There may be days when you feel tired or run down, but you want to stay committed to your workout regimen, or build muscle faster, or maybe try the newest fad in fitness. That is what pre-workout supplements are for.

The substance—made up of 200–500 mg of caffeine, 5 g of branched-chain amino acids, 5 g of beta-alanine and 5 g of creatine monohydrate—is said to help build strength, stamina, and increase the potential for muscle building and fat loss.

There are many different pre-workout supplements out there. Sean Menezes, a personal trainer at the RAWC, said, “I don’t like taking supplements (except whey protein isolate on tough resistance training days) because I don’t like dependence.”

“I like being able to wake up in the morning, put on my gym clothes, grab some water, and have the mental capacity to push myself without stimulants,” he added.

Fourth-year anthropology student Jasmine Javed uses pre-workout supplements to enhance her overall workout. She uses a creatine-free supplement called Cardio Cuts. “I believe there’s a significant difference between using pre-workout as opposed to not using it,” she said. “When I don’t use Cardio Cuts, I don’t feel as energized or as motivated to work out. However, when I do take my pre-workout supplement, I feel that the overall quality of my workout performance is improved. I can undergo a longer workout session without feeling overworked. Also, I feel that my energy has been increased by a certain amount of time.”

However, while there are good effects of using pre-workout supplements, such as muscle development, she highlights the adverse side effects. “The most noticeable side effect is the increased heart rate; it does take some time for your heart rate to return to its normal pace. This can trigger feelings of anxiety, dehydration, and restlessness,” said Javed.

Third-year chemistry major and avid weightlifter Mohammed Musleh uses a high dose of creatine to help supply the muscles. “I take C4 because it doesn’t agitate my stomach, and it’s a good pre-workout to start with,” he says.

Musleh expands on the effects of the pre-workout, saying, “I noticed that when I started, I was more energetic and more motivated to work out. But now I’m off it, and while I still work as hard as I did before, I tire out much faster.”

For those who are interested in muscle-building, he says, “The positive part of C4 is that you can lift at longer intervals, and you have more energy.”

Musleh says that while there are good things that happen when you use the pre-workout, there are also some elements you need to be aware of. “There is a dip in energy and even a bit in strength once you cycle off the supplement. You should make sure not to use the pre-workout supplement for too long, because supplementing all those nutrients for more than two months is not good for you.”

Menezes cautions people against using the pre-workout supplements, because “while there is no doubt that pre-workout will give you an extra edge or a boost to your workout, over time you might build a dependence on it”.

“Without it, you might not feel as strong, or willing enough to work out,” he said, adding that the dependence would also cost someone financially.

A pre-workout supplement does have its benefits, but before using any of them for any reason, one should research all the side effects and be careful about prolonged use. Overall, pre-workout supplements are not necessary for the healthy maintenance and growth of muscles. Fill your body with carbs and natural energy sources like vegetables and meat before, and your workouts will find consistency. You’ll feel great without the side effects—push away the bad habit.