Caffeine and creatine are probably the main performance-enhancing ingredients found in most pre-workouts. Studies have failed to show that store-bought pre-workouts are more effective than caffeine alone.


  • You can make your own preworkout for much cheaper than store bought pre workouts.
  • The average amount of caffeine in a pre workout formula is 200-300 mg of caffeine. Adding creatine to a pre workout, bcaa and pre workout are common ingredients added to pre workouts.

  • A recent study failed to show that store-bought pre-workouts are more effective than caffeine alone.


There are endless pre workouts with high caffeine on the market, promising you better focus, energy, and performance, reducing lactic acid, and increasing strength. First, most of the pre-workouts contain nitric oxide stimulating ingredients and stimulants containing caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, bitter orange, citrulline malate (i.e., increased blood flow), and other active ingredients.

Secondly, combining Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and pre workouts together are another common stack used to supposedly reduce muscle soreness. Some lifters have advocated adding salt (i.e., 2 grams of salt pre workout) as the best way to mix a pre workout, but no research has ever proven this valid.

The effect of caffeine metabolism and workout performance is well documented. A 2019 survey of 872 regular pre-workout users (defined as repeated use over the prior 3 months) found the three most common self-reported reasons for using pre-workouts were increased energy, muscular endurance, and a better ‘pump.’(1) The popularity of pre workout ingredients has led to the rise of how to make your own pre workout inquiries.

The positive and negative effects of caffeine on athletic performance are well documented. Common post-workout side effects of caffeine anhydrous are anxiety from pre workouts and insomnia. 300 mg of caffeine pre workout powders or greater is the average amount of caffeine in pre workouts.


Most lifters like the “feel the effects” or a “pre workout kick” of a workout drink. Athletes commonly ask, “How long does it take for a pre workout to kick in?” For optimal effects, a pre-workout should be consumed at least 30 minutes before exercise, but 45 minutes is optimal. Caffeine has a long half-life. How long a pre workout stays in your blood depends on many factors, such as genetics, age, sex, diet, smoking, medications, etc.

Many people will ask if energy drinks are a good pre workout before lifting or a workout for cardio? Some of the best pre workout smoothies recipes will combine various fruits with pre workout powders/energy drinks. Most energy drinks contain a proprietary blend of amino acids, caffeine, and B vitamins. Common ingredients in energy drinks will contain caffeine, B vitamins, beta alanine, etc.

Adding creatine to pre workouts is another popular stack. Pre workouts are not just for bodybuilders; many people will perform cardio on pre workouts. The best way to drink a pre workout is on an empty stomach, as food can often delay the absorption of caffeine.


A 2019 review of the ingredient profiles of the top 100 selling pre-workouts found that 86% of products contain caffeine, with an average dose of 254 mg per serving.(2) In the past, most pre-workout studies would compare a pre-workout to a flavored placebo. Given that most pre-workouts can cost anywhere from 2 to 3 dollars per serving, how does this stack up to a cheap dose of caffeine pills such as NOO-DOZZ or other caffeine pills?

Supplements Consumed

Researchers compared the effects of three different experimental treatments (a caffeinated pre-workout supplement, a non-caffeinated pre-workout supplement, or a placebo) on acute exercise performance. Each participant completed all three experimental conditions in a randomized order. The pre-workout contained a mix of caffeine (350 mg), betaine anhydrous (2.5 g), Citrulline Malate (8 grams), beta-alanine (3.6 grams), GPC (300 mg), and theanine (350 mg). Citrulline is an amino acid that increases nitric oxide production. Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases buffering, allowing for repetitions performed.

The subjects were regular caffeine users, so they had to consume more than 250 mg of caffeine to qualify for the study. They were also well trained because they could bench at least 100% of their body weight and leg press at least 300% of their body weight.


