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15 Cheap Pre Workout Alternatives (That Actually Work!)

Many bodybuilders and gym goers swear by pre workout.

It can help you feel pumped, focused, and motivated.

But pre workout isn’t for everyone.

First and foremost, pre workout is very expensive.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a spare 50 bucks to spend on a tub of powder.

Also, it has a LOT of artificial ingredients like flavors and sweeteners, which some people would rather stay clear of.

I totally get that.

Well, the good news is there are many natural alternatives to pre workout which can give you the same buzz, without costing you a ton.

So in this article, I’ve listed 15 of my favorite natural pre workout alternatives which help both physically AND mentally.

Let’s kick things off with number 1.

1. Coffee

With around 2 billion cups consumed every day, Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world.

And for good reason too – it’s cheap, delicious, and full of antioxidants.

Thanks to its caffeine content, coffee makes an excellent natural alternative to pre workout.


Well, research shows that caffeine can help improve your focus.

The more focused you are in the gym, the better mind-to-muscle connection you’ll have, making your workout more effective.

But that’s not all though – caffeine may help with fat loss too.

For example, a study found that taking 10mg of caffeine per kg of body weight increased fat oxidation by 13%.

(Although coffee is a good pre workout replacement, some people actually take pre workout instead of coffee!)

2. Matcha Tea

Matcha tea comes from the same leaves as green tea, but there’s a slight difference in how they’re harvested.

When making Matcha, the leaves are hidden from sunlight for many days before harvesting which boosts the chlorophyll levels in the leaves.

Matcha is a great alternative to pre workout for many reasons.

First, it’s rich in antioxidants.

These powerful molecules help reduce oxidative stress, which will help you recover quicker from your workout.

And then, like Coffee, it can help you burn more fat, and feel more focused.

One study found that taking green tea extract while exercising increased fat burning by 17%.

Another study of 23 people found that those who took Matcha tea had improved mental performance than those who took a placebo.

3. Guarana

Guarana is a plant native to the Amazon rainforest.

Its name comes from the word warana, meaning fruit like the eyes of the people in the Tupi-Guarani language.

Guarana can help improve your workouts in multiple ways.

Thanks to its high caffeine content, it can help reduce fatigue.

This has been shown in a study where those who took a Guarana-containing supplement had less fatigue than those who took a placebo.

It also includes many antioxidants that often feature in pre workout, such as catechins and theobromine.

These may help improve blood flow, delivering more blood to your muscles for a better pump.

4. Kava Kava

Kava Kava is a plant native to Oceania, where it’s been consumed at social ceremonies for thousands of years.

Today, it’s used worldwide for its euphoric effects.

Many pre workouts are taken for their mental performance enhancing effects, and Kava Kava excels in this area.

In one study, a single serving of Kava Kava improved short-term memory and visual attention.

Another study compared the effects of Kava Kava and oxazepam on cognitive function.

The results showed that the Kava Kava group performed better at the mental task than the oxazepam group.

Kava Kava may help improve sleep too, which will do wonders for workout recovery.

A study compared the effects of Kava Kava and a placebo on sleep quality in 61 individuals.

According to the results, the Kava Kava takers had significantly better sleep than the placebo takers.

5. Heavy Metal Music

It’s impossible to not feel pumped up and raring to go after listening to AC/DC on full volume.

Interestingly, this claim has been backed up by science too!

For example, a study of cyclists revealed that they pushed themselves harder when listening to heavy metal.

While it’s hard to pinpoint why heavy metal music can push you to your limits, perhaps it helps distract you from the pain of working out.

And best of all, thanks to Spotify, heavy metal music is FREE!

6. House Music

Most commercial gyms have house music playing at full blast, and for good reason too.

The anticipation of the drop will keep your workouts exciting and intense.

And the feel-good vibes will keep you positive and energetic.

Here’s one of my favorite house sets to get you in the mood:

7. Dark Chocolate

Often touted as a superfood, Dark Chocolate is another excellent option to replace your pre workout shake.

Thanks to its numerous flavanols, Dark Chocolate can help boost levels of nitric oxide. (Source)

When nitric oxide levels are increased, your blood vessels dilate which allows more blood to flow into the muscle, resulting in a bigger and better pump.

The additional blood helps provide more nutrients to the muscle too.

But that’s not all though…

Dark Chocolate may help improve workout intensity and recovery too!

A study of 14 men had the subjects consume Dark Chocolate, a placebo bar, or neither before a 2.5 hour cycle.

The results showed that the Dark Chocolate boosted the subjects’ antioxidant status and maintained their glucose levels.

The more antioxidants available to your muscles, the better your recovery.

And with more glucose being available, you’ll have more available energy to push yourself harder.

8. Visualization

Visualization is the practice of repeatedly visualizing what you want to achieve in order to make it a reality.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just some happy clappy pseudo-science that’s preached by hippies wearing yoga pants.

