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How Long Does a Pre-Workout Last?

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 2, 2022


Bonafide athletes and recreational gym-goers share the same struggle when doing extensive workouts - physical and mental fatigue. To overcome this challenge, most of them take pre-workout supplements.

This raises a few questions about pre-workouts. What exactly are they, and how can pre-workout supplements help me with my fitness goals? How long does it last, and what are the effects of pre-workouts on my body? To answer this, we’re here to provide you with all the necessary information you need about pre-workout supplements and how it benefits serious and recreational gym-goers.

Pre-workout: What Does it Mean?

Pre-workout supplements are one of the widely used fitness supplements on the market today. They are specifically formulated to boost the body’s physical energy and provide you with enough mental energy to finish your routine without feeling exhausted after a strenuous workout session.

Pre-workout supplements have positioned themselves as a staple product for gym lovers. In fact, many health enthusiasts ranging from amateur gym-goers to serious weightlifters, take pre-workout supplements to enhance their body and help increase their endurance, energy, and focus.

This dietary supplement helps pump more blood in and out of the athlete’s muscles. This means enhanced performance and a steady energy boost flowing through their body. Pre-workout’s unique ingredients, such as arginine, help increase the blood-pumping action inside the athlete’s body. This component slightly dilates a person’s blood vessels. Thus, making room for more blood circulation throughout the muscles.

Pre-workout supplements may also contain caffeine and creatine as one of their main ingredients. As most of us know, caffeine is one of the driving factors for increasing our body’s energy levels. At the same time, creatine poses positive results during high-intensity tasks, such as heavy workout routines.

Here are some of the essential ingredients of common pre-workout supplements on the market:

  • Caffeine
  • Beta-alanine
  • Citrulline
  • Taurine
  • Tyrosine
  • Creatine
  • Arginine
  • Niacin, also known as Vitamin B3

Many pre-workout supplements on the market come in powder mix. You need to mix it with regular water or your favorite juice, and you’ll have yourself a healthy dose of pre-workout supplement ready for your fitness journey. Aside from the typical powder form, there are pre-workouts available as capsules for direct consumption. You can also get your hands on canned options and ready-to-drink bottle mixes.

Most of them provide their list of ingredients, including their recommended dose per serving to make the most out of their supplements.

So How Long Do Pre-workout Supplements Last?

Pre-workout supplements are a mixture of various ingredients that affect the athlete’s body. That means each component may have lingering effects, while others may only last for a few hours.

Let’s look at this, for example. The top two active ingredients of pre-workouts are caffeine and arginine. Caffeine’s magic kicks in slowly after consuming it in our bodies. This delivers a steady growing effect on our body’s chemistry, and the peak may appear at the 60-minute mark. The arginine may take 60 to 90 minutes before it hits the optimal reaction.

Arginine present in pre-workout mixes typically has a half-life of 30 to 120 minutes. This integral part of the supplement is responsible for opening up the blood vessels, allowing better blood circulation and nutrient delivery to our muscles during our training.

Caffeine, on the other hand, has a longer half-life than arginine. According to recent studies, it listed a half-life of around 5 hours. Caffeine effects may peak at the 1-hour mark and may have a lasting impact of up to 9.5 hours, depending on the caffeine tolerance of each individual.

Overall, pre-workout supplements will last anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours. That’s where most components affect our body the most.

Just like the difference in the ingredients’ half-life and their respective effects on an individual’s body, body composition and activity level may also alter the ideal effectivity time of pre-workout supplements. Here are some of the factors that may affect the duration and efficacy of the mixture.

  • Amount of ingredients per serving - Manufacturers may have their own equation when determining the ideal amount of ingredients per serving. This will have a direct reaction on the duration and efficacy.
  • The number of servings - The total number of servings you consume may also alter the effectiveness and duration of each ingredient.
  • Body mass - Body mass, type, and structure can also affect pre-workout supplements.
  • Activity level - The intensity, frequency, and overall activity level greatly influence the effectiveness of pre-workouts.

Are Pre-workout Supplements Safe to Use?

