Pre-workout supplements boost any workout.
Some pre-workouts enhance muscle growth during your workout. Others energize you. Some increase pump and endurance, while others use thermogenesis to boost fat burning. Some pre-workouts do it all.
Which pre-workout is right for you? Which pre-workout lives up to the hype? Please keep reading to discover the top-rated pre-workout supplements of 2021, according to our editorial team.
Ranking the Top 22 Best Pre-Workout Supplements of 2021
Our editorial team contacted manufacturers, pored over lab reports, analyzed thousands of reviews, and personally tested the top-rated pre-workouts to create the list below.
- Pre Lab Pro
- CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train
- XWerks Ignite
- Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder
- Cellucor C4 Extreme
- Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout
- Blackwolf Pre-Workout
- Ladder Pre Workout
- 4 Gauge
- Onnit Total Strength Performance
- Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout
- Powher Pre-Workout
- NSP Nutrition Energize Pre-Workout
- IdealFit IdealLean Pre-Workout
- Bauer Nutrition BRF Pre-Workout
- Legion Pulse
- Beast Sports Beast Mode Black
- Alani Nu Pre-Workout
- Huge Supplements Wrecked
- Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme
- Huge Supplements Wrecked Stim-Free
After much deliberation, here is our ranking of the best pre-workout supplements of 2021:
Pre Lab Pro
Pre Lab Pro is a next-generation pre-workout formula with a natural berry flavor. The formula is all-around ergogenic, which means it improves your workout in multiple ways.
According to the makers of Pre Lab Pro, the formula will boost strength, speed, stamina, endurance, cardio, recovery, and anabolism. It also contains ingredients we don’t see in other pre-workouts, including nootropics and homeostasis-supporting ingredients.
We also like Pre Lab Pro because it uses some of the industry’s most proven ingredients and dosages. Critical elements in Pre Lab Pro include red beetroot powder (for nitric oxide), the Setria performance blend (for additional NO power), natural caffeine (to boost performance), and L-theanine (for mental clarity), among other proven ingredients.
CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train
CrazyBulk is known for its legal steroid alternative supplements and high-powered formulas. Intensive Pre-Train lives up to that reputation by providing long-lasting energy, lower fatigue, and high-intensity training, among other perks.
Intensive Pre-Train, like Powher, contains a caffeine booster called EnXtra. It also contains KSM-66 ashwagandha extract – something we don’t see in any other pre-workout listed here. By taking CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train daily, you can purportedly boost energy levels, enjoy laser-sharp focus, reduce or delay fatigue, and crush your workouts, among other perks.
Another perk of CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train is that the company ships worldwide and offers three tubs for the price of two. If you want a high-quality pre-workout from a reputable brand without breaking the bank, then CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train is an excellent choice.
Ignite from XWerks is a proven pre-workout supplement available in green apple, orange, watermelon, and blue raspberry. The formula ais to break the mold of pre-workout supplements using a unique formula with clinically-recognized ingredients for total workout optimization while helping add a smooth nootropic effect to the mix.
Instead of flooding your body with stimulants to temporarily boost energy, Ignite aims to give you smooth, refreshing, and sustainable energy with no crash.
Key ingredients in XWerks Ignite include caffeine, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, Rhodiola Rosea, DMAE, L-tyrosine, and CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine. According to XWerks, the formula will increase energy without jitters, boost focus and motivation throughout your workout, increase muscular endurance, and promote muscle growth and repair – all without the side effects of an upset stomach associated with other pre-workouts. Seeing how the Xwerks brand (who made the best protein powder list too) is a highly respected company within the total fitness supplement space, and knowing there is no toxic chemicals or added stimulants to worry about, the IGNITE pre-workout supplement by Xwerks is a hard one to pass up on as it is hands down one of the best pre-workouts to consider for those looking to try the ultimate performance-enhancing exercise booster.
TestoPrime is one of the internet’s hottest pre-workout supplements. Advertised as an all-natural testosterone booster and pre-workout supplement, TestoPrime uses natural ingredients to boost protein synthesis and target your hormones.
According to the makers of TestoPrime, the formula will increase physical and mental energy, boost protein synthesis, burn unwanted fat, and improve motivation, among other benefits.
Unlike other pre-workouts listed here, however, TestoPrime is targeted explicitly to anyone trying to boost testosterone. The formula claims to stop low testosterone issues in men, helping you enjoy better results inside and outside the gym.
Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder
Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements ever released. This is the supplement many people picture when they hear ‘pre-workout.’ Backed by a decade of use, Cellucor’s pre-workout powder continues to be one of the top-rated options available today.
Each serving of Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder contains 1.6g of CarnoSyn beta-alanine, 1g of creatine, 150mg of caffeine, and 1g of arginine. You get four proven ingredients at reasonable doses, helping you improve your workout from multiple angles.
