Table of Contents
- Why Make Your Own DIY Homemade Pre Workout?
- Which Ingredients Should You Include?
- Nitric Oxide and Blood Flow Boosters
- Muscular Endurance
- Brain Boosters (Nootropics)
- Other Ingredients
- Putting Together Your DIY Pre Workout Powder
For example, after my workout today I made a protein shake with four different protein powders in it:
The result was a chocolate-banana flavored protein shake that works better for my body than any of the individual products.
Pre-workout supplements can be considered the same way.
I change which pre-workout I use every time the canister empties.
A DIY homemade pre workout is the perfect solution to my perfect-pre-workout woes, and might be the great for you, too!
It’s easier than you think, too!
Though, I’ll likely continue trying out commercial products so I can help other people make good decisions!
Why Make Your Own DIY Homemade Pre Workout?
Putting together your own supplements can seem intimidating.
In truth, it’s as easy as mixing powders together.
The hard part is choosing which ingredients to include!
Save Some Money
For us po’ folk and those who have to spend way too much money on textbooks, pre-workout supplements can seem like an extravagant expense.
Some are cheap and some are expensive. All commercial pre-workouts are more expensive than putting a pre-workout together yourself.
Buying a few, effective ingredients is a great way to make a supplement which costs less per-dose than any other supplement.
The up-front cost may be higher but you’ll save over the long run!
Tailor Ingredients to Your Body
A 250-pound elite bodybuilder and a 140-pound gal new to working out will have different pre-workout supplement needs.
The former would want something like Mr. Hyde while the latter can find something on my list of the 9 Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Women.
An even better choice might be to make your own pre-workout supplement so you can use exactly as much of each ingredient as you’d like.
Maybe you have a pre-workout you like except that it’s just a little bit too stimulating.
Well, you can copy the recipe and make your own with slightly less caffeine!
For the Bragging Rights
Making your own pre-workout supplement sounds much more advanced than it really is.
You’ll gain mad gym cred if you make your own supplements.
Just make sure you have an answer when somebody asks you why you include beetroot powder in your energy-boosting shake!
Which Ingredients Should You Include?
There is no shortage of articles on the internet about making your own pre-workout powders. I recognize that.
Practically all of them talk about three or four ingredients:
- Branch-Chained Amino Acids
However, it’s rare to find a commercial pre-workout with that few ingredients.
If you look at the ingredients list for nearly any commercial then you’ll see many more ingredients than that.
Are the extra ingredients just to drain money out of your wallet?
You can make a fine pre-workout with just caffeine. Toss in some creatine if you want, l-citrulline for a better pump, and some BCAAs to foster an anabolic environment.
If simplicity is your goal then you can skip the following list of ingredients and read the section on how to put it all together and chances are you’ll be fine.
But, you’ll miss out on making your DIY supplement even more effective.
For example, you can augment that caffeine with theobromine, taurine, and l-theanine to have a smoother energy curve without a harsh crash.
Let’s look at all the ingredients you may want to put into your homemade pre-workout powder in detail.
By the way, all of the given doses are for one drink of your pre-workout per day.
Contrary to what some people think, you can have an effective pre-workout supplement without stimulants!
Some people are sensitive to caffeine or work out close to bedtime, when stimulants would cut into sleep.
There are other ingredients which can boost your muscular performance, and we’ll get to those.
But stimulants are the classic pre-workout ingredient because they help you push harder.
Every commercial pre-workout (excluding non-stimulating versions) contains caffeine in one form or another.
Pretty much everybody knows that you feel an energy boost after consuming this alkaloid.
Caffeine is generally safe and is effective at increasing your workout performance.
It does this by antagonizing adenosine receptors, which would otherwise make you feel tired.
Unless you can’t consume caffeine or only workout late in the evening, I’d advise adding some caffeine to your recipe.
The problem with caffeine is the harsh crash as you come off of it, which is why you want to use some other stimulants as well.
Also, don’t use it late in the day!
Unless you want to stay up all night…
Caffeine is strong stuff if you’ve never had it but tolerance builds quickly.
Who doesn’t drink tea, coffee, or soda?
Most pre-workouts are in the range of 100-300 mg of caffeine.
Unless you know you’re caffeine-sensitive or tolerant then I’d start at 100 mg of caffeine per dose and work your way up.
The Mayo Clinic recommends maxing out at 400 mg per day.
