Best Pre-Workout Supplements For Strength, Cardio, Pump And More

Lift more, run faster, and boost focus with these stand-out pre-workout supplements.

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Of all the workout products you can buy, pre-workout supplements may have the widest variety of ingredients, dosages, and effects — which is why it can be hard to find the best pre-workout supplement for your individual needs. Also, isn’t proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration all you need for an excellent workout? It’s undoubtedly true that these three lifestyle choices can radically improve your performance (as well as mood, muscle growth, and immunity). But for those who want a little something extra, the right pre-workout supplement can improve performance.

Choosing the right pre-workout, however, is challenging. Besides caffeine, scores of other ingredients appear in these products, including amino acids, plant extracts, and other powders meant to improve endurance, power output, focus, fat loss, and blood flow. That’s why we’ve tried dozens of pre-workouts, from the biggest brands to the newest up-and-comers, to find the absolute best pre-workout supplements for any training goal.

The Best Pre-Workout Supplements

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. 

Best Pre-Workout Supplements Video Review

Though we still want you to read our thoroughly researched, thoughtful pre-workout review, sometimes a video is just easier to digest. We’ve got you covered on both. Check out our equally thoughtful and scrupulously researched video review below. 

Best Pre-Workout Overall

When looking for an excellent pre-workout supplement, we value research-backed ingredients in clearly disclosed dosages. Transparent Labs is a company that heavily prioritizes both of those elements in their BULK pre-workout

Transparent Labs BULK 

Transparent Labs BULK might just be the best pre-workout supplement around. There aren’t any blends, it’s gluten-free, and contains no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. At 180 milligrams per scoop, BULK’s caffeine content is more manageable than some others on the market (which can get up to nearly 300mg per serving). BULK also features big hits of Vitamin D and zinc. It also contains boron, which has some pretty positive links to testosterone production in the body. (1)

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Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK provides lots of beta-alanine for improved endurance, as well as a slew of ingredients to aid in focus — two key traits for lifters and endurance athletes alike. Use code BARBEND10 to save 10%.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BULK

  • People who want a clearly labeled, research-backed, and well-dosed supplement.
  • Those who are at risk of running low on Vitamin D and zinc, and need an extra boost in their pre-workout.
  • Anyone who wants to avoid artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.
  • Folks who like an emphasis on focus — this pick contains theanine, taurine, and tyrosine here, all of which may help with focus.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BULK

  • Penny pinchers — this is about $1.60 per serving.
  • Because it’s all-natural, the flavoring is quite sour, which might be a con for those that prefer something sweeter.
  • People who are not interested in ingredients that may improve testosterone production.

It’s on the pricier side, but that’s because it’s crafted with care. We’re big fans of Transparent Labs BULK, its transparent label, and added hits of Vitamin D and Zinc. 

Want the full scoop on pre-workouts? See our complete guide to pre-workout supplements here

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain

There’s a difference between a pre-workout that energizes you and a pre-workout that contains ingredients proven to boost performance. We found the latter in Jacked Factory’s NITRO SURGE

Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

Jacked Factory may sell NITRO SURGE for an affordable price, but there’s nothing “budget” about this pre-workout pick. Each serving packs a fully transparent dose of seven science-backed ingredients, most of which help facilitate more muscle growth (in addition to the basic pre-workout effects: energy, focus, and more blood flow). Beta-Alanine specifically, has been shown to produce increases in strength and power, so you can push more weight for more muscle mass.

Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE
Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE
Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

Jacked Factory’s pre-workout is affordable, comes in 13 flavors, and contains fully-dosed ingredients that may help with muscle growth.

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

  • Muscle-bound athletes who want a pre-workout designed to help with blood flow, and potentially help increase strength and power. 
  • People who want a moderate dose of caffeine in their pre-workout. NITRO SURGE clocks in at 180mg, compared to some formulas that offer 300-350mg per serving. 
  • Folks who prefer to take a pre-workout in powder form, rather than pill form.
  • People who like flavor options. NITRO SURGE offers 13 flavors, including Black Cherry, Blueberry Lemonade, and Strawberry Margarita. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

  • Folks who want a pre-workout that includes creatine.
  • People who would prefer to take their pre-workout in pill form.

If you’re looking to gain a lot of muscle, you need to train hard. This pre-workout facilitates intense workouts while providing ingredients that can help you achieve your goals. 

Best Pre-Workout for Women

Though it’s marketed toward women, a solid pre-workout isn’t necessarily gender-specific. The priorities remain the same: quality ingredients, effective dosing, and delicious flavors (so you enjoy drinking it).

Cira Pre-Game

The first thing that jumps out is the straightforward label. Cira’s pre-workout formula contains eight primary ingredients: l-citrulline, beta-alanine, betaine anhydrous, l-tyrosine, 200mg of caffeine anhydrous, l-theanine, theobromine, and AstraGin, a proprietary blend of roots and herbs that promotes optimal absorption. This well-rounded formula will facilitate any activity from lifting weights to running to sprints on the fan bike. Pre-Game comes in three flavors — Peach Bellini, Pink Candy, and Glow-Jito.

