Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Beth Skwarecki
Pre-workout supplements are a popular tool for athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to boost their performance during workouts. These supplements often contain various ingredients, including caffeine, amino acids, and creatine, that can provide an energy boost, increase endurance, and improve focus.
However, one common side effect of pre-workout supplements is itchiness, which can be uncomfortable and distracting. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind why pre-workout supplements make you itch and what you can do to reduce this side effect.
What Causes The Itchiness?
The active ingredient that most commonly causes itchiness in pre-workout supplements is beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases the production of carnosine in the muscles, which can improve endurance and delay fatigue.
However, when beta-alanine is absorbed into the bloodstream, it can cause the activation of nerve fibers called C fibers, which release histamine and other chemicals that trigger an itching sensation on the skin. Additionally, other ingredients in pre-workout supplements, such as caffeine or niacin, may contribute to the itchiness as well.
Is Itchiness Harmful?
For most people, itchiness caused by pre-workout supplements is a harmless side effect that goes away on its own. However, in rare cases, severe itching can be a sign of an allergic reaction to one or more of the ingredients in the supplement.
An allergic reaction may also cause hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, tongue, or throat. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. It is important to note that severe allergic reactions are rare, and most people can safely use pre-workout supplements without any serious side effects.
How To Reduce Itchiness
There are several ways to reduce itchiness caused by pre-workout supplements:
- Lower the dosage of beta-alanine: If the itching is mild, try reducing the amount of beta-alanine in the supplement. Some pre-workout supplements contain high levels of beta-alanine, which can cause more itching.
- Take a smaller initial dose and gradually increase over time: If you are new to pre-workout supplements or beta-alanine, start with a smaller initial dose and gradually increase the amount over several days or weeks. This can help your body adjust to the supplement and reduce the likelihood of itchiness.
- Use a different pre-workout supplement without beta-alanine: If you are particularly sensitive to beta-alanine or experience severe itching, consider using a different pre-workout supplement that does not contain this ingredient.
- Combining pre-workout with antihistamines: Over-the-counter antihistamines can help reduce the itching sensation caused by pre-workout supplements. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any new medication, especially if you have underlying medical conditions.
What Is The Best Form Of Beta-Alanine?
The best form of beta-alanine is generally considered to be the standard form, which is a white, crystalline powder that is easily dissolved in water. This form of beta-alanine is highly pure, bioavailable, and cost-effective, making it the most commonly used form in pre-workout supplements and other sports nutrition products.
Other forms of beta-alanine, such as sustained-release or slow-release formulations, have been developed to reduce the risk of side effects such as itching, but they are not as well-studied or widely used as the standard form. Choosing a high-quality beta-alanine supplement from a reputable manufacturer is important to ensure purity, potency, and safety.
Pre-workout supplements can be a useful tool for enhancing athletic performance, but they may come with side effects such as itching, which is often caused by the ingredient beta-alanine. While itching is generally a harmless and temporary side effect, it can be uncomfortable and distracting. However, there are several ways to reduce itchiness, such as lowering the dosage of beta-alanine, gradually increasing the amount over time, using a different supplement without beta-alanine, or taking antihistamines. It is important to follow dosing guidelines and pay attention to your body’s response to any supplement.
Beth is Cloudmineinc’s senior health editor and a certified personal trainer. She has over 10 years experience as a science journalist and is the author of two books. She deadlifts over 315 lbs.