October 09, 2021 5 min read

Pre-workout can be an extremely useful tool for any lifter. It can supply a lot of necessary energy for a particularly tough workout. Sometimes it can be hard to really bring the intensity when you’re still groggy from waking up in the morning, or from a hard day of work.

Additionally, plenty of pre-workout blends will have something extra to really make your pump memorable. Still, the question remains how long does pre-workout take before it kicks in? We’ll cover just that and a little more with this article. 

What Is Pre-Workout?

This is a quick introduction for those of you who don’t yet know about this type of supplement. 

Pre-workout is a substance that can be taken right before a workout to give you an extra energy boost and help with endurance. For some weight-lifters, like bodybuilders, it is a very necessary tool in order to get an effective workout on a tough day. It is generally a caffeine-based supplement but can also contain other stimulants. 

3d render of pre-workout powder with dumbbells, scale and drink bottle isolated over white background

Pre-workout usually comes in a powder form that you can mix with water, like protein powder. However, there are versions of pre-workout that come in the way of a pill and also energy-packed food or energy drinks. There are lots of different dietary supplements and brands out there, each with its own ingredients. 

“What are the ingredients in these supplements besides caffeine?

And how do they help me during a workout?” Well, we’re glad you asked. Besides the obvious caffeine to boost energy levels, many pre-workout supplements contain the following common ingredients: creatine, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, L-taurine, L-leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The best pre-workout blends usually contain a combination of these. 

Common Pre-Workout Ingredients

Creatine

Creatine is actually a compound that is naturally produced by our bodies but is also found in the best pre-workout supplements. It is produced when you’re working out to give your body to help your muscles produce energy.

The extra creatine that is provided in pre-workout formulas is something that can really help to drive muscle growth, leading to added strength and muscle mass! So essentially, not only does it help your muscles grow, but it also helps with endurance so you'll always get those last reps in. 

Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is a type of amino acid, a building block of proteins, specifically carnosine. Again, this is something that your body will produce naturally. This particular amino acid is excellent at stopping your muscles from getting too fatigued during an intense workout, it's also what gives you that tingling sensation. By putting more beta-alanine in your body, it’ll make more carnosine, which will allow you to work out at high-intensity levels longer than usual and increase exercise performance! 

Citrulline malate

Citrulline malate, like all of the amino acids we’ve mentioned so far, is something that your body produces naturally. This amino acid actually ends up getting processed by your kidneys and is broken down into another amino acid called L-arginine along with a chemical known as nitric oxide. The more important component between these two is nitric oxide.

This particular chemical allows your arteries to relax and improve their athletic performance. This ends up improving the overall blood flow throughout your body. The enhanced blood flow helps to transport oxygen to your muscles and will boost their overall performance during your training sessions! 

Leucine, isoleucine, and valine

Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are all types of what are known as BCAA’s or branched-chain amino acids. These are types of amino acids that your body doesn’t naturally create, unlike the previous ones that we’ve talked about. These three BCAA’s actually make up a good deal of your muscle tissue, so they’re very necessary.

The reason being is that they actually respond to the stress of a hard workout and will help with energy production. They're good for people who are trying to build muscle a little faster than normal. 

Caffeine Tolerance and Its Effects On Pre-Workout

Possibly the biggest determining factor when it comes to how quickly a pre-workout or similar supplement will take effect is how caffeine sensitive you are and the half-life of the supplement.

Close up overhead view of a cup of strong frothy espresso coffee on a rough textured wooden surface with dark vignetting and a highlight around the mug

Now, pre-workout generally contains a lot of caffeine, more than a cup of coffee, to give you that burst of energy, among other things. This is a substance that you can become tolerant to as you use it. So, if you regularly use caffeine, you might need more than one scoop to even feel the effects. 

How Long Does It Take To Kick In? 

Now, to answer the burning question that you clicked on this article for. Particular pre-workout blends can take longer to kick in depending on their ingredients. For instance, if you’re taking a caffeine-based pre-workout, then it’ll take anywhere from a half-hour to an hour and a half. It depends on how tolerant your body is to caffeine. 

With other ingredients, it’s a similar story. The other substances, such as creatine and beta-alanine, take about a half-hour to kick in. However, all of these substances tend to have what is known as “peak time.” Essentially, this is when your body has really absorbed everything that was in the pre-workout and it’s circulating through it. Therefore, you may feel the effects of the pre-workout halfway through your workout. 

That being said, it’s not optimal to take the pre-workout an hour before your workout. This is especially true if your pre-workout is not caffeine-based or has other ingredients in it, like creatine. The best time to take your pre-workout is about a half-hour before your workout. That way, you’ll have the initial burst of energy from the caffeine to get your workout started, while also experiencing the extra endurance of the other ingredients.

How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?

This is all dependent on the half-life of the ingredients. There are also other factors along with this, such as your body weight and the actual amount of caffeine inside of your pre-workout drink. To put it simply, pre-workout usually stays in your body for a while, about 6 hours at the most.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a couple of factors that go into just how long it takes for a pre-workout blend to really hit your system. If you’re an avid caffeine user, it’ll take a little bit longer and you’ll need a higher dose. Additionally, it depends on the active ingredients that are in the supplement that can aid in adding body mass. Remember to always check what the specific ingredients are and if there are any specific instructions as you don't want to experience any side effects, such as jitters.


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