Know what you’re adding: gym supplements

Laila Yavalar goes in depth about gym supplements and how to safely use them


Sarabeth Wester

Supplements can improve your gym performance if used correctly and in moderation.

Laila Yavalar, Staff writer

It’s common for student athletes to get into the gym and want to get stronger, hit better PRs, or go for personal training. There are a lot of student athletes (at this school and beyond) who take supplements to increase muscle growth and athletic ability.  However, with the spread of gym culture on social media (especially TikTok,) teens are getting more exposed to the use of bodybuilding supplements (think creatine, pre-workout (caffeine), and more).

These supplements can aid performance and expedite  results, however most people don’t know the effects, both positive and negative, that these supplements can have on your body.  So let’s take a look at the common workout aids out there, so you can be educated on what goes into your body.


According to the Mayo Clinic and healthline, Creatine is an amino acid naturally located in your body’s muscles, where it’s stored and used for energy. Because of this, people take synthetic creatine to improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass. For strength, muscle size, and athletic performance, creatine allows athletes to perform more reps and sprints, resulting in greater strength and muscle mass gains. Creatine also lowers myostatin levels, which increases growth in muscle mass. For athletes, creatine can be beneficial by reducing dehydration, muscle cramping, and injuries. Creatine is generally safe to take in appropriate doses, 3-5 grams, for up to nearly five years, as long as you  take creatine on both active and rest days.

However, creatine is not a fully researched supplement and scientists remain unaware of its long-term effects. We do know, though, that creatine can cause weight gain, issues to the kidney and liver, sleeping problems, and dehydration if not enough water is consumed. So if you are to take creatine, make sure you drink enough water to prevent damage to your organs and consult your doctor regarding the amount you take. 


Gym-goers and athletes are most commonly associated with Pre Workout, which is a substance you can put into drinks.  Pre Workout is famously known for giving a buzz of energy and performance improvement.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, pre-workouts contain more than just a heavy amount of caffeine, but also Amino Acids, Beta-alanine, occasionally creatine, glucose, Nitric oxide, and B vitamins. There are up to 20 kinds of Amino Acids that help decrease soreness, grow and repair muscles, and aid in energy production.


Glucose, which is essentially sugar, is used in pre workout to increase energy levels. Nitric oxide is a compound of oxygen and nitrogen which increases your blood flow, which may improve intense bursts of exercise such as sprints or weightlifting and can even help with reducing inflammation and enhancing recovery. Finally, B vitamins play many roles in your body, but are especially important in converting food to energy and transporting nutrients throughout the body.


However, the main ingredient of preworkout is caffeine, which isn’t necessarily bad for you as long as you take appropriate amounts. Caffeine stimulates the body’s nervous system, improves reaction time and can reduce fatigue. Keep in mind that just because you can buy pre-workouts over the counter does not mean that you aren’t at risk, or that they are 100% safe. According to the Cleveland clinic, “pre-workouts contain anywhere from 150 milligrams (mg) to 300 mg of caffeine per serving, which can pack the same punch as chugging three cups of coffee in a row.” It’s recommended that you purchase a preworkout with 200mg of caffeine or less and be careful with your intake. You can experience side effects associated with over-caffeination, which includes a racing heart, nausea, high blood pressure, etc.


Most importantly, be careful when it comes to dry-scooping, which is a popular way of taking pre-workouts thanks to social media such as TikTok. Dry-scoping can result in choking, aspiration, and can lead to aspiration pneumonia and long term issues such as a heart attack or an irregular heartbeat. Eric Schulz, Saint Stephens coach, says it’s important to make sure your pre workout is FDA approved, It isn’t regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) so companies can lie and sneak things in. If anyone does decide to use it it’s very important to make sure it is NSF certified which means it’s been 3rd party tested to prove what’s in it and it doesn’t contain anything dangerous or illegal.” It’s suggested to only take pre-workout once a day at the most, but preferably only on days when you feel sluggish and make sure your pre workout is FDA approved. 


You may have seen this supplement online lately, especially on TikTok, which is commonly taken in forms of capsules.  The supplement is becoming well known for making those who take it “numb” to emotions and physical pain.

However, Ashwagandha can decrease anxiety and stress and blunt emotions overall, according to Dr.Ring in the New York Times, that numbness is not generally the effect of this supplement but can occur as a placebo effect.

Along with the reduction of stress and anxiety, Ashwagandha also increases athletic performance in terms of strength and oxygen intake. According to healthline, studies found that ashwagandha significantly enhances maximum oxygen consumption, VO2. VO2 is a measurement of heart and lung fitness. “Low VO2 max is associated with increased mortality risk, while higher VO2 max is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.”

Some studies set up trials with applicants who were taking Ashwagandha and applicants who weren’t, which showed that those who took 600 mg of Ashwagandha per day, with 8 weeks of resistance training, had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size. Along with this, Ashwagandha may reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar levels, and may improve brain function including memory and sleep. It’s shown that Ashwagandha is safe to take in appropriate doses depending on your health conditions. 

Supplements, like the ones mentioned above are common amongst student athletes and gym-goers, including some in our community.There is nothing wrong with taking supplements to increase muscle growth, strength, athletic performance, energy, etc., but it is important to know and understand the facts behind these supplements and what they are doing to your body. Ashwagandha, Pre-Workout, and Creatine being the most common ones, can be very beneficial to your gym goals, but can do more damage than good if you aren’t aware of vital information.