Pre-workout supplements are all the rage right now.
But, how long does it actually take for them to kick in and start helping you out?
Pre-workouts seem to fascinate bodybuilders and athletes because they can enhance their gym performance.
But giving pre-workouts the right time to reach their optimum potential is a crucial step if you really want to experience the best results.
This article will brief you about the basic information you need to know to incorporate pre-workouts into your routine effectively.
I have also included the time interval during which pe-workouts may hit you, how long they last, and what Reddit users are saying about it.
But before we get into those details, let’s briefly discuss what a pre-workout is.
Table of Contents
What is pre-workout?
‘Pre-workouts,’ as the name implies, are dietary supplements that are taken in some thirtyish minutes before the regular workout sessions. These are notorious for their properties to give a performance boost.
Their powdered formulas are concocted with ingredients that stimulate the brain for mental alertness, promote energy production in the muscles, increase endurance by modulating blood flow and promote muscle repair and recovery after strenuous workouts.
You can either swallow in individual supplements or scoop up multi-ingredient pre-workouts to improve your workout performance.
Multi-ingredient pre-workout formulations mostly combine stimulants, amino acids, nitric oxide boosters, creatine, vitamins, and minerals for improving exercise outcomes and artificial sugars to add some taste to the mix.
A recent trend of dry scooping pre-workouts has emerged, which is not considered the proper way to consume them.
You should stir in a scoop of the pre-workout powder in water, milk, fruit juice, or any other fluid and drink it up or follow the manufacturer’s instructions strictly for availing the maximum benefit of the supplements.
Since I have already briefed about pre-workouts, you will better understand the information I have put in the next section, which is your actual question.
How long do pre-workouts take to kick in?
The ingredients in pre-workouts take about 30 to 60 minutes to reach their optimum potential and kick in. Most times it also depends on the pre-workout supplement, but generally, they start working within 30 minutes.
The active ingredients take this time to break down and absorb in the body and then enter the bloodstream to show effect.
The dosage and type of the pre-workout components determine how long it will take to be absorbed in the system.
So, I dug deep into the available research to bring you approximate guesses of how long the most common ingredients in pre-workouts will take to kick in.
Pre-workouts may hit you with about 150 to 350 mg of caffeine per dose.
The writers of this 2021 review paper went over different published studies and found that the peak plasma concentrations of caffeine may appear anywhere between 30 to 120 minutes.
Caffeine molecules are both water and lipid-soluble, and they are absorbed via saliva, small intestine, and stomach.
These molecules can also cross the blood-brain barrier to stimulate the Central Nervous System and influence exercise performance.
Absorption of caffeine from the saliva alone may account for 65%–85% of the plasma levels of caffeine.
Moreover, even though caffeine-containing pre-workouts are consumed approximately 60 minutes before exercise, caffeine’s optimum time to kick in depends on its source.
For instance, caffeine uptake in chewing gums requires a shorter waiting time for absorption than when it is taken in the form of beverages such as pre-workouts and energy drinks.
L-Arginine and L-citrulline
Pre-workouts contain approximately 3g-5g of both L-arginine and L-citrulline.
According to this clinical trial, the combined supplementation of both these Nitric Oxide (NO) boosting amino acids increases plasma arginine levels within 1 hour of consumption.
Arginine is absorbed from the jejunum of the small intestine, and pre-workouts containing arginine are consumed approximately 30 to 60 minutes before exercising.
The L-citrulline increases the arginine levels in the blood by acting as its precursor. And thus, both arginine and citrulline are direct and indirect precursors of Nitric Oxide (NO), which controls vasodilation and increases blood flow.
Studies have shown that consuming both L-arginine and L-citrulline increases the plasma concentration of arginine more effectively than taking them separately.
Thus, pre-workouts contain a combination of both these amino acids in their formulations.
Pre-workouts contain about 3g to 5g of creatine monohydrate in them.
According to this review, the maximum time taken for less than 10g of creatine to reach its peak plasma concentration may be less than 2 hours.
Creatine is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, and its absorption is influenced by dosage and pH.
In most studies, 5g of creatine took about one hour to reach the muscles. But it is to be kept in mind that you need to constantly take creatine for at least 1-week during the creatine loading phase for it to start showing effect.
