Does Pre-Workout Cause Acne Breakouts?

If you have breakout-prone skin, that pre-workout might not be doing your complexion any favors. We are breaking down the potential links between pre-workouts and acne, and what you can do to maintain clear skin while still crushing your workout routine.

Does Pre-Workout Cause Acne Breakouts?

If you have breakout-prone skin, that pre-workout might not be doing your complexion any favors. We are breaking down the potential links between pre-workouts and acne, and what you can do to maintain clear skin while still crushing your workout routine.

Many devoted gym goers and athletes love the benefits of taking a pre-workout. The right formula can give you that much-needed energy to power through even the most hardcore workouts, helping you hit your fitness goals. 

Here’s the thing: if you have breakout-prone skin, that pre-workout might not be doing your complexion any favors. So does pre-workout cause acne? Let’s talk about the potential links between pre-workouts and breakouts, and what you can do to maintain clear skin while still crushing your workout routine. 

Does Pre-Workout Cause Acne?

The answer, unfortunately, isn’t super straightforward. Not all pre-workouts are made the same, which means that some might be completely fine for those with acne-prone skin. On the flip side, there are some formulas that contain ingredients that are known to trigger breakouts. This is largely due to their impact on our hormones. 

So what are you supposed to do if you use pre-workout and have acne-prone skin? It’s time to do a little digging and look at the ingredients label.  

Pre-Workout Ingredients That Might Trigger Breakouts

There are a few frequently used pre-workout ingredients that are associated with breakouts. Here are some of the sneaky ingredients you’ll want to look out for. 


Caffeine is one of the most commonly used pre-workout ingredients. After all, nothing will give you the energy boost needed to sustain a workout like a jolt of caffeine! 

But can pre-workout cause acne if it's made with caffeine? Maybe! It likely depends on how well you tolerate caffeine, how much you’re consuming throughout the day, and even, your stress level.  

Caffeine can heighten the body’s levels of cortisol – AKA the stress hormone. Elevated levels of this hormone can trigger the sebaceous glands to overproduce oil, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. If you’re already stressed out and have elevated cortisol, theoretically, the extra bump from caffeine may put you over the edge. 

However, if you tolerate caffeine well, and don’t have elevated cortisol levels, then a little bit of caffeine is unlikely to be problematic for your skin. 


If you have ever used pre-workouts in your workout routine, there’s a high chance you’ve tried at least one made with creatine – a compound that supplies energy to the muscles. Of course, if you think your pre-workout might be to blame for your acne, you’re probably wondering: does creatine cause acne breakouts?

As is the case with caffeine, there aren’t many studies looking at the direct link between creatine consumption and breakouts. That said, the compound does influence our hormones in a way which may trigger breakouts.

There is evidence that suggests creatine may increase the levels of an androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This hormone can stimulate the production of sebum, increasing the risk of clogged pores. 

On top of that, creatine has been shown to boost insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels. Like DHT, this hormone triggers oil production. It has also been shown to increase inflammation, which can worsen acne. 

Whey Protein

Many formulas are also made with whey protein, a dairy-derived ingredient that supports muscle growth. Unfortunately, it can have a negative impact on the skin, as it has been shown to increase insulin and the production of IGF-1

When we have too many insulin spikes this can lead to insulin resistance, which has been linked to acne, as has elevated levels of IGF-1.

Numerous case studies have shown a link between whey protein and acne.  

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs are frequently added to pre-workout formulas, as they can support muscle growth and recovery, and are also great for reducing fatigue. However, BCAAs are yet another pre-workout ingredient that can increase IGF-1 levels in the blood. This means these amino acids may be preventing you from maintaining clear skin. 

Artificial Sweeteners

Some companies sneak artificial sweeteners (like sucralose and aspartame) into their formulas to improve the taste of the formula without having to add many extra calories. Sure, they’re great for making a pre-workout a little more palatable...but your skin might be paying the price.  

Research has shown that artificial sweeteners can negatively impact the balance of our gut microbiome. This is bad news for those with breakout-prone skin, as an imbalance in the gut has been associated with acne. On top of that, there is also evidence that sucralose can trigger a rise in insulin levels. This is yet again problematic for anyone with acne, as high insulin levels have been linked to breakouts.   

How Do You Stop Pre-Workout Acne?

So exactly how do you stop pre-workout acne? Here’s your first step: assess the pre-workout you are currently using. If it contains some of the ingredients we talked about above, it might be worth temporarily cutting it out of your routine for 2-4 weeks. You won’t see changes in your complexion overnight, but if your skin starts to clear after a few weeks, your pre-workout may be the culprit. 

If your pre-workout is responsible for your breakouts, try to seek out an alternative that contains fewer acne triggers. You might also want to ditch the supplement entirely, instead opting for energy boosting foods that can function as a natural pre-workout. 

Swap Pre-Workout for Food

Instead of a pre-workout supplement, choose quick and easy snacks that contain healthy, whole carbs and/or fat to fuel your exercise session. Carbs help maximize your body's ability to use glycogen, making them a smart choice before short and high intensity exercises, while foods that contain fat help fuel your body for longer exercise sessions. Protein can also be helpful (but is even more important post-workout). 

Some of our favorite quick and convenient pre-workout food ideas that won’t cause breakouts: 

  • Flax crackers and nut butter, guacamole, or hummus
  • Carrots and hummus or guacamole
  • Gluten-free avocado toast with flaky sea salt on top
  • Piece of fruit with nut butter 
  • Coconut yogurt with a scoop of collagen powder stirred in and fruit on top  
  • Overnight oats with nut butter, seeds, and fruit

If you have more than 2-3 hours before your workout, you could even consider a larger meal. 

Hydration is also important, so adding salt or electrolyte powder to your water pre-workout will help with your stamina at the gym. 

Get Your Gut In Order

Probiotics for gut and skin health

Clear skin starts with a balanced gut microbiome, and a probiotic supplement (like Glow Biome) can help. This is especially important if you also struggle with bloating or constipation…as you may be surprised to learn that your gut health directly impacts your skin health.

Glow Biome has a unique formula that was made with clinically validated probiotic strains that have been proven to support clear, healthy, hydrated skin from the inside out. Suitable for both men and women, it has been clinically shown to reduce breakouts and excess oil within 6-12 weeks. Not to mention, it supports regularity, digestion, and less bloating, too. 

How Do You Stop Post-Workout Acne?

Beyond food and supplements, it’s also important to implement steps to prevent post- exercise-related breakouts:

  • Choose Natural Fabrics Instead of Synthetic: Most gym clothes are made with synthetic fabrics, that trap heat and moisture, and may make your back and chest more likely to break out. Instead, switch to more breathable natural fabrics, like cotton, and change immediately after you finish your workout. 
  • Wash Your Skin ASAP After Working Out: Wash away sweat and other pore-clogging debris as soon as possible after your workout to minimize your risk of breakouts. 
  • Change Out of Sweaty Clothes Post-Workout: Clothing can trap sweat against the skin, creating the ultimate breeding ground for body acne. As soon as you can, change out of your sweaty clothes and shower. 
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