How Long Does It Take for Pre-Workout to Kick In?

In recent years, pre-workout supplements have gained significant attention among fitness enthusiasts and athletes. While some hail them as the ultimate solution for boosting physical performance, others remain skeptical about their effectiveness. 

However, both groups have a common question: how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in? 

Imagine you take your favorite pre-workout supplement at home. You drive to the gym and start your warm-up routine. Will this instantly work its magic, or do you have to wait for a certain amount of time? 

Let’s find out how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in in this guide.

What Is a Pre-Workout Supplement? 


A pre-workout supplement or pre-workout is a multi-ingredient dietary supplement that helps improve physical performance during workouts. Typically, a pre-workout is in a powder form. You have to mix it with water or juice and drink it before your workout session. 

The ingredients in pre-workouts vary. Some common ones include amino acids, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and beta-alanine. 

The quantity of each ingredient may also differ depending on the brand and product. A study published in the journal Nutrients drew an ingredient profile for multi-ingredient pre-workouts

The profile includes the following ingredients: 

  • Beta-alanine
  • Caffeine 
  • Citrulline
  • Taurine
  •  Tyrosine
  • Creatine 

The study also found that 44.3% of ingredients' amounts are undisclosed on pre-workout labels, and they are added as proprietary blends.

How Long Does It Take for Pre-Workout to Kick In?

While a lot of factors affect the onset of pre-workout, it generally takes 20-30 minutes for a pre-workout to kick in. However, the timing varies based on individual factors. 

Research shows that caffeine takes anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes to reach its peak concentration in the bloodstream. Caffeine absorption may be slower if you've had a meal before taking the pre-workout. 

Non-stimulant ingredients in pre-workout supplements, such as amino acids, may take longer to kick in. They work differently in the body compared to caffeine. 

These ingredients need to be digested, absorbed, and transported to the muscles before they can have an effect.

Which Factors Affect How Long It Takes for Pre-Workout to Kick In

No two bodies are the same. Similarly, no two pre-workouts are the same. So, how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in? Well, it varies. 

Here are some factors that impact the onset of pre-workout.

Body Metabolism 

Your body's metabolism is the process of converting food and drinks into energy. The faster your metabolism, the quicker the pre-workout will kick in. 

Since most pre-workouts are caffeine-rich, it's important to understand how the body metabolizes caffeine. The rate of caffeine absorption in the blood determines the time it takes to feel the impact. 

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Toxicology found that caffeine absorption from an energy drink and coffee are the same. The absorption rate is similar between both sources, irrespective of rate of consumption and beverage temperature. 

If you're a healthy, non-smoking adult, caffeine will enter your body's circulation fairly quickly. The rate of entry is faster if you take a pre-workout on an empty stomach. Studies show that peak plasma concentration is achieved within an hour. 

The primary enzyme for caffeine metabolism in the body is cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2). A study found that people have different genetic variations of this enzyme

Due to this difference, some people may experience a slower metabolism of caffeine. As such, it will take longer for them to feel the effects of pre-workout.

Factors Affecting Metabolism

Besides genetics, some other factors also impact metabolism. These include: 

  • Age: As you age, your metabolism slows down. Older adults may take longer to feel the effects of pre-workout compared to younger individuals. 

  • Smoking: A study in the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that caffeine metabolism is faster in smokers compared to non-smokers. 

  • Body Size: The larger your body mass, the longer it may take for caffeine to be absorbed and circulated in your body. 

  • Race/Ethnicity: Your ethnicity also plays a role in caffeine metabolism. A study from the journal Pharmacogenomics found that caffeine metabolism is slower in Africans and Asians than in Caucasians. 

  • Total Caffeine Intake: If you regularly consume caffeine, your body may develop a tolerance to it. It can lead to a faster metabolism and reduced effects of pre-workout.

Meal Timing 

How and when you take the pre-workout can also impact its effectiveness. When you already have food in your gastrointestinal tract, pre-workout absorption slows down. 

That's why taking pre-workout on a full stomach slows its onset. 

Pre-workout onset is faster when you take it on an empty stomach. However, some people might find this uncomfortable. Their stomach may feel upset, leading to gastrointestinal discomfort during the workout. 