Plus, priced as low as $30, Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder offers some of the best value on this list. Plus, you can purchase a larger bottle (60 servings) for just $50, reducing the cost-per-serving to a meager price. If you want a pre-workout supplement that’s been proven effective over and over again, then Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder is one of the best in the business.
Cellucor C4 Extreme
There are two versions of Cellucor’s pre-workout powder, including Cellucor C4 Original and Cellucor C4 Extreme. If you want to maximize endurance and energy, then Cellucor C4 Extreme may be the right choice.
Available in unique flavors like strawberry margarita and icy blue razz, Cellucor C4 Extreme promises all of the benefits of the original C4 formula but at a higher level of intensity. Plus, with zero sugar or calories, C4 Extreme will not mess up your macronutrient balance or weight loss.
With beta-alanine, caffeine, creatine, and arginine, Cellucor C4 Extreme continues to be one of the best-rated pre-workout supplements available today. Plus, you get more of each ingredient, including 200mg of caffeine and 2g of beta-alanine per serving (25% more than the C4 Original blend).
Cellucor is also one of the oldest and most established pre-workout supplement companies on this list, and they’ve been making pre-workout supplements for more than 20 years.
Transparent Labs Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs, like Cellucor, is another well-respected name in the supplement industry. The company makes a range of bodybuilding supplements targeting different health and fitness goals.
Today, Transparent Labs offers six supplements categorized as pre-workouts. Some pre-workouts are designed to help you bulk. Others are designed to boost energy. Some are designed to help you lose weight. Some have stimulants, while others are stimulant-free.
The six pre-workout supplements available with Transparent Labs include:
- Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout
- Preseries HowToBeast (H2B) Bulk
- Preseries Jesse James West Bulk
- Preseries Lean Pre-Workout
- Preseries Stim-Booster
- PreSeries Stim-Free Pre-Workout
Instead of using an all-in-one pre-workout formula like other options on our list, Transparent Labs has developed specific formulas for specific goals. Backed by proven ingredients and surprisingly strong dosages, the Transparent Labs pre-workout lineup is among the best pre-workouts available today.
Blackwolf Pre-Workout doesn’t have the name recognition as other top-rated brands here. However, the company backs up its pre-workouts with high-quality packaging, tasty flavors, and proven ingredients.
Black Wolf, also known as Blackwolf, is a subsidiary of MuscleClub Limited, a UK-based supplement company. Blackwolf is a relatively new pre-workout brand, although the brand is supported by decades of supplement industry experience.
You can buy Blackwolf Pre-Workout in three popular flavors: green apple, blue raspberry, and fruit punch. You can also buy a caffeinated or caffeine-free option. The pre-workout formula contains 1,000mg of L-arginine, 2,000mg of betaine, 3,000mg of creatine, 3,200mg of beta-alanine, 6,000mg of L-citrulline, 1,000mg of taurine, and 600mg of L-tyrosine per serving, making it one of the strongest pre-workout on our list. You also get 200mg of caffeine in the caffeinated version and 150mg of DMAE, and 10mg of Huperzine in the caffeine-free version.
Ladder Pre Workout
Ladder Pre Workout is the only pre-workout supplement on our list created by a company co-founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lebron James. Yes, Lebron and Arnold have launched their own supplement company. After being disappointed with the options available, the pair teamed up to create their lineup of quality supplements.
Available in strawberry lemonade or tropical fruit, Ladder Pre Workout contains 100mg of caffeine, 250mg of theanine, 3g of beta-alanine, and 500mg of citicoline per serving.
Ladder Pre Workout is also one of the few formulas on this list that is NSF Certified for Sport. The company tests each batch to verify quality, purity, and label accuracy. NSF Certified for Sport status is vital for professional athletes, and it’s used on only the highest-quality supplements available today.
4 Gauge is a pre-workout supplement that promises to give you extreme performance without the jitters. Packaged into a container that looks like a shotgun shell, 4 Gauge promises to help you look bigger, feel better, and enjoy more focus with no energy crashes or artificial sweeteners. Plus, 4 Gauge won’t mess up your weight loss goals with just five guilt-free calories per serving.
4 Gauge is a 4-in-1 pre-workout formula because it improves raw strength, focus, energy, and muscle pumps. You won’t find anything bigger than a 4-gauge shell for your shotgun, and 4 Gauge promises to bring similar power to the pre-workout supplement space.
Each serving of 4 Gauge contains 6,000mg of L-citrulline, 150mg of caffeine, 200mg of L-theanine, and 100mg of Rhodiola Rosea, among other proven ingredients. There’s also a significant dose of beet to widen blood vessels.
Onnit Total Strength + Performance
Onnit is one of the most reputable supplement companies in the world today, and their Total Strength + Performance supplement continues to be one of the best-rated pre-workouts.
