Why Does Pre Workout Make You Tingle & Itch? How To Get Rid?

Why Does Pre Workout Make You Tingle & Itch? How to Get Rid?

Last Updated on October, 2022

Pre-workout products are famous for giving an energy kick right before strenuous exercise. But if you’ve used pre-workouts, you likely had to face the infamous pre-workout tingles. 

So what causes this itching sensation? And more importantly, is it dangerous?

Not at all. Tingling skin is a perfectly normal side effect of pre-workouts. 

Although this tingling sensation is not harmful, you may find it unpleasant and distracting. But don’t worry; there are simple ways to alleviate the tingles without compromising your workout plan.

We’ll take you through the science behind the tingling sensation associated with pre-workouts.

So keep reading to find out all you need to know about pre-workout tingles and ways to prevent them.

What Causes Tingles in Pre-Workouts? 

Pre Workout Tingles

The scientific name for tingling skin is paresthesia. This is generally known as “pins and needles.” Paresthesia is a prickling or itchy sensation in the feet, legs, hands, or arms.

Tingles are usually not long-lasting. They are harmless and resolve on their own.

There are many reasons for tingles. The most common reason for paresthesia is too much pressure on nerves. Pressure reduces blood flow to some areas of your body. A good example is when you get pins and needles after sitting in the same position for a prolonged period.

But there are other reasons for tingles too. These include anxiety, vitamin deficiencies, and medical conditions. Also, certain supplements like pre-workout products cause temporary tingles.

The main culprit behind the pre-workout itch is an ingredient called beta-alanine. At doses higher than 2g, beta-alanine has the harmless but irritating side effect of tingles.

What Exactly is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine powder

Beta-alanine is a beneficial amino acid found in most pre-workout supplements. It is classified as a non-essential amino acid, meaning your body produces it naturally. Beta-alanine is also found in food products like fish and meat.

Beta-alanine combines with amino acid histidine to produce a substance called carnosine. Carnosine is highly concentrated in the muscles, is helpful in muscular function, and has pronounced effects in improving exercise performance. (1)

During high-intensity exercise, your body produces lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the muscles. The accumulation of lactic acid is believed to be the reason for fatigue and muscle cramps. (2)

Carnosine absorbs lactic acid produced during exercise. This, in turn, helps balance the muscles’ pH and reduces neuromuscular fatigue.

Vegetarians and vegans have much lower carnosine levels in their muscles. This is because most dietary carnosine intake comes from fish, poultry, and meat. (3)

Health Benefits

Even with the annoying itchy side effects, beta-alanine remains hugely popular in pre-workout products. This is due to its important benefits, backed by solid science.

Here are a few benefits of beta-alanine. 

  • Enhances exercise performance and endurance: Beta-alanine increases muscle carnosine synthesis. Higher carnosine levels reduce muscle fatigue and improve performance. This is a massive advantage during endurance workouts. It allows you to do high-intensity workouts for a longer duration. (4)
  • Improves body composition: Studies have shown that beta-alanine intake aids muscle growth.
  • Enhances mental focus: Beta-alanine also helps you to focus better during workouts. Better focus yields better results.
  • Antioxidant activity: As you know by now, beta-alanine stimulates carnosine synthesis. Carnosine is an antioxidant. It has benefits such as improving immunity and anti-aging properties.

Side Effects of Beta-Alanine

  • Beta-alanine tingle: The only known side effect of beta-alanine is its infamous tingles. The sensation is harmless and short-lived.

Why Does Beta-Alanine Cause Tingles?

Beta Alanine & Tingles

There are a few different mechanisms by which beta-alanine causes tingles, and there is ongoing research to determine them. However, the interaction of beta-alanine with the nervous system is the leading cause of the tingles.

Beta-alanine triggers the nervous system and stimulates the neurons causing skin tingling and itching. 

Also, when you take supplements with beta-alanine, your body frees up histidine to bind with beta-alanine. Histidine also contributes to the itchy sensation associated with pre-workouts.

Is it Normal for Beta-Alanine to Cause Tingles?

Yes, beta-alanine tingles are a perfectly normal side effect of drinking pre-workout. It has no lasting damage and does not hurt you in any way. 