Theacrine helps to increase your mood and decrease your fatigue.
These combine to help you exercise harder and feel better about your performance.
Theacrine may also be less susceptible to tolerance than caffeine. It might even extend caffeine’s benefits, allowing you to use less of it.
There’s not much research as to the negative effects of theacrine.
It seems to be gentler than caffeine and may even have some anti-stress and liver-protecting properties.
But it’s an awfully bitter chemical!
Experts recommend using between 50 and 200 mg of theacrine.
You can also use less caffeine if you use theacrine.
Theobromine is another alkaloid that’s similar to caffeine in structure.
In fact, it’s often found alongside caffeine in cocoa, tea, and kola!
Theobromine’s effects are similar to caffeine albeit less so.
More specifically, it has a much longer half-life than does caffeine (7-12 hours versus 2.5-5 hours).
This can help to round out caffeine’s harsher end points.
Theobromine is one of the reasons why you’ll experience less of a crash if you consume tea instead of the equivalent amount of coffee.
Theobromine helps to extend caffeine’s effects but it’s not without its cautions.
Higher doses of theobromine seem to have negative effects on mood.
Theobromine is typically found in higher amounts than caffeine in chocolate. You may want to keep up that pattern, to a point.
The negative effects on mood don’t kick in until your reach levels above 250 mg per day.
Up to 1,000 mg may be safe but don’t dose that high if you notice your mood dragging down after consuming your pre-workout!
Theophylline is another alkaloid that’s similar to yet weaker than caffeine.
Theophylline has similar energy-boosting effects as caffeine and theobromine.
It also has some other beneficial effects such as increasing blood flow. Plus, it’s an inotrope, which means that it makes your heart beat more efficiently.
Theophylline is potentially more toxic than its fellows when consumed in large amounts..
Also, it’s been used as a medication for asthma, so if you find theophylline powder it might not be for supplement use!
Most theophylline research is in relation to its use for asthma, not as a pre-workout supplement.
Start with a smaller amount.
I wouldn’t use more than 300 mg per day.
Caffeine is cool and all but can make people anxious. Plus, there’s the potential for a harsh crash.
Thankfully, there are a couple of ingredients you can take alongside caffeine to ameliorate its effects!
You’ll still get an energy boost but with fewer jitters.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that’s also found in tea and is another part of the reason why tea drinkers experience less of a crash than coffee drinkers.
It’s similar glutamate, a neurotransmitter, so it has some mood-affecting effects.
L-Theanine has many benefits but there are two which make it a great augment to caffeine and therefore a good pre-workout ingredient:
- It reduces anxiety
- It boosts focus
This cuts down on any anxiety you may get from caffeine and allows you to direct the energy boost.
L-Theanine may also allow you to sleep better when you take caffeine later in the day!
L-Theanine is generally safe.
Though, I have heard of people experiencing a motivation drop after taking L-theanine, so pay attention to how you react when using this ingredient.
The standard advice is to take twice as much L-theanine as you take caffeine.
Some people do better with half as much L-theanine as caffeine, and other people do better with four times as much L-theanine as caffeine.
You often see taurine as an ingredient in energy drinks and sometimes in pre-workouts.
That’s because it’s another ingredient that takes the edge off caffeine without rendering caffeine ineffective.
Taurine is another amino acid, though it won’t be used in your body as a protein. It is an antioxidant, though.
Technically it’s an amino sulfonic acid, which means it contains sulfur. And no, the taurine in your drink doesn’t come from bull urine, though it is found in animal meat.
Taurine relieves stress and anxiety.
It helps ensure homeostasis in your brain, which is to say that it helps your neurotransmitters maintain a healthy state of affairs.
Caffeine causes stress and anxiety while giving you a boost, so taurine helps to cut out the bad bits of caffeine.
Your body will generally excrete excess amounts of taurine. The main threat of consuming too much taurine is peeing away your money.
However, some people are allergic to taurine supplementation.
About 500 to 2,000 mg is best.
Don’t exceed 3,000 mg of taurine per day.
Not that it’s bad for you, but you won’t get any benefit!
Nitric Oxide and Blood Flow Boosters
These ingredients are also known as vasodilators.
You know that powerful feeling you get during a good workout, when your muscles bulge and you feel strong?
That pump is from blood engorging your muscles.
