The majority of fitness enthusiasts use pre-workout supplements in hopes of increasing energy, pumps, muscle growth, endurance, mind-muscle connection, and focus. While it’s quite common to take a pre-workout 5 minutes before entering the gym, that’s not the most optimal time to consume a pre-workout supplement, and you may be missing out on some of its benefits.
If you look at the suggested use section on pre-workouts, it’s often recommended to consume pre-workouts anywhere from 15-30 minutes prior to training. Some pre-workout supplements even state that they should be ingested 45-60 minutes before training. Although that amount of time may seem excessive, it all depends on the pre-workout’s ingredients.
In this article, we’re going to help you get the most out of your pre-workout by answering the commonly asked question, “how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in?”.
How long does it take for pre-workout to kick in?
On average, it will take anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes for the pre-workout to kick in.
However, there are various factors that contribute to the time it takes for pre-workouts to kick in, such as the type of pre-workout, form (powder vs capsules), and whether or not you ate food beforehand.
Below we will cover a few different scenarios and approximately how long it will take for various pre-workouts to express their effects.
Fasted vs. Fed Training & Pre-Workouts
Early morning workouts are popular because you can get your training done first thing and not have to worry about it for the rest of the day. However, trying to eat a meal beforehand is quite challenging because of the time it takes to prepare, consume, and digest the food. That’s why most people who train early in the morning prefer to be in a fasted state and are avid users of pre-workouts.
Since there’s no food in your system, the body can absorb, process, and utilize a pre-workout supplement much faster. Depending on the ingredients, you may start to feel the effects of the pre-workout within 10-15 minutes after consuming it.
There’s nothing wrong with taking pre-workouts on an empty stomach, but some people do experience negative effects, such as gastrointestinal distress, nausea, lightheadedness, etc. If you notice any side effects from taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach, you may want to consider eating something small beforehand or switching up your pre-workout powder. Pre-workouts containing a high amount of stimulants, such as caffeine, are more likely to cause side effects.
On the other hand, eating a big meal before training will blunt or slow down the time it takes for the pre-workout drink to kick in because your body is trying to digest and absorb the meal you just ate. If you eat before a workout, wait at least 60 minutes before taking your pre-workout drink and 90 minutes before training. If you eat right before training, opt for a smaller meal containing minimal fat and quick digesting carbohydrates.
Pre-Workout Ingredient Dosing
This doesn’t apply to every pre-workout ingredient, but the higher the dose, the quicker you may start feeling the pre-workout formula. A common pre-workout ingredient is beta-alanine, which is known for its potential to boost muscular endurance. Beta-alanine is also notorious for causing paraesthesia, which is described as pins and needles, tingling, or an itching sensation in your hands, face, and feet.
If you only take 800 milligrams of beta-alanine, you may not feel it very much or at all. On the other hand, if you take 3.2 grams of beta-alanine, the chances of you feeling it quicker and for a longer duration are much greater.
However, you are not going to necessarily feel every ingredient that’s in a pre-workout supplement. And this applies to supplements beyond pre-workouts. For example, you can’t feel a multivitamin, fish oil, or branched-chain amino acids, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working, so just keep that in mind.
Common Pre-Workout Ingredients You May Feel
Here are some ingredients used in many pre-workout supplements that have a noticeable effect and how long they take to kick in! It’s important to note that beyond beta-alanine, the ingredients you will feel are stimulants, nootropics, and nitric oxide booster/blood flow agents. Thus, caffeine-containing pre-workout supplements will most likely hit you harder than non-stimulant pre-workout formulas.
- Caffeine Anhydrous
- It takes approximately 30-60 minutes for caffeine anhydrous to reach peak concentrations in your blood. Caffeine has a half-life of 3-5 hours, which means that even after 5 hours, half of the amount of caffeine you consumed is still in your system.
- It takes approximately 20-30 minutes or so for beta-alanine to kick in. However, if you take a small dose or have been using it for an extended period of time, you may not get any paraesthesia. 2-4 grams of beta-alanine should be taken daily for maximal benefits because it needs to build up in your system to fully express its effects. Beta-alanine’s loading period is similar to creatine monohydrate.
- Alpha-GPC is a nootropic that helps increase the levels of a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. It’s a very popular pre-workout ingredient; however, it takes anywhere from 45-75 minutes for this ingredient to reach peak concentrations in your blood.
- Citicoline is another acetylcholine booster that’s known for its ability to increase focus. Similar to alpha-GPC, it takes quite a while, typically 1-2 hours, before you start feeling the effects of citicoline.
- Citrulline malate
- Citrulline malate takes about an hour to express its vasodilating effects on your blood vessels because it has to be converted into arginine before being used for nitric oxide production. Citrulline malate is used in most pre-workout supplements to increase blood flow and exercise performance.
- Also known as inositol-stabilized arginine silicate, Nitrosigine® expresses its effects in as little as 15-30 minutes after ingestion and lasts up to 6 hours. Compared to citrulline malate, Nitrosigine® takes a more direct pathway to raise arginine levels and be converted into nitric oxide. Similar to citrulline malate, Nitrosigine® increases blood flow to the working muscles.
It’s important to note that not every pre-workout ingredient has been researched to see when its effects start to take place. As you can see, slamming a pre-workout 5-10 minutes before training is not optimal.
The Type or Form of Pre-Workout
The most common forms or types of pre-workout supplements are powder, capsule, or ready-to-drink (RTDs). Powders and ready-to-drink pre-workout supplements get digested, absorbed, and delivered into the bloodstream much faster than a capsule.
Therefore, it’s very likely that you will start feeling powdered and RTD pre-workouts before a capsule-based pre-workout. Not to mention, some supplement companies use delayed-release capsules, so it takes even longer for the body to break down, absorb, and use the ingredients.
If you plan on using a capsule-based pre-workout, take it at least 45 minutes prior to training or you can empty the capsules into a shaker and drink the powder instead.
Although taking a pre-workout right before stepping foot on the gym floor is quite trendy, you’re not getting all of the benefits the pre-workout has to offer. Taking a pre-workout at least 30 minutes before training allows your body enough time to digest, absorb, and utilize the ingredients.
Remember that you may not feel some ingredients, but there are several that will have a noticeable effect on your energy, mood, focus, pumps, vascularity, and performance. What’s more, there are several, pre-workout ingredients that should be taken daily, such as creatine and beta-alanine.
Pre-workout formulas vary quite a lot from brand to brand, so check the label before purchasing any pre-workout supplement. Also, seek professional medical advice before using all dietary supplements, especially caffeine-containing pre-workouts.
There are several things that will also affect how quickly you feel a pre-workout, such as whether or not you eat beforehand, the type of pre-workout, and even your stimulant sensitivity. Furthermore, multi-ingredient pre-workouts are challenging to determine how long they will take to kick in because you’re dealing with a wide spectrum of ingredients.
Next time someone asks you, “how long does pre-workout take to kick in?” hopefully, you’re equipped with the right information to provide them with a solid answer!