The Strongest Pre-Workouts for Pump, Focus, Tingles, and More

From extreme focus to intense pumps, these are the strongest pre-workouts you can buy right now.

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Whether you’re a go big or go home type of person who wants to jump into the deep end, or you’re an experienced pre-workout taker looking for next level formulas, taking a strong pre-workout can give you the kick you’re craving. If you’ve been taking pre’s for a while, you can build up a tolerance to the ingredients, and the regular formulas may not cut it for you anymore. Maybe you’ve never taken a pre-workout before, but you need more rise with your rise and grind, or are simply looking to take your workouts to the max with the ultimate hype formula. 

This is a comprehensive list of the strongest pre-workouts you can get your hands on. We selected only pre’s with transparent labels that show their dosing since the amounts in these are higher than your average pre. It won’t be uncommon to see doses of over 300mg of caffeine, 5,000mg of citrulline, and 3,000mg of beta-alanine in the products on this list — often double or more than what you’ll find in regular pre-workouts. No matter which one you choose here, you can be confident you’re grabbing a potent and strong formula with proper dosage that hits hard.

Strongest 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.

Strongest Pre-Workout Overall

When looking for the strongest pre-workout overall, it has to cover a variety of bases and not specialize in only one area. This product is clearly labeled with clinical doses of research-backed ingredients across a range of potential workout-enhancing applications.

Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout

Wrecked Pre-Workout has all the makings of an excellent pre-workout. Though it may not have the highest dosing in every category, the overall ingredient lineup here is quite potent with everything being well-dosed. This product is one of the strongest pre-workouts on the market, and has over 17 ingredients to help with pump, focus, recovery, tingles, and more. The caffeine content is quite high with 250mg of caffeine anhydrous and 100mg of di-caffeine malate, totaling 350mg of caffeine — for reference, a cup of coffee is generally agreed upon to have around 80 to 100mg of caffeine. Beta-alanine is also properly dosed at 3,500mg.

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.

On top of the stimulants, Wrecked comes packed with ingredients that are designed to help with your pump, such as 3,000mg betaine anhydrous, 4,000mg of Hydromax™ glycerol, and a whopping 8,000mg of l-citrulline — quite high doses overall. For a potential boost in focus, Wrecked features a solid dose of 600mg of Alpha GPC. This pre comes in four different flavors — Raspberry Mojito, Bomb Popsicle, Rainbow Burst, and Peach Rings — and is priced quite reasonably compared to many other potent pre’s on the market. Snag a jar for around $49.95 per 20-serving container (or about $2.50 per serving).

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout

  • Athletes who want a strong pre-workout across the board and not just in one area of focus will like the balanced ingredients list here that still manages potent servings.
  • Those who are looking for a strong but still affordable pre-workout will appreciate the reasonable price tag here.
  • People who like a powerful pre-workout overall. This product is well-rounded with some doses being double or more than what you’d find in typical pre-workouts. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout

  • Athletes who want a pre-workout that also includes creatine, so they don’t have to take it separately. Don’t worry we included one on the list.
  • Someone who is looking for a more focused pre-workout, such as one for pumps or focus only.
  • Anyone who doesn’t like a large pre-workout scoop. The serving size is 30.2g, which is right around the size of a scoop of protein powder.

Reasonably priced and formulated with clinically dosed ingredients, Wrecked Pre-Workout has just about everything that we look for in a pre-workout supplement. Though the scoop size is admittedly large, that’s what you’ll find is pretty common among the stronger pre-workouts to enable the product to have the right doses of ingredients.

[Related: Check out some more tame pre-workouts for all types of folks and goals with our complete guide to pre-workout supplements.] 

Strongest Pre-Workout for Blood Flow and Pump

Are you the type of person who likes to work up such a pump in the gym that you struggle to wash your hair in the shower afterwards? If so, then this might be the pre-workout of your dreams. It features massive doses of ingredients to help support blood flow and pump. 

