Pre Workout Supplements

The Best Pre-Workout Supplements to Make Your Own Blend

Pre-workout supplements are one of the most demanding products in the fitness industry. The market takes advantage of the huge demand to formulate and sell cheap and non-evidenced blends to the customer.

With the information in this post you'll be able to formulate and create your own pre-workout blend. Out of the long list of substance used for pre-workouts, only a few show sufficient evidence and clearance on their effect. And that's what we'll cover today. The best pre-workout supplements to make your own blend at home!!

What’s a Pre-workout Supplement?

Pre-workout supplement is a single substance or combination of them used previous to physical exercise with the goal of boosting and improving training performance (definition).

The first pre-workout supplement blend was formulated by Dan Duchaine in 1982, called Ultimate Orange. Although this was the first pre-workout product sold and recorded, pre-workouts supplements have historically always been around.

Ancestral drinks containing nutraceuticals such as caffeine, or ephedra were consumed to potentiate daily actions or cure diseases. Nowadays, science and resarch has been able to discover, study and investigate different substances to use for our benefit.

The Market of Pre-Workouts Supplements

Our ambition and willing to optimize and squeeze our trainings to grow as much as possible has lead to use this products desperately. And the sellers and companies now how much we want these products.

What do they do? Sadly, sell you the first sh*t they formulate. Little evidence, ridicuolus amounts and inflation of unecessary ingredients. Specifications on the label are rarely controlled, leading to miss/overestimations of bioactive compounds. If the label says you X, you might be getting x±1, which is not optimal. Lack of regulation on the supplementation industry also leads to contaminated products or with not enough evidence to support the ergogenic effect and power of the pre-workout blend.

This is the main reason for which I recommend making your own pre-workout supplement blend at home. Altough it'd be more appropiate if you had certain knowledges about biochemistry and supplementation, it's easier than you think, and almost anybody can try and do it. But of course, if you are not sure don't do anything crazy or contact your doctor or health assistant before supplementing.

Legal Advice

Before getting into the supplements one by one....

This post is merely a informative and recreational post to share evidence and research about a variety of supplements. This post is not the same as consulting your doctor, which you should if thinking about using supplements and substance you've never worked with.

The use of these supplements and the possible adverse effects are solely under your responsibility.

What Do We Need in a Pre-Workout Supplement Blend?

The preference and selection of pre-workout supplements is highly dependent on your needs and requirements. But there are some 'gold standards' that should be in any pre-workout.

Ergogenic supplements

An ergogenic substance is defined as 'any substance used to enhance physical performance'. They may act improving your energy systems (study), interacting with the nervous system (study), or delaying fatigue (study). These effects point towards higher work capacity and volume load, intensity, and ability to perform and contract muscle to a higher extent.

Within ergogenic substances we find legal and illegal supplements such as steroids, anabolic hormones, ephedra, caffeine, or betta-alanine. We can find adverse effects on any supplement, but be careful with the illegal supplements if you consider taking them (not recommended).

Nootropics

Cognitive and physical performance are highly related. The more focus and attention we put in our actions, the more we'll be able to lift, contract, and motivate ourselves to push it harder and train better.

Nootropic substances aim for the 'memory enhancement or improvement of cognitive functions'Although they shuldn't be the main component on our blend, they may play a role improving sports performance indirectly.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are herbal compounds used to lower acute and/or chronic stress levels. They interact stabilizing physiological process to improve metabolic efficiency and work (reference). They also have shown to have a slight stimulant effect (study). They increase the ability to adapt to new stressful situations and don't get damaged by these.

In a pre-workout supplement, adaptogens may be used to prepare our body for the physical stimulus and stabilize our metabolism. The presence of these in our blend may potentiate our physical capabilities, power and/or strength.

Others

Besides the compounds that directly act on our metabolism and physical performance, other compounds may be added to:

  1. Act synergically with other compounds and potentiate their effects (study)
  2. Improve digestibility and absorbance of the other substances (study)
  3. Avoid or lower risk of side effects
  4. Achieving manufacturing requirements
  5. Improve clearance of certain substances (study)

As you may have guessed, these compounds are usally in minimum amounts, but they are still used to make the difference on the quality of the product.

Pre-Workout Supplements

Best Pre-Workout Supplements to Make your Own Blend at Home

Now let's get into matter. This is going to be a quick list of the best supplements you can use to make your homemade pre-workout. You'll just have to buy the products separately and combine as you like depending on the situation and needs.

BEST PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS:

  1. Caffeine: focus, alertness and increases percieved energy
  2. L-Theanine: relaxant effect and synergic effect with caffeine
  3. Huperzine A: enhances muscle contraction and focus
  4. Citrulline Malate: delays muscle fatigue and increases blood flow
  5. Nitrates: improves muscle contraction and blood flow
  6. Capsaicin: improves perceived exertion and delays muscle fatigue
  7. Rodhiola Rosea: Delays muscle fatigue and increases alertness and focus

Caffeine

Caffeine is the king of pre-workout supplements. It is classified as an alkaloid, from the subclass of the methylxantines (source). It's considered the most used psychoactive drug, and its benefits are more than evidenced.

