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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
Updated On: October 04, 2023
Pre-workout is one of the most frequently used supplements by people who work out. However, a question that we often get is "how long does pre-workout last?".
People want to know the answer to this question so that they can better time when they take their pre-workout so that it lasts long enough to do what it's supposed to do in enhancing their workout.
There's quite a variety of options on the market today that contain various ingredients and dosages. Read on to find out how you can better judge how long your pre-workout will last.
Pre-workout is a fitness supplement that usually comes in powder form that's used to increase the intensity of your workout by waking up your nervous system, boosting energy levels, and giving you a bigger pump in the gym. Pre-workouts are generally consumed 30 minutes to1 hour before your workout; that way, the effects will kick off as your training begins.
Each brand will use different ingredients and dosages to enhance performance, but they aren't all equal. So, you'll need to carefully look at the list of ingredients and the amounts to determine whether or not a pre-workout is worth its salt.
Pre-workout comes in two main types: Stimulant or Stimulant-Free.
This will play a role in determining how long a certain pre-workout will last. Aside from stimulants, other performance-enhancing substances in pre-workouts help boost endurance and increase mental focus. Plus, nitric oxide boosters that vasodilate your arteries and veins so that more blood is pumped to your muscles, giving you a pumped-up look while you work out.
The most common stimulant used in pre-workouts is caffeine. There are multiple sources of caffeine generally used in pre-workouts, but it can range from regular caffeine, caffeine from natural sources, caffeine anhydrous, theobromine, and more. We will get into this in the next section because the amount of caffeine and its source will play a role in how long the pre-workout supplement is going to last.
Typical performance-enhancing substances used in pre-workouts are beta-alanine, agmatine sulfate, betaine, creatine, citrulline, malic acid, L-arginine, taurine, sodium bicarbonate, theanine, tyrosine, just to name a few.
With that out of the way, we can get to the nitty-gritty of how long pre-workouts last, and we're not talking about the shelf-life in this context.
The timing of when you take a pre-workout can influence how long it lasts and how effective it is for your workout. The driving force for using pre-workouts is to help improve your performance for a given training session. Most ingredients in the popular pre-workouts will hit you within an hour, but it could be as short as 20 minutes, depending on your body and the ingredients used. If you train in a fasted state and take pre-workout on an empty stomach, you may start to feel its effects in as little as 15 minutes. It's best to look at the label for guidance on when you should take your pre-workout. Just remember to account for the time it will take you to get to the gym, plus any warm-up that you usually do. Not sure if you've been there before, but once an intense pre-workout starts to kick in and you're not hitting the iron, things can get weird quickly.
There's no one size fits all to answer this question of how long you'll feel the effects of a pre-workout. To give a ballpark average, many pre-workouts will last from 2-4 hours after ingesting them. This window of time should cover the majority of workouts, especially if they are gym-focused around strength or hypertrophy.
Let's have a look at some factors that influence the amount of time a pre-workout will last in your system.
Your situation can influence the length of time a pre-workout will affect your body. Bigger people tend to withstand higher doses of most things, pre-workout included. If you're a small person with little to no fat, a pre-workout could hit you in a more profound way than someone bigger and stronger. Another point to emphasize is age. Older people may have developed a tolerance to caffeine on the one hand, but on the other hand, they also may have other medical conditions that can change how long a pre-workout lasts. Younger people on the opposite end of the spectrum might not have a built-up tolerance to caffeine, so a pre-workout supplement could last longer.
Perhaps the most important guiding factor that dictates how long the pre-workout lasts is what the ingredients are and how much of them are being used. The substances that you're likely to feel the effects from the most are the stimulant used. The most common stimulant used is caffeine. Caffeine is usually absorbed within an hour after ingestion.
Let's look deeper at caffeine and how long it can affect your body…
This study says that the mean half-life of caffeine in healthy people is around 5 hours. Researchers, however, say that the elimination half-life can range between 1.5 and 9.5 hours. The window of time that caffeine can affect a person is dependent on multiple factors, including physiological and environmental characteristics. Obesity, pregnancy, altitude, and smoking are a few factors that can influence the effect of caffeine on individuals. In addition, people can build up a tolerance to caffeine with frequent usage, which also plays a part in how long your pre-workout will last.
