Pre-workout supplements come in all shapes and sizes from the pixie-dusted, micro-dosed, perennially BOGO pre-workouts to the fully-dosed transparently labeled mega scoopers like our very own Steel Pump®.
No matter how big (or little) your pre-workout scoop is, one common feature that many pre-workout supplements share is that after some time of being open, they begin to clump.
Upon unscrewing the lid and seeing what looks something akin to neon-colored kitty litter, many pre-workout imbibers are under the impression that since the powder has begun to clump, it must be ineffective and/or unsafe to use.
But is this true?
Today, we discuss why pre-workout supplements clump, are they still effective when clumped, and what steps you can take to help reduce the possibility of clumping.
Let’s get started!
Why Do Pre-Workout Supplements Clump?
Pre-workout clumping is incredibly common, albeit a nuisance at times, but more importantly, why does it happen?
Well, there are a few factors that can contribute to pre-workout clumping:
This is far and away from the leading cause of pre-workout clumping.
Hygroscopic ingredients are substances that readily attract water from their surroundings.
Some of the most hygroscopic ingredients used in dietary supplements include:
- Glycerol Supplements
- Betaine Anhydrous
- L-Citrulline Malate
- Agmatine Sulfate
Any one of these ingredients on their own (especially glycerol or betaine anhydrous) can cause severe clumping as they are potent osmolytes.
When you combine two or more of them at quality dosages (as is the case with Steel Pump®), you can rest assured that the product has a high probability of clumping.
Bad Storage Environment
If you live in a hot, humid, or wet climate, your pre-workout tub is more susceptible to clumping, especially if it contains one or more of the hygroscopic ingredients we mentioned above.
This is why it is essential that you properly store your pre-workout in a cool, dry place.
Please don't leave it halfway closed in the trunk of your car or opened in your kitchen.
Even if your supplement is manufactured at a top-notch facility, it will still clump if you don't store it properly.
This is the result of a hiccup in the manufacturing process.
If the safety seal on your tub of pre-workout is loose or broken, moisture can get into the container, hardening the powder, and leading to clumping.
This is a rare occurrence with manufacturers who practice good quality control procedures, but it may still happen from time to time.
If left unused for long periods, regardless of its ingredient composition, just about any pre-workout will turn clumpy or hard.
How to Prevent Pre-Workout Clumping
Use the Pre-Workout Regularly
As we just mentioned, leaving your tub of pre-workout on the shelf for months on end without opening it (or at the very least shaking it) will result in clumping.
As such, one way to fix or prevent clumping is to use your pre-workout regularly. Now, this doesn't mean you have to use pre-workout supplements every day, but at least one time per week to ensure the ingredients are getting agitated and not settling.
Additionally, it's a good idea to shake your tub of pre-workout before each use as settling can occur. Shaking helps ensure the ingredients are evenly dispersed, and it also helps avoid those annoying clumps.
Keep the Silica Packet in the Container
Have you ever wondered what that little white packet or is inside your pre-workout tub?
And, not entirely understanding its purpose, you casually throw it away?
We’ve been there too.
That packet is called a desiccant and serves an essential purpose -- it absorbs moisture and helps prevent your powder from clumping.
As such, keep it buried in the tub at all times and do NOT throw it out.
Store in a Cool, Dry Place
Humid environments are those in which the air is saturated with water vapor, and they're notorious for causing pre-workout clumping.
Remember at the outset that hygroscopic ingredients (like citrulline malate and betaine) attract water from their environments?
Well, storing your pre-workout in a hot, humid environment (like the trunk of your car) is a surefire way to fast track your tub of pre-workout to clump-ville.
To prevent this from happening, store your pre-workout tub in a cool, dry place.
If you live in a humid area (South Florida, for instance), then you may want to take one step further and store your pre-workout in the freezer.
This ensures a cool, dry environment, thereby helping to avoid any issues of pre-workout clumping.
Add Another Silica Packet
If you're like us, you go through your fair share of pre-workout supplements. As such, you probably have thrown out more packets of silica than you can care to remember.
But, the next time you finish off the final scoop of a pre-workout, toss (or recycle) the tub but KEEP the silica packet.
You can now add that leftover silica packet to your next tub of pre-workout to help further reduce the possibility of clumping.
How to Fix Pre-Workout Clumps
Use a Blender
Got a tub of clumpy pre-workout powder and not sure how to fix it?
Toss the clumpy powder in the blender (after removing the silica packet) and buzz away.
After a few seconds of blending, you’ll have a nice fine, free-flowing powder once again.
Transfer it back into the tub, along with the silica packet, and you’re all set.
Use a Fork or Knife
Don’t have a blender?
Or, maybe you don't want to run it at 4 AM and risk waking up the other people in your house.
Whatever the reason, you can also use a common eating utensil like a knife or fork to break up the powder and scoop it into your shaker.
Are Clumpy Pre-Workouts Still Effective and Safe to Use?
Clumping is completely natural (and even expected in some cases).
Certain ingredients in pre-workout supplements absorb moisture from the air due to their hygroscopic nature and result in clumping.
This does NOT affect the safety, quality, or effectiveness of your pre-workout supplement.
It is still safe to use and will be just as effective.
Hopefully, this article has put to rest any concerns you may have had regarding pre-workout clumping. Now, you can get back to focusing on the important things -- training hard, eating right, and recovering properly to get the best results possible!