Whether you’re lifting heavy weights or doing some high intensity exercise, pre workout is one of the most popular supplements in the health and fitness world. But, it has also been known to come with side effects, one of which is insomnia.
Here, we’re going to take a look at how pre workout causes insomnia, offer advice on how to prevent it, and look at some other causes of why your sleep quality is being affected following a workout.
What Ingredients In Pre Workouts Affect Sleep?
The main reason why pre workout causes insomnia and affects your sleeping pattern is that it contains caffeine. Increasing your caffeine intake has been shown to give excellent results in boosting your energy levels when training, but it does come with issues that affect sleep.
The reason caffeine affects sleep quality is because it stimulates the central nervous system, which, in turn, releases adrenaline. This gives you that much-needed boost to your energy levels when working out, but also gives your body that “fight or flight” response, as it is also a stress hormone known as epinephrine.
This is what causes you to lose out on sleep. Your brain and body are kept in a state of suspense as they believe there is a threat to be aware of, making it much harder to fall asleep. And caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours so there is some left in your system even if you took your pre workout before the afternoon.
It isn’t only caffeine contained in pre workout that is responsible for disrupted sleep, though.
DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine)is a well-known stimulant that has been banned as it has a molecular structure very similar to amphetamines, which increases blood pressure and helps you maintain high-intensity energy production over a long workout. It may increase the risk of cardiovascular incidents.
DMAA also can hugely affect your sleep quality, making it hard to fall asleep compared to non-stim pre workouts.
Synephrine is another ingredient you’ll find in a pre workout supplement that can cause insomnia. It naturally occurs in bitter oranges and is capable of boosting both energy levels and metabolism, making it a popular choice for those who use a gym session for weight loss as it can promote fat burning (1).
However, its performance is enhanced when paired with caffeine, which, again, can disrupt your sleep cycle and prevent you from getting some quality sleep.
All of the above ingredients found in pre workout can cause you trouble falling asleep, but it’s also important to know that dosage plays a huge part when asking yourself, “Can pre workout cause insomnia?”
We’re going to touch on this in more detail a little later, but, as a general rule, taking 3mg of caffeine per 2.2 lbs of your body weight is what most supplement companies recommend for dosage. It’s a good idea to gradually lower your intake of pre workout until you find that perfect balance if you’re on this dosage and having difficulty falling asleep.
How Long Before Sleeping Should You Take Pre Workout?
Timing is super important when taking pre workout as doing so too late could have a huge impact on getting a good night’s sleep. Generally speaking, you should aim to take your pre workout supplement no later than 4 hours before you intend to go to bed and remember to take it 30 minutes before your workout.
Following these time frames will do two things:
- Allow the ingredients to get into your system and start working ahead of your workout, giving you the ultimate benefit.
- Allow your body to fully process the caffeine and synephrine so it doesn’t affect sleep too badly.
- Do not take supplements containing DMAA, as it is a banned substance.
Remember, it’s really important to make sure you read the label on your chosen pre workout and follow the dosage guidelines. No two people are the same, and, as we touched on above, you may find that you need to extend the amount of time needed between taking a pre workout and falling asleep. It can often be a case of trial and error until you find what works best for you.
But what if you have no option but to train late at night or you just can’t find that perfect balance? Don’t worry – there is a solution. Switching to stim free pre workout supplements will give you all of the benefits found in other stimulant-based pre workouts without affecting your sleep quality.
We’re going to take a closer look at stim free pre workout supplements further down the page, but ingredients to look for in these pre workouts include creatine, BCAAs, and beta alanine.
How Much Pre Workout Should I Take To Avoid Insomnia?
While following the general rules for recommended and safe daily intake, the amount of pre workout you should take to avoid insomnia is going to be something that is personal to you, as everyone has their own tolerance level. However, the best way to prevent insomnia is to start with a smaller dose of pre workout and gradually increase it until you find that perfect balance between a good energy boost and keeping your sleep wake cycle optimal.
Doing this won’t only help you figure out what you can tolerate but can act as a marker for any other stimulant-based supplements you might be taking to enhance your performance.
There are other options available to you as well if you’ve tried lowering your dosage or you simply can’t find a dosage that works well with your tolerance levels, and the best by far is to switch to a stim free pre workout. This will mean you aren’t consuming caffeine or any other adrenaline-like ingredients, but you’ll still get an energy boost that will help power you through a workout.
Here are some of the ingredients to look out for when choosing a stim free pre workout:
Creatine is an ingredient found in most high-quality pre workout supplements, and this is a chemical compound that your body naturally produces, naturally stores in skeletal muscle, and calls on it when an energy boost is needed.
Unlike those that contain high doses of caffeine, a pre workout that contains creatine is likely to increase energy levels without any of the negative side effects. In fact, taking creatine is also known to aid the sleep cycle, making pre workouts that contain it one of the best choices for those who tend to suffer from insomnia (2).
