Of all the workout supplements you can buy, pre workouts may have the widest variety of ingredients, dosages, and effects — which is why it’s so hard to find the best pre workout for your needs.

Why should you even consider a pre workout? Isn’t proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration all you need for an awesome workout? It’s certainly true that these three lifestyle changes can radically improve your athletic performance (as well as mood, muscle growth, immunity, and just about every other area of your life). But for those who want a little something extra, the right pre workout supplement for your needs can make a significant difference.

Besides caffeine there are scores of other ingredients that appear in these products, including amino acids and plant extracts that have been formulated to improve endurance, power output, focus, fat loss, muscle growth, blood flow, and more.

That’s why we’ve tried dozens of pre workouts, from the biggest brands to the newest up and comers, to find out the absolute best pre workout for twelve different purposes.

Read below for a detailed breakdown as to why we picked each of the winners, plus even more categories and picks to find the best creatine for you!

Best Pre Workout: TRANSPARENT LABS BULK

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

Transparent Labs Bulk Pre Workout

Transparent Labs Bulk Highlights

Transparent Labs Bulk might just be the best pre workout supplement around. The company is big on including clinically effective dosages of ingredients, so there are no mysterious proprietary blends here. It’s gluten-free and contains no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. And at 180mg per scoop, BULK’s caffeine dosage is more manageable than some others on the market (which can get up to nearly 300mg per serving).

BULK also has some interesting ingredient additions that may help naturally promote testosterone. In addition to being very high in most common pre workout ingredients — this company is known for being very science-based in its dosages — it features big hits of Vitamin D and zinc. There’s also boron, which has some pretty positive links to testosterone production in the body.

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Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK

Like many Transparent Labs products, it's an extraordinarily well dosed pre workout supplement for endurance, power, and focus. Use code BARBEND10 to save 10%.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Bulk

  • People who want a clearly labeled and well-dosed supplement.
  • Those who are at risk for running low on Vitamin D and zinc.
  • Anyone who wants to avoid artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.
  • Folks who like an emphasis on focus; there’s theanine, taurine, and tyrosine here, an impressive combination.

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 effectively made. We’re big fans of Transparent Labs Bulk.

Best Pre Workout for Pump: Legion Pulse

Getting a “pump” in your workout means more blood flow, and some research suggests it might not just be an aesthetic benefit — it might help with hypertrophy and muscle soreness as well.

Legion Pulse Preworkout

Legion Pulse Highlights

Legion Pulse was our favorite pre workout supplement for muscle pump. The reason is pretty simple: out of all of the pre workouts we tried, it has the highest dose of citrulline at 8 grams per serving. Citrulline is linked to improved blood flow and nitric oxide, which is linked with solid muscle pumps. At 144mg, it also has more sodium than most other pre workouts, which can help to draw water into the muscles.  

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Legion Pulse Pre Workout
Legion Pulse Pre Workout
Legion Pulse Pre Workout

A pre workout supplement with strong, clinically effective doses — and a two-scoop serving so you can keep things mild if you prefer. Use code "BARBEND" for 20% off!

Who Should Buy Legion Pulse

  • People looking for a big dose of citrulline; very few products deliver 8 grams per serving.
  • Anyone who wants to avoid artificial ingredients.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Pulse

  • People who think 350mg of caffeine is on the “too powerful” side of the spectrum.

Legion is a powerful pre workout and while some may find the effects a little too strong, it remains the best dosed for citrulline.

Best Pre Workout for Women: Powher

It’s hard to say if a pre workout is ideal for a man or a woman — most people feel pre workouts don’t need gendering — but there are some traits that female-focused companies tend to emphasize.

Powher BarBend 

Powher was our favorite pre workout supplement that’s specifically targeted to women. There are a few differences that women may look for in a pre workout supplement, but a common complaint is that many pre workouts can be too high in caffeine for lighter athletes. It is lower in caffeine than the options listed above — it has 100mg, the amount you’ll find in a small cup of coffee. In addition, it has several ingredients that are meant to prevent “energy crashes,” like plant and bark extracts like OxyJun and EnXtra, which might improve focus and oxygen uptake. 

