Everyone agrees that you don’t forget your first experience with pre-workout. The buzz of energy as it works its way into your bloodstream, the tingles across your skin, and the insistent need to get moving, and crush your workout.
But there’s something that most people who use pre-workouts will also agree on.
Most pre-workout formulas taste pretty bad!
Bad enough that learning how to quickly chug a pre-workout is a definite skill. This article breaks down what causes your pre-workout to taste bad, why, and what you can do about it.
What Makes Your Pre-workout Taste So Bad?
The bitter aftertaste of a lot of pre-workouts can be tracked down to a handful of ingredients. You can expect most brands to share that taste, as the cause is the ingredients that bring all of the physical benefits.
Found mostly in sources of protein, like meat and fish, creatine is a general-purpose supplement that’s incredibly widely used, because it boosts muscular endurance, gives you more long-term energy, and can massively help with muscle growth.
Lots of people take creatine as a separate supplement. It’s generally available as a powder that needs to be mixed with water and taken 30 minutes before you exercise.
Because it’s such an effective supplement, as well as being relatively cheap and something most gym goers will have heard of, creatine is added to most pre-workouts.
Anyone who has tasted unflavoured creatine (many high-quality brands sell micronized creatine without artificial flavors or additives) will know how bad it tastes. The flavor is incredibly bitter and leaves a long-lasting aftertaste that lingers on the tongue.
Related – How to mix creatine properly
So a pre-workout high in all-important creatine is naturally going to have a bitter flavor.
Most of the world runs on caffeine, and the fitness industry is no exception.
Caffeine is proven to help with alertness, focus, energy, and fat loss, making it the ideal supplement for a pre-workout to contain.
The most common form of caffeine used in a pre-workout formula is anhydrous caffeine, which is dehydrated caffeine. Like creatine, anhydrous caffeine tastes incredibly bitter, which can be difficult to mask with other flavors.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
There are nine essential amino acids that our bodies use to build muscle. The three amino acids regularly called BCAAs (isoleucine, leucine, and valine) can’t be made in our body, and have to be found in our diet or supplements.
Helping to build muscle, reduce fatigue and push through an extra rep or two, BCAAs are quickly becoming one of the most important and most used, supplements by any smart weightlifter.
Like the other active ingredients in most pre-workouts, BCAAs have a taste that’s incredibly bitter on the tongue.
Why Does Pre-Workout Taste so Bad
When looking at the ingredients listed above, you might start to see a recurring theme…
The main reason why pre-workout powders usually taste bad is that they include ingredients that are noticeably bitter to taste. These primary ingredients are caffeine, creatine, and BCAAs and when combined in a pre-workout, these bitter ingredients usually lead to an unappetizing taste.
How Do Pre-workout Brands Try to Fix This Problem?
To fix the issue of the main three ingredients of pre-workouts being so bitter, supplement companies crank out products in a huge range of flavors, mostly by loading their products with artificial flavoring and sweeteners.
But this can have the opposite effect. Firstly, for some people, the taste of artificial sweeteners isn’t a pleasant one and might be just as bad as what it’s masking.
To note, I have a bitter palette so I actually prefer a plain and bitter pre-workout. When trying to mask the taste of pre-workouts, these unique flavors often go to the other end of the spectrum and become too sweet.
Second, the bitter, unpleasant flavor of most supplements is surprisingly strong and hard to overcome. That means either drowning it out with flavoring or leaving an aftertaste and defeating the point of adding so many artificial chemicals.
The best option is to experiment. Both with different pre-workout products and with the methods you can use to help make your choice of pre-workout more palatable. (More on this later in the article.)
Should Your Pre-workout Actually Taste Bad?
While companies are going to do everything they can to make their products taste good, the
active compounds in a pre-workout that will give you the energy and pump you’re looking for, while letting you work harder, are all naturally bitter tasting.
What that means is that any effective pre-workout formula is going to at least have an underlying bitter aftertaste.
It’s something that should be expected, and can even be used as a rule of thumb. Pre-workouts that contain low levels of active, effective compounds are going to taste better, but this means that they’re also likely to be less effective in the long run.
If your pre-workout doesn’t have an aftertaste, this could be a sign to investigate whether your pre-workout is delivering on its promises.
How to Make Your Pre-workout Taste Better
If you’re really struggling with the bitter taste of your pre-workout, there are a few things you can do to enhance the taste and flavor.
1) Add Your Own Flavoring
A pre-workout doesn’t have to be added to plain water. Adding it to another, pre-mixed drink, or adding a flavor sachet can help to mask the taste and make it easier to drink.
Keep in mind that doing this adds more calories, and either sugars or artificial sweeteners, to your pre-workout, which you’ll have to take into account if you’re currently cutting or on a fixed diet.
2) Add it to a Shake or Smoothie
Again, adding pre-workout to a smoothie is a great way to mask the taste. A lot of gyms are getting in on this, with some even having their own smoothie bars inside the gym itself where you can request a pre-made smoothie filled with your choice of supplements.
If your gym doesn’t have this facility, it’s something you can also easily do from home.
3) Hold Your Nose
It might sound strange, but holding your nose can make a real difference in how easy a pre-workout supplement is to swallow.
Your sense of smell is estimated to be 80% of what you taste. So it stands to reason that, just like having a cold, holding your nose when you down your pre-workout can help it taste better, or at least, less bad.
4) Add Less Water
Your pre-workout should have its recommended serving size and amount of water it should be mixed with as part of the instructions.
But if you’re struggling to get it down, it might be worth experimenting with a smaller mixer. After all, drinking 250ml of water is twice as easy as drinking 500ml.
If you’re going to do this, do not dry scoop your pre-workout.
Dry scooping, (taking pre-workout without mixing it, as a dry powder) can cause a host of health issues and is simply less effective than drinking it as a mixed solution. This is why you only see gym bros and TikTokers doing it as a meme.
Related – Can you dry scoop protein powder
5) Buy Another Brand
If, after attempting all of this, you still can’t stomach your pre-workout, you’re left with one last option.
Buy another brand, and try that instead. Pre-workouts come with many different ingredients and more importantly, different doses of each ingredient. The common ingredients in a pre-workout that will give a bitter taste include:
- Citrulline Malate
We can’t give an exact recommendation for the split of ingredients that would offer the best taste (otherwise we’d make our own formula!) but at least being aware of these key ingredients will mean you can compare brands against one another and try them for yourself.
If you’re taking supplements, you’re taking them for the desired effect or outcome, not necessarily the taste. With that said, some supplements like a pre-workout tend to taste bad and can end up being difficult to take.
The reason why pre-workouts taste bad is because they contain active ingredients and stimulants that are incredibly bitter to taste. Caffeine, BCAAs, and creatine are three notable ingredients that are bitter and result in pre-workouts having a noticeably bad taste.
Not all pre-workouts will taste bad, however, companies will often try to counter the bitter taste of the stimulant inducing ingredients with added sweeteners and popular flavours like berry, cola, or tropical fruit.
This definitely helps and you can also use some of the tactics above to make your pre-workouts taste better.
Our best advice would be to request some samples from the brands directly or in a supplement store and this will mean you can find some of the best tasting pre-workouts – just make sure you also pay attention to the active ingredients as this is the most important thing!
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