Total Strength + Performance is available in a strawberry lemonade flavor. Although it doesn’t have great reviews for flavor, Total Strength + Performance uses a caffeine-free blend of ingredients to boost performance in various ways. Each 10.8g scoop contains a significant dose of BCAAs, DAA, herbal and plant extracts, and other ingredients proven to heighten your workout.
If you want a big scoop, large serving size, noticeable benefits, and proven ingredients, then Onnit’s Total Strength + Performance is one of the top-rated options. If you can get past the taste, then you’ll find one of the best and most potent pre-workout formulas sold online today.
Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout
Legion Athletics Pulse is a natural pre-workout formula that claims to enhance mood and focus along with energy, strength, and endurance. Like other top-rated pre-workouts, Pulse is designed to reduce fatigue using proven natural ingredients.
Each serving of Pulse pre-workout contains a surprisingly strong dose of citrulline malate (8g per serving) and beta-alanine (3.6g per serving). Available in a blueberry lemonade flavor with caffeine or without caffeine, Pulse may be the right choice for anyone looking for a natural supplement to boost energy.
Legion Athletes manufactures Pulse in the United States. The supplement also has an extremely high dosage of caffeine per serving, giving you 350mg of caffeine in each 15g serving. If you like substantial dosages of caffeine and other active ingredients in your pre-workout, then Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout may be the right choice for you.
Powher is one of two pre-workouts on this list specifically marketed towards women. Although women can take any pre-workout designed for men, Powher claims to give women an “unfair advantage” while taking a more female-centric approach.
Powher contains unique ingredients like EnXtra, a caffeine amplifier sourced from a plant in the ginger family that enhances and extends the effects of caffeine. Other critical elements in the blend include caffeine, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6.
Powher Pre-Workout is ideal for those who want a basket of proven pre-workout ingredients without the potent doses of other formulas. With smaller quantities than other pre-workouts on our list, Powher has carved a unique niche in the market.
NSP Nutrition Energize Pre-Workout
NSP Nutrition’s Energize Pre-Workout is a pre-workout supplement available in the grape blast, tropical sunrise, and lemonade fresh flavors.
Taking one scoop of Energize before your workout can activate more muscle, stimulate muscle size gains, achieve a bigger muscle pump, banish brain fog, increase work capacity, and stay mentally sharp, among other benefits.
At just $36 for a tub, Energize is one of the more affordable pre-workout options on our list. The formula contains proven ingredients to boost physical and mental performance, such as citrulline, creatine, L-tyrosine, DMAE, L-theanine, choline, and other elements.
IdealFit IdealLean Pre-Workout
IdealFit’s IdealLean Pre-Workout is the second pre-workout on our list specifically marketed towards women. Featuring a blue raspberry flavor and a price of just $26 for 30 servings, IdealLean Pre-Workout is a well-rated option for anyone looking for an added boost to a workout.
Each serving of IdealFit’s IdealLean Pre-Workout contains 3,000mg of citrulline, 1,500mg of beta-alanine, and 1,500mg of betaine. There’s also 150mg of caffeine, 310mg of a fat loss blend, and other effective ingredients at potent dosages.
Powher (the first pre-workout on our list marketed to women) uses weaker dosages of most active ingredients. IdealLean Pre-Workout, meanwhile, does not compromise on dosage while still marketing the formula to women. The result is a high-powered, effective pre-workout supplement backed by hundreds of positive reviews from women online.
Bauer Nutrition BRF Pre-Workout
Bauer Nutrition’s BRF Pre-Workout is a natural energy booster priced under $27 for 30 servings. The formula claims to boost energy, fuel your workout intensity, sharpen your focus, and increase your endurance, among other benefits – similar to every other pre-workout supplement listed here.
Key ingredients in the Bauer Nutrition BRF Pre-Workout blend include whey protein isolate, vitamin C, caffeine, and Clarinol CLA. Although BRF Pre-Workout contains many ingredients seen in other supplements listed here, unique elements like Clarinol CLA (a patented ingredient that helps your body burn more calories) enhance the formula’s effectiveness further.
Also known as Battle Ready Fuel, Bauer Nutrition’s BRF Pre-Workout promises to help anyone get ready for battle. Plus, all purchases are backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Legion PulseLegion Pulse is one of Amazon’s best-rated pre-workout supplements. With over 10,900 reviews on Amazon, the supplement has a 4.3-star rating out of 5, making it one of the best-rated options listed here.
Legion Pulse features a fruit punch flavor and is priced at under $30 for 30 servings, making it one of the more cost-effective options on our list. Plus, with all-natural ingredients and science-backed dosage, Legion Pulse still packs a significant punch.
Key ingredients in Legion Pulse include 8g of citrulline, 3.6g of beta-alanine, 2.5g of betaine, 150mg of alpha GPC, 350mg of L-theanine, and 350mg of caffeine per serving. It also has one of the largest serving sizes (2 scoops, 23.76g total) on our list.
If you want a high-powered pre-workout supplement with an insanely high dosage of caffeine, then Legion Pulse may be the right option for you. However, some will want to start with a half or even quarter dose.
