A Simple & Effective Pre-Workout Nootropic Stack that Won’t Break the Bank


Probably the most watered down sector of the supplement industry is the “pre-workout” category. Pretty much every supplement company has their own rendition of pre-workout that is usually a “proprietary blend” (i.e. an undisclosed concoction of ingredients) of insufficiently dosed amino acids, vitamins/minerals, some fancy non-monohydrate form of creatine and copious amounts of stimulants.

The sad part about it is people will pay a premium to keep these pre-workout supplements stashed in their cupboards at all times. It’s no wonder, then, that most companies try and get their egregious pre-workout product on store shelves ASAP so they can leech money from those who don’t know any better.

But this is Nootropicresource.com, and we don’t let this nonsense slip through the cracks. We’re going to put some of these companies in their place and educate you about what really constitutes an efficacious and affordable pre-workout supplement combination using just three nootropics, performance-enhancing ingredients.

If you find yourself in the vicious cycle of using one overpriced, poorly-formulated pre-workout after another and are sick of seeing your bank account drop like the price of U.S. houses in 2008, then you best read on and consider this practical and inexpensive trio of supplements.

The Three Most Effective Performance-Enhancing Nootropics

It goes without saying that caffeine and creatine (monohydrate) are two of the most studied, time-tested, safe and effective performance-enhancing supplements available, both of which have nootropic properties as well. But those two supplements alone need a little extra help, and that’s where L-theanine comes into play. Let’s take a brief look at some research behind these supplements and how you can use them to build a simple, inexpensive and efficacious pre-workout cocktail.

The case for creatine (monohydrate)

Creatine monohydrate is undoubtedly one of the most efficacious supplements available when you consider the cost-to-benefit ratio and its safety. Creatine is a natural biomolecule that is critical in the regeneration of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells; therefore more creatine availability in muscle cells yields more potential work output.

The main benefits of creatine supplementation include: [1],[2],[3]

  • Increases intracellular water levels in muscle cells, which in turn increases protein synthesis
  • Augments ATP production, enabling increased work output in muscle cells
  • Acts as a neuroprotective agent since brain cells rely heavily on ATP for membrane integrity

Moreover, creatine is safe for most any individual so long as you’re not diabetic or suffering from renal impairment. And don’t buy into all the hype of non-monohydrate forms of creatine, like creatine salts, kre-alkalyn, liquid creatine, etc. Just use the tried-and-true monohydrate form for the most bang for your buck.

The case for caffeine


Who doesn’t love a good kick of caffeine before hitting the gym? It’s the most used over-the-counter drug in the world and for good reason. This organic, alkaline substance belongs to a group of chemicals known as methylxanthines, which are found in tea leaves, coffee beans, guarana, various fruits, and other natural sources.

Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS) and inhibiting acetylcholinesterase and phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzymes. In brief, PDE enzymes breakdown two important biomolecules called cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). The result of this is the amplification of cell signal transduction and increase in metabolic rate.

Caffeine also increases the activity of the cognition-promoting neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Thus, consuming caffeine before you hit the gym will enhance both your focus and physical performance.

The main benefits of caffeine use include:[4],[5],[6]

  • Enhances nutrient utilization
  • Can boost fat loss from exercise
  • Provides nootropic benefits by increasing epinephrine (adrenaline) and acetylcholine levels
  • Increases oxygen uptake by expanding your bronchiole tubes
  • Balances electrolyte levels in muscle tissue

Caffeine is also a relatively safe supplement and is well tolerated by most individuals so long as you’re not overusing it.

The case for L-theanine


The green tea-derived amino acid L-theanine as the perfect complement to creatine and caffeine before you work up a sweat. The particularly intriguing part about L-theanine is that it has strong nootropic synergy with caffeine by essentially “taking the edge off” the high that stimulants can induce. It’s also a potent antioxidant and relaxes your blood vessels so you’ll have better blood flow while exercising.