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Kaged says that this product is not for the faint of heart, and we agree. This formula kicks the doses into overdrive with a monstrous 10,000mg of l-citrulline, 2,500mg of betaine, and 1,500mg of l-carnitine tartrate. With doses like that, don’t be surprised if your sleeves are hanging on by a thread and your quads are looking like a Tom Platz protégé. Aside from the massive dose of pump ingredients, the rest of the formula is stellar as well with 3,000mg of creatine monohydrate, 2,000mg of creatine nitrate, and a near upper limit dose of caffeine coming in at 388mg.

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Pre-Kaged® Elite provides nine patented ingredients with 35 milligrams of vitamin B6 and 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B12 in a single 36-gram scoop. Each serving is 25 calories and includes caffeine, taurine, l-citrulline, beta-alanine, l-tyrosine, and two types of creatine.

They weren’t joking when they said this isn’t for the faint of heart. Even with such an extreme formula, Kaged still manages to keep athlete safety and fair sport in mind with third-party testing and an Informed Choice Certification that Pre-Kaged Elite is free of banned substances. One downside we can see is that the scoop size is quite large at over 35g, which is par for the course with these potent formulas. The other is that this is a premium formula, which comes at a premium price of about $59.99 per 20-serving container, or just about $3.00 per serving. 

Who Should Buy Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

  • Athletes who want a strong pre-workout formula but don’t want to worry about ingesting banned substances can rest easy (unlikely with nearly 400mg of caffeine) with this product. 
  • Those who prefer a pre-workout with creatine. This product contains a combined 5,000mg from two different sources. 
  • People who are looking to achieve massive pumps. Pre-Kaged Elite is loaded with citrulline, betaine, and carnitine. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

  • Anyone who is on a tighter budget may want to opt for a more cost-effective pre-workout. 
  • Customers who are already taking a dedicated creatine supplement may find the creatine in here redundant.
  • Those who like to have a bunch of flavors to choose from. There are only three here.

This pre-workout may have an emphasis on blood flow and pump, but Pre-Kaged Elite can do it all. It’s marketed as an all-in-one formula and it really is thanks to the many different and properly dosed ingredients that cover all your bases. If you can pony up for the slightly higher cost per serving, then you may just be on your way to Pump City, population: You. 

Strongest Pre-Workout Without Artificial Anything

Just because a pre-workout hits like a Mack truck thanks to potent doses of effective ingredients doesn’t mean it has to have tons of crap in it like artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives. This product packs quite the punch and leaves the artificial stuff in the dust.

Transparent Labs BULK Black

As most people have come to expect from Transparent Labs, this formula has all the right stuff in the right doses and is clearly labeled. What’s arguably more notable is what Transparent Labs BULK Black doesn’t contain — namely any artificial sweeteners, colorings, or preservatives. If you prefer to keep your supplements clean while still ingesting a strong kick, then this formula is right up your alley. Heavy doses of 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, and over 300mg of caffeine headline the party of over 17 total grams of clinically-dosed ingredients. 

Transparent Labs BULK Black
Transparent Labs BULK Black
Transparent Labs BULK Black

Packed with over 17 grams of clinically-dosed ingredients like citrulline malate, caffeine, beta-alanine, and betaine anhydrous this formula has all the good things we look for in a pre-workout. It leaves out what we’d rather avoid like artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives.

Just because there aren’t any artificial sweeteners doesn’t mean this product is lacking in the flavor department either. You’ve got five unique options with flavors like Cherry Kiwi, Sour Gummy, and Black Cherry, which are sweetened with stevia extract. The price of this product is pretty fair too, considering the formula, at about $59.99 per 30-serving container — around $2.00 per serving. The scoop size is also smaller than many other strong pre-workouts at 21g per scoop compared to some that are over 30g.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BULK Black

  • Those who like to avoid artificial ingredients in their supplements will appreciate that Transparent Labs BULK Black is free of them. 
  • People who enjoy a robust ingredient list with minimal fillers. Each 21-gram scoop provides over 17 grams of active ingredients.
  • Those who want a highly dosed formula, but not one that’s quite as over the top as some other products. BULK Black is a heavy hitter — though it is balanced.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BULK Black

  • If you want a pre-workout that contains creatine you will have to look at other options on this list. 
  • Those who don’t like the taste of or are allergic to stevia may want to look for another pre-workout with a different sweetener. 
  • Anyone looking for the highest caffeine content possible may want to check out other options on this list. There is a lot of caffeine in here — over 300mg — but other formulas do contain more.