It’s actually used by many elite athletes, including:

  • Tiger Woods
  • Michael Phelps
  • Michael Jordan
  • Arnold Shwarznegger

In fact, Michael Jordan once said “Every time I feel tired while exercising and training, I close my eyes to see that picture, to see that list with my name. This usually motivates me to work again.”

So, how can you use visualization to improve your workouts?

Well, according to the authors of a strength training study, the best way is to break it up into 4 parts.

The first part involves imagining yourself lifting your goal weight.

Then, just before picking up the bar, imagine a successful lift.

Next, as you’re picking up the bar, imagine the same image of yourself completing the lift as before.

Finally, once you’ve completed the lift, imagine the lift again and identify any areas of improvement from the first lift.

9. Affirmations

According to Mind Tools, Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts.

By repeating affirmations before a workout, you’re getting your mind and body in a state where you’ll enjoy your workout.

You’ll also feel much more motivated to perform at your very best and smash your records.

Now, the key to success with affirmations is to repeat the statements passionately and seriously.

I’d even recommend repeating them in the mirror so you can see the passion and hunger flow through your veins.

To give you a head start, here are 10 of my favorite workout affirmations:

  • I love working out.
  • I will push myself to the limits.
  • I can’t wait to hit the gym today.
  • Without pain, I’ll never see gains.
  • Today, my body will become stronger.
  • Good things come to those who sweat.
  • I am going to give 100% to my workout.
  • I am healthy and happy and excited about life.
  • I am strong and can easily do any exercise I want.
  • I am becoming the best version of myself in the gym.

10. Read Inspirational Quotes

Another pre workout ritual of mine is to flick through some quotes of my favorite idols.

This is another healthy, positive, and effective alternative to pre workout that doesn’t cost a dime.

While the quotes can be on any subject, I tend to focus on quotes related to the gym.

This works best for me.

As I’m in a positive mood today, here are 6 awesome quotes from one of my idols, Arnold Schwarznegger, that should get you in the mood to smash your workout.

  • The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100%.
  • Bodybuilding is much like any other sport. To be successful, you must dedicate yourself 100% to your training, diet and mental approach.
  • Stop whining.
  • The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build strong character.
  • There are no shortcuts – everything is reps, reps, reps.
  • Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.

11. Get A Training Partner

While solo workouts have their time and place, working out with a partner can give you that extra kick up the butt you need to smash your goals.

First, having a training partner allows you to engage in healthy competition.

(You’re much less likely to quit if you know your competition is beating you.)

And then there’s the benefit of having a spotter – having someone around can help you squeeze out those last couple of reps and keep you safe when using heavy weights.

It’s best to get a training partner who is similar ability to you, so your competition will be within reach and so that you can use the same weights.

(There’s nothing more frustrating than training chest with someone, and having to change the number of plates on the bench each time you swap turns!)

12. Bananas

The almighty banana makes an excellent pre workout snack.

A single banana contains around 23g of carbohydrates, which is your body’s preferred fuel source when exercising.

Bananas are rich in a potassium too, which helps optimize nerve and muscle function during your workout.

And thanks to the fiber, the carbohydrates will be released slowly into your blood stream, meaning your less likely to have an energy crash mid workout.

13. Take A Scroll Through Your Favorite Fitness Accounts On Instagram

Another pre workout ritual of mine is to flick through some fitness accounts on Instagram.

Nothing quite motivates me like seeing a ripped athlete and thinking “there’s no reason why I can’t look like that.”

But you have to be careful with this one.

Many fitness “gurus” these days take advantage of the latest photo editing software, so it’s important that you follow only the authentic accounts which you can trust.

One of my favorite accounts is Mike Thurston, as pictured below. That’s an insane physique, right?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Mike Thurston (@mikethurston)

14. Set A Clear Goal

Setting goals before a workout makes you accountable.

For example, if you’re training biceps, most people will curl until their arms get sore.

While this is a good starting point, it’s better to set a specific target as this will motivate you even more to reach it.

So, let’s say your arms get sore after 10 reps…

But you’ve set a goal to hit 12 reps.

Then you’re much likely to squeeze out those final 2 reps, which will make the world of difference when it comes to muscle building.

As the saying goes, every rep counts.

15. Water

In just an hour of exercise, your body can lose more than 25% of its water.

This can lead to dehydration which causes your muscles to fatigue easier.

In one study, subjects who were dehydrated by only 3% performed less reps and took longer to recover compared to when they were fully hydrated.

So, ensuring you drink plenty of water before hitting the gym is vital to a good workout.


Wrapping things up, pre workout isn’t bad…

But it’s not the only solution to get you pumped for the gym.

As we’ve seen in this article, there are many different approaches you can take.

And best of all, many of them are FREE too!

That’s all for pre workout alternatives, but should you take pre workout for studying? Or does pre workout make you bloated?

Thanks for reading!