Best Pre-Workout Supplements For Muscle Gain, Running, 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 — Jacked Factory checks both of these boxes.

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, many of which can help with muscle growth, in addition to energy, focus, and more blood flow. The beta-alanine may help increase strength and power, and the citrulline can help with pumps. You’ll also find other pre-workout classics like caffeine, betaine, and theanine. Plus, this product comes in 11 different flavors for tons of variety.

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, like the 1.6g of beta-alanine. 

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE

  • 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 to 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 11 flavors, including 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 should look elsewhere. 

Affordable and effective, we’re big fans of Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE, its science-backed label, and added hit of AstraGin® to potentially help with absorption.

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 Transparent Labs BULK.

Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK contains boron, which has some pretty positive links to testosterone production in the body. (1) Since ingredients like testosterone and BCAAs (which you’ll also find here) can help facilitate muscle growth, this product takes our top slot here. BULK also doesn’t contain any blends, is gluten-free, and has 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 400mg per serving). BULK also features big hits of Vitamin D and zinc, in addition to its basic pre-workout ingredients like citrulline and beta-alanine. 

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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. Plus, it has citrulline, which can help with nitric oxide production.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BULK

  • Folks who like an emphasis on muscle gains will appreciate the boron and BCAAs here. 
  • 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.

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 who prefer something sweeter.
  • People who are not interested in ingredients that may improve testosterone production.

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. 

Strongest Pre-Workout

This pick’s ingredients stay true to its name — Wrecked is potently dosed, providing one of the strongest doses of citrulline on this list. 

Huge Supplements Wrecked

Huge Supplements Wrecked packs 18 ingredients at high doses. There’s 9,000mg of citrulline malate, 3,200mg of beta alanine, 350mg of caffeine, and 2,000mg of betaine anhydrous — all of which are higher doses than the average you would find on the market. In addition, you’ll find 1,000mg of tyrosine that may help with focus and 100mg of Himalayan pink sea salt that can help with hydration. Each serving doses 21.1 grams of these ingredients at 25 servings per container.

However, the site doesn’t do a great job at explaining some of their ingredients’ uses and a few of the ingredients are not super common in pre-workouts (like theobromine, which can be helpful for cardiac health and isopropylnorsynephrine, which can help with fat burn). If you’re a beginner who is concerned about knowing the “why” behind each ingredient and its dose, this pick may leave something to be desired for you. 

Huge Supplements Wrecked
Huge Supplements Wrecked
Huge Supplements Wrecked

This product packs 18 ingredients at high doses, including 9,000mg of citrulline malate, 3,200mg of beta alanine, 350mg of caffeine, and 2,000mg of betaine anhydrous. Plus, you’ll find 1,000mg of tyrosine and 100mg of Himalayan pink sea salt, as well.

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked

  • Folks looking for a potent dose of typical pre-workout ingredients will like the numbers on this label. 
  • Athletes who prefer a pre-workout with caffeine. This product contains 350mg. 
  • People who appreciate a robust ingredients list will like that there are 18 different pre-workout ingredients here. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked

  • Anyone who wants all of their pre-workout ingredients explained to them on the label or website — this product contains some less common pre-workout ingredients that they don’t explain in depth on their site. 
  • Customers who want a stim-free formula will want to look elsewhere as this pre has 350mg of caffeine.

For a powerful pre-workout with high doses of ingredients like citrulline, beta alanine, and caffeine, Wrecked is the way to go. 

Best Pre-Workout for Men

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

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout can help with strength training by fueling muscles and extending performance and energy levels. This supp is packed with citrulline, beta-alanine, betaine, theanine, and a high dose of caffeine at 350mg (which you can opt not to include at checkout if you’d rather focus on the performance enhancing ingredients, rather than caffeine’s energy boost). Legion also includes Alpha-GPC, which can help increase power.

It’s flavored and sweetened naturally too, so you won’t have to worry about consuming any artificial ingredients here. Plus, it comes in 16 different flavors, which is one of the widest varieties we’ve seen in our time testing pre-workouts. 

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Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout

This pre-workout supplement can come with or without caffeine and in 16 different flavors. Each serving provides 350 milligrams of L-theanine and eight grams of citrulline, which may facilitate better pumps. 

Who Should Buy Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

  • Men who focus on strength training and want a specific formula that can help them lift heavier and recover better will like the betaine and Alpha-GPC here. 
  • People who want a high dose of caffeine can find that in this product. It contains 350mg. 
  • Anyone looking for a wide variety of flavor options will appreciate that this one has 16. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

  • If you want a pre-workout that contains creatine, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 
  • Those who aren’t concerned with artificial ingredients. Though this is not a lesser product because it’s all natural, you will have far more options if you’re not steering clear of anything artificial.

If you’re looking for a pre-workout that may help you prolong your time in the gym and fuel your muscles, this pick has many of the ingredients you need. 

Best Pre-Workout for Women

Though this is the best pick for women, it’s just a well-rounded pre-workout in general. The priorities remain the same for all genders: quality ingredients, effective dosing, and delicious flavors (so you enjoy drinking it).