You want your muscles to be as awash with blood as much as possible because blood provides your muscle fibers with nutrients and fuel while clearing away lactic acid and other contaminants.
Blood flow boosters increase your body’s ability to engage in this process, which lets your muscles work better and longer.
They often do this by encouraging your body’s production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and allows for more volume to flow through.
Beetroot powder sounds like one of those wonder supplements which will be all over the shelves today and completely forgotten tomorrow.
However, research has shown this red plant to be pretty darn effective at boosting exercise performance!
And you don’t have to eat borscht to get the benefits!
Beetroot Powder Benefits
Beetroot powder has been found to decrease the oxygen cost of exercise and increase the amount of time your muscles can work under load until you feel exhaustion.
This is because beetroot effectively increases the amount of nitrate available to your body, which leads to nitric oxide.
Beetroot Powder Cautions
Beetroot is safe (unless you’re allergic!) but it can be alarming the first time you take some.
That’s because it can stain your “excretions” red!
Beetroot Powder Dosage
Scientists are still pinning down the most effective doses of beetroot powder.
500 mg seems like a good medium point.
You can also use half a liter of beetroot juice instead of water for making your pre-workout drink.
L-arginine is a very common pre-workout ingredient because it’s an amino acid that’s both a precursor to protein synthesis and a precursor to nitric oxide.
L-arginine helps to dilate your blood vessels and increase blood flow.
Your muscles hunger for blood!
There are also potential fat-burning benefits of L-arginine, but those are often overstated by people who want to sell you stuff rather than see you be as successful as possible.
While L-arginine is beneficial, it’s not as large a boost as some other ingredients.
L-arginine is generally safe but you may want to avoid it if you’re using certain medications.
Namely, avoid L-arginine if you take any medication which affects your blood pressure, if you have diabetes, or if you’re taking anticoagulants.
Some people also report stomach discomfort.
You can consume lots of L-arginine.
Pre-workouts often contain anywhere from 1 to 6 grams of L-arginine, which is a good range.
You can consume more than that per day (up to 20 grams, perhaps), but since L-arginine doesn’t have the strongest effect, I wouldn’t dose too high.
Not because it’s bad for you but because that can get expensive.
Malate is also called citric acid and it’s a way to make L-citrulline more stable, so your body can intake it before your stomach acids destroy the molecule.
Citrulline malate’s primary benefit is that it extends the amount of time you can exercise before you feel fatigued.
It does this by increasing L-arginine and nitric oxide in your blood.
L-citrulline also helps your body to recycle lactic acid, further boosting the amount of energy your muscles have access to!
Also, L-citrulline is more effective at boosting your body’s arginine levels than L-arginine is, oddly enough.
L-citrulline is easier on your stomach than is L-arginine, but it can also cause stomach cramps.
Your body can handle large amounts of citrulline malate.
Start with 1 gram per dose, though you can go as high as 8 grams if your stomach doesn’t complain!
Another way of boosting your athletic performance is to use pre-workout ingredients which affect your muscles directly.
L-carnosine is an amino acid stored in your muscles which helps to minimize lactic acid build-up.
Lactic acid leads to fatigue and degrades muscular performance by decreasing your body’s ability to break down glucose for fuel.
L-carnosine combats this by buffering against lactic acid’s acidity.
Beta-alanine is used by your body alongside histidine to produce L-carnosine.
Like L-citrulline and L-arginine, it seems to be more beneficial to augment with beta-alanine rather than L-carnosine directly.
The biggest side effect of taking beta-alanine is your skin feeling tingly.
This isn’t a bad thing but it can be disconcerting!
Plus, beta-alanine may compete with your body’s taurine absorption pathways.
Most people seem to benefit from taking 2 to 5 grams of beta-alanine per day.
Spreading it out might be a good thing, so aim for 1 to 3 grams in your homemade pre-workout powder.
Creatine is one of the most-famous supplements.
I’ve written extensively about creatine, which you can find here.
The short of it, though, is that creatine helps your muscles fuel themselves.
Creatine helps your muscles in several ways, most noticeably:
It helps your muscles store more fuel before the workout
It helps your muscles recycle ADP back into ATP for more energy during the workout
Your muscle fibers can’t activate without fuel, so creatine supplementation is a Good Thing.
Your body produces creatine and it’s found in many foods, so supplementation is safe.
My main beef with creatine in pre-workout powders is that you may be supplementing with creatine already, so why include it in your pre-workout?
