The Top 19 Best Pre-Workout Supplements Reviewed

by

For the dedicated athlete, no workout is complete without a pre-workout supplement. A good one can transform your so-so morning workout into a HIIT session, or an afternoon energy drop into a productive period.

Pre-workout supplements are available in a variety of dosages, contain a variety of ingredients, and have a variety of effects. This is why it’s so hard to find the best one for your needs. There are some that are formulated specifically for men and others are formulated specifically for women. That is why we’ve created this list of the best pre-workout supplement options. We want to help you set new records in the gym or on the field. We have taken the time to review 19 different pre-workout supplements for you. If you want to get started with using a pre-workout, this is definitely the best place to start. You know that you can trust these products- or we would not recommend them.

A pre-workout can help you ensure that you are getting the most from your workouts. They are designed to improve your endurance and performance. That being said, as we mentioned, there are so many different options, it’s hard to choose. What’s more, they’re not all created equal and if you’re not sure what you’re looking at, it’s even more difficult to choose.

This list is just what a fitness enthusiast needs. Perhaps you’re looking for a new favorite or maybe you’re interested in using one but don’t know where to start. This guide will help you learn everything you need to about these supplements and choose the best one for your needs.

As mentioned, these supplements do come in a variety of formulations- but they do contain some combination of the same basic ingredients:

  • Caffeine
  • Amino acids
  • Creatine
  • BCAAs
  • Plant extracts

Of course, there are more, these are just a few of the most common ones. These supplements are formulated to:

  • Burn fat
  • Boost endurance
  • Improve blood flow
  • Increase focus
  • Increase energy

This is why we went through a variety of supplements- from those that are well-known and respected in the industry to those that are new on the scene. You can be sure that you will find exactly what you need to meet your training goals- no matter what they may be.

Pre-Workout Defined

Before we get to the reviews, we’re going to explain exactly what a pre workout is and who should be using them. A pre-workout supplement is often referred to as pre-workout for short. It is a dietary supplement composed of a blend of ingredients proven to increase energy levels and improve athletic performance. Most of the time, these are powders that you combine with water and consume approximately 30 minutes prior to working out. You will find that there are some that come in capsule form, and a few are pre-mixed beverages. However, it’s important to note that the pre-mixed beverages are not usually as effective as powders that you mix when you’re ready to use them.

As we mentioned, when you start shopping for a pre-workout, you’ll quickly find that there are lots of formulas on the market. However, they are basically some combination of the same ingredients:

  • Amino acids
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Creatine
  • Beta-alanine
  • Caffeine
  • BCAAs

They are not all going to contain all of these ingredients but will at least contain some of them. Also, the amounts used vary depending on the brand. Some will use more than others. There are no specific rules about what can/can’t be used in pre-workout supplements. For example, we listed artificial sweeteners above, but there are some that actually use natural sugars instead because there are some people who either don’t like or can’t tolerate artificial sweeteners.

Honestly, when it comes to choosing a pre-workout, it really doesn’t matter what ingredients are used in it. The thing that matters most is that it has been third-party tested to ensure quality, potency, and purity. If you do find one that has not been, you’ll want to keep looking. You don’t want to risk using one that has not because you may end up with too much of a certain ingredient or it may contain ingredients that have been banned for whatever reason.

The most important thing when it comes to choosing a supplement is to make sure they are third-party tested for potency, purity, and quality. If you come across one that has not been third-party tested, keep looking. That is not the one you want.

Who Should Be Using a Pre-Workout?

If you are looking to improve the intensity and quality of your workouts, you could benefit from using a pre-workout supplement. These products are designed to improve your workout and ensure you get the best possible performance. On the other hand, if your primary goal is just to maintain your current weight and stay in shape and you don’t want to crush your current workouts, you may not really need one.

Above, we listed a few of the most common ingredients found in these supplements and when combined, they have been proven to improve athletic performance. It’s important to understand that this is not a short-term thing- it continues working to improve your overall performance over the long run.

For example, caffeine is commonly found in these supplements, which gives you an energy boost right away. Then, the beta-alanine and creatine build up in your system, working to improve your athletic performance as long as you continue to use it.

19 Best Pre-Workout Supplements Reviews

Below, we’re going to go through what we feel are the 19 best pre-workouts on the market today. We have tried to include a variety of price points, fitness goals, and more so that you can be sure you will find one that you will like. If you are interested in trying a pre-workout, we suggest that you start with one of these since you know they are safe and effective.

