People like different things. Some lifters and gym-goers absolutely love the feeling of their entire body tingling as if it is on fire. Others absolutely hate it.
If you’re one of the latter – or a pre-workout novice – it can be frustrating (sometimes scary!) to experience this intense itching or tingling.
So, given you’re committed to pre-workouts, or you want to choose the best itch-free, tingle-free product from the beginning, which should you choose? To make that decision, you first need to know what causes the itching/ tingling so that you know how to avoid it.
TIP: If you already know all about this topic and are just looking for a good product, skip down to Our Recommendation section below where we recommend Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout from Opti-Nutra.
Benefits of a Pre-Workout
Pre-workouts are a fantastic way to increase your energy and banish any fatigue. They are particularly useful for people who train very early in the morning or very late at night (we’d recommend a non-stim product for the evenings, such as Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout).
Pre-workout supplements can also have cognitive benefits. These help you to concentrate better, respond to situations quicker, and enjoy faster reaction times.
How a pre-workout will benefit you depends a lot on what ingredients it contains, but some benefits are universal. A pre-workout will help you to train harder, boosting endurance, and allowing you to perform more reps of an exercise, or use a heavier load.
Some pre-workouts contain BCAAs which can help people who train first thing in the morning preserve muscle (if they haven’t eaten breakfast), while other pre-workouts will contain other amino acids with different functions.
Stim v Non-Stim
There are essentially two types of pre-workout, stimulatory and non-stimulatory.
Stimulatory pre-workouts stimulate the central nervous system and contain ingredients such as caffeine which can boost adrenaline and make you feel more energized. They are very popular, particularly with early-morning trainers.
However, stim pre-workouts are not always ideal.
For starters, caffeine is only effective if you have no tolerance to it. If you habitually consume caffeine (through pre-workouts, coffees, teas etc.) then your body will build up a tolerance to it and you will need higher and higher doses until eventually it barely works.
Another issue is that stimulants can affect sleep. As we mentioned above, people who train in the evening or late at night may experience insomnia, which is certainly not ideal.
Because of this, many pre-workouts offer a non-stimulatory option. This is a supplement that can banish fatigue and boost mental and physical performance without stimulating the central nervous system.
If you think of a stimulatory pre-workout as a sledgehammer, then an effective non-stimulatory pre-workout would be comparable to a surgeon’s scalpel. (Please forgive the mixed metaphor).
Both stim and non-stim products can work and work well, but they have different uses and need to be applied by the right person. Note too that there are several ‘non-stim’ variations on the market made by some big manufacturers that are identical to their stim products, but without the bit that makes them work!
You ideally want a standalone non-stim product or one designed to be non-stimulatory from the ground up, or it won’t be effective. It’s worth doing your research on that one.
What Causes that Itchy Feeling?
Let’s get down to it. What causes the itching or tingling you can experience when taking many of the current pre-workouts on the market?
One of the causes is paresthesia; this is a harmless condition that is caused by high doses of Beta-Alanine. The other is known as the “Niacin flush”, similar to paranesthesia but caused by (you guessed it) vitamin B3 or Niacin as it is known.
Beta-Alanine is a common supplement ingredient because it has so many physical benefits that can improve gym performance. Studies have shown a significant increase in muscular endurance  and big reductions in fatigue . Beta-Alanine may also be associated with small increases in lean mass as well as small drops in body fat.
However, supplements that have high doses of Beta-Alanine are also responsible for paresthesia. This is a feeling of pins and needles on your skin, sometimes described as itchy or tingly by people who have experienced it.
It’s important to note that lower dosages of Beta-Alanine are beneficial and safe from risk of paresthesia.
There are a couple of myths surrounding it. Some people believe that it is a sign that the pre-workout is working. But actually paresthesia is just a sign that the pre-workout contains too much Beta-Alanine and it has no effect on the nervous system.
Another myth is that paresthesia is damaging to your health. It is actually a completely safe side-effect of high doses of Beta-Alanine and will have no effect on your performance or health.
The thing is, if you don’t mind that itchy feeling after taking a pre-workout, then Beta-Alanine is definitely a good product to go for.
Sadly, many people find it unpleasant.
Another itchy side effect from many pre-workouts is due to the use of Niacin. Again, there are many benefits to using Niacin and they far outweigh the drawbacks of the Niacin flush. But many people dislike the flush enough to want to avoid Niacin completely.
