Last Updated on June, 2023
Pre-workout supplements are among the most popular supplements by serious athletes and amateur gym-goers.
They help to increase physical and mental energy during workout sessions.
But whether pre-workout supplements can be effective greatly depends on timing consumption accurately.
To time consumption accurately, you NEED to know the answer to the following questions;
- How long does it take for pre-workout to kick in?
- And how long does pre-workout stay in your system?
And these can be points of confusion for many people.
But don’t worry!
In this article, we will be answering these questions and breaking down the essentials of pre-workout supplements.
What is Pre-Workout?
Pre-workout supplements (known commonly as pre-workout) are a type of multi-ingredient dietary supplement crafted to improve athletic performance and increase energy levels by transporting more nutrients to muscles.
They generally come in a powder form that can be mixed in water and consumed before a gym visit. Pre-workout products can also come in the form of capsules or drinks.
Pre-workouts give you a more prominent “pump” by increasing the blood flow to and from muscles with the help of ingredients like arginine, which dilates blood vessels.
Creatine, which can be found in some pre-workout supplements, helps increase performance during heavy-duty tasks. (1)
This supplement has many brands, and their exact composition can differ.
Some common ingredients that you can find in your typical pre-workout are as follows;
- Agmatine Sulfate
Most pre-workout supplements list out all their ingredients along with doses per serving.
Some, however, only list a proprietary mix of ingredients, not the different amounts.
How Long Does it Take Pre-Workout Supplements to Take Effect?
The time it takes for a pre-workout to kick in depends very much on the different ingredients in your supplement.
Two kinds of active ingredients in a pre-workout supplement are caffeine and arginine.
The maximum effects of the pre-workouts with caffeine appear about an hour after consumption, and with arginine, expect full effectiveness 60-90 minutes after consumption.
Generally, however, the best time to take your pre-workout is 30 minutes before your workout session.
Most pre-workout supplements contain caffeine as its stimulant, and your body takes 3-7 hours to cut the caffeine concentration in your blood in half. So, it’s better to be early than late in taking your pre-workout.
That means pre-workout is best ingested before leaving home for the gym so that you give it plenty of time to take effect.
Signs That the Pre-Workout is Taking Effect
Finding it difficult to know when exactly your pre-workout starts working?
Look out for the following signs next time;
- Increased mental focus
- Increased energy
- Performance enhancement (Increased endurance and strength)
- A Tingling Sensation
If you pre workout is not working, checkout this article to know what to do.
How Long Does Pre-Workout Last in Your System?
Generally speaking, people take a pre-workout supplement 30 minutes before their exercise session to ensure that the supplement’s effects last throughout their workout.
Pre-workout can stay in your system for around 4-6 hours.
However, just being in your system does not mean it will still affect you.
So, the effects of the pre-workout can only be felt for around an hour after it kicks in.
Factors That Affect How Long Pre-Workout Stays in Your Body
While it is easy to say that you can feel the effects of pre-workout for an hour after it kicks in, many other factors contribute to how long pre-workouts will affect you.
Let’s take a look at a few factors here.
Ingredients and Dosage of the Pre-Workout
How long a pre-workout lasts depends significantly on the half-life of the ingredients.
Half-life refers to the time taken for a substance to be reduced to half its original amount.
Many pre-workout ingredients have a half-life of 4-6 hours. This means the pre-workout will remain in your system for that long, but its effects will only be present for around an hour or two.
For example, creatine and beta-alanine take approximately 30-45 minutes to kick in, and their effects last around an hour.
Also, note that the quality of the pre-workout you purchase is important because high-quality ingredients in your supplement will allow you to see long-lasting effects.
The amount of pre-workout you consume can also dictate how long you’ll feel its effects.
If your pre-workout intake is less than recommended, you won’t feel its fullest effects.
Conversely, taking more than is advised can lead to unpleasant side effects (we will be exploring these in just a bit), and nobody wants that!
Age, Muscle Mass, Weight, and Fat Percentage
Your attributes can also have a say in how pre-workouts affect you.
