Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: January 8, 2021

If you are unsatisfied with pre workout supplements, then it’s possible you are considering trying to make your own pre workout. I understand.

There are certainly some supplement companies out there that don’t live up to their marketing hype.

Let’s take a look into how to make your own preworkout.

Read on to learn all about it.

Key Ingredients to Put in a Pre Workout

1. Citrulline Malate

Citrulline Malate

Citrulline Malate is a combination of an amino acid (citrulline) and organic salt (malate).

It results in a biochemical reaction that helps your ability to gain muscle. What it does it boost your energy which consequently helps you perform better in the gym.

You can’t get citrulline in your diet since it’s primarily found in watermelon. Supplementation is helpful in obtaining this specific ingredient.

For example, some studies revealed that this might be useful to increase athletic performance in high-intensity anaerobic exercises with short rest times and to relieve post-exercise muscle soreness (1).

It doesn’t have a lot of supporting evidence like creatine and beta-alanine.

However, there’s enough evidence to show that it can possibly relieve sore muscles and improve athletic performance.

It’s one of the more expensive ingredients to put in a pre-workout, but it may be worth the overall health benefits.

Citrulline Malate also has the following health benefits:

  • Reducing lactic acid
  • Decreases ammonia buildup
  • Increases nitric oxide production (helps with blood flow)
  • Supports the ATP System (A molecular process that produces energy)

2. Beta-Alanine


Beta-alanine is one of the most popular ingredients for pre-workout supplements. It’s responsible for giving you the common side effect of a tingling sensation on your skin.

One of the primary purposes is to support endurance, improve athletic performance, and help build lean muscle mass.

According to some studies, Beta-Alanine supplementation was effective at increasing power output when lifting loads equivalent to the individual’s maximal strength or when working at maximum power output (2).

Beta alanine accomplishes this by reducing the onset of fatigue. It helps muscles recover between sets as well as boosts your focus on the fitness routine.

The whole process of reducing fatigue and clearing lactic acid from your body means two things will happen:

  • Reduces soreness and tiredness during an exercise which extends the time you can perform athletically. It gives you the ability to run, cycle, or lift weights longer without needing to stop.
  • Reduces muscle damage by removing waste products like lactic acid which can slow down the body

Those two benefits are critical for athletes looking to boost their cardio performance, and this is why it's a popular ingredient for Crossfit pre-workout.

3. Caffeine


A pre-workout supplement could easily replace your morning coffee with the amount of caffeine it has in it.

Caffeine helps with awareness, focus, and gives you an energy boost. Other benefits include supporting metabolism and improving physical endurance.

How much caffeine to put in your pre-workout supplement varies from person to person. It depends on how sensitive or tolerant your body is towards caffeine.

Most of the time the range is between 150 milligrams to 500 milligrams. Anything more could potentially be unhealthy and lead to undesirable side effects like diarrhea and stomach discomfort.

It could also affect your sleep schedule and cause you to not fall asleep. If you take less than 150 milligrams, then you risk not getting the full benefits of caffeine.

Don’t forget that this range also needs to include other caffeine drinks you might have throughout a day like energy drinks or coffee. Or you could skip caffeine altogether, I know top brands that have pre-workouts free of stimulants.

4. Creatine


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body but is also found in seafood and red meat. Creatine isn’t exactly vegan-friendly which is why synthetic supplements are popular.

According to some studies, creatine supplementation increases lean tissue mass and upper and lower body muscular strength during resistance training of older adults (3).

Its primary purpose is to support the muscles by producing energy for heavy lifting or a high-intensity exercise. It’s easy to see why this substance has become popular with athletes and bodybuilders.

Creatine is the number one supplement for improving performance in the gym
- Rudy MawerMSc, CISSN  

The benefits of creatine include:

  • Reduces cancer risk
  • Increases hydration and volume of cells
  • Improves endurance performance
  • Supports heart health
  • Boosts energy for stronger lifts and longer sets

There have been numerous studies on the effectiveness of creatine for the body.

I wouldn’t hesitate to have creatine in my homemade pre-workout since it can help increase muscle mass.

There are also basically no side effects if you take creatine in normal doses. The range normally falls within 4-5 grams per day although 10 grams per day is possibly safe too.

