Pre-workouts are designed to prime the body for the strain and rigor of a training session. Think of them as a turbo-boost, igniting the engine of your body before you challenge its limits.
These formulations, often a blend of amino acids, caffeine, vitamins, and other performance-enhancing ingredients, aim to increase blood flow to muscles, heighten mental focus, and provide the sustained energy required to maximize workout intensity.
Today we’ll look at important considerations regarding pre-workouts, and if you decide to use them, we’ll tell you the best ones to buy.
- What is a Pre-Workout?
- The Best Pre-workout For You
- Best Pre-Workout Overall: Transparent Labs Bulk
- Also Great – Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
- Best Budget – Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout
- Best Pre-Workout for Cardio Training: Xwerks Ignite
- Best Pre-Workout for Beginners: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge
- Best Pre-Workout for Endurance: Legion Pulse
- Best Natural Pre-Workout: Swolverine PRE
- Best For Fat Burning: Transparent Labs LEAN
- Key Ingredients in Pre-Workouts
- Potential Side Effects:
- Myths and Misconceptions about Pre-Workouts
What is a Pre-Workout?
A pre-workout, as the name suggests, is a supplement taken before engaging in physical exercise, typically in the form of a powdered mix that is combined with water. Its primary goal is to amplify certain facets of your physical and mental performance during a workout.
The composition of pre-workout supplements can vary based on brands and specific goals (like muscle-building, endurance enhancement, or fat-burning).
In a hurry? Here are our top 3 choices:
Transparent Labs BULK
Cellucor C4 Original Pre Workout Powder ICY Blue Razz -…
|Best For Fat Burning
Transparent Labs LEAN
|Transparent Labs BULK is a top-notch pre-workout because it’s open about what’s inside.
|Cellucor C4 Original is a staple in the world of pre-workouts, offering a balanced formula for energy, endurance, and pump.
|Transparent Labs LEAN incorporates components commonly spotted in fat oxidizing blends.
|Boron, citrulline malate and beta-alanine.
|TeaCrine®, a compound similar to caffeine.
|Hordenine, iodine and zinc.
|See latest price
|See at Amazon
|See latest price
Does Pre-workout Work?
In short, yes it does. Multiple studies have been performed over the years and the consensus is clear. Here’s an excerpt of one analyzing the impact on anaerobic power:
“Ingestion of the pre-workout dietary supplement led to significant improvements in anaerobic peak and mean power values in comparison to the placebo and baseline treatments.”
Do You Need it to Maximise Your Output in a Gym?
The short answer is no, you don’t need pre-workout to achieve big gains. A coffee and a banana can also give you a momentary boost to hit that extra rep. But, I’m not gonna lie, if you train a lot and are looking for a little edge, you should try it.
We’ll look at common myths about pre-workouts towards the end of this article.
The Main Benefits
Enhanced Energy Levels: One of the immediate benefits noticed upon taking a pre-workout is the energy surge. Ingredients like caffeine act as stimulants, waking up the body, and preparing it for action (Source)
Endurance and Stamina Boost: By balancing out the right ingredients, pre-workouts can help delay muscle fatigue, enabling longer, more sustained workout sessions (Source).
Support in Muscle Building: Some pre-workouts contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and other essential amino acids which play a pivotal role in muscle protein synthesis, aiding muscle growth and recovery (Source).
Improved Blood Flow: Components like L-arginine and L-citrulline are precursors to nitric oxide production, which helps dilate blood vessels. This dilation leads to better blood flow, ensuring that muscles receive the oxygen and nutrients they need during exercise (Source).
Metabolic Boost: Many pre-workouts include ingredients that enhance metabolism, making them useful tools for those on a fat-burning journey. (Source)
Increased Mental Focus: The mental aspect of workouts is often overlooked, but it’s just as crucial. Some ingredients in pre-workouts help sharpen mental clarity, allowing users to remain focused and dialed into their routines.
Mood Elevation: Beyond just the physical, the right pre-workout can provide a mood lift. Ingredients like tyrosine, for instance, can influence neurotransmitters that regulate mood.
