How To Make Your Own Pre Workout Suplement

How To Make Your Own Pre Workout Supplement

A great pre workout should resemble Appetite For Destruction.

If you’ve ever listened to Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, you’ll know precisely what I mean.

All killer. No filler.

It was lightning in a bottle.

Heck, it still is.

Sadly, the pre workout market is filled with below-par supplements that fall well short of the grade. And most people don’t know how to tell a good pre workout from a bad one.

Another thing that people forget, is to make sure that they are doing the perfect workout for themselves. It’s not just about getting the right pre-workout, but the workout itself has to be the right one. If you are struggling to find one that works for you then you might want to read this workout review. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what to look for.

Let’s put this into context. Have you ever bought a pre workout that your friend claimed was “awesome!”, only to find that it did nothing for you?

Tell me about it…

Feeling underwhelmed by a pre is as soul-destroying as listening to actors talk politics.

Another commonly experienced problem is adaptation. Our body is a wonderful machine, so one scoop of something initially blowing your head off soon turns into four scoops and a shot of adrenaline in a bid to recapture the glory days.

Today I’m going to show you how to eliminate both problems.

My clients have been making their own pre workouts for years. It’s something I’ve done since 2010. And now, for the first time, I’m going to show you how to make your own pre workout.

Want to save this guide for keeps? Download it free here.

how to make your own pre workout

Why Most Pre Workouts Suck

The vast majority of pre workouts are under-dosed in key ingredients.

The real problem here is that most people do not know what to look for when buying, so supplement manufacturers continue to push out awful products because they know they’ll sell.

Some companies will just blatantly under-dose key ingredients because they know they can get away with it as long as the hype on the front of the product is good enough.

So we get bright tubs with big slogans about “an avalanche of muscle gains!” or “unleashing the beast!”

Here are some examples of popular under-dosed pre workouts:

 

Others will hide their formula behind a proprietary blend, meaning they will tell you which ingredients are in the product but won’t disclose any of the dosages (sadly, under FDA rules this is allowed to happen). They’ll claim that this is to “protect their formula from rival companies looking to rip off their product” but it’s not.

It’s because they know they’ve under-dosed key ingredients, and they don’t want you to know.

Here’s some examples of popular pre workouts that use proprietary blends:

make your own pre workout

How TO Make Your Own Pre Workout Supplement

The sooner these “loopholes” in the supplement industry are outlawed, the better. But the bodybuilding industry as a whole went unregulated for so long, it’s not going to go away anytime soon.

So a quicker solution is to become an educated supplement user.

I’ve found that there are two kinds of people who buy pre workouts and other bodybuilding supplements:

1. Those who read the front of the packaging.
2. Those who read the back of the packaging.

I encourage you to join the second group.

I used to be a person who read the front of the pack. As such, a cool image of some florescent bodybuilder with arms the size of legs, and a slogan about “skin-splitting pumps!”, hey, I was sold.

So much money wasted…

I’d skip from product-to-product every other month, trying to find one that actually worked like it said it would.

Eventually, I took the time to learn about the ingredients inside the tub. I encourage you to do the same thing – become a consumer who knows how to read the back of the pack!

I can’t teach you how to make your own pre workout supplement without teaching you about the key ingredients and what each of them do. So that’s what we’ll be doing in this section right here.

Supplement companies like to throw in unnecessary ingredients in a bid to stand out (i.e. some fancy herb which came from the summit of Mount Everest which promises to burn fat like a motherf**ker) but when we get down to the real nitty gritty, the proven essentials that will genuinely boost your performance when lifting weights, your ingredients should look quite simple and straightforward.

I call this little cocktail “Appetite For Destruction”.

(You know why.)

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 will obviously depend upon your own allergies, tolerance and diet, so I always recommend consulting your physician before partaking in use of any new supplements or exercise programs.

diy-pre-workout

Ingredient 1 – 200mg Caffeine

Most people are already consuming caffeine on a daily basis in the form of coffee or (yuk!) energy drinks.

And most people are aware that caffeine is an energy booster.

As such, it’s often the primary ingredient in pre workout supplements.

