Want to learn how to make your own pre workout at home?

how to make your own pre workout using raw ingredients

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

13 min read

Have you ever felt disappointed with a pre workout which failed to deliver?

Well, those days are gone.

As the title of this article suggests, I’m going to show you how to make your own pre workout supplement from scratch using raw ingredients. Better yet, it’ll be clinically dosed for maximum results.

This is something I first learned back in 2013, from Dr. Jim Stoppani no less, and it’s a tactic I return to at least once a year when I grow tired of ready-made formulas.

There are three key benefits to making your own pre workout:

  • You control the doses of each ingredient
  • You strip out all of the unnecessary ingredients
  • It costs less in the long run

Let’s get stuck in!

DISCLAIMER: I always recommend consulting with your physician before using a new supplement or embarking on a new diet. This article is for information purposes, and just because it’s what I do doesn’t mean it’s what you should do – there are important things to take into consideration like allergies, tolerances, etc.


Table of Contents

The 4 Key Ingredients You’ll Need

how to make your own pre workout

I believe the main attraction to a DIY pre workout is that you can remove all of the clutter and focus on the stuff that works best.

You see despite the massive list of ingredients you’ll see on most pre workout tubs, the latest scientific research shows us that we only really need four of them. They are:

We’ll get into the science in a moment so you can see exactly what each one does, but right now I want you to know that when it comes to performance benefits in the gym these four stand tall over everything else in the tub.

Which begs the question; how come we often see pre workouts with 20+ ingredients?

Well, there’s a couple of reasons for that.

  • Product individuality. It’s illegal to have two products which are exactly the same. This would be like a soda brand using Coca-Cola’s exact formula.
  • Marketing purposes. Manufacturers often add things just to make their product stand out from the competition. Most of these ingredients do very little, but they can cetainly sell (example; something like CLA has a miniscule effect on fat loss, but the fact that it exists is enough to legally allow a company to slap “fat burning” on the tub and out-sell their rivals). Having a big formula is also an easy way to distract from under-dosed ingredients.

The Benefits & Drawbacks Of A DIY Pre Workout

how to make your own pre workout drink

There are two of each, so let’s look at those now.

  • Benefit #1: You control the dose of each ingredient

This means you can make sure each ingredient delivers maximum results. I’ll show you how to do this below. It also gives you the power to play with the caffeine content. Caffeine is the only one where results will diminish over time, when this happens you can simply remove it and then re-introduce a few weeks later.

  • Benefit #2: It costs less in the long run

I’m going to demonstrate this on a six-monthly basis so you can really see the difference. A semi-decent pre workout costs about £30 for a one month supply, so over six months you’re spending £180 on pre workout. By correctly dosing the ingredients as I show you below, you’ll get a six month supply for £73 – oh, and at the six month stage the only thing you’ll need to top up is CitMal! When you combine this info with the fact that your DIY pre workout will be fully dosed in each key ingredient, versus the standard pre you’re currently using which isn’t, that’s crazy!

  • Drawback #1: Taste

Ever noticed the tangy/bitter taste pre workouts have? That’s because we’re combining several different compounds into one. A ready-made product adds a whole bunch of ingredients to soften that (although you can still taste it), but a DIY pre workout doesn’t have this luxury. I recommend combining it with fruit juice to give it some taste.

  • Drawback #2: Convenience

A little convenience goes a long way! Supermarket shelves are choc-full with poor pre workouts which are essentially just caffeine water, but the fact that it’s caffeine water which is already done is enough to make people pay £20-30 for it (even though it cost the manufacturer pennies to create and has a s**t formula). Making your own pre workout is easy as f**k, but it’ll never be as easy as one scoop.


The 4 Key Ingredients Explained

If you’re wondering why I picked these four ingredients over everything else, all is about to be explained.

Simply put; they work!

Being the fully-fledged fitness nerd that I am, it doesn’t feel like enough to tell you this. I want to show you. So in this section I’ll explain all of the main functions of the four key ingredients, and show you the optimal dose of each for unlocking maximum results.

  • 200mg Caffeine

Caffeine is the world’s most popular stimulant. It’s best known for its energy-boosting capabilities, but it has a whole host of other training-related benefits which include greater mental focus, power output, calorie burn, and higher energy expenditure. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

However, the effectiveness of this stimulant largely depends upon your tolerance level. For most people, the maximum results are unlocked with a dose between 170-400mg, and that’s why I recommend using 200mg as standard. If you need more you can easily boost this to 300mg or even 400mg, but there’s no need to go any higher than that. (7, 8)

NOTE: Always buy this ingredient in pill form, because powdered caffeine is insanely difficult to meausre accurately unless you have a set of professional-grade drug dealer scales, and carries a significant health risk which is just not worth it.

  • 6g Citrulline Malate

Caffeine might be the most famous ingredient, but CitMal is the real powerhouse of your pre workout!

This amino acid uses the nitric oxide pathway to increase delivery of nutrients to working muscles, allowing you to continue training harder for longer. You can expect monstrous pumps, longer endurance and, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, about one more rep on every set! (9, 10)

A clicnical dose is 6 grams. Here’s more info on citulline malate.

