How long does pre-workout last in the body?

Pre-workout supplements are a popular option for fitness enthusiasts hoping to boost their performance in the gym.

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.

But 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 focus, 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 performance-enhancing compounds.

Common ingredients include:

  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Beta-alanine
  • Creatine monohydrate
  • BCAAs
  • Taurine
  • B-vitamins
  • NO2 boosters

How Long Do Pre-Workout Supplements Take To Work?

The different ingredients in a pre-workout supplement can vary 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.

The Curse pre workout

If you take it just before you start, it 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. Ingredients in the formulation such as l-citrulline that help with blood flow can also help this feeling. That energy boost and is particularly useful in a pre-workout if you are trying to lose weight. It will help you to power through your gym session!

#3 – Enhanced Strength and Endurance

If you’re able to lift more for longer then your pre-workout is doing its job. Ingredients such as creatine will help with muscular energy.

creatine powder

Beta-alanine will reduce the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. 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

Pre-workouts 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.

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:

  • Jitters
  • Itching
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

How Long Does Pre-Workout Stay In Your System?

Just like the 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 having an effect on you.

For example, caffeine stays in your system for around 5-6 hours but it has a stimulant effect for around 60-90 mins. Beta-alanine gives you an energy boost for around 45-60 mins.

Creatine has a biological half-life of 3 hours but can stay in the system for weeks if it has built up in the muscles.

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.

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.

man doing exercise in the gym

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 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 really 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.

Caffeine

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.

Final Thoughts

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 definitely 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.