XWERKS Ignite

Product XWERKS Ignite
Ingredients Caffeine

L-tyrosine

Beta-alanine

Rhodiola Rosea

Vitamin B6 & B12

DMAE

Servings per container 30 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $49.00
Guarantee 100% money back guarantee

Click here to shop for XWERKS Ignite

XWERKS is well known and loved in the fitness industry. Their pre-workout formula, Ignite, supports their amazing reputation. This formula is available in 4 delicious flavors: blue raspberry, orange, watermelon, and green apple. This pre-workout costs $49 for one container, which provides 30 servings. You can join their subscription program and save 5% per container, which brings the cost to $46.55.

According to the website, Ignite is effective at increasing energy, motivation, and focus throughout even the most intense workouts. Also, you don’t have to be concerned about jitters when using this or crashing when it wears off. This formula also reduces recovery time following intense workouts and injuries. There are no side effects associated with this product.

Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout

Product Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout
Ingredients 1 gram creatine

150 mg caffeine

1.6 beta-alanine

150 mg caffeine

1 gram arginine

Servings per container 30 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $29.99
Guarantee 30-day 100% money-back

Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout

Cellucor is one of the oldest fitness supplement manufacturers. They came onto the scene in 2002. Since that time, it has experienced a significant increase in popularity. In fact, when people think of workout supplements, such as pre-workouts, this is often the first one that comes to mind. It has been on the market for 2 decades and is still among the best of the best.

Cellucor C4 Original is made with 4 ingredients that have been clinically proven to boost workout efficiency. Plus, it’s affordable, which makes a big difference. One container with 30 servings will cost you $29.99. You can join their subscription program and pay $20.99 per container. If you prefer, you can get 60 servings for $49.99 or for $34.99 when you join their subscription program.

This pre-workout is available in several delicious flavors: Cherry Limeade, Strawberry Margarita, Pink Lemonade, Orange Burst, Icy Blue Razz, Watermelon, and Fruit Punch.

According to the website, this pre-workout will enhance your workout from a variety of angles. Most of the customer reviews agree that this product has a lot to offer. If you’re looking for a pre-workout with proven ingredients and satisfied customers (and an amazing reputation), Cellucor C4 Original may be your best option.

Cellucor C4 Extreme Pre-Workout

Product Cellucor C4 Extreme Pre-Workout
Ingredients 2 grams beta-alanine

200 mg caffeine

Servings per container 30 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $38.99
Guarantee 30-day 100% money back

Cellucor C4 Extreme Pre-Workout

Cellucor also offers their C4 formula in an “extreme” version. This version offers twice the potency offered by the Original formula. Additionally, according to the website, this version is healthier because it does not contain calories or sugar, which makes it ideal for maintaining the macronutrient content in your body. This formula also supports weight loss efforts.

Each container offers 30 servings and costs $38.99- unless you want to join the subscription program, then it will only cost you $27.29 per container. There are several flavors offered: Sour Batch Bros, Ultra Frost, Midnight Cherry, Icy Blue Razz, Watermelon, and Fruit Punch.

If you like Cellucor’s C4 Original, but need something with a little more power, then you should consider Cellucor C4 Extreme.

Bauer Nutrition BRF Pre-Workout

Product Bauer Nutrition BRF Pre-Workout
Ingredients Caffeine

Whey protein isolate

Clarinol CLA

Vitamin C

Servings per container 15 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $26.99
Guarantee 60-day 100% money-back

Click here to shop for Bauer Nutrition BRF Pre-Workout

Bauer Nutrition BRF (Battle Ready Fuel) Pre-workout is for those who are on a budget.

This is a stim-free pre-workout with the capacity to improve focus, increase intensity, boost endurance, and a variety of other advantages. Even though the price is lower than many of the other options on our list, the advantages are not. The efficacy of this product matches up with the others on the list. The thing that makes this different is the Clarinol CLA, which is a patented blend that only Bauer Nutrition uses.

PreLab Pro

Product PreLab Pro
Ingredients Beetroot powder

Natural caffeine

L-theanine

Setria performance blend

Servings per container 20 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost  
Guarantee 30 day, 100% money-back

Click here to shop for PreLab Pro

PreLab Pro is a versatile and efficient formula that promises benefits for all fitness goals, from strength to cardio to general health and wellness. The flavor is a refreshing, natural berry.

According to the website, PreLab Pro will improve your workout in a variety of ways: stamina, endurance, cardio, anabolism, strength, and speed. In addition, it will help reduce recovery time.