The Best Pre-workout For You
Best Pre-Workout Overall: Transparent Labs Bulk
What’s really cool is that it avoids all the artificial junk. No fake sweeteners or colors here! It’s also designed to give you a nice energy boost without making you feel jittery, thanks to ingredients like caffeine and L-Theanine. Some folks might find it a bit tingly because of the Beta-Alanine or not love the taste, but overall, it’s a solid choice for anyone wanting to level up their gym game.
Transparent Labs BULK stands out as the best pre-workout for several reasons:
Transparency: As the name suggests, this pre-workout is all about being open and honest. Every ingredient and its amount are clearly listed, so you’re not left wondering what’s in it.
Quality Ingredients: It has a mix of scientifically-backed ingredients like Citrulline Malate, which aids in strength and reduces muscle soreness, and Beta-Alanine that helps improve endurance.
No Artificial Additives: BULK steers clear of artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors, making it a cleaner option.
Balanced Energy Boost: With 200mg of caffeine, it provides a noticeable but not overwhelming energy surge. The inclusion of L-Theanine ensures a smooth energy rise without the jitters.
Testosterone Support: The addition of boron might help in boosting testosterone production, beneficial for muscle growth, although the science isn’t definitive at this time.
Focus and Clarity: Ingredients like L-Tyrosine and Alpha GPC are thrown into the mix to sharpen your mental focus during workouts.
Positive Reviews: Many users have vouched for its effectiveness, mentioning better pumps, increased focus, and no post-workout crash.
Natural Flavoring: Even though the flavor might be a hit or miss for some, it doesn’t rely on artificial components to achieve its taste.
|8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, 300mg of alpha GPC
|Strawberry Kiwi, Piña Colada, Blue Raspberry, Black Cherry, Peach Mango, Tropical Punch, Watermelon, Sour Grape, Green Apple, Orange, Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Lime
|Price Per Serving
Also Great – Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
Gold Standard’s 175 milligrams of caffeine (per serving) can be ideal for those who don’t want a heavy stimulant hit but still seek the energizing effects of caffeine. During our tests, users reported a sustained energy boost without feeling jittery. The product also contains 1.5 grams of beta-alanine, offering some endurance benefits without causing extreme tingling sensations common with higher doses.
- Caffeine: 175mg
- Key Ingredients: 3g of creatine monohydrate, 1.5g of beta-alanine, and 375mg of acetyl-L-carnitine
- Flavors: Watermelon, Fruit Punch, Green Apple, Pineapple, Blueberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lime
- Servings: 30
Best Budget – Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout
The C4 Original formula boasts 150 milligrams of caffeine (per serving), which is great for those who prefer a noticeable yet not overpowering stimulant boost. In our trial phase, testers reported a clean energy uplift with no signs of the dreaded mid-workout crash. The product also features 1.6 grams of beta-alanine, contributing to extended stamina during exercise sessions.
C4 Original contains TeaCrine®, a compound similar to caffeine but without the tolerance buildup. This means users can expect consistent effects even with prolonged use. Its unique combination with caffeine makes the energy release smoother and long-lasting.
Cellucor doesn’t disappoint with flavor options for the C4 Original, with Icy Blue Razz receiving particular acclaim for its tangy yet refreshing taste.
- Caffeine: 150mg
- Key Ingredients: 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1g of creatine nitrate, and 1g of arginine AKG
- Flavors: Icy Blue Razz, Fruit Punch, Watermelon, Pink Lemonade, Cherry Limeade, Green Apple, Orange Burst
- Servings: 30
Best Pre-Workout for Cardio Training: Xwerks Ignite
Xwerks Ignite focuses on long-term energy release and improved endurance, critical for cardio training. The inclusion of citrulline aids in optimal blood flow, ensuring muscles receive the oxygen they need during exhaustive cardio sessions.
Ignite’s moderate caffeine dosage, combined with other energy-enhancing ingredients, ensures a consistent and sustained energy boost, without the jittery peaks or post-cardio crashes. The presence of citrulline and beta-alanine facilitates a robust cardiovascular performance, allowing athletes to push their limits without premature fatigue.
Cardio training is as much a mental challenge as it is physical. The focus-enhancing components in Ignite help keep the mind sharp, ensuring you stay on track during those longer, more challenging sessions.
