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Why Is Pre Workout So Expensive? (The Answer)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 22, 2021

Over the years as a fitness trainer, I've tried so many pre-workouts that now I can pinpoint exactly which ones will work and which ones won't.

No matter which pre-workouts I recommend, a question that I always get from clients is this:

Why is pre-workout so expensive?

Today I'm breaking down exactly what makes these supplements expensive, so you too will know which pre-workout supplements are worth it and which ones aren't.

Why Are Pre Workout Prices So Expensive?

Supplements on top of a dollar bills

The steep pricing of pre-workouts depends on several factors, but the simplest explanation is this:

Marketing and keystone pricing.

The costs of the pre-workouts shoot up from production to retail. The process goes like this:

The wholesaler doubles the amount it costs the brand to make the pre-workout, then the retailers (from which you buy) will double it again.

Thus, a pre-workout which was made at a $10 cost from the manufacturer will be sold at wholesale at $20, and the retailer will sell it to customers at $40.

These prices pile up to accommodate heavy marketing strategies -- the goal of which is to promote the ingredients the pre-workout has and their benefits.

For example, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, whey protein, and other pre-workout benefits include:

  • Weight loss
  • More energy and strength
  • Increased physical performance
  • Prevent fatigue

Marketing teams pump up these pre-workouts to draw people in and make them spend more.

Another example where marketing runs up the cost is competitive pricing.

For example, if there are two products in the same category, they compete with each other by marketing their attributes. There are promotional expenses, which means you end up paying more.

Lastly, the type, quality, and amount of ingredients also determine the price of a supplement.

If you look at the label, most pre-workout supplements are not just one supplement but a combination of different ones.

Let’s look at the common ingredients that make these supplements expensive.

Common Pre-Workout Ingredients

Some of the most common pre-workout supplement ingredients include:

1. Nitric Oxide

Red blood cells flowing in white background

Our bodies naturally produce nitric oxide to improve blood flow.

Pre-workout supplements need the same compounds as the body to make nitric oxide.

The following ingredients support the nitric oxide function in improving the body’s circulation:

  • L-arginine
  • L-citrulline
  • Dietary nitrates

Several studies concluded that using nitric oxide supplements improves young men’s athletic performance, as it enhances nutrient transport to muscles. (1)

2. Creatine

A scoop of creatine powder

Another popular pre-workout supplement is creatine.

It’s expensive because it’s one of the rare supplements scientifically proven to accelerate the growth of muscles. (2)

Our bodies can naturally produce creatine and store it in skeletal muscles, where it helps with muscle strength.

It can be bought as a standalone supplement, but it’s also combined with others.

It’s most commonly used by power athletes, such as bodybuilders and weightlifters.

Its benefits include:

  • Better recovery time
  • Muscle mass
  • Improved strength
  • Improved exercise performance

3. Caffeine

Spilled coffee beans inside a container

Tons of people need their morning dose of coffee to function in the morning. So, it makes sense that caffeine contributes to pre-workout high prices.

Coffee is known to increase energy and focus, which makes it a frequent pre-workout ingredient.

It helps accelerate bodyweight fat loss by increasing the energy you burn in a day.

It’s also an excellent ingredient for muscle endurance and enhances anaerobic performance.

The research concluded you should take caffeine in a pill or as a powder to achieve the best results. (3)

Pro Tip: be careful with caffeine intake, so you don’t build a tolerance to it. For best results, take a serving of 3-6 mg per kg of weight around half an hour before exercising.

I tell my clients to incorporate 1 or 2 low intake days, where their coffee intake is 50% lower than the usual amount. It’s also a good idea to have one no-caffeine day.

Is Pre Workout Worth The Expensive Price Tag?

A plastic spoon full of supplements on top of dollar bills

Yes, pre-workout can be worth it, but there are some things to look out for.

Beware of proprietary blends in a pre-workout.

If the pre-workout product has multi-ingredients, chances are it’ll contain proprietary blends.

These blends have undisclosed amounts of ingredients.

While the FDA states that all components should be listed by their weight, it’s difficult to determine if the doses included in proprietary blends are enough to lead to enhanced physical performance.

This is why pre-workout may not be worth a lot. Instead, my advice to all my clients is always to invest their money in quality food above pre-workout.

“I’ll have athletes use a pre-workout only on their heaviest day or when most needed. I find most people tend to rely on a pre-workout a little bit too much.”- Dr. Mike T Nelson, exercise physiologist

While some of them can be worth the cost, a pre-workout has some unworthy content, including the following:

  • Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols — They make the flavor better but can cause intestinal issues.
  • Excess caffeine — Can lead to anxiety, increased blood pressure, and trouble sleeping.
  • Quality and safety — In the US, pre-workout content is not regulated by the FDA, which means the labels aren’t always fully accurate.

Can cause diarrhea, dehydration, and headaches — Some ingredients that can pull water and excrete it, which leads to dehydration, which in turn causes headaches. Others can have a laxative effect, which can cause issues if you have a sensitive stomach.

Any Cheap Pre Workout Alternatives?

Coffee beans, beet roots, guarana and matcha tea

If you don’t have the budget to purchase a quality pre-workout, I always advice to rather spend your money on a healthy, all-natural diet.

However, if you’re looking to support your workouts with better pump, go with these cheaper substitutes.

  • Coffee  - Each serving has plenty of caffeine. It’s an excellent way to lower the costs of pre-workout but still get the same value, as caffeine can boost your workout focus and help with fat loss.
  • Beetroot - Because it’s high in iron, beetroot juice helps build strong muscles and general organism health. If you want to avoid caffeine, beetroot is the healthiest option out there.
  • Guarana - Has high amounts of caffeine, which contributes to lower workout fatigue. Its effectiveness was proven by a study where subjects who took a Guarana supplement had less fatigue than those who took a placebo. (4)
  • Green and matcha tea - Green tea extract is amazing for energy metabolism, while matcha tea has 68mg of caffeine and is the best kind of green tea before a workout.

FAQs

Is It Cheaper to DIY Your Pre-Workout?

Yes, making your own pre-workout is cheaper in many cases.

To save on costs, buy in bulk. Also, you can control what you put in it. For example, if beta-alanine doesn’t work for you, don’t include it in your homemade pre-workout.

Are More Expensive Pre-Workouts Better?

More expensive pre-workout can be better, but not always. For example, it can have unique ingredients, which makes its value better. On the other hand, well-known brands will have higher costs due to marketing.

Is Pre-Workout Safe?

Because pre-workout is not regulated, its safety is not guaranteed. Only buy products that were tested by a third party, such as NSF International or USP.

How To Get Pre-Workout for Less Money?

To get pre-workout for less money, you can always buy in bulk (most companies would offer discounts if you buy in bulk) or use coupons. Buying pre-workout, beta-alanine, or whey protein on Black Friday sales can also save you some money.

Why Is It Expensive: My Final Thoughts

Now you’re an expert on why is pre-workout so expensive.

We've talked about all categories that make your wallet break out in sweat once it's time to buy a pre-workout.

I've also gone over some of the best cheap pre-workouts alternatives, so there aren't any excuses for getting the best workout.

If you’re looking to save money on workouts, try out the alternatives I've listed, buy through affiliate links, or let me know in the comments below if you have your own affordable pre-workout alternative.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22260513/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12945830/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20205813/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18077056/

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