The best part is that this pre-workout contains some unique ingredients not found in most formulas. Some of them support nootropics, while others support homeostasis. These ingredients make this one of the best options on the market today.

Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train

Product CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train
Ingredients KSM-66 Ashwagandha

Citrulline malate

L-taurine

L-tyrosine

Beta-alanine

Betaine anhydrous

Vitamin C

EnXtra (Caffeine booster)

Servings per container 20 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $39.99
Guarantee 60-day, money-back guarantee

Click here to shop for CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train

Crazy Nutrition is also a name that is well-known and respected in the fitness industry, as they offer legal, high-quality steroid alternatives. Their pre-workout formula, Intensive Pre-Train supports their reputation by providing users with energy that lasts without the crash associated with many of the pre-workouts on the market, along with a wide variety of other benefits.

Crazy Nutrition contains a few unique ingredients only found in a few of the pre-workouts on the market today. One is a caffeine booster, known as EnXtra. This helps to increase the effects of the caffeine while minimizing the jitters that come with it. Another unique ingredient is the KSM-66 ashwagandha.

According to the website, this pre-workout should be used daily- even on rest days- to improve focus and energy. This formula also promises to delay fatigue and give you what you need to push past your limits and crush your workouts. Another great thing about this pre-workout is that it’s affordable and can be shipped all over the world. If you want a high-quality steroid alternative at a price that won’t break your budget, Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train is worth considering.

Huge Supplements Wrecked

Product Huge Supplements Wrecked
Ingredients 250 mg caffeine

2,000 mg betaine anhydrous

3,200 mg beta-alanine

1,000 mg L-tyrosine

9,000 mg L-citrulline

Servings per container 25 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost  
Guarantee N/A

Click here to shop for Huge Supplements Wrecked

Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout is a bit more expensive than most of the others on our list. You will pay $44.95 for only 25 servings. However, the ingredients make it well worth the price. This pre-workout contains decent amounts of:

  • Caffeine
  • L-tyrosine
  • Beta-alanine
  • Betaine anhydrous
  • L-citrulline

In addition to these common ingredients, Huge Supplements Wrecked contains ingredients that you’re not likely to find in other formulas:

  • Theobromine
  • Lions’ mane mushroom extract
  • Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
  • Inositol

Huge Supplements Wrecked is available in four unique flavors:

  • Peach Rings
  • Raspberry Mojito
  • Bomb Popsicle
  • Rainbow Burst

Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme

Product Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme
Ingredients L-citrulline

Caffeine

L-tyrosine

Betaine anhydrous

Beta-alanine

Servings per container 20 (1 scoop per serving)
Cost  
Guarantee N/A

Click here to shop for Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme

Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme is a lot like its predecessor, Wrecked, only more extreme. This is the strongest pre-workout of the Huge Supplement lineup. Like Wrecked, it contains some unique ingredients that improve the efficiency and efficacy of your workouts. According to the website, this is the perfect pre-workout to enhance muscle growth and improve performance.

Ghost Lifestyle Legend

Product Ghost Lifestyle
Ingredients 4 grams L-citrulline

3.2 grams beta-alanine

50 mg Senactiv

1.5 grams Nitrosigine

Servings per container 25 servings (2 scoops per serving)
Cost $44.99
Guarantee Yes

Click here to shop for Ghost Lifestyle Legend

Ghost Lifestyle Legend is a pre-workout that combines an amazing energy and focus formula with premium pump ingredients. This pre-workout promises to make you feel like a legend when you need it. This formula is vegan-friendly, sugar-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.

Legend is available in a variety of flavors, including Sour Patch Kids Redberry, Sonic Slush (Ocean Water or Cherry Limeade), Welch’s Grape, Swedish Fish, and more. You will find flavors here that you won’t find anywhere else.

This pre-workout is ideal for anyone that wants to be a legend. The company also offers a variety of other fitness supplements to help you along your journey.

Transparent Labs Pre-Workout

Product Transparent Labs Pre-Workout (6 formulas)
Ingredients Citrulline malate

Caffeine

Betaine anhydrous

L-theanine

Vitamin B6 & B12

Vitamin D3

Other effective ingredients

Servings per container 30 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $49.99
Guarantee N/A

Click here to shop for Transparent Labs Pre-Workout

Transparent Labs is another company that is well-known and respected in the fitness industry. They are known for offering not 1, but 6 different pre-workout formulas to meet a variety of health and fitness goals.

At this time, their pre-workout lineup includes those with stimulants, as well as stim-free options. Some help you bulk up and others help with weight loss. You must decide what your goals are to determine which one would be best for you. They are available in several flavors, such as Strawberry Lemonade, Sour Grape, Green Apple, Lemon Lime, Tropical Punch, Watermelon, Orange, and Blue Raspberry.