- Caffeine: 150mg
- Key Ingredients: 3,000mg of citrulline malate, 2,000mg of l-tyrosine, and 200mg of DMAE
- Flavors: Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon
- Price Per Serving: $1.63
Best Pre-Workout for Beginners: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge
For novices, the aim is often to strike a balance between potency and simplicity. And that’s where Nitrosurge shines. It offers a delightful mix of citrulline for enhanced blood flow and muscle pump, coupled with betaine to boost endurance. The pairing of these components not only maximizes nitric oxide production but also ensures sustainable muscle engagement — crucial for beginners looking to build a solid foundation. Our tester reiterated these findings, praising Nitrosurge for delivering tangible muscle pumps and heightened focus.
What further accentuates Nitrosurge’s beginner-friendly appeal is its inclusion of a balanced dose of caffeine. This ensures a sustained energy boost without overwhelming someone unaccustomed to stimulant-laden supplements.
Best Pre-Workout for Endurance: Legion Pulse
This meticulously researched formula shines with a selection of ingredients known to enhance endurance. Notably, each serving offers an impressive amount of citrulline malate and beta-alanine. During our testing phase, these components were particularly effective in prolonging the workout duration, aligning with research that indicates citrulline malate improves aerobic performance and reduces fatigue, while beta-alanine increases exercise capacity.
Legion Pulse is renowned for its beta-alanine content, ensuring prolonged stamina, complemented by a set of ingredients focusing on sustained energy and focus. It also boasts a citrulline malate dosage, enhancing nitric oxide production for better blood flow.
Also, Legion Pulse contains ornithine, an amino acid that has shown potential in reducing fatigue during prolonged exercise. The blend of these ingredients, combined with a moderate caffeine dose, ensures that users get an immediate energy kick, followed by sustained endurance throughout their session.
The presence of ornithine sets Legion Pulse apart. It’s an underrated ingredient that can significantly benefit those aiming for longer, more intense workouts.
Best Natural Pre-Workout: Swolverine PRE
The debate around artificial sweeteners is everlasting, but for many, the choice is clear. If you belong to the natural brigade, then Swolverine PRE is crafted just for you. Dive into a blend that sidesteps not just synthetic sweeteners, but also additives and dyes. Celebrate its non-GMO, gluten-free, fully vegan, and completely natural credentials. Additionally, with its minimal sugar content (less than one gram per serving) and zero added sugars, it suits even the most health-conscious. Moreover, its caffeine-free composition ensures zero jitters, making it perfect for those evening workouts or for caffeine-sensitive individuals.
Though devoid of stimulants (called a non-stim pre-workout in the jargon), Swolverine PRE compensates with a potent concoction of performance-enhancing components that elevate blood flow, expedite recovery, and amplify endurance. Dive deeper, and find ingredients like citrulline malate and betaine anhydrous, ready to propel your workouts to the next level.
The flavor palette of PRE may seem limited with its two offerings, but it stems from its dedication to natural ingredients. With stevia as its primary sweetener, a distinct aftertaste is inevitable. Beyond flavors, its true prowess lies in its focus-enhancing, blood-flow optimizing ingredients. Our testers vouched for its efficacy, making it an ideal pick for lighter training days or exhaustive reps.
- Caffeine: Absent
- Prime Ingredients: 5,000mg of citrulline malate, 3,200mg of beta-alanine, 2,500mg of betaine anhydrous, 1,000mg of invigorating coconut water powder
- Flavors: Exotic Mango Lemonade and Luscious Strawberry Dragonfruit
- Servings: 25
Related: Best Stim-free pre-workouts.
Best For Fat Burning: Transparent Labs LEAN
Transparent Labs LEAN incorporates components commonly spotted in fat oxidizing blends. Synephrine, a noteworthy inclusion, has shown potential in ramping up daily caloric expenditure. This effect might be further augmented by the presence of hordenine in the mix.
Undergoing rigorous third-party evaluation and boasting precise dosing, Transparent Labs LEAN brings together a stellar array of elements enhancing endurance, vigor, clarity, and concentration.
Within its ingredient palette, elements like iodine and zinc stand out, potentially fortifying thyroid functionality. Given the thyroid’s pivotal role in metabolic regulation, these additions might be game-changers for weight management enthusiasts. However, a word of caution by Hays: ensure you’re not over-supplementing on certain micronutrients, especially when pairing this with other supplements or multivitamins.
