Pre-workouts are one of the top-selling products in today’s sports nutrition industry. Thanks to various marketing tactics, supplement companies lead you to believe that pre-workout is the answer to all of your physique and performance goals. And if you train without a pre-workout, you might as well not work out at all.
Since the popularization of pre-workout, there are various types of pre-workouts, such as non-stim and high-stim. A commonly asked question by beginners or those that are just getting into taking supplements is, “what does pre-workout feel like?”
Although the answer to this question may seem straightforward, it really depends on the ingredients and how much of them are used in a pre-workout. Some ingredients you feel almost immediately, while others you may not feel at all. In this article, we are going to cover what the most common pre-workout ingredients feel like so you know what to expect!
What does pre-workout feel like?
Depending on what ingredients are in the pre-workout formula, most of the time after taking pre-workout, you will feel a boost in energy levels, alertness, focus, vascularity, and fullness.
If the pre-workout contains a good amount of beta-alanine, you will most likely feel a tingling sensation in your hands, face, or feet, which is known as paraesthesia. Some pre-workouts even have thermogenic ingredients that make you feel hot and sweaty.
It’s important to note that everyone responds differently to pre-workouts, and your response usually comes down to your tolerance level and how much of each ingredient is in the pre-workout. Also, some pre-workout ingredients don’t result in a sensory response, so you won’t necessarily feel them working, but they are still beneficial.
What common pre-workout ingredients feel like
The main ingredients you will feel shortly after taking the pre-workout supplement are classified as stimulants, nootropics, adaptogens, and nitric oxide boosters that increase blood flow throughout the body.
Here’s a list of some ingredients found in most pre-workout formulas and what they feel like:
The following ingredients are very common in pre-workout supplements and are classified as stimulants:
- Caffeine – caffeine anhydrous, dicaffeine malate, caffeine citrate, natural caffeine, etc.)
- Theacrine (TeaCrine®)
- Methylliberine (Dynamine®)
- Alpinia galanga
- Eria jarensis
What do stimulants feel like?
After taking stimulants, you usually feel more energized, alert, focused, and less hungry since they curb your appetite. However, taking too many stimulants can make you feel anxious, jittery, nauseous, and restless. They can also cause headaches, increased heart rate, and other unwanted side effects.
It’s important to note that some stimulants are much stronger than others and are not well studied in regards to effectiveness and safety. The ingredients you should be cautious about taking are listed in bold.
Nootropics & Adaptogens
The following ingredients are also very common in many pre-workout supplements and are classified as nootropics and/ adaptogens:
- Choline bitartrate
- Noolvl® (inositol stabilized arginine)
- Bacopa Monnieri
- Panax Notoginseng
- Rhodiola Rosea
What do nootropics and adaptogens feel like?
In general, nootropics should boost your mental performance by increasing focus, cognitive function, alertness, mind-muscle connection, and mental energy levels. They are not nearly as strong or fast-acting as the stimulants mentioned above; however, they do have a noticeable effect on performance inside and outside of the gym. Some also help reduce stress and anxiety and have a calming effect, such as L-theanine.
Other pre-workout ingredients you may feel
Here are some other pre-workout ingredients you may feel depending on your sensitivity and how much you take at one time:
- Beta-alanine – results in paresthesia, which is often described as an itching, pins-and-needles, or tingling sensation in the hands, face, or feet.
- Nitric oxide agents (nitrates, L-citrulline, arginine, Nitrosigine®, Vaso-Drive AP®, etc.) – may cause a drop in blood pressure, along with increased vascularity and better pumps because they increase blood flow to the working muscles.
- Niacin – High doses of niacin (vitamin B3) may result in flushing/redness along with an itching or burning sensation on the skin.
What beneficial pre-workout ingredients you won’t feel
Here are some popular pre-workout ingredients that you won’t feel right away but may help increase your performance in the long term:
- Creatine – creatine monohydrate, creatine HCL, Creatine MagnaPower®, etc.
- Betaine anhydrous
- Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
- Essential amino acids (EAAs)
- Electrolytes – sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium
- Huperzine A
- Carnitine – L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine
At their clinically studied dosages, these ingredients increase power, strength, body composition, and endurance. However, some of the ingredients listed above should be supplemented daily for optimal results.
Why Don’t I Feel The Pre-Workout?
Another commonly asked question in regards to pre-workouts is, “why don’t I feel the pre-workout?” As we mentioned, this really depends on what pre-workout you’re using because its ingredients and dosages will determine how much you feel it or not. But there are some other things you should consider before switching to other pre-workout supplements.
If you’ve been taking pre-workout supplements for an extended period of time or you already consume a high amount of caffeine, you may stop feeling the pre-workout. It’s well-known that over time you develop a tolerance to caffeine, so to feel it, you have to take even more. You also become reliant on it and have to consume a certain amount to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and headaches.
If you’re in this situation, the best thing to do is to gradually reduce your caffeine intake, then go completely off to regain your caffeine sensitivity. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-stim and non-stim pre-workout supplements that you can utilize during this period.
It takes up to 30-45 minutes for some pre-workout formulas to kick in fully. Consuming pre-workout 5 minutes before walking into the gym may reduce how much you feel the pre-workout until you’re halfway through your workout.
To fix this, all you have to do is be more conscious of when you consume your pre-workout. It’s a good idea to consume pre-workout supplements at least 20-30 minutes before training.
Nutrition, Hydration, and Sleep
Pre-workout supplements are not special, and they aren’t even necessary. To get the most out of your supplements, it’s important to ensure that you have proper hydration, nutrition, and sleep schedule.
If you don’t consume enough fluid, barely get any sleep, and eat a low-nutrient diet, pre-workout supplements aren’t going to do much. Optimizing your diet, training, sleep, and hydration according to your goals will take you a lot farther than any pre-workout on the shelf.
Buy pre-workout from reputable companies
Regardless of what pre-workout supplements you purchase, make sure you’re buying from a reputable company. The supplement industry is regulated, but many pre-workout supplements on the market don’t contain what the label says.
A reputable company should produce their supplements in an FDA-registered and CGMP manufacturing facility, along with testing their products to ensure they are safe and effective.
Furthermore, if your pre-workout supplement uses a proprietary blend of ingredients, which means you don’t know exactly how much of each ingredient is in one serving, steer clear from that product. It’s important for the consumer to know exactly what they are putting into their body.
There’s a wide range of pre-workout formulas on the market, from high-stim to non-stim and everything in between. Many pre-workout supplements promise to do the same things, such as boost energy levels, performance, strength, power, endurance, and focus.
There are a lot of things to consider when describing how a pre-workout supplement feels, such as how much caffeine or stimulants it contains, whether it has beta-alanine or not and if it’s produced by a reputable supplement company. Not to mention, the individual also determines how a pre-workout makes them feel.
For example, if they are a stim-junkie, a pre-workout supplement with 400 milligrams of caffeine may not feel like much. On the other hand, if they barely consume caffeine, the same pre-workout may feel too strong.
In summary, if you want to start taking pre-workouts, ensure your diet, training program, sleep schedule, and hydration are dialed in so that you will get results no matter what. You shouldn’t be reliant on a pre-workout supplement to achieve your goals, whether that’s building muscle, losing fat, or boosting performance.