Blackwolf Pre-Workout

Product Blackwolf Pre-Workout
Ingredients 2,000 mg betaine

1000 mg L-arginine

3,000 mg creatine

6,000 mg L-citrulline

600 mg L-tyrosine

3,200 mg beta-alanine

1,000 mg taurine

10 mg Huperzine (Fruit Punch)

150 mg DMAE (Fruit Punch)

Servings per container 22 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $44.99
Guarantee N/A

Click here to shop for Blackwolf Pre-Workout

Blackwolf is not as well known in the fitness industry as most of the other brands we’ve listed, but you can still depend on their products, especially their pre-workout, to be high-quality.

These products are made with ingredients that are backed by science and come in a variety of delicious flavors, including Green Apple, Fruit Punch, and Blue Raspberry. This company is part of a larger conglomerate located in the United Kingdom, MuscleClub Limited. They are fairly new to the industry but seem to have established themselves as a trustworthy brand.

Blackwolf also offers caffeinated and non-caffeinated formulas. Each container offers 22 servings and costs $44.99 per container. They do not offer a subscription plan like many of the other brands. However, they can be shipped anywhere in the world.

Beast Sports Beast Mode Black

Product Beast Sports Beast Mode Black
Ingredients 500 mg taurine

400 mg caffeine

1,600 mg beta-alanine

Servings per container 30 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $39.99
Guarantee 60-day, money-back

Click here to shop for Beast Sports Beast Mode Black

Beast Sports Beast Mode Black is formulated to provide a powerful dose of clinically proven ingredients to improve your energy levels. This is a stimulant-free pre-workout.

When you use this pre-workout before your workout, you increase nitric oxide in your body. According to the website, Beast Mode Black contains 380% higher doses when compared to the original Beast Mode formula.

This is only available in the original flavor, so you can add it to anything you like without affecting the flavor- but you will still get all the benefits.

Alani Nu Pre-Workout

Product Alani Nu Pre-Workout
Ingredients 200 mg caffeine

6 grams L-citrulline

500 mg L-tyrosine

200 mg L-theanine

1.6 grams beta-alanine

Servings per container 30 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $39.99
Guarantee N/A

Click here to shop for Alani Nu

Alani Nu was founded in 2018, with a mission to help their customers succeed. They are a company that you can communicate with and produce products you can trust. Their pre-workout formula is ideal for men and women who want to crush their workouts.

This pre-workout costs $39.99 for 30 servings and is available in a wide variety of unique flavors: Cosmic Stardust, Hawaiian Shaved Ice, Island Crush, Breezeberry, Rainbow Candy, Mimosa, Galaxy Lemonade, Carnival Candy Grape, Arctic White, Sour Kiwiberry, Sherbet Swirl, and Don’t be a Beach. They do offer a subscriber program that allows you to save 5%, which means you pay $37.99 per container.

One of the primary ingredients in this pre-workout is L-theanine, which controls jitters and prevents crashes following HIIT workouts. Many of the pre-workouts on the market flood your body with a wide variety of ingredients at varying dosages. However, Alani Nu provides you with considerable dosages of a few ingredients.

4 Gauge

Product 4 Gauge
Ingredients 150 mg caffeine

600 mg L-citrulline

100 mg Rhodiola Rosea

200 mg L-theanine

Servings per container 20 servings (2 scoops per serving)
Cost $45
Guarantee N/A

Click here to shop for 4 Gauge Pre-Workout

According to the website, 4 Gauge promises that their pre-workout can provide customers with extreme performance without jitters. The packaging is unique- it looks like a shotgun shell. The primary focus of 4 Gauge is to make customers look good and feel confident.

Additionally, 4 Gauge provides you with improved focus without crashing. It does not contain any artificial sweeteners and since it’s low in calories, it will not interfere with your weight loss goals.

Each container offers 20 servings and costs $45. If you purchase 4 at a time, you can save a little bit, bringing the cost per container to $33.75 each.

Steel Supplements Pumped-AF

Product Steel Supplements Pumped-AF
Ingredients 6 grams L-citrulline

2.5 grams betaine

750 mg Kre-Alkalyn

1 gram beetroot extract

Servings per container 30 (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $50.00
Guarantee Yes, on unopened products only, 15% restocking fee applies

Click here to shop for Steel Supplements

Steel Supplements Pumped-AF is fairly new to the market. It’s unique formulation makes it stand out from the other options on the market. It’s important to note that though they are new to the industry, there have been plenty of clinical trials proving that it’s effective and the unique, high-quality ingredients ensure that you will get the best results possible.

Steel supplements costs $50.00 per container and each container offers 30 servings. The company does offer refunds on unopened products, but a 15% restocking fee applies.

Steel Supplements Pumped-AF is a wonderful pre-workout that is produced by a reputable manufacturer. There are no unwanted chemicals in this product and there are no side effects associated with it. According to customer reviews, it is highly effective. It will boost muscle mass, improve performance, increase the intensity and duration of your workouts, and so much more.

The unique formula of Steel Supplements Pumped-AF makes it one of the best products on the market today. This pre-workout is available in three delicious flavors: Lavaburst, Strawberry Watermelon, or Blue Raspberry. According to the company, Lavaburst is a cross between orange and red iced slush.

Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout

Product Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout
Ingredients 8 grams citrulline malate

3.6 grams beta-alanine

Natural caffeine

Servings per container 21 servings (1 scoop per serving)
Cost $35,99
Guarantee 100% money back guarantee

Click here to shop for Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout

Legion Athletics Pulse is popular because of its natural ingredients and the fact that it claims to be able to improve mood and enhance focus. This product is available in both caffeinated and non-caffeinated formulas, and both offer a variety of flavors:

Caffeinated flavors include Grape, Blood Orange, Apple Cider, Blue Raspberry, Cherry Limeade, Arctic Blast, Bubble Gum, Fruit Punch, Blueberry Lemonade, Frosted Cranberry, Pink Lemonade, Green Apple, Strawberry Kiwi, Sour Candy, Tropical Punch, and Watermelon.

Non-caffeinated flavors include Fruit Punch, Blue Raspberry, Tropical Punch, and Green Apple.

According to reviews, this is one of the best tasting pre-workouts on the market and has been proven to increase energy, strength, and endurance in customers. It’s very similar to other quality pre-workouts on the market, as it also purports to reduce muscle fatigue with natural ingredients.

As mentioned, it’s available in a variety of flavors and comes in both caffeinated and non-caffeinated formulas. Most of the other brands do not offer this. Therefore, Legion Athletics Pulse is ideal for anyone that wants to boost energy and enhance muscle mass.

For individuals who want to try out natural supplements for boosting up their energy and body muscles, then Pulse is the perfect option for them.

For Men: TestoPrime

Product TestoPrime
Ingredients Panax Ginseng

Fenugreek

D-Aspartic Acid

KSM Ashwagandha

Servings per container 30 servings (4 capsules per serving)
Cost $59.99
Guarantee Lifetime money back guarantee

Click here to shop for TestoPrime

TestoPrime is a pre-workout formula that is specifically designed for men. It is advertised as a natural testosterone booster and pre-workout supplement. This product uses all-natural ingredients to improve protein synthesis and target hormones. According to the website, this formula increases energy and blood flow, burns unwanted fat, improves protein synthesis, and improved motivation, along with a variety of other benefits.

Again, this pre-workout is unlike others on the list. It is targeted for anyone interested in boosting their testosterone levels. It is a stimulant-free option for men to help you enjoy benefits in the gym or on the field- as well as in your daily life. Each bottle costs $59.99 for a 30-day supply- though you can buy in bulk and save a little. If you buy 3 months for $179.99, you get 3 months free, which brings the cost to $29.99 per bottle.

For Women: Powher Pre-Workout

Product Powher Pre-Workout
Ingredients EnXtra (caffeine booster)

Vitamin B-6

Pantothenic acid

Caffeine

Servings per container 25 servings (1 scoop each)
Cost $45.00
Guarantee 90-day money back guarantee

Click here to shop for Powher Pre-Workout

While it’s true that women can use almost any of the other pre-workouts on this list (with the exception of TestoPrime, which is formulated for men), Powher is specifically formulated to support the bodybuilding goals of women. According to the website, this product provides advantages for women who engage in HIIT workouts. This brand has taken a female-oriented approach to marketing.

This pre-workout formula is ideal for those that want to try a product that is made with scientifically proven ingredients without the dosages being too high. In fact, the dosages of most of the ingredients are lower than those found in other products. Each container of Powher Pre-Workout is $45. However, if you purchase 3 for $135, you’ll get one free- which brings them to $33.75 each. This is their Ultimate Powher Up Pack.