The main benefits of L-theanine use include:[7],[8],[9]

  • Works to optimize the effects of caffeine
  • Relaxes and expands blood vessels while exercising
  • Provides “clean” energy rather than feeling jittery

Bringing it all together: dosages, sources, and a sample pre-workout

Alright so now that we have wrapped up the overview of these three supplements, let’s give a practical example of how to use them and some inexpensive ways to make this pre-workout concoction.


  • Creatine–>Creatine appears to be most effective once a “saturation point” is achieved in muscle tissue. This point can usually be achieved by consistent supplementation with creatine monohydrate at about 5 grams per day. [3] There is also no need to cycle your use of creatine monohydrate.
  • Caffeine–>The general dose recommendation for performance enhancement with caffeine is 1-3 mg per kg of body weight. [5] Also, it recommended to cycle off caffeine use periodically to avoid becoming dependent on it.
  • L-Theanine–>Most individuals should start with a conservative dose of about 100 mg of L-theanine per day. You may work up to a 200 mg per day dose (split into multiple doses) if you tolerate it well.


  • Creatine monohydrate can be bought at most any supplement store (and even some chain supermarkets). You should be able to find a 500-gram tub for around $10 in the US.
  • Caffeine sourcing is a bit different than creatine and citrulline because it can be found in many food/vitamin products. Therefore, if you want to buy pure caffeine powder or capsules, that is fine, but you can also just simply drink coffee, energy drinks, etc. to reach your nominal caffeine dose.
  • Pure L-Theanine capsules can be bought from a variety of online vendors and nutritional supplement retailers at about $10 for a 60 serving (100 mg per serving) bottle.

Sample Creatine-Caffeine-Theanine Concoction (for a 180lb/81kg Gym Goer): taken 30 minutes prior to training

  1. 5 g of pure micronized creatine monohydrate
  2. 160 mg of caffeine obtained from roughly 12 ounces of black coffee
  3. 100 mg of pure L-theanine

Mix the creatine in the coffee (or a separate glass of water), pop a capsule or two of L-theanine and voila! You just concocted an efficacious pre-workout that will only cost about $0.30-0.35 per serving! You’ll soon be thanking your body and your wallet (or purse) for taking the time to read this article…And I guess you can thank us by leaving a comment (if you are in a good mood).


[1] Fitch, C.D. & Shields, R.P. Creatine metabolism in skeletal muscle. I. Creatine movement across muscle membranes. J. 8iol. Chem. 1966; 241, 361 1-14.

[2] Hultman, E.. Bergstrom, J. & McLennon-Anderson, N. Breakdown and resynthesis of phosphorylcreatine and adenosinetriphosphate in connection with muscular work in man. Scand. J. Clin. Lab. Invest. 1967; 19, 56-66,

[3] Buford TW, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2007)

[4] Beck TW, Housh TJ, Malek MH, Mielke M, Hendrix R. The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on bench press strength and time to running exhaustion. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1654-8. PubMed PMID: 18714218.

[5] Woolf K, Bidwell WK, Carlson AG. The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008 Aug;18(4):412-29. PubMed PMID: 18708685.

[6] Nielsen JJ, Mohr M, Klarskov C, Kristensen M, Krustrup P, Juel C, Bangsbo J. Effects of high-intensity intermittent training on potassium kinetics and performance in human skeletal muscle. J Physiol. 2004 Feb 1;554(Pt 3):857-70. Epub 2003 Nov 21. PubMed PMID: 14634198; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1664795

[7] Owen, G. N., Parnell, H., De Bruin, E. A., & Rycroft, J. A. (2008). The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutritional neuroscience, 11(4), 193-198.

[8] Kimura, K., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R., & Ohira, H. (2007). L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological psychology, 74(1), 39-45.

[9] Yoto, A., Motoki, M., Murao, S., & Yokogoshi, H. (2012). Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. Journal of physiological anthropology, 31(1), 28.



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