  • 3.2g Beta-alanine

Although it’s mainly known for the skin-tingling effect it creates, there’s a stack of training-related benefits hiding under the surface with beta-alanine.

Most noteworthy is its ability to increase the bodys tolerance for pain, buffering against the build-up of waste product as the muscles work (“the burn”) allowing for more reps to be performed before failure. These improvements are no joke, either, with a 2008 study from American researchers showing that some trainees boosted their numbers by as much as 25%! Couple that with findings from England, where boxers using beta-alanine improved their ability to throw power punches in the later stages of three minute rounds by 2000% (no typo!), and you can see why it’s such a great pre workout ingredient. (12, 13)

A clinical dose is 3.2 grams, either taken all at once or split in two.

  • 2.5g Betaine anhydrous

Betaine anhydrous (aka trimethylglycine) has been popular with athletes for years because, like citrulline, it can significantly improve time to perceived exhaustion.

That means more reps per set, more explosive power output, and more time spent near peak performance levels.

In recent years it’s been tested across various physical activities from cycling, to lifting, to sprinting, and seems to keep these performance-boosting elements alongside any form of high intensity activity. (15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

A clinical dose is 2.5 grams.


which ingredients should not be in pre workout

If you’re familiar with pre workouts, you’ll know there are a few big name ingredients I’ve excluded.

In some cases it’s a matter of these additional ingredients just being unnecessary, and in others downright useless! I’ll take you through them now.

  • No Creatine

I’m actually a huge fan of creatine, i’s a great muscle building supplement, and I wrote a whole article on it here. That being said, though, when I’m explaining how to make your own pre workout I focus on ingredients which have been shown to have a direct impact on exercise performance when taken 30-45 minutes before training. That’s not the case with creatine, as the results it offers will be unlocked no matter when you use it. You can add it to the formula it you wish, though.

  • No BCAAs

BCAAs are the building blocks of muscle growth, but there are two important things which most people are unaware of. The first is that you probably don’t need a BCAA suplppement if your diet is high in protein, and the second is that they should not be in your pre workout because they can lead to early CNS fatigue and cause the trainee to feel sluggish. (21, 22)

  • No Arginine

Arginine was the citrulline of the 2000s, and is still included in many popular pre workouts nowadays, but it’s a poor-grade substitute for the real thing. You see, citrulline actually converts into arginine inside the body, but it has a significantly higher absorption rate (at least 50% more), making it a superior option. (11)

  • No Exotic Stimulants

Exotic stimulants (DMHA, etc) have the unique ability to make you feel like Rambo in a field of Vietcong.

Unfortunately they’re also dangerous as f**k because there’s very little research to document the long-term effects or safety.

As an example; the entire body of research for one of the most popular exotic stimulants, Eria Jarensis, consists of just one study dating back to 1969! Heck, if you’re old enough to have used pre workouts in the 2000s you might also recall the dendrobium extract scandal? This exotic stimulant was used in many popular pre workouts of the time, such as Driven Sports’ Craze, until eventually more research was published which showed it’s spiked with methamphetamine! (30, 31)

  • No Taurine

Like BCAAs, taurine is another staple pre workout ingredient which simply shouldn’t be there.

Taurine has some interesting benefits, particularly regarding mental focus, but it’s also the nemesis of caffeine. These two ingredients clash like Rocky vs Drago and can cause headaches, decreased training performance, and feelings of sluggishness. (23, 24, 25)

  • No Agmatine Sulfate

Agmatine surged in popularity during the 2010s after supplement brands started hailing it as the next big nitric oxide booster. However, not only is there zero research to back up those claims, there is actually research which suggests the complete opposite! I wrote an article on this here. Here’s a devastating comment from the head researcher on the biggest study ever conducted on agmatine supplementation: (26, 27)

“The fact that agmatine is touted for bodybuilding purposes is completely unsubstantiated and is backed by outright false claims.”

– Dr. Gad Gillad, Long-term (5 years), high daily dosage of dietary agmatine – evidence of safety: a case report (2014).

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).
  2. Childs E., et al. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (Berl) (2006).
  3. Kim T. W., et al. Caffeine increases sweating sensitivity via changes in sudomotor activity during physical loading. J Med Food (2011).
  4. Cook C., et al. Acute caffeine ingestion increases voluntarily chosen resistance training load following limited sleep. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab (2012).
  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).
  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. McCormack W. P., et al. Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance. Str Con J (2012).
  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).
  9. Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res (2010).
  10. Alvares T. S., et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab (2012).
  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 (2008).
  12. Hoffman J., et al. Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med (2008).
  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).
  14. Artioli G. G., et al. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2010).
  15. Wylie L. J., et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol (2013).
  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).
  17. Pryor J. L., et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on cycling sprint performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2012).
  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. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2011).
  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).
  23. Kim S., et al. Taurine Induces Anti-Anxiety by Activating Strychnine-Sensitive Glycine Receptor in Vivo. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (2009).
  24. Moloney M. A., et al. Two weeks taurine supplementation reverses endothelial dysfunction in young male type 1 diabetics. Diab Vasc Dis Res (2010).
  25. Giles G. E., et al. Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacol Biochem Behav (2012).
  26. Piletz J. E., et al. Agmatine: clinical applications after 100 years in translation. Drug Discov Today (2013).
  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).
  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 (2012).
  29. Wiegant F. A., 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 (1969).
  31. Wiley Online Journal. Muscles and Meth: Drug Analog Identified in ‘Craze’ Workout Supplement. (2013).

