by Truth Fry September 08, 2022 5 min read
Regardless of whether fitness has been a part of your lifestyle for a long time, or you're just getting started ... we're all familiar with pre-workouts.
Heck, maybe you've even tried a few pre-workouts, or you're taking a pre-workout right now! Either way, I want to talk about a question I get about pre-workouts all the time...
"How long does it take for pre-workout to kick in?"
The truth is, that largely depends on the pre-workout you're taking. However, the most widely accepted answer you'll find is 30-60 minutes.
But before we just call it at that ... we have to take some other factors into consideration...
Here's everything you need to know about how to take pre-workout, when to take it, and why.
Like I mentioned earlier, you'll find that most pre-workouts should be taken 30-60 minutes before your workout. The reason for this may or may not be obvious to you: caffeine.
That's right, the main active ingredient in most pre-workouts is caffeine. This caffeine can come in several different forms too, including caffeine anhydrous, natural caffeine (usually from coffee or green tea), dicaffeine malate, and several others.
So, the real reason why most pre-workouts recommend 30-60 minutes is because that's roughly how long it takes for caffeine to be fully absorbed. Studies have shown that 99% of caffeine is actually absorbed within 45 minutes of ingestion .
Now, this isn't the only thing you should consider when it comes to the timing of your pre-workout ... but, to get the full performance benefits of caffeine, this is a great recommendation overall.
For instance, some pre-workouts don't even have caffeine in them! Here's what you should consider in that case...
"Non-stimulant" just refers to the product having no caffeine or stimulants. With these kinds of pre-workouts, you may consider changing the time that you take it prior to training. However, this isn't necessary!
The reason I say this is because pre-workouts can contain ingredients that can be taken anytime throughout the day, while giving you the same effects. Beta-alanine is actually a great example of this.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid compound that helps the body produce carnosine. Carnosine then helps with buffering acid produced during exercise. This can help with your endurance, and overall time to fatigue.
While there have been a limited amount of studies on the timing of beta-alanine supplementation ... current research suggests that the timing is nowhere near as relevant as the dose and consistency of doses .
Now, by no means am I suggesting that you take non-stimulant pre-workouts at some random time throughout the day. I'm just trying to prove a point, and my point is this ... caffeine is the main ingredient being considered when it comes to the timing of pre-workout.
My official recommendation would actually be to take non-stimulant pre-workouts at the same time you would take a stimulant based pre-workout. That's because there will still be ingredients that you can make best use of around your workouts such as vasodilators that can help increase your blood flow.
Taking pre-workout is pretty simple, but it also depends on the type of pre-workout. Most pre-workouts come in a powder form with a scoop to account for 1 serving. With these pre-workouts, all you have to do is mix them with 8-12oz of water, then drink it!
Most of them come flavored, and boy do they taste good! My personal favorite pre-workout tastes just like blueberry lemonade. I mean ... how awesome does that sound?!
There are other pre-workouts that come as ready-to-drink beverages, and even some that come in capsules or as gummies. These are great options if you're somebody who doesn't like hauling around a tub of powder.
With capsules and gummies, there will also be a recommended serving size. With any new pre-workout you start though, I always have a few recommendations...
If it's your first time taking pre-workout, or a new pre-workout ... I always recommend starting with a half-serving. In fact, most pre-workout supplements will have similar instructions on the label.
This is mainly to assess your tolerance to the amount of caffeine in the pre-workout. So with non-stimulant pre-workouts, you may not have to worry about this as much.
If you're somebody who drinks a lot of caffeine, you may have no issue. On the other hand, if you're somebody who doesn't drink much caffeine ... use caution. If you're not used to having that much caffeine at once, you can end up feeling jittery. That's why starting with a half serving is always a good rule of thumb.
If a half serving feels like enough ... you can keep it there, or increase it to a full serving over time. Whatever you do … do not go past one serving! This may go without saying too, but don’t add in any other caffeine sources close to when you take your pre-workout.
If you aren’t getting the same kick you used to get with your favorite pre-workout, you may want to try something else. This could also be an indication that you need to taper back your caffeine intake for a while to reduce your tolerance.
You’ve established when you’re going to take your pre-workout, and how much you’re going to take … but one question remains: How long does pre-workout last?
The answer is, it depends. It depends on a lot of different environmental and physiological factors. For caffeine to be considered completely clear of your blood plasma, it can take anywhere between 1.5 to 9.5 hours .
On the other hand, there are some ingredients like creatine monohydrate that can have effects that linger much longer than that.
Generally speaking though, the “feeling” you get from pre-workout comes from caffeine and stimulants. You’ll feel the effects of pre-workout a few hours after your workout. So if you’re somebody who trains late at night, you may want to consider taking your pre-workout earlier than normal so you’re not awake all night!
If you want to switch up your pre-workout, or start a pre-workout, we have awesome options for you! At 1st Phorm, we place a huge emphasis on creating the best possible products to help you get the results you’re after.
I know there can be a lot to consider when it comes to pre-workouts. If you have any questions about pre-workouts or any aspect of your health and wellness for that matter … reach out to us! We have a full staff of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches here at HQ who are happy to help. Best of all, you don’t have to spend a dime. We want to make sure you’re on track to see the best possible results with your health and fitness goals.
 Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 2, Pharmacology of Caffeine. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223808/
 Naderi A, de Oliveira EP, Ziegenfuss TN, Willems MT. Timing, Optimal Dose and Intake Duration of Dietary Supplements with Evidence-Based Use in Sports Nutrition. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2016 Dec 31;20(4):1-12. doi: 10.20463/jenb.2016.0031. PMID: 28150472; PMCID: PMC5545206.
BS Exercise Science NASM Certified Personal Trainer NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist