If you’ve ever watched a fitness YouTube video, worked out with someone who’s really into fitness, or just walked into a GNC before, you’ve probably heard of pre-workout. I always see people talking about how much they love their pre-workout and how it completely changed their fitness game, yet I’ve never actually tried it.

It might be the fact that I don’t actually know what a pre-workout does, but I’ve always just gone to my workout with an excellent pre-workout snack. But as I’m trying to get more into fitness, I’ve found myself wondering: do I actually need to take pre-workout?

Let’s start with what it does:

Most pre-workouts are made with a similar blend of ingredients, including caffeine, creatine, and amino acid compounds. Those ingredients work together to give you a burst of energy before your workout that is more effective than just drinking a coffee cup. It increases your endurance, and just overall helps you have more energy throughout your workout.

But is pre-workout actually good for you?

Caffeine, which is found in many brands, is a stimulant that improves speed, stamina, strength, and power. Caffeine targets your nervous system, heart, muscles, and blood pressure, and pre-workout supplements have way more mg of caffeine than a traditional cup of coffee. And that much caffeine might not be suitable for your body.

Creatine gives your muscles energy and is typically found in the brain and muscles and red meat and seafood. Creatine is excellent for giving you that burst of energy right before a HIIT workout. Still, there hasn’t been enough research done to know the long-term effects of consistently taking it. While it is safe for short-term usage, taking it long-term has to be a risk you’re willing to take.

Lastly, amino acids commonly found in pre-workouts are the organic compounds that make up proteins. And the more protein you consume, the more energy you have. However, the amount of additional protein from the amino acids in pre-workout isn’t really necessary for your body, as most people get enough protein from their regular diets.

So, are pre-workouts actually necessary? It’s hard to say, and it’s really a matter of your own decision. It’s important to understand that there are definitely risks affiliated with taking pre-workout and the possible side effects, but if you’re set on taking one, go for one with cleaner ingredients. And if not, just stick to good ol’ food and water to keep you hydrated and energetic for a workout.