Want to learn how to make your own pre workout supplement from scratch?

Well, you’re in the right place! This step-by-step guide will teach you all the ingredients you’ll need (and the ones you don’t), without the hype.

A great pre workout supplement should resemble Guns N’ Roses’ epic debut album Appetite for Destruction.

It was lightning in a bottle. All killer, no filler. Heck, in today’s era of watered down rock and mumble rap, it still sounds amazing.

A top of the line pre workout should provide that same kick up the a** you felt the first time you heard the opening riff to Welcome to the Jungle. The hairs standing up on your forearms. The “Holy s**t!” feeling. Everything.

Want to save this guide as a PDF? Download it free here.

how to make your own pre workout


Here’s the golden rule to making your own pre workout:

Stick to the basics.

By that, I mean use only the proven, 100% results-based ingredients.

Supplement companies often build products around untested, experimental ingredients in a bid to make their tub stand out from competitors (i.e. a fancy herb which they claim was picked from the peak of Mount Everest which claims it can burn fat like a motherf**ker), but when we get down to the real nitty-gritty, only a few ingredients are PROVEN to genuinely improve performance in the gym.

In fact, there are just four.

DISCLAIMER: Just because this is what I do, doesn’t mean it’s what you should do. This article is for informational purposes only, and shows both the ingredients and the dosages that I use. How you respond obviously depends upon your own tolerances, allergies, and diet, so I always recommend consulting your physician before using any new supplements just to be on the safe side.

how to make your own pre workout supplement


Caffeine is a proven energy booster, and deserves its place in a top pre workout supplement.

It has been shown to improve everything from focus level, to energy output, calorie burn (although this one is over-hyped, leading to it’s false reputation as a “fat burner”). Caffeine has also been shown to improve max power output, but this requires a much larger dose of around 400mg. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Interestingly, a 2012 meta-analysis published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal concluded that anything less than 0.95mg caffeine per lb of body weight is ineffective for providing any training benefits. (7)

For a 175lb person, that’s a minimum dose of 166mg to see any training benefits at all.

Of course, a large part of caffeine’s “kick” comes own to the trainee’s tolerance level. For instance, a hardened coffee drinker would probably require a higher dose. (8)

Remember when I mentioned adaptation? Caffeine is one of the key ingredients that causes this. However, the benefit of making your own pre workout is that YOU control the dose. I recommend starting at 200mg, and increasing the dosage when necessary, but never going above 400mg (there’s literally nothing to be gained from doing so).


Start with a dose of 200mg and increase to 250mg once adaptation occurs. I like to keep increasing until 400mg is achieved. This is the highest I’ll ever go, and once adaptation occurs at this level your best bet is to remove it from your supplement for a few weeks to deflate your tolerance level. I use this one.

NOTE: Always opt for caffeine in pill form. Powdered caffeine is too easy to measure incorrectly.

diy pre workout instructions


Citrulline malate is the real POWERHOUSE ingredient in your pre workout supplement.

So much so, in fact, it is the first thing I tell clients to look for when they are trying a new product.

You can go read my compehensive breakdown of the benefits of citrulline malate to see the full effects of this mighty amino acid, but for the sake of this post let’s stick to covering the benefits relating to your performance in the gym…

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that supplementing with citrulline malate can boost weight training performance by as much as one rep on every set. (9)

When we put it into context, it’s potentially amazing, right? Those reps will really add up!

But that’s not all…

Using citrulline malate will speed up recovery between sets and greatly enhance your pump, via increased blood flow and nutrient delivery to working muscles. (10)

Back in the early 2000’s, most pre workout supplements were based around a substance called arginine, which was used to access nitric oxide pathways and give the training benefits shown above. Citrulline is actually converted into arginine once it’s inside the body, but has a much higher absorption rate, and has replaced arginine as the optimal way to boost N.O. levels. (11)


Optimal dosage of citrulline malate is 6-8g. Training benefits are maxed out at this point, so there is never a need to go higher. I use this one.

make your own pre workout instructions


If you have ever used a pre workout before, you’ll already know what beta-alanine feels like.

It is primarily known for it’s ability to create a tingly sensation known as parasthesia. However, there are significant performance enhancing benefits just waiting to be had if you know how to use it correctly…

A few weeks into usage and those tingly sensations will have worn off. Most people presume it’s not working anymore, but this is false. The REAL benefits are just getting started. You’ll notice beta-alanine is helping you to fight against “the burn” (the build-up of lactic acid in working muscles) during high rep sets. These extra reps can lead to some fantastic results.

So how much of an improvement are we talking about here?

Well, an interesting 2008 study showed that beta-alanine can lead to as much as 25% more reps per set! Further research from the UK then put this theory to the test with a group of boxers, and saw improvements of almost 2000% (no typo) in their ability to throw power punches in the late stages of three minute rounds. (12, 13)

A full clinical dose of beta-alanine is 3.2 grams per day.

You can either take it all prior to training (welcome to Tingle Town!), or split it in two.