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Cira Pre-Game
Cira Pre-Game
Cira Pre-Game

Cira’s pre-workout formula contains eight primary ingredients: l-citrulline, beta-alanine, betaine anhydrous, l-tyrosine, 200mg of caffeine anhydrous, l-theanine, theobromine, and AstraGin, a proprietary blend of roots and herbs that promotes optimal absorption.

Who Should Buy Cira Pre-Game

  • Women who want a top-shelf pre-workout formula with proven pre-workout ingredients. 
  • Anyone who likes caffeinated pre-workouts. Pre-Game contains 200 milligrams of caffeine. 
  • People who appreciate and seek out unique flavors, like this product’s Peach Bellini, for example.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Cira Pre-Game

  • Men who want a pre-workout that’s marketed more toward them. 
  • People who desire a stim-free or caffeine-free pre-workout. 
  • This formula is missing creatine, which some athletes may prefer for its performance benefits. 

This women-centric formula is a complete pre-workout that anyone can take for more energy, focus — and if it’s your thing — muscle pumps. 

Best Pre-Workout for Men

It’s safe to assume many men are after more muscle and strength — and so it’s crucial to select a pre-workout with specific formulations to aid muscle- and strength-building while providing the focus needed for productive workouts.

Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel

Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel can help with strength training by reducing fatigue and enhancing exercise capacity. The l-citrulline malate 2:1 can help boost nitric oxide production, which can widen your blood vessels and increase blood flow to improve workouts, and beta-alanine can help decrease muscle fatigue so you can workout for longer. Aside from these two ingredients, Plantrise also includes l-tyrosine and l-theanine for a potential boost in cognitive performance, and caffeine, which can provide that jolt of energy people often look for right before a workout. However, this blend does not include creatine, which is an ingredient some people may look for in their pre-workout.

Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel
Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel
Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel

This simple formula facilitates health and hydration with minerals and nutrients such as calcium, sodium, iron, and potassium. Plus, it contains just five pre-workout-specific ingredients: citrulline malate, beta-alanine, caffeine, and l-theanine and l-tyrosine.

Who Should Buy Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel

  • Men who focus on strength training and want a specific formula that may help fight fatigue and allow them to train longer in the gym.
  • People who want a pre-workout with ingredients, like caffeine, meant to provide a jolt of energy. 
  • Anyone who wants a comprehensive list of ingredients geared toward focus in their pre-workout.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel

  • Anyone who wants a longer list of ingredients in their pre-workout.
  • Athletes who want more caffeine in their pre-workout, as this product only contains 150mg. 
  • Those who are looking for a dose of creatine included in their pre-workout. 

If you’re looking for a pre-workout that may help you ward off fatigue, increase blood flow for stronger pumps, and allow you to exercise for longer while at the gym, this pick has all the ingredients you need. 

Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss

The key to weight loss isconsuming fewer calories than you burn, but is there a pre-workout that might offer a little extra help? Again, Transparent Labs is stepping up to the plate.

Disclaimer: Please note that none of these products describe themselves as weight loss supplements and should not be taken as such. Please consult with a medical professional before beginning any weight loss protocol.

Transparent Labs LEAN 

Transparent Labs LEAN has a lot of ingredients that you’ll also find in fat burners. A big one is synephrine, which a couple of studies found may increase the number of calories burned in a given day — an effect that may be enhanced by the hordenine that’s also present in this product. Some of the ingredients may also support thyroid health. Plus, it’s well-dosed with many other mainstay pre-workout ingredients like citrulline, beta-alanine, and theanine to help reduce the jitters from the caffeine.

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Transparent Labs Lean
Transparent Labs Lean
Transparent Labs Lean

Third-party tested and clearly dosed, Transparent Labs LEAN has a huge variety of ingredients for endurance, power, alertness, and focus. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs LEAN

  • Those who would like to potentially burn more calories from just ingesting a pre-workout alone.
  • People who avoid artificial ingredients — this product is free of artificial sweeteners and colors.
  • Folks who want four multiple flavors to choose from — this product comes in Green Apple, Sour Grape, Strawberry Lemonade, and Blue Raspberry. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs LEAN

  • For those who prefer big hits of caffeine; 180mg is a little over what you get in a small coffee.

While it’s a bit low in BCAAs, this is still a stand-out pre-workout that’s all-natural and might increase thermogenesis (aka the number of calories you’re burning).

Best Tasting Pre-Workout

With any supplement, it helps greatly if you can stomach the taste. If you’re seeking a palatable pre-workout, then this pick is for you.

Xwerks Ignite

Ignite comes in four flavors — Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, and Watermelon — and packs a robust ingredient list aimed at enhancing energy, focus, and endurance. You’ll find a handful of traditional pre-workout ingredients on Ignite’s nutrition label; think caffeine (150mg), L-citrulline (3 grams), and Beta-Alanine (1.5 grams). You’ll also see Vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium, and the herb Rhodiola Rosea, which may have some neuroprotective qualities. Though it’s more expensive than many other pre-workouts, Ignite provides a lot of bang for the buck. 