Because I supplement with creatine daily, I prefer pre-workouts with 0 grams of creatine.
Creatine bioaccumulates, so you don’t need to take large doses at once. 5 grams at once is good for most people, 20 grams per day.
Most pre-workout supplements have few to no carbs, which is fine.
However, some people like some simple carbs in their pre-workout drink to help give your muscles a bit extra fuel during the gym visit.
You don’t need to add a bunch of powdered sugar to your DIY pre-workout recipe.
Instead, mix your pre-workout powder with thirst-quenching sports drinks such as beet juice, Gatorade/Powerade, or coconut water.
Brain Boosters (Nootropics)
The word “nootropic” refers to supplements which help your brain function better.
These are often supposed to improve focus or cognition.
These can help with working out because what good is all that energy if your mind is all over the place?
A bit of extra focus can help you stay on-task and pay attention to your workout, both increasing its efficacy and decreasing the amount of time you need to spend at the gym.
L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (say that three times fast!) is a choline compound and acetylcholine precursor.
Unlike some dietary forms of choline, Alpha-GPC (also called AlphaSize) easily crosses the blood-brain barrier to deliver choline to your brain.
Choline supplementation is good for several tasks you may ask of your brain, such as improving your learning skills and working memory.
Acetylcholine can also improve muscle contraction and boost your body’s release of growth hormones!
Too-much choline can lead to brain fog, where you can’t concentrate on anything.
You can neither exercise properly nor study effectively when your brain is all fogged up.
Most clinical trials use 600 mg of Alpha-GPC.
I’d start at 300 mg and wouldn’t go past 900 mg.
If you start to experience brain fog then drop down your dosage!
Gamma-aminobutyric acid is another amino acid neurotransmitter.
GABA has two effects which may make it good for inclusion in a homemade pre-workout recipe:
The first is that GABA seems to boost levels of growth hormone after exercise.
Secondly, GABA also helps reduce your stress levels, helping with caffeine anxiety.
GABA is a safe supplement.
However, it may not be an effective supplement.
That’s because it needs to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to give you its benefits and it may not be able to do so. It depends on your body.
High amounts of GABA, 18 grams per day, may be safe to consume but could be a waste of money.
Start with 1 gram.
If you don’t notice an effect over several uses then go up to 5 grams per dose.
If this is ineffective (the results may be hard to see) then feel free to discontinue using this ingredient.
The following ingredients don’t fall neatly into the categories above but are still often found in pre-workout powder recipes.
Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are all branched-chain amino acids.
They’re essential amino acids vital to your body’s protein synthesis cycle.
BCAAs are good for recovery by decreasing protein breakdown and encouraging muscle growth, but they’re also good during the workout as well.
That’s because they decrease serotonin signaling and reduce fatigue.
You can read more about their benefits here.
Your body needs BCAAs to survive!
However, taking too many BCAAs can lead to insulin resistance.
The maximum BCAA dosage depends on your biological sex.
Men should max out at 20 grams per day and women 10 grams per day.
5 grams per dose is good for most people, though.
B-vitamins, specifically B-3 (niacin), B-6, B-9 (folate) and B-12, are important for your metabolism.
They might be able to boost your mood, focus, and working memory.
However, you’ll only see these effects if you’re deficient.
There was a craze some years back to take huge amounts of B-12, but research hasn’t backed that up.
Also, most B-12 is sold in the cyanocobalamin form. Your body has to methylate that molecule in order to use it. Not everybody’s body can do that, so the more expensive methylcobalamin form may be more beneficial.
This is caused by blood vessels dilating and, like beta-alanine’s side effect, is a good thing.
You can generally follow the RDA value for B-vitamins.
You’ll sometimes see megadoses, especially of B-12, but these aren’t proven to be efficacious.
However, your body doesn’t always store B-vitamins (especially niacin), so you may still want some with your pre-workout powder.
If you remember way back to the “Stimulant” section then you’ll remember that a lot of those ingredients can be found in tea.
You might want to skip getting the processed chemicals and mix some extract into your DIY pre-workout recipe!
Other herbs may be helpful, as well.
Ginseng is an herb used all over the world for its supposed energy-boosting properties.
It contains many compounds, such as ginsenosides, which have been researched for mental and physical benefits.
There’s lots of research out there but basically, ginseng helps some people but not others and typically doesn’t have a big effect.
