Pre-workouts are popular with athletes and other people who work out or exercise frequently. If you’re training hard, it can be easy to lose your momentum when you’re not properly fueled, and it can be difficult to maintain your level of performance for long periods if you haven’t prepared your body.
Endurance comes from more than just your mental focus. Many turn to pre-workouts like protein shakes or supplements to help give them the boost they need to train at the level they want for the time they want. Setting high expectations for yourself requires dedication, but success requires preparation and execution.
Choosing a Pre-Workout Supplement
If fitness is an important part of your life, it won’t take you very long to learn that what you put into your body affects how it feels and performs. For many fitness enthusiasts, a healthy diet becomes a priority as they advance in their workout programs.
Your pre-workout supplement should be treated no differently than the foods you choose to eat. A pre-workout supplement goes into your body, and it is processed by the same systems like the food and drink we ingest. So, it makes sense that you should know what’s in your pre-workout supplement.
Reading the label of your pre-workout supplement is a good place to start. Do your research, and check the active ingredients in your supplement before you incorporate a pre-workout supplement into your routine.
How long your pre-workout supplement lasts will depend largely on the active ingredients it contains. Here are some of the most common active ingredients you might expect to see on the label of your pre-workout:
1 - Beta-Alanine
This non-essential amino acid can help you avoid feeling fatigued. Your body can make beta-alanine on its own, but taking it as part of your pre-workout supplement can help control the lactic acid buildup that results from exercise.
2 - Caffeine
Caffeine is found in many pre-workout supplements as an active ingredient. Just like the cup of coffee or tea many people enjoy in the morning gives people a boost of energy to start the day, your pre-workout supplement may contain caffeine to provide you with a boost of energy for your workout.
Caffeine is used to sharpen focus, improve reaction time, and bolster your alertness. It can start to take effect within 15 minutes, and it reaches its blood peak levels within an hour. Additionally, caffeine blood peak levels last for several hours.
You may want a boost like that for a long workout, but if you don’t time your pre-workout well, you can find it hard to fall asleep later on.
Another reason to check your labels is that the amount of caffeine in your pre-workout supplement could put you over the recommended limit of 400 mg per day for healthy adults, depending on your other sources for caffeine.
Even approaching the limit for your daily caffeine intake could leave you feeling wide awake when you should be sleeping. You may need an additional supplement to help calm your body and mind at the end of the day, like Complete Calm Sleep Gummies.
Lastly, caffeine can suppress your melatonin production, so be mindful of what you put into your body. Achieving results in the gym is great, but you still need the restorative power of sleep.
3 - Creatine
Creatine occurs naturally in the cells of your muscles. It plays a role in making and regulating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which releases energy for muscle contractions. As part of a pre-workout supplement, it can help support a high level of energy in short bursts, which can be just what you need in your workout to perform at your fastest and strongest levels.
4 - L-Citrulline
L-citrulline is another amino acid. It can transform into another amino acid that helps keep your blood vessels functioning at normal levels, L-arginine. Pre-workout supplements have begun to include this amino acid and malate to form the compound citrulline malate to enhance performance and play a part in reducing muscle soreness in post-workout.
5 - BCAAs
BCAAs are branched-chain amino acids. Like many of the other supplements, they occur naturally in the body already. BCAAs that you may find in your supplement includes L-Leucine, L-Valine, and L-Isoleucine. These can help fuel you for a longer workout.
How Long Will the Effects of Pre-Workout Last?
How long your pre-workout supplement will last depends largely on the active ingredients in your pre-workout supplement. If your supplement consists primarily of amino acids or the components of amino acids, your protein levels can help process your supplement more quickly.
Caffeine can last for hours after you take pre-workout and complete your workout. Timing your supplement and minding your caffeine intake throughout the day can help avoid caffeine interfering with your sleep.
Some important things to remember about pre-workout supplements are learning when to take your pre-workout for effectiveness and what time of day you take it to impact how long it lasts. Taking your pre-workout supplement with a small snack and plenty of water to keep you hydrated will help you properly utilize and absorb the supplement.
Read your pre-workout labels to discover your active ingredients and how soon you should take your supplement before a workout. For many pre-workout supplements, it’s recommended that you take it a half-hour to an hour before your workout. That makes it easy to incorporate them into your preparations before you head to the gym.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.
Dominick Gauthier, Performance Expert
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)