How long does pre-workout last in your system?
After the ingredients in pre-workouts reach their peak plasma concentration, they are degraded and eliminated from the body.
But the time for which the ingredients in pre-workout will last in the body varies from person to person. It depends on the dosage and is determined by the different elimination mechanisms.
According to this chapter, the mean half-life of caffeine is about 5 hours in a healthy individual. But the elimination time of caffeine may vary between 1.5 to 9.5 hours in different individuals.
Caffeine is metabolized in the liver and excreted in the urine.
Surprisingly enough, the absorption of caffeine may not vary among individuals of different age groups, their genetics, or underlying health conditions.
But rather, it is the ‘caffeine sensitivity that varies from person to person. The reason is that certain genetic and environmental factors influence the breakdown, metabolism, and removal of caffeine in the liver, and this comparison is elucidated in this review paper.
According to this research paper, the half-life of L-arginine varies between 1.5 to 2 hours.
The enzyme arginase breaks down 40% of arginine in the small intestine, and the remainder gets metabolized in the liver.
Citrulline escapes the breakdown in the liver and small intestine. Unlike arginine, citrulline suppresses the enzyme arginase, which increases the bioavailability of L-arginine in the blood.
The underlying health condition greatly influences how long arginine will last in blood. This clinical trial also states that the activity of arginase to degrade arginine is more pronounced in diabetic and hypertensive individuals, which increases the half-life and decreases the bioavailability of arginine in them.
It may take about 10 hours to degrade a 5g dose of creatine completely, and this is the time for which it may last in your system.
The bioavailability of creatine might not be 100% since it is degraded and excreted as creatinine by the kidneys.
The gut microflora also plays a role in creatine metabolism. And the excessive creatine gets excreted via the urine and feces.
The creatine’s half-life depends on the pH, and its optimal degradation occurs between Ph 3–4.
And according to this review paper (that I linked above as well), it may take about 55 days, 7.5 days, and 40.5 days to degrade creatine into creatinine at 1.5, 3.7, and 6.8 pH, respectively.
It may be inferred from this that less than 0.5g of a 5g creatine dose maybe be lost within one hour of its consumption.
How long does pre-workout take to kick in if you dry scoop?
Before getting into the details of the answer to this question, I must start with the disclaimer, ‘Do not try this at home.’
Dry scooping may reduce the time of absorption of the ingredients in pre-workouts.
For instance, it may take approximately 15 minutes rather than 30 minutes for the dry powders to absorb in the stomach.
Now, if you want to know more about what dry scooping is, it is a TikTok trend that is tried and taken up by individuals who fall into the illusion that pre-workouts kick in more quickly when they are not diluted with water.
To jump on the bandwagon of dry scooping, you will have to scoop out the pre-workout from the container and dump it into your mouth directly. You may sip some water after eating the powder if you want.
However, Doctors and health care providers have issued multiple warnings by keeping in view the reports of complications that occurred due to this practice.
Multiple case reports documenting deadly side effects such as heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, strokes, brain bleeds have started to surface since users started to go in for dry scooping pre-workouts.
Nonetheless, dry scooping pre-workouts is not a standard way of consuming them. Even if swallowing dry powders might cut down the absorption time (which is not scientifically proven), it won’t necessarily lead to increased bioavailability of ingredients.
The reason you may feel like dry scooping makes the ingredients absorb more efficiently is that the stimulants and niacin might stay behind in your mouth or under the tongue and tingle and irritate you giving you the impression that the pre-workout kicked in sooner.
Shivraj Bassi – the CEO of a nutritional supplement, ‘Innermost,’ remarked in this interview with express.co.uk that diluting pre-workouts in water increases their bioavailability.
Plus, shoveling in the ingredients directly rather than consuming them in a mixture may vary their absorption rates.
For instance, some ingredients like caffeine may hit in sooner this way. But consuming pre-workouts without water may negatively influence the bioavailability of other ingredients like creatine.
Here is a comparison of the absorption rates of the two most critical components of pre-workouts in diluted and dry form.
Pre-workouts mostly contain anhydrous caffeine rather than tea or coffee extracts as a caffeine source.