Beast Sports Beast Mode Black
Beast Sports’ Beast Mode Black is an extreme pre-workout supplement marketed to those who want high-end energy and substantial ingredient dosages. You can make every rep count while driving nitric oxide levels through the roof by taking the supplement daily.
According to Beat Sports, Beast Mode Black has doses 380% stronger than the regular Beast Mode formula. That means more miles, more muscle, more strength, and more fat-burning potential with each serving.
Although that all sounds impressive, Beast Mode Black contains similar doses of most ingredients compared to other top-ranked supplements on our list, including 1,600mg of beta-alanine and 500mg of taurine per serving. However, Beast Mode Black does contain one of the highest caffeine doses on our list, giving you 400mg of caffeine per serving.
Alani Nu Pre-Workout
Alani Nu’s Pre-Workout is a famous and well-rated pre-workout formula packed with more flavor than the average supplement. The supplement also contains ingredients like L-theanine to help manage the jitters and post-workout crashes.
While other pre-workout supplements dazzle you with dozens of ingredients at various doses, Alani Nu’s Pre-Workout focuses on providing substantial amounts of a small number of elements.
Each 10g scoop contains 6g of L-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 500mg of L-tyrosine, 200mg of caffeine, and 200mg of L-theanine. At those doses, Alani Nu Pre-Workout competes with some of the top-ranked options on our list. Made without fillers and gimmicks and backed by 90% 5-star reviews, Alani Nu Pre-Workout punches above its weight class for pre-workout effectiveness.
Huge Supplements Wrecked
Huge Supplements has launched its Wrecked pre-workout in four unique flavors, including rainbow burst, peach rings, raspberry mojito, and bomb popsicle. Featuring 25 servings for $44.95, Wrecked is more expensive than the average pre-workout on our list. However, Huge Supplements backs up the high price tag with 18 ingredients at high-potency doses.
Wrecked also has a much larger scoop and serving size than competing pre-workouts, giving you 21.1g of formula per serving. Each scoop contains 9,000mg of L-citrulline, 3,200mg of beta-alanine, 2,000mg of betaine anhydrous, 1,000mg of L-tyrosine, and 250mg of caffeine. The formula also contains unique ingredients like theobromine, Himalayan pink salt, inositol, and lion’s mane mushroom, among others we don’t typically see.
Overall, Huge Supplements Wrecked provides some of the most potent doses on our list. Although the price may seem higher than competing options at first, Wrecked offers better value than many competing formulas based on dosage and concentration, making it one of the best pre-workout supplements of 2021.
Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme
Wrecked Extreme builds off the success of the original Wrecked formula and is the most potent pre-workout from Huge Supplements. The original Wrecked already has some of the most powerful ingredients on our list. Wrecked Extreme takes those ingredients to the next level.
However, when you check the ingredients label, you’ll realize most of the ingredients in Wrecked Extreme are smaller than the ingredients in the original Wrecked formula. The scoop size is smaller (15.9g) per scoop, and you get smaller doses of most active ingredients. The amount of caffeine (250mg per serving) remains the same.
Overall, Wrecked Extreme promises to offer more potent ingredients than the original Wrecked formula, but it doesn’t live up to that promise. You’re better off buying Wrecked to enjoy powerful pre-workout benefits.
Huge Supplements Wrecked Stim-Free
Want to enjoy all of the benefits of Wrecked without the caffeine? Huge Supplements Pump Serum is a stimulant-free pre-workout that uses most of the same ingredients as Wrecked and Wrecked Extreme – but without caffeine or other stimulants.
Each massive scoop (31g per scoop) of Wrecked Stim-Free contains 8g of L-citrulline, 3g of Glycerpump, and 2g of beetroot extract. Huge Supplements emphasize natural energy with natural ingredients instead of loading your body with caffeine and other stimulants.
If you don’t mind the large scoop size (which is the largest on our list of pre-workout supplements), then Huge Supplements Wrecked Stim-Free may be the right option for you – especially if you’re looking for solid power with zero caffeine.
Now that best protein powder shoppers can get a sense of what is out there, let’s put together the best strengths of each as the key takeaways for each protein-rich supplement:
|Pre Lab Pro|
|CrazyBulk Intensive Pre-Train|
|Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder|
|Cellucor C4 Extreme|
|Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout|
|Ladder Pre Workout|
|Onnit Total Strength Performance|
|Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout|
|NSP Nutrition Energize Pre-Workout|
|IdealFit IdealLean Pre-Workout|
|Bauer Nutrition BRF Pre-Workout|
|Beast Sports Beast Mode Black|
|Alani Nu Pre-Workout|
|Huge Supplements Wrecked|
|Huge Supplements Wrecked Extreme|
|Huge Supplements Wrecked Stim-Free|
How We Ranked The Top Pre-workout Supplements
Every pre-workout supplement claims to supercharge your workout. However, some pre-workout supplements are better than others.