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Xwerks Ignite
Xwerks Ignite
Xwerks Ignite

This pre-workout includes calcium and magnesium lactate, which have been shown to bolster endurance. Plus, it contains vitamins B6 and B12 that may help maintain healthy energy levels. Get 10% off with code BARBEND10

Who Should Buy Xwerks Ignite

  • Anyone who wants more than just the basic pre-workout ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, and herbs. 
  • People who like less caffeine. Ignite boasts just 150mg, which is more than half of some other formulas. 
  • People who like classic and delicious flavors, such as Green Apple and Watermelon. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Xwerks Ignite

  • Penny Pinchers. There are definitely more affordable pre-workouts on the market (though, with fewer ingredients).
  • Folks who want more caffeine in their pre-workout can find products with closer to 300mg.

Delicious, effective, and fully dosed, Xwerks Ignite is a pre-workout with clinically-proven ingredients for gym rats who want more.

Best Pre-Workout for Beginners

Pre-workout newbies may not necessarily want to inundate their system with a kitchen sink full of ingredients. This formula is basic and effective, making it beginner-friendly. 

Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel 

Plantrise’s formula has nine ingredients and only five pre-workout-specific additions. This formula facilitates health and hydration with minerals and nutrients such as calcium, sodium, iron, and potassium. The performance-focused inclusions are citrulline malate, which may help with blood flow; beta-alanine, which may help with endurance, caffeine, which may help with energy, and l-theanine and l-tyrosine, which may help with focus. Each ingredient is science-backed and proven, so anyone who’s just dipping their toes into “jolt juice” may feel less intimidated about taking a new supplement. 

Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel
Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel
Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel

This simple formula facilitates health and hydration with minerals and nutrients such as calcium, sodium, iron, and potassium. Plus, it contains just five pre-workout-specific ingredients: citrulline malate, beta-alanine, caffeine, and l-theanine and l-tyrosine.

Who Should Buy Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel

  • New pre-workout users who want something basic and effective will appreciate that the ingredients in this supplement are science-backed.
  • Anyone who prefers a pre-workout supplement with fewer primary ingredients. This product only contains nine ingredients total. 
  • People who want additional minerals and nutrients in their pre-workout.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel

  • Anyone who wants a more extensive list of ingredients as this product only contains nine ingredients.
  • People who desire more caffeine — this formula contains 150mg, which, while still significant, is on the lower end of what you’ll find in most caffeinated pre-workouts. 
  • Folks who prefer a pre-workout with creatine — you won’t find any creatine in this pre-workout.

Though this may not be ideal for more super-elite athletes who might opt for more ingredients in their pre-workout, Plantrise has formulated a simple yet effective pre-workout that beginners and supplement minimalists can enjoy. 

Best Pre-Workout for Pumps

Getting a “pump” in your workout means you’re increasing blood flow to a muscle, and some research suggests it might not just be an aesthetic benefit — it might also help with hypertrophy and muscle soreness. This pick’s ingredients can help facilitate pumps by increasing blood flow to your muscles.

Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

Some lifters, especially those interested in bodybuilding or carving out an impressive body, prize pre-workouts that provide skin-tearing pumps. Really, pumps are caused by an increase of blood flow that fills the area a person is targeting. NITRO SURGE contains three grams (or six if you double the dose) of L-citrulline, an ingredient that’s been proven to dilate the blood vessels for more blood flow. This ingredient can also help to boost strength and delay the effects of fatigue on a muscle. 

Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE
Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE
Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

Jacked Factory’s pre-workout is affordable, comes in 13 flavors, and contains fully-dosed ingredients that may help with muscle growth.

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

  • Athletes who want to prioritize blood flow to a specific muscle during their workout will appreciate the l-citrulline in this supplement.
  • People who like to look pumped. Bodybuilders, for example, may want to look more full and pumped before stepping on stage. 
  • Cardio junkies — the l-citrulline in this product may also facilitate muscular endurance.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

  • Folks who want a pre-workout with more ingredients. 
  • Anyone who may want creatine in their pre-workout formula.

With a large dose of L-citrulline, NITRO SURGE promotes a lot of blood flow for potentially increased pumps in the gym.

Best Stim-Free Pre-Workouts

You don’t need to be bouncing off the walls to have an effective workout. Plenty of gym-goers prefer a pre-workout free of caffeine and other stimulants that may cause unwanted jitters and a subsequent crash.

Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

On paper, Transparent Labs’ Stim-Free Pre-Workout has most of the ingredients found in pre-workouts with stimulants, minus caffeine. There are BCAAs for muscle maintenance, taurine and l-tyrosine for mental focus, citrulline malate for pumps, and then a few unique additions — BioPerine® that may enhance bioavailability, ElevATP® that may improve ATP production; and Huperzine A that may support brain health. Plus, it comes in five colors — Tropical Punch, Orange, Sour Grape, Blue Raspberry, and Green Apple.

