Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lebron James. Lindsey Vonn. Cindy Crawford.

These are the founders of Ladder, a piping hot supplement company with some of the biggest names in the worlds of sport and fitness behind it.

There are a lot of interesting things about this company beyond the big names: the brand’s emphasis on competitive athletes is reflected in the fact that everything is certified by NSF, a product testing, inspection and certification organization that make sure there are no banned substances. (James and Vonn really can’t afford to fail a drug test, after all.)

It’s also direct to consumer, so you can’t get this in your local supplement shop, and Ladder offers customized supplement plans based off of a short quiz you can take on their site.

Energy is their pre workout and it has a really remarkable emphasis on improving your focus, plus it has research-backed doses of ingredients that might improve endurance and power. But you may be surprised that the caffeine content is about half of what you normally see in pre workouts. Let’s take a closer look at the Strawberry Lemonade flavor.

[See more on our list of the best pre workouts on the market!]

Ladder Energy Ingredients

The first thing people want to know about pre workouts is the caffeine content, and Energy has 98 milligrams — which is actually quite low for a pre workout. Most fall between 200 and 350 milligrams, although the USDA puts a small, 4oz coffee at about 90 milligrams worth of caffeine. (A tall Starbucks® coffee is about 235 milligrams.)

After that there’s:

Creatine (5g)

Beta-alanine (3g)

Betaine anhydrous (2.5g)

Theanine (250mg)

Citicoline sodium salt (500mg)

The other ingredients are cane sugar, natural flavors, citric acid, guar gum, stevia, silica, and beet root for color. One serving is 25 calories and it’s worth emphasizing here that there are no artificial flavors or sweeteners in the product, nor is there any soy or gum.

Ladder Pre Workout

Ladder Energy Benefits & Effectiveness

Caffeine, of course, is the most popular stimulant on Earth but it doesn’t just perk you up. It has very well researched benefits for power output, focus, and endurance. It’s true that 98 milligrams isn’t very much of it for a pre workout but this may be a pro or a con, depending on your own needs.

If you find that many pre workouts have an overwhelming amount of caffeine — which is a valid concern — or perhaps if you’re a lighter athlete for whom 98 milligrams is all that’s needed, then this could be a good fit. If you buy these products specifically to get a giant caffeine hit then you might be disappointed.

Creatine is one of the most research backed supplements on Earth and has a ton of evidence linking it to increased power output and muscle size, along with some possible benefits for mental health.(1) It doesn’t actually need to be taken before a workout but the dosage is solid.

[See our list of the best creatine products you can buy.]

Beta-alanine is for endurance. A lot of data has found it to help in this area, with one meta-analysis finding that it can increase sprint speed by around 3 percent and also help with strength endurance in rep ranges around 8 to 15.(2) Note that it produces a tingly sensation on the skin, which is harmless, but not everyone loves.

beetroot

Betaine anyhdrous is used for power. Usually sourced from beets, there aren’t as many studies supporting it as there are for creatine and beta-alanine, but promising studies have seen increases in the back squat and bench press for folks taking 2.5 grams of it per day, which is the amount you’ll find in a serving of Energy.(3)(4)(5)

All of these ingredients are really well dosed but where Ladder really shines is the ingredients for focus.

The main attraction is theanine. An amino acid found in tea leaves, it seems to promote activity in our alpha brain waves.(6) It’s complicated, but the take home message is that it’s associated with more focus, less stress, and less drowsiness.(7)(8) Evidence also suggests that when combined with caffeine it seems to do a good job of reducing the jitteriness and lack of focus.(9)

There’s also citicoline, which has links to improved cognition, memory, and attention.(10)(11)(12) Most studies are on rodents and older folks but there are also some on younger adults that have found similar, pretty reliable results.

Ladder Pre Workout jar

Ladder Energy Price

These only come in single serve packets, with Schwarzenegger saying in an interview that,

“The idea is not to overwhelm people with these huge cans of protein, stuff they didn’t know what to do with, how many scoops to put in.”

So what you get is these little packets, which decrease in cost the more you order.

If you just want to get one order you’ll get 8 of them at once, and it comes to a little over $3 per serving.

If you subscribe to 12 per month, they cost between $2.30 and $2.70 each.

If you sign up to take 30 pre workouts per month, the cost falls to $1.80 to $2.20 per serving.

Now, the average pre workout on the market is between 80 cents and $1.20 per serving so whatever price you get, Energy is a bit pricy. Then again, it’s NSF certified, has no artificial ingredients, and has well researched doses so you may find that price worth it.

Ladder Pre Workout drinking

Ladder Energy Taste

It’s just available in one flavor right now, but the Strawberry Lemonade was really delightful. Lemony flavors are a good idea for naturally sweetened supplements because it’s easy to use natural flavorings like citric acid or malic acid to produce an authentic taste.

Strawberry Lemonade tasted like raspberry flavored candy you might have when you were a kid — Swedish Fish or Nerds — with a hint of lemon. For a product with no artificial flavors or sweeteners I confess I was wary, but the stevia, cane sugar, and citric acid work together very well.

Ladder Pre Workout bottle

The Takeaway

Pros

  • Big emphasis on focus
  • Well dosed ingredients for power and endurance
  • Tasty
  • All Natural
  • NSF certified

Cons

  • Pricy
  • Not very high in caffeine
  • Has some added sugar

I think this is a superb product. It uses the best researched ingredients and the best researched doses and it has a really remarkable emphasis on ingredients that promote focus. (In our opinion, theanine is one of the most underrated pre workout ingredients for focus.)

The main potential downsides are the cost and the fact that it’s not all that high in caffeine but one things’ certain: Ladder has delivered a pre workout that stands out from the crowd.

References

1. Rawson ES, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):822-31.
2. Hobson RM, et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):25-37.
3. Hoffman JR, et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 27;6:7.
4. Lee EC, et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jul 19;7:27.
5. 2008 International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference and Expo Las Vegas, NV, USA. 9-10 June 2008. Abstracts. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5 Suppl 1:P1-P29.
6. Higashiyama, A. Effects of L-theanine on attention and reaction time response. Journal of Functional Foods.2011 Jul;3(3):171-178.
7. Kahathuduwa CN, et al. Acute effects of theanine, caffeine and theanine-caffeine combination on attention. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Jul;20(6):369-377.
8. Haskell CF, et al. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. 2008 Feb;77(2):113-22.
9. Haskell CF, et al. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. 2008 Feb;77(2):113-22.
10. McGlade, E et al. Improved Attentional Performance Following Citicoline Administration in Healthy Adult Women. Food Nutr Sci. 2012 Jan;03(06).
11. Spiers PA, et al. Citicoline improves verbal memory in aging. Arch Neurol. 1996 May;53(5):441-8.
12. Alvarez XA, et al. Citicoline improves memory performance in elderly subjects. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 1997 Apr;19(3):201-10.