Powher
Powher
Powher

A relatively low caffeine pre workout that's a good mixture of established, science backed ingredients and newer, slightly experimental compounds that could help with performance.

Who Should Buy Powher

  • Smaller athletes or those with caffeine sensitivities who find many pre workouts to be too strong — with 100 milligrams, it’s got a less than half the amount found in a tall (355ml) Pike Place Roast from Starbucks.
  • Those who want to reduce the odds of experiencing a “crash” after the energy increase may be happy with the extra ingredients here intended for that purpose.
  • People who like ingredients for focus; the product’s strongest emphasis is on tyrosine and taurine, well-dosed ingredients that appear to help with focus and reduce the jitteriness that can accompany caffeine.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Powher

  • Folks who want to avoid artificial ingredients may not love the Splenda in here.
  • Penny pinchers; at about $1.50 per scoop, it’s roughly 50 percent pricier than most pre workouts.

With no artificial flavors, a moderate amount of caffeine and a big emphasis on focus rather than raw explosive power, Powher could be a good option for women, lighter athletes, or anyone looking for a milder pre workout.

Strongest Pre Workout: Ronnie Coleman’s ‘Yeah Buddy’

Pre workouts, let’s face it, are known for their caffeine content. A lot of people want as much as they can get. Here’s the product for them.

ronnie coleman pre workout

Ronnie Coleman’s ‘Yeah Buddy’ Highlights

Ronnie Coleman’s ‘Yeah Buddy’ is the strongest we’ve seen. We used to think 350 milligrams of caffeine was as strong as any pre workout gets, but this has 420 milligrams per serving. In addition to that, it contains 40 milligrams TeaCrine® and 100 milligrams of Dynamine® it, which have a similar effect to caffeine but they appear to act and dissipate a little more slowly. (The intention of which is to minimize a ‘crash’ feeling.)

Interestingly, some of the blend contains Encapfeine, which is caffeine that’s been wrapped in “micro-beads” with varying layers of thickness. That means it’s meant to release slowly over the course of a workout, so the product doesn’t have quite the sudden kapow energy spike that you might expect. Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t strong; the caffeine sensitive need not apply.

Ronnie Coleman Signature Series'
Ronnie Coleman Signature Series'
Ronnie Coleman Signature Series'

This powerful pre workout contains 420 milligrams of caffeine, more than the amount found in 4 cups of coffee.

Who Should Buy Ronnie Coleman’s ‘Yeah Buddy’

  • Folks who want the biggest caffeine hit possible.
  • Those who are interested in trying caffeine that acts and dissipates more slowly than the normal stuff. (You can always halve the scoop if this is you but you don’t want to have such a big dose.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Ronnie Coleman’s ‘Yeah Buddy’

  • Anyone who doesn’t like big caffeine hits should (obviously) steer clear.

Yeah Buddy is tasty and powerful just like its namesake, and it’s second to none — in our experience — for caffeine. Don’t take it too close to bedtime. 

Best Pre Workout for Ingredient Variety: KAGED MUSCLE PRE-KAGED

We love pre workouts that are transparent, well-dosed, and useful for any kind of workout. This one ticks all those boxes — and it might even help with recovery.

PRE-KAGED Preworkout

KAGED MUSCLE PRE-KAGED Highlights

This is one of our overall favorite pre workouts, and it contains a huge variety of ingredients. Basically, it’s a great all-rounder: It’s high in caffeine (274mg), beta alanine, citrulline, betaine, and creatine, so it can support just about any kind of workout. This supplement also contains other ingredients to give you an extra boost. There’s a significant amount of taurine and two kinds of tyrosine for focus, and there are branched chain amino acids, an unusual addition in a pre workout which can make it easier to exercise on an empty stomach and retain muscle.