A full clinical dose of beta-alanine is 3.2 grams. You can either go all-in, or consume 1.6g serving in your pre workout then another after the gym. Training benefits are maxed out at 3.2g per day, so there is no need to go higher. I use this one.



My fourth and final ingredient is betaine.

After years in the shadow of caffeine, betaine (science name: trimethylglycine) is finally starting to get some recognition as a quality performance booster.

Once consumed, it is converted into nitric oxide and helps open up those all-important N.O. pathways, which allow us to train harder for longerand it works a treat.

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology back in 2013 showed that betaine greatly improves sprint performance, tying in with earlier research which showed it can also prolong time to perceived exhaustion during exercise by a monstrous 15%! (15, 16)

The research has just carried on building since then.

Several other studies have shown us it can boost training output during cycling, enhance recovery speed between sets of weight training, improve overall endurance, and even promote greater explosive strength. (17, 18, 19, 20)

In a nutshell, if you are performing high intensity interval training, sprint workouts, cycling, or lifting weights on a regular basis can benefit from betaine!


A clinical dose of pre workout betaine is 2.5g. I use this one.


That’s it. Four ingredients.

Sounds a bit too simple, right?

Well, it just shows you what an absolute clusterf**k most pre workouts are.

These are the four things which we can guarantee to boost your performance when taken before a workout. But in case you’re wondering why I’ve excluded a few big name ingredients, I’m going to run through them and show you why.


Yes, BCAAs are out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing them.

BCAAs are great for building muscle (leucine in particular), but there’s a time and a place for them and that time is NOT pre workout. (21)

Taking BCAAs before training can inhibit dopamine production, leading to quicker-than-usual CNS (central nervous system) fatigue. If you are lifting weights, that’s precisely what you don’t want. (22)


I’ve already explained why we don’t use arginine.

But despite the fact it’s no longer 2004, many supplement companies insist on using it.

Citrulline malate will do the job of arginine better than arginine itself.


Taurine is the poster boy of energy drinks.

It’s pretty hard to find a pre workout which doesn’t contain it, to be honest.

The reason it’s popular is because it can boost mental focus and slightly improve blood flow during training. (23, 24)

But these benefits come with a heavy price. One so heavy, in fact, that it renders any potential training benefits of taurine irrelevant.

You see, taurine is an antagonist of caffeine. When we consume both ingredients together it prevents caffeine from doing its job, and increases the likelihood of a) headaches, b) feeling sluggish, and c) decreased training performance. (25)

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


Agmatine sulfate is a relative newcomer on the supplement scene, but its reputation as a nitric oxide booster is undeserved.

There’s zero evidence to suggest it actually works. Ironically, there are studies out there which show it does the opposite! (26, 27)

Here’s a quote from the head researcher behind the biggest long-term study on agmatine so far:

“The fact that agmatine is touted for bodybuilding 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).


Exotic stimulants have a unique ability to make you feel like Rambo in a field of Vietcong.

I’m a fan; but it is simply too dangerous to experiment with. Plus, research on them is very scarce, and this article is science-based! For instance, the entire body of research on Eria Jarensis (the current king of DMHA supplements) consists of one study which dates back to 1969! (30)

Also, these type of ingredients have a tendency to get banned. If you’re an athlete, the only way to safeguard yourself against a USADA penalty is to avoid them like the plague.

Until more significant trials are performed, we should treat exotic stimulants with a lot of caution.

After all, remember the scandal surrounding dendrobium extract? Back in the 2000’s, this high-powered exotic stimulant was used in the massively popular pre workout supplement Craze. When more research was eventually performed, researchers found it was actually spiked with methamphetamine analogue! (31)

is it cheaper to make your own pre workout


It sure is.

Let’s break it down. In each serving of the advanced version of our little D.I.Y. pre workout we get:

  • 200mg CAFFEINE
  • 2.5g BETAINE

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

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

That gives us a total of £91.95.

Here’s where the magic happens…

If you’re training 4x per week, this formula will last you a minimum of 6 months. At that point, the only ingredient you’d need to top up is citrulline malate!

Considering every ingredient is clinically dosed, that’s crazy value!

how to make your own pre workout


When you learn how to make your own pre workout from scratch, you unlock three major benefits.

First, it’s cheaper, because once you’ve picked up the essentials, you’re good to go and just need to top up every now and then.

Second, it cuts out the clutter by focusing only on ingredients which have been proven to work. No more proprietary blends. No more half-a**ed ingredients.

And finally, you can slow down adaptation because YOU control the dosage for each key ingredient. That means you won’t need to find a new pre workout every 3 weeks because the caffeine isn’t giving you a kick anymore. Simply add more caffeine.

That wraps up today’s post! There’s more than enough info here to help you create your own pre workout, and remember, you can download this whole article here.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you can hop on my email list below for more tips. Now get creating!


  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)


  1. 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?


    • 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.


      • Hi Russ,

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

        Thanks again,

    • 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.

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

  3. 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!

    • 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.

  4. 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 ( discounted when desired. When I compare your ingredients with those on the aforementioned product, they seem pretty close on core items. Thoughts?

    • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    • 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 🙂

  8. 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?

    • 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.

  9. 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.

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