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Why Your Pre-Workout Is Not Working Anymore (6 Main Reasons)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 25, 2023
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The first time you took pre-workout, you probably felt like the Hulk, effortlessly pumping out reps and energy running through your body.

But, after some time, it stops working.

You're not the only one. Many of my clients had the same issue, so I researched why this happens and what you can do to fix it.

Quick Summary

  • Pre-workouts might not be working because of dehydration as water influence your performance when taken with this supplement.
  • The pre-workout dosage an individual takes influences results and that is why you should take the recommended dosage.
  • Poor nutrition can also make pre-workouts ineffective.

Why Does Pre-Workout Supplement Stop Working?

A hand catching falling supplements

The reasons why pre-workout stops working are both psychological and physiological.

They are psychological because people are incredibly adept at adapting to environmental changes.

When you start taking supplements for the first time, you’ll feel the boost in:

  • Physical energy
  • Blood flow
  • Endurance
  • Mental focus

“We sense this change very dramatically the first few times it happens, but then we become accustomed to the feeling, so subsequent uses of the very same product at the very same dose will feel ‘less’ in terms of the magnitude of effect.”

- Nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., L.D.N., Author of A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements

As for the physiological reasons, it boils down to your cellular receptors becoming saturated when you take pre-workout supplements every day.

As a result, your nerve endings become desensitized, which reduces the pre-workout effects.

Here are the most common causes why your pre-workout stopped working:

1. Dehydration

A woman dehydrated holding a water

How much water you take with pre-workout as well as during working out will directly influence the performance.

Did you know? By losing as little as 4.5% of water in your body classifies as moderately dehydrated (1).

This means, by the time you’re thirsty, you’ve already spent time being dehydrated.

Pro tip: When you feel tired, mix your pre-workout with more water, and drink lots of water during working out.

This will affect your mood, improve circulation, and stop pre-workout effects from being negated.

2. Meal Time

It comes down to this: timing your meals is crucial and can’t be avoided. When taking pre-workout, you shouldn’t have too much food in your system.

A good rule to follow is to avoid eating during a specific time window of working out:

  • Proper meal — 3 hours
  • Medium meal — 2 hours
  • Liquid meal — 1 hour

If you time the meal correctly, you’ll reduce the energy drain caused by the digestion process.

You can have a small meal or about 15g of whey protein before lifting if you need to.

3. Dosage

A woman lying on a table with spilled supplements

Another factor that influences pre-workout effectiveness is dosage. Having too much will result in ineffective pre-workouts.

When you first start taking the pre-workout supplement, you should take the dosage recommended on the packaging, or less.

Listen to the chemist's advice — if you benefited from taking more and not less, the experts would say so, if nothing else to benefit supplement companies and raise the price of the shares.

Too much stimulant will make you feel terrible or even sick.

4. Poor Nutrition Choices

Good nutrition is everything. While it’s not that often that a diet affects pre-workouts effectiveness, it can happen.

If you’re not taking enough B vitamins, calories, and protein, this will reduce pre-workout supplement power and your energy levels.

To produce enough energy, you need:

  • Carbs
  • Amino acid
  • Protein

The fact is, without these, you won’t have enough energy no matter the amount of caffeine and energy drinks you take.

5. Sleep Deprivation

A yawning exhausted woman

If you don’t get enough sleep, it will mess up your body and give you a bad workout, no matter what workout supplement you’re taking.

During the night, our bodies repair, refresh the mind and take care of hormones.

If you don’t get good quality sleep, hormones will be messed up, and your ability to build muscles goes down, while your ability to store fat goes up.

You should have 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night for your pre-workout to work correctly.

6. Pre-Workout Overuse

Overuse of pre-workouts can reduce the benefits of supplementation products.

If you’re taking pre-workout supplements such as Jack3d, C4, and others every single day, your body will be over-saturated, and supplements won’t do a lot for you.

Note: While this is true for most ingredients, there are some exceptions, such as beta-alanine.

After several weeks you won’t get that skin-crawling effect, but it doesn’t mean the product has stopped working.

This is one product where even if you don’t feel the effects of taking it, you can rest assured it’s doing its job.

However, there are ingredients you don’t want to get used to, such as caffeine. If you aren’t getting a kick from your pre-workout, the reason could be not enough caffeine.

Check the ingredients, but I don’t recommend going for more than 400mg of caffeine. This is the recommended daily intake. (2)

It’s alright to use pre-workout products for a couple of months, but then you’ll need to pause taking them for a month or two to reset your body.

Pro tip: If you can’t go without pre-workout, have a scoop of pre-workout without stimulants.

What To Do When It Stops Working

Woman holding a supplement container and thinking about replacing it

When you feel that your supplement isn’t working as it used to, it’s not the end of the world. Here’s how to get the most out of your pre-workout, even if you’ve been using it for a while.

1. Take Some Time Off From Using Pre-Workout Supplements

The first thing you can do is take some time off from using certain products to reset your body and allow the sensitivity to build back up.

Yes, supplementation can help your weight training.

Still, every supplement brand has its own formula, advised amount of scoops, and recommended time off, such as two weeks off after two months of supplementation.

People who don’t use the time off can experience upset:

  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble with glands
  • Harmful effect on blood vessels
  • Increased heart rate

If your energy drink or supplement's main ingredient is caffeine, you need to consider your coffee intake. This can overlap with and affect how the supplement affects you.

Take some time off from supplementation, especially pre-workouts containing caffeine, and you’ll gain your sensitivity back.

2. Change the Pre-Workout

A spilled blue and red pills

If your pre-workout products aren’t working, change them.

Maybe the formula doesn’t suit you, or you need to change how many scoops you take.

Pwo formula varieties will have different results on different guys. It also means, after some time off, most guys will have improved caffeine sensitivity, which will be beneficial.

Be careful with what affiliate links you use, and read the ingredient list.

Go on the brand’s site or download the app. For example, the c4 or citrulline malate won’t have the same ingredients or choose a supplement without stimulants to have that performance-boosting effect.

Do You Struggle With Pre-Workout Not Working?

I've covered all the most common reasons why pre-workouts stop working and some of the possible solutions.

Remember: Pre-workouts aren't meant for long-term use. Yes, they can be used for several months, but then you'll have to pause taking them for a month or two to reset your system.

Did you struggle with pre-workouts not working? Let me know your experience in the comments below.


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