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Why Your Pre Workout Isn’t Working Anymore

Your old pre workout used to make you train like a machine, it now it leaves you feeling flat. What’s going on? Can you “adapt” to your pre?

pre workout stopped working

This article:

6 min read

Your old pre workout used to make you train like an absolute machine, but now it leaves you feeling flat and empty.

What’s going on?!

Some gym bros will say you have you adapted to it and need to buy a stronger pre workout, and others will recommend you take a break from them.

But before you do any of that, pay attention to the two things below…

pre workout not working

Maybe It Sucks

Hey, it’s possible.

The supplement industry is shady as f**k, and companies often release poor products which over-promise and under-deliver, so there’s a chance your pre was never good enough in the first place.

The easiest way to tell if you have a poor pre workout is to flip the tub around and look at the ingredients panel. If the formula is hidden behind a proprietary blend then I can 100% guarantee it sucks. The manufacturer may claim this label prevents rival companies from stealing the formula and releasing copycat products, but it’s really because it allows them to save money by under-dosing the product in key ingredinets without telling you.

If that’s the case with your pre workout, feel free to skip to the final section of this article now.

pre workout stopped working

Those of you who can see the full ingredients panel, here’s what to look for in a top pre workout supplement:

  • 200-400mg caffeine

There are a number of good “stim free” pre workouts out there, but if you like caffeine then it’s worth knowing that the training benefits associated with it (better energy output, increased focus, improved strength) require a dose between 200mg-400mg. It’s also worth knowing there’s no benefit to going above 400mg. (8)

  • 3.2g beta-alanine

Beta-alanine helps buffer against the build-up of waste product (metabolites) during intense training, leading to more repetitions before muscle failure, and therefore more muscle growth. A clinical dose is 3.2 grams, but this can be split into two across the day if you prefer. (3, 4)

  • 6-10g citrulline malate

Citrulline malate will increase blood flow to working muscles, and can also lead to faster recovery between sets, improved endurance, and a better training pump. A clinical dose is 6 grams, but we can go as high as 10 grams if we really want to “max out” the pump aspect. This post will teach you all about this ingredient. (1, 2)

  • 2.5g betaine

Betaine is somewhat of an unsung hero, but it can make all the difference between a good pre workout and a great pre workout. Continuous supplementation will lead to great improvements in explosive strength (that’s why it’s popular with sprinters), as well as faster recovery between sets and greater endurance. A clinical dose is 2.5 grams. (5, 6, 7)

You’ll also find a bunch of other stuff in there alongside these four key ingredients. Many of them are pointless (niacin, agmatine sulfate) and some are downright counter-productive (BCAAs, taurine).

So now take a look at your tube and see if it ticks all of these boxes. If it does not, then skip to the end of this article.


Perhaps You’ve Adapted To It

It’s entirely possible for your body to adapt to your pre workout if you’ve been using it for a few months.

Most pre’s are caffeine-based, and this is the root cause of the problem.

Everyone’s got a friend who drinks ten cups of coffee per day and doesn’t even get a kick from it, right? That’s because caffeine tolerance builds very quickly, and it explains why your pre “blew your head off” the first couple of weeks then flatlined.

So here’s the key thing to remember about caffeine…

The golden zone for training benefits is somewhere beteen 200-400mg. That means if your current pre workout contains 200mg you could simply replace it with a stronger product and experience that caffeine kick again. However, it’s worth noting that there are zero performance benefits to be had from going above 400mg (unless you enjoy heart attacks), so if your current pre is already on the high end of the spectrum I recommend you switch to a stim-free formula for a month or so, then re-introduce caffeine when your body’s tolerance level has waned.

The other ingredient you can adapt to is beta-alanine, however this isn’t as big of a problem.

You see, beta-alanine is famous for the tingly feeling it causes (parasthesia), and many lifters wrongly believe that the ingredient is no longer working if they can’t feel it. This is not true. Parasthesia generally only happens for the first couple of weeks of use, but the body continues to process beta-alanine and reap the rewards beyond that.

The reason I mention this is because people often wind up double scooping or even triple scooping their pre workout with hopes of re-living that skin-crawling effect, and that’s a very dangerous thing to do because they’re inadvertently doubling or tripling every other ingredient (including caffeine). It’s usually these same folks who end up visiting the dark parts of the internet looking for so-called “hardcore pre workouts” which contain bulls**t ingredients which aren’t tested for human safety, so don’t do that.

pre workout not working

In Summary

If your pre workout is not performing like it used to, use the information above to decide why.

Earlier in this article I promised you a list of pre workouts which which tick all (or most) of the boxes regarding what to look for in a solid product.

Here they are:

Happy lifting!

Who Is Russ Howe PTI?

russ howe pti

As featured in Men’s Fitness magazine and voted in the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost, Russ is among the UK’s most subscribed personal trainers with 105,223 men and women receiving his free weekly fitness tips e-mail.

In the gym, clients range from busy parents, to models, to athletes and actresses. Russ also worked alongside the UK government for 8 years in a venture combating childhood obesity in England.

Outside of the gym, he’s a proud Dad to three young lads.

You can receive free tips by joining the e-mail list above, or you can hit the big button below to unlock full workout programs!



  1. Alvares T. S., et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab (2012).
  2. Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res (2010).
  3. Hoffman J., et al. Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med (2008).
  4. Donovan T., et al. Beta-alanine improves punch force and frequency in amateur boxers during a simulated contest. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab (2012).
  5. Hoffman J. R., et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2009).
  6. Lee E. C., et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2010).
  7. Holewa J., et al. Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, Coastal Carolina University (2013).
  8. McCormack W. P., et al. Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance. Str Con J (2012).

3 responses to “Why Your Pre Workout Isn’t Working Anymore”

  1. Great info Russ. After going to a stim-free product for two months I’ve just gone back, and definitely feeling the caffeine again.

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