Pre-workout supplements come with a wide range of benefits. Some are proven and backed by science, and some are still being evaluated.

However, if you can get the same effects from other, more natural sources, it may be worth a try. We all know that the diet part of diet and exercise is crucial to meeting your fitness goals. With common food and drink options providing you the same benefits as a pre-workout powder, why not give it a go?

In this review, we will cover 5 different natural pre-workout alternatives that you can add to your diet anytime.

Pre-workouts are fast, not very filling, and take effect before you get to the gym (about 25 minutes). Compared to food sources, drinks are simple, affordable and easy to consume.

Instead of mixing a pre-workout powder into your glass of water, though, consider these alternatives.

1. Coffee (But Not Too Much!)

The boost of energy in your pre-workout supplements typically comes from caffeine. That caffeine comes from coffee beans in most cases. Why not head right to the source and get your energy from your coffee pot?

A typical cup of black coffee (a natural alternative) will contain about 90 mg of caffeine. Compared to the 180 to 300 mg average caffeine amount in pre-workouts, this isn't very much. But it is still enough to jump-start your mental awareness, focus and raise energy levels.

Just keep your daily intake under 400 mg total, and you will be fine. Regular coffee drinking is an energy booster for sure, but you must have nutrients, also. Natural pre-workout alternatives can still contain coffee or bean extract, so don't be surprised to see it on the ingredient list.

Related Article - Coffee Vs Pre-Workout

Black coffee on work desk

2. Green Or Matcha Tea

Another caffeine source is green tea, and many pre-workout brands use a green tea mix instead of coffee bean to provide their kick. As a natural pre-workout supplement, drinking green tea and green tea extract can enhance athletic performance.

You can do the same thing with your own cup of green tea. If you don't like green tea, black tea will also work. Natural pre-workouts are easy to make and can help you achieve muscle growth while avoiding dehydration, muscle cramps, or having to take a million shots of caffeine.

However, the safer and more beneficial alternative is matcha tea. Matcha tea has shown the ability to lower breathing rates while enhancing fat oxidation during moderate exercise.[1] It also contains natural caffeine to give you that needed energy boost.

Macha Pre-Workout Supplement Alternative

3. Ginger Lemonade

Ginger lemonade may not have the energy kick you get when you drink coffee or a pre-workout powder, but it does have other benefits. It has shown promise in fat loss aid, can support and strengthen your immune system and relieves nausea.

Ginger mixed with a sweet lemonade can also provide enough sugar to increase your heart rate and give you some energy to start your workout. Ginger also poses possible gonad and liver function attributes to help flush your system and keep your digestive system fully functional.

4. Fruit Juices Such As Beetroot Juice

Natural sugars found in fruit are known to be more potent at waking you up than that morning cup of joe. So, as a pre-workout substitute, it is also much healthier.

Beetroot is a common extract found in many pre-workout supplements already, but you can skip the powder and get your own beetroot juice or make a fruit juice mix ahead of time flavored to your liking.

All natural and easy to keep, fruit juice is a great way to boost your immune system and stay active and focused.[2]

Fruit Juices Pre-Workout Alternative

5. “Power” Smoothies

Fruit smoothies aren't a new thing to the sports and fitness world. Blending fresh fruit is a great way to drink your vitamins, minerals, and natural sugars.

To take it to the next level, though, don't forget your veggies. While the resulting color may not look appealing, the fruit flavors will mask any vegetable you put in, and you will get the benefits of both.

Add a scoop of creatine or protein powder, and you have a "Power" smoothie pre-workout snack that provides energy, vitamins, and muscle-building properties you won't find anywhere else.

The fitness industry is also flush with pre-made smoothies and mixes, and these pre-workout product fillers may contain too many preservatives and artificial flavors.

6 Foods That Actually Work As Pre-Workout Alternatives

If you prefer to eat your pre-workout alternatives, there are foods that fit right in with your diet that can provide the same benefits. Some of the following foods may already be on your daily menu.

1. Fruits

Fruits are packed with natural sugars, vitamins, minerals, and energy. You can pick up almost any fruit and reap major benefits. It is also recommended you have plenty of fruit every day.

The list goes on: apples, bananas, oranges, pineapple, and mango. There isn't a bad fruit to pick, and you can mix, match and eat them raw and on the go. It is the perfect food for a busy morning or heading out the door to the gym.

2. Bread And Nut Butter

A small nut butter sandwich will load you up with carbs, protein, and fats that give your workout explosive power. A peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, for example, is packed with complex carbs.

