What Should You Have in Your Pre-Workout? - The Muscle PhD

What Should You Have in Your Pre-Workout?

So, you’ve decided to fully optimize your pre-workout beverage.

Instead of asking somebody else to do so, customizing your pre-workout is actually going to help you improve your gains and see improvements much faster, not to mention getting a better pump and increased recovery.

While we usually encourage you to only do what best fits your goals, there are a few general rules of thumb when you’re making your pre-workout.

Focus on:

  1. Better recovery
  2. Increased blood flow
  3. Increased pump
  4. Guiding nutrients into the muscles to build them

How do you make this miracle formula? Well, you start with:

The Building Blocks to Trigger Muscle Growth

First you need something that’s going to help your body trigger its protein synthesis process, which is the process in which your body uses its protein in order to build muscle.

Essential amino acids (EAAs) are your go-to when it comes to triggering muscle growth. These are the amino acids that can’t be converted into protein by the body; you have to supplement them through your diet, or in this case, your pre-workout drink!

If you’re training while fasted, we recommend having your essential amino acids, around 10-15g. However, if you ate a meal, and trained an hour after that, you have all the amino acids you need in your blood, triggering muscle growth this time through branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). For BCAAs we recommend around 6-10g.

Enhancing Recovery with Your Pre-Workout

The second thing you need to worry about is how you can augment your recovery process. For this we recommend beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, commonly known as HMB. HMB helps your muscle rebuilding process, and it  also increases your protein synthesis while decreasing your protein breakdown.

We’ve conducted studies that show how taking HMB before a workout leads to better overall training sessions than after it. Our recommendations for HMB are 3g in your pre-workout.

Drinking a pre-workout shake

Blood Flow and Pump

Your friend when it comes to blood flow and an increased pump would be citrulline. Citrulline has been shown to be important for things like blood flow, and it helps you increase your pump.

When paired with beetroot juice power, it can support nitric oxide (NO2) production, which can amplify the pump even further. We recommend 6-9g of citrulline, and between 10-20g of beetroot juice powder.

Now that you have your ultimate cocktail, how about some strength-enhancing ingredients?

Enhancing Strength

You probably expected us to mention this one.

It’s true that creatine is a tried and true supplement, however we believe there’s a timing aspect that a lot of people throw out of the window when it comes to protein. We recommend taking a look at our video “Does the Protein Window of Opportunity Exist?” to get a better understanding on when you should take creatine.

Creatine enhances your strength as well as your pump. It also may have cell signaling effects too! Satellite cells, which are the cells that help us grow, turn on when you take creatine, which helps guide your body to shuttlein better nutrients to your muscle during a workout. We recommend taking 3-5g of creatine pre-workout.


It’s important to understand that carbs by themselves don’t help you build muscles, however they do help supply you with energy.

If you’re on a low-carb diet, we suggest having just 5-10g of carbs in your pre-workout. And 20-30g of carbs in your meal would be optimal if you’re not on a low-carb diet.

Final Recommendation on Your Pre-Workout

Finally, keep in mind that optimizing your pump is also related with how much sodium and electrolytes you consume, so may sure your pre-workout is high in electrolytes! If you need that energy boost aspect in your meal, you could throw 200-300mg of caffeine in there as well.

Here’s the formula to getting a preworkout that checks all the boxes:

✅ 10g-15g of EAAs if fasted

✅ 6g-10g of BCAAs if you had a meal

✅ 3g of HMB

✅ 6-9g of citrulline

✅ 10g-20g of beetroot juice

✅ 3g-5g of creatine

✅ Mix in an electrolyte-rich beverage

We hope this article helped you understand the basics of what you should include in your pre-workout!

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