Written by Ben Carlisle
Last updated on: Sep 18, 2022
Kimura Athletic may earn a small commission through our links. Learn more.
Pre-workout supplements typically contain a handful of ingredients that help boost your physical and mental energy levels before working up a sweat. However, due to lack of knowledge and misunderstanding, many novice trainers are wary of trying this supplement. One of the primary concerns regards how long pre-workout lasts in your body.
Pre-workout supplements generally last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours after consumption. However, the duration will vary depending on the ingredients in the pre-workout and the individuals' body weight, age, caffeine sensitivity, hydration, dosage, and time of using the supplement.
If you're planning to add the famous "motivation in a bottle" to your supplement regime, consider reading the full scope of how long it lasts and the role the various ingredients play.
Pre-workout supplements, otherwise referred to as "pre-workouts," are multi-ingredient dietary formulas engineered to improve your workout session by transporting sufficient nutrients to the muscles. In turn, it boosts focus, energy levels, and overall athletic performance.
Pre-workouts are generally in powdered form that you mix into the water before hitting the gym. However, some variants are sold as capsules or bottled drinks.
Does the phrase "addicted to the pump" sound familiar? Well, that's what pre-workout does; it contains ingredients like arginine that dilate your blood vessels, increasing the blood flow to and from your muscles.
There's little consistency regarding content and specific ingredients with endless formulas in the market. The components most often included are beta-alanine, caffeine, citrulline, creatine, amino acids, tyrosine, taurine, arginine, and niacin; however, the quantities and formulas vary widely from brand to brand (1).
In addition to these ingredients, many manufacturers add flavoring, artificial sweeteners, and coloring to improve the taste and appearance of the product.
Most pre-workouts contain a combination of several of these ingredients mentioned above in various dosages. Therefore, identifying the exact components and dosages that make up the pre-workout supplement is vital in answering "How Long Does A Pre Workout Supplement Last?".
Pre-workout supplements are split into two primary categories; the first, which contains a stimulant, and the second group, which is stimulant-free. Of the stimulant-induced pre-workouts, a caffeine-based supplement is by far the most popular.
Generally, pre-workout lasts from half an hour to two hours after consumption, with several residual effects lasting six hours. However, there are a ton of variables at play when it comes to determining how long pre-workout lasts.
While most pre-workouts last two hours, this varies significantly by ingredients. For example, the increased blood flow of arginine can wear off within 30 to 120 minutes, while the energy boost of caffeine can take up to six hours to wear off depending on the dose and individual (2, 3).
Since the research indicates that the range of half-lives varies across individuals, your experience with the onset and duration of pre-workout effects may vary.
Due to the varying ingredients and dosages, the effects of pre-workouts last different lengths of time. Determining precisely how long pre-workout supplements last depends on the following factors:
Personal statistics influence how long a pre-work supplement will last. These factors include the following:
Heavier individuals tend to experience less effect when consuming pre-workout supplements than those with a lighter body mass. Although not applicable in all cases, it is safe to assume that drinking a recommended pre-workout dosage will significantly affect a lighter person than a heavier one.
Caffeine-based pre-workout supplements are by far the most popular stimulant-induced pre-workouts.
Studies show that while some individuals are sensitive to caffeine's stimulant effects, others are not; you can be caffeine sensitive or insensitive individuals (4).
Caffeine tolerance generally increases with age, affecting the intensity and duration of the pre-workout supplement. In addition, research suggests that older adults were more sensitive to the objective effects of caffeine, particularly regarding the health benefits of enhanced exercise performance. However, they were reported to have a less subjective effect than young adults (5).
Note that genetic makeups and certain medical conditions can affect individuals' caffeine tolerance regardless of age (6).
If you exercise in a dehydrated state, the side effects of a pre-workout supplement will last longer. In contrast, a hydrated person will experience lesser effects for a shorter time.
Even without a pre-workout supplement, dehydration is a common risk factor for individuals who participate in strenuous activity. However, certain ingredients in pre-workout supplements can speed up dehydration by pulling and excreting water, especially supplement blends that contain weight loss and diuretic content.
For example, caffeine is a mild diuretic that forces your kidneys to work overtime, flushing more fluid from your body. In turn, it may cause dehydration (7).
Suppose you consistently use the same pre-workout supplement over a long period. In that case, your body tends to build up a tolerance, lessening the supplement's effects as your body becomes accustomed to a specific caffeine dose, and your body gradually stops reacting to it. However, you are less likely to build up a tolerance to your pre-workout when you cycle off of it regularly.
The most noticeable sign of pre-workout or caffeine tolerance is that you no longer feel energized after your average dose of pre-workout powder. If you're feeling sluggish during your training sessions or struggling to perform at the same intensity, as usual, your body may no longer be responding to the caffeine (8).
To avoid building tolerance, consider taking lower frequencies of the supplement you are currently using, cease using it for two weeks after every six to eight weeks of use, or switch to a stimulant-free supplement for several weeks.