Powher Pre-Workout

This pre-workout is a blend of very typical pre-workout ingredients (like citrulline, taurine, beta-alanine, and tyrosine) combined with some more unique ingredients. There’s only 100mg of caffeine, which is a great boost, but not overpowering. And one of the less common ingredients you’ll find here is RedNite — this is a strong beet extract that can help you be more efficient during your strength training. If you’re looking for extra hydration, Powher also includes 500mg of coconut water powder. This pre comes in a Pink Lemonade flavor that we thought tasted a little more like raspberry, without much of a citrus kick — though we still liked it. 

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 Pre-Workout

  • Women who want common pre-workout ingredients as well as more unique ones will like the combination here. 
  • If you’re looking for a small boost of caffeine, you’ll like that this pre only contains 100mg. 
  • Those who want to stay hydrated while they exercise will appreciate the coconut water power in this blend. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Powher Pre-Workout

  • If you want more than 100mg of caffeine, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 
  • Lemonade lovers. If you’re considering this product for the lemonade taste, we tested it for you and found that it tastes much more like raspberry than lemonade. 
  • Athletes who are looking for a straightforward blend with pre-workout basics can find formulas that don’t contain less common ingredients like RedNite. 

For a pre-workout that offers an effective blend of classic pre-workout ingredients and more unique ones, look no further than Powher. This is a well-rounded formula and even offers a kick of coconut water powder for extra hydration. 

Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss

The key to weight loss is consuming 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 Pre-Workout for Beginners

Pre-workout newbies may want a product that’s easy to understand. This product explains all of its ingredients and goals on its website. Plus, you can opt out of the caffeine if you’re worried about jitters. 

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Legion lists all of their ingredients and doses on their website, and explains exactly what each product can help with in your fitness journey — this may help newbies who aren’t sure what to look for. Another great thing about Legion Pulse is that you have the option to nix the caffeine from the formula at checkout, which we haven’t seen with many brands. So if you’re just starting out, and aren’t sure if you can handle the 350mg of caffeine in the formula, just select “Without Caffeine” when you make your purchase. 

Aside from these beginner-friendly properties, Legion is just a solid all-natural blend that contains pre-workout classics like betaine, citrulline, and beta-alanine, as well as some less common ingredients that may boost power like Alpha-GPC. Plus, it comes in 16 different flavors. 

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Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout

This pre-workout supplement can come with or without caffeine and in 16 different flavors. Each serving provides 350 milligrams of L-theanine and eight grams of citrulline, which may facilitate better pumps. 

Who Should Buy Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

  • New pre-workout users who want ingredients with thorough explanations, so they don’t have to play any guessing games. 
  • Anyone who prefers a pre-workout supplement that gives you the option to ditch the caffeine if you want to.
  • People who want all natural ingredients in their pre-workout. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

  • Folks who prefer a pre-workout with creatine — you won’t find any creatine in this pre-workout.
  • If you don’t like the tingles you may get from beta-alanine, you should find a product that doesn’t contain this ingredient. 

Legion Pulse is a simple yet effective pre-workout that beginners can enjoy. Plus, they explain their ingredients on their website, so you can rest assured that you know exactly what you’re putting in your body.

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.

Huge Supplements Wrecked

Wrecked comes in four flavors — Rainbow Burst, Peach Rings, Raspberry Mojito, and Bomb Popsicle — and packs a robust ingredient list aimed at enhancing energy, focus, and endurance. You’ll find a handful of traditional pre-workout ingredients on Wrecked’s nutrition label; think caffeine (350mg), citrulline (9 grams), and beta-alanine (3.2 grams). You’ll also find less common ingredients like theobromine, which can help with heart health, and higenamine, which can work as a stimulant to speed up your heart rate.

It’s worth noting, however, that Huge Supplements does not explain their ingredients or dosages on their site or label. But if you’re familiar with supplements and don’t mind deciphering the label on your own, this is a powerful and delicious pre-workout supplement. 

Huge Supplements Wrecked
Huge Supplements Wrecked
Huge Supplements Wrecked

This product packs 18 ingredients at high doses, including 9,000mg of citrulline malate, 3,200mg of beta alanine, 350mg of caffeine, and 2,000mg of betaine anhydrous. Plus, you’ll find 1,000mg of tyrosine and 100mg of Himalayan pink sea salt, as well.

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked

  • Anyone who wants more than just the basic pre-workout ingredients will like the 18 ingredients included in this product. 
  • People who want four great tasting (and unique) flavors to choose from. This pre comes in Rainbow Burst, Peach Rings, Raspberry Mojito, and Bomb Popsicle.
  • People who want classic pre-workout ingredients with above average dosages will like that this pre-workout contains 9,000mg of citrulline, 3,200mg of beta alanine, and 350mg of caffeine. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked

  • Customers who are looking for a pre-workout with a label/website that explains why each ingredient is included and why its specific dosage is effective. 
  • Anyone who’s allergic to caffeine will want to avoid this product as it contains 350mg of it.