A study found that individuals who use multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements experience several side effects, like: 

  • Heart abnormalities 

  • Nausea 

  • Skin reactions 

These side effects are more likely to occur in women than men. 

Similarly, another study found that a high concentration of sugar alcohols can trigger symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Pre-workouts rich in sugar alcohols (artificial sweeteners) are responsible for these effects. 

To avoid this, you can take a quick snack 30-60 minutes before taking your pre-workout. For example, a banana or an energy bar can provide enough fuel. 

If this doesn't do the job, eat a meal at least 1.5 to 2 hours before you take your pre-workout. Then, take a pre-workout 30-60 minutes before your workout.

Pre-Workout Composition 

Besides caffeine, pre-workouts also have several other ingredients. These may be: 

  • L-citrulline

  • L-arginine

  • Beta-alanine

  • Acetyl l-carnitine

  • Creatine 

The presence of these ingredients can also influence the kick-in time for a pre-workout. Most of these ingredients are absorbed quickly in the body. 

However, some may take longer. For example, some pre-workouts contain Vitamin B6 as a coenzyme. 

While the body can absorb Vitamin B6 doses well, the elimination rate for the vitamin is also quick. Studies show that most of it is eliminated through the urine.

Food-Drug Interactions 

People who take pre-workout supplements should be aware of potential food-drug interactions. For example, caffeine in pre-workouts can interact with certain medications like antibiotics, antidepressants, and asthma medications. 

The interaction ultimately impacts the time it takes for the pre-workout to kick in. A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that many drugs affect CYP1A2, the enzyme responsible for metabolizing caffeine. 

If your medication induces CYP1A2, the pre-workout will kick in sooner. On the other hand, if your medication inhibits CYP1A2, it will take longer for the pre-workout to work.

Pre-Workout Forms 

Pre-workout supplements come in different forms. Powders are most common. However, ready-to-drink (RTD) options are also available. Some people also opt for pre-workout gummies or pills. 

Each form's absorption rates differ. For example, liquids tend to absorb faster than pills or gummies. 

However, this also depends on individual metabolism and gut health. Some people may find pills more effective for them due to better absorption in their bodies.

How to Know If a Pre-Workout Has Kicked In 

There are a few tell-tale signs that a pre-workout has kicked in. The most common one is the tingling sensation or "pins and needles" feeling often experienced in the face, arms, or legs. 

Beta-alanine, an amino acid, is responsible for this sensation. It works by increasing carnosine levels in your body. Carnosine is a protein building block. It helps reduce muscle fatigue. Plus, it increases endurance during exercise. 

A study found that beta-alanine can increase carnosine levels by 20% to 80% in skeletal muscles. Another research published in Frontiers in Nutrition shows that the carnosine increase is 40% to 60%

Another sign is increased energy and focus, usually around 20-30 minutes after taking the pre-workout. Studies show that multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements improve muscular endurance and power

Similarly, a study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that heart rates increase once a pre-workout has taken effect. So, that's another sign your pre-workout is working. 

You may also notice increased sweating or flushing of the skin, which can be attributed to the caffeine in most pre-workouts. Some people may also experience increased blood pressure due to the stimulants in pre-workout supplements.

How Long Does the Effect of Pre-Workout Last? 

The effects of pre-workout can last anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on the ingredients. A higher dosage may result in a longer-lasting effect of up to 5 hours. 

However, that doesn't mean you should take your pre-workout 3 hours before hitting the gym. Instead, aim to take it 30 minutes before your workout. 

By the time you're done with your warm up, the pre-workout effect will be at its peak. As you go further into your workout, the effects may start to wear off.


So, how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in? You know now. 

Typically, pre-workouts kick in around 20-30 minutes after consumption. Signs of its effectiveness include increased energy, focus, heart rate, and blood flow. A tingling sensation is also common. 

Some factors that may affect the time it takes for pre-workout to kick in include your body weight, tolerance to stimulants, metabolic rate, pre-workout composition, and time of consumption. For best results, take the pre-workout on an empty stomach about half an hour before your workout. 

Remember to never take more pre-workout than the recommended dosage. If you see persisting side effects, seek medical advice.

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