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Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itch? (& How to Stop It) 

7 min read
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David J. Sautter post Reviewer David J. Sautter post Reviewer
Verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

Table of Contents

Have you ever wondered, “Why does pre-workout make you itch?”

Itching can be a common side effect of taking pre-workouts that contain a certain ingredient.

Does this mean you should put a hard stop on your exercise plans?

What is this ingredient, and is it dangerous?

If you fancy a scoop of trusty pre-workout before you hit the weights, let’s discuss the famous beta-alanine itch — the ingredient in pre-workout that causes itching — whether it’s safe, and how to get rid of the side effect. 

We also delve into other side effects that could be confused as skin tingling and when it could be an allergic reaction to pay closer attention. 

What is Pre-Workout?

As the name suggests, pre-workouts are a type of popular supplement taken before exercise to delay mental and physical fatigue and improve physical performance. 

Whether you’re heading for a strength training program at your gym or just about to compete in sports, pre-workouts support the mind and muscles using stimulant and non-stimulant supplements with targeted ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine.

Try Muscle Booster, a workout-builder app, to get personalized workouts with clear exercise instructions, videos, and audio guidance.

Ingredients in Pre-Workout That Make You Itch

If you’ve taken pre-workout, you’re probably familiar with that hot flushed feeling that comes on suddenly and gives you skin tingles, especially in the neck and ear. 

But what in pre-workout makes you itch? This ingredient is beta-alanine.

What is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine is an amino acid added to pre-workout formulas because of its positive impact on reducing fatigue and improving muscle performance. 

Benefits of Beta-Alanine

According to research, beta-alanine supplements increase carnosine levels. 

Carnosine is stored in your skeletal muscle and reduces lactic acid levels and exercise fatigue. Research has shown that over time, supplementing with beta-alanine can improve carnosine levels by a staggering 80%, improving overall sports performance and muscle endurance in athletes and casual exercisers, especially during high-intensity exercise. [1] 

One small study even found improvements in lean body mass after six weeks of performing HIIT and supplementing with beta-alanine. [2] 

Moreover, carnosine is a calcium regulator, and healthy calcium levels support muscle contraction and performance. 

Side Effects of Beta-Alanine

The main side effect of beta-alanine is called acute paresthesia — a temporary numbness, tingling, or burning sensation usually caused when pressure is placed on a nerve (think pins and needles). [3] 

Why Exactly Beta-Alanine Make Your Skin Tingle?

But why does pre-workout make you itchy exactly? 

With beta-alanine, some research indicates it could be due to activating G-protein-couple receptors (sensory neurons), which transmit signals through your central nervous system and on the skin. [4]

That’s the science; now let’s discuss if you can get rid of pre-workout tingles.

Can You Get Rid of Pre-Workout Itch?

Thankfully, the pre-workout itch is a temporary annoyance and unlikely to be harmful, but for some people, it’s just downright annoying. So what’s the answer? 

Here’s how to get rid of beta-alanine itching. 

Choose Pre-Workouts With Another Active Ingredient

Check the label of popular brands for the dosage and other active ingredients but remember that reducing the dosage will also reduce beta-alanine benefits. 

Brands will often include caffeine and other ingredients known to give a pre-workout kick without the itch, and some pre-workouts don’t include beta-alanine at all.

Pair Pre-Workout with a Meal

Tingles from pre-workout on an empty stomach are common for some due to faster absorption of ingredients and a lack of “buffer” between stimulants and digestion. 

Try to pair a small meal with a pre-workout and see if it helps, as this could also help to stabilize your blood sugar levels and reduce nasty jitters. 

Try Another Brand

Shop around for a brand that works for you. It might take some time, but it’s worth it if you could avoid the pre-workout itch. 

Not all brands are made equal, so it’s worth exploring. We recommend avoiding blends that don’t clearly state their dosages. 

Reduce Your Dosage

Studies show that dosages above 1.6 grams per serve are more likely to kickstart pre-workout itchiness, so if you plan to add a scoop, try to reduce the amount you take or spread smaller dosages across the day. [5]

If you’re using a pre-workout supplement, it’ll be tough to control your dosage of beta-alanine since it’s mixed in with other ingredients. 

On the other hand, if you’re using a beta-alanine supplement in isolation, you can reduce your dosage and take it separately from a pre-workout supplement blend that contains other ingredients like creatine or caffeine. 

As guidance, the research above recommends 4-6 grams daily, spread however you choose. [1]

Is It Safe to Be Itchy From Pre-Workout?

In short, yes. Pre-workout tingles are usually safe.

Symptoms typically begin 15 minutes after consumption and subside 30 to 60 minutes after consumption. 

A tingling or itching sensation shouldn’t raise any red flags, especially if you’ve consumed a high dosage (over 1.6 grams) before. Your weight (under 170 pounds) can also determine pre-workout sensitivity. We cover how long pre-workout lasts here. 

Allergic Reaction

However, some symptoms could indicate an allergic reaction and should be addressed. These include:

  • Swelling
  • Anaphylaxis (breathing difficulty)
  • Rashes
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Pain

Mayo Clinic defines allergic reactions versus sensitivity. An allergic reaction negatively impacts your immune system, triggering symptoms that could cause serious illness, whereas sensitivity causes a mild reaction that could cause short-term discomfort. If you’re allergic to pre-workout, exposure over time could worsen your response. [6] 

It could be the amino acid causing the reaction, but it’s highly unlikely since beta-alanine is naturally made in the body.

It could be another ingredient your pre-workout is mixed with. 

For example, niacin can be found in many pre-workouts and helps the body turn food into energy.  Taking too much can cause adverse reactions like severe skin flushing, itching, a pre-workout rash, and digestive issues. If your pre-workout contains both, it could be worth separating ingredients before discontinuing. [7]

Try to find a pre-workout with minimal additives, and before taking a pre-workout, always check the ingredients and follow dosage instructions.

If you think your pre-workout is making you sick, discontinue use and speak to a qualified medical professional. 

Wrapping Up

Thinking of trying pre-workout? Here are some core considerations:

  • Beta-alanine is an amino acid responsible for increasing carnosine levels in your muscles. It’s a common ingredient found in many pre-workouts.
  • Pre-workout can improve muscular endurance and sports performance when consumed before exercise, reducing mental and physical fatigue to boost energy.
  • Beta-alanine can cause itchiness when consumed in high dosages above 1.6 grams.
  • Getting itchy from pre-workout is normal and should subside between 30 to 60 minutes. Itching is typically a symptom of acute paresthesia.
  • Tingles from pre-workout can be reduced by controlling dosage, taking it with food, and using products with minimal ingredients.
  • Adverse reactions include pre-workout rashes, swelling, pain, and difficulty breathing, but these symptoms are most likely from something else in the pre-workout and not very likely due to beta-alanine. If you think you might be allergic to pre-workout, discontinue use immediately and seek guidance. 
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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