Niacin is mainly added to pre-workouts to boost brain power and reduce fatigue. This makes it a great choice for anyone who wants to workout hard in the gym. Or perform well on the sports field.
Sadly, one of the side effects of Niacin is the Niacin flush which causes your upper chest, neck and face to redden slightly and feel itchy, some people even experience pain.
The flush is completely harmless, but understandably many people want to avoid it. So, a pre-workout that avoids Niacin and Beta-Alanine is a great choice.
Our Recommendation for Best No-Itch Pre-Workout:
Performance Lab Pre
What we’re looking for here is a great non-stimulatory pre-workout that does not contain high doses of Beta-Alanine or Niacin.
We recommend: Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout.
Not only is it a great pre-workout supplement, but it also contains enough high-quality Beta-Alanine to be highly effective yet not enough to cause that itchy feeling. It has no niacin.
Performance Lab Pre-Workout contains: Creatine, L-Citrulline & Glutathione (Setria Performance Blend), L-Carnosine, Carnosyn, Himalayan Pink Salt, and Maritime Pine Bark Extract.
Let’s look at each of those in turn and you can see for yourself how effective this product is…
Probably the most effective sports supplement of all time, creatine is universally loved in the fitness and sporting worlds. Creatine has been shown to significantly increase power.
A 2007 study by Cramer et al found that daily creatine supplementation led to increases in strength and power in men performing leg extensions . Creatine is also very effective at reducing fatigue both mental and physical.
L-Citrulline &Glutathione (Setria Performance Blend®) 2,200mg
An amino acid that converts into Arginine in the kidneys, L-Citrulline is used in pre-workouts because it is able to increase nitric oxide production and therefore blood flow .
Increasing blood flow can help you to train harder. This is because it increases the rate of oxygen delivery to the muscles, meaning you can train for longer.
Glutathione can help to enhance the effect of L-Citrulline.
Imagine having Beta-Alanine except without the paresthesia; that’s what you get with CarnoSyn.
It’s the only patented version of Beta-Alanine and the most effective on the market right now.
The increased muscular endurance we mentioned earlier, and the reduction in fatigue will still be there.
But because CarnoSyn uses dosages of Beta-Alanine that are well below the threshold for paresthesia…
,,,you get all of the benefits without the itchy feeling that Beta-Alanine can cause!
It should allow you to train harder and may even help improve body composition by reducing body fat and increasing lean mass. CarnoSyn also contains zero banned substances.
Another benefit of CarnoSyn which we haven’t mentioned is the ability to reduce acidosis. This is probably why it is related to reduced fatigue because cellular acidosis and muscle fatigue are caused by intense exercise and eventually cause you to stop exercising. CarnoSyn can also reduce acidosis and therefore allow you to train at a higher intensity for longer.
As you can see, Performance Lab Pre-Workout contains Beta-Alanine but doesn’t cause that annoying itching sensation that most people cannot stand.
This really is the best of both worlds because as we have mentioned earlier in the article, Beta-Alanine really is an effective ingredient.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract & Himalayan Pink Salt
The maritime pine bark extract and Himalayan pink salt are also clever additions to the pre-workout blend. Himalayan pink salt can help to balance electrolytes and prevent cramping. This commonly occurs when we sweat a lot during intense exercise.
Maritime pine bark extract increases nitric oxide. In the same way that L-Citrulline does to increase blood flow and help deliver nutrients to your hard-working muscles.
One final point. Whichever pre-workout you buy – stim or non-stim – make sure to do your homework and buy from a reputable manufacturer.
We like Opti-Nutra, the makers behind the Performance Lab range, for the commitment to quality shown in its products.
Here are some great features of all their supplements:
- Made in an FDA-approved facility
- cGMP certified
- 100% vegan
- Free from GMO, soy, gluten and other allergens.
In short, their products are some of the cleanest you’ll find on the market.
*To Buy, Visit: www.performancelab.com
Getting a good pre-workout that can work consistently for you is always a challenge, but Performance Lab’s Pre-Workout could just be the right supplement for you. It’s non stimulatory, which means that it won’t affect your sleep or become less effective over time.
It uses Beta-Alanine but in a smart way. With a dosage that is high enough to be effective, but low enough to avoid itchiness.
Using Performance Lab Pre-Workout for a few weeks will see your stored creatine levels rise sharply, and while you will instantly notice a difference, the long-term changes will be even more impressive.
At the end of the day, you really want a supplement that you can enjoy taking. Not one that is going to leave you feeling uncomfortable or irritated in any way.