Last week my wife bought me a pre-workout that tasted horrible (picture below). Instead of biting the bullet, and drink it like a boss (yuck!), I’ve decided to change the flavor to make it taste, well, more desirable. Today I will explain how to make pre-workout taste better, whenever it tastes bitter, sour, or have no taste at all.
In general, you can make pre-workout taste better by mixing it with zero-calorie beverages, mineral water, freshly squeezed lemon juice, or coconut water. However, the type of base you choose will depend on what pre-workout tastes like in the beginning.
Below you can find 5 ways to drink your bad tasting pre-workout and transform it into an amazing and delicious drink (I will also touch on what you should not mix with pre-workout).
Why Does Pre-Workout Taste Bad?
It’s not a secret that many chemical compounds have a taste. Some taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty, or umami.
Why does pre-workout taste bad? As a whole, the pre-workout can taste bad because of the ingredients that are present in the powder. For example, valine, leucine, and isoleucine don’t have any flavor and have a bitter taste, as well as creatine, caffeine, and AAKG.
On the other hand, nitric oxide has a slightly metallic taste, whereas ingredients like citrulline malate and taurine can taste sour and acidic.
Why so many ingredients in pre-workout? In general, there are many ingredients in pre-workout because their combination helps to elicit a synergistic effect on acute exercise performance, as well as subsequent training adaptations compared to single ingredients alone.
The ingredients that are typically found in most pre-workout supplements include:
- BCAA (valine, leucine, and isoleucine)
- Nitric oxide agents
Apart from these, you also find a laundry list of additives to either enhance the color, taste, or texture like:
- Red beet juice powder
- Cocoa powder
- Silicon dioxide
As you can imagine, pre-workout supplement brands use different combinations and proprietary blends of these compounds in order to find the highest efficacy, as well as to differentiate from other companies. This means the flavors will be different, too.
How To Make Pre-Workout Taste Better?
Overall, you can make pre-workout taste better by mixing the powder with liquids that can enhance the supplement flavor like flavored water (infused water with citrus, berries, melons, fresh ginger, or mint).
You can also add powers like cocoa, vanilla, or essential-oil extracts to mask the bitterness of the supplement.
Can you blend pre-workout for better taste? As a whole, you can blend pre-workout with spring water, milk, coconut milk, or lemon juice for a better taste, especially if your supplement feels bitter or too sweet. However, you first need to identify which flavor is the most dominant in the power and based on that choose the right ingredient.
For example, if your pre-workout already tastes too sour, there is no need of adding ingredients like lemon, lime, or orange juice. On the other hand, if your pre-workout tastes too sweet, you could enhance it by adding a bit of salt.
Okay, wanna know what can you mix with your pre-workout to make it taste delicious? Here are 5 ways to transform your standard drink into a mouth-watering and energy-boosting treat.
#1 Add Fresh Lemon Juice
Adding freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice can make your pre-workout taste better, especially if your pre-workout has no taste or it tastes too sweet. Plus, lemons contain phytonutrients, as well as other powerful antioxidants, which prevent cell damage from oxidation.
Why does pre-workout have no taste? Some of the pre-workout can have no taste because of the beta-alanine, one of the main ingredients in most the pre-workout supplements. Beta-alanine is an unflavoured powder so it doesn’t have any taste when mixed with mineral water.
I love to drink lemon water every day because of the great taste, but recently I also started adding it to my pre-workout.
A study by Dr. Sybille Buchwald-Werner published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has documented the effects of taking 400 mg of the lemon extract before a workout, compared with the placebo group.
In the graph above you can see the acute effects of Lemon extract on creatine kinase, which is a biomarker for muscle damage typically increased after intense exercise.
The author concluded that taking 400mg/day of lemon extract “resulted in significantly less muscle strength loss, as well as reducing muscle damage and improved recovery after exhaustive exercise in comparison to a placebo group” (Buchwald-Werner, 2018).
As you can see, adding concentrated lemon juice to your pre-workout not only makes it taste better but also accelerate recovery from DOMS and muscular fatigue.
#2 Drink Pre-Workout with Coconut Water
Using coconut water as the base for your pre-workout can make it taste better, especially if your pre-workout has a bitter or sour taste. Coconut water is significantly sweeter, but it doesn’t cause nausea, fullness, or stomach upset. It is also easier to consume in a larger amount compared with plain water.
What makes pre-workout taste sour? The main ingredients that make pre-workout taste sour are amino acids like citrulline malate, glutamate, and aspartic acid. Other ingredients that make the supplement sour include citric acid, malic acid, as well as other natural and artificial flavors.
