Today I’m going to show you how to make your own preworkout for bodybuilding purposes, and then kick all kinds of ass in the gym with it.
But first, let me as you a question…
Have you ever bought a preworkout supplement only to be disappointed with the results?
Or, even worse, upon finally finding a preworkout that works for you, have you been disappointed by how quickly your body adapts to it?
Tell me about it.
Feeling underwhelmed by a pre is as soul-destroying as listening to actors talk politics.
And the worst part is that there are literally thousands of underdosed, unproven formulas on the sales floor of any supplement shop and/or online marketplace.
This means that, for most people, buying a pre is an expensive game of hit and hope.
But not for you.
At least, not anymore.
For in this article I am going to teach you a little “trick” I have been doing for years – how to make your own preworkout supplement at home.
And not just any preworkout, either.
Nope, this preworkout will trump any big brand option on the market and it won’t cost you anywhere near as much to make.
Along the way through this guide, I’ll run through every ingredient used and cover the biggest problems typically found in pre’s (as well as how to avoid them!).
And I also have a special free gift for you at the end of this guide!
The Problem With Pre’s
Have you ever wondered why preworkouts miss the mark so frequently?
Today I’m going to show you why.
It’s all in the label.
And today, thanks to this handy guide, I expect you to never fall victim to a poor pre again!
You see, in the world of bodybuilding supplements there are two kinds of people who buy items.
- Those who read the front of the packaging.
- Those who read the back of the packaging.
I encourage you to join the second group.
Because for many, many years, the supplement industry has relied on hype to sell products.
From luminous-coloured tubs with pictures of massive bodybuilders and claims about “exploding muscle growth”, to clean and simple tubs with elegant writing and claims about “toning”.
It’s marketing 101.
And in the preworkout genre, it’s worse than anywhere else!
Perhaps the biggest problem with preworkouts is proprietary blends.
If you are unfamiliar with supplements, a proprietary blend means a supplement manufacturer has the right to refuse to disclose the dosages of key ingredients on the nutritional label.
Can you imagine if that was allowed to fly in the food industry?
It’s absurd to think you could buy a sandwich and not know the nutritional contents, right? Heck, even McDonald’s list their nutritional information.
Conversely, the bodybuilding industry was able to go ungoverned for many years and even though this has improved in recent times, there are still many things that need working out. Proprietary blends are one such thing.
So under a proprietary blend a manufacturer can choose to inform you if it contains caffeine, beta-alanine, BCAA’s, etc in each serving, while keeping the dosages of each ingredient hidden from view.
This is bad, as it allows shady manufacturers to push out dirt cheap, under-dosed products to you in a bid to woo you with the hype on the front of the packaging (see above), only realizing you’ve been played when it’s too late.
We’ve all been there.
I’ve used preworkouts that have left me feeling flatter than a witch’s tit.
Because I used to be a guy that read the front of the packaging!
I’d cycle between products every month, not knowing if something was “good” or “bad” until I had already parted ways with my cash. It was a total guessing game, and I found that most products my friends claimed to be awesome did absolutely nothing for me.
The proprietary blend approach wasn’t always a bad thing, though.
You see, back in the early days of preworkouts this move was usually taken to prevent rival companies from stealing a formula.
But while this approach made sense back then, nowadays the general key players in any preworkout formula are the same, so any company still using this tactic simply has something to hide.
The Benefits Of Making Your Own Preworkout
Sadly, the fitness industry still lacks this honesty, so I began formulating my own preworkout a few years ago.
There are two main benefits to doing this. They are:
- It’s cheaper in the long run
- You control the dosages of the key ingredients, guaranteeing a great training response from your body
It may be surprising to hear that it’s actually cheaper to make your own preworkout than buy one off the shelves.
After all, how can buying ingredients separately be more cost effective than getting them all in one go?
But it’s true, and I’ll show you how at the end of this article.
The second point above is the key one, though.
By controlling the dosages of all the key players in your preworkout supplement you hereby guarantee the best possible training response from your body.
In the last segment I mentioned that I used to hear my friends hailing certain preworkouts as “the best thing they’ve ever used!”
Turns out it’s not uncommon to find that one thing might blow your friend’s head off and do absolutely Jack for you.
After all, your response to a preworkout is largely dependant on your tolerance levels, particularly caffeine and beta-alanine.
What Are The Best Preworkout Ingredients?
Can you remember Appetite For Destruction?
It was an album by Guns N’ Roses, and it rocked.
