Pre-workout supplements have become increasingly popular amongst gym goers, bodybuilders, and athletes looking to maximize their performance. But, they’re not without their downsides.
If you’ve ever taken pre-workout, then you might be familiar with the ‘pre-workout itch’. This refers to the itching or tingling sensation that happens not long after taking a pre-workout.
Pre-workout itching can make you feel uncomfortable and distract you from your workout, so it’s something you’ll want to avoid.
Here, I’ve explained all about this pre-workout itch, including: Why does pre-workout make you itchy, how long does it last, and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place…
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Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itchy?
Pre-workout can make you itchy as it contains an ingredient called beta-alanine. This is an amino acid that can cause different sensations, including itching, tingling, pins and needles, as well as slight numbness, in the skin. This is often referred to as ‘pre-workout itch.’
To explain this some more, ‘pre-workout itch’ refers to the itching sensation people can experience after taking their pre-workout supplement. It is caused by the ingredient beta-alanine, so you might see it also called the ‘beta-alanine itch.’
Beta-alanine is an amino acid. It’s often found in pre-workout supplements because it plays a role in muscle endurance during intense workouts.
Essentially, beta-alanine is the main component of carnosine.
Carnosine is found in muscles, and higher levels are thought to help muscles work for longer before they become tired. It does this by regulating acid build-up. So, including beta-alanine in a pre-workout may help you to work out for longer.
Related – How long does pre-workout last for
However, beta-alanine does have drawbacks, including itching. This is thought to happen as beta-alanine can cause what’s known as ‘acute paresthesia’. Basically, beta-alanine affects the nerve endings in your skin.
When this happens, it causes different sensations, including itching, skin tingling, and pins and needles, in the skin. Generally, this itching happens in the upper body – the neck, shoulders, and arms.
Although these sensations aren’t nice, the good news is that they aren’t thought to be harmful.
However, it’s important to note the difference between a pre-workout itch and an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction can cause itching, as well as a skin rash, and potentially serious symptoms like anaphylaxis. These symptoms are much more serious, and you should get medical attention and discontinue using pre-workout if you’re allergic.
Why Does Pre-Workout Make Your Skin Tingle?
Pre-workout can make your skin tingle. This sensation is caused by the ingredient beta-alanine. As beta-alanine can affect the nerves in your skin, it causes different sensations, including pins and needles, and skin tingling. These sensations aren’t thought to be harmful.
Skin tingling after taking pre-workout is a side effect caused by beta-alanine, as this ingredient is thought to affect nerves in the skin, causing acute paresthesia.
Although it causes itching in some people, in others it feels more like skin tingling. This is because the effects of beta-alanine manifest differently in different people.
As I mentioned before, beta-alanine can also cause pins and needles, slight numbness, or even slight pain, in your skin.
As these sensations are caused by beta-alanine, this means that these sensations shouldn’t be harmful. However, they can be distracting from your workout.
In the next section, I’ve explained how long these sensations should last as well as how you can prevent them.
How Long Does Pre-Workout Itch Last?
The itching associated with pre-workout usually starts within 15-30 minutes of taking it. Generally, the itching lasts for about 30-45 minutes once it has started. However, it can last for longer than this depending on the dose and your body’s reaction to it.
Generally, the itching and other skin sensations that are associated with pre-workout supplements will last for less than an hour. However, the amount of time these symptoms last does vary depending on the dosage as well as your body’s reaction to it.
In terms of dosage, higher doses will stay in your system for longer. So if you’ve taken a higher dosage of beta-alanine then you may experience itching and skin tingling for longer than if you take a lower dose.
But, as I mentioned, it also depends on your body’s reaction to it.
People metabolize pre-workouts at different rates. If you metabolize beta-alanine quickly then you might not experience symptoms for very long, but if you metabolize it slowly then you may be itchy for longer.
How To Prevent Pre-Workout Itch
As pre-workout itching is caused by beta-alanine, you can split doses up throughout the day to reduce the amount you’re taking at any one time. Another option is to reduce the amount of beta-alanine you’re taking, or to completely avoid pre-workouts containing beta-alanine.
Although pre-workout itching isn’t thought to be harmful, it can be really distracting and uncomfortable when you’re trying to work out.
There are different ways to prevent pre-workout itching. As pre-workout itching is caused by beta-alanine, all of these methods involve rethinking how you take this ingredient.
The first option is to split up your doses of beta-alanine throughout the day. Itching associated with beta-alanine is usually associated with higher doses, of 2g or higher.
By taking smaller doses at different points throughout the day, rather than one big dose before a workout, you’re reducing the amount of beta-alanine you’re taking at one time. This should reduce the annoying skin sensations that it can cause.
The second option is to reduce the amount of beta-alanine you’re taking each day. As I mentioned, itching is usually associated with higher doses of beta-alanine. Therefore, reducing the amount you’re taking should help to reduce and prevent this itching.
However, the issue with these two options that I’ve mentioned so far is that sometimes it’s not possible to split doses or to accurately weigh the amount of beta-alanine within your pre-workout.
This is often the case when people have a pre-workout mix containing different ingredients mixed together.
In this case, you may want to go for a pre-workout without beta-alanine in. As these skin sensations are caused by beta-alanine, using a pre-workout without this ingredient will stop the pre-workout itch.
See also – Pre-workout or non-stimulant pre-workout
Due to the potential benefits of beta-alanine, this may not be an ideal option for everyone.
However, because pre-workouts are so popular, there are plenty of different types available today. These different products contain different ingredients, so you can find a mix that’s free from beta-alanine, yet still gives results!
The pre-workout itch is caused by a potent active ingredient known as beta-alanine. Beta-alanine causes skin tingling, itching, and even pins and needles and while these effects will vary from person to person, they will be more common when taking higher doses in a pre-workout.
It’s important to note however that not all pre-workouts will cause itching. Different pre-workouts will use different ingredients, doses, and formulas so if you find one relatively low in beta-alanine, chances are you’ll be less likely to get itchy from consuming pre-workout.
If you’re just looking for an energy boost for the gym then a pre-workout might not actually be necessary. You could instead look at pre-workout alternatives like energy drinks or coffee which will still provide stimulation and an energy boost but with fewer side effects as a result.
Just note that pre-workouts can be performance enhancing and do not only have ingredients to provide an energy boost, that’s just one component!
Itching isn’t the only thing you may experience from taking a pre-workout. Check out our article on why pre-workouts taste so bad and how you can improve them yourself.