Pre-workout products have become increasingly popular and it’s no surprise why. They have proven benefits for increasing energy, focus, and stamina when working out. As a result, they can make you feel energized and ready to maximize your workout performance.
However, over time you might notice that the initial rush and boost of energy you felt when taking new pre-workout products just doesn’t feel the same anymore. You might even feel like your pre-workout isn’t making any difference to your workout.
This is because of pre-workout tolerance, which I’m going to discuss here. I’ll also be explaining how to avoid becoming tolerant, and what you can do if you have become tolerant to your pre-workout so that you can make the most of these products long-term.
Can You Build Up a Tolerance to Pre-Workout?
You can build up a tolerance to some of the ingredients contained within pre-workout products. It’s most likely to happen with stimulants like caffeine. Most people will build up a tolerance to these products if they use them consistently for periods of 4-6 weeks.
To expand on this more, when you use pre-workout products consistently over a period of time your body builds up a tolerance to the ingredients within it. Most of the time the ingredients that your body will become tolerant to are the stimulants like caffeine and dicaffeine malate. But it can also happen with some of the other ingredients like beta-alanine.
This happens because the cells in your body become desensitized to the ingredients in a product over time. Essentially, your body just becomes used to these products. This desensitization means that these products won’t be felt in the same way anymore.
Most people will notice a decreased effectiveness of pre-workout products after 4-6 weeks of consistent use. However, tolerances do naturally vary from person to person.
Tolerances can also vary depending on whether you’re getting these ingredients from other sources. Caffeine, for example, is also in products like coffee and tea, so you’re more likely to become tolerant to caffeine in pre-workout if you’re also getting it from other sources.
There needs to be a careful balance and consideration when it comes to stimulant desensitization. People that don’t feel the full or desired effects of a stimulant-based supplement are more likely to increase the dosage in order to get the desired effect.
This approach can be more damaging and potentially health-threatening if you consume more than the recommended dosage trying to chase a desired effect. Personally, I have around three cups of coffee a day and have quite a high tolerance for caffeine.
I’ve used a few pre-workouts and even taking the maximum required dosage, the effects are minimal due to a high tolerance from daily consumption. Therefore, the effects of pre-workout are so minimal that I opt for a non-stimulant pre-workout to still give some mental focus and that has a pump formula.
Rather than increasing the dosage, it is usually better to look into cycling your ingredients to minimize desensitization but I’ll cover more on this shortly.
Is Pre-Workout Bad for You?
You’ve probably seen debates around whether pre-workout is bad for you. Overall it will depend on the products you’re taking and how you’re taking them. However, becoming tolerant of pre-workout isn’t a sign that the product is bad for you.
As I mentioned, a tolerance to pre-workout products indicates is that your body has essentially gotten used to these ingredients through repeated exposure over time. As a result, these ingredients are no longer being felt in the same way. This isn’t a sign that the product is having a bad effect.
What to Do When You Have a Tolerance to Pre-workout
It’s important to know how to avoid becoming tolerant to pre-workout products, as well as what to do if you have become tolerant to pre-workout products if you want to experience long-term use and sustain benefits from these products.
There are two key things you can do to avoid pre-workout tolerance or address it if you have become tolerant. The first is ingredient cycling, where you briefly change the pre-workout ingredients you’re using. The second is taking a short break from pre-workout products.
Before I go into more detail about these approaches though, I want to explain what not to do. Sometimes you’ll see people suggesting that you should increase your dose of pre-workout if you’re noticing it’s less effective.
Increasing your doses isn’t a good idea, because over time you’ll just become tolerant to these higher levels. Also, if you keep taking higher and higher doses and exceed the recommended daily intake of these ingredients you can end up with serious side effects. Side effects of caffeine, for example, include insomnia and rapid heart rate.
One way to address pre-workout tolerance is to change up the ingredients that you’re taking in your pre-workout, which is known as ingredient cycling. This involves using different pre-workout ingredients to the ones you’re currently taking. This allows your body to become sensitive to the ingredients that you usually take again.
Each pre-workout product is going to come with its own recommendations about how long you should take it before taking a break, and it does vary depending on what product you’re using. Generally, though you’d want to take a week or two off every 4-8 weeks.
I’d recommend doing this by looking at the ingredients that are in your current pre-workout product and then finding another product with completely different ingredients. For example, if you’re using a product that’s got stimulants like caffeine in it, then you’d want to find a stimulant-free alternative to use during your two-week change.
Check out this video which explains why you should cycle pre-workout supplements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2Zoely3dyk
Taking a Break
Another way to address pre-workout tolerance is to take a complete break from pre-workout products, also known as cycling off a product. Taking a break from any kind of pre-workout allows your body’s sensitivity to the ingredients to build up again.
This might seem counterproductive considering how beneficial pre-workout products can be when working out. But although it might not seem like it, taking a break from these products is worth it in the long term because it means your body isn’t becoming desensitized to the ingredients. As a result, you’ll still experience gains in the long term from using these products.
As with ingredient cycling, you’d generally want to do this for a week or two every 4-8 weeks but look at the recommendations on the product you’re using for further guidance.
In this break from pre-workout products, I’d also recommend limiting other sources of these ingredients. As I mentioned, caffeine is the most common ingredient in pre-workout products but it’s also found in other products like coffee and tea. So if you’re trying to become less tolerant to it then it’s a good idea to reduce your intake of these other products too.
Dedicated gym-goers or bodybuilders are frequent supplement users and a pre-workout is one of the most popular options available. There are however instances where a pre-workout doesn’t seem to work as well and people wonder if you can build up a tolerance to pre-workout.
The simple answer is that yes, you can build up a tolerance to pre-workouts. The human body becomes desensitized to certain supplements or active ingredients over time and will build up a tolerance to the potency of these ingredients.
To combat this, users can cycle ingredients to prevent a tolerance from being built up or take scheduled breaks from these ingredients to maintain sensitivity.
The last thing anyone should do though is to increase dosages beyond the recommended amount in order to try and feel a full effect of the supplement as this could end up being dangerous for both short-term and long-term effects.
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