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23 responses to “How To Make Your Own Pre Workout In 2024”

  1. Phil avatar
    Phil

    Hi Russ,

    Great article, thank you for sharing

    One point that wasn’t covered was how to mix them together?
    – Do you mortar and pestle, seive, then mortar and pestle lumps again?
    – Measure say one months worth, place in a container and shake like hell?
    – Measure what you need every day?
    – Other?

    Also, are all the powders you mentioned, homogenous? (Mix well together?

    Thanks!

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      Hi Phil,
      Yeah, they mix well together, I only use my shaker. If we’re adding ingredients individually like this post does, there’s no way to tell if we have enough of each ingredient in a serving if we pule it all into the same tub and scoop some out, so I mix mine up each day as I need it.

      Russ

      1. Phil avatar
        Phil

        Hi Russ,

        Thanks for that. I’m guessing the caffeine tablets dissolve quickly and easily too and don’t need crushing?

        Thanks again,
        Phil

        1. russhowepti avatar
          russhowepti

          Nah just take the capsule with the drink. That’s what I do.

  2. Lawrent avatar
    Lawrent

    Hey Russ, why is creatine not in the list?

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      I love creatine, but the supplements on the list here are shown to boost performance when taken directly before training. Creatine can be taken before, after, first thing in the morning, etc and have the same effect.

  3. Enrique Pasion avatar
    Enrique Pasion

    I really do appreciate this post on a very compelling and informative topic. Thank you for posting this.

  4. Kyle avatar
    Kyle

    Hi Russ, I am curious how you prepare the drink since there are not really any steps after listing out the ingredients. Do i mix it with water? Do I mix it with Milk? Do I inhale the powder? I’ve tried it with tea so far and it seems to go down OK but I am wonder if there is anything better. Thanks!

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      Hi Kyle,
      I mix it with water. Fruit juice would also work if you’ve gone completely flavorless with the ingredients and want a bit of taste. Caffeine is in a pill, obvs, so not part of the drink.

  5. D avatar
    D

    Hi Russ — great article!! I laughed, I cried (realizing I’ve wasted money on bad products in the past), but learned a lot! I am still debating the DIY approach… mainly because I have access to get this product (https://evertrain.fit/products/pre) discounted when desired. When I compare your ingredients with those on the aforementioned product, they seem pretty close on core items. Thoughts?

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      Hi mate,
      It’s got a few of the key ingredients in there. However, they’re under-dosed for the most part… 2g citrulline (ideally we want 6-8g), no betaine, it also contains taurine, which can counteract caffeine and leave the trainee feeling a bit sluggish.

      1. D avatar
        D

        Thanks for the insights! Looks like I’ll give the DYI approach a go afterall.

        1. russhowepti avatar
          russhowepti

          No probs.

          Or grab some AML Pre Workout, they’ve pretty much nailed the formula.

  6. james avatar
    james

    This actually really works. I had a bad calve injury and it’s taken months to get back on track. I’m actually beating prs and feel like I have more in the tank all the time. I did a bit of research into what else I could put in it but everything keeps pointing back to these same ingredients. Thank you for the great guide.

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      You’re welcome James, glad it was helpful.

  7. Pranav Singh avatar
    Pranav Singh

    I wasted my time in search of best Pre-workout, luckily i came across this post, awesome work man, nicely explained and I must say i will try this.

  8. Mario avatar
    Mario

    Thanks Russ for this. I had stopped taking pre workouts simply because of the additional ingredients like flavours, coloring, etc. So this will solve it.

    May I ask whether one should take the preworkout whey protein with it? Will the bcaas in the whey interfere? Thanks again.

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      Not a fan of having whey immediately before training, BCAAs pre-training can promote fatigue so if you’re trying to max out it’s not optimal. That’s why there’s no BCAA blend included in this formula 🙂

  9. tricia avatar
    tricia

    Hi! I am going to mix this up but for health reasons want to avoid caffeine. Can I use 200 mg of Taurine instead or would the ratio be different?

    1. russhowepti avatar
      russhowepti

      Hi there,
      I tend to avoid taurine, but to get the training benefits it offers (muscle focus) we’d need around 2 grams per day.

  10. josh avatar
    josh

    Great article, thanks for providing this information!

  11. Eugene Williams avatar
    Eugene Williams

    This is a great breakdown Russ. Not only have I built my own using it, but it shows me what I need to look for when buying branded ones as well. Thank you so much.

  12. Orlit Daokat avatar
    Orlit Daokat

    Thank you for this information

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