You can have your pre-workout and keep it clean too with Transparent Labs BULK Black. This potent yet balanced formula is a great middle ground in the strong pre-workout space that helps you bring the noise while still hearing your own thoughts. 

Strongest Pre-Workout for Focus (Alpha GPC)

Having a strong pre-workout can be a great way to wake you up for an early morning lift or help you find the energy you need to crush it in the gym after a long day. That said, sometimes it can be counterproductive if you can’t stay focused while you’re there. If you experience that problem, then you may find relief in this product which is dosed heavily with Alpha GPC for potential focus support.

Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme

Hood up. Headphones in. Pre-workout down. It’s time to focus up and make the most of every single rep. If that or something similar is what you’re looking for, you may find it here with Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme. This nootropic-forward formula is flush with 600mg of alpha-gpc, 200mg of n-phenethyl dimethylamine, and 20mg of huperzine A per scoop — all of which are potential focus and mental sharpness enhancers. (1) They’re included to help potentially balance out a massive dose of 400mg of total caffeine, so you can focus that energy and put it to good use.

Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme
Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme
Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme

Focus up and make every rep count with this potent nootropic and high-stimulant formula. Wrecked Extreme provides large doses of 600mg of alpha gpc and 400mg of total caffeine for laser-focused energy to crush your workout.

Let’s expand a bit on this lesser known ingredient called alpha gpc. It may not receive all the hype that the big name ingredients like caffeine or citrulline do, but it’s a powerful and potentially very effective ingredient nonetheless. It can help to increase the production of acetylcholine in the brain, which can improve motivation and focus. (2) Acetylcholine is also responsible for making muscle contractions happen, so it can lead to more power output too. (2) Regular doses are between 300mg and 600mg, so Wrecked Extreme is at the top end of the dosing spectrum for max results. (2)

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme

  • Athletes who want to prioritize the mind-muscle connection in their workouts. Focus and energy are at the forefront here.
  • People who want an extra hard kick of energy will appreciate the 400mg of caffeine in Wrecked Extreme.
  • Those who want to try a different type of pre-workout than their usual. This is unique compared to many other pre’s on this list thanks to the focus on a potential mental edge.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme

  • Those who don’t have any trouble focusing or connecting to their muscles. 
  • Anyone who is looking for more pump and blood flow ingredients will want to check out other options on this list.
  • People who want flavor options. This only comes in Jungle Candy flavor.

Gaining a mental edge over the competition can oftentimes make a huge difference. With the priority on focus and mental sharpness, this pre-workout can help you turn that jittery feeling you may have from other pre formulas into laser-focused training energy.

Strongest Pre-Workout with Creatine 

If you like to include creatine in your supplement regimen, but you don’t love the idea of taking tons of different supplements, you’ll love that Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite Pre-Workout contains two types of creatine, providing a full dose of 5,000mg of creatine in total. 

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Creatine is probably the most common and well-known supplement for many lifters who are interested in becoming bigger and stronger. There are myriad varieties of creatine on the market, such as micronized creatine, creatine hcl, buffered creatine, creatine ethyl ester, and good ole’ creatine monohydrate, to name a few. Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite contains two different types of creatine — 3,000mg of monohydrate and 2,000mg of nitrate — to equal a full dose of 5,000mg in total. While creatine monohydrate is by far the most well-researched and easily available type of creatine on the market, there is research that suggests creatine nitrate may improve its bioavailability for the body and muscles. (3)

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Pre-Kaged® Elite provides nine patented ingredients with 35 milligrams of vitamin B6 and 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B12 in a single 36-gram scoop. Each serving is 25 calories and includes caffeine, taurine, l-citrulline, beta-alanine, l-tyrosine, and two types of creatine.

Aside from providing a generous helping of creatine, Pre-Kaged Elite also has a bunch of other power players in it, like a massive dose of 10,000mg of citrulline, 3,200mg of beta-alanine, and a solid 2,500mg dose of betaine to potentially aid in blood flow and pump. This product is on the more expensive side, costing you around $3.00 per serving. Since it does double-duty as a pre-workout and creatine supplement, it may be worth the extra cost if you want to take fewer separate supplements.

