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Have you ever experienced an itchy sensation after taking a pre workout supplement? This common side effect can be caused by certain ingredients in the supplement, such as beta-alanine and niacin. While the itchiness is usually harmless, it can be uncomfortable. Here's what you need to know about why pre workouts make you itch and how to reduce the sensation.
What Are Pre Workouts?
Pre-workouts are a blend of various individual ingredients used to enhance energy, focus, and muscle protein synthesis.
They generally contain combinations of ingredients such as caffeine, creatine and amino acids that work together to increase exercise output by improving strength, power output, and endurance.
Pre-workout supplements are typically available in various forms such as powder, capsules or gummies.
They are an easy alternative to taking several different supplements before hitting the gym.
However, some pre workouts can also cause side effects such as itching, tingling, and flushing.
Which Ingredients Cause the Pre Workout Itch?
Now that we understand what pre workouts are, let's dive into some of the ingredients responsible for the itch feeling.
The pre workout itch, also known as paresthesia, is most likely caused by the ingredient beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps to increase muscle endurance and reduce fatigue.
When it is ingested, it is converted into carnosine, which helps to buffer the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles.
However, this conversion process produces a byproduct called histamine, which can cause the itching sensation.
Beta-alanine also activates sensory neurons in the skin and large doses of this amino acid have been shown to induce paresthesia – or a “pins and needles” feeling1.
Niacin is another ingredient commonly found in pre workouts that is known to cause itching and flushing of the skin, also known as pruritis2.
The reason for this is not really understood, but it is known to occur at doses of about 30mg/day2.
Pre-workouts can contain anywhere from 13mg-31mg of niacin, which is almost double the recommended intake2.
While Niacin can contribute to the itchy feeling, it's much more likely that this is caused primarily by beta-alanine.
How to Minimize the Itch: Tips and Tricks
If you want to minimize the pre workout itch, there are a few things you can do.
First, try taking a smaller dose of beta-alanine. This may reduce the amount of histamine produced and therefore reduce the itching sensation.
You can also try taking an antihistamine before your workout to counteract the effects of histamine.
Additionally, make sure to stay hydrated and avoid taking pre workouts on an empty stomach, as this can exacerbate the itching sensation.
Below, we've included a few additional tips and tricks to avoid the pre workout itch.
Find a pre-workout that doesn’t contain beta-alanine.
Find a pre-workout with a lower dosage of niacin.
Work out sooner after taking your pre-workout supplement.
Split up your pre-workout into multiple doses.
Take your pre-workout supplement with food as part of your pre-workout meal.
Other Potential Side Effects of Pre Workouts
While itching is a common side effect of pre workouts, there are other potential side effects to be aware of.
Some of the most common side effects of pre workout supplements include jitters, nausea, skin reactions, heart abnormalities, increased blood pressure and heart rate345.
These side effects are often caused by the high levels of caffeine and other stimulants found in many pre workout supplements.
Another potential side effect of pre workout supplements is water retention3. This is often caused by creatine, which is another common ingredient found in many pre-workout formulas.
It’s important to note that while these side effects can be unpleasant, they are generally mild and go away on their own after a short period of time. However, if you experience any severe or persistent side effects after taking a pre-workout supplement, you should stop using it immediately and consult your doctor.
Always read the label carefully and understand the ingredients in your pre workout supplement, as some may be more likely to cause these side effects than others.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Pre Workout Supplements
While pre workout supplements can provide a boost of energy and improve athletic performance, they also come with potential side effects like itching, jitters, and nausea.
Be sure to read the label, understand the ingredients, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
Let's take a look at a list of some of the pros and cons of pre workout supplements so you can make an informed decision.
Increased energy and alertness: Pre-workout supplements can help you feel more energetic and alert during your workout. This is because many pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, which can help you stay focused and energized throughout your workout.
Enhanced power and endurance: Pre-workout supplements can help you push yourself harder during your workout by enhancing your power and endurance.
Improved oxygen delivery to muscles: Some pre-workout supplements contain nitric oxide boosters that can help deliver more oxygen to your muscles.
Jitters: Pre-workout supplements can make you feel jittery due to the high caffeine content.
Unknown ingredients: Many pre-workout supplements contain proprietary blends of ingredients, which means that you don’t know exactly what you’re getting.
Weight gain: Some pre-workout supplements contain creatine, which can cause weight gain.
- Heart rate: Some individuals may experience extreme elevated heart rate from pre workouts with high stimulant contents.
With the right approach, pre workouts can be a helpful tool in achieving your fitness goals.