We all have days when the last thing we feel like doing is working out. Lack of sleep, too much stress, or low motivation can mean you’d rather lounge on your sofa than do lunges in the gym! For some people, this is a rare situation, but others feel unmotivated and unenergized all of the time.
Of course, the more workouts you miss, the longer it will take to reach your fitness goals. You can’t store fitness and the benefits of working out soon vanish if you aren’t consistent.
In other situations, you might make it to the gym but then feel unable to complete your planned workout. As the saying goes, the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!
Pre-workouts are designed to provide the mental and physical energy necessary to have a good workout. They’re some of the most popular sports supplements currently available and were created to get you through even the most challenging training session.
A strong cup of coffee can give you a similar boost, but pre-workouts are engineered specifically for exercisers. They’re potent supplements, and their effects can be felt for hours, so it’s important to know how long does a pre-workout last.
In this article, we examine the effects, benefits, and potential risks of using pre-workout supplements.
How Long Does Pre Workout Last
What Is a Pre-Workout?
A pre-workout is a sports supplement designed to boost your energy for exercise. There are lots of different formulations, but the aim is usually the same – to train longer and harder than usual.
The effects of pre-workouts include:
- More energy
- Less fatigue
- Better endurance
- Increased focus
- A better pump
- Increased strength
- Faster recovery
Some pre-workouts contain large doses of caffeine, while others are stim-free. Most pre-workouts contain little or no sugar and carbs so that they won’t interfere with fat loss. This also means that most pre-workouts are compatible with the ketogenic diet.
All genders can use pre-workouts, but there are products specifically designed for women. These tend to have lower amounts of caffeine.
Most pre-workouts are powders designed to be mixed with water. However, there are some pre-workout tablets too.
When to Take It?
Pre-workouts are usually relatively fast-acting, so they should be taken 15-30 minutes before exercise. This gives them enough time to kick in, but not so long that they start to lose their effect. Different products kick in at differing speeds, so make sure you follow the instructions for the pre-workout you are using.
That said, depending on your sensitivity to the ingredients, you may find that your pre-workout starts to work sooner or later than expected. Because of this, you’ll need to adjust the timing of your dose according to how it affects you.
How Long Does It Last?
Most pre-workouts last 1-3 hours, depending on the strength of the formulation. This should be long enough for most training sessions. The clearance time depends on your tolerance to the ingredients.
If you are very caffeine-sensitive, you’ll probably find that the effects of your pre-workout last longer. In contrast, if you have a good tolerance to caffeine (and the other ingredients), the effects will probably wear off sooner.
Also, if you double-dose, you should find your pre-workout lasts longer. Some products actually suggest you start with a low dose to determine your tolerance and then increase as you get used to using a pre-workout.
- Week 1 – half serving
- Week 2 – three-quarter serving
- Week 3-6 full serving
- Week 7 – one and a quarter serving
- Week 8 – one and a half serving
- Week 9 – one and three-quarter serving
- Week 10 – double serving
Most people start to develop a tolerance to their pre-workout, so its effects are less noticeable and wear off faster over time. Increasing your dosage can help ensure you still feel your pre-workout working, but it may also be necessary to switch to a different product with alternative ingredients.
Pre-workouts have several noticeable and welcome effects, including more energy, less fatigue, increased focus, and a better pump. However, they can have negative side effects too, including:
Feeling jittery and anxious
Some pre-workouts contain large amounts of caffeine, often the equivalent of several cups of coffee. Even if you have a good tolerance to caffeine, this can leave you feeling anxious and jittery.
This side effect might not be too much of an issue during your workout, but it could be a problem if you want to relax, concentrate, work, or sleep shortly after training.
A lot of pre-workout supplements contain creatine. Creatine is a non-stim energizer that increases muscle strength and endurance. Creatine is a well-researched and generally safe ingredient, but it can cause water retention and bloating.
Red, tingly, itchy skin
Most pre-workouts contain vasodilators that open up your blood vessels for better blood flow, more energy, and a more noticeable pump. These ingredients are harmless but can cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, leading to red, tingly, itchy skin. Some people find this effect uncomfortable.
For some users, this effect tells them their pre-workout is kicking in, but it’s a distraction for others. Any reddening or tingling will dissipate as the pre-workout begins to wear off.
If you are sensitive to any of the ingredients in your pre-workout, you may experience stomach cramps or digestive upsets. This problem is best avoided by starting with a small dose and increasing gradually over several weeks to determine your tolerance.
A large dose of caffeine can take several hours to wear off. If you use a pre-workout too close to bedtime, you could find yourself unable to sleep. If you work out at night, a non-stim pre-workout is probably your best choice.
Large doses of caffeine can cause headaches in some people. This side effect is more likely if you also drink a lot of coffee, as you’ll have even more caffeine in your system. However, it’s not just caffeine that can cause headaches; the ingredients responsible for vasodilation can also cause this unwanted side effect.
Is Long-Term Pre-Workout Use Healthy?
Pre-workouts can be very useful, but it’s not a good idea to use one all the time. The more often you use a pre-workout, the sooner you will develop a tolerance, and the more you’ll have to take to get the same effect. However, the bigger the dose, the more unwanted side-effects you’ll get.
Overdosing on caffeine is not good for your long-term health and could lead to adrenal burn-out and lasting fatigue.
Also, if you feel like you are unable to exercise without a pre-workout, it could be that you are ignoring your body’s need for rest and recovery. Feeling tired all the time is not natural and suggests that you need to get more sleep, eat more healthily, and give your body more time to recover between workouts.
The best (and healthiest) way to use a pre-workout is to save it for your most challenging workouts of the week (leg day!) or those occasions when you want to train but also need a short-term energy boost, maybe after a night of disrupted sleep.
You’ll get more noticeable results from your pre-workout if you use it infrequently, i.e., a couple of times a week and not every day.
Pre-workouts are very popular. Usually loaded with caffeine and other fatigue-fighting ingredients, a shot of your favorite pre-workout will boost your energy and focus so that you can work out harder and longer than usual, even on those days when you don’t feel like hitting the gym.
Of course, longer, more intense workouts are a double-edged sword as they take more out of your body. That means you need to pay extra attention to rest and nutrition so that your body can recover from your super-charged workouts.
Pre-workouts are mostly safe to use, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t come with unwanted side effects. Products with a high caffeine content can cause anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia, and some also cause itchy, tingly skin, water retention, and stomach upsets.
Most of these side effects can be avoided by using a half-dose of pre-workout and only taking more as your tolerance to the ingredients improves.
As useful as pre-workouts are, you don’t have to use one if you don’t want to. For some people, the side effects outweigh the benefits. Others use pre-workouts to make up for a chronic lack of sleep or not resting enough between workouts.
That said, using a pre-workout before tough workouts or on those days you feel your energy levels shouldn’t do you any harm and could make exercise a little more productive.