Who Should Buy Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

  • Those who want the potential benefits of creatine monohydrate paired with creatine nitrate. This combo may be superior to the sum of its parts. 
  • Someone who wants an all-in-one supplement that provides creatine and pre-workout together, reducing the number of supplements you have to remember to take daily.
  • Anyone who is in the market for a premium pre-workout that can also potentially help with blood flow and pump. 10,000mg of citrulline per serving is a massive dose. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

  • People who want to supplement their creatine and pre-workout separately. Some folks like to take them at different times of the day. 
  • Those who don’t want to take a large scoop for their pre-workout. This is over 35g per serving — roughly the size of a scoop of protein powder.
  • Those on a budget can find a more cost-effective alternative, though it may not contain creatine.

If your current supplement stack is becoming a bit too busy or daunting, you may want to add a pre-workout and creatine combo that allows you to take one less supplement per day. Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite provides pre-workout workhorses, like citrulline and betaine, while also including two types of creatine to equal 5,000mg total. 

Strongest Pre-Workout for Skin Tingling 

Though some people may find the sensation off-putting or downright uncomfortable, there are some gymgoers that love the skin tingling feeling of a big dose of beta-alanine kicking in. If you count yourself among the latter, then Transparent Labs BULK Black is worth checking out. 

Transparent Labs BULK Black

Beta-alanine is most commonly known for its potential to improve muscular endurance. (4) It has also grown in popularity due to the skin tingling often caused by larger doses. Generally, any dose over 2,000mg can cause “the tingles,” known formally as paresthesia. The sensation itself is harmless, though some find it pleasurable while others may find it uncomfortable. If you’re searching for that feeling, then Transparent Labs BULK Black contains a monster dose of 4,000mg of beta-alanine — the largest dose in a pre-workout formula that we’ve ever tested. Get ready for the feel of bees buzzing on your skin, folks.

Transparent Labs BULK Black
Transparent Labs BULK Black
Transparent Labs BULK Black

Packed with over 17 grams of clinically-dosed ingredients like citrulline malate, caffeine, beta-alanine, and betaine anhydrous this formula has all the good things we look for in a pre-workout. It leaves out what we’d rather avoid like artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives.

In addition to the hearty dose of beta-alanine, this product is a well-rounded and properly dosed pre-workout overall. For potential pump and blood flow support, you’ll find 8,000mg of citrulline malate and 2,500mg of betaine anhydrous. If you need an extra kick of energy, there’s over 300mg of total caffeine and 200mg of l-theanine. As an added bonus, you won’t find any artificial sweeteners, colorings, or preservatives. Despite the large doses, the serving size is smaller than many other similarly potent pre-workouts at 21g per serving, making this a bit more palatable too. 

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BULK Black

  • Those who are fans of the tingles. With 4,000mg of beta-alanine, you can expect a powerful tingling sensation. 
  • Those who want a potent but clean pre-workout. Transparent Labs is known for not using any artificial ingredients or preservatives, and BULK Black is no exception to that.
  • Anyone who is looking for a well-rounded pre. This has a nice mix of ingredients for focus, endurance, and energy.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BULK Black

  • People who find the tingling sensation from large doses of beta-alanine uncomfortable. 
  • Those who are looking for a more specialized pre-workout for maximum blood flow, pumps, energy, or some other benefit. This is more of a balanced formula.
  • Athletes who want creatine with their pre-workout will want to look at other options on this list instead.

If you’re a fan of the tingles, then this pre-workout from Transparent Labs might be just what you’re looking for. A heavy dose of 4,000mg of beta-alanine coupled with all of the other ingredients in this robust formula make for a great pre-workout overall, tinglies included. 

Strongest Pre-Workout for Taste 

The best pre-workout formula in the world isn’t going to be of much use if you can’t get it down because it tastes awful. If you’re sensitive to the taste of your supplements and powders, then Legion Pulse likely has a flavor for you. 