Add all that to the fact that there are actual ground up vegetables in it to deliver a hit of antioxidants, which may reduce cellular damage during exercise, and you have a truly unique product. It is worth noting that because of this huge amount of ingredients, Pre-Kaged has one of the largest serving sizes of any pre workout we’ve ever tried. This could be a turn off for some who might not want that large a serving size on an empty stomach. 

KAGED MUSCLE PRE-KAGED
KAGED MUSCLE PRE-KAGED
KAGED MUSCLE PRE-KAGED

A tasty pre workout jam packed with not only ingredients linked to power, blood flow, endurance, muscle pump, and focus, but also antioxidants as well.

Who Should Buy

  • Those who prefer BCAAs pre workout.
  • People who want a product to help with endurance, power, and/or focus — just about any kind, in other words.
  • Folks who are interested in the benefits of greens powders, as there are powdered vegetables in here that might help with recovery due to their antioxidants.

Who Shouldn’t Buy

  • Penny pinchers; at about $1.80 per scoop, it’s about twice the price of most pre workouts.
  • Those sensitive to caffeine; 274mg per scoop might be too much.
  • People who want a smaller serving size and fewer additional ingredients. 

PRE-KAGED is an overall strong pre workout with both BCAAs and antioxidants added in. 

Best Pre Workout for Cardio: Old School Labs Vintage Blast

The best pre workout for cardio should have some beta alanine and caffeine, but Old School Labs takes that approach to the next level.

Old School Labs Vintage Blast Review

Old School Labs Vintage Blast is uniquely useful for cardio. It has an unusual “two stage” blend of caffeine that includes 100 milligrams of micro-encapsulated caffeine, which breaks down more slowly than the 150 milligrams of caffeine anhydrous that’s also in here. So you get a hit of caffeine at the start of your cardio session, then some more caffeine kicks in down the road, making this great for endurance. There’s also a good amount of citrulline, which might increase time to fatigue, plus beta alanine and a ton of B-vitamins.

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Old School Labs Vintage Blast
Old School Labs Vintage Blast
Old School Labs Vintage Blast

A unique two stage pre workout that's especially well suited for endurance workouts and for boosting blood flow.

Who Should Buy Old School Labs Vintage Blast

  • People who take longer workouts, as the two stage caffeine should result in prolonged energy.
  • Runners who find beta alanine helps their performance.
  • Those who want to avoid artificial flavors and sweeteners.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Old School Labs Vintage Blast

  • Those who really like the l-carnitine l-tartrate and tyrosine on the label; it’s a little low in these ingredients.

Only a couple of companies have this sort of “slow release” caffeine and it could be exactly what your endurance based workouts have been missing. Have at it!

Best Pre Workout for Weight Loss: Transparent Labs Lean

The key to weight loss is consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day, but is there a pre workout that might offer a little extra help?

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 Review

Transparent Labs Lean Highlights

Transparent Labs Lean has a lot of ingredients that you’ll also find in fat burners. A big one is synephrine, also called bitter orange extract, which a couple of studies found may increase the amount of calories burned in a given day — an effect that may be enhanced by the hordenine that’s also present in this product. On top of that there are some ingredients that may support thyroid health, plus it’s just well-dosed in many of the other mainstay preworkout ingredients we’ve mentioned 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, this 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 burn an extra hundred or so calories from ingesting their pre workout alone.
  • People who avoid artificial ingredients; there are none here.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Lean

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

While it’s a little low in BCAAs, this is still an interesting pre workout that’s all natural and might increase thermogenesis, or the number of calories you’re burning.

[Looking for a dedicated fat burner? Check out our list of the 5 best fat burners on the market.] 