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Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

An unusually powerful preworkout that's packed with clinically effective doses of ingredients linked to everything from power to endurance. All of this without the use of caffeine or other stimulants. Save 10% by using code BARBEND10.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

  • Anyone who does not want caffeine or other stimulants in their pre-workout should really appreciate this thoughtful, stim-free formula. 
  • People who want traditional pre-workout ingredients, along with more unique additions like BioPerine® and ElevATP®. 
  • This product’s label is great for those who like transparent dosing — with Transparent Labs, you know how much of each ingredient you’re ingesting without any proprietary blends.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

  • Lifters who prefer stimulants in their pre-workout will want to look for a product with caffeine. 
  • Anyone who wants creatine in their pre-workout. This does contain ElevATP, which facilitates ATP production like creatine, but it’s not apples to apples. 
  • People who want more nutrients and/or minerals in their pre-workout. 

Stimulants aren’t the end-all-be-all for a pre-workout supplement. You can get a fine workout without them, and Transparent Labs’ formula is proof of that.

Best Natural Pre-Workout

Don’t want artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors? Here’s one of our favorite options, which also takes a calculated approach to caffeine as well.

Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Sport

While artificial sweeteners aren’t technically harmful, some folks do prefer steering clear. The good news is, pre-workouts such as Pre-Kaged Sports provide naturally flavored supplements without compromising the ingredient label. In addition to packing vitamins B6, B12, magnesium, and sodium (for hydration), Pre-Kaged also boasts tried-and-true ingredients such as beta-alanine, caffeine, and l-citrulline (for pumps). While some pre-workouts offer up to 300mg of caffeine or three and a half cups of coffee, Kaged Muscle takes a more calculated approach with their 188mg dose. 

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Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Sport
Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Sport
Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Sport

Hate the taste of chalky artificial sweeteners? Don't worry, this formula is specifically free of them. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off your purchase. 

Who Should Buy Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Sport

  • People who don’t want artificial flavors in their pre-workout will appreciate that this product does not contain any. 
  • Those who want caffeine in their pre-workout but don’t want an extra three and a half cups worth of it (the average cup of joe contains around 100mg and this product only contains 188mg per dose). 
  • Athletes who value an added boost of B Vitamins, magnesium, and sodium in their pre-workout.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Sport

  • Individuals who don’t care about artificial flavors. That’s not to say this is an inferior product, because it’s quite the opposite. However, if you don’t mind artificial flavors, you have more options to choose from.

Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Sport is, we think, the best pre-workout for all natural ingredients. For those who value a natural approach to flavored supplements, this should be an appealing pre-workout. 

Best Pre-Workout for Running

Compared to lifting, running requires endurance and stamina. For those reasons, you want a pre-workout that prioritizes ingredients that stimulate long-term energy, focus, and performance. 

Xwerks Ignite

Runners chasing more miles and improved focus will prize Xwerks’ science-backed ingredient list. This formula notably includes calcium and magnesium lactate which, despite broad claims that lactic acid is a hindrance to performance, have been shown to bolster endurance. (3) There’s also DMAE (Dimethylethanolamine), a compound that may improve brain health by increasing the production of the chemical acetylcholine, caffeine that can help stimulate performance, and vitamins B6 and B12 that may help maintain healthy energy levels. 

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Xwerks Ignite
Xwerks Ignite
Xwerks Ignite

This pre-workout includes calcium and magnesium lactate, which have been shown to bolster endurance. Plus, it contains vitamins B6 and B12 that may help maintain healthy energy levels. Get 10% off with code BARBEND10

Who Should Buy Xwerks Ignite

  • Runners who want to enhance their endurance capabilities and mental focus. 
  • Folks who like ingredients that may help them “focus” during hard runs, as this contains l-tyrosine, DMAE, and the herb rhodiola rosea (which may have neuroprotective properties).
  • People who like products backed by research. Xwerks backs up the inclusion of most ingredients, specifically lactate acid, with citations to notable journals. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Xwerks Ignite

  • People who don’t love the “tingly” feeling from a lot of beta-alanine. This contains 1.5 grams of it.
  • Runners or lifters who don’t want caffeine. Though the 150mg dose is modest, it’s still equivalent to about a cup and a half of coffee.

Xwerks’ thoughtfully designed blend promotes the endurance and energy that runners — both veterans and newbies alike — will appreciate. 

Best Vegan Pre-Workout 

If you’re following a vegan diet, it can be more difficult to find a pre-workout that caters to your dietary restrictions. Plant-based eaters can rest assured that there are pre-workout supps on the market free of any and all animal-based products — this pick is one of the best. 

Xwerks Ignite

It’s common to see animal products in pre-workouts such as gelatin (used for consistency), lanolin, which is often found in Vitamin D3, and bee pollen (usually touted as a “superfood”). Xwerks contains none of these ingredients and instead relies on silica as a gelatin replacement. Aside from that change, Xwerks is a standard pre-workout with a research-backed, full-bodied ingredient list to hone focus, bolster endurance, and provide long-lasting energy sans the crash and jitters. However, this product is a little pricier than some others you may find on this list. 