Legion Pulse

This 100-percent natural pre-workout may not have the longest ingredients list of any pre-workout, but the ingredients it does contain are all well-dosed, and there are more flavors than you can shake a stick at — meaning you’ll likely never get bored with the flavor of your pre. Pick from your favorite of 17 flavors with no artificial sweeteners, flavors, dyes, or preservatives, including unique flavors like Mojito, Green Apple, Frosted Cranberry, Apple Cider, Arctic Blast, and Blood Orange. Pulse is sweetened with erythritol though, which some folks may not like as much as other natural sweeteners due to possible gastric issues, such as upset stomach or diarrhea.

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. 

Not only does Legion Pulse taste legitimately good, but it contains a potent blend of ingredients. With each 22.5g scoop, you’ll receive 8,000mg of citrulline, 3,600mg of beta-alanine, 2,500mg of betaine anhydrous, 350mg of caffeine, 350mg of l-theanine, and 300mg of alpha gpc — all of which are higher dosing than your average pre-workout. Legion also offers a caffeine-free version of Pulse if you want to steer clear of stimulants. Legion Pulse is third-party tested by Labdoor™ for purity and potency, so you know you’re ingesting exactly what’s on the label. This product is also cost-effective at about $2.25 per serving — on the cheaper side for such a potent pre. Should you prefer a stim-free pre-workout, you can also purchase the same formula without the caffeine and l-theanine.

Who Should Buy Legion Pulse

  • Those who want their pre-workout to be tasty and have a bunch of flavors to choose from. This product is the move for a great-tasting pre with ample flavor variety.
  • Athletes who are drug-tested. Know that this is tested for purity and made from 100-percent natural ingredients.
  • Anyone who is on a budget. This is one of the more cost-effective potent pre-workouts on the market.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Pulse

  • People who want a more robust ingredients list. There are some products on this list with over 20 ingredients for a variety of potential effects like pump, focus, energy, endurance, and more. 
  • Those who want an unflavored option for their pre-workout will have to look outside of this supplement.
  • Anyone who dislikes or has adverse reactions to erythritol will want to look at other options on this list.

Supplements are only potentially helpful if you actually take them. If you’ve got to plug your nose and chug something that tastes like swamp water, it’s unlikely you’ll be as regimented with that as you will with something you enjoy drinking. Legion Pulse tastes great and comes in so many flavors you won’t be bored with the same old couple of pre-workout flavors. 

When Should I Take a Strong Pre-Workout?

The pre-workouts on this list are all quite stimulant heavy, and it should go without saying that they shouldn’t be taken close to bedtime. Following the instructions on the product’s label is always recommended, though generally, you want to take your pre-workout somewhere around 20-30 minutes before you hit the gym. If you’re taking a potent pre like these, and you notice a lot of caffeine on the label, be sure to make note of that if you are working out at night.

How Much Do Strong Pre-Workouts Cost?

Pre-workouts vary in price for a variety of reasons, such as the ingredients, dosing of those ingredients, and sometimes the brand name. These strong pre-workouts are more tightly priced as a whole than general pre-workouts, and usually run somewhere between $2.00 and $3.00 per serving or $40 to $60 per container.

Shaker Bottle In Person's Hand
Image via Shutterstock / Adamov_d

It’s important to consider not only the price of the container as a whole, but the price per serving too. A container can look expensive up front but provide a ton of servings, making it more cost-effective than a cheaper priced tub with fewer servings.

How We Decide the Strongest Pre-Workouts

First off, the formula has to be potent with above-average dosing of core ingredients. Beyond that, the general things we value and look for in supplements, such as transparency, testing, and the price per serving were all considered while compiling this list. 

Value

Most pre-workouts cost between $1.00 and $2.00 per serving, while the common cost per serving of those on this list is between $2.00 and $3.00 per serving. There are good reasons for that though, such as the increase in the amount of each ingredient included, which makes for these much stronger formulas. We found it hard to justify any pre-workout that’s much over $3.00 per serving though unless the ingredients list and amounts were noticeably superior in some way. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to land a potent pre-workout, but the high-quality ones are generally a bit pricier than regular pre’s.