Nowadays, a truly classic rock song surfaces once every few years, and here we were getting Paradise City, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Welcome To The Jungle… all on one disc?
Why am I bringing this up?
Because the simple way to describe Appetite For Destruction is “All killer, no filler”.
And, when creating the ultimate preworkout, it’s important to go in there with the exact same mindset.
You see, as well as hiding their key ingredients behind proprietary blends, manufacturers like to throw in tons of unproven additional ingredients which are essentially filler.
In a bid to stand out from the crowd, they want you to believe that they have found a magical ingredient which nobody else knows about.
Picture a researcher climbing Mount Everest, standing over a never-before-seen herb which promises to burn fat like a motherfucker.
But regardless of whether they claim to have sprinkled your preworkout with unicorn tears, the key players in your preworkout drink are very straightforward.
This is particularly true in the energy drink market, where products rely heavily on sugar and caffeine, including tons of bullshit extra ingredients in tiny dosages purely as a means to differentiate their product from the others lining the shelves.
So the first thing we must ask is – what are the best ingredients in a preworkout?
And, beyond that, we must also ask – what dosages should they be in?
Thankfully, I’m now going to teach you the answers to both questions!
Alright, let’s make some Outwork Everyone!
NOTE: Just because this is what I do, doesn’t mean it’s what you should do. This article is for information purposes, and shows the ingredients and the dosages I use. How you respond largely depends upon your own allergies, tolerance and diet, so I recommend consulting your physician before partaking in use of any supplements or exercise programs.
You’re probably already consuming caffeine every day.
Whether you are doing so via an energy drink, or drinks of tea and coffee, caffeine is a supplement which is widely considered as the king of substances for boosting energy levels and focus.
As such, it’s the primary ingredient in any top preworkout supplement.
It is also often touted as a fat burner, thanks to it’s ability to enhance metabolism speed, although this benefit is overhyped.
But before we go any further, here’s the thing – caffeine’s effectiveness is determined by your body’s tolerance levels. (1)
Meaning if you drink 10 cups of coffee per day, you will not get the same kick as someone who doesn’t drink coffee at all.
And once you have adapted to high dosages of caffeine, it is unlikely you will experience the benefits it offers no matter how big the dosage.
This sucks major balls, and is one of the main reasons why preworkouts only tend to feel great for about 2-3 weeks, before having less and less effect, until we switch to another brand to rediscover that initial kick.
Being able to control and adjust the dosage based upon your own individual tolerance to caffeine, is something I’ve always found beneficial.
If you are new to preworkouts, I recommend beginning with a dosage of about 100mg.
Once adaptation occurs, increase that to 150mg, then to 200mg.
200mg is pretty standard for most preworkouts, but it’s worth knowing that 300mg is the highest I’ll ever go.
Once my body has adapted to 300mg, I’ll begin lowering my intake over a few weeks until it’s completely removed. This then allows me to re-introduce it later on at 100mg and get the same energy boost.
In terms of regulation, the most any supplement manufacturer is legally allowed to put inside a serving is 600mg.
Although some studies have gone even higher, I wouldn’t recommend it and, quite frankly, I believe that 600mg is freaking ridiculous and you should never need to go to those levels just to get a kick!
2. Citrulline Malate
Despite caffeine’s proven benefits and obvious importance, citrulline malate is the main ingredient I tell my clients to look for when checking out a potential new preworkout.
Because while caffeine is commonplace in this industry, citrulline is often totally overlooked.
Citrulline has bene shown to have a very positive impact on nitric oxide production, meaning you’ll experience greater blood flow to the working muscles and a bigger pump while you workout.
It’ll also boost your ability to train through fatigue. (2)
You’ll often see a substance called arginine thrown into the preworkout mix, and if you’re familiar with supplements you may have noticed that all of the benefits listed above are also benefits associated with arginine.
But while arginine is a useful amino acid, the drawback is it’s poor absorption rate.
In fact, one study suggested that as little as 1% of a typical dose of arginine makes it to the muscle cells! (3)
Conversely, around 80% of a typical dose of citrulline make it through to your kidneys before being converted into arginine. (4)
You see, this may be surprising, but supplementing with citrulline is simply another way of unlocking the benefits of arginine.
One study from the British Journal of Pharmacology found that using citrulline was 50% more effective for raising blood levels of arginine than using arginine itself! (5)
So if you want the benefits of arginine, start using citrulline malate!
Optimal dosage is 6g.
Given that the training benefits are pretty much maxed out at this point, there is no need to increase the dose beyond this.
