Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itchy?

Medically reviewed by Dr Dimitar Marinov
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You’ve gotta love what pre-workouts can do for you during and post-workout – but, hang on, what is that itchy or tingling sensation you seem to get when you take it? Well, that’s something fitness enthusiasts have come to know as the pre-workout itch. But what is it in your supplement that causes itchy skin?

Pre-workouts have become very popular in recent years because of their performance-enhancing attributes. However, they contain one ingredient that often causes a slightly uncomfortable side effect for some people.

Read on to find out exactly why pre-workout makes you itch.

What ingredients in pre-workouts make you itch?

The ingredient responsible for making you itch is… drum roll please… beta-alanine! Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is responsible for regulating your muscles’ acids, and it helps users enhance their exercise performance and build muscle. 

Why does beta-alanine pre-workout make you itch?

Now that we’ve identified the itch-causing culprit, you probably want to know why you might get that beta-alanine itch, right?

When you take beta-alanine supplements, they activate something called Mas-related G-protein-coupled receptor D in your brain. This activation makes the neurons in your brain fire rapidly, leading to a tingling or itching sensation known as paresthesia. Don’t worry—it’s totally normal and only temporary. However, it might feel a little different from one person to the next. People have varying thresholds for feeling the sensation, so some may experience more itching while others may not feel it at all.

Several factors can influence how much itching beta-alanine causes. These factors include your sex, body size, diet, and ethnicity. Studies suggest that if you weigh less than 75 kilograms, you might be more likely to feel stronger itching compared to those who weigh more.

How long does the beta-alanine itch last?

The itch or pre-workout tingle usually lasts around thirty minutes or until your body burns through the beta-alanine. The effects will also significantly lessen as you work out. You may not even feel it at all because you’re so focused. Thankfully, the itching sensation will most likely wear off when you’re done with your workout.

Where do you feel the alanine itch?

The most common places for the alanine itch to start are usually around your arms, shoulders, neck, and upper body. Some people may feel paresthesia in their legs, but this is rare. You may even feel it on your tongue, but that is unlikely. 

How can you stop the itching?

Here’s the good news: if you’re consistently experiencing paresthesia, there are a few things you can do to reduce the pre-workout tingles.

  1. Firstly, try and split up your pre-workout intake. It might seem counter-productive, but this is a great way to build up your paresthesia threshold. Take your pre-workout in smaller amounts throughout the day and gradually increase the serving as you feel your body building a tolerance to beta-alanine. Once your body has adjusted, then you can start taking full servings.
  2. Another option is to stick with smaller dosages. Doing this will ensure that your body doesn’t react too strongly to the beta-alanine in the pre-workout while still getting the boost you need to exercise. 

What are the benefits of beta-alanine? 

Feeling itchy or uncomfortable might be a deal breaker for some people. Still, in this case, the benefits of using beta-alanine supplementation far exceed the one side effect. Here are a few of the incredible benefits of taking a beta-alanine pre-workout supplement:

  • Helps to build lean muscle
  • Delays exercise fatigue
  • Speeds up recovery
  • Enhances focus
  • Boosts energy

Is beta-alanine safe

Beta-alanine is considered safe to use. Besides causing people to itch, it has no other side effects. In fact, beta-alanine in pre-workout supplements has more benefits to it. When combined with other ingredients, beta-alanine plays a huge role in creating the perfect pre-workout formula to boost your energy and performance. 

Can I use pre-workouts without beta-alanine?

For people who experience the alanine itch severely, other pre-workouts can give you the same kick. In fact, pre-workouts that contain creatine, caffeine monohydrate, L-citrulline, and betaine should provide you with more than enough energy to sustain you during your workout.

Final Thoughts

When you take a beta-alanine supplement, it’s more than likely you’ll experience that itching sensation, but some people are lucky and this doesn’t happen to everyone. For those who do get it, don’t worry because it’s usually short-lived and reduces while you exercise. The itch is caused by the reaction between beta-alanine and MrgprD, which triggers a reaction in your brain that makes your skin itch or tingle. You can avoid this by using a supplement that hasn’t got beta-alanine in it or by taking smaller portions of beta-alanine.

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