Coconut water is naturally rich in potassium, sodium, chloride, and carbohydrate, which helps to keep you hydrated during and after your workout.
Of course, you could add Splenda, Equal, Sweet n Low, or even Stevia. In fact, you could also use Gatorade or Lucozade. When it comes to performance, drinking coconut water is as good as ingesting a commercial sports drink for whole body rehydration after hard workouts.
However, many of these sports drinks contain fructose and/or maltodextrin, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and added electrolytes.
This is why I really like the idea of mixing coconut water with pre-workout. It’s a natural alternative to sweeteners and manufactured sports drinks, which as we know are full of artificial flavors.
#3 Drink Pre-Workout with Milk
You can use milk as the base for your pre-workout to make it taste better because it can neutralize the bitterness of the product. Milk has naturally occurring nutritional proprieties that help to improve recovery after both resistance and endurance exercises.
What makes pre-workout taste bitter? The ingredients that make pre-workout taste bitter are BCAA (valine, leucine, and isoleucine), creatine monohydrate, and caffeine. Other bitter ingredients present in the blend can include tyrosine, arginine, histidine, and phenylalanine.
Drinking milk with pre-workout not only makes it feel better but also gives you an additional portion of proteins (casein and whey protein) with the common ratio of 3:1 (casein to whey). Milk also has many other ingredients that can aid in recovery after exercise like:
- amino acids
Not only that.
Dr. Danniela García-Berger from Universidad Mayor in Santiago in Chile has compared the effects of drinking milk versus isotonic sports drink before exercise on fluid homeostasis and time-trial performance.
The results have shown that “milk had similar effects to isotonic sports drink on fluid homeostasis and performance. Therefore, milk can be considered as alternatives to hydration drinks prior to a race in road cyclists” (García-Berger, 2020).
I also think that milk (together with coffee) is a good substitute for pre-workout (in case you’ve run out of your powder).
#4 Make A Smoothie
Another way to make your pre-workout taste better is by adding more water and mixing it with a small number of frozen fruits like berries or cherries. Making a smoothie (especially with orange or mandarin) is also a decent way to transform your drink if your pre-workout tastes spicy.
Here is the video from Barthel Fitness.
Can you mix your pre-workout in a smoothie? As a whole, you can mix your pre-workout in a smoothie to make it taste better. However, you should only add a handful of fruits because more food can stimulate your digestion, kick-start the parasympathetic nervous system, and push the blood into your stomach and away from the muscles.
This is what you do not want before the workout.
#5 Add a Pinch of Salt To Your Pre-Workout
You can add a small amount of salt to your pre-workout to make it feel better, especially if you want to enhance the sweetness in your drink.
Adding a pinch of salt into your drink can also help to delay the onset of dehydration during exercise and improve exercise performance.
Studies have shown that “voluntary hyperhydration can be induced by acute consumption of sodium and has a favorable effect on hydration status and performance during subsequent exercise in the heat” (Morris et al. 2015).
Salt apart from making your pre-workout mix taste delicious also helps to increase serum electrolyte concentration, which is important if you like to participate in long-distance endurance events like running, swimming, or cycling.
How Should Pre-Workout Taste?
These days many pre-workouts come with hundreds of flavors that feel incredibly tasty. However, sometimes you may buy something that is just too sweet or too bitter, especially if the product is effective.
What makes pre-workout taste sweet? The ingredients that make pre-workout taste sweet are amino acids like alanine, glutamine, serine, threonine, and proline. Some pre-workouts also include sugars or substances that mimic sugary tastes like saccharin, sucralose, and other natural or artificial flavors (to mask the bitterness of other ingredients).
What Is The Tastiest Pre-Workout Flavor?
I recently did a survey on multiple social media groups and forums asking people what are the best pre-workout flavors.
Here are the results.
As you can see above, over 40% of people said that the best pre-workout flavor is fruit punch. The second place went to watermelon punch flavor and the third place to bubblegum ice cream flavor.
What Should You Not Mix With Pre-Workout?
Here is the list of things you should not add to your pre-workout:
- Sparkling water
- Whole fruits
It’s hard to know exactly why pre-workout taste is awful because these ingredients are often displayed on the supplement facts label in the form of a “proprietary blend”, and are not disclosed to the consumer in a transparent way.
The easiest way to enhance your pre-workout taste is to identify which taste is the most present in the product. Then you can choose the right ingredient.