It’s been shown to increase everything from focus, to energy levels, to calorie burn (although that last one is often over-hyped, leading to it’s false reputation as a “fat burner”). (1, 2, 3)

It has also been associated with increased strength output, but this requires a very high dosage of around 400mg. (4, 5, 6)

Interestingly, a 2012 meta-analysis published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal concluded anything less than 2.1mg per lb of body weight isn’t sufficient enough to provide any training benefits. For a 175lb person, that’s 168mg or below. (7)

So there’s another reason to put those God-awful Monster and Rockstar energy drinks down…

Of course, a top-end serving size of 400mg is enough to tranquilize a rhino and would be far too much for most people to consume. This is why most pre workout supplements hover between 150-300mg.

But while the strength output benefits are hidden in the upper ranges to caffeine dosage, the energy boosting qualities can be obtained with smaller dosages and this depends largely on the individual’s tolerance levels (meaning a complete newbie won’t require as much as a hardened coffee drinker). (8)

But you now have some baseline figures to work with, and that helps you spot a genuinely powerful caffeine-based pre workout in future.

I recommend starting at 200mg and increasing the dosage when necessary.

Caffeine Instructions:
Start with a dose of 200mg and increase to 250mg once adaptation occurs. I like to keep these 50mg increases going until I reach 400mg. This is the highest I’ll ever go, and once adaptation occurs at 400mg, I’ll simply remove caffeine from my supplement for a few weeks to deflate my tolerance level.
Which one do I use?

 

NOTE: Always opt for caffeine in pill form. Powdered caffeine is far too difficult to dose correctly.

citrulline malate

Ingredient 2 – 6g Citrulline Malate

Citrulline malate is the real powerhouse in your pre workout.

So much so, it’s the first ingredient I tell my clients to look for when checking out a new product.

You can go read my article Citrulline Explained for a complete breakdown of what this mighty amino acid is capable of, but for this post let’s just stick to the surface level benefits (i.e. the ones you actually care about).

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that supplementing with citrulline malate boosts weight training performance by as much as 1 rep every single set. (9)

Imagine being able to perform an extra rep on every single set you do from now on.

When put into context, this is potentially amazing, right?

Well, that’s not all.

Using citrulline will also improve your recovery between sets, as well as providing you with a great pump. (10)

It does this by using nitric oxide pathways to widen your blood vessels, allowing for greater blood flow and increased delivery of key nutrients during exercise.

Back in the early 2000’s, nitric oxide pre workouts (“N.O. Boosters”) were all the rage, and this was typically done via arginine. Citrulline is converted into arginine inside the body, but has an absorption rate over 50% greater, so it makes sense to opt for citrulline. (11)

Citrulline Malate Instructions:
Optimal dosage of citrulline malate is 6-8 grams. Training benefits are maxed out at this point, which renders the need to go any higher useless.
Which one do I use?

beta-alanine

Ingredient 3 – 2g Beta-Alanine

If you’ve used a pre workout before, then you’ll be familiar with the effects of beta-alanine.

It causes the tingly, skin-crawling effect most people experience when trying a new pre.

This is called paresthesia, and it curses beta-alanine with something I call “The Europe Effect”.

When I was growing up, Europe were a rock band known only for their seminal hit “The Final Countdown”. Couldn’t escape it. But once you got beyond that track, they actually have some pretty cool numbers in their back catalogue.

Once you move past the tingles of beta-alanine, it does much the same thing by offering us some rather interesting training benefits that most people are unaware of.

The main feature of those benefits being it’s ability to act as a buffer against lactic acid build-up.

A 2008 study concluded that using beta-alanine can increase the number of repetitions per set by as much as 25%, which is no mean feat! Further research then tested the effects of beta-alanine with a group of boxers, and saw improvements of almost 2000% (not a typo) regarding their ability to throw power punches in the closing stages of a round. (12, 13)

A full clinical dosage of beta-alanine is 3.2g, but most pre workouts come in at around 1.6-2g.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as new research suggests that consuming your 3.2g beta-alanine across two servings may actually lead to slightly greater absorption (and is a bit easier to handle than a full 3.2g serving of “TingleMania”). (14)

Training benefits are maxed out at 3.2g per day so there is no need to go any higher.

