You know you need an effective pre-workout to get you prepped for the gym. But you don’t want to pay through the nose for a brand name and a bunch of fancy ingredients that are underdosed behind proprietary blends. Yet, that is precisely what you get with many of the most popular pre-workouts currently on the market. In this article, we sidestep all of those expensive, heavily marketed pre-workouts and uncover the 10 best cheap pre-workouts on today’s market.
The Best Cheap Pre-Workout
The best cheap pre-workout is ENGN by Evlution.
ENGN fuels your engine by delivering a powerful blend of caffeine, B vitamins, and creatine. With 300 grams of caffeine and 3 grams of creatine per serve, ENG is well dosed. It comes in at around a dollar per serve, representing real value for money.
The 10 Best Cheap Pre-Workouts:
1. Evlution Nutrition ENGN
- 3 g creatine
- Approximately $1.01 per serving
- Provides energy boost
- Contains a proprietary blend
- High caffeine content
ENGN sells for on average $30.46 per container, which equates to approximately $1.01 per serving. ENGN packs a huge punch helping to improve performance during short, high-intensity exercise.
While 3g of creatine per serving isn’t necessarily an optimal dosage, it’s up there as far as pre-workouts are concerned, and you will notice a difference in your training capacity over time.
ENGN boasts that their product will “deliver focus, energy, and performance during training sessions” regardless of whether you’re in the gym, in the octagon, or on the stage.
The key ingredients in ENGN are caffeine, dosed at 300 mg, niacin vitamins B6 and B12 for energy, 1600 mg of beta-alanine to offset fatigue and muscle soreness, and creatine (2 grams) to enhance the ATP energy effect.
Bodybuilding.com gives ENGN a 9.1 out of 10 rating based on nearly 4,000 reviews, which is pretty impressive. The user consensus is that ENGN provides a smooth, energy boost and mental focus that is natural and side effect free. However, if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, the 300 grams that are packed into each serving of ENGN (about the same as 3 cups of coffee) may cause a jittery reaction.
2. Cellucor C4 Original
- Approximately 98 cents a serving
- 16 flavors
- Relatively low doses
At an average price of $29.19 (98 cents per serving) C4 original is slightly cheaper than ENGN, and with an incredible 16 different flavor options available, even the fussiest trainer should be able to find something to their liking!
Onto the fourth generation of their formula, C4 is constantly tweaking their pre-workout to give you the best results.
Ingredients such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and niacin help contribute to your body’s natural metabolism, whilst creatine and beta-alanine improve high-intensity exercise output and promote lean muscle growth.
The doses of the ingredients across the board here appear to be quite conservative. For example, you get 1 gram of creatine, which is half the dosage in Evlution ENGN. You also only get 150 mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to about one and a half cups of coffee.
Many people find that Cellucor C4 is powerful enough to provide them with an extra boost to their focus and energy level that they need to get them over the hump and into the flow of a great workout. This product is especially good for people who are keen to stay away from high stim ingredients. However, if you are after a serious kick, this is not the product for you.
3. Cobra Labs – The Curse!
- Approximately 74 cents per serving
- Energy boost
- Enhanced blood flow
- Proprietary Blend
With 50 servings for only $36.80 (74 cents per serving), Cobra Labs (now JNX Sports) offers the cheapest pre-workout product on our list. That doesn’t mean that it packs less of a punch than some of the more expensive brands, though!
It contains 155 mg of caffeine per serving, which is a considerable proportion of your recommended daily intake and means that one scoop should be more than enough to improve alertness and energize you for any workout!
The problem with The Curse is that its ingredients are hidden behind proprietary blends. That means that, on the whole, we do not know how much of each ingredient is in the product. Those ingredients are divided into several blends, including a Mind Control Matric, a Blood Flow Amplifier, and an Energizing Muscle Fuel Blend.
The Curse is available in four flavors, each of which is quite tasty. It also mixes well. The bottom line on The Curse is that it is amazingly cheap, contains caffeine and some other key pre-workout ingredients. Even if it’s a little underdosed, you can probably afford to double up on the dosage to enhance the effect!
4. Signature Pre-Workout
- 200 mg caffeine
- High in minerals
- Transparent ingredient doses
- No ingredients for strength or power
Signature Pre-Workout is put out by Bodybuilding.com. It is a no-frills product that provides you with some of the most researched pre-workout ingredients including citrulline, leucine, beta-alanine, taurine, and caffeine. However, there are no ingredients in this product that are designed to improve strength and power levels.
