-intensity exercise on its own can suppress appetite in the short-term, so if you take a pre-workout supplement before an intense training session it’s hard to know if your lack of appetite is from the pre-workout, the exercise itself, or both.
And while this might sound like a good idea, in theory, this reduction in appetite is usually short-lived, meaning you might not feel hungry for a post-workout snack that would actually help you with recovery and building new muscle mass.
By the time you do finally feel hungry you are ravenous and can end up overeating, especially if you overestimate the number of calories burned in your workout.
Can Pre-Workout Alone Help You Lose Weight?
No, pre-workout alone cannot help you lose weight. As I stated above, pre-workout is just one tool to help with achieving an overall calorie deficit. As a supplement, it is supplemental to a consistent exercise routine and good nutrition.
Despite lots of marketing about exercises for fat loss, the “best” exercise for fat loss is the type of exercise that you enjoy and will do consistently for months (and years) to come, rather than any short-term challenge or fad.
Resistance training is particularly effective because it helps you to build more lean muscle mass over time, which increases the number of calories you burn even at rest.
So, if pre-workout helps you with consistency and/or effort in your exercise, it can help with weight loss.
Similarly, there is no one best diet for fat loss.
The key is to eat a variety of foods that you enjoy, in a balanced way to give you both the macronutrients and micronutrients that you need, while keeping your intake below your calorie expenditure.
If pre-workout helps you to manage your appetite to keep your intake lower and/or helps to increase your calorie expenditure, it can help with both sides of the energy balance equation to help you achieve a calorie deficit for weight loss.
4 Other Things To Know About Pre-Workout And Losing Weight
1. Pre-Workout Is A Supplement, Not A Substitute
It’s important to realize that pre-workout is not a substitute for getting the foundation of a healthy lifestyle in place.
You’ll want to make sure that you have the basics of good nutrition, consistent exercise, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water in place before you look to pre-workout or any other supplements to boost your results.
Plus, using pre-workout, specifically when it comes to weight loss, carries some risks (see my next few points).
2. Risk of Overtraining & Burnout
Since the stimulants in pre-workout can mask feelings of fatigue, you actually run the risk of training when you should be listening to your body and taking a rest day.
Combined with the stress a calorie deficit also places on your body, you are in the danger zone for overtraining and feeling burnt out, which can make you more likely to give up on your fitness goals in the long run.
3. Risk of Illness & Injury
As part of overtraining, you are at higher risk of illness and injury because high training loads can weaken your immune system, and when you are pursuing weight loss, you may not be getting enough nutrients to properly recover after your workout, making you more susceptible to injury.
4. Risk of Caffeine Tolerance
The more regularly you consume caffeine, the more likely you are to build up a tolerance to it, meaning that you will need more and more caffeine to feel the same effects.
This can cause you to exceed the safe limit of 400mg per day.
Make sure you keep an eye on your caffeine intake from all sources (coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate as well as from supplements like pre-workout) to stay below 400mg.
Be sure to discuss pre-workout supplements with your doctor to make sure they are appropriate for you.
Best Pre-Workout For Weight Loss
Since pre-workout does not directly cause weight loss, there is no one pre-workout supplement that I would consider best for weight loss. For pre-workout in general, it’s best to find a product that you trust and like.
In terms of being able to trust the product, I recommend getting a supplement that is third-party certified and has clear labels that show the exact amount of each ingredient per serving, rather than mentioning a “blend” or “stack” that does not mention the exact ingredients and/or amounts.
Based on these criteria (clear label & third-party certified) my go-to is Transparent Labs because all of their products are third-party certified and the label transparently shows every single ingredient and the amounts of every active ingredient in each serving.
- Related Article: Transparent Labs Lean Review
In terms of products you like, that can really come down to personal preference and sensitivities. Beyond caffeine, some people are sensitive to artificial sweeteners like sugar alcohols, so they would want to pick unflavored pre-workout or pre-workout that is only sweetened with stevia and no sugar alcohols.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Pre-Workout Boost Your Metabolism?
Strictly speaking no, pre-workout does not boost your metabolism as the primary determinant of metabolism is the amount of lean muscle mass you have. However, pre-workout can help with increasing the total number of calories you burn each day, by giving you more energy for your workouts and for life in general.
More Articles On Pre-Workout
- Caffeine Pills vs Pre Workout – Pros, Cons, & Which Is Best?
- Can You Take Pre-Workout Twice In One Day? (Risks Explained)
- Is It Bad To Take Pre-Workout Every Day? (3 Drawbacks)
- Can You Take Pre-Workout & Fat Burner Together? (4 Tips)
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About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.
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