Pre-Workout is one of the biggest selling supplement categories, probably right behind multi-vitamins and protein. However, there are a ton to choose from, they all seem expensive, and the ingredients are complicated. How do you know which one to choose? Well, no worries, because this is where my cheap ass comes in. Also, it’s important to mention that it doesn’t matter if you’re a runner or powerlifter, a prancerciser or a cross-fitter, all the pre-workouts listed below will be beneficial for you. Let’s dive into our guide to cheap pre-workout. Each one is broken down by price, and effort level, which you’ll understand in a minute.
Cheap Pre-Workout Guide
Pre-workout is a great supplement for people that don’t have the energy, or focus to power through a workout. You’re taxed from a day at the office where you were on the verge of burning the place down, and might be debating between barbells or beers. On the other hand you could just be waking up and not eager to move because scrolling on Facebook is a top priority at the time. You could be a bro or broette who thinks of yourself as the next Arnie Swarts-his-name, and you’re looking to milk all you can out of each workout. Any of these scenarios has a solution. Pre-workout. Cheap pre-workout, on the other hand, can be a serious hit or miss. You either overpay for a product that doesn’t work, a product that’s full of fillers without any real benefit, or you pay for a product that melts your face off and makes you feel like you’re on meth. We prefer the latter end of that spectrum, if we are having to choose. But…we are from Alabama so meth is probably in our DNA. But, enough drug talk, let’s get onto the guide.
C4 from Cellucor has been a perennial contender in the cheap pre-workout category for a while now. However, they’ve recently been expanding the C4 offerings into a number of different pre-workouts. This includes C4 Sport, the original version’s little cousin. It has slightly less caffeine, and a different type of creatine compared to the original C4, but at $10 cheaper per jug it’s a bargain. C4 Sport is the best value for a cheap off-the-shelf pre-workout. You’ll still have plenty of energy, and it’ll give you the skin tingles from the beta-alanine, but it won’t break the bank.
- Cheap- 47-56¢ per serving (depending on flavor) compared to $1 per serving of original C4, and most other pre-workout supplements.
- Readily available- Carried by Amazon, Walmart, Costco, and more.
- Quick- Just dump a scoop in some water, shake, and you’re ready to go.
- Additives- Tons of artificial sweeteners (including Sucralose and Ace-K) and colors.
- Proprietary blend- Performance Blend of 4.9 grams that has 6 ingredients. They could pump 4 grams of creatine monohydrate (the cheapest and most plentiful ingredient in this pre-workout) and split .9 grams of the other ingredients, leaving you paying mostly for fillers.
- Not customizable- what you see is what you get.
When we were competing in drug-tested powerlifting meets and bodybuilding shows, we had to know exactly what we were putting in our bodies. The solution was to mix our own cheap pre-workout. Mixing your own pre-workout has many benefits. First off, you can buy bulk ingredients cheaper than an off the shelf pre-workout. Secondly, you control the ingredients and the dosages. If I want the clinical dosage of creatine, I can put 5g of creatine in my pre-workout and know that I’m getting the most beneficial amount without wasting money on excess or not enough. Also, it’s customizable. You don’t like the skin tingles from other pre-workouts? You can choose to leave out the beta-alanine. How about flavor? Are you tired of using fruit punch? Get a different type of water enhancer and now you’ve got a completely different tasting pre-workout without having to spend another $15-30 on a jug. The best part? You get to feel like Walter White mixing up some concoction that’s going to bring your workouts to the next level.
Here’s the ingredient list that we’ve had the most success with, along the dosages of each ingredient and cost per serving:
- Creatine Monohydrate – 5g – 11¢ per serving
- Caffeine – 200mg (a cup of coffee has around 150 mg so base your tolerance off that) – 5¢ per serving
- Citrulline Malate – 3g – 14¢ per serving
- Beta Alanine – 3g – 12¢
- Cheap- 42¢ per serving.
- Customizable- Want to go stimulant free? Cut the caffeine. Want a different flavor, you can pick anything.
- Transparent- You get to control exactly what, and how much of each ingredient you are putting in your body.
- No artificial colors or flavors, unless you add them yourself.
- Cost per serving is lower, but upfront cost for ingredients is higher.
- Not as quick. Mixing individual ingredients doesn’t take long, but it takes longer than only one scoop.
This has been our go-to cheap pre-workout for almost two years now. Caffeine is the cheapest ingredient in the DIY pre-workout, and coffee is an even cheaper source of caffeine. One of our gyms even gives it away for free! Once we ran out of the individual ingredients of our DIY pre-workout, we just didn’t replace them as we weren’t training for a competition. Coffee is the most used stimulant in the world and a pretty good thermogenic. The issue is when it’s diluted with cream, sugar, butter, and other bullshit. It’s not as comprehensive as a true pre-workout supplement, however, if your workouts are effective, and your diet is tuned in, then caffeine alone can be more than sufficient for a pre-workout. Supplements aren’t substitutes for a good diet and consistent effort, both of which will affect your results immensely more than supplementation.
- Cheap- 2.8¢ per cup of Folgers and 3¢ for a cup of Maxwell House if you’re looking to get fancy.
- Accessible- available at practically any grocery store in the world.
- No Frills- two ingredients, one flavor.
- Not as effective in some aspects.
- Caffeine is a diuretic, so don’t only drink coffee at the gym. You’ll want water to stay hydrated.
We are all for cutting costs, but we want to be sure the things you’re cutting out aren’t beneficial to your life. If cutting pre-workouts entirely means you aren’t going to exercise, then we think you should probably plug those back in and just splurge a little. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should be spending $30-40 on a single supplement that ultimately isn’t going to change your body composition even 1%. Cheap pre-workouts don’t have to be shitty, ineffective, and horrible tasting. Again, you’ll only get out of it what you put in. So, don’t expect to take all these products and sit on your ass and lose 30 lbs. If you are interested in other health tips to get you started in the right direction be sure to check out this article on diet, exercise, and supplements.