Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itchy? (And What to Do!)

In the fitness and bodybuilding space, pre-workout supplements are as common as protein shakes, but there’s something that’s talked about frequently in workout circles: the notorious pre-workout itch, with many enthusiasts wondering why does pre-workout makes you itchy. It’s a well-known phenomenon but it’s one that few people have pursued to full understanding, but here, you’re going to get the whole story.

We’re going to take a deep dive into the common itching sensation that sets in when you’ve slammed your pre-workout and are getting ready for that top-quality pump. Is it just a harmless side effect of some of the leading pre-workout supplements, or is there something to be concerned about? We’re going to cover that and more as we unravel the mystery of why pre-workout makes you itchy.

Alt text: A man taking a run by the water, wearing a black t-shirt and shorts

The Science Behind the Itch: Understanding Pre-Workout Ingredients

When we talk about that tingling little itch that you get sometimes after taking a pre-workout, it’s important that we first understand what common ingredients can cause this. At Raw Nutrition, there’s nothing better than being authentic and raw, and that means being transparent. So let’s dig into some of the common ingredients in pre-workouts that may be behind the itch.

A container of Beta Alanine from RAW 


One of the prime suspects is beta alanine, which is a non-essential amino acid that’s well-known for its role in muscular endurance. Beta-alanine supplementation is common in many pre-workout formulations, and when it binds to histamine receptors it can sometimes cause a harmless, but certainly noticeable itch or tingling sensation known as paresthesia. This will usually be seen on the skin of the face and hands. 

The role of beta alanine in pre-workouts is to help increase muscle endurance and reduce fatigue in those working out which is particularly important for anyone taking part in high-intensity exercise or sports performance. 

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Another significant potential cause is Niacin, which is a form of Vitamin B3. Niacin is involved heavily in energy metabolism and higher doses can cause what’s known as “Niacin flush”, which is a temporary but obvious reddening of the skin commonly accompanied by itching or even a burning sensation. This is due to the ability of niacin to forcibly dilate blood vessels, causing them to boost blood flow to the skin. This boost in blood flow is actually central to Niacin’s role in supplements like pre-workouts. 

Individual Sensitivity

While not an ingredient per se, still an incredibly important factor in understanding the interaction of a pre-workout with an individual’s fitness goals, if their personal sensitivity. Every person’s body has the potential to react differently to the various ingredients in their chosen pre-workout, and while an individual may experience tingling with one type, other users may not. Paying close attention to how your body reacts to a pre-workout formulation is important to get the most out of your supplementation.

Safety & Tolerance

Despite occasional and relatively mild side effects like the itching sensation, ingredients like beta-alanine and niacin are both generally considered safe to use and to supplement health and fitness programs, and boost exercise performance. 

Over time, however, individuals who use pre-workout regularly may develop a tolerance to it, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’ll notice a marked decrease in the tingling or itching sensations. On the other hand, this means your body is getting used to the supplement, which means you may no longer be getting the optimal performance enhancement from it.

However, no matter what, it’s always prudent to consult with a trusted healthcare provider before starting any new supplement or substantially changing doses. This is particularly important for anyone with pre-existing health conditions or who may be taking medications.

Beta-Alanine and Itching: What's the Connection?

The pre-workout itch is a common sensation that many in the fitness space have felt at one time or another, and it’s the likely result of the inclusion of beta-alanine in many pre-workout supplements. So what’s the big deal, and why do manufacturers keep putting it in pre-workouts if it causes itching?

Beta-alanine is a critical amino acid that is part of the processes that build and improve performance and endurance during exercise. When beta alanine is ingested, it’s metabolized into carnosine, which functions as a buffer for the lactic acid that builds up in muscles during intense activity, and higher carnosine levels mean better endurance and longer-lasting performance. 

One other thing beta-alanine does is to trigger the nerve endings just beneath the skin, which leads to a tingling sensation officially known as paraesthesia. This is usually felt most distinctively on the face, neck, and hands, but it has the potential to spread elsewhere easily depending on the dose. 

Overall, the intensity of the pre-workout tingle is going to depend on the individual sensitivity to such things, as well as the dosage of beta-alanine that is included in their supplement. The beta-alanine itch, while not the most comfortable sensation in the world, is also generally harmless and will go away quickly. Additionally, as your body gets used to beta-alanine supplements the sensation will reduce or go away. 

A woman in the gym, holding a shaker bottle


Other Contributing Factors to Itching from Pre-Workout

While beta-alanine is largely responsible for the pre-workout tingle, some other factors could come into play. We mentioned niacin earlier, but there are artificial additives that may impact this sensation, as well as individual histamine response.


Niacin is often included in pre-workouts, particularly ones that are better quality since Niacin has significant research backing its efficacy. However, while it’s usually included for its role in energy metabolism and vasodilation, it’s also famous for causing facial redness and itching, by rapidly increasing the rate of blood flow to the skin’s surface. 


Another staple in most stimulant-based pre-workouts is caffeine, which is used to boost sensory perception during workouts, and can also function to make users more aware of the itching sensation. So, while not a direct cause of pre-workout itching or tingling, caffeine may make you more aware of the sensation. If this takes it over the threshold from being innocuous to noticeable, this might be a big factor for some.


Take a close look at the ingredients for your pre-workout, and not just the active ingredients either, look at all of them. There is a long list of artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, and more that can cause mild or even serious allergic reactions in some individuals. These reactions would typically start with redness or irritation on the skin.

Individual Histamine Response

There are countless ingredients that can trigger an abnormal individual histamine response. Histamine is a compound that is released by cells when they are injured or during inflammatory reactions and can cause significant itching and redness. 

Managing and Mitigating Itching from Pre-Workout

While the itching from a pre-workout may be harmless, it can also be incredibly uncomfortable and even jarring at times, but there are ways to help manage and possibly even reduce that sensation. 

First, understand how your body reacts to beta-alanine by starting with lower doses and working your way up to allow your system to get acclimated more easily. Also, make sure you stay well hydrated since hydration can be a critical factor when trying to reach optimal supplement absorption. 

Additionally, consider the timing of your intake. If you give yourself more time between the pre-workout and your workout, you give your body more time to process the ingredients, which can help reduce the intensity of the itch. Also, if you need a big dose, consider splitting it into multiple doses throughout the day.


Can all pre-workout supplements cause itching?

Not all pre-workout supplements cause itching. It's typically associated with specific ingredients like beta-alanine. If you're sensitive to this effect, consider products with different formulations.

How long does the itching from pre-workout last?

The itching, or paresthesia, usually lasts for a short duration, often peaking within the first hour after consumption and gradually diminishing.

Is the itching from pre-workout harmful?

No, this sensation is generally considered harmless. It's a side effect of certain ingredients expanding blood vessels and is not indicative of an allergic reaction.

Can I prevent itching from pre-workout supplements?

To minimize itching, start with a lower dose of the supplement to assess your tolerance. Gradually increase as your body adapts. Also, look for formulas with lower or no beta-alanine.

Are there alternatives to pre-workout supplements that don't cause itching?

Yes, there are many pre-workout formulas without beta-alanine or with lower doses. You can also focus on natural energizers like caffeine from coffee or green tea.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, we’ve helped you get to the bottom of itching from pre-workouts, and it’s clear that it’s a relatively common and harmless experience and not a cause for any immediate concern. Remember that your journey to peak fitness and health involves constantly learning, and better understanding your body and the processes that occur within it, to more effectively reach health and fitness goals. If you’re ready to experience an intense pre-workout that helps you reach a phenomenal pump, check out all of the pre-workout options from Raw Nutrition.

March 15, 2024 — Aaron Napoles

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