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'It's Like Crack': Doctor On Pre-Workout Supplement Ingredient

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Getting to the gym can be hard when you're tired and over-worked. Many people are using powders that you mix with water and take about half an hour before you work out to get an edge.

They're essentially performance-enhancing substances that, as of now, aren't regulated by the FDA.

Pre-workout supplements offer energy and endurance while working out. With ingredients that are nearly unpronounceable, many health professionals are skeptical.

"They all tend to have the same thing. One is beta alanine, which is great for dilation of blood vessels, and dilation is great for when you exercise; because it gives you great aerobic capacity. It brings blood through the heart," said said Dr. Christopher Balgobin of Fairview Clinics.

He added: "The other one is alpha keto-glutarate. Another one is a vasodilator. It's helps you really get pumped up."

Another main ingredient in these supplements is caffeine.

"Some of these products have as much caffeine as three cups of coffee," Balgobin said. "I've heard of products out there that have enough caffeine for 20 cups of coffee."

Too much caffeine can lead to heart issues, difficulty sleeping and risk of stroke.

However, the most controversial ingredient in some is 1-3 dimethylamylamine or DMAA.

"1-3 dimethylamylamine is essentially like Adderall or Ritalin in a legalized form," Balgobin said. "The supplement is available over the count still. It was banned by the government to be used in the military, and some professional groups do test for this as a legal substance. What it does: It helps you with focusing and energy...I like to be frank: It's like crack. It gets you really just gone."

Registered dietician Christina Meyer-Jax says stay away from these chemicals.

"The tough part about some of them that are out there is that they contain both vasodilators and central nervous system or cardiac stimulants," Meyer-Jax said. "When you combo those two together, that can cause a really heavy load on your heart and your blood pressure."

Her advice for fueling a good workout is a combination of natural foods.

"What you're really looking for is carbohydrates, you're looking for protein and you are definitely looking for some fluid. Your body is going to need all of those things to fuel a really good workout," Meyer-Jax said.

The jury is still out on the safety of these pre-workout supplements, but Balgobin says they can be OK in moderation and that he actually uses them himself. He says that if you are going to take them, you must not consume any other caffeine like coffee, tea or energy drinks. He also says they should be used with caution and to consult your doctor first.

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