The dosage of a pre-workout is another critical factor to consider. If you consume the recommended, optimum dose, it should work as intended, allowing you to experience positive side effects like increased energy and enhanced focus. In comparison, if you consume minimal amounts of the product, it won't be as effective.
The same theory applies to taking exceeded dosages; it will give you a headache, the jitters and leave you feeling tired and dehydrated. Therefore, you should avoid exceeding the recommended dosages, especially if the pre-workout is a high stimulant supplement (9).
Consider starting any new pre-workout by initially taking half the recommended dosage to see how your body reacts. On the other hand, if you've been drinking the same pre-workout supplement for a prolonged time and you notice your bodybuilding tolerance to the product, do not compensate by increasing the dosage past the recommended amount.
To fully understand how long pre-workout lasts and the time it takes to leave your system, you'll need to understand the concept of half-life.
In the context of medical science, half-life generally refers to the "elimination half-life," which is the time required for the concentration of a particular substance to reduce to half of its initial dose in the body (10).
While different substances have various half-life rates, the same rule applies for all of them: 50% of the initial drug is eliminated from the body after the one half-life passes.
When we understand what half-life is, it's easier to determine and understand the excretion rates and steady-state concentrations for the specific pre-workout. For example, if an ingredient has a half-life content of two hours, the plasma concentrations will reduce to half after two hours. Then, after another two hours, the remaining levels reduce by another half – leaving a quarter of the concentration in your blood and so forth (10).
Now, let's deep dive into the most common ingredients found in famous pre-workout supplements to understand better how long pre-workout lasts.
Caffeine is a prevalent ingredient in pre-workouts. The stimulant aids in preventing adenosine from binding with specific brain receptors, leading to increased nerve activity that makes you more alert and energetic (11).
It benefits athletic performance for short-term high intensity and endurance-based exercise or activities. In addition, caffeine increases neuromuscular function and vigilance while reducing the perception of exertion while exercising (12).
However, excess caffeine can cause you to experience
• Increased heart rate
A caffeine-based pre-workout supplement is not advised for individuals with caffeine sensitivity.
The half-life of caffeine in healthy individuals' plasma is around five hours. However, the elimination half-life can range between 1.5 to 9.5 hours. The wide range is due to inherent individual variations and psychological or environmental characteristics like weight, pregnancy, diet, oral contraceptives, smoking, and altitudes (13).
Findings suggest that smoking doubles the rate of caffeine clearance, whereas substantial alcohol intake extends the half-life and decreases the release. Likewise, caffeine's half-life extends to over eight hours longer during pregnancy (14, 15).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 400 milligrams of caffeine safe for daily consumption; however, some pre-workouts exceed this amount in a single serving, or the manufacturers fail to disclose the precise amount of caffeine the supplement contains. Therefore, it's critical to always review the label of any pre-workout supplement before consumption (12).
Arginine supplements can enhance performance by boosting the body's nitric oxide production, which improves circulation and oxygenation to the muscles (16). Therefore, arginine is prevalent in pre-workouts for a vascular effect.
A study in 56 male soccer players demonstrated that a daily intake of 2 g l-arginine for 45 days found that the treatment significantly increased sports performance compared to the placebo group (17).
A different study in 9 men demonstrated that drinking a beverage containing 6 g of l-arginine an hour before a workout had significantly increased their blood's nitric oxide levels and, therefore, able to exercise longer than the placebo group (18).
Arginine tests typically show a maximum plasma concentration between 30 to 90 minutes after ingestion, suggesting that the half-life of l-arginine is between 30 to 90 mins after ingestion (19).
However, citrulline (discussed next) is a preferred pre-workout ingredient over arginine.
Citrulline is an amino acid quickly gaining popularity as a health and exercise supplement. It helps improve vascular function by increasing l-arginine bioavailability and nitric oxide synthesis. In turn, it widens your blood vessels and plays a role in muscle building and reducing muscle soreness (20, 21).
After consuming citrulline, some of it converts into arginine, forming the nitric oxide. Nitric oxide promotes vasodilation of your blood vessels by relaxing the muscle cells that constrict them (22).
Interestingly enough, due to the different ways your body absorbs and processes arginine and citrulline, consuming it generally increases arginine levels more than consuming the amino acid arginine itself (23).
Although citrulline does not directly build proteins, it can increase protein synthesis by stimulating vital signaling pathways involved in muscle building (24).
We can assume that the effects of citrulline pre-workout supplements last a similar time as arginine. Research suggests the half-life of arginine is between 30 to 90 mins after ingestion.
Beta-alanine is unlike most amino acids; instead of synthesizing proteins, it produces carnosine stored in the skeletal muscles (25).
Carnosine plays a vital role in reducing lactic acid accumulation in the muscles during exercise. In turn, the process leads to reduced fatigue and improved athletic performance (26).
Carnosine is an essential peptide that acts as one of your muscles' primary lines of defense against the accumulation of hydrogen ions during intense workouts. The rise in hydrogen ions causes a drop in your muscle's pH that significantly contributes to muscle fatigue (27).