For example, people with a higher body composition will most likely be able to withstand the effects of a pre-workout more than those with a lower body mass.
Older people may have a greater tolerance to stimulants like caffeine. Still, the effects of a pre-workout may last for a completely different time depending on any medical conditions they may have.
Younger people may have a lower tolerance to caffeine, and so the supplement may last longer in their case.
When to eat before exercise becomes an even more complicated question than it already was when we add pre-workout into the mix.
Some people claim that taking the supplement on an empty stomach can leave them nauseous. But on the other hand, taking pre-workouts after a heavy meal can reduce its effects.
It would be best if you achieved a perfect balance, where you consume a healthy and diverse diet that will help you make the most of the extra energy the supplement gives you.
Maintaining proper hydration is also a factor determining a pre-workout supplement’s effectiveness.
For How Long and How Often You’ve Been Using Pre-Workout?
If you’ve been using pre-workout frequently over a long period, you will likely develop a tolerance for it.
This tolerance will significantly reduce the supplement’s impact on you.
To steer clear of building up a tolerance for your pre-workout, try to reduce your frequency of consumption or take a week’s break from taking it every 4 weeks.
Related to our previous point, if you drink caffeine in large quantities in your day-to-day life, you will build up a tolerance for it.
And since caffeine is generally a primary ingredient in pre-workout formulas, your level of tolerance towards caffeine will translate to how your body will take in the effects of pre-workouts.
If you have an extremely low tolerance for caffeine, it may be best to stick to a stimulant-free pre-workout.
How You Feel Before Consumption?
How long pre-workouts last can depend on how you feel when taking them.
If you had a tiring day and are feeling exhausted, the effects of the pre-workout won’t last as long as they would have if you were feeling more energetic.
Who Should Use a Pre-Workout Supplement?
Pre-workout supplements are generally aimed at bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other weightlifters.
Athletes who take part in other sports may also take pre-workout. With proper precautionary measures, you can use pre-workout for many high-intensity sports.
Benefits of Pre-Workout
There are many benefits of using pre-workouts to supplement your workout routine that makes the messy job of having to time your consumption entirely worthwhile.
Let’s take a look at some of these supplements’ benefits.
Boosts in Energy
Pre-workouts help you get a much-needed energy boost before an intense gym session.
The stimulants (mainly caffeine) in the supplement are one of the reasons behind this increase in energy. (2)
If you aren’t great with consuming caffeine, you can try stimulant-free pre-workouts that give you an energy boost by other means.
Another reason a pre-workout supplement boosts your energy is that the ingredient l-citrulline in the supplement is converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps with blood flow which contributes to the added power. (3)
Stimulants like caffeine, Tyrosine, Alpha-GPC, Huperzine A, and Taurine that can be found in a pre-workout supplement help you achieve mental clarity.
Enhanced focus in the gym means you’ll have fewer distractions and a greater level of mind-muscle connection, which will lead to more gains in your workout.
Benefits of pre-workout supplements also include the fact that they contain substances that help you achieve bigger pumps.
Nitric oxide widens blood vessels to allow blood to flow more freely, which in turn helps you achieve those bigger pumps.
Bigger pumps will improve muscular endurance and stimulate muscle growth.
You should be able to lift heavier weights in no time!
Enhance Athletic Performance
According to a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a pre-workout product can improve anaerobic peak and mean power values that can’t be seen in people who have not ingested this supplement.
Therefore, it is scientifically proven that a pre-workout supplement can improve exercise performance and help you in your training session or fitness journey.
Side Effects of Pre-Workout
Like all good things, pre-workout supplements also have a few side effects.
The benefits of these supplements generally outweigh these side effects, explaining why they are so popular within the fitness community despite so many different supplements available.
Here are a few side effects you should look out for.
Itchy Skin or Tingling
A common ingredient in a pre-workout supplement is beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that helps enhance performance in some high-intensity activities. (4)
Despite boosting performance, beta-alanine is what causes the tingling sensation you potentially can get after taking a pre-workout.
This feeling is known as paresthesia, and it isn’t harmful.