Signature Pre-Workout comes in at $1.02 per serving. A rather significant 200 mg dose of caffeine means that you should probably skip your morning coffee when taking this supplement. If you don’t tend to consume a whole lot of caffeine in your day-to-day life, or you are particularly intolerant of it, then it may be a good idea to start with a half dose. You can always step it up to a full scoop as your body adjusts over time.
In addition to the punchy caffeine dose, this pre-workout also contains sodium, potassium, and magnesium to promote natural muscle function and limit cramping. Signature aims to be transparent as far as what goes into each of their products, refusing to mislead consumers with “proprietary blends”. This means you will always know exactly what you’re putting into your body and how much you’re putting in.
5. Cellucor C4 – Ripped
- Specifically for fat loss
- Stimulant effect
- Boosts energy
- Some ingredients not backed by research
- Relatively expensive
Bodybuilding.com’s breakout product of the year for 2016, C4 Ripped aims to improve endurance performance without using creatine (which may cause weight gain) in their formula. This product comes in at around $1.33 per serving.
With ingredients specific to weight management such as green coffee bean extract, coleus forskohlii root extract, and cayenne fruit extract, C4 Ripped is the pre-workout for anyone looking to shed those extra pounds.
Cellucor C4 Ripped provides you with about as much caffeine as one and a half cups of coffee. It also includes an energy booster called Teacrine which works in conjunction with caffeine to boost its effect.
Cellucor C4 Ripped is a little more expensive than the original C4. If you are in a cutting phase, though, this is the better option.
- Improves energy and focus
- Tastes great
- Good mixability
- Relatively expensive
N.O-XPLODE is the first pre-workout supplement introduced by BSN, promoting a triumvirate of advanced technologies, aimed at improving your workout. The product’s thermic energy blend, myogenic matrix, and endura shot promote intense focus, maximize performance, and enhance endurance respectively. As a result, N.O-XPLODE targets all athletes to help them push their performance.
The product sells for approximately $1.16 per serving.
N.O XPLODE has a lot of ingredients. Some of them do not have any scientific backing yet the core pre-workout ingredients are here. These include caffeine at a dose of 275 mg, beta-alanine, and creatine. BSN also provides a caffeine-free version of this product for those who are not keen to put extra caffeine into their body.
7. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
- Tastes great
- 175 mg caffeine
- It may not give enough of an energy kick
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout delivers a sustained energy and mental focus boost to deliver a smooth, natural workout advantage. At 98 cents per serving, it is good value for money!
As well as having the “foundational ingredients” of other pre-workout supplements, Gold Standard goes the extra mile, or, as they like to say, beyond the basics. They are certified by “Informed-Choice, trusted by sport” which means they are batch tested for prohibited substances. The product contains Acetyl-L-Carnitine HCl for energy production, N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine for concentration, and a muscle matrix that contains AstraGIN for protein absorption.
A bonus with Gold Standard is its tasty flavors. It is available in:
- Green Apple
- Fruit Punch
- Blueberry Lemonade
Gold Standard also mixes well.
8. Medi-Evil Warfare
- Herbal formula
- Limited stimulatory effect
Medi-Evil Warfare is a herbal formula costing 81 cents per serving, which is suitable for athletes who must adhere to anti-doping regulations. With good levels of beta-alanine, beetroot extract, and Arginine AKG, Warfare aims to increase alertness and endurance for every workout.
There is no caffeine in Medi-Evil Warfare, which will be good for those after a completely non-stim-based product but not so good if you’re after a decent energy kick. You get 50 servings per container and come in a range of very tasty flavors, including WaterMelon Crush, Tropical Punch, Citrus Burst, and Raspberry Rage.
9. Cobra Labs – Shadow-X1. Evlution Nutrition ENGN
- High focus and energy
- No proprietary blends
- Pump effect
- Possible post-workout crash
The second supplement by Cobra Labs (now JNX Sport) to appear on this list, Shadow-X is more expensive than its sister product, “The Curse!”, coming in at $1.04 per serving. A nominee for best fat loss supplement in 2016, Shadow-X aims to improve endurance performance with every key ingredient at clinical dosage.
