What Does Pre-Workout Feel Like?

January 17, 2022

If you’ve never taken pre-workout, you’re probably wondering what it feels like. Just like any stimulant or performance-enhancing supplement, it can be nerve-racking thinking about taking it. What if you take too much? What if you don’t like the feeling and want it to stop?

I’ll break down for you precisely what taking pre-workout feels like so you have a clear idea of what to expect.

What Does Pre-Workout Feel Like?

Taking pre-workout feels like you are more alert, attentive, have more energy, and are more focused on the task at hand. If it has beta-alanine, it will feel like your skin is itching and tingling.

Only a handful of ingredients within a pre-workout supplement are responsible for these feelings. They are:

  • Caffeine
  • L-Theanine
  • Beta-Alanine
  • Niacin

Other ingredients may provide a small nootropic (cognitive enhancing effect) such as L-Tyrosine. Still, they are not noticeable like the ingredients I mentioned above. Caffeine is the leading performance-enhancing ingredient within a pre-workout.

Just like when you drink coffee or an energy drink, you will have a feeling of having greater energy and alertness. However, some people are sensitive to caffeine and may find that caffeine leaves them feeling overwhelmed with a fast and hard heart rate.

L-Theanine is the antidote and takes the edge off caffeine, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. This synergistic effect of caffeine and L-Theanine has also been shown to improve mental performance such as reaction time, visual processing, alertness, and working memory with reductions in tiredness and mental fatigue [1].

That’s precisely what pre-workout feels like mentally. Physically we have a different story when Beta-Alanine and Niacin are involved. These ingredients will cause the itchy, and tingly feeling felt on the skin after 10-20 minutes of ingesting.

Beta-Alanine, in particular, causes paresthesia which is a harmless phenomenon causing the tingling sensation [2]. But Niacin can have a similar effect where it can cause a warm, red, and itchy feeling on your skin [3].

Combining these mental and physical sensations is what taking pre-workout feels like.

Does Pre-Workout Give You A Buzz?

Does Pre-Workout Give You A Buzz

Pre-workout will give you a buzz if it has enough caffeine to exceed your tolerance. Most of them do unless you live off caffeine. The buzz is attributed to the amount of caffeine in the pre-workout. Most pre-workouts range between 100-300 mg per serving.

Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Feel So Good?

The feeling of euphoria is down to the nootropic ingredient of caffeine. Other ingredients such as L-Theanine play a significant role if used within pre-workout as they work synergistically. The increase in energy and alertness is what makes you feel so good after taking it.

What Does A Pre-Workout Crash Feel Like?

What Does A Pre-Workout Crash Feel Like

Make no mistake. Too much pre-workout can make you crash harder than your workout was. A pre-workout crash feels the opposite of how it made you feel in the first place. You’ll feel tired, exhausted, and have a lack of energy.

You will struggle to focus on tasks and won’t feel like doing much. This is usually the “come down” from caffeine. A short power nap is an easy fix to counter a pre-workout crash. The other way to counter it is not to take such a high dose in the first place.

If you suffer from pre-workout crashes, your caffeine dose is likely far too high. Half your serving size and see if you run into the same problem.

How Much Pre-Workout Should You Take?

How much pre-workout you take to feel good will depend on the pre-workout supplement you have. Half or one serving is always a good place to start. When selecting your pre-workout for the first time, you need to consider your caffeine tolerance.

Do you habitually drink coffee or energy drinks every day? If so, a pre-workout with 150 mg or more of caffeine is likely not going to cause you any issues. This best pre-workout for beginners will have you covered.

If you don’t use caffeine at all, opt for a pre-workout with lower doses of caffeine per serving. There is an option in the article link in the previous paragraph.

Summary

Taking pre-workout feels great if it is adequately dosed. You’ll have feelings of enhanced mental and physical performance through feeling more alert, focused, and awake. Be careful, though, as the more pre-workout you take does not equal feeling even better. Taking too much pre-workout can leave you feeling overwhelmed and cause an inevitable crash.

References

1. Haskell, C. F., Kennedy, D. O., Milne, A. L., Wesnes, K. A., & Scholey, A. B. (2008). The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biological psychology77(2), 113-122.

2. Huerta Ojeda, Á., Tapia Cerda, C., Poblete Salvatierra, M. F., Barahona-Fuentes, G., & Jorquera Aguilera, C. (2020). Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on physical performance in aerobic–anaerobic transition zones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients12(9), 2490.

3. Kamanna, V. S., Ganji, S. H., & Kashyap, M. L. (2009). The mechanism and mitigation of niacin‐induced flushing. International journal of clinical practice63(9), 1369-1377.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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