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Xwerks Ignite
Xwerks Ignite
Xwerks Ignite

This pre-workout includes calcium and magnesium lactate, which have been shown to bolster endurance. Plus, it contains vitamins B6 and B12 that may help maintain healthy energy levels. Get 10% off with code BARBEND10

Who Should Buy Xwerks Ignite

  • Vegans who want a pre-workout that’s completely free of animal products.
  • Anyone who appreciates transparent dosing and proven ingredients.
  • Folks who prefer fruity flavors will like that this pre is available in Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, and Watermelon.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Xwerks Ignite

  • Folks who don’t want to be limited by vegan-only products — there are many pre-workouts that aren’t vegan-friendly.
  • People who want creatine in a pre-workout — this product does not contain creatine. 
  • Those who are watching their wallet may find this pre-workout is a little spendy compared to other products on this list. 

You don’t need to forgo pre-workouts if you’re a vegan, you just need to know what brands ditch animal products in their formulas, and Xwerks is one of our top picks. 

Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout

So you’re in a fat loss phase, and you want everything you eat to support that goal? You really just need to be eating the right number of calories and macros, but if you’re curious about thermogenic ingredients like acetyl l-carnitine HCL, consider the following. 

Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE Shred

Jacked Factory’s NITRO SURGE Shred is a standard pre-workout formula — offering caffeine, beta-alanine, and l-citrulline — but with an added kick. In addition to the tried-and-true ingredients that can help facilitate focus, energy, and pumps, NITRO SURGE Shred contains acetyl l-carnitine HCL, an ingredient that can help transport fatty acids out of the mitochondria to enhance the fat-burning process. There’s also a dose of the black pepper extract formula BioPerine, which may bolster the absorption of these ingredients for improved efficacy. 

Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE Shred
Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE Shred
Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE Shred

With one gram of acetyl l-carnitine HCL, which can help release fat from the body, NITRO SURGE Shred is a basic pre-workout with a little extra for those looking to burn fat.

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE Shred

  • Lifters and/or athletes in a fat loss phase who may want extra assistance losing body fat.
  • Folks looking for an affordable pre-workout. This option is a little under a dollar per serving.
  • People who want a moderate amount of caffeine. This pick clocks in at 180mg. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE Shred

  • Lifters who want a stimulant-free pre-workout. This one packs the equivalent of three cups of coffee worth of caffeine in one serving.
  • People who want extra vitamins, minerals, or supplements like creatine in their pre-workout. 

NITRO SURGE Shred has an excellent reputation on the market — it’s tasty, and it can help perk you up to have a solid workout. And if you’re looking to lose body fat, this pick may help speed up the process. 

Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine 

Creatine is a great supplement, but if you’re already taking it, then you might not want more. At a certain dosage, it can be pointless. Here’s a great pre-workout, free of creatine, that is great to stack with other supplements.

Transparent Labs BULK

Though creatine is a common pre-workout ingredient, you may not want it in your pre-workout. The reason being you’re already getting plenty. BULK boasts a formula that focuses on energy and mental clarity — with 1,000 milligrams of l-tyrosine and 210mg of caffeine. This specific supplement contains vitamins D3, B6, and B12. as well as the electrolytes sodium and potassium that can help support hydration. There’s also 25mg of AstraGin, which may help those ingredients absorb more effectively. 

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Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK provides lots of beta-alanine for improved endurance, as well as a slew of ingredients to aid in focus — two key traits for lifters and endurance athletes alike. Use code BARBEND10 to save 10%.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BULK

  • People who are already taking enough creatine. It’s not harmful, but why buy a pre-workout supplement with ingredients you don’t need?
  • Folks who tend to feel dehydrated during a workout. BULK has specific minerals that help you stay hydrated.
  • For those who want a gluten- and GMO-free pre-workout clear of artificial sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives, this is a great pick.

Who Shouldn’t Transparent Labs BULK

  • Folks who don’t take creatine independently and would rather have it wrapped into their pre-workout.
  • This product contains over 200 milligrams of caffeine, so anyone prone to jitters or crashes may want to steer clear.

If you’re already taking creatine, you may not need to have it in your pre-workout — if that’s the case, this pre-workout won’t overlap with your current supplement stack.

When Should I Take Pre-Workout?

As the name implies, you want to take your pre-workout before you train. The general rule is to mix the powder (if you’re taking a powder, not a pill) in four to eight ounces of water and ingest it 20 to 30 minutes before training. This amount of time allows the ingredients — like caffeine, beta-alanine, and taurine — to absorb and start taking effect.

If you train at night, you may want to steer clear of caffeinated pre-workouts. Some of these supps contain 150mg minimum of caffeine, with certain products packing 250mg or more. Of course, the choice is yours, but you’ll risk disrupting your sleep. Night owls may want to opt for a stim-free pre-workout.