Its main role is by antagonizing adenosine receptors (study). When adenosine binds to its receptors, it triggers the upregulation and action on certain biological pathways to regulate energy balance, and the subject (you) will start feeling tired. If we are able to antagonize those receptors, less adenosine will bind, and we'll be able to avoid, or at least delay those effects.

Caffeine also triggers the segregation and production of neurotransmitter such as dopamine, adrenaline or noradrenaline (study).

The ergogenic effect of caffeine is well-known and evidenced. Dose of 3-6mg/kg are widely used. However, different genotypes such as ADORA2A and DRD2 (study)(study) modulate the tolerance or resistance to this substance

Action:

  • Antagonist of adenosine receptor
  • Secretion of neurotransmitters
  • Acts on the central nervous system

Dose and use:

  • 3-6mg/kg 30-45min pre-workout
  • Combine with slow-released caffeine for long trainings

Considerations:

  • Combination with L-theanine in ratio 2:1 (2mg L-Theanine for every 1mg of caffeine) shows synergic effect (study)
  • The use of Bioperine (black pepper extract) can improve on the clearance of the substance and its pharmacoynetics (study)
  • One may create resistance if abusing from caffeine. Cycle its use and make breaks of 1-2 weeks.

L-Theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid naturally found in black tea, green tea and some mushrooms. Its effects on our organism are stress and cognitive-related (study). In fact, it has also been suggested to induce neural plasticity in the hypoccampal and being beneficial for our cognitive perfomance and memory (study), although the evidence we have so far for this is done on rats.

In humans, supplementation of l-theanine showed lower levels of inflammation markers post-exercise (study), faster time of reaction and alert (study), and significantly higher levels of attention and better reaction time (study). The doses used range from 50-300mg, and they are known to be safe for human consumption.

The synergic effect in combination with caffeine is of great interest for your pre-workout supplement, improving your cognitive performance and increasing subjective alertness (study)(study). A ratio 2:1 (2mg theanine for 1mg caffeine) is an efficient protocol to benefit from these two substances.

Action:

  • Relaxant effect on the nervous system
  • Improves cognitive performance and alertness
  • Lower levels of inflammation post-workout

Dose and use:

  • 100-200mg pre-workout
  • Combine with cafffeine in a 2:1 ratio (2mg L-theanine for every 1mg Caffeine)

Considerations:

  • Due to its solubility and protein properties, don't mix it with hot liquids. Take with water.
  • For cognitive and memory benefits,take 100-200mg alone every day.

Huperzine-A

Huperzine-A has been used for a long time in Chinese natural medicine. It acts as an inhibitor of acetilcholinesterase (study). Acetilcholine is one of the main neurotrasmitters of our metabolism, and its involved in a wide variety of functions. Among these functions we find learning processes, brain functions, cognition,... and muscle contraction (study)(study)

If the action of acetylcholinesterase is inhibited, more acetylcholine will be present. This will lead to delayed muscle fatigue, better muscle contraction, and more focus on the exercise.

Huperzine and choline supplementation are often combined to potentiate even more the presence of acetylcholine. While the first inhibits the enzyme that hydrolyzes it, the latter provides more acetylcholine when supplemented in the form of citicholine (study)

Action:

  • Inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase
  • Improves muscle contraction and focus
  • Delays muscle fatigue

Dose and use:

  • 250-500mcg 60' pre-workout
  • Combine with citocoline for a potentiated effect

Considerations:

  • The use of huperzine-A is safe and well-studied (study)
  • Side effects are very rare, but some of you may experience nauseas, gastrointestinal sickness and, and headaches.
  • Huperzine-A doesn't create any kind of tolerance, and you can follow a continuous non-cycled protocol.

Citrulline Malate

L-Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid used to increase levels of L-Arginine. It seems like the supplementation of L-Citrulline is more effective than L-Arginine itself to increase the serum levels of the latter (study).

The main benefit of Citrulline Malata comes in the increased production of nitric oxide (NO), which has been related with improved blood flow and vascular function (study).

Also, Citrulline and Malate separately could have additional benefits on our performance. Citrulline, on itself, improves removal of Ammonium and improved homeostasis of ammonia, delaying muscle fatigue (study). Malate, on the other hand, is a metabolite of the TCA cycle , involved in aerobic energy production. Supplementing with Malate as pre-workout supplement could improve energy production and lower metabolite accumulation in the muscle cells. This could lower the fatigue perceived during physical exercise (study).

Action:

  • Precursor of Nitric Oxide (NO)
  • Improves aerobic energy production
  • Lowers muscle fatigue via ammonia homeostasis

Dose and use:

  • 6-8g 60-120min pre-workout

Considerations:

  • The combined use with Arginine could have additive effects.
  • Coingestion of Reduced Glutathione (200mg) could have a synergic effect (study)

Nitrates

Nitric Oxide (NO) is an ergogenic substance, increasing blood flow and vasodilation (study). Due to the increased blood flow and oxygen transport, it increases glucose production and transport to the muscle (study). This could improve energy production and improve sports performance.