And according to FDA, just one teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine is equivalent to 28 cups of coffee, which is approximately equal to the safe dose of 400 mg.
Caffeine is readily absorbed in the blood due to its hydrophobic nature, but drinking caffeine in diluted form paces its absorption into the bloodstream.
And since pre-workouts contain approximately 150mg to 350 mg of caffeine per serving, dry scooping high caffeine pre-workout powders may increase the risk of overdosing and may literally ‘kill you.’
This research evaluated the absorption of 2g of creatine in solid and liquid form. And it was found that even though the solid form of creatinine might get readily absorbed, it offered a lower bioavailability of creatine. To be precise, 20% or more creatine would have to be consumed to attain the same peak in this case.
How much pre-workout should I take for the first time
It would be best if you initially take half of the recommended dosage to see how the pre-workout works for you. And if you are fine with the stimulants and caffeine in the formulation, you may gradually increase the number of scoops you are consuming.
But take care that it should not increase the recommended dose and eventually incorporate an optimum dosage that seems to suit you best in your workout regime.
How long does pre-workout last after mixed?
Pre-workouts may last from 12 hours to 24 hours, depending on the presence or absence of creatine in them and the storage method.
It seems like a nice thought to come back to an already prepared pre-workout drink rather than getting into the fuss of mixing it at the last minute while you are still tossing here and there in sleep or tiredness.
This section will make you aware of certain things that you need to keep in mind when pre-mixing your supplements since it would be great to prepare your supplements whenever you have free time rather than mixing your stuff in a rush.
Caffeine is one of the most stable ingredients in pre-workouts, and it will not disintegrate even at the boiling temperature and for a considerable time.
On the other hand, creatine is an unstable element in pre-workouts that gets converted into its breakdown product, ‘creatinine,’ when mixed and put away for some time.
Consuming it after a large delay might increase your blood creatinine level. Nonetheless, drinking pre-mixed supplements that have been left out for some hours might not be too detrimental for your health; it might just become ineffective.
A creatine monohydrate containing pre-workout can be pre-mixed. It will remain safe and stable for consumption in the morning if left on the shelf overnight until and unless exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations.
However, storing your prepared drink in the fridge is better to delay degradation.
It is wiser to pre-mix your pre-workout powder in plain water rather than juices or milk. Because the acidic pH of juices may cause the onset of degradation sooner, milk also has the inherent risks of going bad eventually.
Since ready-to-drink pre-workout bottles are already sold in the market, it seems safe to pre-prepare your supplement at home as well.
Nevertheless, you can always detect if your pre-mixed supplement has gone bad from its odor, appearance, and molding. And remember to give a quick stir to your pre-mixed supplement before gulping it in.
How long does pre-workout last in water?
As discussed in the above section, the ingredients in a pre-workout determine how long it will last in the water. But it may remain drinkable for an average of 12 hours to 24 hours.
How long does pre-workout take to kick in – Reddit stories
- For most Reddit users in this thread, a highly caffeinated pre-workout ‘Mr. Hyde’ takes between 20 minutes to 40 minutes to kick in.
- Others in this thread have shared that they take their pre-workouts 15 minutes before hitting the gym.
- One of the users wrote that he gives 20 to 25 minutes to Neurocore mixed with two scoops of citrulline malate to kick in properly.
- Another gym-goer shared that he has observed that his pre-workout worked best when taken about an hour before doing any exercise.
We can conclude from the statements above that it takes almost 20 – 60 minutes maximum for every pre-workout to kick in.
Pre-workouts are supposed to be consumed approximately 30 to 60 minutes before workouts so that they start to work in the body before you do in the gym.
If you forget to take your pre-workout well before your gym session, it is better to skip on your supplements for the day rather than gulping in a glass hurriedly, expecting that it will help somewhat regardless of the time you give it.
Resorting to the dry scooping method, thinking that this makes the ingredients absorb sooner would be a big misstep on your part.
If you’re new to the world of pre-workouts, you should yourself experiment with the time and dosages that work best for you rather than adhering to the experience of other users. For beginners, I’d recommend Crazy Nutrition’s Pre-workout as it can help you achieve desired pump and energy without causing digestive issues or jitters.