I’ll just say. Preworkout is not typically for me.
I’d rather just have a healthy portion of my most favoritest tasty carbs, but sometimes, I get it.
You need a little more.
And then you’re at the gym, gripping onto your dumbbells for dear life to get rid of the flaming itchy sensation crawling up your arms and all over your body.
What the hell is this sensation and where did it come from? Is it a bad thing? And how can I minimize this feeling?
What is in Pre-Workout that Makes You Tingle?
Depending on the brand you choose, there are typically several ingredients in a preworkout supplement.
This makes sense because most sports supplements are pretty underwhelming in their effects when taken on their own, but when you combine them they can have a significant impact on performance.
But there is one ingredient that is the culprit for the fire-ant skin you get.
The secret ingredient is beta-alanine. The reason beta-alanine is in so many preworkouts is that it is only effective when taken before exercise. Then, it plays a role in increasing the amount of work your muscles can do before they get fatigued.
If you’re intrigued by these effects and want to learn more, I took the liberty of writing a piece on beta-alanine already. But for the purposes of this article, just know if you see a preworkout with beta-alanine listed on the label, you know what you’re in for.
Why Does Beta Alanine Make Your Skin Tingle?
Most people start to feel an itching or burning in their arms, head and neck, but depending on the person, it can also occur all over.
This feeling tends to come on about 10-15 minutes after taking preworkout.
This happens because there are nerve cells that are contained only on your skin that are particularly sensitive to beta-alanine as a compound. Given that, in addition to doing work in your muscle, beta-alanine is also a neurotransmitter, what you’re feeling is your skin nerves reacting to being stimulated.
The degree to which it affects you depends on your body weight and how much you take.
If you take preworkout regularly, the sensation typically gets less intense the more your body gets used to it. Just know that the performance benefits are still working; the nerve stimulation that gives you the tingles is just a secondary effect that has nothing to do with how the compound is working below the skin.
So, is the Tingling Bad and How Can I Stop It?
The itchy tingles (you see how I try to come up with new names the longer this article goes on? Should probably wrap it up soon), while a bit annoying and uncomfortable, are not harmful in any way.
However, if you’re finding the sensation to be interfering with your ability to work out effectively, then maybe rethink if taking a preworkout is counterproductive.
If you’re like psssh no way. My pre is my ride or die…well then I have some other tips to tone down the effects of beta-alanine. Just know that it’s very unlikely to get rid of the feeling completely.
Choose a preworkout that only has up to 500mg of beta-alanine per serving. This amount is unlikely to reach the threshold needed to stimulate the nerves on the skin.
If you’re taking beta-alanine alone, choose one that has a time-release coating. This reduces the amount your body gets all at once and some say it eliminates the tinglies altogether.
Take your preworkout before or while eating your preworkout meal. The presence of food will slow the breakdown of the compound in your body and, again, without the sudden rush of it to your system, the itchy effects should reduce quite a bit.
Take Pulse by Legion. For the number of performance-enhancing ingredients it contains, it’s one of the cheapest preworkouts out there and is naturally sweetened and flavored with no artificial junk. The best part is it includes CarnoSyn® beta-alanine in amounts that are large enough to give you benefits, but small enough to minimize the tingle-shingles.
The Bottom Line?
Again, the itchy tingles caused by beta-alanine are a harmless sensation that are not at all connected with the exercise-related effects.
I do want to caution you, though, on taking too much preworkout as it puts you at risk for severe muscle cramps, especially if you take it daily.
Check your labels and just make sure you aren’t getting more than 5 grams of beta-alanine per day.