Our editorial board used the following ranking factors to separate the best and worst pre-workout supplements available today:
Science-Backed Ingredients & Dosages
Pre-workouts contain different ingredients depending on their goals. We weren’t biased towards specific types of pre-workouts. However, we did emphasize pre-workouts with science-backed ingredients and dosages. Many pre-workouts contain the right ingredients at the wrong dosages. Some pre-workouts hide weak dosages within proprietary formulas, while other pre-workouts advertise substantial dosages upfront.
Some pre-workout companies go overboard with advertised benefits. They claim to supercharge fat burning and help you lose 30lbs overnight, for example, or become Arnold Schwarzenegger within days of working out. These benefits are slightly exaggerated. We were wary of pre-workout supplement companies that used exaggerated benefits to sell their products.
Health, Safety, and Testing
Pre-workouts can be dangerous, especially when buying from unreputable companies. The best supplements are NSF Certified for Sport, indicating the highest levels of testing and quality. We also liked pre-workouts that were backed by independent lab tests or other verification.
Formulated by Doctors, Naturopaths, Dieticians, or Other Professionals
Some pre-workouts were created by a marketing team, while a medical advisory board created others. Which one would you preferably take?
Flavor and Texture
Most pre-workouts are designed to be taken with water, which means you taste the formula. We considered taste in our rankings. We taste-tested the pre-workouts when possible and collected taste data from reviews. Some pre-workouts taste better than others. Some pre-workouts also mix better than others, which is why we considered texture and mixability in our rankings.
Artificial Ingredients, Sweeteners, and Flavors
People are more careful than ever with what they put into their bodies. We preferred pre-workout supplements with no artificial ingredients, sweeteners, or flavors. Some pre-workouts use natural ingredients and flavors to achieve desired results, while others use synthetic chemicals as a shortcut. Although it’s not essential for everyone, we prefer supplements with all-natural ingredients.
Manufacturer Reputation & Ingredient Sources
Some manufacturers employ a medical advisory board, use industry-standard manufacturing techniques, and disclose all ingredient sources. Others are opaque with all of this information. Some companies have decades of proven experience making high-quality pre-workout supplements, while others are newbies in the space. We considered manufacturer reputation and ingredient sources in our rankings.
Money-back or Satisfaction Guarantee
A 30 or 60-day money-back guarantee backs most supplements. However, some supplements attach the fine print to that guarantee – like no refunds on opened supplements. We preferred manufacturers with an open, honest, and generous money-back guarantee, indicating they’re confident customers will like their products.
Price, Cost, and Value
Some people want to spend $10 on a pre-workout supplement, while others pay over $100. That’s okay. We featured pre-workout supplements for all budgets and preferences. However, we emphasized good value at every price. If you’re paying a budget price for a supplement, you want to get good value for that price. If you’re paying a premium price, then you expect premium quality.
Scoop and Serving Size
The pre-workouts above have serving sizes anywhere from 5g to 31g. If you’re just looking at price per serving, it can be misleading. We considered scoop and serving size in our rankings, preferring supplements with more potent ingredients and dosages.
Who Should Take a Pre-workout?
Anyone can take a pre-workout supplement to enhance the benefits of their workout.
Some people associate pre-workout supplements with bodybuilders. It’s true: bodybuilders love taking pre-workouts to boost pump, endurance, and muscle development.
However, plenty of others take pre-workouts daily. Some people take pre-workouts before a run, for example. Others take it before sports.
Here are some of the people who could benefit from a pre-workout:
- Runners or cyclists
- Anyone trying to lose weight or burn fat
- Someone who wants to enhance the effectiveness of every workout
- Athletes and weekend warriors
- Anyone who wants to workout longer or harder
Whether trying to increase your pump or increase fat burning, you can enhance the effectiveness of every workout with a good pre-workout formula.
Pre-workout Supplement Benefits: What Does Science Say?
Pre-workouts are backed by ample scientific evidence.
Studies have shown that pre-workouts boost physical and mental performance in multiple ways. Researchers have validated these benefits in numerous peer-reviewed studies and placebo-controlled clinical trials.
In one study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers found that pre-workout supplements were an effective “ergogenic aid” for active individuals. That’s a fancy way of saying that pre-workout supplements boost the performance of people at the gym.
Other studies have validated the cognitive benefits of pre-workout supplements. More than half of all pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, one of the most popular cognitive boosters available today. In this study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers found that caffeine boosted arousal, mood, and concentration. If you want to focus on your workout, then a pre-workout supplement may be able to help.
Of course, caffeine also has proven physical benefits. In this study, researchers found that caffeine boosted endurance during exercise, helping you perform longer before feeling tired. That means longer, more challenging workouts with higher levels of performance from beginning to end.