We all have that one pal who is a beta-alanine fiend, though, double-scooping his pre in a desperate bid to re-experience those tingles. This is both unnecessary and dangerous.

Unnecessary because the tingles are not the real benefit of beta-alanine and your body will adapt to it over time, and dangerous because double-scooping a standard pre also means a double serving of every other ingredient in the tub (unless you enjoy caffeine headaches).

Beta-alanine Instructions:
You have two options here. Either a full 3.2g dosage, or a single dose of 2g followed by another dose of 1.2g later in the day.
Which one do I use?

best pre workout ingredients

Ingredient 4 – 2.5g Betaine

Betaine (science name: trimethylglycine) is a greatly under-used pre workout ingredient.

However, it’s usefulness is catching on.

It is converted into nitric oxide once inside the body, opening up those all-important N.O. pathways which help us to train harder for longer.

A useful study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology back in 2013 showed that betaine supplementation significantly boosts sprint performance, and that’s what kick-started it’s rise up the supplement ranks. (15)

This research tied in with earlier findings showing that betaine could prolong time to perceived exhaustion during exercise by a whopping 15%. (16)

Several other studies have also concluded that it can boost cycling performance, enhance recovery between sets, endurance, and even explosive strength. (17, 18, 19, 20)

If you perform high intensity interval training, sprint training or lift weights on a regular basis then there are clear training advantages to be had here.

Betaine Instructions:
A clinical pre workout dose of betaine is 2.5 grams.
Which one do I use?

what is the best pre workout?

Notable Absentees

That’s it. Only 4 ingredients.

Sound a bit too simple, right?

Well, these 4 ingredients are the MVP’s in your pre workout. They take center stage. And they are responsible for almost all of the effects you are feeling while you train.

Like I said in the intro, if you cut your pre workout to just the essentials (i.e. the stuff with actual research showing performance benefits), the ingredient list is much shorter and sweeter than the nonsense most supplement companies put out because most of it is purely “for show”, in a bid to make their product different than their competitors.

But there are a few big players missing here that you may be wondering about.

Let’s cover them now and I’ll explain why they’re not here.

  • BCAA’s

First up, no BCAA’s.

Don’t get me wrong, BCAA’s (well, leucine in particular) are great for building muscle. But there’s a time and a place for them, and that time is not in a pre workout. (21)

Taking leucine pre workout can inhibit dopamine production, leading to quicker-than-normal CNS (central nervous system) fatigue. (22)

  • Arginine

Secondly, there’s no arginine.

Yes, despite the fact that it’s no longer 2004, most supplement companies still throw arginine into their formula and claim it’ll increase your performance.

I’ve already explained that using citrulline malate is a superior method of supplementing with arginine, so that’s why it doesn’t feature.

  • Taurine

Taurine is a firm favourite of the pre workout (and energy drink) industry.

It’s pretty hard to find a pre which doesn’t contain it.

That’s because it can boost mental focus and blood flow while training. (23, 24)

Which sounds great!

But these benefits come with a heavy price, because taurine is an antagonist of caffeine.

When we take both ingredients together, taurine opposes some of caffeine’s effects and increases the likelihood of a) headaches, and b) decreased training performance. (25)

The potential benefits of caffeine far outweigh those of taurine, so it makes sense to opt for caffeine.

  • Agmatine Sulfate

A lot of supplement companies have started adding agmatine sulfate into their formula, given it’s billing as a nitric oxide booster.

But there is zero scientific evidence to support this billing.

In fact, there are studies which show it does the opposite! (26, 27)

The researchers behind a 2014 study on agmatine concluded:

“That agmatine is touted for bodybuilding, is completely unsubstantiated and is backed by outright false claims.”

  • Exotic Stimulants

Exotic stimulants can be great.

DMHA and rhodiola rosea, in particular, are growing in popularity thanks to their ability to reduce fatigue and boost mood. (28, 29)

But if you want a pre workout containing exotic stimulants, I highly recommend just buying one (like this) because it’s dangerous to self-dose and get it wrong.

They also have a habit of getting banned.

If you are an athlete of any kind, experimenting with ingredients which might make it onto a USADA watch list is playing with fire.

