What Does Pre-Workout Feel Like? (Guide For First Timers)

If you are looking for an energy boost to get a little more out of your exercise, you’ve likely looked into pre-workout supplements.

Like an energy drink, many pre-workout supplements will boost energy levels so you can power through your last set.

However, not all pre-workout formulas are created equal; some will do it better than others. Some pre-workouts will also make you feel different than others.

Sometimes people who consume pre-workout supplements say they may feel the jitters or even itchy, while others say it just makes them feel energized.

So, what does pre-workout feel like? We'll take a look in the article below.

Most people report feeling great after they’ve taken a pre-workout supplement. Many pre-workout supplements even give people a sense of euphoria while exercising.

This feeling of euphoria comes from the nootropic ingredient of caffeine. Caffeine is often found in coffee, green tea extract, and most pre-workout supplements.

Ingredients like L-theanine also play a significant role because it works synergistically with caffeine. L-theanine can also improve your reaction time, alertness, and visual processing.

Other pre-workout ingredients like beta-alanine and amino acids also contribute to this effect.

You may even feel a buzz depending on your tolerance toward caffeine. Expect to feel a buzz unless your caffeine intake is through the roof and you live off of coffee and energy drinks daily.

Most pre-workouts have between 100-300mg, and some have more caffeine per serving, so you will probably feel something.

However, what you feel isn’t always immediate. It usually takes 30 to 45 minutes to really start feeling the effects, so take it before you get to the gym.

When pre-workout does kick in, you should feel ready to crush your workout. And that feeling isn’t just in your head. You should also be able to lift more weight, perform better cardio, and push yourself harder.

Of course, the positive effects won’t last forever, either. Everyone reacts differently to pre-workout supplements, but the effects typically last an hour or two, even though some may feel the effects for several hours.

man in black shirt and pants drinking pre-workout

What Does A Pre-Workout Crash Feel Like?

Many people do experience crashes after their pre-workout supplement wears off. You may find yourself Googling "pre-workout making me feel weird" or "how to feel better after pre-workout."

You might not feel this way, but it's always a possibility, even if you've taken pre-workout before. Too much pre-workout  can definitely make you crash pretty hard after your workout.

When you crash, you’ll pretty much feel the opposite of how you felt when you initially took your supplement.

You’ll be tired and lacking energy. You’ll hardly feel like walking to your car after leaving the gym, much less tackle a tough workout.

You might struggle to focus on and complete tasks and not want to do much in general. Still, if you drink a lot of coffee, you’ve probably experienced this crash before.

Many people take a quick power nap so they don’t feel tired, or they’ll adjust how much they take next time to avoid the crash altogether.

If you often crash after taking your pre-workout supplement, you're probably taking one with too much caffeine. Try lower doses and see how you do next time.

Related Article - Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Tired?

exhausted man sitting on concept2 rower

Why Do Some Pre-Workouts Make People Feel Sick?

Not everyone feels ready to conquer the world after consuming pre-workout. Some people have adverse side effects.

The reasons for this will vary from person to person, but it is mainly due to the combination of common ingredients not sitting well with their body.

Some people may even feel nauseous during their workout session after they take pre-workout.

A few other negative feelings people may experience are:

  • Jittery
    One of the most common side-effects of caffeine [1] and other stimulants is jitteriness. Many pre-workouts pack high amounts of caffeine, some up to 500 mg of caffeine per serving size. This caffeine can help you while you exercise, but you might feel jittery depending on how much caffeine you take.
  • Itchy
    Feeling itchy after taking a pre-workout is caused by beta-alanine. Your body produces it naturally, but if your pre-workout supplement has more than 2g of beta-alanine, there’s a higher chance of an itchy feeling during your workouts. This is because beta-alanine can cause acute paresthesia. This is a harmless nervous system reaction.
  • Tingling Sensations
    If you feel tingly, don’t worry. The tingling sensation is also caused by beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps muscles contract more efficiently so you can work out harder, improve your athletic performance, and delay fatigue.[2] That's why so many pre-workouts have beta-alanine supplementation, even though they cause a tingling sensation and itchiness.
  • Pumping muscles
    Many lifters feel a bigger pump after they’ve taken a pre-workout. That’s due to citrulline, which has been linked to boosting nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and allows for easy blood flow. With increased blood flow to your muscles, they swell up a lot more.
  • Headaches
    When you increase blood flow with citrulline, it also affects your brain and muscles. [3] This causes some users to experience headaches and migraines. There isn’t a recommended dose of citrulline, so if you get headaches, cut back to a dosage that works for you. Headaches can also be due to blood pressure changes in your brain's small blood vessels.
  • Increased water retention
    Creatine is included in most pre-workouts because it increases high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass gains from exercise. The main side effects of creatine include water retention, bloating, weight gain, and digestive issues.
  • Upset Stomachs
    Many ingredients in pre-workout may cause digestive upset. The main culprits are sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, creatine, and caffeine.
  • Red Patches
    Niacin is included in many pre-workout supplements for its skin-flushing effects. However, taking enough niacin can trigger a blood rush to the surface of your skin, resulting in red patches on your skin.
vitamins and scoops of supplement powders on a table

Should You Even Be Taking Pre-Workout Supplements?

If people feel negative side effects from the ingredients in pre-workout, is it even worth it?

While there are some adverse side effects to taking pre-workouts, they are minor, and not everyone will experience all or any of them.

And the potential benefits are more energy, increased muscle strength, increased focus, and improved exercise performance that outweigh the negative side effects of pre-workout.

How your body reacts will depend on whether it is right for you, but anyone looking for an energy boost while training can benefit from pre-workout products.

However, people with health conditions like diabetes, insomnia, anxiety, or heart conditions, should seek medical advice before taking these products.

For those people, caffeine and other common ingredients could have additional adverse effects that aren’t with the extra energy boost.

As far as how much you should take, all pre-workout supplements are different, so it's best to follow the directions given by whichever one you take or speak to wellness professionals before taking pre-workout.

man drinking a pre-mixed beyond raw lit pre-workout drink

Frequently Asked Pre-Workout Beginner Questions

Does it feel different if you take pre-workouts on an empty stomach?

Some lifters feel the effects of their pre-workout even more significantly if they take it on an empty stomach.

With nothing else in your stomach to absorb the powder, it'll likely hit your system faster and more powerfully so you can get in even more reps.

Learn More - Should You Take Pre-Workout On An Empty Stomach?

Should you drink pre-workout fast or slow?

Drinking pre-workout fast or slow each has its pros and cons. You absorb the stimulants much slower when you sip than you would if you chug.

You need to focus on getting the best pre-workout possible and experimenting to see what works for you.

Can you take a pre-workout after you finish a workout?

You can take a pre-workout when you’re done exercising if you need the boost to pick you back up.

However, to get the benefits we’ve mentioned, you need to take it before you start exercising. And you never want to take too much in a single day.

What if you don’t feel anything from taking your pre-workout supplement?

If you don’t feel any effects, your timing may be off. Try experimenting with when you take it to see if that helps.

Or, your body may have built up a tolerance for it. Take a week off to see if you start feeling the effects again.


Conclusion

So, what does pre-workout feel like? It depends. Your supplement might just give you a much-needed boost of energy.

Or, your supplement might give you a prickly feeling, red patches on your skin, or you could crash from the caffeine.

It all depends on how your body reacts. The best way to find out what it feels like is to start taking it and testing dosages and ingredients.

References:

1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/1550-2783-7-10

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491570/

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31977835/

Last Updated on September 23, 2022