Just about any woman knows the feeling: Your alarm sounds in time for your morning workout but you can't roll yourself out of bed to hit the gym. You might resort to grabbing energy pills -- made with caffeine, B12, guarana and other supplements -- to give you a boost out of bed. But you might not realize that while energy pills can definitely help light your fire in the morning, they might not be the best choice for long-lasting workout energy.
Check out any supplement store, health food section or gas station and you'll probably see a barrage of products that promise to amp you up for a workout. Usually, these products use a combination of stimulants, supplements and even vitamins to give you a boost, but it's usually the stimulants that make the greatest impact on your get-up-and-go. They make your heart beat faster for a feeling of high energy; caffeine also increases the number of fatty acids in the bloodstream, which your body then burns for fuel during your workout. The result: more energy and the sense that your workout isn't as brutal as usual.
Some energy pills clearly state that they use chemical stimulants such as caffeine to get you going, while others use a more natural approach. Guarana, a natural source of caffeine, is often an ingredient in energy pills, as are B12 vitamins, which can help elevate mood. Regardless of the packaging, flavoring or "good for you" ingredients, most -- if not all -- energy pills work in the same way with the addition of some type of stimulant to pump up your energy levels before a workout.
While it's true that energy pills can make you feel like your workout is easier, don't start popping just yet. Some pills can cause an unsafe amount of caffeine to enter the bloodstream, resulting in jitters, excitability and a fast crash. More serious usage could result in high body temperature, an irregular heartbeat and substance dependance. Another possible issue is overtraining, especially if the energy pills make you feel like you can lift more and run faster when you haven't yet trained properly.
Keep your daily dosage of caffeine -- and other stimulants -- to 200 to 300 mg per day and make sure that you're using energy pills safely and within the parameters of the package directions.
Energy pills might get you pumped for the gym, but they're not the only way to get you out of bed. Instead, a small snack containing complex carbs and a bit of protein 30 to 60 minutes before you hit the treadmill should give you an energy boost without any unsafe side effects or an energy crisis later on. An apple spread with peanut butter or a few whole wheat crackers and a string cheese should get you going without having to pop a pill.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.