Why Does Pre-Workout Make Me Tingle?

by Nader Qudimat
Updated June 26, 2023

It's your pre-workout.

And don't worry; it's an entirely harmless sensation, and we're about to explain why it happens.

So, if you've ever wondered why your skin starts to feel like it's hosting a party of ants after you down your pre-workout shake, you're in the right place.

Read on to learn why this happens…

Why Does Pre-Work Make You Tingle?

Pre-workout supplements often contain beta-alanine, an amino acid that can cause a tingling sensation known as paresthesia. [1]

This is a harmless side effect and is typically a sign that the supplement is starting to work.

The Science Behind the Itch: Beta-Alanine

When you consume a pre-workout supplement containing beta-alanine, you might experience a tingling sensation known as paresthesia. [1]

This sensation is a common side effect of beta-alanine supplementation and is caused by the acute elevation in plasma beta-alanine concentration after a single dose.

Beta-Alanine: A Key Player in Muscle Endurance

Beta-alanine is a non-essential and non-proteinogenic amino acid produced endogenously in the liver.

It is a precursor, along with l-histidine, to carnosine synthesis in skeletal muscle.

Carnosine is a cytoplasmic dipeptide abundantly found in excitable tissues, such as skeletal muscle, heart, and brain regions.

The Role of Carnosine

Carnosine has several physiological functions in skeletal muscle:

  • Antioxidant activity
  • Protection against protein glycation and carbonylation
  • Intracellular pH regulation

The last function is essential for exercise.

Carnosine's side chain (i.e., the imidazole ring) has a pKa of 6.83, making carnosine an obligatory physicochemical buffer.

This means that carnosine can help buffer the pH in your muscles during high-intensity exercise, which can delay the onset of muscle fatigue. [2]

The Impact of Beta-Alanine Supplementation

Beta-alanine supplementation (over 2 weeks or longer) induces significant increases in muscle carnosine content.

The typical increase in muscle carnosine following beta-alanine supplementation is 60–80%.

This increase is estimated to elevate the contribution of carnosine to whole muscle H+ buffering by ~2.7–5.3 mEq H+/kg dry mass over the exercise pH range, corresponding to an ~3–5% increase in muscle buffering capacity. [2]

How Beta-Alanine Works

Beta-Alanine works by increasing carnosine levels in muscles, which helps buffer acid in the body, thus delaying the onset of muscle fatigue and failure. [3]

This process allows for more prolonged and intense workouts.

During high-intensity exercise, your muscles produce a large amount of hydrogen ions, which cause your muscles to become more acidic.

This increase in acidity can reduce muscle function and lead to fatigue.

Carnosine acts as a buffer against these hydrogen ions, reducing the acidity in your muscles during high-intensity exercise. [3]

This can help delay the onset of muscle fatigue and improve total muscular work.

However, the tingling sensation, known as paresthesia, is a common side effect of Beta-Alanine intake.

This sensation is not harmful and is often seen as a sign that the supplement works.

Learn more: Comprehensive Guide to Pre Workouts

Beta-Alanine Dosage

To reap the full benefits of Beta-Alanine, consistent supplementation is necessary.

The effective dose of Beta-Alanine is between 2-6g daily.

It's important to note that the tingling sensation does not indicate the supplement's effectiveness, and it may take up to two weeks of consistent use to notice significant improvements in workout capacity.

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is produced naturally in the body.

It's not used in the building of proteins.

Instead, it's primarily used to produce carnosine, a compound that plays a role in muscle endurance in high-intensity exercise.

Here's a detailed breakdown of how beta-alanine works:

Production of Carnosine

Beta-alanine is a key component in synthesizing carnosine, a dipeptide molecule that helps buffer acid in muscles, improving physical performance during high-intensity exercise. [4]

Carnosine is synthesized in the body by combining beta-alanine and histidine, another amino acid.

The concentration of carnosine in muscles, which can be increased by supplementing with beta-alanine, is thought to be a limiting factor for carnosine production.

Enhancing Exercise Performance

Beta-alanine supplementation is thought to help enhance exercise performance by increasing muscle carnosine concentrations. [4]

It's particularly effective in exercises lasting one to several minutes.

A review of 23 studies concluded that supplementing with beta-alanine can slightly improve endurance during exercise.

You might also like: Definitive Guide to Bodybuilding Supplements

Neurotransmitter Activity

Beta-alanine also functions as a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that transmits signals in the brain.

It has been associated with improving mood and cognitive function.

However, more research is needed to understand these effects fully.

Safety and Side Effects

Beta-alanine is generally safe for healthy individuals.

The most common side effect is a tingling sensation in the skin, known as paresthesia. [5]

This is harmless and usually subsides on its own.

It's important to note that while beta-alanine supplementation can increase muscle carnosine content and improve exercise performance, it's most effective in conjunction with a balanced exercise program and a healthy diet.

Managing the Beta-Alanine Tingle

The tingling sensation associated with beta-alanine is not harmful and usually subsides once your body becomes accustomed to the supplement. [5]

However, if the sensation is uncomfortable, you can try the following:

  • Reducing your dosage
  • Splitting it into smaller doses throughout the day

These strategies can help manage the tingling sensation while allowing you to benefit from the performance-enhancing effects of beta-alanine. [5]

Beta-Alanine is the primary ingredient responsible for the itching sensation, a non-essential amino acid found in many pre-workout supplements.

When consumed, Beta-Alanine combines with the amino acid histidine to form a compound called carnosine, which plays a crucial role in muscle endurance during high-intensity exercise.

Other Ingredients That May Cause Tingling

Niacin: Another Contributor

Niacin, or Vitamin B3, is another common ingredient in pre-workout supplements that can cause a tingling or flushing sensation.

Niacin plays a vital role in energy production and fat metabolism.

However, high doses can lead to skin flushing, which can feel like a mild sunburn.

Niacin Dosage

The recommended daily intake of Niacin for adults is around 14-16mg, but pre-workout supplements can contain anywhere from 15mg-31mg per serving.

It's crucial to monitor your Niacin intake to avoid potential adverse effects.

How To Avoid The Itch

If the tingling or itching sensation is uncomfortable, there are several strategies you can employ:

  1. Choose a pre-workout without Beta-Alanine or Niacin: Many newer pre-workout formulas have started to exclude these ingredients due to the side effects they can cause.
  2. Monitor your dosage: Ensure you're within the recommended daily intake of these ingredients.
  3. Don't take pre-workout on an empty stomach: Consuming pre-workout with food can help reduce the intensity of the side effects.
  4. Start your workout sooner: The increased blood flow from exercise can help reduce the tingling and itching sensations.

Check out: How To Gain Weight: Skinny Guy's Calculator For Calories


The tingling sensation you might feel after taking a pre-workout supplement is due to a non-essential amino acid called beta-alanine.

This compound is commonly found in these supplements and is known to cause paresthesia, a harmless tingling sensation.

Your body tells you that the beta-alanine in your pre-workout is getting to work.

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by iron and cold steel, I'm Nader, a mid-30s natural bodybuilder. Once a 100lb skinny guy, I've transformed into a 200lb muscular athlete with over 15 years of lifting experience. Today, I leverage my transformation and extensive experience to guide countless individuals on their fitness journeys.

Click here to check out my 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

Search This Site

About FitFrek

FitFrek operates as an independent platform, offering comprehensive workouts, programs, routines, guides, and unbiased reviews to accelerate your progress. We pride ourselves on our honesty, delivering straightforward and candid insights. FitFrek does not offer medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment services.

FitFrek © 2013 – 2024 All Rights Reserved
Exclusive Site of Nader Qudimat
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram