Personally, pre-workout supplements don’t do it for me. I don’t mind the taste but I end up getting distracted by the tingly sensation it triggers in my face. Whether you’re like me, simply out of your current pre-workout or just looking for a change, here are nine alternatives to pre-workout supplements you can give a shot.
1. Monster energy drink
Other energy drinks might give you a good kick too, but the sugar-free Monster series are my personal go-to. The calories are low enough you don’t need to count them if you track macronutrients, and they don’t have the classic energy drink taste that turns off a lot of people. They’re also a nice alternative because you can pick one up last minute at any gas station or corner store on your way to the gym.
You hear it a lot, poptarts and donuts for pre-workout. Simple carbohydrates are a great source of energy. For me, I like to eat candy throughout my workout because it makes me feel like I’m continuously feeding that energy – even if it’s largely just in my head. Candies like Sour Patch Kids or Skittles are hassle-free to throw in your gym bag and easy to eat a few intermittently.
3. Crystal Light
Before you give me that look, yes – Crystal Light is just adding a little flavor to water. Part of having a good workout is being properly hydrated. Even though Crystal Light isn’t providing you with the same kind of energy as pre-workout supplements, your body can do a surprising amount with a little placebo effect. This is a great option if you’re trying to use your pre-workout less often to either save money or keep it effective. You can trick your mind into thinking it’s pre-workout quite easily and get that same kick in the butt that’s really just coming from you.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually had friends who bring a full coffee to the gym with them to drink as they train. For me, I can’t handle a hot drink while training – it just doesn’t mix. Try having a coffee a half hour before you head to the gym, and you’ll have that nice caffeine high running through your blood in no time.
Having a carb-filled meal 60-90 minutes before a workout is a great way to have the carbs kicking in for your working sets. Nutella sandwiches or a warm bowl of oatmeal is a common choice for me. Really tired? Try using coffee in your oatmeal instead of water for a little extra kick.
6. Quick cardio
There’s a lot of back and forth about cardio before lifting. I’m not suggesting you take to the treadmill for an hour before squatting, but consider just literally getting your blood flowing. Been sitting at the office all day? Do some leg kicks, rowing, or even jumping jacks to bring your energy level back up.
Last but not least: music. This one is especially key for the early morning workouts. Getting up at 5 am isn’t always fun. Try throwing on some upbeat music as soon as you wake up and I promise you will start getting excited for your workout. Upset because you had to stay at work late? Grumpy from your boyfriend not doing the dishes like he promised? Music is a great way to tune out all the little things that suck and realize you’re about to have a killer workout.
Interested in exploring your intra-workout options? Check out our blog on intra-workout alternatives!
About the author
Mallory Rowan is a former competitive dancer and pole fitness instructor turned powerlifter. She’s been competing for less than a year but has been training and tracking macros for the past few years. She is the co-founder of LVD Fitness, a 72kg powerlifter, and mildly addicted to finding protein-friendly versions of all of her favourite carby snacks.