For Women: IdealFit IdealLean Pre-Workout

Product IdealFit Ideal Lean Pre-Workout for Women
Ingredients 1500 mg beta-alanine

150 mg caffeine

3000 mg citrulline

1500 mg betaine

310 mg fat loss blend

Servings per container 30 servings (1 scoop each)
Cost $23.99
Guarantee 100% risk free guarantee

Click here to shop for IdealFit IdealLean Pre-Workout

IdealFit IdealLean Pre-Workout for women is formulated just for women, like the Powher pre-workout formula we looked at above. This pre-workout is available in a variety of flavors, including Cherry Limeade, Pineapple Mango, and Blue Raspberry. There are also 2 Stim-Free flavors, Pink Lemonade and Passion Fruit. Each container is only $23.99 for 30 servings, making it one of the most affordable options on our list. If you are a woman that wants to improve your workout capacity, IdealFit IdealLean is definitely one of the best options.

This pre-workout contains moderate doses of ingredients such as beta-alanine, citrulline, caffeine, betaine, and a fat loss blend. According to the website, this product provides high power and efficiency to the ladies that use it. You’ll find that most of the reviews support this statement.

Why Should You Use a Pre-Workout?

The purpose of a pre-workout supplement is to give you a boost of energy to get you going and keep you motivated throughout your workout session. This is the best way to remain energized and focused during your next workout in the gym or on the field. Most pre-workouts also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals to help your body through your more intense workouts.

How We Chose Best Pre-Workouts

We took the time to research a lot of different pre-workouts so that you don’t have to spend your valuable time doing it. Here are the factors we used to consider whether or not a product deserved a spot on our list:

  • Cost vs. Value: does the price match the value? Is the product worth what the price is?
  • Customer Service/Customer Satisfaction: does the company stand behind its products- do they ensure customer satisfaction?
  • Transparency: does the company hide behind proprietary blends or do they list each and every ingredient on the label?
  • Taste/Texture: does it taste good/have an appealing flavor? Does it have a smooth texture or is it chalky or clumpy?

Benefits & Risks of Pre-Workouts

If you have decided that you would like to try adding a pre-workout to your training regimen, it’s very important for you to understand that while there are lots of benefits to this workout supplement, there are also some risks. We’ll take a closer look at both of these below:

Benefits Associated with Pre-Workouts

First of all, you wouldn’t use a supplement that is not going to offer you any benefits, right? They all claim to offer a variety of benefits, including increasing energy levels, building lean muscle mass, increasing endurance and stamina, improving strength, and so much more. As we mentioned, they don’t all do that even if they claim to- but the ones we suggested do. That being said, here are the benefits you can be sure are associated with the pre-workouts we listed above:

Increases Muscle Gain

First of all, muscle gain is one of the primary benefits of pre-workouts. While it’s true that different brands offer different formulas, most of them do contain the 9 essential amino acids, more specifically, BCAAs. BCAAs are three of the essential amino acids that do not need to be digested. They can go straight to work, supporting muscle protein synthesis.

Some of the pre-workout formulas also contain citrulline, which is another amino acid that increases blood flow to muscles. This also increases oxygen to the muscles, which allows more nutrients to be carried to them. This is significantly beneficial during HIIT workouts because it allows you to increase the intensity and length of your workouts- leading to more muscle gain.

Enhances Strength

Another benefit of pre-workouts is strength enhancement. There are several ways that a pre-workout achieves this. These supplements not only increase muscle gain, but they also improve metabolism- which also improves strength during your workout sessions and beyond.

According to research, the ingredient that is most important for enhancing strength, increasing muscle mass, and improving endurance is creatine. This is another ingredient that is commonly found in pre-workouts. Some formulations also contain nitrates, which ensure that more nutrients get to your muscles. When your muscles have the nutrients they need, they get stronger- which enhances strength.

Improves Endurance

The primary way to improve endurance is to eliminate fatigue- and there are 2 ways that a pre-workout can achieve this:

  • Caffeine: this is the ingredient responsible for boosting energy. It is also found in your morning cup of coffee or espresso. This is what provides you with the motivation and endurance to power through your most intense workout sessions.
  • Beta-alanine: this is the ingredient that prevents the buildup of lactic acid, which is the chemical that causes your muscles to get fatigued and sore. By eliminating lactic acid, you can push yourself harder and longer.

There are a few other ingredients often found in pre-workouts that help with endurance, including sodium bicarbonate (you probably know it as baking soda). It works with the beta-alanine to decrease lactic acid levels. Another one is L-theanine, which counteracts the anxiety-causing effects of caffeine. This provides you with a steady flow of energy throughout your workout session.