This is mainly because there is a significant lack of research (for now) surrounding the safety and long-term side effects of many exotic stimulants that are currently popular in the marketplace. For example, the body of research surrounding the current “king” of DMHA supplementation, eria jarensis, consists of one mention in a 1969 study. (30)

That’s it.

Literally no other research exists.

I’ve used supplements containing eria jarensis and other stimulants, and they can work a treat, but I’m not going to tell people to use them in a way that could be dangerous. Until more significant research is done, we have to treat exotic stims with caution – after all, remember dendrobium extract?

This stimulant was used in popular pre workout Craze back in the 2000’s, only for it to later be discovered that it was actually spiked with a methamphetamine analogue. (31)

So, yeah, play it safe with exotic stimulants.

They’re not excluded because they’re bad, but rather because they’re potentially dangerous.

is it cheaper to make your own pre workout

Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own Pre Workout?

Let’s break things down…

In each serving of our little D.I.Y. pre workout we get:

  • 200mg caffeine
  • 6g citrulline malate
  • 2g beta-alanine
  • 2.5g betaine

When I pick up each individual ingredient online from the best sources, the costs are as follows:

  • Caffeine: £4.99 for 100 capsules (for 100 servings)
  • Citrulline malate: £28.99 for 500g (for 83 servings)
  • Beta-alanine: £22.49 for 500g (for 250 servings)
  • Betaine: £17.99 for 500g (for 200 servings)

I also recommend throwing in some flavouring to give it a bit of taste, which will cost around £4.99.

That gives us a total of £79.45.

If you are training 4x per week, this formula lasts a minimum of 6 months. At that point, the only ingredient you’d need to replace is citrulline.

A poor pre workout which relies too heavily on caffeine and under-doses other key ingredients usually costs around £15 for a month’s supply, which means you’d be paying £90 over six months – for a product which isn’t even comparable to the one I’ve just built!

If we take a look the very top end of the fitness industry and compare this against products which will give us a full clinical dose of most of the key ingredients you see above, let’s see what we get.

best pre workout ingredients

 

  • Pre Jym

The current top dog (sales wise, at least) in the pre workout market is Pre Jym.

Review here.

The main drawbacks to Pre Jym are under-dosed betaine, and the inclusion of taurine and BCAA’s. Outside of that, it gives you full clinical dosages of most key ingredients: 300mg caffeine, 6g citrulline malate, 2g beta-alanine.

This comes at a cost of £40 for 30 servings. If we wanted to get six months out of Pre Jym, we’d be looking at around four tubs, or £160.

is it cheaper to make your own pre workout

  • RedCon1 Total War

One of my favourite pre workouts at the moment (and the one to go for if you’re looking for exotic stimulants) is RedCon1 Total War.

With the drawback of zero betaine, the inclusion of agmatine sulfate and once again taurine, it gives you a full clinical dosage of the other key ingredients: 350mg caffeine (yikes), 6g citrulline malate, 3.2g beta-alanine.

The cost here is £35 for 30 servings, so again we’d need four tubs if we were training 4x per week for six months, costing £140.

make your own pre workout supplement

  • Gaspari Nutrition SuperPump Max

The two listed above are examples of fine pre workouts. The real “cream of the crop”, so to speak.

But now let’s look at a more typical pre, which will still cost a fair whack but doesn’t do a fantastic job.

Despite being hugely popular, this is one of the worst dosed pre workouts around.

SuperPump Max carries a proprietary blend, which hides the key dosages of most of the main ingredients. Immediate red flag. We know it includes taurine, no betaine, no beta-alanine, and we know that citrulline comes in at only 2g (nowhere near enough to see training benefits), and that it includes BCAA’s.

Apart from that, we don’t even know what the f**k we’re getting.

For a six month supply, we’d need to buy 3 tubs, costing us £90.

(Although, on their sales page the company recommend doubling the serving size – which would still leave us short of a clinical dose – which would also double the cost to £180).

make your own preworkout

Final Thoughts

There are a couple of major benefits to learning how to make your own pre workout.

Firstly, it’s cheaper.

As you can see above, once you have picked up the bare essentials you’re good to go.

It also cuts out all the clutter – no unproven or unnecessary ingredients. Just the stuff that’s been shown to work time and time again.