The research participants performed squats, bench press, and leg press to failure, and they also had subjective ratings of energy, fatigue, and focus. At the end of the study, the pre-workout did not improve bench press, leg press, or squat performance. The only thing that the pre-workout did was increase the energy levels of the subjects.(3)

This research is similar to a 2017 investigation that examined the effect of a caffeinated pre-workout and non-caffeinated pre-workout on force production throughout 5 sets of 6 repetitions using a mechanical squat device in moderately resistance-trained males and females (≥2 h/week of resistance training over the previous 6 months). Collectively, the researchers found neither supplement condition increased squat performance compared to the placebo.(4)

A 2022 study found that one of the best-selling pre-workouts on the market containing beta-alanine, L-citrulline malate, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, L-taurine, L-tyrosine, and caffeine resulted in less performance improvements in the bench press compared to caffeine alone.(5)

Caffeine more effective than a pre-workout

Kruszewski, M., Merchelski, M., Kruszewski, A., Tabęcki, R., Aksenov, M. O., & Pągowski, Ł. (2022). Effects of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplement and Caffeine on Bench Press Performance: A Single-Blind Cross-Over Study. Nutrients, 14(9), 1750.


Creatine and caffeine have the most studies to validate their effects on increasing performance and lean muscle mass.(6, 7) Caffeine’s main action mechanism is the inhibition of adenosine receptors and stimulation of adrenaline secretion. This results in increased arousal, pain tolerance, and fatigue tolerance. Creatine’s positive effects on strength training performance are widely reported in the literature.

Creatine supplementation can positively affect muscle hypertrophy by increasing muscle protein synthesis through stimulating mRNA translation and/or elevation of muscle cell hydration.(8-11)

Most pre-workouts are overpriced, and one can make your own homemade pre-workouts for much cheaper. Buying caffeine, creatine monohydrate, and other ingredients is much cheaper and will be just as performance-enhancing as a store-bought pre-workout.


1.         Jagim AR, Camic CL, Harty PS. Common Habits, Adverse Events, and Opinions Regarding Pre-Workout Supplement Use Among Regular Consumers. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):855.

2.         Jagim AR, Harty PS, Camic CL. Common Ingredient Profiles of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplements. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):254.

3.         Stratton MT, Siedler MR, Harty PS, Rodriguez C, Boykin JR, Green JJ, et al. The influence of caffeinated and non-caffeinated multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements on resistance exercise performance and subjective outcomes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2022;19(1):126-49.

4.         Tinsley GM, Hamm MA, Hurtado AK, Cross AG, Pineda JG, Martin AY, et al. Effects of two pre-workout supplements on concentric and eccentric force production during lower body resistance exercise in males and females: a counterbalanced, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017;14(1):46.

5.         Kruszewski M, Merchelski M, Kruszewski A, Tabęcki R, Aksenov MO, Pągowski Ł. Effects of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplement and Caffeine on Bench Press Performance: A Single-Blind Cross-Over Study. Nutrients. 2022;14(9).

6.         Grgic J. Exploring the minimum ergogenic dose of caffeine on resistance exercise performance: A meta-analytic approach. Nutrition. 2022;97:111604.


7.         Chilibeck PD, Kaviani M, Candow DG, Zello GA. Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open access journal of sports medicine. 2017;8:213-26.

8.         Branch JD. Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Body Composition and Performance: A Meta-analysis. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2003;13(2):198-226.

9.         Lanhers C, Pereira B, Naughton G, Trousselard M, Lesage F-X, Dutheil F. Creatine Supplementation and Lower Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses. Sports Medicine. 2015;45(9):1285-94.

10.       WILLOUGHBY DS, ROSENE J. Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on myosin heavy chain expression. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2001;33(10):1674-81.

11.       Cholewa J, Trexler E, Lima-Soares F, de Araújo Pessôa K, Sousa-Silva R, Santos AM, et al. Effects of dietary sports supplements on metabolite accumulation, vasodilation and cellular swelling in relation to muscle hypertrophy: A focus on “secondary” physiological determinants. Nutrition. 2019;60:241-51.

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