Risks Associated with Pre-Workouts

Now that we’ve explored some of the most common benefits associated with pre-workouts, it’s important to consider the other side of the coin too: the risks. After all, you need to understand both the benefits and the risks to make an informed decision. Here are the most common risks associated with using a pre-workout.

Anxiety

As you have seen, one of the primary ingredients found in pre-workouts is caffeine, which is the ingredient responsible for the energy boost. Caffeine helps to decrease fatigue, which makes you feel like you can tackle anything. That being said, some people are sensitive to caffeine and experience side effects such as jitters, anxiety, headaches, increased heart rate/blood pressure, nausea, and more when they consume caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you do have non-caffeinated options or you can consider decreasing your caffeine consumption when you are using pre-workouts.

Bloating/Digestive Problems

Another common issue that some people encounter when using pre-workouts is bloating and/or digestive issues. Most of the time, the bloating and/or digestive issues are caused by creatine. While this ingredient does help with your HIIT workout performance, it does have these side effects as well. Some of the other ingredients that may cause bloating and/or digestive issues include:

Another possible reason for the digestive issues is not related to the ingredients themselves, but the fact that some people don’t use enough water when mixing their pre-workout drinks. Some people assume that less water makes it more concentrated- which means it works better. While it’s true that it may be more concentrated, that does not mean that it’s better. It can actually cause your workout to be interrupted due to tummy troubles.

Headaches

Finally, some people report getting headaches when using a pre-workout. The citrulline is the ingredient that is likely causing this issue. This is an amino acid that is responsible for dilating blood vessels, which increases blood flow to muscles. Your brain is a muscle, which means blood flow is increased there as well. This pressure change causes some people to get headaches. In some cases, these headaches can become migraines if not treated in time.

Common Questions Associated with Pre-Workouts

If you are new to the world of fitness supplements, especially pre-workouts, you probably have some questions. We’ve tried to answer them in this article, but here are a few of the most common questions we hear that are associated with pre-workouts.

Is there a difference between a pre-workout and a post-workout?

The primary difference is that one is consumed prior to a workout, and one is consumed following a workout. The pre-workout is formulated to improve your performance during your workout. The post-workout is formulated to improve your recovery following your workout.

What ingredients are found in pre-workouts?

As we have mentioned, there are lots of different formulas when it comes to pre-workouts- but they are mostly made of varying combinations of the same basic ingredients: caffeine, creatine, BCAAs amino acids, B-vitamins, and a few others.

Are pre-workout supplements really safe?

This really depends on the ingredients. There are many that are safe- but there are some that may not be as safe as they claim to be. The primary issue is the stimulants that are used. Most of the pre-workouts contain caffeine, which is what is responsible for the energy boost. Some of them contain ingredients such as bitter orange peel or synephrine, which are dangerous and should be avoided.

Are pre-workouts necessary?

There really is no clear answer to this, as it’s a personal decision. If you are just interested in staying in shape and have no need to crush your workout limits, you may not need one. On the other hand, if you want to shatter your records and push past your limits, you may want to consider adding this to your fitness regimen.

Can pre-workouts be bad for you?

While there is nothing in a pre-workout that is particularly bad or dangerous, these are supplements and therefore, not regulated by the FDA. This is why it’s important that you choose a pre-workout that has been third-party tested to ensure quality, potency, and purity. Some of the third-party testing agencies include NSF, USP, or Informed Choice.

Caffeine is the ingredient that is most likely to cause an issue, as too much can bring on side effects such as anxiety, cramping, high blood pressure/heartrate and more. Of course, as long as the caffeine is kept at a moderate level, you should be fine.

How do pre-workouts help with mental performance?

A pre-workout improves mental performance by improving cognition and focus.

Should a pre-workout be consumed before or after a workout?

A pre-workout contains ingredients to give you energy. Therefore, they should be consumed prior to working out. Ideally, you should consume it approximately 30 minutes prior to your workout. Of course, if you don’t have 30 minutes, it should be consumed on an empty stomach, so it is digested quickly for the best benefit.

Can a pre-workout be harmful to your kidneys?

As a general rule, no- a pre-workout will not harm your kidneys. However, if you are consuming them in excess, it could cause renal failure, dehydration, and other health issues. Creatine and caffeine are both diuretics and can cause dangerous side effects if consumed in high doses. It’s important to note that you should always take the pre-workout as recommended on the label.

What is the best way to take a pre-workout?

