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Does Pre-Workout Inspire Your Bowels to Move as Much as Your Muscles?

Feel like you have to drop the kids off at the pool every time you hit the gym? That’s probably the pre-workout talking

Pre-workout is usually a powdery substance containing ostensibly helpful nutrients intended to add a beneficial boost of power, endurance and alertness to your chest day, your leg day or any other gym day that promises to be so epic that the tale of how you muscle up that eleventh rep at 225 pounds will be included in the eulogy at your funeral. 

But despite the glory you foresee on the horizon, you couldn’t help but notice that you’ve been hampered by a recent streak of mid-workout interruptions prompted by your perturbing proclivity to poop. Since you started using pre-workout, you’ve maxed out your bench and your squat, and you’ve also maxed out the capacity of the Planet Fitness toilet bowl. You’d hate to think that your powdery pal is the cause of these demotivating movements, but you’ve got no choice but to take the threat seriously.

Give it to me straight: Is my pre-workout making me poop?

I think we both know the answer to that question, but let’s conduct a fair investigation. Starting with a standard-issue pre-workout powder, let’s break down its suspicion-arousing ingredients, and explore the likelihood that it might spur the legendary bowel movements that are intruding upon your equally legendary lifts.

For starters, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride and methylcobalamin are all versions of vitamins included in the vitamin B complex, which are known to assist with several cellular functions, but for the purposes of pre-workout, the benefits we’re most inclined to be interested in include the building of muscle mass and the development of strength. Straight out of the gate, however, we’re alerted to one of vitamin B’s side effects, which is the stimulation of muscle contraction in the digestive system, and the easing of stool through the bowels. 

Did I mention that the vitamin B12 level alone contained within this pre-workout is more than 8,000 percent of your recommended daily amount?

Sounds like it’s case closed.

Indeed. But we might as well press onward and see if anything else shakes loose (pun unavoidable).

Next, we’ll check on the L-Citrulline, which relaxes the blood vessels, and helps your body get rid of urea, which is one of the major components of urine. L-Citrulline may not directly prompt defecation, but it’s likely to send you to the bathroom all the same.

Meanwhile, L-Leucine plays a role in muscle protein synthesis. An overdose can cause diarrhea, but we’re engaging in this game assuming that you’re going to play by the rules and take your pre-workout dose as recommended. L-Isoleucine specializes in increasing glucose uptake into muscle cells, which accelerates the rate at which the muscles burn sugar for energy. Again, the worst side effect is diarrhea, coupled with vomiting, but nothing too alarming when taken in typical amounts.

L-Valine works alongside L-Isoleucine to increase the amount of glucose that can be taken into the muscles, which maximizes the total volume capable of being burned. This accelerates both muscle growth and recovery. High doses can cause your body to produce excess ammonia, which is urinated out. Again, this results in a trip to the toilet, but not for the type of activity we’re discussing.

Betaine enhances the absorption of protein and vitamins, thereby accelerating the rate at which your body can reap the benefits from the last meal you ate, along with the very vitamins floating around in this pump-promoting pre-workout. Taking too much of it could result in nausea and an upset stomach, but not an automatic bathroom trip in normal doses. Likewise, Beta-Alanine promotes the production of carnosine, which helps to improve endurance levels by regulating acid buildup. One of its side effects has been a reported tingling sensation in the skin, but not necessarily the sorting of tingling that would prompt a potty break. 

Creatine hydrochloride is a form of creatine, which is well known to assist in energy production by helping the cells to produce greater quantities of ATP. Creatine is most likely to cause bloating, muscle cramps and dehydration, but nothing about it has necessarily been known to necessitate a number two. 

Coconut water powder is essentially the extract of coconut water with all of the actual water evaporated out of it. Frankly, I fail to see the point. After all, coconut water is perilously overrated to begin with, and it provides no nutrient or performance benefits that a Gatorade Zero and a banana can’t deliver in greater abundance. Also, its reputation as a “super hydrator,” whether earned or unearned, doesn’t mean a hill of beans when you eliminate all of the water from it. Either way, a teeny bit of potassium isn’t going to be enough to prompt a poop. 

This particular pre-workout contains a specially branded blend of the extracts of insignificant doses of nearly 30 different fruits known as the SPECTRA Total ORAC Blend. What it actually does aside from convincing people that they’re consuming fruit when they’re not, I have no idea.

Taurine is the ingredient that gives Red Bull its bullish name, and also supposedly gives you wings (shouldn’t it give you horns?). It regulates the volume of body cells, but studies have thus far been insufficient to confirm that supplementation with taurine produces any benefits. By the same token, no harmful side effects have been pinned to taurine either, and certainly none of a defecatory nature. 

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine assists with the creation of dopamine and adrenaline — the fight-or-flight hormone — which will come in handy if you need a supernatural surge of strength to fight off an overloaded weight bar just in time to make your flight to the latrine.

At long last, we’ve come to the probable culprit — PurCaf Organic Caffeine, which is 274 milligrams of caffeine in all of its glory. A 16-ounce can of Monster Energy contains 160 milligrams of caffeine, so this pre-workout scoop is flirting with the caffeine content of two large cans of Monster Energy. 

Now the real question is, does caffeine elicit defecation? Does it ever. Studies have definitively demonstrated that caffeine prompts muscle contractions in the intestines and bowels, which results in bowel movements.

So, between a quantity of vitamin B that’s more than capable of satisfying the needs of an entire platoon, to a dose of caffeine equivalent to five cups of brewed coffee, I’d say there’s more than enough information at our disposal to answer your question with, “Absolutely.”

Yelp, I guess that settles it.

Honestly, I’d be more surprised if you told me your pre-workout didn’t make you poop. The good news is, you almost certainly don’t need pre-workout anyway — unless you’re training for the Olympics and need to shave one-hundredth of a second from your 200-meter dash time. So if you’re worried that the contents of your bowels might decorate the hip-adductor machine mid-exercise, then simply don’t use pre-workout. 

Giant wet spots on your clothing are often an honorable byproduct of a hard-fought training session, but your peers are less likely to shower plaudits upon you if those big wet spots also happen to be brown.