Are you struggling with the motivation to get to the gym or to push through your intense workouts? Pre-workouts may fire you up to train harder, push heavier weights, and more importantly – get you to the gym in the first place.
A pre-workout is a blend of active ingredients formulated by a supplement company. It provides energy enhancing ingredients in a great tasting powder or liquid. This is usually consumed 30-60 minutes before your workout.
Pre-workouts can be extremely convenient. Purchase a 30 or 60 serving container from a health shop or online, add a serving to some water and down it. For the most part – they work great – yet they do have some shortcomings.
- They sometimes consist of too much of a certain ingredient while lacking in other important ingredients.
- Those from the USA often using “proprietary blends”. This means they list the ingredients but don’t show how much of each is used.
- They are actually very expensive given the raw ingredients used. By purchasing the the raw ingredients separately one can make the same product for around ¼ of the price.
- If you find that you need a certain amount of 1 ingredient and thus need to double the serving to get that ingredient, you may be taking too much of something else. For example – you need 5g of citrulline mallate. Each serve has 2.5g so you would need to double the serve. You would then be taking double of everything. A 200mg serve of caffeine would now become 400mg.
- As the ingredients are a fixed ratio, you are unable to play around with each ingredient to find your sweet spot.
- Pre-workouts, especially the cheaper brands, often contain fillers. These fillers are not active ingredients and don’t contribute to the workout in any way.
What ingredients should I use for my homemade pre-workout?
Pre-workouts can contain around 20-30 ingredients – most of which are completely useless. We will only be discussing those that have scientifically been proven to be of any benefit. We recommend only the following 6 ingredients:
4) Citrulline Malate
6) Flavour (non active ingredient)
Caffeine is a stimulant that increases alertness, boosts physical and mental performance. Long term studies have shown that caffeine has no long-lasting damage to the body. Most people know this ingredient well as it is the main reason we drink coffee. Caffeine is extracted from coffee beans resulting in a quick pick-me-up in the morning. Experts believe that caffeine can give between 1.5% and 5% of a performance advantage.
Recommended Dosage: 2mg-4mg per kg of body weight. A 80kg bodybuilder should therefore use 160mg-320mg. It is always recommended to start with a smaller dose and check how the body reacts.
Cost Per Serving: 100g will cost around $25. This works out to around 7.5c for a 300mg serving.
Creatine is one of the the most popular natural bodybuilding supplement over the past 20 years. It has been shown in numerous studies to increase strength, build lean muscle mass, as well as maximise performance. Creatine is either consumed in small amounts from the food we eat or formed endogenously from amino acids in the body. In short – creatine increases the capacity of our phosphagen system. This creates an increase in performance in short high intensity workouts such as weightlifting and powerlifting.
Recommended Dosage: 5g/day of creatine is sufficient for most bodybuilders. Creatine takes time to build up in the body and reach saturation point. Some athletes prefer to pre-load using 20g per day for the first 5 days. This will allow the body to reach saturation point much quicker however it is definitely not a requirement.
Cost Per Serving: 1Kg will cost around $19. This works out to around 9.5c for a 5g serving.
Most of us enter the gym and have loads of intensity for our first few sets. The energy then tapers off. By the fourth exercise we are mentally and physically exhausted. Enter Beta-Alinine. This amazing ingredient can help you pump out extra sets and reps towards the end of a workout. It also helps keep that starting intensity up. Some users report a tingling sensation a few minutes after taking beta-alinine. If this happens to you then don’t worry – it is completely normal and won’t last too long.
Recommended Dosage: Beta-Alinine does not need to be taken just before your workout and can be taken anytime during the day. Some people like to take it in multiple doses in order to avoid the tingling feeling. The recommended dosage is 3g/day.
Cost Per Serving: 1Kg will cost around $54. This works out to around 16.2c for a 3g serving.
4) Citrulline Malate
Citrulline Malate is an amino acid which has the ability to delay the onset of fatigue during intensive workouts. An increase in Citrulline Malate increases blood flow to muscles during a workout. This increase in blood flow reduces muscle fatigue and allows the muscle to last longer. An intake of this supplement should result in an increase in reps or weights during a bodybuilding workout.
Recommended Dosage: Citrulline Malate should be taken around 30 minutes before exercise. The recommended does is 6g/day.
Cost Per Serving: 1Kg will cost around $55. This works out to around 33c for a 6g serving.
BCAA’s otherwise known as branched chain amino acids consist of four amino acids namely Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Make sure to get this raw ingredient with the ratio of 2:1:1. BCAA’s allow the body to increase protein synthesis as well as prevent protein breakdown. BCAA’s have also been shown to reduce the affect of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). The reduction of DOMS will help with training the same body part sooner.
Recommended Dosage: 10g before workout would be enough. Some users take 5g pre workout and 15g during the day.
Cost Per Serving: 1Kg will cost around $45. This works out to around 45c for a 10g serving.
Arguably the most important ingredient in any pre workout is the flavouring. No-one wants to drink a bad tasting or unflavoured powdery drink while trying to stay motivated for the intense workout. There are a few options for flavouring in terms of flavour and sugar content. My preference is to stick to either Gatorade powder or Gatorade powder. There are also a few supplement stores that sell a BCAA flavouring which sounds like a good option.
Recommended Dosage: Depends on product or preference.
Cost Per Serving:1Kg will cost around $18 (Powerade). This works out to around 60c for a serving.
How to mix it all up
All of the raw ingredients listed above can be measured quite easily and added to a mixing bowl for stirring. The only ingredient that can be tricky is caffeine. This is due to the small amount required. One option is to buy a scale able to measure milligrams. A second option would be to purchase 100mg caffeine tablets and use them in addition to the caffeine free pre-workout. My preference is to go for caffeine tablets as my wife is quite sensitive to caffeine. She can’t sleep if she has any before her afternoon workout. She can then use the homemade pre workout without caffeine and I use it together with three 100mg caffeine tablets.
To make 1Kg of homemade pre-workout you would need the following:
caffeine = 12.3g
creatine = 205g
beta-alinine = 123g
citrulline malate= 246g
BCAA’s = 410g
This would yield 41 servings from 1Kg before flavouring is added. Make sure to mix all ingredients thoroughly before using.