Finally, you’re in control of the dosage of each ingredient.

That means no more trying to find a stronger pre workout every couple of weeks because you’ve adapted to the caffeine level in your last one.

Simply add a bit more caffeine.

But hopefully you’ve picked up more than just how to make your own pre workout in today’s post. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve learned some key information about how shady the supplement industry is (in general) and feel more confident in knowing what each of the major pre workout ingredients is responsible for, and what kind of dosages you need in order to experience those potential benefits.

If so, job done.

Enjoyed this post? Drop a big steaming ‘like’ on it below.

Now get creating!

References:

  1. Duncan M. J., et al. The effect of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance to failure. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):178-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318201bddb.
  2. Childs E., et al. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 May;185(4):514-23. Epub 2006 Mar 16.
  3. Kim T. W., et al. Caffeine increases sweating sensitivity via changes in sudomotor activity during physical loading. J Med Food. 2011 Nov;14(11):1448-55. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.1534. Epub 2011 Sep 1.
  4. Cook C., et al. Acute caffeine ingestion increases voluntarily chosen resistance training load following limited sleep. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012 Jun;22(3):157-64. Epub 2012 Feb 15.
  5. Del Coso J., et al. Dose response effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on muscle performance: a repeated measures design. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 May 8;9(1):21. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-21.
  6. Mora-Rodríguez R., et al. Caffeine ingestion reverses the circadian rhythm effects on neuromuscular performance in highly resistance-trained men. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e33807. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033807. Epub 2012 Apr 4.
  7. McCormack, W. P., et al. Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance. Str Con J. August 2012 – Volume 34 – Issue 4 – p 11–16 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31825f4d7e
  8. 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.
  9. Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0.
  10. Alvares T. S., et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012 Feb;37(1):115-26.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Artioli, G. G., et al. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1162-73. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c74e38.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Pryor, J. L., et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on cycling sprint performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 20129:12
  18. Lee E. C., et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2010)
  19. Hoffman, J.R., et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2009)
  20. 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
  21. Walker, D.K., et al. Exercise, amino acids, and aging in the control of human muscle protein synthesis. (2011). Med Sci Sports Exerc 43, 2249-2258.
  22. Choi, S., et al. Oral branched-chain amino acid supplements that reduce brain serotonin during exercise in rats also lower brain catecholamines. Amino Acids. 2013 Nov;45(5):1133-42. doi: 10.1007/s00726-013-1566-1. Epub 2013 Aug 1.
  23. Kim, S., et al. Taurine Induces Anti-Anxiety by Activating Strychnine-Sensitive Glycine Receptor in Vivo. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. August 29, 2009, 380.
  24. Moloney M. A., et al. Two weeks taurine supplementation reverses endothelial dysfunction in young male type 1 diabetics. Diab Vasc Dis Res. 2010 Oct;7(4):300-10. doi: 10.1177/1479164110375971. Epub 2010 Jul 28.
  25. Giles G. E., et al. Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2012 Oct;102(4):569-77. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2012.07.004. Epub 2012 Jul 20.
  26. Piletz, J. E., et al. Agmatine: clinical applications after 100 years in translation. Drug Discov Today 2013;Sep;18(17-18):880-93.
  27. Gilad, G. M., et al. Long-term (5 years), high daily dosage of dietary agmatine – evidence of safety: a case report. J Med Food 2014;Nov;17(11):1256-9.
  28. Edwards, D., et al. Therapeutic Effects and Safety of Rhodiola rosea Extract WS® 1375 in Subjects with Life-stress Symptoms – Results of an Open-label Study. Phytotherapy Research, 26(8), 1220-1225. 2012.
  29. Wiegant FA, et al. Plant adaptogens increase lifespan and stress resistance in C. elegans. Biogerontology; 2009.
  30. Hedman, K, et al. Studies on Orchidaceae Alkaloids. XV. Phenethylamines from Eria jarensis Ames. Department of Organic Chemistry, University of Stockholm; October 14, 1969
  31. Wiley Online Journal. Muscles and Meth: Drug Analog Identified in ‘Craze’ Workout Supplement; October 14, 2013

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