Pump It Up: Is Pre-Workout Worth the Hype?

Beautiful young woman resting and drinking water in the gym

Sometimes, completing your daily workout can feel like a chore.

Maybe it’s 6 am and you’re trying to get a pump in before work. Maybe it’s 9 pm and you are desperately trying to complete some cardio after a long day sitting at a desk. No matter what your workout preferences are, it can sometimes be difficult to get the work in.

Because of this, many people turn to pre-workout. Pre-workout is designed to get your body, and your mind ready for a great exercise. Learn more about whether or not pre-workout is right for you and your fitness goals.

What Is Pre-Workout?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to give you energy when you exercise. Most pre-workouts contain caffeine and come in a powder form that you mix into water. Just like the name indicates, pre-workout is meant to be taken 20-30 minutes before you start your exercise. 

Ingredients To Look Out For

There are many different types of pre-workout — some with more effective ingredients than others. Here are a few of the most important ingredients to look for in your pre-workout:


Caffeine is what gives pre-workout its kick. It can help increase your energy to power you through a hard workout. Caffeine can also enhance alertness and increase your metabolism.

Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to an hour to reach your bloodstream, which is why you should take your pre-workout a reasonable amount of time before starting your exercise.

Pre-workout powder next to plate weights


Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to support muscle endurance during exercise. Your body already produces beta-alanine naturally, but taking a pre-workout with this amino acid can give you an extra boost and can help prevent acid buildup in your muscle tissue.

Beta-alanine is also responsible for the tingling sensation that many people report after taking pre-workout. This is because this ingredient causes acute paresthesia, which is completely harmless but can be annoying or unpleasant to some people. 


Creatine is an amino acid found in your muscles. It helps them to produce extra energy during high-intensity exercise. In addition to helping you power through your workout, creatine can also help you with injury prevention by reducing dehydration, cramping, and nerve damage.

Many pre-workouts give you an extra boost of creatine that you may not get from your own body or diet. Your body makes about one gram of creatine per day. Creatine can also be found in seafood and red meat.

Ingredients To Avoid

While there are many helpful ingredients in pre-workout, there are a few things that could hurt your performance in the end.

Artificial Colors or Sweeteners

Pre-workouts come in different colored powders. While these may look fun, they can be harmful if not made with natural ingredients. Look out for ingredients such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, as they have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

In addition to artificial colors, you will also want to steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can make a pre-workout taste better, but they can cause digestive issues that may hurt your workout.

Man working out with kettle bell; dumbell and workout drink in foreground

High-Caffeine Content

If you decide to take pre-workout, make sure you consider other sources of caffeine you are consuming throughout the day. Most pre-workouts contain as much caffeine as you would get in one to two cups of coffee. 

If you are already drinking coffee, soda, or other sources of caffeine, then you may accidentally consume too much. Too much caffeine can lead to unpleasant side effects such as irritability, anxiety, and insomnia.

Do You Really Need Pre-Workout?

Many people wonder whether or not they need pre-workout to power them through their exercise. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but for some people, it can be extremely effective. 

If you find yourself struggling to get through your exercise routine due to low energy or lack of motivation, then pre-workout could give you the extra boost you need to power through your workout. 

Pre-workout is also great for people who work out for longer periods. Getting through a 90-minute workout may be easier if you have some gas left in the tank towards the end. Pre-workout can keep you energized and motivated until that final minute.

On the other hand, many people don’t need pre-workout in their everyday lives. For people who are sensitive to caffeine, pre-workout may cause more negative effects than positive ones and can make it hard to rest and recover after exercise. Pre-workout is also not necessary for every exercise. If you are doing a low-intensity or very short workout, then the boost from the pre-workout may be a little bit too intense.

Also, if you have any pre-existing health conditions, you may want to talk to your doctor before committing to regularly taking pre-workout.

Tips for Taking Pre-Workout

Most pre-workouts will come with instructions on how to take them. It is best to follow these instructions for optimal results. Often, you are instructed to mix pre-workout with water and to take it 20-60 minutes before you exercise.

If you are trying pre-workout for the first time, you may want to consider starting with half of a serving. This will give you a good idea of how the pre-workout affects you and your specific tolerance to the product. If needed, you can then build up over time to get to a full serving. 

Some pre-workouts are also made differently than others. Make sure you read the label of your supplement to determine the amount of caffeine or types of ingredients that it contains. This will allow you to better assess how specific amounts of caffeine or ingredients affect you positively or negatively.

Man doing workout on treadmill while holding bottle

Other Ways To Get Energized for Your Workout

If you decide that pre-workout isn’t for you, there are many other ways to get energized and motivated for your workout. If you still want caffeine, coffee, green tea, energy drinks, and caffeine pills are all options for you to consider.

