Pre-workout supplements are a popular means of improving physical performance. You can pretty much guarantee that a lot of people at your gym are using them.
Whether you’re new to the gym or you’re a hardened veteran, pre-workouts could be just the thing to help you to achieve your fitness goals faster.
However, one thing that many people don’t know is how long these supplements will stay in your system and if you may get side effects from them. It’s important to know this information if you’re concerned about what you’re doing to your body
So before you dive into the world of pre-workout supplements, you may want to know the effects they can have and how long those effects might last.
Read on to find out how long pre-workouts stay in your system.
What Is A Pre-Workout?
Pre-workouts are supplements designed to give your body extra fuel for your workout. They usually come in the form of shakes or pills. Many studies have tested pre-workout supplements and they really do work.
Taking a pre-workout can increase your VO2 max, mental performance, strength, endurance and recovery. Some can also increase your metabolism for weight loss.
The ingredients vary slightly between different brands, but they often contain a stimulant in some form combined with other athletic performance-enhancing compounds.
Common ingredients include:
- Creatine Monohydrate
- NO2 boosters
How Long Do Pre-Workout Supplements Take To Work?
The different ingredients in a pre-workout supplement can vary and how long they start to have a physical effect on your body. Generally, the accepted best time to take your pre-workout is around 30 minutes before you start your session.
If you take it just before you start, the pre-workout will start kicking in when you are part-way through your session. This is a good strategy used by some weightlifters who feel that they usually have less energy later in their workout routine.
How To Tell If A Pre-Workout Has Started Working?
Everyone’s body is different but there are a few telltale signs that your pre-workout is kicking in:
#1 – Increased Mental Focus
If a cup of coffee helps you to focus, then the stimulants you find in pre-workout supplements are going to give you a benefit. If you find yourself suddenly able to focus intently on what you’re doing then your pre-workout has probably started to work.
#2 – Increased Energy Levels
Feeling that you have more energy means that the stimulants and caffeine in your pre-workout are doing exactly what they should.
The commonly included ingredient l-citrulline is converted to nitric oxide. This causes blood vessels to expand helping to improve blood flow and can also help this feeling.
That energy boost is particularly useful in a pre-workout if you are trying to lose weight. It will help you to power through your gym session!
Remember, that excessive caffeine consumption or taking stimulants too close to bedtime can have negative side effects on your sleep. Consuming too much over a long period can least to an increase in blood pressure and heart issues.
#3 – Enhanced Strength and Endurance
If you’re able to lift more for longer then your pre-workout is doing its job. Active ingredients such as creatine will help with muscular energy.
Beta-alanine will reduce the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles and therefore muscle fatigue. So you should feel that you can push a few extra reps in your sets.
#4 – A Tingling Sensation
A common experience for people taking pre-workouts is that their skin starts tingling when the supplement is kicking in, and it is usually caused by the amino acid beta-alanine.
This is known as a histamine response and is a sign that it’s time to start your sweat sesh and ride the pre-workout wave.
#5 – Side Effects
These dietary supplements can have some side effects and if you experience these then it means that your pre-workout has started working. They can generally occur if you take too much pre-workout.
Of course, if these side effects are very unpleasant for you, it might be a good idea to try out a different kind of pre-workout product or another supplement that works better for your body.
Common side effects include:
How Long Does Pre-Workout Stay In Your System?
I covered how long C4 pre-workout lasts in the past but different supplement effect times can vary. Different elements in your pre-workout can affect how long it takes to start working, these also stay in your system for varying lengths of time.
Something else to consider is that just because the ingredient is still in your system, it doesn’t mean that it is still affecting you.
For example, caffeine has a half life of around 5-6 hours but it has a stimulant effect for around 60-90 mins. Beta-alanine works for around 45-60 mins.
Studies suggest that creatine has a biological half-life of around 5 hours but can stay in the system for weeks if it has built up in the muscle tissue.
Caffeine’s half-life of 5 hours means that after this time, half of the amount that you consumed is still in your body. After another 5 hours, a quarter of the original dose is still present in the body.
So the average amount of time that you get the most out of your pre-workout will be about an hour.
Some of the ingredients might hang around in your body for a lot longer than that, but they won’t be giving you the performance boost for that entire time. There are also some techniques to get pre-workout out of your system in a quicker time if you find the effects undesirable.
The BCAAs included in some supplements have longer-term effects. These include reducing muscle soreness and stimulating muscle growth.
What Can Change The Effects Of A Pre-Workout Supplement?
So we’ve talked about how long it might take your pre-workout to kick in, the side effects could be, and how long it stays in your system, but all of this is just averages.
The effect of your pre-workout on you if you take it today could be very different and there are a few reasons for this:
#1 – The Dosage You Take
Of course, the more of a pre-workout supplement you take, the stronger the effects are going to be. This can mean that the boost to your exercise performance is greater and can be tempting if the supplement is a tasty one, but it can also mean that the unpleasant side effects are stronger.
It can take some time to find the right balance for you, so it is worth using a little trial and error to get to that sweet spot.
#2 – The Quality Of The Supplement
Some pre-workout supplements are just better than others.
If you’re just looking for a little boost, then going for a cheaper option that doesn’t have such strong effects can be a great choice.
If you’re looking for better workout performance, however, then going for a higher-quality supplement with more ingredients and quality ingredients can give you the effect you are looking for.
#3 – Your Diet
The question of when to eat before exercise can be even more complicated when we’re talking about using pre-workout products.
Some people find that taking a supplement like this on an empty stomach can give them nausea but if you take them after eating a heavy meal, it can reduce the effects.
#4 – Your Body
The effects of any supplement can vary wildly depending on your body composition. This includes your overall body mass, height, weight, gender, and muscle mass.
#5 – Your sensitivity to ingredients
Some people are just more sensitive to the common ingredients in pre-workout supplements than others.
For example, some people get the jitters from a cup of coffee whereas others can drink caffeine all day and not experience any side effects at all. If you are a beginner, starting with a small dose at first is very important if you are sensitive to caffeine.
Caffeine amounts per serving can vary a lot between pre-workout supplements. So be sure to check the dose of caffeine per serving in the ingredients list.
Pre-workout supplements can help give you the advantage you need to reach your training goals. The ingredients in them can vary so finding the right one for you is important.
They usually take around 30 minutes to kick in and are effective for around an hour (but some ingredients stay in your system for much longer).
The effects can vary depending on factors including the amount and quality of the supplement you use, your diet, your body, and your sensitivity to the ingredients.
So it is worth spending some time doing your research and considering what you want to achieve, as well as trying out different supplements to find out which is best for you.