Best Pre Workout for Cutting: Evlution Nutrition Engn Shred

So you’re in a fat loss phase and you want everything you eat to support that goal? Look, you really just need to be eating the right calories and macros but if you’re curious about ingredients like cayenne pepper for fat loss, consider…  

Evlution Engn Shred pre workout

Evlution Nutrition Engn Shred Highlights

Evlution Nutrition Engn Shred was our favorite best pre workout for people cutting weight. Not only is it a pre workout supplement with plenty of beta alanine, caffeine, and tyrosine, but it has an “Engn Shred Matrix” that’s full of ingredients that are linked to improved fat loss like red pepper extract, coleus extract, and yohimbine. It’s also tasty, reasonably priced, and the coleus extract could even help with hormonal function.  

Evlution Engn Shred Pre Workout
Evlution Engn Shred Pre Workout
Evlution Engn Shred Pre Workout
A diverse pre workout that contains multiple energy boosting ingredients and amino acids to fuel a workout.

Who Should Buy Evlution Nutrition Engn Shred

  • People who like the idea of consuming red pepper and yohimbine in their pre workouts to potentially accelerate fat loss.
  • Anyone who likes plenty of caffeine (260mg), beta alanine (1.6g) and B-vitamins in their pre workout.
  • Penny pinchers; this is one of the least expensive products on this list.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Evlution Nutrition Engn Shred

  • Those wary of proprietary blends; there are two of them here and most of the ingredients are hidden in them.

Engn Shred has a great reputation in the market, it’s tasty, and it perks you up good and proper. If you don’t mind the secret blends, this is a fine pick.

Best Pre Workout for Running: Transparent Labs Bulk 

Running remains the most popular form of exercise on Earth, and if you’re really dedicated to maximizing your running workouts and prolonging their length, you’ll be interested in this.

Transparent Labs Bulk Pre Workout

Transparent Labs Bulk Highlights

Transparent Labs Bulk is our favorite for running. First of all, at four grams, it has more beta alanine than almost any other pre workout supplement we’ve seen. This makes it a great pick for longer runs. It also has a large amount of citrulline, which could help with nitric oxide and thus boost endurance. But what brought it to number one was all the ingredients for focus: taurine, theanine, and tyrosine, meaning it could help you stay present and “in the zone” for longer runs.

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Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK

Like many Transparent Labs products, it's an extraordinarily well dosed pre workout supplement for endurance, power, and focus. Use code BARBEND10 to save 10%.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Bulk 

  • People who want a huge hit of beta alanine to help with endurance.
  • Folks who like ingredients to help them “focus” during hard runs, as this contains taurine, theanine, and tyrosine.
  • Anyone who wants to avoid artificial sweeteners and flavors.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Bulk 

  • Penny pinchers; this is on the pricy side.
  • People who don’t love the “tingly” feeling from a lot of beta alanine.

If you’re convinced beta alanine is the best pre workout ingredient for endurance, you can’t go past Transparent Labs BULK. 

Best Pre Workout Without Creatine Legion Pulse

Creatine is great for improving power output and muscle size, but plenty of people try to avoid it because, well, it makes your muscles look bigger. Some find it makes them look more “puffy” than big. Maybe you want to look as hard and small as possible for a show. Whatever your reason, you can take…

Legion Pulse Preworkout

Legion Pulse Highlights

Legion Pulse earned its spot again. It’s got some of the highest doses we’ve ever seen of caffeine, citrulline, beta alanine, plus it’s got a lot of taurine and theanine, ingredients that can help with focus and reduce the jitteriness associated with large doses of caffeine. Another bonus: it has 2.5 grams of betaine, which is linked to power output, so you may not miss the power-boosting effects of creatine.

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Legion Pulse Pre Workout
Legion Pulse Pre Workout
Legion Pulse Pre Workout

A pre workout supplement with strong, clinically effective doses — and a two-scoop serving so you can keep things mild if you prefer. Use code "BARBEND" for 20% off!