Cobra Labs Shadow-X is the most potent stim pre-workout on this list. It delivers 350 mg of caffeine, which is about as high that most people would want to go without risking a post-workout crash. If you have a sensitivity to caffeine you may still experience that crash after about 90 minutes. Other ingredients include beta-alanine, taurine, leucine, citrulline, and betaine.
10. Scitec Nutrition – Superhero
- 282.5 g caffeine
- Green Tea Extract
- Promotes fat los
- May cause a jittery effect
One of the most well-reviewed pre-workouts going, Superhero has labeled this product a “superpowder”. Self-proclaimed puns aside, there must be a reason Scitec Nutrition is so popular with consumers! This pre-workout is available at $1.43 per serving.
This pre-workout contains a nitrate source in the form of beetroot and pure l-citrulline as a precursor to arginine, both of which help to improve circulation and increase blood flow to working muscles.
Superhero is a solid pre-workout that is dosed to provide you with a powerful energy boost. However, its effectiveness is largely built around its nearly 300 mg of caffeine with some of the other ingredients being slightly underdosed.
The most important factor for you to consider when choosing your pre-workout formula is the type of exercise you are doing. Products range from those containing ingredients to help boost your strength and power performance in the gym, to those which improve endurance during longer-lasting aerobic activity.
Buying ‘cheap’ pre-workout supplements shouldn’t necessarily mean that you have to compromise on quality ingredients at appropriate doses. Any product which comes in at under $1.30 per serving can be considered inexpensive. Whether it’s good value for money or not, depends on exactly what’s in it and in what quantity.
When it comes to getting value for money in a pre-workout, you need to be focused on getting certain key ingredients at the right doses. Many pre-workouts load up on a whole list of filler ingredients to look impressive. Invariably these are underdosed, severely limiting their effectiveness. Here are the key ingredients to look out for:
As the world’s most popular stimulant caffeine is the base ingredient in most pre-workouts. It acts on both the body’s energy system and the brain. Caffeine will provide an immediate energy kick, lifting mood and improving mental alertness. However, if you go beyond 350 grams per serve, you may experience the jitters and a post-workout crash.
Citrulline indirectly leads to a boost in nitric oxide in the body. This then opens up the blood vessels to allow for an increased flow of blood to the muscle cells. This increases the pump effect and fast tracks oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cell. Painting citrulline with malate allows for greater absorption by the body.
Creatine supplementation will replenish the ATP system while you are working out. This will allow you to keep training when you would otherwise be forced to stop. This can allow you to get out those last vital reps that make all the difference!
Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that can buffer lactic acid. This offsets fatigue, allowing you to train harder for longer.
Betaine, which comes from beetroot juice, can boost strength, power, and endurance. It is also believed to be able to help reduce body fat levels.
What is the difference between cheap and expensive pre-workouts?
The most expensive pre-workouts often add a premium for the brand name. The companies behind them often spend a lot of money on glossy ads and sponsorships. That money has to be recouped and it’s the end-user who is going to pay it. Often expensive pre-workouts throw together a potpourri of ingredients to look impressive on the label but then underdose them to save money. They often also add fillers and flavorings to deliver fancy flavors.
Cheap pre-workouts should focus on the key ingredients such as caffeine, citrulline-malate, beta-alanine, betaine, and creatine.
Is it possible to make my own cheap pre-workout?
Yes, it is possible to make your own cheap pre-workout. You can source all of your ingredients from a bulk supplier like bulksupplements. By buying the ingredients separately and then mixing them with water, you will be able to bring the daily cost of your pre-workout to just a few cents every day.
Here are the ingredients to include in your home-made pre-workout:
- Citrulline Malate
- Table Salt
Why do I get a tingling sensation when I take pre-workout supplements?
The tingling sensation that often comes with taking a pre-workout is due to beta-alanine. This ingredient is added to offset muscle fatigue and soreness. The tingling sensation to the lips and extremities is temporary and in no way harmful.
You don’t have to steer towards the top end of the pre-workout market to get a quality product. In this article, I’ve identified 10 pre-workout that does a good job of delivering the energy focus and power surge you need to do the business in the gym. My favorite is ENGN by Evlution, which delivers plenty of caffeine and creatine, along with a powerful walloping of B vitamins to fuel your engine.
This article was last updated on December 14, 2022 .