How Much Do Pre-Workouts Cost?

The price of a pre-workout varies, though not significantly, primarily based on A) the ingredients used, and B) the dose of those ingredients. Products that prioritize transparent dosing — meaning the ingredients aren’t wrapped up in obscure blends — are typically going to be pricier. The reason being that you’re actually getting that ingredient and in a relatively complete dose.

Nowadays, most brands give you the full scoop on dosing. The number of ingredients also affects the price. A product that has creatine in addition to basic pre-workout ingredients, for example, will almost always carry a higher price tag. Supplements with added vitamins and nutrients, also jack up the price a bit.

Best Pre-Workout Overall Transparent Labs BULK $49 

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE $17.08

$0.57 per serving

Best Pre-Workout for Women Cira Pre-Game $39.99

Per Serving: $1.33

Best Pre-Workout for Men Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel $39.99

Per Serving: $1.59

Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss Transparent Labs LEAN $49 

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Tasting Pre-Workout Xwerks Ignite $49.00

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Pre-Workout for Beginners Plantrise Pre-Workout Fuel $39.99

Per Serving: $1.59

Best Pre-Workout for Pumps Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE $17.08

$0.57 per serving

Best Stim-Free Pre-Workout Transparent Labs Stim-Free $49.00 

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Natural Pre-Workout Pre-Kaged Sport $39.99

Per Serving: $1.33

Best Pre-Workout for Running Xwerks Ignite $49.00

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Vegan Pre-Workout Xwerks Ignite $49.00

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE Shred $21.66

Per Serving: $0.72

Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine Transparent Labs BULK $49.00

Per Serving: $1.63

 That said: You need to know what you want out of a pre-workout. If you’re looking for a little energy, then a basic pick with ample caffeine will do the job (and probably for less money). If you want the full kit — pumps, energy, focus, and hydrating minerals — then know you’ll shell out more.

When considering the price of pre-workouts you’ll want to look at the price of the container in unison with the number of servings you’re getting, rather than just the price of the container as a whole. The pre-workouts on this list range from $1.23 per serving to as high as $1.97.

What Are the Benefits of Pre-Workouts?

The first thing people tend to associate with pre-workouts are their stimulative effects, which can affect just about every part of a workout. Obviously, caffeine (often the primary ingredient in pre-workouts) is known as a stimulant, but it is also linked to better power, endurance, perceived exertion, and even cognition. (4)(5)(6) For example, a randomized, double-blind study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when compared to a placebo, 10 athletes improved their speed, reaction time, movement time, and decision-making time when supplementing with caffeine. (7)

For reference, a small cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine, and pre-workouts range from 80 to as much as 350 milligrams per serving.

But again, a pre-workout supplement isn’t just caffeine (though, some people do just take caffeine before a workout). Some pre-workouts are formulated without it. The most common additions include beta-alanine for endurance, citrulline for blood flow, betaine for power, and tyrosine for focus. All these ingredients will give you an extra boost that can help you get the most out of your training.

Those ingredients have relatively solid research behind them. For example, a hugely popular meta-analysis published in Amino Acids of 15 studies found that beta-alanine reliably increases muscular endurance. (8)(9) With regard to betaine, two studies published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition have shown significant power increases in the back squat among men who took 1.25 grams of it twice a day for two weeks. (10)(11)

Plenty of pre-workouts contain unusual plant ingredients — like toothed clubmoss or hawthorn berry — which don’t have the most convincing body of evidence supporting their abilities to improve performance.

When judging the effectiveness of a pre-workout, we didn’t disqualify anything that had a questionable ingredient. Rather, we looked at the overall impact of the product. Even if a product contains a couple of not-so-science-backed inclusions, we still consider it reputable if there are enough quality, well-dosed ingredients.

How We Decide Our Picks

We tried a lot of pre-workouts (and hit a lot of PRs) while landing on this list. Here are the criteria we looked at. Note that these aren’t necessarily deal-breakers — some products are on the pricey side, for example, but the ingredients justify it. 

Value

Most pre-workouts cost between $1.00 and $2.00 per serving. Plenty are more expensive, and usually, the price is justified, but over a dollar per serving counts as “you should know this is pricey” territory.

Transparency

A considerable number of pre-workouts consist of proprietary blends — you know the ingredients but not the amounts. That means you won’t know exactly what’s effective and what’s not. Now, legally, they have to order the components by weight, so you can usually get a decent guess at the dose, and proprietary blends are so prominent in the industry that we didn’t outright disqualify a product that has one, but it definitely loses points for lack of transparency. We also chose some products for this list specifically because of their transparency.

Dosage

On a related note, scores of pre-workouts take research-backed ingredients but don’t use research-backed doses. For example, citrulline needs to be 5 grams or more. We know the research front and back, so we can assess how effective a dose is. (Note that sometimes, as is the case with tyrosine, we don’t really know the minimum dosage, but we can make an educated guess.) For the most part, we have only included picks on this list that contain the proper dosage for their ingredients.