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

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, like the 1.6g of beta-alanine. 

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 Pre-Workout Without Caffeine

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.

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout (No Caffeine)

Legion Pulse is unique in that it offers the same formula both with and without caffeine. You’ll find pre-workout classics like citrulline, betaine, beta-alanine, and theanine, but if you want to ditch the 350mg of caffeine, you can just select “Without Caffeine” at checkout. Another huge plus to this formula is that it’s all natural — that means you don’t need to worry about consuming any artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. It also has 16 flavor options, so you’ll always be able to find something new to try.

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Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout

This pre-workout supplement can come with or without caffeine and in 16 different flavors. Each serving provides 350 milligrams of L-theanine and eight grams of citrulline, which may facilitate better pumps. 

Who Should Buy Legion Pulse Pre-Workout (No Caffeine)

  • Anyone who does not want caffeine or other stimulants in their pre-workout should really appreciate this stim-free formula. 
  • If you want to start out with no caffeine, but may be willing to try it later, this product offers the option to add caffeine to your formula. 
  • This product’s label is great for those who like transparent dosing — you know exactly how much of each ingredient you’re ingesting.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Pulse Pre-Workout (No Caffeine)

  • If you’re looking for more innovative ingredients, you won’t find them here. This blend mostly contains classic pre-workout ingredients. 
  • People who want a pre-workout that includes creatine.

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

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. 

Transparent Labs LEAN

Runners chasing more miles and improved focus will prize Transparent Labs’ science-backed ingredient list. This formula notably includes Infinergy™, which is a sustained-release caffeine — this means the energy you can receive from a dose of caffeine should last longer, making it ideal for distance running. There’s also theanine, which when combined with caffeine, can help you remain focused during those long runs. Plus, you’ll find other typical pre-workout ingredients like citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine. This blend comes in nine flavors, which is a pretty solid variety.

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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

  • 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 theanine and caffeine.
  • People who like products backed by research. Transparent Labs explains all of its ingredients on its website. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs LEAN

  • People who don’t love the “tingly” feeling from a lot of beta-alanine. This contains 2,000mg of it.
  • Runners or lifters who don’t want caffeine. There are stim-free formulas available to you. 

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

Best All Natural Pre-Workout

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

Legion Pulse All-Natural Pre-Workout

While artificial sweeteners aren’t technically harmful, some folks do prefer steering clear. The good news is, pre-workouts such as Legion’s provide a naturally flavored blend without compromising the ingredient label. In addition to packing calcium, sodium, and potassium, Legion Pulse also boasts tried-and-true ingredients such as beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline (for pumps). While this pre-workout does offer 350mg of caffeine, it also has the option to order the same blend without this 350mg, as well. Plus, it comes in 16 different flavors, which is a huge perk for those looking for a bit of variety.

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Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout
Legion Pulse Preworkout

This pre-workout supplement can come with or without caffeine and in 16 different flavors. Each serving provides 350 milligrams of L-theanine and eight grams of citrulline, which may facilitate better pumps. 

Who Should Buy Legion Pulse All-Natural Pre-Workout

  • People who don’t want artificial flavors in their pre-workout will appreciate that this product does not contain any. 
  • Those who want the option to choose if they want to include caffeine in their pre-workout.
  • Athletes who value flavor variety will like the 16 flavor options here. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Pulse All-Natural Pre-Workout

  • 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.
  • If you’re looking for a pre-workout with creatine, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

Legion Pulse 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 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. 

Transparent Labs BULK

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”). Transparent Labs BULK contains none of these ingredients and instead relies on calcium silicate as an anti-caking agent. Aside from that change, BULK 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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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. Plus, it has citrulline, which can help with nitric oxide production.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BULK

  • 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 eight fruit flavors.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BULK

  • 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 as 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 Transparent Labs 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. Plus, it has citrulline, which can help with nitric oxide production.

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 Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE $17.08

Per Serving: $0.57

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain Transparent Labs BULK $49.00

Per Serving: $1.63

Strongest Pre-Workout Huge Supplements Wrecked $49.95

Per Serving: $2.00

Best Pre-Workout for Men Legion Pulse Pre-Workout $39.99 

Per Serving: $1.90

Best Pre-Workout for Women Powher Pre-Workout $45.00

Per Serving: $1.80

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

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Pre-workout for Beginners Legion Pulse Pre-Workout $39.99 

Per Serving: $1.90

Best Tasting Pre-Workout Huge Supplements Wrecked $49.95

Per Serving: $2.00

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

Per Serving: $0.57

Best Pre-Workout Without Caffeine Legion Pulse Pre-Workout (No Caffeine) $39.99 

Per Serving: $1.90

Best Pre-Workout for Running Transparent Labs LEAN $49 

Per Serving: $1.63

Best All Natural Pre-Workout Legion Pulse All-Natural Pre-Workout $39.99 

Per Serving: $1.90

Best Vegan Pre-Workout Transparent Labs BULK $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

What Are the Benefits of Pre-Workouts?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. 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.

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.