Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itch & Tingle?

December 15, 2021

Some people love it. Others hate it. The itching and tingling feeling that comes with most pre-workouts. But why does pre-workout make you itch and tingle?

The main ingredients in pre-workout that make you itch and tingle are Beta-Alanine and niacin. It is known as paresthesia and is caused by the release of L-Histidine to create carnosine and the “niacin flush.”

Is this sensation bad for you? Should you avoid it at all costs? I have all the answers for you below!

Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itch And Tingle

Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Tingle

Beta-Alanine is the main ingredient that causes your skin to itch and tingle in a pre-workout. This phenomenon is known as paresthesia [1]. It is commonly experienced after consuming more than 800 mg of Beta-Alanine [2]. Since most pre-workouts have doses of at least 1 g per serving, you’ve likely felt this sensation!

The itch and tingling feeling are from releasing the amino acid L-Histidine that occurs to create carnosine [3]. Carnosine is the substance that buffers (removes) hydrogen ions formed when performing high-intensity exercise, delaying fatigue, and is increased when taking Beta-Alanine [1].

But there is one more ingredient that can cause skin itching and tingling. And that is niacin. Also known as vitamin B3. Niacin causes the “niacin flush,” which is identified by the feeling of warm, red, and itchy skin [4].

However, be aware of pre-workout products that have high levels of niacin. For example, the average niacin dose in the top 100 pre-workouts was 25.8 mg [5]. Considering 35 mg per day is the upper limit, high doses of niacin have been linked to liver failure. High niacin doses may also be detrimental to performance, so choose a pre-workout with a lower dose [6].

For example, I rated Crazy Nutrition’s Intensive Pre-Train as the best pre-workout for beginners. It is dosed adequately and happens to have only 8 mg of niacin per serving. Well under the average in the top 100.

Niacin is often added to pre-workouts as a dirty trick to make you feel that the supplement is working. Please don’t fall for it.

Is Tingling After Pre-Workout Bad?

There is no evidence to suggest that the tingling sensation from pre-workout is bad or harmful [2]. Only some individuals will experience tingling from pre-workout as the response is individual. For example, Asian males may not feel a tingling sensation, whereas Asian females may have a stronger response [7].

Further, if paresthesia is too intense, it may adversely affect performance [2].

How To Stop Tingling From Pre-Workout

Is Tingling After Pre-Workout Bad

One strategy to reduce the tingling from pre-workout is to split the dose of Beta-Alanine throughout the day. 1.6 g doses seem to minimize the side effects of tingling and itching [2]. However, this isn’t possible when taking a pre-workout supplement before the gym.

A more practical strategy that will further increase your exercise performance is to consume a high carbohydrate meal 60 minutes before taking your pre-workout [1]. The suggested amount is 2 g per kilogram of bodyweight.

How Long Does Tingling From Pre-Workout Last?

In general, tingling disappears within 60 to 90 minutes after taking your pre-workout. Personally, I find the tingling disappears within around 30 minutes. It will either start in my face and work its way down to my feet or start at my feet and work its way up to my face.

Summary

Always read the nutrition labels when choosing your pre-workout supplement. The varying doses of Beta-Alanine and niacin will dictate the intensity of the pre-workout, making you itch and tingle. If you don’t like the feeling at all, then try my favorite organic pre-workout.

References

1. 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.

2. Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Stout, J. R., Hoffman, J. R., Wilborn, C. D., Sale, C., … & Antonio, J. (2015). International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition12(1), 1-14.

3. Wilson, J. M., Wilson, G. J., Zourdos, M. C., Smith, A. E., & Stout, J. R. (2010). Beta-alanine supplementation improves aerobic and anaerobic indices of performance. Strength & Conditioning Journal32(1), 71-78.

4. 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.

5. Jagim, A. R., Harty, P. S., & Camic, C. L. (2019). Common ingredient profiles of multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements. Nutrients11(2), 254.

6. Gonçalves, A. C., & Portari, G. V. (2021). The B-complex vitamins related to energy metabolism and their role in exercise performance: A narrative review. Science & Sports.

7. MacPhee, S., Weaver, I. N., & Weaver, D. F. (2013). An evaluation of interindividual responses to the orally administered neurotransmitter β-alanine. Journal of amino acids2013.

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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