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Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itch?
Everything You Need to Know

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 10, 2021

If you've ever used a pre-workout, you'll be well aware of "the itch" or the "skin tingles" that come along with it.

But what causes this phenomenon, and is it necessary? Do some pre-workouts include the itch on purpose to fake potency?

In this article, we'll look at the cause, some ways to lessen the effect, and what to avoid. Read on to find out more.

Why Does Pre-Workout Make Your Skin Itch?

human skin having a goosebumps

There are two ingredients common in pre-workouts that make you itch: Beta-alanine and Niacin.

Let’s talk more about these two in the next section.

"Paresthesia" is the proper term for that familiar tingling feeling.

Depending on the pre-workout and sensitivity, it may feel like burning, itchiness, tingling, or numbness.

However it affects you though, it's a distraction you don't necessarily need during a workout.

If your pre-workout causes that tingling or itchy sensation, you might be sensitive or have an underlying allergy to its ingredients.

If this is the case, you will probably have to see a physician or switch brands.

Pre-Workout Ingredients That May Cause Itching

three spoons filled with white powder

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is well known to cause acute paresthesia [1] and is incredibly popular in lots of pre-workout formulas.

Whether it should be popular is an issue we'll get into a little later.

Beta-alanine is so powerful at creating that tingle side effect that some can even feel it on their lips as they drink it.

"Beta-alanine binds and activates a specific type of receptors in certain dermal neurons. Activation of these neurons causes the sensations of burning, itching, and tingling." -Dr. Pamela S. Hinton, Ph.D.

Niacin

Niacin is also known for the side effect of the itch or tingle, which is also sometimes called a Niacin-flush. [2]

This ingredient is much cheaper and requires much higher doses to bring on the tingling at over 200% of the recommended daily value. The research into its effect on performance is even less than that for beta-alanine.

We'll get into that further below.

Is Beta-Alanine Good For Pre-Workout?

white powder coming from an opened capsule

Yes, Beta-alanine can be suitable for pre-workout supplements, but only if you're working out every day.

The studies into the efficacy of beta-alanine in pre-workout supplements show that the non-essential amino acid is only effective at doses of 4-6mg taken every day.

Even then, you'll only feel the effect after you've been taking the pre-workout supplements for a few weeks. [3]

It isn't required or recommended if you only work out once or twice a week.

You should also consider that if the amount is less than the recommended 4mg in most pre-workouts, it's in there to intentionally cause the tingling.

Some pre-workout supplements want their customers to "feel the power," and they're happy to mislead them deliberately.

Is Niacin Good For Pre-Workout?

tablets scattered from an opened bottle

No, niacin is not good to include in pre-workout supplements.

Considering the research and studies we've looked into, there is no real relevant reason for it to be in any formula other than to elicit paresthesia deliberately.

It dupes the consumer into thinking the pre-workout is more potent than it is.

Most pre-workout supplements have over 200% daily value of the B-vitamin, which has no clear boost on performance but is coincidentally the necessary amount to create the tingling sensation.

If you see a pre-workout with this heavy dosage of niacin, I would recommend you avoid it altogether. [4]

How To Prevent Skin Tingles When Taking Pre-Workout

woman holding up a bottle pill and reading its label

If you find the beta-alanine side effects to be an itch you can't scratch, then there are some ways you can try to lessen the side effects of the supplement.

1. Smaller Dose

If you're using Beta-alanine at all, we recommend taking the supplement at doses of between 4-6mg.

The study mentioned above outlines the optimal amount.

If, however, that is just too much for your body to bear, you could try consistent doses of a smaller amount of the amino acid. You might not get a pronounced supplement to your performance, but the sensation of the itch might be more bearable.

2. Sustained Release

man about to drink a pill

If you are serious about your training and you're in it for the long haul, then a slow-release version of your Beta-alanine supplement could be the best of both worlds.

Beta-alanine is ideal for enhancing performance for those looking to use it daily and slowly release the supplement throughout the day.

Training for a marathon?

Then this is what you want.

3. Look for BetaPrime

It's a relatively new formulation. However, the research promises that the BetaPrime patented blend of nutraceuticals reduces or prevents the paresthesia effect of regular Beta-alanine supplements.

So look for products that use this version of Beta-alanine and give it a try if you want to treat, cure, or prevent the Beta-alanine tingly sensation

FAQs

What Is The Recommended Dose For Beta-Alanine?

The recommended dose for Beta-alanine supplementation is 4-6mg.

Since it is a daily supplement, it's more suited to those who work out consistently.

After taking Beta-alanine for four weeks, you may see around a 64% increase in muscle carnosine levels.

After ten weeks, this can be up to an 80% increase in muscle carnosine.

How Long Does The Beta-Alanine Pre-Workout Itch Last?

The itching sensation from Beta-alanine can kick in around 15 minutes after taking and can last up to half an hour.

The benefits of this supplement slowly build up in the body.

After a while, the body may become more used to the sensation. The itching is unbearable and lasts longer for some people.

In contrast, others only feel a little itchy for a very brief period.

Are There Any Other Side Effects In Taking Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine's only natural side effect is the itch, and to be honest, for many, that is more than enough to put them off.

The tingling or itching is why you're here, after all, and the intensity of the sensation varies from person to person.

It's not harmful, and the paresthesia does subside, but you have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

Is Beta-Alanine Supplement Safe?

Yes, this ingredient and most of the pre-workouts that contain it are safe for the most part.

There are exceptions, however.

Supplements like this are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease and, as such, have not undergone the evaluation of the food and drug administration.

Keep an eye out for telltale signs that you're buying a cheap formula, such as underdosing or the inclusion of known placebo ingredients.

Do You Need To Tolerate The Tingle For A Good Pre-Workout?

The easy answer is no, not really.

However, I do think there are some possible benefits to Beta-alanine supplementation.

If you're working out every day or training for something big like a marathon, then it's possible it could help.

Even then, you don't need to endure the itch.

You can try a slow-release version of the supplement that will give you what you need throughout the day or workout rather than all at once.

There is even less reason to include niacin.

While the nutritional benefits of taking Beta-alanine might seem negligible, they do overstack. It then gives you that faux stim buzz tingle implies the formula as a whole is suspect.

How do you deal with itch or tingling caused by pre-workouts?


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491570/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2912206/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4501114/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413194/

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2 thoughts on “Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itch?
Everything You Need to Know

  1. According to my dermatologist, beta-alanine makes me itch. Do you guys know a pre-workout that doesn’t have beta-alanine?

  2. So you can be allergic to pre-workout if you have an allergy to one of its ingredients. We can all be cautious by checking the raw materials used first.

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