Does Pre-Workout Make You Crash?

If you’re a fan of these supplements, you’ve likely experienced the pre-workout rush they provide before a workout. But have you ever felt like you’ve hit a wall or crashed shortly after consuming one? 

Fear not, my fellow fitness fanatics – you’re not alone! In this article, we’ll explore the “crash” phenomenon and whether it’s a real thing or just a myth. 

We will also explore the science behind pre-workout supplements, their ingredients, and how they affect your body. Additionally, we will provide tips for avoiding the crash altogether. So grab your shaker cup, and let’s dive in!

But first, let’s define what a “crash” is.

What is the “Crash”?

A pre-workout crash is a sudden drop in energy or mood after taking a pre-workout supplement. This crash manifests in several ways, including fatigue, irritability, headaches, or feeling “burnt out.”

So, Does Pre-Workout Make You Crash?

Well, the answer is: it depends. Yes, I know, that’s a bit of a cop-out, so let me explain.

Most pre-workout supplements boost energy, enhance focus, and improve physical performance. However, when misused or overused, they can lead to adverse effects, including the dreaded crash. 

So, if you’re using a pre-workout responsibly and following the instructions on the label, you can minimize your risk of crashing. 

However, if you’re guzzling down pre-workout like it’s water, chasing the buzz, or ignoring your body’s need for rest and recovery, you’re setting yourself up for a crash and burn. So, listening to your body and using pre-workout supplements appropriately is important.

How Does the Crash Occur With Pre-workouts?

Does Pre-Workout Make You Crash?

1. Overstimulation of the Central Nervous System

Pre-workouts often contain stimulants, like caffeine, that rev up our central nervous system (CNS). As a result, this increases alertness, focus, and energy levels, making it easier to power through a tough workout.

But here’s the thing: overloading our CNS with stimulants might lead to overstimulation, which can have the opposite effect of what we want. Instead of feeling energized and focused, we feel tired, anxious, and jittery.

So, when you’re experiencing a crash, it’s likely because your CNS has been pushed to its limit by too much caffeine and needs a break. 

As a result, you’ll experience a caffeine crash where you feel fatigued, have mental fog, and be overall sluggish.

2. Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalances

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluids than you take in. It can happen if you’re not adequately hydrating throughout the day or if you’re sweating a lot during your workout. 

When your body is dehydrated, it leads to a decrease in blood volume and a drop in blood pressure. As a result, you feel tired, dizzy, and even nauseous.

Electrolyte imbalances also play a role in the crash. These minerals regulate various bodily functions, including muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and fluid balance. 

When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, which disrupts this delicate balance and leads to symptoms like muscle cramps, headaches, and fatigue.

3. Adenosine Receptor Desensitization

Adenosine receptor desensitization happens when we use pre-workout that contains caffeine or other stimulants on a regular basis. These compounds block adenosine receptors in the brain, which increases alertness and focus during a workout. 

However, when we use pre-workout regularly, our adenosine receptors become desensitized. As a result, they become less responsive to adenosine, even when caffeine or other stimulants are absent. 

We may also feel tired and sluggish, despite not consuming any pre-workout.

Related: How to Get Rid of Pre-workout Anxiety

4 Ingredients That Contribute to the Pre-Workout Crash

1. Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can provide a much-needed energy boost before a workout. However, regular caffeine consumption can also lead to dependence, meaning your body starts to rely on caffeine to function properly. [1]

When you suddenly stop your caffeine intake, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability, amounting to a caffeine crash.

If you’re used to consuming caffeine regularly and suddenly stop, your body might withdraw during your workout, leading to a crash. As a result, you’ll feel tired, lethargic, and unable to focus on your workout goals. [2]

2. Beta-alanine Paresthesia

Beta-alanine improves endurance and reduces fatigue when consumed in a pre-workout.

However, it also causes a pesky side effect called paresthesia, a fancy word for a tingling, prickling, or itching sensation on the skin. [3]

While paresthesia is generally harmless, it can also be a distraction during a workout and contribute to a crash. After all, it’s hard to focus on your reps when your skin feels like it’s crawling! 

Plus, paresthesia makes you feel anxious, jittery, and even more exhausted than before.

3. Creatine Bloating and Gastrointestinal Distress

The bloating and gastrointestinal distress caused by creatine can contribute to a pre-workout crash in several ways: [4]

First, feeling bloated and uncomfortable leads to decreased motivation and energy, negatively affecting your workout performance. 

