One of the most identifiable side effects of many pre-workouts is the tingling sensation you get after taking them. Those who already know will tell you that the skin tingle means it is working, or it is an indication it is "go time."
There are a few reasons that a pre-workout supplement will make you tingle during your next workout.
We will investigate these reasons, explain their causes and effects and help you understand what it really means when pre-workout makes you tingle, as well as how to stop it.
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What Is In a Pre-Workout That Makes You Tingle?
Contrary to popular belief, the tingle is not a sign that your pre-workout is working. Instead, it is a reaction of increased blood flow to fully dilated blood vessels near the surface of your skin.
Known as paraesthesia, the official term for skin tingling, your pre-workout supplement can contain two ingredients that cause it. Beta-alanine and niacin are the root causes of this burning or tingling sensation. It is not caused by stimulants or caffeine.
Please note that if you experience paraesthesia and are not taking a pre-workout supplement, you will need to look for other causes and explanations, or talk to your doctor.
Causes Of Beta Alanine Tingling
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is also one of the top four primary ingredients in most pre-workouts.
Taken regularly and in a high enough dose, this amino acid has shown a decrease in muscular fatigue, an increase in overall physical endurance, and a reduction in lactic acid accumulation in the muscles.
Working on a cellular level, beta-alanine activates receptors in the central nervous system. On the one hand, this will help keep your internal pH at more normal levels, reducing acidic build-up and helping your muscles perform longer.
On the other hand, it also triggers your nerve endings near the skin surface which can give you a "pins and needles feeling." Some high-dose users do report a slight discomfort or pain, but the vast majority, just itch.
This itching or pins and needles feeling typically starts in the face or neck and moves down the body. If you are one of the ones that does have this side effect, it will usually begin about 15 minutes after taking your pre-workout and last 10 minutes to an hour.
Just note that to get the primary benefits of beta-alanine, you need 3.2g per day (upper limit), every day, for at least 4 weeks at a time.
Taking a week off and restarting the loading is a beta-alanine cycle that works for many gym enthusiasts.
Causes Of Niacin Tingling
Alongside caffeine, creatine, and the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), B-vitamins are another primary ingredient found on most pre-workout labels.
B6 and B12 are popular options, but not as popular as vitamin B3, which you probably know by its common name, niacin.
The B vitamin niacin is known to help treat high cholesterol levels and is important for general health. However, you only need 14 to 16 mg per day to get these effects, which are easily found in the animal-based proteins you are already eating.
Tuna, chicken, turkey, and beef liver all contain enough niacin for your daily allowance. Once you go over the 14 to 16 mg, you can experience the niacin flush.
This is the only reason niacin is added to pre-workouts. Some fitness and high-intensity gym goers like to know that their pre-workout is working and rely on this tingling sensation to trigger that response.
The tingle from niacin can last up to an hour, though it usually subsides in 10 to 15 minutes. It typically starts on the face, neck, feet, and hands and can also be felt on the chest and back.
With high enough doses, the blood vessels in your face or back can dilate, leading to a rush of blood to that area and leaving you with red, blotchy skin.
This rash is also harmless and temporary and will subside with the tingling feelings in a few minutes.
Can You Stop The Tingling Once It Starts?
The short answer is no. Once it starts, you can't stop it. However, with a proper workout, diet, and exercise, you are most likely already getting enough niacin and supplementing with BCAAs already.
Adding a pre-workout that contains these ingredients puts you over the daily limit and triggers these reactions.
Once the pre-workout face tingle feelings start, you can't turn them off like a light switch. However, you can drink more water to dilute the amounts absorbed, which can lessen the effects.
Reducing your intake to a half scoop instead of the high doses found in most pre-workout formula options will also help. A lower dose means less skin itching without a drop in physical performance.
Or you can begin your workout before they kick in and sweat out as the tingles start, cutting down on their effective time.
However, once it starts to tingle, it will run its course without much you can do to stop it. If you are already on a beta-alanine supplementation regimen, there is no need to have more in your pre-workout ingredients list.