Unless you are brand new to the weight training world, you have probably already heard about creatine.
After all, it’s the world’s best-selling bodybuilding supplement.
What you may not be so sure of, however, is what creatine actually does.
The packaging, with claims of huge muscle growth, make it look like just another run-of-the-mill supplement, but creatine really is the stuff bodybuilding dreams are made of.
This naturally-occurring substance is responsible for short bursts of explosive activity.
Think running for a bus, or picking up a heavy box.
Out body’s reserves are pretty small, meaning we can deplete them very quickly with prolonged activity. However, by supplementing with additional dietary creatine we can significantly extend it’s benefits.
It first shot to prominence back at the 1992 Olympic Games, when The Times reported that sprint champion Linford Christie and women’s 400m hurdles champion Sally Gunnell spoke about using creatine in their competition prep.
Before long, it had made it’s way into every gym around the world.
After all, a supplement which can increase your ability to perform explosive movements? Yes please!
Using creatine has also been shown to make your muscles appear fuller and harder, thanks to it’s ability to force water into your muscle cells. (6)
That is a temporary benefit, however, meaning that if you stopped creatine supplementation you would lose the aforementioned water benefits. But the gains in strength and muscle size are 100% real.
The part most people get confused with is choosing which type of creatine to use.
If you look at the creatine page of any big supplement company you will notice that they offer a range of different formulas, some significantly more expensive than others.
These formulas often include creatine monohydrate, creatine HCL, creatine nitrate, creating ethyl-esther, kre-alkalyn, and more.
It may surprise you to hear that the formula I recommend you use is creatine monohydrate.
Monohydrate is the original raw form of creatine which first hit the market 25-30 years ago.
Despite the advancements made in sports supplementation in that time, no creatine blend has been shown to outperform it (including the ones which cost 6x more).
Optimal dosage is 5g.
Despite claims on the packaging to use a loading phase of upto 20g per day for the first few weeks, this is not necessary.
If you wanted to make a preworkout consisting of only the three key players, you would stop at creatine.
This would give you a rock steady pre at a tiny cost, as I’ll show you later.
But for those of you who want to create an absolute beast of a pre, we carry on by adding two more ingredients.
The first of which, is beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine is commonly found in preworkout formulas, it’s the ingredient which is responsible for the tingly, skin-crawling sensation which occurs around 15 minutes after consumption.
The main use for beta-alanine, at least commercially, is the fact that most people like to “feel” their drink kicking in, and this is the ingredient which is capable of doing that.
But under the surface of parasthesia (the science name for the tingling sensation), there are some useful training benefits.
The main benefit is that through regular supplementation you can actually buffer the onset of lactic acid, meaning you are able to train slightly longer through “the burn”.
One 2008 study showed that a group of trainees using beta-alanine were able to improve the number of repetitions performed in a single set by 25%! (7)
That’s no mean feat, right?
Further research then tested the effects of beta-alanine with a group of boxers, and noticed improvements of almost 2000% regarding the boxers’ punching power in the closing stages of a round. (8)
So, while the main thing it’s used for is purely superficial, there is a lot more to beta-alanine than meets the eye.
Optimal dosage is 2.5g.
This would easily provide you with the maximum training benefits. However, like caffeine, the intensity of beta-alanine is dependant on your tolerance levels.
Instead of starting on a 2.5g serving, if you are new to this substance I recommend starting with 1g and working your way up in 0.5g increases over the course of a few weeks.
This way, it won’t feel like you’ve just had your head blown off by an angry Oompa Loompa with a sawn-off shotgun.
Once you have adapted to the maximum dosage, don’t keep increasing.
We all have a friend who is constantly on preworkouts and has reached a stage where they need an insane amount of beta-alanine to experience the tingling sensation they are searching for.
This usually results in them taking a dangerous 3-4 scoops (dangerous because it also inadvertently doubles their intake of every other ingredient in the drink).
Caffeine fit, anyone?
Training benefits are maxed out at 2.5 grams, so there is no need to put an insane amount of beta-alanine in your drink just for parasthesia.
Instead, like caffeine, work it back down and remove it from the stack completely for a few weeks, then re-introduce it later. This will reset your tolerance levels.
And it’ll save you money.
5. Beetroot Extract
Beetroot extract (nitrate) is converted into nitric oxide inside the body.
You will find beetroot extract particularly useful during sprint workouts, where it has been shown to significantly boost athletic performance. (9)
In fact, during one 2011 study from researchers at the University of Exeter, the evidence suggested that beetroot extract was able to prolong time to perceived exhaustion by a shocking 15%! (10)
If you are performing high intensity interval training, sprint-based cardio or weight training on a regular basis then there are clear benefits to be had here.