Testing

Some companies will employ a third party, like Informed Choice, Informed Sport, or NSF, to test their products (or their facility) for substances in the World Anti-Doping Agency. Many athletes will only take third-party tested products, particularly since questionable pre-workouts can be the ones that produce positive results.

What’s In Your Pre-Workout?

Not all pre-workout ingredients are useful. Here’s a rundown of the ingredients that you’ll usually find and want in your pre-workout.

Caffeine

Caffeine is associated with alertness, endurance, power output, strength, and perceived exertion. The FDA puts one small cup of coffee at 100 milligrams of caffeine, while a tall (355ml) coffee from Starbucks has about 235 milligrams. Pre-workouts typically contain anywhere from 80 to 350mg of caffeine.

Creatine

The best researched ergogenic aid besides caffeine, creatine helps power output, anaerobic capacity, and fatigue, all while increasing muscle size by drawing more water into them. It doesn’t have to be taken with pre-workout, it’s an any-time supplement — the point is to increase the creatine in your muscles over time, rather than loading creatine quickly. The dose is five to 10 grams a day, and if you’re consistent, you’ll see the best results. (12)

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is linked to improved endurance, both in cardio-focused workouts and strength training with higher reps (as in over eight per set). Because it allows you to endure more, it may help with hypertrophy. The standard dose is 1.6 to 3.2 grams. (13)

Citrulline

Research suggests that five or so grams of citrulline, an amino acid that’s high in watermelons, may help with circulation and thereby improve most areas of performance, from endurance to power output. (14)

Betaine Anhydrous

Found in beets and leafy greens, betaine is best known for links to power output and muscular endurance, but it might also slightly decrease post-exercise cortisol, which can actually be helpful in your body’s response to stress. (15

Taurine

When paired with caffeine, taurine may help with improving focus. Since it might draw water into cells, it may enhance recovery and muscle cramps, as well. The dose is one to two grams. (16)

Tyrosine

Also used for “focus,” data suggests tyrosine can reduce stress during, particularly acute stress — like exercise — by helping you produce adrenaline and dopamine. Research has only been performed on people taking at least 5 grams, and a minimum effective dose hasn’t been established, but look for at least 500 milligrams. (17)

What to Consider Before Buying

These sorts of products can make some folks a little concerned about side effects and unintended consequences. They’re legal, so the potential for damage is low, but there are some things worth keeping in mind.

Caffeine Is a Drug

Caffeine is a real drug. It can cause anxiety, diarrhea, and maybe even temporary high blood pressure. Caffeine isn’t inherently bad for you. Rather, everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine. Caffeine can make it harder for the nervous system to relax or enter a parasympathetic state conducive to recovery. It’s not a bad idea to take a week off from caffeine every couple of months to keep you from building up too strong a tolerance for it.

Beta-Alanine Has a Surprising Side Effect

Perhaps the most common pre-workout ingredient that isn’t caffeine (or flavoring), beta-alanine typically causes paresthesia, a “tingling” sensation on the skin. It’s temporary and harmless, and while some love the feeling of the ingredient “kicking in,” not everyone likes it.

Not All Pre-Workout Ingredients Need to Be Pre-Workout

Creatine and beta-alanine don’t have to be taken right before a workout. If you take them every day, they’ll imbue you with their benefits regardless of the time of day you take them.

One of the Best Pre-Workouts Is Carbohydrates

It’s not sexy, but it’s pretty tough to have a great workout without plenty of carbs in your system. A balanced meal of protein and carbs a couple of hours before a workout can do wonders for performance. (18)

Remember the Dosage

We’ve already noted the best-supported dosages in the previous section, “What’s In Your Pre-Workout?” Many products will talk a big game about how well-supported their ingredients are, but then use low dosages. (This is especially common with citrulline and tyrosine.) It’s good to look at the research before you make a purchase.

Chat with a Doctor

Especially if you have any pre-existing conditions, but even if you don’t, speak with a physician before making changes to your diet or supplement regimen.

The Scoop on Dry Scooping

Social media stars on platforms like TikTok and Instagram have started a trend known as dry-scooping — where you scoop pre-workout powder directly into your mouth. This is ill-advised and dangerous. 

Many pre-workouts have hundreds of milligrams of caffeine in them, and diluting that powder into water allows your body more time to absorb and process it. Otherwise, you risk absorbing too much caffeine too quickly, which can lead to jitters, an upset stomach, an elevated heart rate, and, in extreme cases, caffeine poisoning. One woman who dry-scooped suffered a heart attack

You can also choke on the powder. There’s a reason the directions on pre-workout powders tell you to mix it in water. (19

Final Word

If you’re engaged in sport, supplements can be super helpful. They can increase the amount of energy you have and the effectiveness of the exercise. We’ve tried dozens of pre-workouts to land on this list of the best pre-workout supplements on the market for almost any athlete, whether you love or hate caffeine, want to improve your run time, or just get a better pump.

