How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?
A pre-workout supplement is an ergogenic aid, usually in powder or capsule form, but it can also be found in pre-made drinks.
Usually shortened to “pre-workout,” it’s designed to help athletes improve their physical and mental performance during training.
Depending on the ingredients in the supplement, there could be more of a focus on mental or physical performance. The best pre-workout supplements will have an ideal combination of both ingredients to maximize physical and mental performance.
Common pre-workout supplement ingredients
The most common ingredients in pre-workout supplements include the following:
- Caffeine and caffeine derivatives are easily the most popular type of pre-workout supplements. Caffeine is a stimulant that helps increase stamina, energy, and performance while reducing fatigue and improving mood.
- Vitamins. While all vitamins play an important role in your health and wellness, specific vitamins can be especially useful during training. Most notably, niacin (vitamin B3) and cobalamin (vitamin B12) are used to support energy levels and metabolism.
- Nitric oxide is used in pre-workout supplements to increase vasodilation and overall blood flow. The result is a more intense pump during weight lifting. Many users also report a better overall workout performance.
- Arginine and Citrulline. These two amino acids are two nitric oxide precursors. They assist with improving vasodilation and blood flow to working muscles.
- Creatine. One of the essential workout supplements, creatine, is used to increase levels of adenosine triphosphate. Usually shortened to ATP, this energy substrate supports performance and recovery in skeletal muscle.
- Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that helps improve energy utilization while reducing muscular fatigue. Studies show that beta-alanine is incredibly effective at increasing intra-workout strength levels. It also acts as a precursor to another amino acid called carnosine. It should be noted that beta-alanine causes a harmless skin flush or tingling sensation, but it quickly subsides after consumption.
How long does a pre-workout supplement last?
In general, the effects of a pre-workout will last from two to six hours. You will feel the onset of the pre-workout supplement within approximately 30 minutes after consumption.
Caffeine has a half-life of about five hours for healthy adults, with acute effects taking root in approximately an hour post-ingestion. If you plan to sleep soon after your workout, you want to avoid stimulant-based pre-workout supplements in the evening.
Arginine has a half-life of 30-to-120 minutes, so the effects can last upwards of two hours after consumption.
What else affects pre-workout supplement duration
The exact duration of the effect of pre-workouts ultimately depends on the following factors:
- Individual sensitivity to certain ingredients
- Level of your activity
- Number of ingredients per serving
- Dosage amount of each ingredient
- Frequency of use of pre-workouts
How long do pre-workouts last after opening?
Pre-workouts last, on average, from 6 months to 2 years from the date of manufacture.
However, once you open the supplement, you have to keep in mind that the contents are now exposed to microbes, light, heat, and air, which can compromise quality. Therefore, it is best to use it within a two-to-three month period.
Take a look at the package of your pre-workout supplement for a specific date. Even if the supplement is still good, the ingredients can spoil or clump together and harden if it’s not sealed properly.
If the supplement has expired, especially after opening, cut your losses and toss the contents.
How to store pre-workout supplements to prevent spoilage
Adequate storage conditions can preserve the quality of the ingredients and maximize the shelf life of the product. Try the following tips:
Avoid temperature extremes
Do not store it in a vehicle, near a stove or microwave, in sunlight or the fridge, but a cool, dry, and dark place such as a cupboard.
Keep the supplement in the container
Do not remove the contents of pre-workout from the original container as this may impact the quality and potency of the ingredients. For example, if you put the supplement powder in a clear container, light can penetrate it and negatively impact ingredients, most notably B vitamins.
Don’t throw away that little packet
You know how every supplement comes with that tiny packet? It’s important to preserve the quality of the supplement, so don’t remove it! Manufacturers throw these in supplement containers to prevent moisture from causing the powder mix to clump.
How to tell if your pre-workout supplement has gone bad
If you notice any one or several of the following factors, then there’s a good chance your pre-workout supplement has spoiled:
- Faded or darker color
- Large clumps
- Strange smell
- Different taste
- Decreased or no effect at all
- New side effects (e.g., upset stomach)
Drinking a pre-workout with one of the signs above or after the expiration date is not safe.
First, you probably won’t feel the effects as the potency of the ingredients tends to diminish over time.
Second, you may experience symptoms similar to food poisoning, like an upset stomach or nausea.
How long does a pre-workout supplement last after being mixed with water?
A pre-mixed supplement should be used within 12 hours of dilution. After this period, creatine will convert to creatinine and will, therefore, lose potency.
Note that a pre-workout drink can go bad much faster if stored in a warm environment.
How long before exercise should I take a pre-workout?
It is generally recommended to take a pre-workout supplement between 30-to-60 minutes before exercise to maximize the performance benefits.
This time may vary depending on the product, and it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Caffeine is readily absorbed upon drinking a caffeinated beverage and is mostly metabolized in the liver.
It binds to plasma proteins in the blood and spreads throughout the water in the body and is also slightly lipophilic. It can readily cross the blood-brain barrier to exert central nervous effects as well, such as alertness and enhanced cognitive functioning.
Peak plasma concentrations are reached within 45-to-60 minutes of consumption, explaining that sudden surge of energy that users feel shortly after downing the mix.
If you choose caffeine as a sole pre-workout supplement, take it 45 to 60 min before a workout. One cup of coffee is usually enough to get the needed caffeine portion. 
Nitrates and Amino acids
Another incredibly common set of ingredients in pre-workout supplements are nitrates and amino acids. Both, but citrulline and arginine, in particular, boost the production of the vasodilating molecule, nitric oxide.
It is suggested that one should consume these nitric oxide boosting amino acids or nitrates 30-to-60 minutes preceding exercise for optimal results.
Beta-Alanine and Creatine
Other ingredients such as beta-alanine and creatine can be taken 30-to-60 minutes prior to exercise. It’s recommended to take both daily to saturate muscle tissue and optimize the benefits of the ingredients.
- Take a pre-workout drink 30-to-60 minutes before exercise or, better, follow the instructions on the packaging.
- The effects usually last from two-to-six hours. The first effect of the supplement will kick in within 20-to-30 minutes.
- Pre-workout powders last on average from six months to two years.
- Once the container is open, it is better to consume the contents within two-to-three months.
- A pre-workout supplement diluted with liquid should be used within 12 hours.