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What Does Pre-Workout Feel Like? (My Personal Results)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 9, 2022

One question I get a lot as a personal fitness trainer is what it will feel like during a workout session when my clients take pre-workout products.

Now, before you think it’s going to be an Incredible Hulk-like effect where you develop superhuman strength and rip off your shirt, let me tell you that it’s a lot more subtle than that.

But to give you the most accurate idea of what to expect, we have done a load of research on many pre-workout supplements with our clients.

And that has given us a lot of data to highlight some things to be aware of.

Summary of Key Findings

  • Most pre-workout supplements are based on a few natural ingredients like amino acids that aim to trigger a small energy boost.
  • Before taking pre-workouts, you have to be aware of some of the effects it has on the body that might feel a bit weird.
  • While there are common side effects of pre-workouts, they are generally mild and don't last for long.

5 Common Pre-Workout Feelings

close up view of skin in goosebumps and a lady exhausted after running

Here are the five most common things you’ll notice when you first start taking a pre-workout before a training session. Watch out for them 20 to 30 minutes after taking the supplement.

1. Jittery

Some of the best pre-workout supplement options out there will contain some caffeine as both a physical and mental stimulant. But it all comes down to how much caffeine is in each dosage and whether or not you’re a coffee drinker.

Based on our research, 400 mg is the recommended safe limit for caffeine intake [1]. But some pre-workouts will contain over 200 mg, and if you had a cup of coffee on the way to the gym, then you can quickly end up with your nervous system and brain in jitter mode.

Some caffeine is good for your focus and motivation, but avoid getting jittery as it won’t do you much good at the gym.

2. Itchy

person with itchy neck

B vitamins are a common ingredient in pre-workout formulas, especially B3.

You’ll often find this labeled as niacin, and it may help boost athletic performance. It does this by helping release energy from carbs and fat, which then can be used as muscle fuel [2].

But there is also evidence that it can make your skin feel itchy [3].

It’s not the most pleasant feeling, and some people do find it distracting when they are lifting weights.

But it can also serve as an indicator that your body has absorbed the pre-workout ingredients, and you’re ready to start pushing a bit more.

3. Tingling Sensation

This is one of the more common effects of pre-workout supplements, and it’s something that most people can live with. It’s mainly down to an amino acid called beta-alanine.

Your body produces it naturally, and when you get a boost of it, your body may react by increasing the available energy for muscles to perform under high intensity [4]. But, your body may also respond to pre-workout with a tingling sensation in the hands and feet that can last for about an hour.

“Beta-alanine is one of carnosine's main ingredients. Beta-alanine supplements are thought to boost the production of carnosine and, in turn, boost sports performance.” - WebMD.com. 

It’s nothing harmful, and most people will train right through it and not feel it anymore by the end of the workout.

4. Pumping Muscles

man checking himself in the mirror during a muscle pump

Not every pre-workout supplement will include citrulline, which has been linked to boosting nitric oxide levels [5].

The important reason is that nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and allows blood to flow more easily.

And when you increase blood flow to muscles, they swell up a lot more. It’s the famous pre-workout for pump that we bodybuilders look for.

It may also boost energy levels as the increased blood flow will deliver more oxygen to the muscles to allow them to work more efficiently.

5. Headaches

In my experience and research, this is the least common side effect that you might encounter with a pre-workout supplement. It’s most likely down to those products with very high caffeine doses [6].

If you’ve had too many cups of coffee, then you might know how bad those headaches can become. But for anyone sensitive to the effects of caffeine, there should be plenty of other products available that don’t contain such stimulants.

How Can You Limit These Feelings?

The first thing I would suggest is eliminating caffeine. While it may help you stay more focused, there are better ingredients in pre-workout supplements to give you that performance boost.

If you find the beta-alanine tingle too much to deal with, I would suggest decreasing the dosage a bit for a couple of weeks; you may get used to it, allowing you to gradually increase it again.

The other thing you can do is simply focus on the lifting and train right through those tingles.

FAQs

Does Pre-workout Give You a Buzz?

Yes, pre-workout might give you a buzz. It’s mainly down to some of them containing a strong dose of stimulants like caffeine. But the energy boost from amino acids can also make you feel more active.

Do You Feel Pre-workout Supplements Immediately?

No, you won’t feel anything immediately after taking pre-workout supplements. In my experience, it takes about 20 to 40 minutes for your body to absorb the ingredients, and you should do a few trials with different timing to get the best effects [7].

Do You Know What To Look Out For With Pre-Workouts?

A pre-workout supplement can become your little secret weapon in achieving your fitness and strength goals a lot sooner.

But the positive boost may come with a few side effects that you need to look out for.

They are completely harmless effects, and tweaking the dose or switching to different ingredients can be a great option.


References:

  1. https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/body/food/too-much-caffeine
  2. https://www.gbhealthwatch.com/Nutrient-Niacin-Overview.php
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2779993/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257613/
  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.584669/full
  6. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/does-caffeine-treat-or-trigger-headaches
  7. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/the-science-behind-the-best-pre-and-post-workout-supps.html

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