After post workout protein shakes, pre-workouts are by far my most favored supplement. I know that a lot of people tend to look to fat burners for better results, but I think the average person will gain more from some extra energy at the gym.
One thing I see with a lot of my clients is that when they start taking pre-workouts, they get the timing wrong.
And because some pre-workouts contain stimulants, you do have to be careful when you take them to avoid a sleepless night.
So, the big question you need to answer before timing your intake is: how long does pre-workout last?
How Long Does It Take For Pre-Workout To Kick In?
It takes about 30 minutes for pre-workout to kick in, but this is dependent on the active pre-workout ingredients, your metabolism, and your body’s pre-workout tolerance.
One of the tips I give my clients is to take your pre-workout supplement 30 minutes before your workout - specifically your warm-up routine. For most people that will mean taking it at home and then heading to the gym.
During the time before you start exercising, simply look out for the above effects. If they start to kick in 5 or 10 minutes too early, then you’ll know how to adjust your timing the next time you take your pre-workout supplement.
How Long Does Pre-Workout Stay In Your System?
Most pre-workout supplements and ingredients will stay in your system for 4 to 6 hours. While many pre-workout ingredients will remain in your body for at least that long, most of them, including caffeine, will provide a peak effect after about 30 to 60 minutes.
Here is a rough guide you can use to estimate how long different ingredients in pre-workout supplements will stay in your system.
- Caffeine - Surprisingly, caffeine can stay in your system for up to 5 hours. However, this doesn’t mean that it continues to provide stimulation. The effects will usually start wearing off after 60 to 90 minutes. It doesn't matter whether it's from coffee, caffeine pills or pre-workouts, they're all the same.
- Green Tea Extract - Green tea has a small amount of caffeine that you have to account for, and the same timing is valid as above. The detox effects are not stimulating, so you don’t need to worry about how long they last. (2)
- Beta-Alanine - This is the stuff that can make you feel itchy, or give you a tingling sensation in your muscles. The energy boost will last for about 45 to 60 mins, and the tingling effects generally don’t last longer than 60 mins.
- L-Carnitine - For this one, there isn’t any clear scientific answer yet, mainly because your body produces it naturally as well. It starts acting within about half an hour, and it’s probably safe to assume that it wears off in less than an hour.
- CLA - Conjugated linoleic acid is becoming more common in pre-workout products, and the good thing is that it has no stimulating effect. Making it easier for your body to process fat to increase energy levels, you can expect this ingredient in pre-workout supplements to last for about 60 to 90 minutes.
Beyond its use in weight loss, proponents of CLA supplementation believe that it can enhance athletic performance by stimulating testosterone production in the Leydig cells of the testicles.
- Cathy Wong, Certified Nutrition Specialist
What Can Influence How Long Your Pre-Workout Supplement Lasts?
Beyond your body’s natural ability to absorb, use, and remove nutrients, there are a few things that directly influence how long pre-workout supplement will last. And some of them can result in negative side effects.
1. Diet And Fasting
How often and how much you eat will have an impact on how your body is able to digest and process the ingredients of your pre-workout.
Also, if you drink a lot of coffee during the day, then you can end up struggling to remove the caffeine, which can impact your sleep. Also, during fasting periods, you might find that your pre-workout supplements don’t seem to last as long, so make sure you factor that into your plans.
Certain nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin C, zinc, calcium, and magnesium can also affect not only the absorption of the ingredients in your pre-workout, but also their metabolism.
2. Overuse Of Supplements
Unless you’re a high-performance or professional athlete, it can easily happen that you end up taking more supplements than are necessary or healthy.
If you’re taking pre-workout, creatine, fat burners, whey, and BCAA supplements, then it can quickly happen that some of the stimulating effects are amplified.
One thing that's not often talked about in the fitness bodybuilding world is using erectile dysfunction (ED) medications as a pre-workout.
How Do You Know The Pre-Workout Has Started Working?
Some people say you just know, but for anyone that has never consumed one of these pre-workout supplements, that can be a bit confusing.
So, here are the effects that you can expect to feel in your body.
1. Sudden Boost In Mental Focus And Motivation
One of the first real benefits you should notice when your pre-workout supplement kicks in is that your mind becomes very focused. You can concentrate on tasks better, which really helps when you’re working through your limited time at the gym.
This is often down to the caffeine boost if the pre-workout supplements includes caffeine and other stimulants. Just make sure you’re careful with your coffee intake not to overstimulate your body.
If you're sensitive to caffeine, you can take a stimulant-free pre-workout supplement.
Related Article: Pre-Workout Vs. Coffee - Which is Better?
2. Tingling Sensation
Some describe this as an itchy feeling in the skin or as pins and needles in your muscles. It’s not something to be worried about as it is one of the very normal side effects of pre-workouts.
But why does pre-workout make you itch?
At the same time, it can stimulate nerve endings in your skin, which gives you that itchy feeling.
However, the less common is a histamine response to some ingredients in a pre-workout, so if this feeling lasts for longer than a few hours, make sure you check for any allergies you may have.
3. Surge Of Muscle Energy
If you’ve timed your pre-workout supplements well (ideally about 20 minutes before training), then you should notice a good boost in energy right around your warm-up routine.
As you start with the more intense part of your workout - ideally compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, etc. - you should be able to get through sets with more ease and feel much better pumps.
Depending on the pre-workout you took, you might still have some energy left over for your isolation exercises.
Pre-workout supplements are an excellent way to maximize the impact of the time you spend in training.
If you can even just get a 10 to 15% boost, then that will mean you can get to your goals considerably faster.
The best pre-workout supplements are generally safe to take, as long as you check for allergens that may affect you, and if you start with smaller doses, then you get a good idea of what your ideal intake level will be, and how long they last on average for you.
Make sure you check out some of our recommended pre-workout supplements and let us know of Facebook how they work out for you:
1. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Ross R, Kang J, Stout JR, Wise JA., Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players., retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083385/
2. Cleveland Clinic, Green Tea Extract: Pros and Cons for Energy, Weight Loss and More, retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/green-tea-extract-a-better-way-to-boost-energy-or-not/