Caffeine has also been proven to increase fat burning. In this 1995 study, researchers found that caffeine increased energy expenditure by 11%. That means your cardio workouts could be 11% more effective when paired with caffeine, enhancing weight loss results and making it easier to achieve your fat-burning goals.
Many pre-workout supplements contain citrulline. Also labeled as L-citrulline, this compound has improved bench press reps up to 53% in one study. In another study, cyclists pedaled 12% longer before reaching their exhaustion point after taking citrulline.
Creatine is one of the most popular pre-workout supplement ingredients – and for a good reason. Studies show that creatine can have powerful effects on your athletic performance. That’s why creatine continues to be one of the most popular ingredients among amateur and professional athletes. Creatine accelerates the production of muscle cells when doing strength training or high-intensity exercise. If you want to build lean muscle mass or increase strength gains, then consider taking creatine.
Taurine is found in many pre-workout supplements. In this 2004 study, researchers found that taurine supplements protected muscle cells against oxidative stress in humans. A separate study on human cyclists found similar benefits, proving that taurine removed waste products produced by muscle cells during exercise, protecting muscles against stress. In this 2010 study, researchers found that 1,660mg of taurine supplementation improved fat burning by 16%, while a separate study in 2013 found taurine significantly reduced muscle damage and soreness from exercise. Because of all of these benefits, taurine remains one of the most popular pre-workout supplement ingredients available.
Many pre-workouts also contain branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs. These amino acids increase protein production by forming the building blocks for protein. Your body can synthesize muscle cells more quickly, making it easy to repair your body after a workout. Taking BCAA supplements before, during, or after training can reduce soreness and damage while accelerating recovery. BCAAs represent about 35% to 40% of all essential amino acids. That’s important because your body cannot produce amino acids on its own. In this 1997 study, researchers found that BCAA supplements reduced fatigue by 15%. A similar study showed that BCAAs increased resistance to exhaustion by 17% and improved fat burning.
L-citrulline is particularly popular in pre-workouts. In this study, researchers found that citrulline acts as a vasodilator, widening your blood vessels and enhancing performance. Some feel a much better ‘pump’ when taking L-citrulline: they feel like it’s easier to push out one last rep or workout 15 to 30 minutes longer than they usually could.
Some pre-workout supplements contain nootropic-like ingredients like CDP choline. Known for improving attention and focus, CDP choline is a fixture in nootropic supplements. In pre-workouts, it could improve your focus and attention at the gym. If you find yourself wandering around aimlessly or looking at your phone at the gym, then CDP choline may be able to help.
Some pre-workouts contain L-theanine for similar reasons. L-theanine is often paired with caffeine because it’s been shown to nullify caffeine’s unwanted, adverse effects. If you experience jitters and anxiety from high doses of caffeine, then an excellent L-theanine supplement could help. This study found that caffeine and L-theanine enhanced mood, focus, and attention, making them a valuable nootropic or pre-workout supplement ingredient.
Some of the best pre-workout ingredients come from the natural world. Today, many pre-workout supplements contain beetroot extract, which raises nitric oxide (NO) levels. NO relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Your body produces NO naturally, but beetroot increases the production. In this study, researchers found a correlation between beetroot and lower blood pressure. Other studies have shown beetroot can boost performance and endurance.
Yohimbine is another natural pre-workout supplement ingredient. Derived from an African plant, yohimbine has been traditionally used to boost energy and blood flow. In this 2006 study, researchers validated the traditional uses of yohimbine, finding that it can increase fat loss. That’s why many fat burners, diet pills, and pre-workouts contain yohimbine.
Overall, the best pre-workout supplements contain many ingredients proven to accelerate weight loss, boost endurance, and enhance muscle building. Whether taking a pre-workout to lose weight, build muscle, or achieve other targeted effects, you could enjoy powerful benefits with the best pre-workouts on our list below.
Side Effects of Pre-workouts
Pre-workouts can cause side effects – especially if you have a low tolerance to caffeine and other stimulants.
Most healthy adults experience few side effects when taking high-quality pre-workout supplements at standard dosages. However, your risk of side effects increases when taking high levels of pre-workouts (or pre-workouts from not reputable companies).
Common side effects of pre-workouts include:
- Jitters, anxiety, and interrupted sleep
- Tolerance buildup with use
- Digestive issues, including constipation or diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
Pre-workout supplements can lead to kidney and liver damage or more severe health problems in more severe cases. However, these effects are rare.
Certain substances in pre-workout supplements are linked to more side effects than others. Ingredients like sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, creatine, and caffeine, for example, are related to digestive issues.
Beta-alanine, meanwhile, may temporarily irritate the skin, especially in higher dosages. Many people experience tingling or itchiness after taking beta-alanine. This effect is not believed to be harmful, and it should subside within an hour.
L-arginine has been linked to gastrointestinal issues when taken at extremely high doses (doses much higher than the 6g found in most supplements above). Some people experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and other digestive issues when taking high doses of L-arginine.