Who Should Buy Legion Pulse

  • Those who want a powerful pre workout that’s free from creatine.
  • Anyone interested in an effective workout, given there are big doses of betaine, beta alanine, plus theanine and taurine for focus.
  • People who want an all natural supplement.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Pulse

  • Penny pinchers; this one’s on the pricy side.

Creatine doesn’t necessarily need to be taken pre workout in any event, but whether you take it at a different time of day or you don’t take it at all, Pulse is a great supplement for your gym sessions.

Best All Natural Pre Workout: Old School Labs Vintage Blast 

Don’t want artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors? Here’s one of our favorite options, and it has an innovative approach to caffeine as well.

Old School Labs Vintage Blast Review

Old School Labs Vintage Blast Highlights

Old School Labs Vintage Blast is the best all natural pre workout supplement on the market, in our opinion. It just comes in Blueberry Lemonade flavor, which is somewhat sour, but it’s still a great quality supplement that’s flavored with stevia and pineapple juice powder. The active ingredients support a variety of athletic goals but owing to its two-stage formula it’s especially useful for endurance athletes — it has both caffeine anhydrous and micro-encapsulated caffeine, which breaks down more slowly. So you get a hit of energy at the start of the workout and again later on in the workout. Add that to the big hit of citrulline, beta alanine, and l-carnitine tartrate, and this can support a lot of types of training.

Old School Labs Vintage Blast Preworkout
Old School Labs Vintage Blast Preworkout
Old School Labs Vintage Blast Preworkout
A unique two stage preworkout that's especially well suited for endurance workouts and for boosting blood flow.

Who Should Buy Old School Labs Vintage Blast

  • Anyone leery of artificial sweeteners, or flavors, or colors — this is as natural as it gets.
  • Runners and those interested in longer workouts, as the caffeine acts over a longer period of time.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Old School Labs Vintage Blast

  • Those who don’t like products on the sour side.
  • People who are interested by the l-carnitine l-tartrate and tyrosine on the label; the dosage is actually a little low.

Tasty, all natural, and with an unusual two-stage approach to caffeine, this is definitely a pre workout worth considering if you’re avoiding sucralose or if you need your endurance.

Best Pre Workout Without Caffeine: The Genius Brand Genius Pre

Caffeine is the only stimulant in these products. (Well, that and yohimbine, which is rare.) Everything else can be taken any time of day without necessarily affecting sleep, and many prefer stim-free pre workouts if they’re exercising at night.

The Genius Brand Creatine Review

It’s a little on the pricier side, but instead of caffeine it uses rhodiola rosea and theobromine, ingredients that have been linked to reduced fatigue and improved focus. Along with very high doses of pre workout stalwarts beta alanine and citrulline, it’s also got a lot of unusual ingredients often left out of pre workouts, like ElevATP for power and astragalus, which can help with focus and possibly reduce muscle cramps.  

Genius Pre Workout
Genius Pre Workout
Genius Pre Workout

This pre workout supplement delivers a robust blend of energy, pump, and endurance boosting ingredients.

Who Should Buy The Genius Brand Genius Pre

  • Nighttime exercisers who don’t want caffeine to interfere with their sleep.
  • Anyone who’s sensitive to caffeine.
  • People who want to avoid artificial ingredients.
  • Those curious about the potential stress-reducing and focus-boosting benefits of adaptogens like rhodiola rosea and astragalus.

Who Shouldn’t Buy The Genius Brand Genius Pre

  • Penny pinchers; The Genius Brand doesn’t make cheap supplements.
  • Of course, anyone who likes stimulants in their pre workouts.

With a smooth flavor and a ton of remarkable performance boosters, this is an ideal product for those who like the science of pre workouts but not the caffeine.

runners
oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

What Are the Benefits of Pre Workouts?

The first thing people tend to associate with pre workouts is caffeine, which can affect just about every part of a workout. Obviously it’s best known for its effect as stimulant, but it also linked to better power, endurance, perceived exertion, and even cognition.(1)(2)(3) For example, a randomized, double blind study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when compared to a placebo, ten athletes improved their speed, reaction time, movement time, and decision-making time when supplementing.(4)

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.

