Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 13, 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.

What Makes Pre Workout So Expensive?

assorted spices on spoons

The price of pre-workouts depends on several factors:

1. Ingredients

A pre-workout is not just one supplement but a combination of different ones.

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

  • Nitric Oxide

Our bodies naturally produce nitric oxide to improve blood flow.

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

  • 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)

  • Creatine

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
  • Caffeine

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

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

It helps accelerate body weight 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 intake is 50% lower than the usual amount. It’s also a good idea to have one no-caffeine day.

2. Marketing

athlete in a gym seated on the floor drinking water

Ask yourself this: What’s one of the most hyped-up supplements on the market? The pre-workout.

Marketing promotes the ingredients the pre-workouts have and their benefits.

For example, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, whey protein many benefits include:

  • Fat loss
  • More strength
  • More endurance
  • Better focus

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

3. Addictiveness

We all know how addictive coffee is. Imagine you were to stop drinking coffee tomorrow suddenly. Do you think you’d be able to do it without a lot of withdrawal symptoms? I didn’t think so.

This goes for a pre-workout. Pre-workouts have tons of caffeine, and while taking it won’t turn people into junkies, additives such as caffeine are addictive.

Think about some of the most popular pre-workout products, for example, C4 Cellucor, beta-alanine, whey protein. All of them have addictive ingredients.

If you were to stop using a pre-workout suddenly, you would start craving more and would probably end up spending some dough on it.

Is Pre Workout Worth Buying?

protein powder in a yellow container, yellow water jug, and pills in a jar

Pre-workout is worth buying. But you don’t need it.

Yes, it’s useful, but a pre-workout is not a must-have product.

Think about what your goal is. If you want to build muscles, other things are more important than a pre-workout, such as:

  • Food
  • Proteins
  • Creatine
  • Citrulline

Pay special attention to quality food. My advice to all my clients is always to invest their money in high-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 they can be worth your money, a pre-workout has some downsides. For example:

  • 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 — There are 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.

How To Get Pre-Workout For Less Money?

There are several ways you can get pre-workout without breaking the bank. For example:

  • Order pre-workout on Black Friday — Many brands will lower the cost of pre-workout by up to 70%.
  • Affiliate links — If your favorite site offers a special deal on a pre-workout, use their affiliate links.
  • Check Amazon for deals — Many brands offer great deals, as much as 50% off pre-workout costs, so when you encounter this deal, buy in bulk.

Are There Any Cheaper Alternatives?

  • Coffee — Each serving has plenty of caffeine. It’s an excellent way to lower the cost of pre-workout but still get the same value, as caffeine can boost your workout focus and help with fat loss.
  • Guarana — Has a high amount 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)
  • Heavy Metal Music — A 2010 study done on cyclists showed that they did better while listening to heavy metal music.

FAQs

supplements with question marks

Is it cheaper to make your own 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 a higher price due to marketing.

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 a higher price 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.

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 — ingredients, marketing, and addictiveness.

I've also gone over some of the best cheap pre-work options, 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, 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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