If you consistently take the same pre-workout over a long period of time, the effects will dissipate as your body builds up the tolerance to it. To avoid building a tolerance to your pre-workout, you can lower the frequency you're using it or take a week off from taking it after every 4 weeks on.
Briefly mentioned above, your tolerance will increase over time if you frequently consume caffeine. This plays out in every day society, as we're sure you know someone or even might be that someone who drinks multiple cups of coffee without getting that energy boost. Compare this to someone who doesn't consume coffee often and drinks a small latte after lunch then can't get to sleep that night because their body isn't used to the caffeine. If your body can't handle much caffeine, you're better off sticking with stim-free pre-workout.
The amount of water you ingest daily can play a part in shortening the time that pre-workout affects your body. If you stay properly hydrated and work out with intensity, you might slightly change the length of time you feel the effects of the pre-workout.
You shouldn't exceed the recommended dosages on the label; it's there for a reason. Sometimes people buy a pre-workout and don't bother to look at the recommended dosing; this can be a big mistake, especially if the product is a high stim pre-workout. It would be best if you always started any pre-workout by taking half the recommended dosage the first time to see how your body reacts before you start taking the full dosage. On the other hand, if you've been using the same pre-workout for a prolonged time and the effects begin to lessen, don't try to compensate by increasing the dosage past the recommended amount.
The length of time a pre-workout lasts can be skewed by your current energy levels. For example, if you had a bad night's sleep and then a taxing day before taking your pre-workout, the effects might wear off quicker than when well-rested.
In a different context, the question of how long does a pre-workout last refers to the shelf-life of the product once it's opened. If the tub isn't opened, there should be a date on the package that shows the best-used date. Each pre-workout supplement might vary in terms of how long it will last once opened. If you open a pre-workout and don't finish it within a couple of months, you're likely to see it start clumping up and/or becoming hard.
Here are a few things to look for to tell you whether or not you should continue taking your pre-workout or not:
Another common question people have that we want to answer is in regards to how long pre-workout stays good for once it has been mixed in water and does it lose its effectiveness if waiting to long to drink it once its been mixed...
While there are no clear studies on this, it is generally accepted that pre-workout won't lose its effectiveness if sitting in water (within a reasonable timeframe) and it can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 24 hours (although even a little longer is probably fine too) after being mixed in water.
So, if you wanted to mix your pre-workout in water the night before or you forget to drink it and save it for the next day, it's ok and the effect should be the same. It won't hurt you, that's for sure, so it's worth giving it a try rather than wasting your pre-workout (as long as it has been stored in a fridge). If it has been sitting out in the heat for more than several hours, while probably not a big deal, it's also probably not worth drinking. After all, one scoop of pre-workout doesn't cost that much.
Pre-workout supplements offer multiple benefits to improve your training sessions, so you're able to achieve better results.
Let's have a quick look at the benefits of pre-workout and how they relate to the original question of how long they last:
Each pre-workout can have different side effects depending on the ingredients and the quantity used. We covered the benefits of pre-workout, which far outweigh the adverse side effects for many; that's why pre-workout continues to be one of the most popular fitness supplements on the market.
Here are some feelings and side effects that common ingredients in pre-workout may produce.
Of course, everyone will experience the impact slightly differently based on some of the factors we covered above.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout
Follow some of these tips to ensure you get the most out of whatever pre-workout you take.
You can assume that most mainstream pre-workout supplements will last for at least 2 hours after taking it, with possible lingering effects to last up to 6 hours or more depending on a multitude of factors we covered above. The key takeaway from this post is that pre-workouts can affect everyone slightly differently. To avoid adverse side effects of pre-workouts, make sure you start small with a half dosage before going all-in on a full dosage. Then, you can work your way up to a full dose so that your body has time to adjust to it.
More frequently asked questions about pre-workout:
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February 20, 2024
February 20, 2024
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