5. Betaine


Betaine, or trimethylglycine, is found in plants.

If consumed, it becomes nitric oxide which helps open up pathways that let people train with more endurance.

It also improved body composition, arm size, bench press work capacity as cited by some studies (4).

Here’s a breakdown on what research says about betaine:

  • Improves cycling sprint power
  • Increased arm size
  • Improve muscle endurance and increase the quality of reps
  • Improved body composition
  • Increases power and force of physical movements

Betaine gives people more power during their physical exercises. Consequently, this leads to increased muscle mass since people are able to put in more into their workouts.

If you are someone who participates in cycling, high-intensity training or lifting weights, then betaine is a substance that you want to look into including in your pre-workout.

6. BCAAs


Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own. They specifically refer to leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Their purpose is to support muscles.

You may be familiar with the preferred ratio of BCAAs. It’s 2:1:1 with leucine being the one that you need twice the amount compared to the others.

Why is leucine so important? It’s shown that leucine is what stimulates muscle protein synthesis and is what helps build muscle.

When choosing a BCAA, look for a supplement that has about 3 grams of leucine per serving. It ensures that you will get the maximum benefits of BCAAs. Athletes may want to consume a higher amount of BCAAs likely in the 10-20 per day range.

Some studies also conclude that the claim that consumption of dietary BCAAs stimulates muscle protein synthesis or produces an anabolic response in human subjects is unwarranted (4).

Here are the other benefits of BCAAs:

  • May lower blood sugar levels
  • Could help with weight loss
  • Supports muscle protein
  • May lower blood sugar levels
  • Could help with weight loss
  • Supports muscle protein

Homemade Pre-Workout Recipes

men doing preworkout

There are different ratios of ingredients depending on what your overall physical goals are for yourself. It can vary greatly, and it helps to closely research ingredients to ensure that you are getting the correct dosage in your pre-workout.

Here are some recommended ratios to consider.

Recipe 1. Strength and Size

muscle strength

The “Strength and size” formula is for athletes looking for the ultimate boost in workout performance and an increase in their muscle strength and size.

It uses four ingredients; creatine for improving strength, caffeine for an energy boost, carbs to reduce fatigue, and citrulline malate for muscle pumps and recovery.

The recipe for this is:

  • 5-10 grams of maltodextrin or cyclic dextrin for carbs
  • 3-5 grams of citrulline malate
  • 3 grams of creatine
  • 400 milligrams of caffeine

Recipe 2. Endurance and Stamina

man running

This formula is meant for people focused on their endurance and stamina. Even though it won’t have as much as an energy spike like those who are looking to build muscle, it still will give you sustained energy.

There are also 4 ingredients in this recipe; Beta-alanine for endurance, caffeine for energy, carbs to fuel your muscles, and citrulline malate for recovery

You will need:

  • 200-300 milligrams of caffeine
  • 5-20 grams of carbs like maltodextrin or cyclic dextrin
  • 2-5 grams of beta-alanine
  • 3-5 grams of citrulline malate

Recipe 3. Strength, Size, & Work Capacity

man doing dumbells

Maybe you don’t have any specific physical goals other than “stay fit”. This formula might be what you are looking for in a pre-workout. It has important ingredients for overall athletic performance.

It contains creatine for improved strength, beta-alanine for endurance, caffeine to reduce tiredness, and carbs for fuel.

The dosage for each ingredient are:

  • 5-20 grams of carbs (maltodextrin or cyclic dextrin)
  • 2-5 grams of creatine
  • 2-5 grams of beta-alanine
  • 200 milligrams of caffeine

Recipe 4. More Energy and Power

lifting weights

This is a recipe that has a little kick with the added ingredient of betaine. It helps you work out harder if you are looking to lift with more power.

The ingredients include caffeine for energy, citrulline malate for boosting weight training performance, beta-alanine for endurance, and finally, betaine for an energy spike.

The dosage for this recipe is:

  • 2.5 grams of betaine
  • 6 grams of citrulline malate
  • 3 grams of beta-alanine
  • 200-400 grams of caffeine

Other Ingredients to Consider

There are several formulas for making your own pre-workout.