Many supplements are used to increase NO levels. Nitrates is one of them, showing to be effective on increasing NO levels (study). This reduction from Nitrates (NO3) to Nitrites (NO2) is performed by the gut microbiota (study), and it's then reduced to NO in the blood stream.

The increased NO levels show higher VO2 max and improved muscle contraction (study), higher blood flow (study) and improved overall muscle function and performance (study)

Action:

  • Precursor of Nitric Oxide (NO)
  • Improves muscle contraction and blood flow
  • Potentiates glucose transport and uptake by the muscle

Dose and use:

  • 6.4-12.9 mmol 2h pre-workout

Considerations:

  • This amounts are achieved by natural foods such as beetroots, spinach, or lettuce. For practicality, supplementation is recommended.
  • 1mmol of nitrates is equivalent to 62mg.

Capsaicin

This substance is found on any kind of peppers and 'hot' foods, responsible for giving the spicy taste. It produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which is in contact.

In the fitness community, capsaicin has been used as a 'fat burner' (study). But it also shows an ergogenic effect, being interesting to add on our pre-workout supplement. In recent research, they found the group supplementing with capsaicin to be able to lift more and follow higher volume loads (study). In aerobic exercise, capsaicing also enables to follow higher volume trainings and improve sports performance (study).

These benefits come mainly from the interaction of capsaicin with the receptor TRPV1, showing improved calcium excretion from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, which leads to improve muscle contraction (study). Its analgesic effect also contributes to a lower perceived effort and fatigue (study).

Action:

  • Stimulant and analgesic effects
  • Binds to TRPV1 and improves muscle contraction
  • It improves perceived exertion during exercise and delays muscle fatigue

Dose and use:

  • 12-30mg 30-45min pre-workout

Considerations:

  • Going above 30mg could cause gastrointestinal problems.
  • If the dose is given in SHU (39.000 SHU = 2.56mg )
  • It may create tolerance, and deloads may be interesting.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is a perennial flowering plant in the family Crassulaceae. Its root extract has been used in herbal medicine, and it was not until a few years ago when its benefits were studied and proved.

Acting as an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea is able to counteract stress signals and adapt our body to the extrardinary stress situation (study). Different from any other adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea also shows acute response to resistance training, improving sports performance (study).

However, the mechanisms by which this happens are still quite unknown. It's thought to be due to lower heart rate and improved ability to exert a higher intensity on our trainings (study). As an adaptogen, it improves sports performance by adapting our organism to stressful situations (study)

Action:

  • Acts as an adaptogen substance.
  • It delays muscle fatigue and perceived exertion during exercise
  • Rhodiola Rosea has shown higher levels of alertness and acute cognitive performance

Dose and use:

  • 300-700mg 45-60min pre-workout

Considerations:

  • Minimum dose of 3mg/kg is needed to see its effects
  • It's no dose-dependent, and higher dose doesn't mean potentiated effect
  • The dose recommendation is based on an standarized concentration of 3% Rosavins

Ideas of Pre-workout Supplement Blends

To finish with, we want to give you some ideas of pre-workout supplements blends we would make at home. The dose will depend on how strong you want it and your needs and tolerance.

Cheap and reliable

Well-evidenced and with a low-moderate effect. The synergy between caffeine an L-theanine is accompanied with Citrulline Malate to improve sports performance both via SNC and NO production.

  • Caffeine: 100mg
  • Theanine: 200mg
  • Citrulline Malate: 6000mg

Strong stimulant effect

This pre-workout supplemet shows a strong stimulant effect. For those days with low energy, or simply for a nice day at the gym. It provides both direct and non-direct benefits on sports performance and perceived exertion.

  • Caffeine: 350mg
  • Capsaicin: 25mg
  • Huperzine-A: 300mcg
  • Citocholine: 500mg
  • Rhodiola Rosea: 300mg

Non-stimulant combination

For those days in where you don't want to add any stimulants.... this pre-workout supplement will provide you with focus and alertness, as well as improved muscle function and work capacity.

  • L-Theanine: 200mg
  • Rodhiola Rosea: 600mg
  • Citrulline Malate: 7000mg
  • Citicholine: 500mg

Aerobic and endurance training

This pre-workout supplement provides the perfect combination with moderate stimulant effect and improved aerobic exercise via higher VO2 max, lower heart rate, higher blood flow and lower muscle fatigue and perceived exertion.

  • Nitrates: 500mg
  • Slow-released Caffeine: 200mg
  • Citrulline Malate: 6000mg
  • Capsaicin: 25mg
  • Rhodiola Rosea: 300mg

Conclusion

Pre-workout supplements are widely used to improve performance and boost your trainings. However, the market usually offers low-quality and unreliable products. Making your own pre-workout blend will ensure that you are using the effective doses and of high-quality raw materials.

In this post we have only seen the 7 pre-workout supplements with highest evidence and benefits. But that doesn't mean that there aren't more out there that can do the same job. As always, trial and error is the key here. Try different substances (always under supervision) until you find your perfect stack.

I hope now you are able to make your own blend and decide whether a pre-workout supplement is effective or simply a fraud.

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