Pre-workout supplements are hugely popular in fitness circles. But the pre-workout supplement topic is also a bit misunderstood.
You'll hear fitness enthusiasts ask lot of questions about pre-workouts - are they safe? Are they safe to take every day? And how long does pre-workout last?
We'll answer some of those questions in this article, focusing specifically on the last one, and help you to understand all you need to know about pre-workout supplements.
What is a Pre-Workout Supplement?
A pre-workout is a supplement you take prior to a workout, which is designed to boost energy and enhance athletic performance
A pre-workout is not a specific compound, like creatine or whey protein. Instead, it's a generic term that can cover single ingredients used to boost performance or, more commonly, a mix of multiple ingredients.
The formula of each pre-workout supplement differs, but there are some common things you find in most products.
What's Usually in a Pre-Workout?
Caffeine is one of the most common pre-workout ingredients, popular for its positive effect on energy, focus, and motivation, as well as its relative safety for most people.
Other things you often find in pre-workouts include creatine, amino acids (such as beta-alanine, arginine, and BCAAs), and B vitamins.
How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?
The effects of pre-workout supplements usually last around 2 hours.
That said, there are a lot of factors that influence how long a pre-workout lasts, so it's impossible to give one answer that covers every single product.
Factors That Impact How Long Pre-Workouts Last
Factors that influence how long pre-workout supplements last include the contents of a specific pre-workout, how much you take and your personal conditions.
Let's look a little closer at these factors.
Since almost every single pre-workout supplement has its own unique formula, how long your pre-workout lasts depends largely on the ingredients within.
Some pre-workout ingredients have a longer, more drawn-out effect, while some are more acute and fast-acting.
Many pre-workout supplements include caffeine. The effects of caffeine usually kick in within an hour, and last from 2-5 hours, depending on how fast your body metabolizes caffeine.
Another common ingredient, the amino acid arginine (or l-arginine), has a half-life of 30-120 minutes, which is how long you can expect the effect of this to last.
Some effects may also last longer or shorter than others, based on different ingredients. The vasodilating effects (widening blood vessels to increase blood flow) of l-arginine, for example, will likely wear off before the energy boost from caffeine does.
Amount of Each Ingredient
Higher or lower levels of specific ingredients will also have an effect on how long a pre-workout lasts.
Smaller levels of an ingredient will be dispelled from the body faster, and thus you'll find their effects will wear off quicker.
Tolerance to Caffeine
We've mentioned caffeine a couple of times already. Assuming your pre-workout contains caffeine, how your body handles caffeine will impact how long you feel the supplement's effects.
Different people tolerate caffeine differently. You'll see some who can drink coffee throughout the day, even into the evening and night, and feel few effects. While, for others, a single cup of black coffee is enough to send them to the roof.
If you have a high tolerance for caffeine, you might find your pre-workout doesn't seem to last very long. While for others, it might keep you wired for hours, potentially causing problems with sleep if you work out in the evening.
If you're one of these people who have trouble with caffeine, you should try our Stim-Free Pre-Workout. It has no caffeine or other stimulants, just clean ingredients that increase blood flow, improve mental performance and give you a clean energy boost.
Serving Size and Body Weight
It will also take more or less time for pre-workout to exit your system depending on your body weight, and how much pre-workout you take.
Take more - 2 scoops vs 1 scoop, for example - it will last longer. The same goes if you take multiple pre-workout supplements together.
Serving size relative to your body mass is also a factor. Those with lower body mass may find their pre-workout generally lasts longer than the same dose for a larger person.
Are Pre-Workouts Safe?
Most pre-workouts are safe, but it again depends on the ingredients.
A typical pre-workout drink, containing things like caffeine, creatine, B vitamins and amino acids, is likely to be safe. These are all common ingredients that are safe for consumption.
You should, however, be careful of the caffeine content. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, but excess levels of caffeine intake can be unsafe.
Take care if your pre-workout has an abnormally high levels of caffeine, or if you're already getting a lot of caffeine throughout the day.
The safe upper limit for most healthy adults is 400mg of caffeine per day, though some peoples' tolerance may be higher or lower due to their personal caffeine tolerance.
Aside from the possibility of taking too much caffeine, some pre-workout formulas contain unsafe ingredients as well. These range from artificial additives, to dangerous synthetic stimulants.
That's why it's important to check in the ingredients in a pre-workout, and generally best to stick to trusted brands.
Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements
Pre-workout supplements - assuming you stick to a safe and trustworthy pre-workout brand - can have big benefits for physical and mental performance in the gym.
They're designed to get up to full speed faster and maintain higher energy levels and focus across your entire workout routine, leading to greater overall exercise performance, and better results (such as increased muscle growth or fat loss).
The specific benefits of taking pre-workout include:
Increased physical energy
Increased mental focus and motivation
Higher output (e.g. strength, power)
Increased muscle mass
Better muscular endurance
Reduced mental and muscle fatigue
Who Should Take a Pre-Workout?
Pre-workouts are suitable for all types of physical activity. If you're working out at the gym, playing sports, doing a martial art, or going for a run outside, a pre-workout supplement will probably help.
Marketing around pre-workouts usually targets bodybuilders and weightlifters, but in truth, the benefits for mental and physical performance apply to any kind of athletic activity.
Of course, pre-workouts aren't essential. No one has to take a pre-workout. But they can be a nice tool to increase your athletic performance and get a little more out of your workout.
When to Take Pre-Workout for Best Results
Most pre-workout formulas take a little while to kick in, so it's best to give some time between taking it and starting your workout. At the same time, you don't want to take it too early, where the effects start to wear off before the end of your workout.
Generally, taking a pre-workout 30-60 minutes prior is advisable. This again depends on the ingredients. Some may kick in faster, while some have a more drawn-out or delayed effect.
It also depends on the length of your workout. If you're working out for a long time (say 2+ hours), you may want to take your pre-workout closer to the start of your workout, so you get more time with the positive effects before it wears off.
Is It Ok to Take a Pre-Workout Every Day?
In most cases, it's safe to take a pre-workout every day. But, like with the answer to almost every question about pre-workout supplements, it depends on the ingredients.
Things like creatine, beta-alanine, arginine and caffeine are safe to take every day, as long as they're not in excessive quantities. As always, pay attention to the caffeine content.
If your supplement is packed with a lot of caffeine, you may want to tone down how often you take it (or switch to a stim-free alternative). You should also pay attention to your body, and if you start feeling any adverse effects that could be related to long-term overuse of caffeine (such as tremors, heart palpitations, trouble sleeping or anxiety), think about changing it up.
With any dietary supplements, it's best to consult with your doctor or a healthcare professional if you have any doubts about taking it long-term.
Bottom Line: How Long Does Pre Workout Last?
The effects of pre-workout generally lasts around 2 hours. However, the duration can differ greatly depending on the ingredients, dosage, and personal characteristics, such as your tolerance to caffeine and body weight.
Different effects may also last longer or shorter than others. It's not as if a pre-workout completely kicks in and wears off at once.
The best pre workout supplements give you a smooth, sustained energy boost, with improved performance without a big crash or any negative side-effects.
Hopefully, this helps clear up some confusion about pre-workouts, and gives you an idea of how you can take a pre-workout supplement most effectively for yourself.