[Read more: The 5 Best Pre Workout Ingredients for Focus!]

But again, a pre workout supplement isn’t just caffeine. (And sometimes they don’t even have that.) 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 you need to achieve your full potential.

Those ingredients have relatively solid research behind them. For example, a hugely popular meta analysis published in Amino Acids of fifteen studies found that beta alanine reliably increases muscular endurance and because it forms carnosine.(5), We produce less carnosine as we age, which is why some research has suggested it may even exert anti-aging effects.(6) 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.(7)(8)

But 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 a pre workout’s effectiveness, we didn’t disqualify anything that had a questionable ingredient. Rather, we looked at the overall effect of the product. Even if there are a couple of not-so-science-backed inclusions, are there enough reputable, well-dosed ingredients that the product will be useful?

20 rep squats
Rido/Shutterstock

How We Decide the Best

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 dealbreakers — some products are on the pricy side, for example, but the ingredients justify it. 

Value

Most pre workouts cost between 80c and $1 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 pricy” territory.

Transparency

A huge number of pre workouts consist of proprietary blends; you know the ingredients but not the amounts. That means you don’t know it’s effective. 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 loses points.

Dosage

On a related note, scores of pre workouts take research backed ingredients but don’t use research backed doses. Citrulline needs to be 5 grams or more, guys! 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.)

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 tend to be the ones that produce positive results.

 

Coffee
Image via Shutterstock/Visual Intermezzo

What’s In Your Pre Workout?

Here are the most common ingredients you can expect in a pre workout.

Caffeine

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.

Creatine

Probably 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 pre workout, it’s an any time supplement — the point is to increase the creatine in your muscles over time. Dose is 5 to 10 grams a day.

Beta Alanine

Linked to improved endurance, both in cardio-focused workouts and strength training in higher reps, as in over eight per set. Because of this, it may help with hypertrophy, too. The standard dose is 1.6 to 3.2 grams.

watermelon

Citrulline

Research suggests that 5 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.

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. 

Taurine

When paired with caffeine, taurine may help with improving focus. Since it might draw water into cells, it may improve recovery and muscle craps as well. The dose is 1 or 2 grams.

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 really 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.

focused athlete
El Nariz/Shutterstock

Before Taking a Pre Workout

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. can cause anxiety, diarrhea, maybe even temporary high blood pressure. We’re not of the opinion that caffeine is bad for you, rather everyone has different tolerance for caffeine and it makes it harder for the nervous system to relax, or enter a parasympathetic state that’s conducive for recovery, sleep, and destressing. It’s not a bad idea to take a week off of 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. They’re more like”take it every day” type supplement that will imbue you with their benefits regardless of the time of day.

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.

Remember the Dosage

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

Chat to 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.

kettlebell overhead squat featured
via Satyrenko/Shutterstock

Final Word

If you’re engaged in sport, supplements can be super helpful. They can increase amount of your energy and effectiveness of exercise. It’s easy to grab supplements you need in the shop to get some extra boost and achieve great results. So why not give it a try?
We 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 for every one of these awesome supplements and while plenty of people have different ideas as to what constitutes a “quality” supplement, but we think we’ve put together the best darn guide to picking a pre workout supplement on the internet cause we believe that every sportsman deserves to take. great sport nutrition supplements. We hope you liked our guide. For more information on each of the products, just make sure to click through to the full review. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

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 part 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

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2. Smillie LD, et al. Caffeine enhances working memory for extraverts. Biol Psychol. 2010 Dec;85(3):496-8.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Hobson RM, et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):25-37.
6. Hipkiss AR. On the enigma of carnosine’s anti-aging actions. Exp Gerontol. 2009 Apr;44(4):237-42.
7. Lee, E.C. et al. (2010) Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7: 27.
8. Hoffman, J. et al. (2009) Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009; 6: 7.