Drinking pre-workout mixes should give you focus and motivation and allow for performing high-intensity exercise, longer and more controlled, without the itchy skin.
Through your exercise performance, gym sessions, or marathon training, you will experience muscle fatigue, soreness, lactic acid build-up, and exhaustion. The beta-alanine tingles or niacin flush don't stop this.
How To Avoid The Pre-Workout Tingles Altogether?
The best action is prevention. If you want to avoid the niacin rush, you simply need to avoid taking more than 14 mg per day. Since you get your B vitamins through your diet already, you can avoid the niacin tingle and niacin flush symptoms by choosing a pre-workout that doesn’t include any.
If you cannot, or your pre-workout is the best option for you, you can also spread your dosage out, take less at one time, or cycle it, so you aren't taking doses on consecutive days.
Beta-alanine supplementation has a lot of benefits to athletic performance, endurance training, and high-intensity exercises. However, you need to load up on it and must take it every day. The main problem is that most pre-workout supplements rarely have more than 1.6g of beta-alanine in their dosing.
To get the benefits, you need 3.2g per day, every day. Recommendations are to load beta-alanine and other BCAAs daily, in higher doses for 4 weeks. Then take a week off to reset and flush your system before loading again.
Because your pre-workout has smaller doses of beta-alanine than the recommended daily value, you can limit or avoid the beta-alanine itch by using a pre-workout mix that doesn’t contain any.
You can stop beta-alanine itch by only using pre-workout products that don’t contain beta-alanine.
Since you will most likely be supplementing with the right amount of beta-alanine throughout the day anyway, there is little need to add more to your pre-workouts.
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, does not actively monitor vitamins, minerals, and pre-workout supplements.
You will need to rely on brand labels and third-party testing, as well as your own research. As long as the label doesn't state it is intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease, the FDA has no reason to step in.
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Common Pre-Workout Supplement Tingle Questions
How long does the tingling from pre-workouts last?
In most cases, the tingles from pre-workout blends will begin in 10 to 15 minutes and can last about a half hour. Some reports claim they feel the tingling for up to an hour, and some get a tingling feeling on their lips when they first drink it. Taking beta-alanine will cause a pre-workout itch. Limiting your beta-alanine intake, though, can minimize or eliminate the itchy skin.
Is beta-alanine a stimulant?
No, beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid produced naturally in the body. Beta-alanine combines with the amino acid histidine to create carnosine, which helps regulate pH balance in the muscles and delays the fatigue effects from acidic build-up.
You can add more beta-alanine through your daily supplement and increase exercise performance, reduce neuromuscular fatigue and increase exercise capacity.
Is beta-alanine tingle safe or should you be concerned?
The tingling skin and infamous beta-alanine itch have been studied for years, and there are no reports that it causes any harm, short term or long term. It is considered safe, though while it isn't dangerous, it can be distracting or bothersome until the tingling starts to wear off.
Triggering the peripheral nervous system is stimulated naturally and throughout the day, every day. This has no ill effects on your body or muscle growth.
When should I be worried about tingling?
The time to get serious about the tingling sensations, or paresthesia, is when you have the burning, tingling feeling, flushed or rash-covered skin and are not taking a pre-workout supplement or loading beta-alanine.
There are many medical reasons for this sensation that will need to be diagnosed by your healthcare professional.
Pre-workout tingles are nothing much to be worried about. Some like the feeling and actually find brands with more niacin and beta-alanine to ensure they get the tingling feeling. Others want to avoid the sensation at all costs.
Unfortunately, the only way to not tingle is to find pre-workouts without niacin or beta-alanine included. While there are some brands out there, most will have one or the other (or both).
Because these two ingredients are commonly found in even the most popular and effective supplement brands, we tend to just accept it.
Supplement manufacturers hide behind solid science and give us the itching sensation, so we think we are getting more performance benefits. Just because you can't feel it, though, doesn't mean it isn't working.
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Last Updated on September 29, 2022