Moreover, studies suggest that carnosine boosts nitric oxide production, fights to age, and increases the function of muscles in older adults (28, 29).
A 10 mg/kg beta-alanine serving's half-life is reported to be 25 minutes while returning to the baseline concentrations occurs after around 3 hours post-ingestion (30). However, the average beta-alanine per pre-workout supplement serving is below the recommended efficacious dose. So, it will likely return to baseline concentrations faster than the above research suggests.
Creatine offers a multitude of benefits including, increased ATP energy, improved high-intensity exercise performance, and muscle strength. More so, creatine increases the water content in your muscles, leading to cell swelling and muscle growth (31).
Creatine selectively stimulates the rate of actin and myosin heavy chain synthesis in your differentiating skeletal muscles. These two major contractile proteins are responsible for muscle movement and contractions. In addition, creatine reduces lactic acid production and accumulation during exercise that significantly contributes to muscle fatigue and failure (32, 33).
If you consume creatine daily as a stand-alone supplement, the half-life is irrelevant as it would take weeks for it to eliminate from your system. However, if you're only consuming it using a pre-workout, its half-life is around 151 to 193 minutes (34).
A tyrosine supplement increases dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. Increasing these neurotransmitters may help improve your memory and performance ability in stressful situations.
A study shows that acute tyrosine supplementation can improve your endurance capacity in the heat. The results also suggest that the availability of tyrosine can influence your ability to handle prolonged submaximal constant-load exercise (35).
Taurine can enhance muscle contraction while delaying muscle fatigue. In addition, it can benefit athletic performance by increasing fat burning as a better fuel source during exercise (36).
A review of 19 different studies, each assessing the effect taurine has on athletic performance, noted several benefits, including (36):
• reduced muscle damage
• delayed muscle fatigue
• improved strength and power
• increased oxygen uptake
• improved recovery times
Medical literature varies regarding an effective taurine dose, claiming to take 3 g to 6 g to ensure that you fully achieve these benefits. In addition, the elimination half-life ranges from 42 to 84 minutes, and the plasma concentrations return to normal after about eight hours (37).
Niacin is essentially one of the eight B vitamins, specifically vitamin B3. Additionally, there are two primary forms of vitamin B3:
• Niacin (nicotinic acid): NAD
• Niacinamide (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide): NADP
Niacinamide is found in pre-workout formulas with the focus of fuelling your biochemistry and cellular metabolism with coenzymes that help convert food into energy quicker. More specifically, niacin supplementation may influence fat metabolism by blocking the release of free fatty acids from adipose tissue.
Niacin further supports ATP production - the cellular "currency" - by maximizing your energy reserves critical for dietary and cellular fuel. NAD mainly functions in energy-producing and catabolic reactions like the degradation of carbs, fats, proteins, or alcohol. In contrast, NADP operates in anabolic reactions like synthesizing macromolecules, including cholesterol and fatty acids (38).
The most significant adverse effect of niacin is the "flushing effect," which can cause a tingling sensation in your face and reddish, itchy skin.
Then, the serum half-life of niacin is 20 to 40 minutes. In addition, you renally excrete most of the niacin as nicotinuric acid. The urinary excretion of unaltered niacin increased following excess intake (39).
From a different point of view, the question "How Long Does Pre-Workout Last" can refer to the product's shelf-life.
A pre-workout supplement will expire faster once you open the tub or package. With specific pre-workout brands, this could mean using the product within eight weeks to sixteen weeks. However, the standard recommendation is to use an opened pre-workout supplement within twelve weeks (3 months).
While some pre-workouts contain vitamins and minerals that last pretty long, others contain amino acids that typically break down with age.
Lastly, according to the USDA, some products are still safe after the "use-by date," but the supplement may not be of acceptable quality.
Here are several factors that will indicate that your pre-workout is rancid and you need to discard the supplement:
• Smell: Ensure you're familiar with the typical smell of your pre-workout when you first open the supplement. If it starts to exhibit a foul odor, it indicates that it has been open for too long.
• Clumps: Clumps are essentially the biggest problems that individuals encounter with their pre-workout supplements. Once you open the supplement, you break the vacuum seal, and moisture will seep into the container, making the fine powder rather clumpy.
• Difficulty mixing: When the pre-workout supplement doesn't mix easily and remains with a chalky texture, it has gone off in most cases.
• Mold: Mold is the most apparent indication of all; ensure to throw the supplement into the bin right away to prevent nasty food poisoning from occurring.
• Past expiration date: While the pre-workout can be safe to consume after the expiration date, the quality diminishes, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
Most pre-workouts contain various ingredients, including beta-alanine, caffeine, citrulline, creatine, amino acids, tyrosine, taurine, arginine, and niacin. Therefore, it's essential to identify personal characteristics (age, weight, medical conditions, etc.), the precise components, and dosages of the pre-workout supplement to correctly answer the question "How Long Does A Pre Workout Supplement Last?".
As a general indication, pre-workouts last between 30 minutes and 2 hours after consumption. Note that if you experience any adverse effects, it's best to stop using the supplement and consult with a medical practitioner for advice.