The global preworkout supplement market was worth a whopping $12.6 billion in 2019, and it’s projected to keep on growing over the coming years. By as much as 8.3 percent, in fact.
Are you serious about working out?
That commitment won’t just be confined to doing your best at the gym — once you really get into the fitness world, you’ll also definitely start making some adjustments to your lifestyle. They generally include clean living and eating, but it’s also clear that serious athletes have different needs than the general population.
So soon, you’ll also be looking into supplements to boost your performance and health. If you’re just going to take one workout-related supplement, it’s most likely to be a preworkout. What are preworkout supplements, what’s usually in them, and how long do their effects typically last?
*Pre Workout can be written as two words, as a hyphenated word (pre-workout), and as an acronym (PWO). We use all three interchangeably here at Skinny Yoked because who cares.
What Are Preworkouts?
Preworkout supplements — usually just called “preworkouts” — are dietary supplements that are especially formulated to increase your performance and concentration in the gym, on the field, or wherever you might be working out. Some preworkouts additionally contain ingredients designed to help you recover after your workout, which translates to less sore muscles afterward.
Here are the best pre-workouts we have reviewed to date:
- GNC’s Beyond Raw Lit Review
- 4 Best Vegan Preworkouts Compared
- Best Low-Caffeine & Non-Stim Preworkouts
- The Entire Cellucor C4 Line-up Compared
- Performance Lab STIM Pre-Workout Pills
- 4 Gauge Preworkout Review
- FNX Supplements Reviewed
- 10 Best Efficaciously Dosed Pre-Workouts
- Bodybuilding.com’s In-house Pre-Workout Review
- Best Bang-for-Buck Genius PRE Review
- GAT Nitraflex Super Intense Pre-Workout Review
- Betancourts B-Nox Androrush Vitamin-Stuffed Pre-Workout Review
Needless to say, we’ve consumed a ton of pre-workouts over our 12+ years of working out. Some are better than others but ultimately what is best for you comes down to your specific goals.
Most preworkouts are powders. They can be added to water or juice. Many gyms also sell single-serve doses in water bottles. Occasionally, you’ll find a preworkout in pill or capsule form.
What’s in Preworkouts?
A 2019 research study that analyzed the most common ingredients found in preworkout supplements, including industry bestsellers, found that the most typical active ingredients are:
- Caffeine, which boosts your mental alertness and your energy.
- Beta alanine, an amino acid that increases your stamina and slows down muscle fatigue. Learn more about beta-alanine.
- Creatine boosts your strength while you’re working out, and helps you gain muscle mass faster and more effectively.
- Arginine, which widens your blood vessels, and with that boosts your endurance and strength.
- Taurine, a compound that helps protect your muscles against oxidative stress.
- Tyrosine, which primarily increases your mental focus.
- Niacin (vitamin B3), to help, among other things, with your stamina.
- Citrulline for increased energy and performance.
It’s important to be aware that not all preworkouts contain the same ingredients, nor in the same doses. When a formula is a proprietary blend, the manufacturer doesn’t have to break down the doses, either.
How Long Does it Take for Preworkout to Wear Off?
You’re asking this question for two reasons — you want to make sure you don’t take your supplement too long before your planned workout, and you want to know whether the preworkout will, essentially, cause you to bounce off the walls for the rest of the day.
To tackle the first question, most athletes take their preworkouts around 30 minutes before their training session, and most of the active ingredients will have kicked in by that time. Take your preworkout much earlier than that, and you’ll likely miss the peak performance window.
How long does it take for a preworkout to fully wear off? In general, you can expect to feel the effects for an hour or two tops. As we consider this question, though, it is crucial to remember that preworkout supplements consist of a blend of different ingredients. All of them have a slightly different half life.
- Caffeine reaches peak potency in the body about 60 minutes after consumption. It has a long half life of approximately five hours. If you’ve been a fairly heavy coffee drinker for years and years, you might not even notice that. In some people, on the other hand, the energy-boosting effects of caffeine remain quite apparent for as long as nine hours!
- Arginine takes around two hours to wear off, depending on your dose. This does vary from person to person.
- All the other ingredients will be completely metabolized and excreted within 24 hours.
Does Taking PWOs Affect Your Sleep?
Energy. Endurance. Razor-sharp mental focus, and a drive to keep going. All these things are your best friend in the gym. When you’re just trying to get a good night’s sleep, on the other hand, not so much.
Yes, of course preworkouts can affect your sleep — very much like a very strong cup of coffee (or two, or three) can, depending on the dose you’re taking. We’ll refer you back to the part where we said that some people really don’t experience any noticeable effects when they consume large amounts of caffeine, while others can stay energized for hours and hours.
The secret here is to know your body. If you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, and you’re still feeling that buzz when you’re heading off for the night, you’ve taken too much, too close to bed time.
What Time Is Too Late to Take Pre-workouts?
Most people will be fine if they take their preworkout four or five hours before they want to go to sleep, but if you’re dealing with insomnia that could potentially be triggered by preworkout supplements, you may want to hit the gym earlier in the day. You could also try a lower dose, or even experiment with stim-free preworkouts.
If you have a high stim tolerance that you’re working on trying to break but are still struggling with your sleep there are a specific sub-set of performance-oriented supplements designed specifically to help promote restful sleep and support protein synthesis overnight. These nighttime recovery supplements can be a good short-term crutch for those nights you’re struggling to get the sleep your body needs.
Are Preworkouts Bad for Your Heart?
Not generally. If you take more than the recommended dose — as far too many people do — however, things might get a little uncomfortable. It’s not uncommon for people who use excessive doses to report heart palpitations and a rapid heart rate.
These symptoms were linked exclusively to caffeine, so again, if you have ever had this issue, you might want to consider a stimulant-free preworkout regimen that still offers you the benefits of a whole blend of other ingredients designed to boost your performance and muscle growth.
When you’re considering taking a preworkout supplement, it’s important to pay close attention to two things. The instructions on the package (don’t take more than the manufacturer tells you to), and your own body (stop if things get weird). If you have a preexisting medical condition, you’ll have to add a third step. Talk to your doctor, and get the green light before you start using a preworkout supplement.