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acid) are another ingredient that are commonly found in stimulant-free pre workout supplements, and they naturally increase muscle energy synthesis, which, in turn, reduces fatigue.
This ingredient also has no insomnia-causing side effects, making it one of the best for gym-goers looking to increase sports performance without sacrificing sleep.
Beta Alanine is another non-stimulatory ingredient that increases muscle power and endurance while reducing fatigue. It has also been shown to promote fat loss, so any stimulant-free pre workout supplement that contains beta alanine would be a good choice for those exercising to lose weight or those who are looking to improve their aerobic fitness without weight gain or muscle growth (3).
Another great ingredient to look for in a stimulant-free pre workout, L-Theanine is a natural ingredient found in several mushroom species and tea leaves that counteracts the side effects of caffeine consumption. This doesn’t only make it capable of improving sleep quality following a workout, but it can promote relaxation and an overall sense of well-being.
Remember also that timing is everything when taking a pre workout, especially if you’re still hoping to get a good night’s sleep.
You might also benefit from hiring a nutrition coach or a personal trainer qualified in sports medicine who will be able to advise you on your options specific to you and your personal training plan.
How Do You Fall Asleep After Taking Pre Workout?
Despite their best efforts, some people still find it really hard to fall asleep after taking a pre workout. There are some things you can do to try and get a good night’s sleep, however, and these include:
Increase Your Water Intake
We all know how important it is to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but did you know that it can also help to dilute certain stimulants that are lurking in your body left behind from your pre workout supplement?
Drinking loads of water during and after your workout will speed up the processing of caffeine and other stimulant-based ingredients by flushing them out of your system. They’ll pass through in your urine and, in doing so, will increase your chances of falling asleep.
Avoid Too Much Caffeine
This may sound obvious, but it’s super important that you continue to monitor your caffeine consumption following a workout if you want to stand a chance of falling asleep.
It isn’t just coffee that you need to avoid, though. Caffeine is also contained in loads of other things you might not imagine, including tea, chocolate, energy bars, energy drinks, and even certain medications.
So, to avoid too much caffeine, make sure you check the labels of anything you eat or drink in the 4-6 hours between finishing your workout and heading to bed.
You can also try switching to chamomile tea if you enjoy a hot drink before bed, as it doesn’t only contain no caffeine but is believed to help improve sleep quality.
Avoid Blue Light Screens
Blue light reduces the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and, in turn, can keep you awake for longer as it disrupts your body’s circadian rhythm. This can be even worse following a workout as your body will have produced stress hormones that will keep you awake, so, paired together, there’s a real risk of not being able to fall asleep.
Of course, in a world where we constantly rely on screens, it can be difficult to switch off. But turning off your TV and phone at least 30 minutes before bed is a habit you should start forming if you want to improve sleep quality.
Do Some Breathing Exercises
There’s been loads of hype around breathing exercises over the past few years, with experts like Wim Hoff teaching us the benefits of learning to breathe properly. One such benefit is being able to fall asleep faster and get a better quality of sleep in the process.
One of the most popular breathing techniques for curing insomnia is the “4-7-8” technique. This involves breathing in through the nose for four seconds, holding that breath for 7 seconds, and then exhaling through the mouth for 8 seconds.
Get Out Of Bed
This may sound counterproductive, but lying in bed and getting more and more worked up about not being able to fall asleep will just cause more stress and result in a vicious, insomnia-inducing cycle.
By stepping out of bed and reading, journaling, or doing anything that doesn’t involve blue light or strenuous activity, you can reset a bit and head back to bed once you start to feel tired.
What Else Can Cause Insomnia Following A Workout?
While pre workout supplements are one of the main causes of insomnia after a workout, there are some other things that can cause you difficulty falling asleep. These include:
When you work out, your body is put into a state of fight-or-flight and, in the process, starts to produce cortisol. This is a stress hormone, and, in particularly high-intensity workouts, cortisol levels can elevate quite dramatically.
Cortisol interrupts your sleep by disrupting the body’s HPA axis, and when this happens, insomnia, fragmented sleep, and overall shortened sleep time can occur (4).
Working out causes your body temperature to rise, and this, just like blue light emitted from screens, can disrupt the circadian rhythm. To counteract this, make sure your bedroom is kept at a cool temperature. This will prevent overheating and bring your overall body temperature down.
There’s no doubt that certain pre workout supplements can cause insomnia and trouble sleeping. But, it mainly comes down to the ingredients contained within them. For those that struggle to fall asleep after taking pre workouts, it’s best to switch to a stimulant-free pre workout supplement that will give you all the benefits you’re used to without causing insomnia.
- “Review of Published Bitter Orange Extract and p-Synephrine Adverse Event Clinical Study Case Reports” sourced from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30835576/
- “Creatine Supplementation and Brain Health” sourced from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7916590/
- “Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes” sourced from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17136944/
“On the Interactions of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis and Sleep: Normal HPA Axis Activity and Circadian Rhythm, Exemplary Sleep Disorders” sourced from: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/90/5/3106/2837129