Pre-Workout and Alcohol – What You Have to Know

Are you someone who likes to hit the gym after a night out with friends? Do you often find yourself reaching for a pre-workout supplement to power through your workout, even when you’ve had a few drinks the night before? 

If so, you’re not alone. Many fitness enthusiasts believe that pre-workout supplements can help them combat the effects of alcohol and still perform their best in the gym. But is this really the case? 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the relationship between pre-workouts and alcohol and what you need to know before you hit the gym after a night of drinking. 

From understanding the impact of alcohol on your body to choosing the right pre-workout supplement, we’ll cover everything you need to know to stay safe and achieve your fitness goals. So, let’s dive in and explore this fascinating topic!

But first, let’s define what a pre-workout is.

What’s a Pre-workout?

A pre-workout is a dietary supplement that enhances physical performance during a workout. These supplements typically contain a blend of ingredients intended to increase energy, focus, and endurance. 

Some common ingredients include caffeine, amino acids, creatine, and nitric oxide boosters.

How Do They Work?

Pre-workouts increase energy levels and mental focus, allowing individuals to push themselves harder during sessions. The caffeine found in many products acts as a stimulant, reducing feelings of fatigue and increasing alertness.

Creatine, another common ingredient, increases the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) available in the body, providing additional energy for high-intensity exercise.

In addition to providing a boost in energy, pre-workouts improve endurance. Beta-alanine, an amino acid found in many supplements, increases carnosine levels in the body. 

Carnosine is a compound that helps to buffer the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, delaying the onset of fatigue and allowing individuals to exercise for extended periods.

Nitric oxide boosters, such as arginine and citrulline, are also commonly found in pre-workout supplements. These ingredients increase blood flow to the muscles, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. 

As a result, this improves endurance and delays the onset of fatigue.

Related: Best Pre-workout Fat Burner

How Alcohol Works

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which slows down the brain’s activity and impairs cognitive and physical functions. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it is absorbed into the body’s tissues, including the brain, liver, and other organs.

Alcohol works by interacting with the neurotransmitters in the brain, which regulate mood, behavior, and other functions. It increases the neurotransmitter Gamma-aminobutyric acid(GABA) levels, producing a calming effect and reducing anxiety. [1]

At the same time, it reduces the levels of glutamate, which is responsible for excitatory signals in the brain. As a result, this leads to a slowdown in brain activity and a feeling of relaxation.

As you continue to consume an alcoholic beverage, its effects become more pronounced. It impairs judgment, coordination, and reaction time, making operating a vehicle or machinery dangerous while under the influence. It can also lead to slurred speech, impaired memory, and even blackouts.

The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol in the body. It breaks it down into acetaldehyde, which is then converted into acetate and eliminated from the body. 

However, the liver can only process a certain amount of alcohol at a time, and if consumed in excess, it can lead to fatty liver disease and other health problems.

How Alcohol Interacts With Caffeine

When you consume alcohol and caffeine together, they can interact in several ways, some of which can harm the body. One of the most common ways alcohol and caffeine interact is by masking the effects of each other. [2]

When a person drinks too much alcohol, they typically experience a feeling of relaxation and sedation. Caffeine, on the other hand, has a stimulating effect on the body, increasing alertness and energy levels. 

When you consume these two substances together, the sedative effects of the alcohol mask the stimulating effects of the caffeine, leading the person to believe that they are less intoxicated than they are.

Another way in which alcohol and caffeine interact is by increasing the risk of dehydration. Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, meaning they increase urine production.

When you combine the two substances, the risk of dehydration is even greater as the human body works to eliminate both substances simultaneously.

In addition to these effects, alcohol and caffeine interact in other ways, including increasing heart rate, causing sleep disturbances, and exacerbating anxiety and other mental health conditions. 

Related: Pre-workout For a Hangover – Does it Help?

Can Alcohol Interfere With Your Pre-workout?

Yes. Consuming alcohol before a workout interferes with the pre-workout effectiveness, reducing its ability to improve performance and increase energy levels. 

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes the body to lose water more quickly than usual. 

As a result, this reduces blood volume, reducing the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles. This, in turn, impairs muscle function and reduces the effectiveness of pre-workouts.

