I’m not sure where the idea of cycling pre-workout came from. I’m assuming the old advice of loading and cycling creatine was part of the source. The other likely comes from more serious pharmaceuticals. So, should you cycle pre-workout?
You don’t need to cycle pre-workout. Your habitual caffeine dose does not influence the performance benefits of pre-workout caffeine before exercise.
If you don’t need to cycle it, why? And is it safe for you to take pre-workout consistently?
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Should You Cycle Pre-Workout?
You don’t need to cycle pre-workout or any other sports supplement, for that matter. There are two main ingredients that people will tell you to cycle:
Neither of these need to be cycled. For starters, recent research has discovered that habitual caffeine consumption doesn’t influence the ergogenic effects of caffeine on exercise performance . Meaning, that if you have a morning coffee and pre-workout most days of the week, you will still get the performance benefits from your pre-workout caffeine.
This meta-analysis pooled 59 total studies with 1137 participants. They further found doses less or greater than the regular caffeine dose still improved exercise performance. Meaning if you typically have 2 cups of coffee in the morning (approximately 160 mg of caffeine), you could take a pre-workout with 100 mg of caffeine and still get a performance benefit.
This extends to endurance, power, and strength performance. Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you are trained or untrained, male or female. These effects are consistent among all populations. Finally, withdrawing from caffeine to become more sensitive to its effects seems unnecessary.
Therefore, you don’t need to cycle pre-workout to improve the performance-enhancing effect. Regarding creatine, the old days of your local GNC employee telling you to load and cycle creatine are done (then again, I haven’t walked into a GNC lately, so it’s probably still happening).
You should take creatine daily to achieve maximum phosphocreatine muscle saturation (PCr). All the myths surrounding harmful side effects and creatine are false and misleading, and creatine has proven safe to ingest.
I’ve been taking creatine every day for over 10 years. While I’m an n=1 anecdotal source, there is no evidence pointing to harmful side effects of creatine. So, if you want to maximize your performance, take it every day and never cycle.
But you should be getting creatine from a separate source, not from pre-workout, since you probably won’t be taking pre-workout every day.
Overall, you don’t need to cycle pre-workout, and there are no further benefits.
What Happens If You Don’t Cycle Off Pre-Workout?
Nothing happens if you don’t cycle off pre-workout. Because you don’t need to cycle off it, there are no inherently bad side effects of taking pre-workout all year round. As caffeine is a potent performance-enhancing supplement, you may find working sets feel harder, or you can’t get your required sets and reps for particular workouts.
Can You Take Pre-Workout Every Day?
You can take a pre-workout every day. It’d be like having a daily coffee or two or an energy drink. However, be careful of very high caffeine dose pre-workouts as you may not want a strong stimulatory effect for a relaxing Sunday.
Is It Better To Workout Without Pre-Workout?
This depends on how you react to caffeine within a pre-workout. If you respond well to caffeine, it’s not better to work out without caffeine, as enhanced performance will mean lifting more weight or running faster and further.
However, depending on your genetic makeup, you may be a caffeine non-responder. In this study, 33% of the subjects fell into this camp . Essentially, the more caffeine they ingested before a 10 km cycling time trial, the slower they raced.
So, caffeine doesn’t always have an ergogenic effect on performance. How do you know if you have this gene? Without getting a test, just note how you feel after taking caffeine. Do you feel drowsy and low on energy? Then you might be a slow caffeine metabolizer and may not benefit from taking pre-workout. You would benefit from taking a caffeine-free pre-workout or none at all.
Don’t worry about cycling your pre-workout. You won’t gain any further benefit from trying to re-sensitize yourself to the stimulants. You’ll still reap the performance enhancements from the main ingredients in your pre-workout.
1. Carvalho, A., Marticorena, F. M., Grecco, B. H., Barreto, G., & Saunders, B. (2022). Can I Have My Coffee and Drink It? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis to Determine Whether Habitual Caffeine Consumption Affects the Ergogenic Effect of Caffeine. Sports Medicine, 1-12.
2. Southward, K., Rutherfurd-Markwick, K., Badenhorst, C., & Ali, A. (2018). The role of genetics in moderating the inter-individual differences in the ergogenicity of caffeine. Nutrients, 10(10), 1352.