Transparency

Many pre-workouts use proprietary blends, which provide the ingredients used in order of the amount the product contains from most to least, but doesn’t disclose the actual amount. That leads to uncertainty in exactly how much of each ingredient you’re ingesting, so we try to steer clear of those anytime we can. That’s why you’ll only find well-labeled and fully disclosed product ingredient lists on the pre-workouts here.

Dosage

The pre-workouts on this list are considered to be stronger than average, and thus, we required the dosing to be above and beyond what one would expect as a minimum for at least some of the ingredients. For example, citrulline generally needs to be dosed at 5,000mg to be potentially effective for improving blood flow, and our pick for strongest blood flow and pump pre-workout has double that dose. (5) Likewise, pre’s that focus on other areas like focus or energy will have exceptional dosing for the ingredients related to that potential effect.

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.

Common Pre-Workout Supplement Ingredients

There are a ton of ingredients that companies put in their pre-workout products with claims to boost blood flow, energy, endurance, and mental focus. We’ll break down some of the most common ingredients you’ll find in these stronger pre-workout blends and go over what benefits they’re commonly understood to provide.

Alpha GPC

Alpha glycerophosphocholine, also known as alpha gpc, is a precursor to acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in memory, attention, and most importantly here — muscle contraction. (6) Taking between 300mg and 600mg of alpha gpc can have nootropic effects, such as cognitive enhancement and improved focus, as well as potential improvements in muscle power output. (6)

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is linked to improved endurance, both in cardio-focused workouts and strength training with higher reps. (7) Because it can help allow you to push further than you otherwise would have for more reps, it may help with hypertrophy and strength. The standard dose is 1,600mg to 3,200mg, though the pre-workouts on this list can have upwards of 4,000mg. (8) Be aware that a harmless but sometimes uncomfortable side effect of large doses of beta-alanine is skin tingling, which you will likely experience with these potent pre’s.

Betaine Anhydrous

This ingredient is commonly found in red beets and is the main ingredient in beetroot extract — though it can also be found in lesser amounts in 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. (9)(10

Caffeine

When you think of a pre-workout, the first thing that comes to mind is likely the stimulant effects, and that’s exactly what is at the forefront of these stronger formulas. Caffeine is usually the main stimulant and has well-established potential ergonomic effects, such as better endurance, lower perceived exertion, improved power output, and even enhanced cognition. (11)(12)(13) Most of these pre-workouts have a potent stimulant effect with most having a minimum of 300mg of caffeine per serving. For reference, a regular cup of coffee has about 100mg of caffeine, so you’re ingesting three to four cups of coffee per scoop with these formulas. (14)

Creatine

Creatine is likely the most thoroughly researched ergogenic aid aside from caffeine. It can help power output, anaerobic capacity, and fatigue, all while increasing muscle size by potentially drawing more water into your muscles depending on the type of creatine you use. It doesn’t have to be taken with pre-workout, it’s an anytime supplement — the point is to increase the creatine in your muscles over time, rather than loading creatine quickly. The dose is generally five grams per day of creatine monohydrate — though different forms, like creatine hcl, have smaller effective dose sizes. (15)

Citrulline

Research suggests, the effective dose of citrulline is around 5,000mg to help potentially improve blood flow, and performance in endurance and power output. The pre-workouts on this list generally have higher dosing than that — even up to double for products with an emphasis on pump and blood flow. (16)

What to Consider Before Buying the Strongest Pre-Workouts

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, and thus, can have some real side effects if you take too much of it. It can cause anxiety, diarrhea, and maybe even temporary high blood pressure in mild cases of ingesting too much (with more severe consequences coming from upwards of 1,000mg over a short time). Caffeine isn’t inherently bad for you. Rather, everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine. Caffeine can make it harder for you to relax or disturb sleep patterns if taken close to bedtime. 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. 

Woman in pink top drinking from a shaker bottle
Image via Shutterstock / Stockmedia Sweden

Keep in mind all the sources of caffeine you have throughout the day. If you work out in the morning and have some pre-workout with 300mg of caffeine then hop over to a coffee shop for a double espresso at lunch, that’s approximately another 200mg of caffeine, and you may start to see some negative side effects, such as jitters. Starting off small and building up is a good way to start — though if you’re on this list, you’re likely looking for a large caffeine content pre-workout and already have a decent tolerance.