If you are looking to get fired up without the use of caffeine, you will want to focus on what and when you are eating. Eating easily digestible carbs right before your workout can help you get more energy. Consider consuming foods such as fruit, oats, and bread to give you a quick energy boost.

Also, make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day. Hydration is essential to helping you perform your best and also allowing you to recover after your workouts. Males should be drinking 15.5 cups of water a day while females should aim for 11.5 cups.

In addition to your diet, it is important to make sure you are getting enough sleep at night. Sleep is essential to repairing your muscles and getting your body ready for the next workout. Prioritizing your sleep can help you feel energized and refreshed without the need for additional supplements.

Pre-Workout FAQs

There are many common questions that people have about the nature of pre-workout; here are just a few:

Do You Crash After Pre-Workout?

Many people experience a caffeine crash a few hours after taking a pre-workout. Caffeine inhibits adenosine, which is a chemical in your body that is responsible for preserving your energy. After the caffeine wears off, you may experience a build-up of adenosine, causing you to crash.

While you can’t necessarily avoid a crash, there are a few things you can do to make it less intense. First, make sure you aren’t consuming too much caffeine. If you already drink coffee in the morning before your workout, you may want to consider taking a smaller dose of pre-workout.

Additionally, you can spread out your caffeine intake throughout the day. Don’t drink three cups of coffee AND pre-workout all at once. Instead, wait a few hours between each drink. This will allow you to keep your energy levels up rather than consuming your caffeine at the same time and crashing a few hours later.

Woman drinks pre-workout drink during workout

How Late Is Too Late for Pre-Workout?

In general, you should avoid taking pre-workout too close to bedtime. It does contain caffeine, which will give you an energy boost and keep you awake. Pre-workout can also prevent you from winding down in the evening, which will make it harder for your body to get into “sleep mode.”

The best thing you can do is to know how your own body reacts to caffeine. If caffeine does not affect you too much, then you can probably get away with taking pre-workout before an evening workout. If you are less tolerant of caffeine, then you may want to half your dose or skip the pre-workout altogether.

Is It Better to Sip or Chug Pre-Workout?

Whether or not you sip or chug your pre-workout depends on the timing of consumption and how much of an energy boost you want to get.

If you sip your pre-workout, then you will need to start drinking it at least 30-45 minutes before your workout to ensure that you have time to drink it all. Sipping your pre-workout will also allow the effects to come on a bit slower and smoother, allowing you to ease into your exercise.

Chugging pre-workout is great for those who need a fast energy boost. If you chug your pre-workout 20 minutes before you start exercising, then the effects will kick in harder and faster. This is a great option for people who are short on time or aren’t as reactive to caffeine.

Some people also choose to use the “dry-scooping” method. This is when you swallow the powder dry instead of mixing it with liquid. Experts do not advise consuming pre-workout this way as it can not only be difficult to swallow but can also lead to a caffeine overdose, which can be very dangerous. 

Ultimately, any good-quality pre-workout should give you long-lasting effects regardless of how quickly you consume it.

Man mixes pre-workout drink on gym bench in gym

Does Pre-Workout Affect Sleep?

Pre-workout can make it harder to fall or stay asleep depending on the time you drink it and how reactive you are to caffeine. If you drink it too close to bedtime, then you could have a hard time winding down. 

In general, the half-life of caffeine is anywhere from three to seven hours. If you consume 300mg of caffeine, you will still have about 150mg in your system five hours later. This means that it can take caffeine up to 12 hours to fully leave your system.

Because of this, you may want to forgo pre-workout if it is getting too late in the day. You are probably safe to take it, however, if you love to get in an early morning workout.

How Long Does Pre-Workout Last After Mixed?

While the caffeine from pre-workout can last in your system for up to 12 hours, the buzz that you get from it is usually not as long. Typically, the effects of pre-workout last about two to three hours from the time they kick in.

Your body should process all of the ingredients within 24 hours, so nothing from your pre-workout will last more than a day.

Pre-Workout Pros and Cons

Overall, there are both advantages and disadvantages to taking pre-workout. Make sure to weigh the following pros and cons to decide whether or not pre-workout is a good option for you:


  • Increases energy

  • Improves focus

  • Strengthens endurance

  • Improves stamina

  • Aids in recovery


  • Can make you jittery

  • Can increase blood pressure

  • Can cause sleep problems

  • Can cause an energy crash

It is up to you to decide whether or not the pros make the cons worth it. You can also take the proper precautions to lessen the negative effects of pre-workout.

Woman mixes pre-workout powder on a gym bench

Final Thoughts: Choose the Best Option for Your Workout

It is important to get through your workout in a way that works best for your specific needs and goals. Pre-workout is generally safe and effective, so if it works for you, there is nothing wrong with using it. Just make sure to choose a pre-workout with natural ingredients that agree with your body.

Pre-workout can be a very useful tool if used correctly in addition to a good diet, plenty of sleep, and realistic fitness goals.

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