The Danger of Low-Quality Pre-workout Supplements
Choosing the right pre-workout is crucial. If you choose the wrong pre-workout, then you might experience zero benefits. In this study, researchers tested several pre-workout supplements and found no help whatsoever. Some pre-workouts raised your heart rate and blood pressure while providing zero meaningful workout benefits. That’s why it’s crucial to choose the right pre-workout supplement.
Proprietary formulas increase the risk of side effects. In this study, researchers found that manufacturers used proprietary formulas to sneak unlabeled ingredients into supplements. A proprietary label lists the overall dose of the formula without an individual ingredient or dosage breakdowns, making it impossible to see how much of each ingredient you’re getting (and making it easier for manufacturers to hide unique elements). In the past, manufacturers have been caught adding pre-hormones, amphetamines, and other dangerous compounds to low-quality pre-workouts.
The FDA has taken action against pre-workout supplement companies. Jack3d and OxyElite Pro were two of the most popular pre-workouts on the market before they were banned. Researchers linked Jack3d and OxyElite Pro to liver toxicity and multiple shelves. In response, the FDA pulled the supplements from store shelves and filed charges against manufacturer USP Labs.
For all of these reasons and more, it’s crucial to shop around to find the best-rated pre-workout supplements possible.
Recommended Dosage of Pre-workout
Most people take one serving of pre-workout formula 30 to 60 minutes before a workout. Typically, this is the dosage recommended on your pre-workout supplement.
However, some people start with 0.5 servings, especially when using higher-powered pre-workouts. If you’re unaccustomed to caffeine, for example, then you might want to start with half a serving (i.e., half a scoop) to get started.
Pay attention to caffeine when experimenting with pre-workout servings. Caffeine can kill you in high enough doses. Even at moderate amounts, caffeine can have adverse health effects. This study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology showed that adults should limit their caffeine intake to a maximum of 400mg per day. Some of the highest-powered pre-workouts contain nearly that much caffeine per serving.
Other recommended doses validated by scientific studies include:
- Betaine (1.25 to 2.5g)
- L-theanine (1:2 ratio with caffeine)
- Citrulline (taken in amounts up to 8g per day)
- BCAAs (10g before a workout and 10g after a workout)
- Taurine (500mg to 2,000mg per day)
- L-ornithine (2g to 3g per day)
FAQs About Pre-workouts
Pre-workout supplements boost your physical and mental performance in multiple ways. Here are some of the questions we get about pre-workout supplements and how they work:
Q: What does a pre-workout supplement do?
A: A pre-workout supplement boosts your physical and mental performance before a workout. They work in different ways as some boost endurance and energy, and others maximize muscle building. Still, others contain stimulants like caffeine to supercharge your energy.
Q: Are pre-workouts safe?
A: Pre-workouts are safe for most healthy adults to use when taken in regular doses. However, you should not exceed the recommended dosage on your pre-workout. You should also talk to a doctor before taking a pre-workout if you take medication or have a medical condition.
Q: What’s inside pre-workouts?
A: Pre-workout supplements contain a range of ingredients. Common ingredients include caffeine, creatine, BCAAs, amino acids, B vitamins, protein, and other nutrients.
Q: What’s the best pre-workout?
A: Any pre-workout supplements at the top of our list are among the best pre-workouts available today.
Q: What is ‘pump’ in bodybuilding?
A: Pump is a term referring to your muscular energy and endurance during a workout. Bodybuilders often refer to ‘pump’. Many pre-workout supplements specifically claim to ‘maximize pumps’ or give you ‘more intense pumps’. If you want to work out longer and harder, look for a pre-workout supplement that maximizes the pump.
Q: How do pre-workout supplements provide a mental boost?
A: Pre-workout supplements boost your mentality by enhancing cognition and focus. Some contain herbal extracts to improve your psyche. Others use vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Q: How do I take pre-workout?
A: You take pre-workout by mixing the powder with water, a shake, or the beverage of your choice. Most pre-workout supplements are designed to be combined with water.
Q: What does pre-workout taste like?
A: Pre-workout supplements typically have fruity flavors. They’re designed to be mixed with water, so they give your water a fruity, Gatorade-like taste. However, taste varies widely across the pre-workout space.
Q: Can pre-workout supplements cause kidney failure?
A: Taking too much pre-workout powder could cause kidney failure, dehydration, and high blood pressure. Pre-workouts contain caffeine and creatine, both of which are diuretics. Taking high levels of caffeine and creatine can lead to serious side effects. To avoid side effects, do not exceed the recommended dose of your pre-workout.
Q: Are BCAA supplements a pre-workout?
A: BCAA supplements are considered pre-workout formulas. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) provide your body with the muscle-building components it needs to grow strong during and after your workout. Many people take BCAA supplements before, during, and after a workout to maximize muscle growth.