You could simply eat some beetroot before training, of course.
Personally, I can’t stomach the stuff, so adding beetroot extract to my pre is a convenience thing.
Take A Look At The Formula
Remember when I said “all killer, no filler”?
That’s precisely what we now have!
Each ingredient is proven, and no time has been wasted on substances which are there as a means to make up the numbers.
Each serving provides you with:
- 200mg caffeine
- 6g citrulline malate
- 5g creatine monohydrate
- 2.5g beta-alanine
- 500mg beetroot extract
Take a look around the shelves of any supplement store and you won’t see a preworkout which can outperform these dosages of scientifically proven ingredients, let alone beat the price for doing it.
But don’t take my word for it, let’s compare it to Pre Jym 2.0, Gaspari Superpump Max and Reflex Muscle Bomb, below:
How Much Does It Cost To Make Your Own Preworkout?
So how much does this cost?
You can see a breakdown below:
- 2000mg caffeine (£8.99 for 200 workouts)
- 6g citrulline (£28.99 for 83 workouts)
- 5g creatine monohydrate (£10.99 for 200 workouts)
If we made the basic version of our preworkout, our total costs would be £48.97.
If you are training 4x per week, this initial outlay sees you through for almost 6 months!
At that point, the only thing you’d need to top up is your citrulline, as your other two ingredients are covered for much longer!
A poor preworkout which relies too heavily on caffeine usually costs around £15 for a month’s supply, which means you’d be paying £90 over six months – on a product which isn’t even comparable to the basic version of what we have just built!
In fact, I’ve just shown you how to build something superior for literally half the price!
Now let’s add the other two players and make the full preworkout:
- 2000mg caffeine (£8.99 for 200 workouts)
- 6g citrulline (£28.99 for 83 workouts)
- 5g creatine monohydrate (£10.99 for 200 workouts)
- 2.5g beta-alanine (£21.49 for 200 workouts)
- 500mg beetroot extract (£7.75 for 90 workouts)
With the complete formula, our total outlay is £78.21.
This covers us for 6 months, beyond which we’d only need to look at our citrulline and beetroot extract, which allows us to easily top up our ingredients for another six months at a fraction of the cost.
Industry-leading preworkouts typically cost between £20 – £35 for a month’s supply, which means you’d be paying between £120 – £210 for a six month supply.
Outside of the obvious monetary benefits, this becomes a no-brainer when we take into consideration the adaptation which will occur to any ready-made preworkout if it was used for such a long period of time.
How To Make Your Own Preworkout – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it!
A complete, comprehensive guide teaching you how to make your own preworkout.
Not only can you create something more powerful, but you can even save money doing it!
Like I said at the beginning, controlling your own dosages puts you in control, guaranteeing you always have a pre which meets your body’s current requirements and always provides that “kick” you need on those days when you don’t feel like working out!
Also, we must factor in that I based our preworkout rates on the top possible dosages. If you are new to caffeine and beta-alanine, however, you’ll be coming in under those targets, meaning your supplies would last you even longer still.
- Beaven, C. M., et al. Dose effect of caffeine on testosterone and cortisol responses to resistance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008 Apr;18(2):131-41.
- Sureda, A., et al. L-citrulline-malate influence over branched chain amino acid utilization during exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Sep;110(2):341-51. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1509-4. Epub 2010 May 25.
- Castillo, L., et al. Splanchnic metabolism of dietary arginine in relation to nitric oxide synthesis in normal adult man. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1993; 90: 193–7.
- Sureda, A., et al. Arginine and citrulline supplementation in sports and exercise: ergogenic nutrients? Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:18-28. doi: 10.1159/000341937. Epub 2012 Oct 15.
- Schwedhelm, E., et al. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine: impact on nitric oxide metabolism. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 65(1):51-9, 2008.
- Candow, D.G., et al. Effect of different frequencies of creatine supplementation on muscle size and strength in young adults. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1831-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e7419a.
- Hoffman, J., et al. Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med. 2008 Dec;29(12):952-8. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1038678.
- 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 Oct;22(5):331-7.
- Wylie L.J., et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jul;113(7):1673-84. doi: 10.1007/s00421-013-2589-8. Epub 2013 Feb 1.
- Lansley K.E., et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Mar;110(3):591-600. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01070.2010. Epub 2010 Nov 11.