We looked at the price, taste, ingredients, and effectiveness of every one of these supplements. While plenty of people have different ideas about what constitutes a “quality” pre-workout, we think we’ve put together a tremendous guide to picking the best pre-workout supplements for a variety of fitness goals. 

FAQs

What does a pre workout do?

It depends on what’s in the pre-workout, but ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine, and betaine have been linked to higher energy levels, better power production, and improved endurance. Some ingredients, like tyrosine and taurine, may even improve focus.

How much caffeine is in a pre workout?

It depends on which brand, but the average pre-workout contains between 200 and 250 milligrams of caffeine. That’s about as much as you’ll find in a Grande coffee from Starbucks — 473mL of the Dark Roast, to be precise. The USDA puts a small, 8oz (236mL) cup of coffee at about 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Note that many pre-workouts go as high as 350 to 400 milligrams of caffeine, while some (especially those aimed at women) can drop under 150 or even 100 milligrams.

Is pre workout bad for you?

Nothing on the ingredients list of a pre-workout is illegal, but they’re also not regulated by the FDA. This is why many prefer pre-workouts that have been certified by third party testing companies for banned substances, like Informed Choice or NSF.

But of the various ingredients, one will find in pre-workouts, caffeine is the one most likely to cause issues, as very high doses can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, cramps, and other issues. But if you keep the caffeine content to something you’re comfortable with, pre-workouts can be a nice boost.

Is it better to drink pre workout before or during workout?

It’s best to drink your pre-workout before going to the gym, as it can take a good thirty minutes to “kick in.” For optimal results, and if you’re in a hurry, it may be best to take pre-workout on an empty stomach so that it digests quickly.

References

  1. Ferrando AA, Green NR. The effect of boron supplementation on lean body mass, plasma testosterone levels, and strength in male bodybuilders. Int J Sport Nutr. 1993 Jun;3(2):140-9. doi: 10.1123/ijsn.3.2.140. PMID: 8508192.
  2. Borne R, Hausswirth C, Bieuzen F. Relationship Between Blood Flow and Performance Recovery: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017 Feb;12(2):152-160. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2015-0779. Epub 2016 Aug 24. PMID: 27139812.
  3. Morris DM, Shafer RS, Fairbrother KR, Woodall MW. Effects of lactate consumption on blood bicarbonate levels and performance during high-intensity exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Aug;21(4):311-7. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.21.4.311. PMID: 21813914.
  4. Childs E, et al. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 May;185(4):514-23.
  5. Smillie LD, et al. Caffeine enhances working memory for extraverts. Biol Psychol. 2010 Dec;85(3):496-8.
  6. Mednick SC, et al. Comparing the benefits of caffeine, naps and placebo on verbal, motor and perceptual memory. Behav Brain Res. 2008 Nov 3;193(1):79-86.
  7. Duvnjak-Zaknich DM, et al. Effect of caffeine on reactive agility time when fresh and fatigued. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Aug;43(8):1523-30.
  8. Hobson RM, et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):25-37.
  9. Hipkiss AR. On the enigma of carnosine’s anti-aging actions. Exp Gerontol. 2009 Apr;44(4):237-42.
  10. Lee, E.C. et al. (2010) Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7: 27.
  11. Hoffman, J. et al. (2009) Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009; 6: 7.
  12. Gann, J. J., McKinley-Barnard, S. K., Andre, T. L., Schoch, R. D., & Willoughby, D. S. (2015). Effects of a traditionally-dosed creatine supplementation protocol and resistance training on the skeletal muscle uptake and whole-body metabolism and retention of creatine in males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(Suppl 1), P2. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-12-S1-P2
  13. Bellinger PM. β-Alanine supplementation for athletic performance: an update. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun;28(6):1751-70. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000327. PMID: 24276304.
  14. Gonzalez AM, Trexler ET. Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on Exercise Performance in Humans: A Review of the Current Literature. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 May;34(5):1480-1495. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003426. PMID: 31977835.
  15. Cholewa, J. M., Wyszczelska-Rokiel, M., Glowacki, R., Jakubowski, H., Matthews, T., Wood, R., Craig, S. A., & Paolone, V. (2013). Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 39. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-39
  16. McLeay Y, Stannard S, Barnes M. The Effect of Taurine on the Recovery from Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Males. Antioxidants (Basel). 2017 Oct 17;6(4):79. doi: 10.3390/antiox6040079. PMID: 29039798; PMCID: PMC5745489.
  17. Jongkees BJ, Hommel B, Kühn S, Colzato LS. Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands–A review. J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Nov;70:50-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.08.014. Epub 2015 Aug 25. PMID: 26424423.
  18. Ormsbee, M. J., Bach, C. W., & Baur, D. A. (2014). Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients, 6(5), 1782–1808. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6051782
  19. Dry scooping can be life-threatening. Get Poison Control Help Online or Call 1-800-222-1222. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2021, from https://www.poison.org/articles/dry-scooping-can-be-life-threatening.