The carbohydrates from the bread supply you with energy and fuel for your muscles, while the nut (peanut, hazelnut, almond, etc.) butter gives you protein and fat to keep you full, motivated, and energized.

As a pre-workout snack, nut butter and bread can offer a significant pre-workout boost. Half a sandwich matched with matcha green tea drinking, and you have energy production, nutritional value, and enhanced fat oxidation and muscle function.

3. Collagen Peptides

One of the many benefits of a pre-workout mix is the reduction in recovery time properties of the amino acids and creatine found in the formula. Collagen is the body's primary protein source, and you can supplement it with collagen peptides.

This group of amino acids is readily available in broth poultry skin and pork. Your lunch or dinner can easily replace the amounts you receive from a pre-workout mix and taste a lot better.

4. Oats

Oats are a great source of complex carbs, minerals, and energy. Steel-cut oats are preferred because of their high protein and low glycemic index properties.

Eaten daily, you will have all the energy you need for that day along with the benefits of low-fat mornings.

You can even add nuts or fruit to your oats for a fresh take and a power-loading breakfast that keeps you motivated (and full) throughout your workout compared to other natural pre-workout sources.

5. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are the bananas of the vegetable world. They contain more complex carbohydrate sources, antioxidants, magnesium, and potassium. You can bake them or boil them (put them in a stew). You can even make toast or chips out of them without losing any beneficial properties.

Healthy foods lead to a healthy pre-workout alternative that will provide energy for enhanced exercise performance. The positive effects of sweet potatoes include complex carbohydrate energy metabolism during your next training session.

6. Yogurt And Fruit

Take a probiotic yogurt, and you have a healthy gut, loads of carbs, and protein. Add some fresh fruit, and you also have simple sugars for energy, mental focus and endurance.

This mix is highly affordable and portable, and since you can mix and match flavors, it doesn't get old eating it every day. You can mix it with Greek yogurt, low-sugar yogurt, and fresh berries to make a high-energy supplement to fit your personal preferences and nutritional goals.

Yogurt and Fruits Pre-Workout Alternative

Other Pre-Workout Alternatives You Can Buy

If you don’t have the time or energy to make your own pre-workout drink or meal every morning, you can buy some pre-workout alternatives. While they may not be a daily solution, they will work in a pinch. You don’t have to upset your pre-workout routine because you don’t have the time to brew a pot of dark roast coffee.

As long as you avoid high-fat foods or spicy foods and your pre-workout nutrition can handle ready-made options, even if they have some artificial sweeteners.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks have a lot of sugar, but they also have caffeine levels that rival pre-workout mixes. You also get a lot of minerals and amino acids that can help your endurance levels and recovery times.

You will want to limit your intake of these, of course, as they can drastically increase heart rate and blood pressure. While an energy drink is not a healthy drink, it will increase heart rate and blood flow while giving you that additional energy you require.

Learn More About - Pre-Workout Vs Energy Drinks

Caffeine/Energy Pills

Caffeine pills are a decent alternative if you just want that energy boost and you are already on your way to the gym. Most pills come with a few fillers but nothing that won't leave your system on its own.

The stimulant is typically caffeine anhydrous, which dissolves rapidly in water and is absorbed by your system faster.

Easy Pre-Workout Alternative Recipes

If you’re not a fan of store-bought pre-workout supplement powders, you can get creative in your kitchen with these simple, nutritious pre-workout recipes that will fuel your training session.

1. Coffee-infused Banana-Berry Pre-Workout Smoothie:

  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1 cup of almond milk or water
  • 6 ice cubes

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. The banana and berries provide quick carbs and vitamins, chia seeds offer omega-3s and fiber, and the coffee delivers a caffeine boost. If you wanted to, you could add a scoop of protein powder to the mix, just for fun.

As for macros, you’re looking at approximately 250 calories, 5-6 grams of protein and fats, and around 50 grams of carbs, with around 90 mg of caffeine.

2. Dark Chocolate Almond Energy Snack:

  • A handful of almonds
  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  • 30 grams of dark chocolate (70% or higher)

Enjoy the almonds and apple with the peanut butter as a dip, and have the dark chocolate on the side. The apple provides quick carbs, almonds add protein and healthy fats, dark chocolate offers a caffeine boost along with some antioxidants, and peanut butter is a tasty source of protein.

Macro-wise, this one’s around 450 calories, with approximately 15 grams of protein, 25 grams of fats, and 40 grams of carbs. It’s lower in caffeine, but depending on the chocolate, you can get anywhere from 20-30 mg of caffeine.