- Caffeine: 200mg
- Prime Ingredients: 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, 300mg of alpha GPC
- Flavor Spectrum: Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Sour Peach, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Orange, Cherry Limeade, Sour Grape, Watermelon, Tropical Punch
- Servings: 30
Key Ingredients in Pre-Workouts
The efficacy of a pre-workout lies in its ingredients. These are the building blocks that come together to offer the range of benefits that pre-workout aficionados swear by. However, with the sheer variety available in the market, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the most common ingredients and their functions.
Caffeine: Almost synonymous with energy and alertness, caffeine is a stimulant that can enhance focus, increase endurance, and elevate mood.
Beta-Alanine: Known for causing a ‘tingling’ sensation, this amino acid helps buffer acid in muscles, resulting in reduced fatigue and enhanced overall performance.
L-Citrulline: Often used to increase nitric oxide production in the body, this amino acid helps with improved blood flow, allowing for better nutrient delivery to muscles.
Creatine: A tried and tested component, creatine is known to improve muscle energy, leading to increased strength and power output during workouts.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids): Consisting of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, BCAAs play a vital role in muscle recovery and can also aid in reducing exercise-induced fatigue.
Betaine: Derived from beets, betaine helps in muscle protein synthesis, promoting muscle growth and strength.
Taurine: Often found in energy drinks, taurine can assist with various metabolic processes and can help combat muscle soreness.
Electrolytes: Essential for hydration and muscle function, ingredients like sodium, potassium, and magnesium play a role in muscle contraction and prevent cramps.
Related: What to look for in a pre-workout?
Importance of Understanding What You’re Consuming:
It’s easy to get caught up in the allure of promises like “improved performance” or “rapid muscle gain.” However, knowing what you’re ingesting is paramount for several reasons:
Safety: Not all ingredients agree with everyone. For instance, those sensitive to stimulants might find high caffeine doses overstimulating or even harmful.
Efficiency: Understanding ingredients ensures you’re getting what you need. If you’re aiming for muscle gain, you’ll want to ensure your pre-workout has ingredients like creatine or BCAAs.
Avoiding Redundancies: If you’re already taking individual supplements, you’d want to ensure you’re not doubling up on dosages when taking a pre-workout.
Transparency: A well-informed consumer can steer clear of brands that use proprietary blends, where specific ingredient amounts aren’t listed, making it hard to ascertain their effectiveness.
Dietary Restrictions: Vegans, for instance, might want to ensure their pre-workout doesn’t contain ingredients derived from animal sources.
Potential Side Effects:
Jitters or Anxiety: High doses of stimulants, especially caffeine, can cause a heightened sense of alertness that can sometimes be uncomfortable.
Digestive Issues: Some individuals might experience stomach upsets, gas, or diarrhea. This can be due to the high caffeine content or other ingredients.
Sleep Disturbances: Consuming pre-workouts, particularly those high in stimulants, close to bedtime can interfere with sleep.
Heart Palpitations: Overconsumption or sensitivity to certain stimulants can lead to increased heart rate or palpitations.
Tingling or Itching: As mentioned earlier, beta-alanine can cause a harmless tingling sensation known as paresthesia.
Related: Get rid of pre-workout side effects.
Myths and Misconceptions about Pre-Workouts
In the intricate world of health and fitness, myths and misconceptions are as prevalent as genuine advice. Pre-workouts, given their soaring popularity, have not escaped this phenomenon. Below, we aim to separate fact from fiction, debunking prevalent beliefs and offering clarity to guide your decisions.
Debunking Common Beliefs
“More Caffeine Means Better Performance”: While caffeine is a powerful stimulant, there’s a threshold to its benefits. Excessive caffeine can lead to jitters, increased heart rate, digestive issues, and disrupted sleep. Finding the right balance for your body is crucial.
“Tingling Means It’s Working”: Many individuals feel a tingling or itching sensation after consuming pre-workouts with beta-alanine. While it’s a harmless side effect called paresthesia, the sensation doesn’t necessarily indicate the product’s overall effectiveness.