Pre-workouts are typically available in powder form to be mixed into water. Some of them are unflavored, which means you can blend them with your protein shake or other favorite beverage. Then again, there are some that are capsules, which some people find to be more convenient than the powdered versions. Finally, you may find some that are available as pre-mixed drinks- but these are usually less effective than powders or capsules.

Is it safe to consume a pre-workout on an empty stomach?

As we mentioned, if you need your pre-workout to take effect quickly, you should consume it on an empty stomach. That being said, it’s important to note that while you’ll get more of the primary effects that way, you’ll also increase your risk of experiencing the side effects that way. For example, the caffeine gets into your system faster, which could cause jitters. Food can help counteract those effects.

Should I consume a pre-workout at night?

No, you should not consume a pre-workout at night, unless you wish to have your sleep interrupted. Once again, the primary role of a pre-workout is to give you the energy you need to power through a workout. Therefore, it’s likely that it will keep you up all night if you take it too close to bedtime.

Is it possible to spot a fake pre-workout?

As you have seen, there are tons of pre-workout options on the market. Many of them are quality products. However, there are some that are low quality and even some that are potentially dangerous. These are the ones that have excessive amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and very few of the ingredients that actually work.

It’s important to pay attention to the label when you are shopping for a pre-workout, especially in “proprietary blends”. A lot of times, manufacturers use these to hide what they are using in their formulas and how much.

When you do choose a pre-workout, make sure it’s from a reputable manufacturer such as one from our list. This gives you the confidence that you are getting a supplement that you can trust.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot more to choosing a pre-workout supplement than simply going to the shelf at the store and picking one up. There are so many things that you must consider, from the ingredients used to the customer reviews. You must also consider your personal goals and needs. That being said, if you have decided that you want to try using a pre-workout to level up your workout sessions, try one from our list. Feel free to shop around until you find one that you really like.

References

“9 Essential Amino Acids.” PurMEDICA, 24 Sept. 2015, www.purmedica.com/9-essential-amino-acids/.

“Beta-Alanine: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.” Webmd.com, 2019, www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1222/beta-alanine.

Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE. “10 Reasons You’re Always Tired (and What You Can Do about It).” Healthline, Healthline Media, 3 Apr. 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-you-are-tired.

“Is Lactic Acid Good or Bad for You?” Dr. Axe, draxe.com/health/what-is-lactic-acid/.

Kelly, James, et al. “Effects of Short-Term Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Blood Pressure, O2 Uptake Kinetics, and Muscle and Cognitive Function in Older Adults.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, vol. 304, no. 2, 15 Jan. 2013, pp. R73–R83, 10.1152/ajpregu.00406.2012.

Kovacs, Betty. “Artificial Sweeteners: Learn the Dangers and Benefits.” MedicineNet, 2019, www.medicinenet.com/artificial_sweeteners/article.htm.

Living, Me First. “What Is a Proprietary Blend and Why Should You Avoid It?” Me First Living, mefirstliving.com/blogs/turmeric-benefits-and-health-news/what-is-a-proprietary-blend-and-why-should-you-avoid-it.

Medline Plus. “Caffeine.” Medlineplus.gov, 31 Dec. 2017, medlineplus.gov/caffeine.html.

MedlinePlus. “Amino Acids: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Medlineplus.gov, 2017, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm.

National Institutes of Health. “Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium.” Nih.gov, 2016, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/.

Neinast, Michael, et al. “Branched Chain Amino Acids.” Annual Review of Physiology, vol. 81, 10 Feb. 2019, pp. 139–164, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6536377/, 10.1146/annurev-physiol-020518-114455.

Ostojic, Sergej M., and Zlatko Ahmetovic. “Gastrointestinal Distress after Creatine Supplementation in Athletes: Are Side Effects Dose Dependent?” Research in Sports Medicine, vol. 16, no. 1, 7 Feb. 2008, pp. 15–22, 10.1080/15438620701693280.

PubChem. “Sodium Bicarbonate.” Nih.gov, PubChem, 2019, pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sodium-bicarbonate.

Staff, Editorial. What Is Pre-Workout? Is It Safe? A Detailed Guide • Supplement Lexicon. www.supplementlexicon.com/learn/pre-workout/.

“The Health Benefits of Citrulline.” Verywell Health, www.verywellhealth.com/citrulline-4774848.

“Third-Party Testing: What Is It and Why Is It Necessary for Your Products?” Sawgrass Nutra Labs, 30 Dec. 2019, sawgrassnutralabs.com/blog/third-party-testing-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-necessary-for-your-products/.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.

Highlights