How Long Does Pre-Workout Last? Plus, the Best Time to Take it.

Posted on October 15th, 2021 By in Product Science Read Time: 16 mins.

Look. We’ve all been there. You’re headed to the gym, and instead of the eye of the tiger, you feel like your eyes just want to close!

Maybe you didn’t get as much sleep the night before as you wanted to.

Or maybe you had a strenuous morning, and your breakfast cup of coffee just isn’t doing the trick.

If this sounds familiar, then you may have already tried pre-workout supplements for an added kick before your workout.

But how long does that delightful ‘buzz’ from pre-workout last? Here’s what science has to say.

jar of peach flavored pre workout on plywood table with pink hourglass and orange plastic decoration
It’s almost always a good time for pre workout.

What Are Pre-Workout Supplements?

Before we can dive into how long pre-workout lasts, we need to know what’s in them.

In the simplest form, pre-workout supplements are combinations of ingredients that boost exercise performance.

While this definition is a little vague, this is the main thread that connects all pre-workout supplements. 

What Is in Pre-Workout Supplements?

The history of pre-workout supplements goes all the way back to Venice Beach, California in the 1980s. 

Tip: Check out our comprehensive pre workout guide for an even more in-depth look at the history, and different types of pre-workout!

The very first pre-workout was a combination of caffeine, simple carbs, and ephedrine.

Ephedrine is a stimulant that was first used in over-the-counter decongestants.

It is now banned in dietary supplements because it has adverse effects on cardiovascular health. 

Nowadays, there is much more science and regulation that goes into health and nutrition supplements, including pre workout.

Every brand of pre-workout has its own specific formula and blend of ingredients that is unique.

Let’s break down some of the most common ingredients to figure out how long each ingredient lasts after consumption.

Caffeine

The most common and one of the most effective ingredients you will find in pre-workout supplements is caffeine.

Caffeine is found in many natural sources like coffee beans and green tea.

It is a safe and effective stimulant to increase energy when taken in proper doses.

Pre-workouts can contain anywhere from 50mg of caffeine all the way to a (mind-blowing) 400mgs or more!

While technically-speaking, the half-life* of caffeine is roughly 6 hours, you will most likely ‘feel’ the caffeine component of pre-workout for about 3 hours or so.

*half-life: How long a substance remains active in your bloodstream.

Amino Acids

Amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, are also commonly found in pre workout.

Some amino acids play specialized roles in the production of cellular energy, and building muscle.

These are the aminos that are typically found in your pre workout cocktail.

Amino acids, which are equally effective for both men & women, digest within 2-3 hours.

Beta-Alanine

While it may sound scary, beta-alanine is simply a non-essential amino acid that gives you some remarkable endurance benefits.

It is a common ingredient found in most pre-workout products, and can give you a serious boost in the gym. 

Beta-alanine may also give you a tingly sensation in your arms, neck, and face, as well as some flushing in your cheeks.

No need to worry though- this sensation is completely normal, and will go away as your body processes the beta-alanine.

Beta-alanine has a half-life of about 30 minutes and will be processed by your body in about an hour, so beta-alanine’s effects will end about one hour after supplementation.

Creatine

The last of our common ingredients in pre-workout supplements is creatine.

Creatine is a natural chemical found in animal meat, and humans, and boosts muscle and brain function. 

It is the most common fitness supplementation out there, besides protein powders.

Creatine is found to boost endurance and strength performance in the proper dosage, and has a half-life of around three hours.

Therefore, the acute effects of creatine will taper and decline after three hours. 

Nootropics

Nootropics are the most complex pre workout ingredients, and are used to increase cognitive function.

The rationale behind including nootropics in pre workout products is to help the athlete push past mental barriers.

After all, the mind controls the body!

Nootropics such as huperzine, choline, GABA, and ginseng are commonly used to:

  • increase energy
  • improve cognition and learning
  • boost memory and recall
  • enhance focus

Some adaptogens function as nootropics as well, although many are used to reduce stress, not provide energy.

Because of the complexity of nootropics, and the physiological factors unique to each athlete, it is not possible to assign one single half-life to the nootropics as a whole.

Ginseng, for example lasts in the body for just a few hours, while huperzine stays in the body for 24 hours.

So, How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?

As you know now – different pre workout ingredients last for varying amounts of time.

Therefore, there really is no universal answer to the question of how long pre workout lasts.

The truth is that it depends on the exact formulation of your pre-workout, and the ingredients in it.

💡 How Long Does Pre Workout Last? Different ingredients last for different lengths of time and the specific blend that you take will affect how long it lasts. 

That being said, since caffeine and creatine are the two most common and effective ingredients in pre-workout supplements, it is safe to say that most pre-workout supplements will have peak effects 30 minutes to one hour after consumption and will last two to three hours before the effects are over.

When Should I Take Pre-Workout?

Another question that tends to come up after figuring out how long a pre-workout lasts, is wondering when you should take your pre-workout.

Most recommendations say to take your pre-workout about 30 minutes before your exercise session. 

30 minutes is the average time it takes for nutrients to go from your stomach to your bloodstream.

If you feel the need, you can take your pre-workout up to an hour before your workout, but just know, the effects will kick in before you get to the gym!

Conversely, you can also take your pre-workout just before exercising, If you prefer a mid-session boost instead of starting off with the pre-workout in full effect.

This is an especially effective method if you have a very long gym session planned, and can help you push through the middle portion of your marathon session. 

Lastly, you should avoid taking your pre-workout within three hours of your desired bedtime.

As there is caffeine in almost every pre-workout, you’ll want to make sure you give your body time to process it before bed.

If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, you may want to give yourself five or more hours before bed, or even limit yourself to pre-workout for morning sessions only. 

Summary:

  • Pre-workout supplements are a safe and effective way to give yourself a boost in the gym.
  • Most pre workouts feature many of the same ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine. The body processes these ingredients for different amounts of time.
  • The length of time that pre workout lasts will depend on the combination of ingredients in it.
  • As a generalization, a pre workout containing caffeine, beta-alanine, and creatine will last between 2-3 hours.
  • It takes about 30-minutes after consumption to feel the main effects of pre workout drinks.
  • The best time to take pre workout is 20-30 minutes before a workout, or just before a longer workout (lasting over 90 minutes).

Try One of Ours:

As you are probably aware, here at UNICO, we have our own line of pre-workouts that we call ‘Athena’.

It comes in 2 different versions – ‘Intense’ and ‘Unleashed’.

Both products feature core pre workout ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine, taurine, and BCAAs.

Our ‘Unleashed‘ pre workout contains powerful nootropics like huperzine, which makes it a better choice for longer, more mentally-challenging workouts. It also has a formidable 250mg load of caffeine per serving – giving it quite the punch!

Alternatively, our Athena Intense Pre Workout comes in delicious flavors like Gummy Peach Ring, and is perfectly balanced with the right balance of amino acids, caffeine (150mg/serving), and L-citrulline. 

It is an excellent choice for those looking to experience pre workout for the first time, but offers reliable performance that will impress the most discerning pre workout aficionados.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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