What Can I Substitute For Pre Workout? [2023]

Last Updated on November 15, 2022 by Patrick

What Can I Substitute For Pre Workout?

Are you running low on your favorite pre workout powder?

Looking for a cheaper alternative?

Maybe you want something more natural?

Maybe you just forgot your tub of C4 at home and your heading straight to the gym after work.

Understood! We got you covered!

First things first – what kind of pre workout do you want?

What Are the Different Kinds of Pre Workout?

There are tons of different kinds of pre workouts and people take them for many different reasons.

  1. Energy Boosters
  2. Pump Boosters
  3. Recovery Aids
  4. Hydration Aids
  5. Creatine

Energy Boosters

Many people take pre workout supplements specifically for the purpose of giving them a boost of energy during their workout. For this reason, energy boosting pre workout supplements are probably the most common form of pre workout for sale on the market, especially if you consider all of the things that people take as a pre workout that are not necessarily marketed as, or used exclusively as, pre workout supplements. (Coffee, Rice Krispies Treats etc.)

The vast majority of these pre workouts contain caffeine as their primary ingredient for giving you energy. Some will also contain other stimulants like guarana or theacrine.

Pump Boosters

Some pre workouts are formulated to give the user a better or fuller “pump” after a workout session.

If you’re a cardo only kind of person, you may be unfamiliar with what this means, but a “pump” is what happens temporarily after you spend some time lifting heavy weights and your muscles are swollen and full.

What can I substitute for pre workout? - Pump
What can I substitute for pre workout? – Pump

For some people, the pump is the best part of working out, so they take supplements to increase this effect. For this reason, some pre workout formulas contain things like beta alinine to help them get those dramatic post workout pumps.

Recovery Aids

Recovery may not sound like the most exciting part of the whole workout cycle but it is arguably the most most important part.

Being able to recover faster means being able to exercise more often with greater efficiency and can lead to much better outcomes over the course of time.

Many people choose to supplement with things like BCAAs to help increase the efficiency of their recovery, post workout.

Hydration Aids

Exercising, is a pretty sweaty activity whether you’re lifting weights or running a marathon. It can be immensely valuable to be able to improve your ability to hydrate yourself.

Some pre workouts include electrolytes to assist in hydration, BCAAs are also a good option for this.


Creatine is one of the most common supplements on the market for body builders and weight lifters for good reason. It is considered by many to be the most effective supplement for building muscle.

Creatine can be taken by itself as a separate supplement, but many pre workout formulations include it as well. Creatine has a marked effect on your body while you are using it and you should make the decision of whether or not you want to use it before you choose a pre workout supplement.

A Quick Note Regarding Different Kinds of Pre Workout

Note that these different kinds of pre workout are mutually exclusive. When shopping for a pre workout, you may find one that has caffeine and guarana for energy, creatine for muscle growth and BCAAs for enhanced recovery. When asking yourself “what can I substitute for pre workout?” be sure to ask yourself what kind of pre workout is best for your co

So What Can I Substitute For Pre Workout For Energy?

Let’s start with the easiest one:

If you’re looking for a burst of energy for your workout, you have a bunch of options. Let’s think about what’s in traditional pre workout on the market to give us energy and find some alternatives.

What can i substitute for pre workout for energy?
What can I substitute for pre workout for energy?


Caffeine is most people’s favorite stimulant and comes in all shapes and sizes and flavors. Its available almost everywhere and can give you a great pre workout energy boost!

You can get caffeine from all sorts of food and drinks, including:

  1. Coffee
  2. Tea
  3. Soda
  4. Chocolate
  5. Energy Drinks

Any of these will give you a good energy boost right away!

Just be aware of what else is mixed in with your caffeine!

Black coffee is great because it has no calories, but once you start adding sugar and cream and flavored syrups, you might have enough calories in your cup to replace a meal!

Soda can be a good source of caffeine as well, but don’t underestimate the sugar in there as well! Soda is pretty widely known to be pretty bad for you and it’s almost entirely due to its sugar content. Also keep in mind that if you’re working out to lose weight, you may be doing more harm than good by drinking a large soda before going to the gym.

A large soda contains about 150 calories. To burn that off by running, you’d have to run a mile and a half!


I know I just went on about how sugar is bad for you and everything, but that doesn’t change the fact that it makes for a great quick energy boost for a workout!

You want to have something with readily available simple carbohydrates.

Try some of these for a sweet pre workout snack!

  1. Fruit – I especially like bananas or this, the potassium can help prevent cramping
  2. Candy – Don’t go crazy here, but a few gummy worms before the gym can be a great pick me up
  3. Rice Krispies Treats – Yea this is sort of a trend right now, but it works pretty well to be honest!

The most important thing is to take everything in moderation and lets be honest, some fruit before a gym workout isn’t the worst thing in the world for you!

What Can I Substitute For Pre Workout For Pump?

This ones a little more complicated and you may need to take a longer term approach!

To find out how to increase our pump without taking a pre workout, let’s look at what goes into pre workouts for pump.

Arginine, L-citrulline and betaine three of the most common ingredients found in pre workouts that are designed to grown your pump. Let’s look at where else we can get these compounds into our diet.

What can I substitute for pre workout for pump?
What can I substitute for pre workout for pump?

Arginine is an amino acid that helps your body build proteins and if you want to get more of it into your diet, you should eat more meat, fish and poultry. If you’re a vegetarian, or on a plant based diet, you can get extra arginine by eating more whole wheats, beans and soy.

L-citrulline is another amino acid that turns into L-Arginine in your body. If you need a non-supplement source, you can try eating things like melons, nuts, squash and chickpeas.

Betaine is yet another amino acid that helps your body construct proteins. It can be found in small amounts in red meat, but the best way to get it into your diet is through things like, wheat bran, spinach, beets, or quinoa.

What Can I Substitute For Pre Workout For Hydration and Recovery?

When it comes to pre workout supplements and hydration and recovery, I always think of one ingredient:


BCAAs or Branch Chain Amino Acids are a set of amino acids with some pretty great benefits for people looking to improve their workouts and reduce their recovery times.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get these into your diet, although you’re not going to get them as quickly or easily as with a standard pre workout. This is more of a dietary change sort of deal.

Good sources of non-supplement BCAAs include whey and milk proteins, animal products like meat, fish, poultry and eggs and whole grain wheats.

What Can I Substitute For Pre Workout For Creatine?

Again, there’s no quick easy solution to get a quick creatine shot like in a pre workout supplement, but creatine supplementation is all about consistent doses anyways, so it’s not all bad!

What can I substitute for pre workout for creatine?
What can I substitute for pre workout for creatine?

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for body builders and power lifters for good reason. It really works!

To increase the amount of creatine in your diet, try eating more animal products like meat, fish, poultry and MORE MEAT!

Final Words

Pre workout supplements are great for all kinds of exercise, but sometimes its nice to have something before the gym that doesn’t come from a tub.

Do you have a favorite non supplement pre workout? Let me know down in the comments what you like and what you use it for!

Further Reading

I hope that you enjoyed your time with us and that we’ve answered the question “what can I substitute for pre workout?”

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