Some people even like the feeling!
But some can’t stand it, and if you’re one of them, you can get a pre-workout that does not contain beta-alanine- they’re just as effective.
Related article: How to stop tingling from pre workout?
Anxiety and Restlessness
The leading cause for these unpleasant feelings is the caffeine intake you are subjected to when you take a pre-workout.
The caffeine in these supplements tends to be caffeine anhydrous, a pure, dehydrated form of caffeine. And it can hit you HARD.
Ensure that you time your pre-workout consumption correctly so that all that extra energy has a proper outlet.
You can also stick to buying a pre-workout supplement with low levels of stimulants or entirely free of them.
Some ingredients (like sodium bicarbonate or even caffeine) in these supplements can lead to problems like stomach discomfort, upset stomachs, and diarrhea.
Related article: Does Pre-Workout Make You Poop?
Yep, caffeine at work again.
Most pre-workout supplements recommend that you shouldn’t consume them within 4 hours of bedtime because that seriously messes up your sleep, primarily if your body doesn’t metabolize caffeine very well.
If you don’t know how your body will react to the caffeine, starting with smaller doses of pre-workout is advisable.
What is the Shelf Life of Pre-Workout?
How long does pre-workout stay good to consume?
If the tup is unopened, you should be able to find the best before date somewhere on the packaging.
If you’ve opened the product, you need to finish it within a couple of months; else, you’re likely to see clumping or the supplement becoming hard.
You’ll also know that it’s time to replenish your supply if your pre-workout starts to smell weird or if you see signs of mold in it.
How Long Does Pre-Workout Last After Being Mixed With Water?
Another common question is how long a pre-workout can stay good once it has been mixed in water.
A pre-workout lasts for upto 24 hours mixed in water if refrigerated and does not lose any effectiveness. So, even if you forget to take it or want to mix it in water the night before, your pre-workout will still be good.
Tips for Taking Pre-Workout
To have the best experience possible with your pre-workout, follow the tips listed below!
Time Consumption Properly
Always ensure that you consume your pre-workout, leaving enough time for traveling to the gym, warming up, etc., so that the supplement starts hitting you only once you’ve begun your workout.
The ideal time to take your supplement would be 30 minutes before when you’re going to start your workout.
Although pre-workout is considered a safe supplement, it’s still best not to overdo it.
It would be best if you only took the supplement 5 times a week or less.
It would be best if you didn’t have to take it every single time you workout. Instead, ensure that you also pay attention to maintaining a balanced lifestyle and a healthy diet, which will help you achieve your fitness goals quickly.
We must check to see what we’re putting in our body at all possible points, and pre-workout supplements are no exception.
Check labels to find out the ingredients and dosages of the supplement.
It is advisable to avoid brands that use proprietary labels because this is how producers can mislead you about the effectiveness of their product.
Stick to Recommended Dosages
To avoid the above-mentioned side effects, make sure you stick to the recommended dosages of the supplement.
Recommended serving sizes can be found on the label once again- so you must read it!
Buy Reliable Brands
Stick to the broadly accepted best pre-workout supplements because plenty of brands will knock you off with mediocre products.
Don’t Consume With Coffee
The FDA recommends limiting daily caffeine intake to 400 mg, and your average pre-workout can contain anywhere between 300 to 400 mg of caffeine.
It is, therefore, best to limit your caffeine consumption outside of the supplement to avoid any adverse health effects.
Purchase Third-Party Tested Pre-Workouts
Buying third-party tested products almost always guarantees that your product is high in quality.
Many large corporations take liberties and add illegal substances into their product, so purchasing supplements that have been tested is the best way to go.
Overall, pre-workouts stay in your system for around 4-6 hours.
But their effects will likely peter out an hour after they kick in.
Main takeaway: timing your supplement consumption is of utmost importance because whether you experience the full effects of the pre-workout depends on it.
After a few instances of trial and error, you are sure to figure out the timing that works best for you and your lifestyle.
When doing so, make sure also to follow the tips listed above so that you make the most of your pre-workout supplement.
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