Studies which have shown a benefit typically also showed negative effects once 2 grams of ginseng was consumed per day.
If you try ginseng, try 500 mg to 1 gram per dose.
They can contain other compounds as well, with more (minor) benefits.
Caffeine-Producing Plant Powder or Extract Dosage
You’ll often find these with their own dosage instructions; either follow that or find out how much caffeine is in each extract and combine that with your caffeine powder to figure out how much you want in your pre-workout.
The amount of caffeine per gram of extract varies by the brand so I can’t give you any hard number here.
It’s made from Yohimbe bark and is claimed to be a male aphrodisiac.
That’s because it increases your blood pressure and heart rate.
Plus there’s evidence that it can aid in your body’s ability to burn fat.
Yohimbine is a noticeable pre-workout ingredient, but it’s also not the safest.
It can put stress on your cardiovascular system, so I don’t like to use it.
If you do add yohimbine then limit yourself to 2.5 to 5 mg per dose and don’t use it long-term.
Putting Together Your DIY Pre Workout Powder
It’s not that hard to assemble your DIY pre-workout powder but it may take some time.
You’ll want to follow these steps:
- Determine the ingredients you want to use
- Purchase the ingredients
- Assemble the ingredients into one powder
- Test a half dose to ensure you experience no negative side effects
- Take the pre-workout for two weeks
- Assess your results and adjust the recipe if desired
Some of those are self-explanatory, but let’s look at a few points in detail.
Only you can determine exactly which ingredients you want in your pre-workout powder.
Generally, your goals are to increase your energy, focus, blood flow, and muscular energy reserves.
Don’t stack up on ingredients too much. By this, I mean that you shouldn’t add caffeine, theacrine, and theobromine alongside green tea, guarana, and yerba mate extracts all together.
That’d be one heck of a stimulant overdose!
Try for a simpler recipe first.
You can make it more complex later.
Assembling the Ingredients
One method is to assemble your ingredients all together at once, so you have a huge pile of powder. That way you can make the drink easily before each workout.
Or, you can keep the ingredients separate, and add each dose to your drink each time you use the pre-workout!
Make sure to write down your doses and results.
A pocket scale is a great tool for ensuring accurate doses (kitchen scales might not be accurate enough!).
Personally, I’d recommend using the second method until you’ve worked out a recipe you like.
Then you can mix together a huge batch.
Testing the Pre-Workout
You can read all the studies in the world but the most important study will be your N=1.
This refers to a case study of yourself and your reactions to the various ingredients.
However, many factors can influence how you react to a given recipe, such as how well you’ve slept or whether your crush smiled at you before you visited the gym.
This is why writing down your results is so important. It lets you see results over time, where those external factors are less important.
Give each recipe iteration at least one week of constant use before changing the recipe. Preferably for 2 or 3 weeks.
Then, when you do change the recipe, change only one variable a time.
Otherwise you won’t know which change had the effect!
How to Take Your Homemade Pre Workout
Taking your homemade pre-workout powder is easy, though it may not be as pleasant as a commercial powder!
That’s because your powder won’t have added flavors.
Take your powder and mix it up in 8-16 ounces of liquid, depending on how much powder you’re using per dose.
Water is acceptable (and cheap!) but won’t cover the taste, which can be bitter.
So, you can mix it with another drink.
I’d recommend a fruit juice (especially beet juice), a sports drink, or coconut water, as they all have workout-boosting effects of their own.
If you want, you can mix your pre-workout with some Gatorade powder so you can use water and a blender bottle. It’ll save you some money, too.
When to Drink Your Pre Workout
You want to consume your nifty handmade pre-workout drink half an hour before you start exercising.
That’s because caffeine starts to hit your bloodstream within half an hour of consumption.
If you made a non-stimulating blend then experiment with the timing to find the best results for your body!
Making your own pre-workout supplement sounds like a complicated, expensive task.
However, it’s cheaper than buying ready-made pre-workouts in the long run and is only as complicated as you’d like it to be.
You can make a simple pre-workout with some 150 mg of caffeine, 2 grams of beta-alanine, and 2 grams of citrulline malate.
Mix it all up in a glass of beet juice and you have a cheap, effective DIY pre-workout supplement!
Then, experiment with adding more ingredients and messing around with doses.
Why don’t you try adding some green tea extract and 300 mg of L-theanine and go from there?