Many studies show that consuming pre-workout supplements are safe. However, it is essential to know that different components in the mix may pose harmful if we take more than the recommended amount.

Here are a few potential risks you should know about before consuming pre-workouts:

Niacin toxicity

Niacin is one of the significant components of pre-workout mixes. It is an organic compound and an essential nutrient for the body. It helps promote better brain functions. However, it can cause side effects if consumed beyond the recommended dosage.

A high dose of niacin may pose a severe threat to our blood pressure and can lower it to an alarming level. Prolonged exposure to the substance in a high quantity may also lead to liver damage and potentially affect other organs. It may eventually lead to multiple organ failures if left unchecked in rare cases.

Research also suggests that niacin may induce an uncomfortable condition known as a niacin flush. This causes red, itchy skin along with a warm feeling. However, the symptoms usually fade away within an hour.

Many supplements contain around 25 mg of niacin, and most tallies up to 41 mg. With this amount of niacin in the mix, there’s a huge possibility that you might catch niacin flush with a single serving of a pre-workout supplement.

To avoid these unwanted side effects, it is best to check the manufacturer’s label and look at the amount of niacin per serving. Also, it is critical to follow the recommended serving size.

Caffeine toxicity

Caffeine is one of the most known stimulants present in various drinks and consumables, such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. However, it may be harmful to our bodies when we take large quantities of this substance.

Ideally, the amount of coffee cups you need to consume to reach a critical level is impossible since the volume of liquid and caffeine would be insanely high. However, pre-workout powders contain a concentrated amount of caffeine and could pose a serious health hazard if ingested directly.

People who take coffee and other caffeinated drinks on top of pre-workout supplements may also be susceptible to caffeine overdose. Also, folks with a low body weight count have a higher risk of the adverse effect of caffeine.

Excess amounts of caffeine consumption may experience the following symptoms:

  • Heart abnormalities
  • Skin reactions
  • Nausea

According to experts, 3 grams of concentrated caffeine can be fatal to humans. That may sound like a lot, but a pre-workout supplement usually contains 250 to 400 mg of caffeine for a single-serve. That means an individual would have to finish 7.5 servings of a high-caffeine pre-workout mix.

With that in mind, you can minimize all potential risks regarding caffeine and niacin by following the recommended serving size and moderation. Like every other consumable, it is always best to check what’s on the label first.

Other Potential Concerns

Long-term Studies and Effectiveness Claim

Numerous studies have revolved around pre-workout supplements to ensure their safety and efficacy. However, there isn’t much when it comes to an in-depth look at the potential long-term effects on the body.

One of the challenges in making a long-term study on pre-workout mixes is the list of ingredients and the different side effects associated with them. For example, some components may shoot up caffeine's effects, which could pose a problem for the overall study.

On top of that, some supplements may contain banned or potentially harmful elements that are not yet regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or FDA. There are various loopholes manufacturers use for adding their unique ingredients to their mix. As long as they don’t claim their supplements can prevent, cure, or treat a particular condition, they can declare all kinds of promises about the efficacy of their merchandise on their label.

May Include Banned Substance for Pro Athletes

Consuming a banned substance in a professional sports event is a big red flag. It offers an unfair playing field for other athletes and potentially puts the user at a safety risk.

Pre-workout supplements have different kinds of ingredients. Some sports events require testing for any potential performance-enhancing drugs, and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that penalty by unknowingly consuming a simple supplement. With that in mind, it is crucial to know beforehand if there are banned or controlled substances listed as one of its components.

Here’s a quick list of the commonly prohibited stimulants found on most pre-workout solutions:

  • Phenpromethamine
  • Deterenol
  • Octodrine
  • Beta-methylethylamine

Some unfortunate athletes tested for banned stimulants ingested in their bodies in the past. Traces of these barred stimulants can be found on their pre-workout supplements. Because of this, the consumer holds all the responsibility to make sure they are ingesting a supplement that doesn’t have any prohibited stimulants before entering the competition.

