Are Pre-Workout Supplements NCAA Legal?

Are Pre-Workout Supplements NCAA Legal?

Which pre-workout supplements are NCAA legal? Here's everything to know before taking these workout supplements.

In the world of high performance athletics, we’re all searching for any type of edge that we can get. So when a new supplement makes a huge splash on the market and gets a ton of publicity, we should take a look at it and see if we can pull back the marketing curtain and see what’s REALLY there.

Nitric oxide” supplements are being heavily marketed to build muscles and promise to promote extended “muscle fullness, vascularity, and pumps”. Other claims include resistance to muscular fatigue, supporting energy, motivation and intensity, and increased strength, power, and endurance. But here’s the catch everyone, THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. These aren’t my words, they are the words clearly printed on every website and label as an asterisk (*) at the bottom in fine print.

Here is the science behind Nitric Oxide and Arginine:

  1. Nitric Oxide: It is an important messenger molecule involved in many physiological and pathological processes within the body both beneficial and detrimental. These include vasodilatation and blood flow signaling.
  2. Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG): The non-essential amino acid Arginine, or arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, is the substrate for the nitric oxide synthase enzyme. This means that arginine is needed in order to make Nitric Oxide.

Other major ingredients that are found in NO Products:

  1. Caffeine (in various forms): Caffeine is a well documented ergogenic aid. Effects include increased perceived energy and increased heart rate. Be careful in this area because there are numerous ingredients that contain caffeine, so you need to read labels carefully.
  2. Amino acids (various types): There are a wide variety of amino acids that are added including Taurine, Glutamine, and L-Tyrosin. Amino acids are the building blocks of tissue in the body.
  3. Creatine (in various forms): Creatine also has been thoroughly researched and has been found to increase energy in the body aiding in the increase in work done in a workout.

Now in all fairness to the supplement companies, the FDA doesn’t get involved in the supplement industry and that’s ok. And the companies themselves often pay for research on their products and that’s how science and knowledge bases are expanded upon. That’s how we found out that creatine could be a great addition to a resistance trained athlete if used properly. But for those of you out there that need to know if you will have an issue with the NCAA rules if you take one of these supplements, here it is……

There are unknown quantities of caffiene. It’s not with the Arginine itself, but with the other ingredients in the product. Companies often have blends and they don’t disclose the amounts of each ingredient in that blend. If you choose a supplement that doesn’t disclose how much caffeine is in it you put yourself at risk. So you take it before you go work out with your strength coach and your athletic trainer comes down to the weight room and asks for a urine sample. What if the amount of caffeine that was in it caused you to fail a test? Technically, caffeine is a stimulant that is on the BANNED NCAA LIST. Considering these companies won’t say how much caffeine is in the product, one has to ask the question: How much caffeine is really in there?

Bottom line: Unless you know exactly what is in the supplement and how much, it’s not worth risking your scholarship.

For some safe pre-workout supplement options for athletes, we here at 1R would recommend the following NCAA-legal supplements:

  1. CytoSport Fast Twitch - Increases power and explosiveness in fast twitch muscle fibers and is caffeine-free
  2. Optimum Nutrition AmiN.O. Energy - Allows you to train harder and longer with beta alanine and is sugar-free
  3. Labrada Beta Alanine Endurance - Improves workout capacity and reduces muscle fatigue
Patrick Dixon's picture

About the Author

Patrick Dixon is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Men’s and Women’s Basketball at St. John's University. At St John's he is responsible for all aspects of speed, strength and agility training for both basketball teams as well as coordination of nutrition and training table design. He has also served as a guest lecturer for Sports Management classes in the graduate school. His previous work experience includes 3 years as an assistant at the University of California, Berkeley and 2 years at UConn. He has been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist for 7 years and is also a certified Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Dixon, a varsity track & field performer in the javelin as an undergraduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with a Sports Nutrition minor from UConn in 2002. He also has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology, also from the University of Connecticut.