4 Tips To Make Your Pre-Workout Substitutes Work Better

Provided you don't want to take a pre-workout pills or powder, and you choose an alternative method from the list above, you should make the most out of it. Below are details on how you can get the biggest benefits from your diet and exercise routine without a pre-workout.

1. Eat A Sensible Diet

Eating sensibly is a staple of any diet or exercise program. However, to ensure you get all the benefits found in a pre-workout, you need to balance your meals, intake times, and even serving sizes to ensure you get everything you need.

Carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and even amino acids are all found through your diet. Like anything else, you can over or underdo it and need to find that balance. Online calculators, tracking macros, and knowing what you are eating are critical to getting the biggest gains from your food.

2. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is crucial for system and muscle recovery. Your muscles get stronger when they have time to rest.[3] Once you work out and break down your muscles, they need time to heal.

Cycling your muscle group workouts throughout the week is great, but you also need enough sleep each night. Six solid hours of sleep is minimal for a heavy workout load, though eight hours is better.

3. Drink Plenty Of Water

Staying hydrated is essential. Not only for your health but for the transfer of all those nutrients you are eating. To ensure your muscles recover, your blood pressure stays in range, and your body receives the fluid it needs, you should be drinking at least a gallon of water per day.

For those with a less stringent workout schedule or if you aren't following a high-intensity regimen, a couple of quarts per day is ideal. Just make sure your body is hydrated, and all of your supplements are taken with plenty of water.

4. Add In Some Alternative Exercises

One problem with a lot of workouts is that they are routine. You perform the same exercises, and eventually, you will plateau. You will stop seeing the gains and performance output because your body is used to the weights and movements.

Mixing up your routine and adding alternate exercises will help you maintain your body image without plateauing. It also helps to get the nutrients you are eating or drinking to new muscles where they are needed most.

Drinking Water for Hydration

Frequently Asked Pre-Workout Alternatives Questions

What food should you avoid eating before working out?

You want to stay away from spicy or high-fiber foods. You also want to try and avoid carbonated beverages, dairy, alcohol, or refined sugar. Most of these should not be in your diet anyway, but taken before a workout can spell disaster in the gym.

What food can you eat after working out?

Post-workout, you want protein and carbohydrates. Yogurt, nut butter, nuts, pretzels, and poultry are all good options for a small recovery snack or meal.

Do I need pre-workout supplements if I'm eating a healthy diet?

The short answer is no. C4 Pre-Workout and other pre-workout supplements provide a boost of energy you may not need. A pre-workout isn't needed if you are well hydrated, eating healthy, and properly maintaining your workout routine. You can get everything you need from your diet alone. However, supplementation helps you get there faster.

Is protein powder the same as pre-workout?

No, pre-workout supplements are made to give you energy, focus, and stamina to make it through your entire workout and the endurance to push harder. Protein powders are designed to aid in muscle recovery and fuel your muscles when at rest, or after your training.

Is honey a good pre-workout?

Honey is low on the glycemic index scale, so you won't have the sugar crash you will find with other energy sources. However, it does wear off quickly, and it is advised that if you use honey as a pre-workout, you need to take additional servings every 20 to 30 minutes during your routine.

What is a good homemade, natural pre-workout you can make?

The easiest and fastest homemade natural pre-workout is a power smoothie. Blending water, ice, fruit, veggies, and a scoop of creatine and protein powder will have you out the door and ready for your workout in minutes. Plus, they taste great and are easy to make in advance.

Banana as pre-workout?

Yes, bananas can be a good natural pre-workout snack due to their easily digestible carbohydrate content, which provides energy, and their potassium content, which can potentially prevent muscle cramps.

Amino acids as pre-workout?

Certain amino acids can help fuel your muscles and reduce fatigue. However, since that’s not their primary role, they aren’t the most optimal pre-workout supplement.

Salt as pre-workout?

Yes, salt is a good natural pre-workout. It is a great source of electrolytes that are easily depleted while working out while also leading to increased blood flow which could help with muscle contractions.

Baking soda as pre-workout?

Some athletes use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as a pre-workout to buffer lactic acid and potentially improve performance. A common dose is 0.15 grams per pound of body weight. However, such doses of baking soda can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, so it’s best to be cautious with this one.


Natural pre-workout supplements are popular because they work. It also helps that they are simple, mostly affordable, and quick.

However, natural pre-workout formulas may contain too much caffeine, ingredients you disagree with, or you just don't want to spend the money on them.

Luckily there are natural alternatives you can add to your daily routine and diet and get the same benefits and results. Hopefully, now you know what to add to your shopping list and now know how to prepare natural pre-workout alternatives.



Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.