There are even other ingredients that you might want to consider. It’s imperative to carefully research an ingredient and it’s specific benefits to see if it’s what you are looking for in a supplement.

You may want to start by consulting with a good doctor, nutritionist, or dietician about your dietary preferences. They are more qualified to assist you.

Benefits of Making Your Own Pre-Workout

The benefits of making your own pre workout include quality assurance, cheaper per serving costs, and getting the exact dosage that you want.

1. Assurance of Quality Ingredients

Ingredients in glass

There are numerous pre workouts from the supplement industry that don’t fully disclose their ingredients or hide behind a “proprietary blends” to cover up what their products contain.

There’s also uncertainty about the quality of ingredients. It might not be tested by an independent third-party for purity.

By making your own pre-workout, you can have total control of what ingredients are going into your pre-workout. Not only that, but you can also assure that you are getting premium ingredients.

2. Cheaper Servings

You might get ripped-off by some “exclusive” brand and pay for products that didn’t cost that much to make.

Most of the ingredients that go into a pre-workout are pretty affordable. If you do the math, then you could pay pennies per serving size.

3. Exact Dosage

One of the most difficult issues with choosing a pre-workout is that the dosage isn’t quite what you are looking for in a supplement.

Maybe it has too much caffeine. Maybe it has enough caffeine, but you were looking to add more beta-alanine to your diet. The worst case scenario is it has a proprietary blend that lumps ingredients together, and you can’t tell what the exact dosage is for each ingredient.

Making your own pre-workout lets you control the exact amount of ingredients that go into your pre-workout.

Risks of Making Your Own Pre-Workout

The risks of making your own pre-workout range from making a poor supplement to too much effort into ensuring it’s good enough for you. There are always risks with supplements, but I find a DIY pre workout supplement a huge risk. Here are three reasons why.

1. You might not know what you’re doing.

girl expirimenting with ingredients

First and foremost, you are not a chemist (probably).

It sounds a little dangerous to mix together some ingredients and call it healthy for you.

You could risk creating something that is harmful to you instead of beneficial.

There’s a lot of research involved in determining exactly what should go in your custom pre-workout drink and if the ingredients complement each other.

2. It takes a lot of effort.

After you’ve researched what ingredients to use, then you need to find products that sell a pure version of it. It can get overwhelming fast especially since you need to go through the whole process of ensuring it’s quality.

Once you find the right ingredients, then you need to take the time to mix it properly. Grams and milligrams are pretty small units of measurement, and even being a little bit off can mess with your system. You have to be careful and detailed.

Does DIY Pre Workout Taste Good?

Some people recommend mixing your homemade pre-workout with a powdered flavored drink, but that seems to defeat the purpose of making your own pre-workout using only high-quality ingredients.

I’m suspicious of the taste, and I would rather find something that is either unflavored or a pre-made workout that has been tested by other people for great tasting flavor.

The Time It Takes to Make a Pre-workout

writing on a note

It takes a few minutes to make a pre-workout drink including carefully measuring ingredients and mixing them together.

The longest part of the whole process is researching ingredients, and then finding and buying the right products.

Once you figure that out though, it gets simpler.

You may also have to consider the time to tweak the formula along the way.

For example, your body might get used to caffeine and you will have to use more in your pre-workout supplement to get the same effect.

Check this video below to learn more how to create your own pre workout


Where to Buy Pre Workout Ingredients

You can buy the ingredients to make a pre-workout at the same places that you would buy a pre-made pre-workout. Any health store, in-person or online, will have most ingredients stocked.

Saving Money with DIY Pre-Workout

Making your own pre-workout has the potential to save you money on a per-serving basis. Most powders are probably $10-20 each depending on the brand and quality.

Making your own pre-workout supplements will probably lead to having more servings compared to a pre-made one. This will also help lower the cost of your homemade pre workout.

Is This All Worth the Effort?

Even though making your own pre-workout is a bit cheaper, I think it’s worth the extra money and time to buy a pre-made pre-workout supplement.

Some companies actually do have high-quality ingredients that provide top-performing results. It prevents you from making something that is actually bad for you. It’s a good option as long as you choose the right product.

You can read the following article on some of my recommended pre-workout supplements for maximum pump.


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