How Long For Pre-Workout To Kick In & How Long It Last?

If you have just gotten your first pre-workout supplement, you may be wondering: how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in? And how long does it last?

Pre-workout takes 30-60 minutes to kick in and reach peak levels in your blood, so you should drink it about an hour before your workout. After that, it lasts for 3-5 hours before the peak reaches its half-life and starts to decline.

This is it in a nutshell. Keep reading to find out:

  • The active ingredients in pre-workout
  • When does it kick in? (in-depth)
  • How long does it last? (in-depth)
  • Common pre-workout mistakes

And more. Let's get started.

What are the active ingredients in pre-workout?

Man taking a scoop of pre-workout from the tub

If you are reading this article, chances are you already know what a pre-workout is. However, you may not know which are the active ingredients responsible for giving you extra energy for your training.

Before we begin, know that your supplement may not have all of these ingredients.

Which is fine. This is only a list of the most common ingredients, not the necessary ingredients.

  • Caffeine. Depending on your supplement, a scoop of pre-workout can have anywhere from 100 to 300mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 1 to 3 cups of coffee. This is what gives you that extra energy for your workout. Some supplements are caffeine-free, so if you want to avoid this ingredient, look for those pre-workouts.
  • Beta-alanine. This is a non-essential amino acid (meaning that your body produces it on its own), yet it is essential for this supplement. It decreases the rate at which your muscles fatigue during exercise, and is responsible for that tingling sensation you get from pre-workout.
  • L-Citrulline. This amino acid helps with better blood flow during workouts, through the production of a chemical called nitric oxide which expands the blood vessels. L-Citrulline is safe in doses of up to 15 grams daily, yet 3 to 6 grams are enough for most people.
  • Creatine monohydrate. Creatine is a substance naturally found in muscle cells. Countless studies have shown that creatine improves your strength, reduces muscle damage, and improves power. It is one of the most common ingredients in a pre-workout supplement.
  • BCAAs. Branched-chain amino acids are three amino acids - leucine, isoleucine, and valine - which can be naturally found in protein-rich foods. In the context of pre-workout supplements, BCAAs are added to improve muscle mass and reduce fatigue.

Most pre-workouts you come across will have all of these ingredients, and all of them will have at least a couple of them. Depending on your goals, you may look for supplements that have or, on the contrary, don't have one or several.

How long does it take for pre-workout to kick in?

how long does it take for a pre workout to kick in

As I mentioned above, it takes around 30-60 minutes for the ingredients in pre-workout to reach peak levels in your blood. If you take your supplement right before beginning your workout, you will have gone through a few exercises, or even the entire workout, before it even kicks in.

But why is that?

Caffeine takes around 60 minutes to reach its maximum effects, as seen in a study conducted on the safety of ingested caffeine. And with caffeine being the reason for the energy you get after drinking a pre-workout, not getting your supplement early enough can deprive you of the much needed energy.

There are some other ingredients that take their time before kicking in.

However, none takes as much as caffeine. So if you get a caffeine-free supplement, you may get away with drinking it closer to your workout than if it had caffeine as an ingredient.

How long does pre-workout last?

Picture of an exhausted athlete

Now that you know how long it takes for pre-workout to work, you may be wondering: how long does pre-workout stay in my system? Knowing this allows you to do a better job at timing your drink.

Let's have a look at the half lives of two of the ingredients mentioned above.

Caffeine has a half life of around 5 hours. Body of research suggests that caffeine can last anywhere from 1.5 to 9.5 hours after it kicks in. Even though that is a pretty wide range to consider, most people will finish their workout within 1.5 hours.

Creatine has a half life ranging from 1 to 3 hours.

That being said, the half life of creatine doesn't really matter. It may give you a small boost as part of a pre-workout drink but creatine is supposed to be supplemented on a daily basis, fill up the levels in your muscles, then maintain those with constant supplementation.

All in all, for maximum effects, we suggest you to finish your workout 1.5 hours after a pre-workout drink.

Do you need pre-workout?

Man having a pre-workout drink before training

Most people who take pre-workout supplements do so because they like the taste.

Another reason may be that they got used to taking this supplement before their workout, and they somehow associate drinking it with working out - making some form of a "ritual" out of it.

But the truth is that few people - if any! - actually need this supplement.

Don't get me wrong, I too enjoy drinking it. I enjoy the tingling sensation. And it puts me in the zone.

However, I don't need it, and neither do you, as far as performance is concerned.

Whether you are taking pre-workout before running - which is cardio - or lifting weights, you still don't need it. Your performance will stay the same without it.

And if you constantly lack energy, then you should not be using pre-workout as a crutch. Look at the important lifestyle factors - sleep, nutrition, and hydration - and see if your lack of energy has to do with a lack of sleep, food, or water.

Most common pre-workout mistakes

Now that you know how much time it takes to kick in and how long it lasts, let's have a look at some of the most common pre-workout mistakes.

Poorly timing your pre-workout

If you time it poorly, it doesn't matter how long it takes for pre-workout to kick in, and it doesn't matter how long pre-workout lasts. There is a chance that you are timing it so poorly that it kicks in after your workout.

So, to avoid this issue, follow the guidelines laid above.

Take your pre-workout 30-60 minutes before your workout and you are golden.

Taking pre-workout on an empty stomach

Taking your supplement on an empty stomach can make you feel light-headed and even nauseous. It is similar to drinking coffee on an empty stomach.

We recommend you to have a meal around 30 minutes before drinking your supplement.

But what about its potency?

The truth is that it can be affected if you eat fiber-rich foods. Therefore, to get the full benefits of your supplement, avoid eating things like raw fruit and vegetables, grains, and nuts.

Dry scooping pre-workout

This is something that I've done too many times and it's silly.

What may seem like a harmless way of taking your supplements, can actually have some pretty bad health consequences. The greatest threat is ingesting too much of it by mistake, which can lead to caffeine poisoning.

Some minor effects include inhaling it. Trust me, that's not fun.


Now that we've answered the question of how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in, let's have a look over some of the most commonly asked questions related to this topic.

Can you feel the pre-workout kick in?

Yes, you can feel the pre-workout kick in. Usually, you will feel you will have a tingling sensation on your skin, from the beta-alanine, and a surge of energy from the caffeine.

However, as you get used to the supplement, you may no longer feel any of these effects.

When that happens, we recommend you to get off the supplement for a few weeks.

Are you supposed to chug pre-workout?

It doesn't really matter if you chug your pre-workout or sip it.

Just make sure you drink it fast enough to where it can start working. If it takes you more than 2 minutes to drink it, then you may be using too much liquid.

Does pre-workout really give you energy?

Yes, it does. That is why some people take pre-workout without working out. The caffeine contents in a serving of pre-workout are similar to those of 1-3 coffees, depending on the supplement you have.

If you don't feel the energy, then you may have built up a tolerance to caffeine, in which case you may benefit from getting off caffeine for a period of time.

How long does C4 pre-workout last?

C4 pre-workout takes around an hour to fully kick-in and you can feel its peak effects for the following 3 hours. Depending on how sensitive you are to stimulants, you may feel its effects for an even longer period of time.


So, how long does it take for pre-workout to kick in?

It takes 30-60 minutes, so you should drink it before getting to the gym.

And how long does pre-workout stay in your system?

Once it starts working, its peak effects will reach half life around 3-5 hours later. Therefore, you don't have to worry about its effects wearing off too quickly if you take the pre-workout an hour before getting to the gym.

With that said, you don't necessarily have to take this supplement.

Have it as an enjoyable part of your training, not as a necessity or chore.

Over to you.