According to a recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, at least 30% of young adults consume pre-workout regularly. To put things into perspective, this rate of consumption places pre-workout supplements second in line behind multivitamins.
After all, who doesn’t want more energy in the gym?
One of the most common questions we get is “How long does pre-workout last?” or “How long does pre-workout stay in your system?”
Generally speaking, you’ll feel the effects of pre-workout anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours after consumption. However, other factors, such as the brand you choose, its ingredients, and your body composition, also affect how long pre-workout lasts.
In this article, we’ll be giving you the rundown on how long pre-workout lasts, the different types of pre-workout supplements, their safety, and how to choose the best pre-workout for your lifestyle.
- The mental and physical energy provided by pre-workout supplements can last between 30 minutes to two hours after consumption. Ingredients, body composition, and age all play a role in how long the effects last.
- High stimulant pre-workout supplements containing large caffeine doses provide a short burst of energy. Unfortunately, once the pre-workout rush is over, many people experience fatigue and decreased alertness.
- Low stimulant pre-workout supplements are formulated with low doses of caffeine combined with other essential ingredients to provide users with clean focus and sustained energy.
- The best ingredients in pre-workout supplements are natural caffeine, long-lasting carbohydrates, and adaptogens.
WHAT IS PRE WORKOUT?
Pre-workout supplements (pre-workout for short) are fitness supplements that contain a blend of carefully chosen ingredients designed to boost energy levels and enhance athletic performance.
They usually come in a powder form that is designed to be mixed with water and consumed 30 minutes to one hour before working out.
As you know, there are thousands of different pre-workout supplements on the market. Each pre-workout supplement contains various ingredients at different doses that can help reduce fatigue and allow your muscles to train longer.
It’s important to note that all pre-workout supplements are not created equal. In fact, some may actually contain banned substances and other drug contaminants that can lead to health concerns or positive drug tests.
TYPES OF PRE WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS
There are many different forms of pre-workout supplements. However, the two types we will focus on today fall under two umbrellas: low stimulant and high stimulant.
HIGH STIM VS. LOW STIM PRE WORKOUTS
Here, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between high-stim and low-stim pre-workouts.
As the name implies, a high stimulant pre-workout supplement usually contains several different stimulants. It is formulated with high doses of stimulants to give users a quick burst of energy.
One of the most common ingredients in high-stim pre-workouts is caffeine. Although caffeine can help increase energy, some companies use mega doses in amounts as high as 300 to 400 milligrams. Too much caffeine can lead to overstimulation, jitteriness, paranoia, and shakiness. It can also make you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall shortly after the rush wears off.
Caffeine crash is the term used to describe the feelings of exhaustion, decreased alertness, and irritability that are commonly felt after consuming too much caffeine.
Although it varies by person, research suggests that the half-life of caffeine is around five hours. However, it can last up to 9.5 hours, which can disrupt sleep cycles if consumed later in the day.
Other ingredients commonly found in high-stimulant pre-workout formulas include:
- Di-caffeine malate
Although many pre-workout ingredients are effective, some come with more side effects than others.
For example, beta-alanine is an amino acid that can help improve athletic performance and delay muscle fatigue.
However, in high doses, studies suggest that beta-alanine can cause a tingling sensation and facial flushing.
The effect of high stim pre-workout products will last between 30 minutes and four hours. However, it can remain in your system for as long as six hours.
The duration depends on the ingredients used as well as your age and body type, including how much fat and muscle mass you have.
Low stim pre-workouts are what we consider to be the best of both worlds. While they still provide small amounts of caffeine to act as a mild stimulant, they also contain natural ingredients to help improve endurance, blood flow, oxygen utilization, and focus.
Because they often contain caffeine in amounts similar to that of a cup of coffee, you’re much less likely to experience skin crawls or jitters like you would with high stim formulas.
Low stim pre-workout formulas typically contain ingredients such as:
- Green tea
- Yerba mate
- Panax ginseng
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Beetroot juice powder
Beetroot juice powder is commonly used to improve athletic performance. Studies suggest it can have a large impact on how our body functions during physical activity.
For example, one 2017 study published in Nutrients found that the nitric oxide found in beet juice can enhance muscle function and improve the performance of the heart and lungs during moderate to high-intensity exercise.
Basically, low stim pre-workouts deliver longer, more sustained energy for endurance. Although all people can certainly benefit from low-stim pre-workouts, those who benefit the most include athletes who train in martial arts, runners, bodybuilders, and outdoor enthusiasts.
THE BEST INGREDIENTS FOR SUSTAINED ENERGY
When looking for clean focus and long, sustained energy without the crash or jitters, you want to carefully examine a product’s ingredients to determine if it’s worth your money.
Almost all pre-workout supplements contain caffeine because it helps increase mental focus and energy. However, all caffeine is not the same.
The energy you get from natural caffeine is much cleaner compared to synthetic caffeine found in many pre-workout supplements.
The caffeine in green tea and yerba mate, in particular, will provide a more sustained energy boost. This can help prevent jitteriness and the crash that often follows.
These ingredients are also both high in antioxidants and other health-promoting nutrients.
High-quality, easy-to-digest carbohydrate ingestion before a workout can immediately fuel your body to push through high-intensity training sessions.
Ideally, you’ll want to look for a fully digested, slow-release carbohydrate such as isomaltulose (Palatinose) to supply your body with balanced and long-lasting energy.
Palatinose can also help increase fat oxidation.
For example, one 2016 study published in the journal Nutrients found that cyclists who supplemented with Palatinose before physical activity displayed a more stable blood glucose profile, improved athletic performance, and higher fat oxidation compared to the control group.
As a great source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), it can also enhance exercise endurance by increasing metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis (the division and growth of preexisting mitochondria).
Adaptogens are active substances — particularly mushrooms and plants — that help people deal with stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
- King trumpet
- Turkey tail
- Lion’s mane
New research suggests adaptogens can support training by fighting fatigue and exhaustion, improving attention and focus, and enhancing oxygen utilization (how well your body takes in and uses oxygen).
After three weeks of use, the study found that participants’ VO2max increased by 11%.
VO2max is considered the “gold standard” measure of aerobic fitness.
Basically, it measures how much oxygen a person can consume during maximum effort. A higher VO2max is associated with better physical fitness.
SAFETY AND EFFICACY OF PRE WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS
Unfortunately, supplements aren’t tightly regulated by the FDA in the same way as medications. In most cases, the FDA can only take action against an unsafe or misbranded product after it reaches the market. This means that thousands of products are manufactured and sold every day that may not contain what the company says it does.
To help consumers feel more at ease, reputable companies often opt to have an unbiased third party test their products to ensure products are safe and meet industry standards.
In some cases, supplements may also carry a BSCG certification, which is the gold standard for dietary supplement certification. The process involves testing for drug contaminants and banned substances that can lead to health problems or positive drug tests. Once the product passes the rigorous certification standards, it can display the BSCG certification.
Pre-workout can last anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours, depending on its ingredients. Caffeine is one of the primary ingredients in most pre-workout formulas, including low stim and high stim supplements.
Although taking pre-workout with caffeine can be effective, supplements with high doses of it can cause unpleasant side effects and make you feel awful after the energy rush comes to an end.
The best way to ensure your pre-workout lasts through your exercise session and provides steady energy without the jitters or a crash is to carefully look at the ingredients.
You’ll want to choose a pre-workout that contains a low dose of natural caffeine, high-quality carbohydrates, and other ingredients such as adaptogens to increase oxygen uptake, muscular endurance, and training quality.
As always, discuss any diet or supplement changes with your healthcare provider or a dietitian with a background in sports nutrition.