For professional teams and competitive athletes, it might be better to hire a third party to test whether the content and substance in their supplements are safe. This extra mile can potentially save their team from unwanted disqualification and ensure a level playing field.

Pre-workout Supplement Safety Guidelines

There are lots of safety considerations when consuming pre-workout supplements. Here are some simple steps you can take to ensure your safety while maximizing your fitness level output.

  • Consider the number of servings

Anything you consume in excess may pose a severe threat to your body and health. That’s why it is vital to consider the right amount of servings per day when taking pre-workouts.

  • Watch out for caffeine or niacin intake

Pre-workout supplements usually have a high concentration of niacin and caffeine. Large quantities of these substances may induce side effects ranging from temporary to critical body reactions. It is recommended to avoid ingesting food and beverages with niacin or caffeine on top of a pre-workout supplement.

  • Consume tested and trusted pre-workouts

The popularity of pre-workouts in today’s market results in an overwhelming number of untested and unsafe mixes. When considering a product, look for any test results conducted by a third-party organization to ensure the effectiveness and safety of the supplement.

  • Check the label

Looking at the label and checking the contents is a good habit. This gives you a quick breakdown of the necessary components, including what your body would get per serving.

  • Watch out for proprietary blends

Manufacturers often add unique ingredients to their mix. However, watch out for any unlisted elements that can potentially affect your body in the long run.

  • Test the water first

Constantly assess how your body reacts to a single dose of a pre-workout supplement. This will give you a quick breakdown of what you can expect and its effects. This is crucial for first-time users.

  • Consult with a medical professional

People taking medications may have adverse effects with pre-workout supplements. The same can be said for folks with medical conditions. Before taking a leap toward pre-workouts, it is best to pay a visit to your doctor and discuss what’s inside your mix. This provides you with a safety blanket if there are substances in the supplement that can influence your prescription or condition.

Who Should Use Pre-workout Supplements

Gym-goers and professional athletes such as bodybuilders and powerlifters are the main markets for pre-workouts. However, it is not limited to that. In fact, anyone doing a high activity level may take pre-workout supplements.

It offers a significant boost in physical performance and mental capacity, which are both needed for anyone who wants to raise their endurance and strength. These two factors are critical for physical training for athletes. As long as they consume safe amounts and they can see improvements in their performance, they can take pre-workout supplements as part of their routine.

Benefits of Pre-workout Supplements

Pre-workout supplements offer tons of upside when it comes to physical performance at the gym. Although various components of the mix may behave differently, the boost in endurance, strength, focus, and performance is always there.

Pre-workouts with a high amount of caffeine show positive results when it comes to routines with intense effort in a short span of time. Aside from this, pre-workout supplements show promising outcomes such as building up leaner muscles, improving muscle endurance, and generally improving the individual’s mood.

Common Questions about Pre-workout Supplements

Here are the common questions and known answers about pre-work supplements.

Is it okay to take pre-workout supplements every day?

Taking pre-workouts on a daily basis is relatively safe for our body, as long as it is within the right dosage. However, your body may build up a tolerance to its effects in the long run.

The best way to approach this is to only take pre-workout supplements before engaging in strenuous physical activity. This ensures your body will not build up resistance and optimizes the effectiveness of the supplement at times when you need it most. On top of that, you’ll save up a few bucks per serving by only consuming it when necessary.

When is the best time to take pre-workout supplements?

An ideal time to take pre-workout supplements should be around 30 minutes to 1 hour before your scheduled routine. For longer sessions, it might be best to delay your intake for a specific window of time and match it with the intensity of your routine.

Is there a pre-workout supplement that I should avoid?

Pre-workout supplements with an insane amount of caffeine should always be a concern. This may lead to various side effects that could hinder you in your session. Professional athletes should also avoid supplements listed as prohibited stimulants or illegal performance-enhancing components. These substances are a major concern, and they could potentially ruin your professional sporting career.

Where to buy pre-workout supplements?

Pre-workout supplements are growing both in demand and popularity. That means there is a slim chance that you might come across an unregistered or untested product on the market. To minimize this risk, always buy from a trusted vendor with a trusted brand.

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