“Pre-Workouts Are Only for Serious Athletes”: While athletes can benefit from pre-workouts, even casual exercisers or those new to fitness can harness their advantages. The key is to choose a formula that aligns with your activity level and goals.
“You Should Take Pre-Workouts Every Day”: Relying on pre-workouts daily can lead to tolerance, meaning you might need increasing amounts for the same effects. It’s advisable to cycle pre-workouts or use them on particularly demanding workout days.
Related: When should you take pre-workout?
Clarifying Misconceptions for Better-Informed Decisions:
“All Pre-Workouts Are Essentially the Same”: The vast array of pre-workouts on the market vary in their ingredient profiles, concentrations, and benefits. Some might be geared towards muscle-building, others for endurance, and some just for an energy boost. It’s essential to read ingredient lists and understand what each product offers.
“Natural Pre-Workouts Are Less Effective”: The efficacy of a pre-workout is not solely determined by whether its ingredients are natural or synthetic. It’s about the formulation and the bioavailability of those ingredients.
“Pre-Workouts Replace the Need for Good Nutrition”: While pre-workouts can enhance performance, they don’t replace the fundamentals of good nutrition. A balanced diet is still paramount, and pre-workouts should be viewed as a supplement to, not a substitute for, nourishing meals.
“More Expensive Means Better Quality”: Price isn’t always indicative of quality. Some lesser-known brands might offer excellent formulations at a lower cost. Research, reading reviews, and understanding ingredient lists are more reliable than price tags.
What is truly the best pre-workout?
The concept of the “best” pre-workout is subjective and varies from person to person, but Transparent Labs Bulk is often touted as a top contender. This is due to its transparent labeling, use of research-backed ingredients, and absence of unnecessary fillers. Transparent Labs Bulk emphasizes both focus and muscle pump, catering to both lifters and endurance athletes. Its balanced combination of ingredients, such as citrulline malate for enhanced blood flow and beta-alanine for increased endurance, makes it stand out. While it’s important to assess personal goals and individual reactions to ingredients, for many fitness enthusiasts and experts, Transparent Labs Bulk ranks as one of the best all-around pre-workout formulas on the market.
Is C4 a good pre-workout?
C4 by Cellucor is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements on the market. Many users appreciate its balanced blend of energy, focus, and pump ingredients. It contains key ingredients such as caffeine, beta-alanine, and creatine nitrate. For many, the tingling sensation from beta-alanine signifies it’s kicking in. However, as with any supplement, individual experiences may vary. Some might find it too stimulating or not potent enough. It’s always recommended to start with a lower dose to assess tolerance. In general, C4 is considered a reliable and effective pre-workout for many fitness enthusiasts.
What is the best thing to take pre-workout for energy?
For immediate energy, caffeine is the most commonly used and researched ingredient in pre-workout supplements. It stimulates the central nervous system, increases alertness, and can enhance physical performance. Apart from caffeine, other ingredients like B-vitamins, taurine, and beta-alanine can also provide energy boosts and improve workout performance. Natural sources, such as green tea or beetroot juice, can also be effective. It’s essential to monitor caffeine intake from all sources throughout the day and understand one’s personal tolerance to avoid potential side effects like jitters or sleep disturbances.
Are pre-workouts worth it?
Pre-workout supplements can be worth it for those looking to enhance energy, focus, endurance, and muscle pumps during their workouts. They can provide a noticeable boost in performance for many individuals, especially on days when motivation or energy levels are low. However, they aren’t a magic solution and should be paired with a balanced diet, proper training regimen, and adequate rest. Some might find comparable benefits from a cup of coffee or a balanced meal. Ultimately, whether pre-workouts are “worth it” comes down to personal preference, goals, and how one’s body responds to specific ingredients.
Can pre-workout go bad?
Yes, pre-workout supplements can go bad. Most have an expiration date indicating when they might degrade or lose potency. Proper storage, in a cool and dry place, can extend their life. Over time, ingredients may degrade, affecting their efficacy. Changes in appearance, like clumping or discoloration, or an unusual smell, can signal spoilage. Moisture is a common culprit, causing many powders to clump. If you’re uncertain about a pre-workout’s quality or safety due to age or appearance changes, it’s best to discard and replace it. Always prioritize safety and effectiveness over prolonging the use of an old product.