Pre-workout is not an essential supplement, but one that is frequently used by a lot of gym-goers. It gives you a buzz, mental focus, and energy boost which can be needed on occasion, especially for those that are training late in the evening after a long day at work.
Something you’ve likely noticed though is that after these late workouts, it can be quite difficult to get to sleep!
An intense workout session will increase cortisol levels (a stress hormone) which is one factor that isn’t ideal for training late. The main culprit, however, is likely going to be the pre-workout stimulant that you’ve taken so close to bedtime that you are still wide awake when your head hits the pillow.
If this sounds similar, read on to see whether or not it’s bad to have pre-workout at night or if it should be a morning/afternoon only supplement.
Pre-Workout at Night
Pre-workouts are an incredibly popular way to maximize energy and boost performance during a workout. Some people use coffee or energy drinks as a “pre-workout”, but it’s more common for people to use pre-workout supplements like powder, liquids, and pills to get that extra boost.
The ingredients in pre-workout supplements vary depending on the product, but most will contain a form of stimulant like caffeine. Caffeine is one of the most commonly used ingredients globally. It works by stimulating the central nervous system and can help people to focus as well as increase their energy levels. This makes it an ideal ingredient in pre-workouts.
However, there are downsides to caffeine, the main one being insomnia. Due to the high caffeine content, taking pre-workouts at night can negatively affect sleep, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. This disrupted sleep will impact your routine and can reduce any gains you’d make from taking pre-workouts in the first place.
Check out this video which explains how caffeine keeps us awake:
For various reasons though, taking pre-workout at night or later on in the day can’t be avoided, especially if that’s the only time you have to workout. So here I’m going to explain some of the issues with taking pre-workout at night, as well as how you can do it in a way that will have less of any impact on your sleep.
Is It Bad to Have Pre-Workout at Night?
Taking a pre-workout that contains caffeine at night can disrupt your sleeping pattern, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. As a result, it can diminish any gains that you would make from working out. So pre-workouts containing caffeine shouldn’t be taken at night.
Caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person, so whether or not you can sleep after using pre-workout products will naturally vary. It also varies depending on the caffeine content of the pre-workout you’re using. Some pre-workouts contain no caffeine or low doses of less than 100 mg while others have extremely high doses at 400mg.
So, whilst I wouldn’t recommend taking pre-workout at night, you may not experience that much of an impact on your sleep if you have a higher tolerance to caffeine (one reason you may not feel your pre-workout is working) or if you use a pre-workout mix with a low dose of caffeine in.
What Is the Latest Time to Take Pre-Workout
The latest time you should take pre-workout supplements that contain caffeine is around 5 hours before bedtime. This is because it takes 5 hours for caffeine to be metabolised into your system. As it’s metabolised the effects are reduced, which also reduces its negative impact on sleep.
You may be familiar with the concept of ‘half life’ when it comes to supplements. Essentially the half-life indicates how long it takes for things like stimulants in your blood to be metabolised by your liver, essentially reducing its impact on your system.
The half-life of caffeine is around 5 hours. So if you want to go to bed at 11pm then the latest you should take pre-workout is 5pm, to give the caffeine time to metabolise in your system and reduce the effects you feel from it.
However, the higher the caffeine content the longer it’s going to take to wear off. So if you are taking a supplement containing caffeine close to bedtime it’s best to use one with a lower dose of caffeine.
How to Calm Down After Taking Pre-Workout
It sounds obvious but a good way to calm down after taking pre-workout is to workout. Working out is going to use up a lot of the energy that you get from pre-workout products, so it can help you to calm down after taking it.
After exercising you could also go for a walk, or do something low intensity. This is going to help to continue metabolising the caffeine by burning off that excess energy while helping you calm down as it’s lower in intensity than a workout.
An effective way to calm down after taking pre-workout is to start diluting the caffeine in your system. For this, I’d recommend drinking water or some other caffeine-free liquid, like herbal tea. This is going to flush it through your system and ultimately help reduce the impact the pre-workout is having on you.
It’s also important to be patient. Like I mentioned, caffeine has a half-life of around 5 hours so it can take a while for it to metabolise out of your system.
Don’t expect to feel completely back to normal straight after a workout if you’ve only taken your pre-workout supplement a couple of hours before. Give it time to leave your system.
Take a Non-Stimulant Pre-Workout
If you really need to take a pre-workout at night, one of the best alternatives or options to consider is a non-stimulant pre-workout. These can also be seen as nootropics or pump-based formulas that give you a mental or physical boost in the gym without the stimulant effects of products like caffeine.
One option is the ProSupps Dr Jekyll which you can check out here.
How to Sleep After Taking Pre-Workout
If you’ve taken your pre-workout supplement late or close to your bedtime then there are different things you can do to help you sleep.
Like I mentioned, staying hydrated is important but drinking a lot of liquid before bed can disturb sleep. So it’s important to keep your fluids up without drinking too much just before you’re trying to go to bed.
The temperature has a lot to do with falling asleep and staying asleep. If you’re wanting to relax before bed then it’s a good idea to have a warm shower. A hot shower after a workout isn’t ideal as your body temperature is already higher, but a cold shower isn’t going to leave you feeling sleepy, so aim for somewhere in the middle.
You should also aim to keep the temperature of your room fairly cool, as cooler temperatures promote better sleep. Although it’s tempting to have lots of covers and get tucked into bed after a workout, it may actually make it harder to sleep.
You could also try breathing exercises. During a workout our bodies increase oxygen intake, which is going to make you feel more alert and awake. Doing some breathing exercises helps to slow down your heart rate, helping you to feel more relaxed and ready for sleep.
The body naturally has these systems in place due to circadian rhythm, this is why you get tired when it’s dark. Working out late and taking a stimulant like pre-workout will impact the body’s natural system for preparing you for sleep.
Therefore, you need to do some of the mitigating tasks listed above to counteract the stimulants you’ve taken close to bedtime.
Pre-workouts are not an essential supplement and people, therefore, choose to use them for preference rather than necessity – though some may feel that a pre-workout is a necessity to get through a workout!
With this in mind, you need to be aware of some of the side effects of any supplement you take. I don’t mean negative side effects either but rather those that could be unwanted if you don’t take the supplement correctly. Pre-workout is a good example of this.
Timing supplements are crucial and as caffeine is an active (even primary) ingredient in most pre-workouts, the earlier you consume it, the more time it has to leave your system before it’s time to sleep.
If you really need a pre-workout at night, consider a stimulant-free or nootropic option to give you the mental focus without having the jittery or buzzing after-effects of a regular pre-workout supplement.
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