Other Ingredients to Look Out For

Aside from caffeine, there are other ingredients that you’ll want to be acutely aware of when looking at a pre-workout label. One of which is beta-alanine whose minimum effective dose is somewhere between 1,200mg and 2,200mg. Oftentimes, you’ll see upwards of 2,500mg even going as high as 4,000mg per serving in some products. This can cause a harmless yet somewhat uncomfortable sensation of skin tingling called paresthesia. (8) If you don’t enjoy this feeling, this ingredient is one that you definitely want to steer clear of.

Powder on a table in a scooper
Image via Shutterstock / Pepijn van Bakel

Another ingredient to look for specifically is citrulline, which has been shown to be effective at improving blood flow during exercise with as little as 3,000mg, though doses of 5,000mg to 8,000mg are more often recommended. (16) Many pre-workouts will try to get away with 3,000mg to 5,000mg, which means you may be leaving some ergogenic effects on the table — though you can always top your pre off with a pure citrulline powder, as well.

Overlapping Stacks

It’s a good idea to keep the full ingredients list of your current supplement stack in mind when making changes to it, like adding a new and powerful pre-workout. It can be quite easy to accidentally double up on an ingredient without knowing it and experience some potentially negative side effects. Always compare the labels of what you’re currently taking with what you’ll be adding in, so you know you’re not ingesting too much of one ingredient.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind when during the day you take each supplement. If the products are spread out compared to all at the same time, then it might be okay to have a bit over the normal amount of certain ingredients. In the end, it’s always best to speak to a physician first as they won’t lead you astray.

How Strong is too Strong?

Just like most supplements, it depends on the person. We’d love to be able to give a hard line for a cutoff, but some people are more tolerant to stimulants and other ingredients, and some folks are more sensitive. You may have to throw on your lab coat and experiment for yourself. Most supplement companies that make strong pre-workouts (like the ones on this list) recommend starting with a half a scoop to assess your tolerance. You can always increase the amount easily — you can’t take it out once you’ve ingested it though.

Remember the Dosage

Always double-check the label, so you’re aware of how much of each ingredient is going in your body. The more you know, the better informed you will be about the potential effects and how the formula works for you.

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. This is especially key with potent doses like the ones on this list.

Final Word

Pre-workouts can be a great way to get that extra kick you need to make your way to the fitness center or focus up in a crowded gym. These stronger-than-average formulas are more potent, and thus, can potentially elicit greater effects than more basic pre-workouts. That said, these are for experienced lifters who have been taking supplements for years and need the extra boost to gain an edge, or simply for it to be effective anymore. 

Whether you’re looking for a skin-splitting pump, all-out energy, laser-focus, or a combination of them all, we’ve covered a solid option for you on this list. It’s best to keep in mind though that these are tools to potentially help you achieve your goals, and won’t replace hard work and dedication — they just might make the road a bit easier and less bumpy.

FAQs

Are these stronger pre-workouts safe?

We can’t stress enough that you should consult your doctor before beginning any training, diet, or supplementation regimen. That said, these supplements are generally considered safe when used as directed for those who are in good health with no pre-existing conditions.

Why would I opt for a strong pre-workout instead of a regular strength supplement?

These more potent pre-workouts are for those who have been taking regular pre-workouts for a while and have built up a tolerance to the ingredients, no longer experiencing the same potential effects as they used to. If you’re just starting out with supplements, these will likely be too powerful and carry some potential negative side effects if you’re not used to the high doses.

I workout in the evening. Is it still okay to take these stronger pre-workouts?

Generally, it’s recommended that you don’t have caffeine within four to six hours of going to sleep. If you’re working out at five and going to bed around 11, then you’ll likely be alright. Keep in mind that caffeine has a half-life of around five hours in healthy individuals. (17) That means if you take 300mg of caffeine, five hours later you’ll still have about 150mg of caffeine in your system, so dose accordingly.

Theanine is another ingredient that you’ll want to avoid before bedtime if you’ve had caffeine recently. This is because it can potentially enhance the effects of caffeine, which can cancel out the possible relaxation effects theanine normally has.

References

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