Some people are psychologically motivated to work out because of the tingles!

The tingly sensation tells them that the pre-workout is working and the body is ready for a hard workout.

How Long Does Pre-Workout Tingles Last?

The duration of tingles varies from person to person. You may have a few minutes to a couple of hours of tingles. If you are lucky, you may not get pre-workout tingles at all.

Generally, you’ll notice the tingly sensation within 20 mins of taking beta-alanine. The tingle will usually wear out in 30-45 minutes. However, some people are more sensitive to beta-alanine, and it might take about 4 hours for the tingles to subside. If you fall into this category, a few methods exist to reduce the itchy sensation or at least make it go away faster.

How Can You Avoid Pre-Workout Tingles?

woman holding up a supplement bottle and reading its label

If you find the tingling sensation unpleasant, there are several ways to stop beta-alanine itch.

Split The Supplement Into Multiple Doses. One tried, and proven method is to break down the pre-workout intake. So rather than taking a full dose of pre-workout before the gym, split it into smaller doses throughout the day.

You don’t have to take the supplement right before you exercise. So splitting the supplement will not affect your performance. It will only reduce or take away the annoying tingles.

Opt For A Supplement With A Sustained Release Formula. There are two types of pre-workout supplements. Rapid release formulas and sustained-release formulas. A sustained release formula will release the beta-alanine in smaller doses. This will reduce the chance of skin tingling.

Sustained release beta-alanine supplementation allows you to ingest higher levels of beta-alanine and quickly increase muscle carnosine levels. This is perfect for minimizing paresthesia.

Shift To A Lower Dose. Of course, you can always reduce your pre-workout dosage. A low dose will significantly reduce tingling but may also reduce the performance benefits. 

Purchase An Effective Supplement Without Beta-Alanine. Carefully go through the ingredients to choose a pre-workout formula without beta-alanine. Luckily you have a lot of beta-alanine-free pre-workouts to choose from. Here’s a list of some popular pre-workouts without beta-alanine.

Get A Professional Opinion. If you cannot get rid of the itchy skin even after stopping beta-alanine, there might be another reason. After all, pre-workout blends contain many more ingredients. You can seek help from a healthcare professional to change your pre-workout formula and find out if you are allergic to any other components in your pre-workout.

What Are the Other Pre-Workout Ingredients That Cause Itching?

two spoons filled with white powder

Although beta-alanine is the leading cause of pre-workout tingles, other ingredients have a similar effect. Niacin is one such ingredient. Niacin, more commonly known as vitamin B, is another ingredient commonly found in sports supplements. (5)

Niacin naturally occurs in many vegetables and animal proteins. Vitamin B is an essential nutrient, and it is beneficial to the working of the whole body.

The daily niacin requirement of an adult is 14-16 mg. At higher doses, niacin causes a similar tingly sensation to beta-alanine. 

However, if you exceed the daily dosage of niacin, you may be in for an itchy time. 

Too much niacin triggers the Langerhans cells of the body, resulting in an allergic-like reaction involving itching and redness in the skin. This reaction is known as a niacin flush. (6)

FAQs

Final Thoughts

Pre-workout products are essential for athletes and gym goers. They increase exercise capacity and determine how effective your workout is. But certain ingredients in pre-workouts can cause minor discomfort. The infamous beta-alanine itch is one such side effect.

If your pre-workout makes you uncomfortable and distracts you from your workout plan, it’s time for some changes. Try reducing the dosage or splitting up the intake of pre-workout. You could also shift to a sustained-release pre-workout supplement. If none of these methods work, opt for a beta-alanine-free supplement.

And always remember to complement your supplements with a healthy, well-balanced diet and plenty of water.

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257613/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3471061/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-nutrients-you-cant-get-from-plants
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20479615/#:~:text=The%20rate%2Dlimiting%20factor%20of,performance%20during%20high%2Dintensity%20exercise.
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-niacin/art-20364984
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2912206/

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I’m a fitness trainer and a health coach. My GOAL is to empower everyone to live a healthier life even after passing their prime. You can find more about me here.

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