Alcohol consumption is also known to interfere with the absorption of key nutrients such as vitamins and minerals essential for muscle function and recovery.

It also interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize and eliminate waste products, such as lactic acid. As a result, this leads to a buildup of muscle waste products, causing muscle fatigue and reducing performance.

The Downsides of Mixing Alcohol With a Pre Workout

Pre-Workout and Alcohol - What You Have to Know

Reduced Effectiveness Of The Supplement

Pre-workouts are designed to enhance athletic performance by increasing energy, focus, and endurance. However, alcohol diminishes the effects of pre-workouts, making them less effective. 

This is because alcohol is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system, which regulates energy and focus. When mixed with pre-workouts, alcohol counteracts the stimulants and prevents them from working as intended.

Additionally, alcohol prevents the body from properly absorbing the nutrients and ingredients in pre-workout drinks. For example, creatine monohydrate is a popular ingredient in supplements that help with muscle repair and protein synthesis. 

However, alcohol can interfere with creatine absorption and prevent it from reaching the muscles, hindering muscle growth and recovery.


Alcohol is a diuretic that increases urine production leading to dehydration. Dehydration causes muscle cramping, dizziness, and fatigue, which is dangerous during weight training and other forms of exercise. 

Pre-workouts already contain ingredients that dehydrate the body, such as caffeine and beta-alanine. When mixed with alcohol, the risk of dehydration is amplified, leading to adverse effects on athletic performance and overall health.

Risk of Injury

Alcohol impairs coordination, balance, and reaction time, which increases the risk of injury during exercise. This is especially true for weight training, where proper form and technique are crucial for preventing injury. [3]

Combining alcohol with pre-workout leads to losing focus and hand-eye coordination, making it more difficult to perform exercises safely and effectively.

Additionally, heavy drinking leads to fatty liver disease, which hinders the body’s ability to process and eliminate toxins. As a result, this leads to muscle weakness, joint pain, and other conditions that increase the risk of injury during exercise. [4]

Nausea and Vomiting

Alcohol can cause nausea and vomiting, which is exacerbated when mixed with pre-workout drinks. The stimulants in these supplements, such as caffeine and beta-alanine, can already cause nausea and stomach discomfort. 

When combined with the effects of alcohol, the risk of nausea and vomiting increases, leading to a potentially unpleasant and dangerous workout experience.

Related: How to Get Rid of Pre-workout Anxiety

How to Avoid The Side Effects Of Mixing Alcohol And Your Pre-workout

To avoid the harmful effects of combining alcohol with pre-workouts, here are a few steps you can take.

First, it’s essential to limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages before a workout. If you drink alcohol, wait at least 24 hours before consuming a workout supplement. This will allow your body to fully eliminate the alcohol and reduce the risk of adverse effects on athletic performance.

Second, staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise is important. This means drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and other diuretics that lead to dehydration.

Finally, listening to your body and avoiding pushing yourself too hard during workouts is essential. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or exhausted, take a break and rest until you feel better.

How Long Should You Wait To Take Your Pre-workout After Drinking Alcohol?

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to wait at least 24 hours before taking a pre-workout drink after drinking alcohol. This will allow your body to eliminate the alcohol and reduce the risk of adverse effects on performance.

How Long Should You Wait to Drink Alcohol After a Workout?

After a workout, it’s essential to give your body time to recover before drinking alcohol. This means waiting at least 2-3 hours after exercise before drinking alcohol. 

As a result, this allows your body to properly rehydrate and replenish nutrients lost during exercise, reducing the risk of dehydration and other effects.


Pre-Workout and Alcohol - What You Have to Know

While it may be tempting to mix alcohol with pre-workouts, the downsides far outweigh the benefits. Mixing pre-workout and alcohol can reduce its effectiveness, lead to dehydration, and even increase the risk of injury.

To avoid these negative effects, it’s important to limit alcohol intake before and after workouts, stay hydrated, listen to your body, and seek professional medical advice. 

By taking these steps, you can achieve your fitness goals and enjoy the full benefits of pre-workouts without compromising your health.

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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.