Secondly, gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea or stomach cramps, can be distracting and uncomfortable. As a result, it becomes difficult to focus on your workout. 

Finally, suppose you are already feeling drained or fatigued due to the crash. In that case, the added discomfort of bloating and gastrointestinal distress can make it even harder to push through your workout.

4. Nitric Oxide Headaches and Nausea

Nitric oxide is another ingredient in many pre-workout supplements that aim to increase blood flow and give you a killer muscle pump during your workout. However, too much of a good thing can lead to unwanted side effects and even a pre-workout crash. 

A pounding headache is one of the nitric oxide supplement’s most common side effects. This happens because nitric oxide can dilate blood vessels in the brain, leading to increased pressure and pain. 

In addition, nitric oxide supplements can cause other symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and fatigue, all contributing to a crash.

Related: Can You Build a Tolerance to Pre-workout and What to Do About It?

4 Alternatives to Using a Pre-workout Supplement

1. Stim-Free Pre-workouts

Stimulants like caffeine and other energizing compounds are commonly used in pre-workout to boost energy levels and improve focus during a workout. However, these stimulants cause a crash or energy drop-off after the effects wear off, leaving you tired, sluggish, and unmotivated.

Meanwhile, a stimulant-free pre-workout doesn’t contain any caffeine. It doesn’t rely on other ingredients to improve energy, focus, and exercise performance during your workout. 

These ingredients may include amino acids and other compounds that support muscle function, reduce fatigue, and enhance endurance.

By using a caffeine-free pre-workout, you can avoid the caffeine crash that occurs after the effects of caffeine wear off. This alternative maintains your energy levels and focus throughout your workout, allowing you to push yourself harder and achieve better results. 

2. Natural Sources of Caffeine

One way to avoid a pre-workout crash is to consume caffeine in moderation and from natural sources such as coffee or green tea. These sources provide a slower and more sustained release of energy, which prevents you from a sudden energy crash during your workout.

3. Proper Nutrition and Hydration

Eating a balanced meal that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats before your workout and drinking plenty of water goes a long way in avoiding a crash.

When your body is properly fueled and hydrated, it has the energy it needs to power through your workout without crashing and burning halfway through.

4. Adequate Sleep and Rest

Getting enough sleep and rest ensures your body and mind are properly rested and refreshed. Doing this gives you the energy and focus on performing at your best during a workout without feeling fatigued or run down.

In addition, adequate sleep and rest regulate your hormone levels, including cortisol and testosterone. These hormones are critical in muscle growth and recovery and essential for maintaining healthy body composition.

Related: Best Pre-workout Fat Burner for Weight Loss

4 Tips for Taking Pre-workout to Avoid The Crash

1. Start with a Low Dose and Gradually Increase

Starting with a low dose, such as a scoop or half of the pre-workout, allows your body to adjust slowly to the added energy boost and other ingredients. This way, you can gauge how your body reacts and avoid overdoing it.

Gradually increasing the pre-workout dose also gives your body time to adapt to the supplement to avoid any potential crashes or jitters. Plus, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health and fitness.

2. Time Your Intake Properly

It’s important to time your pre-workout intake to avoid a pre-workout crash properly.

Generally, it’s recommended to take your pre-workout supplement 30 minutes to an hour before your workout. Doing this gives your body enough time to digest and absorb the supplement’s ingredients to utilize them during your training.

3. Stay Hydrated and Replenish Electrolytes

It’s vital to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes before, during, and after your workout to avoid a crash. 

Simply put, drinking enough water and fluids to replace what you lose through sweat and consuming foods or drinks that contain electrolytes, such as sports drinks, coconut water, or bananas.

4. Cycle Off Pre-workout Supplements Periodically

A pre-workout break can reset the body’s tolerance to the stimulants. As a result, you will experience their full benefits without increasing your dosage.

It is also recommended to cycle off pre-workout supplements for two to four weeks every eight to twelve weeks to prevent tolerance buildup and avoid a pre-workout crash. 


Pre-workout crashes can be a real drag, but they don’t have to be a permanent part of your workout routine. By understanding their potential causes, you can take steps to prevent them and stay focused on your fitness goals. 

Also, always remember to read labels, consult with a healthcare professional, and listen to your body’s needs. 

With a little bit of planning and mindfulness, you can enjoy the benefits of pre-workouts without the post-workout crash.

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Nathan Lloyd, MSc

I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.

If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.