Q: Can pre-workouts help with weight loss?
A: Yes. Many pre-workouts contain thermogenic ingredients to enhance fat burning, which means you burn more calories during every workout. Some pre-workouts contain caffeine, for example, which has proven fat-burning properties.
Q: Can pre-workouts burn fat?
A: Pre-workouts can increase calorie burning during a workout, increasing the rate at which your body burns fat. Some people take pre-workouts before cardiovascular exercise specifically for this reason.
Q: Can I take pre-workout on an empty stomach?
A: You can take a pre-workout supplement on an empty stomach, but you can expect to experience significantly more side effects and main effects. Any caffeine in your pre-workout will reach your bloodstream more quickly when taken on an empty stomach, which could increase the side effects.
Q: Are pre-workouts legal?
A: Pre-workout supplements are legal until regulatory bodies ban them. Some pre-workouts have been banned. Jack3d, for example, was a popular pre-workout supplement for a decade before it was forbidden due to perceived health risks. Authorities also banned pre-workout supplements that contained epinephrine after reports of heart failure. Today, most pre-workouts contain ingredients and dosages that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, which means they’re considered safe and legal to use.
Q: When should I take a pre-workout?
A: You should take a pre-workout before your workout. Some take it 30 to 60 minutes before their workout begins. Others take it at the beginning of an exercise to maximize endurance throughout the training.
Q: Should I take a pre-workout supplement at night?
A: Pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, which could disrupt your sleep when taken in the afternoon or evening. If your pre-workout supplement contains stimulants, then be wary when taking the pre-workout at night.
Q: Should I feel itching or tingling when taking a pre-workout supplement?
A: Some people feel itchy or tingly when taking a pre-workout. In most cases, this sensation is caused by beta-alanine, which can cause a tingling sensation in certain people at specific doses. However, this sensation could be the early sign of a health problem – like cardiovascular issues.
Q: What are the best pre-workout ingredients?
A: The best pre-workout ingredients include BCAAs, taurine, B vitamins, and components that boost NO2 (like arginine, citrulline, and beetroot extract).
Q: What are the worst pre-workout ingredients? Which ingredients should I avoid?
A: Some pre-workout supplements contain excessive levels of caffeine and other stimulants. Health experts recommend taking a maximum of 400mg of caffeine per day, and some pre-workouts contain 300mg or even 400mg per serving. Because you’re drinking all of this caffeine at once, it could affect you more severely than drinking several cups of coffee throughout the day. Some low-quality pre-workouts even contain banned substances like epinephrine. Be sure to check the label and buy from reputable manufacturers to avoid surprises with your pre-workout.
Q: How much caffeine is in my pre-workout?
A: All reputable manufacturers disclose their caffeine dosage upfront. Check the label. Pre-workout supplements can contain anywhere from 50mg to 400mg of caffeine per serving. For comparison, an average cup of coffee contains 80 to 120mg of caffeine.
Q: How long does pre-workout take to kick in?
A: It takes 30 to 60 minutes for pre-workout to kick in, although it depends on what’s in your stomach. If you recently ate a big meal, then it could take longer for pre-workout to kick in. If you have an empty stomach, you could start feeling the effects within 15 to 20 minutes.
Q: How long does pre-workout last?
A: Caffeine has a half-life of around 3 to 7 hours, which means you could feel the effects of a pre-workout for hours after consumption. Generally, the most noticeable effects of a pre-workout occur within 1 to 3 hours of ingestion.
Q: Is coffee a good pre-workout?
A: Coffee is a good pre-workout because it contains caffeine, one of the most popular pre-workout ingredients available. Many also like taking coffee as a pre-workout because it has zero additives or filler ingredients. Some believe black coffee is one of the best pre-workout you can take.
Q: Is it ‘preworkout’ or ‘pre-workout’?
A: Some people use the term preworkout, while others use the term pre-workout. Generally, pre-workout is the preferred term in the supplement company.
Q: What are the side effects of pre-workouts?
A: Pre-workout side effects include digestive issues, interrupted sleep, jitters, anxiety, nausea, cardiovascular dysfunction, and other minor and significant impacts. Generally, healthy adults will not experience side effects from pre-workouts when taken in standard dosages.
Q: Can I stack other supplements with pre-workout?
A: Yes, you can stack other supplements with a pre-workout. However, you should be careful not to double up on stimulants or exceed your nitrate threshold, as it could lead to health consequences. If your pre-workout doesn’t contain BCAAs, for example, then you might want to stack a BCAA supplement with your pre-workout.
Q: What is a proprietary blend?
A: A proprietary blend is a formula inside a supplement with dosages deliberately hidden. Because it’s proprietary, the specific ratios within the formula are a secret. Some manufacturers disclose their complete list of ingredients and dosages, while others do not.
Q: Do pre-workouts truly work?
A: Thousands of studies have validated the most popular pre-workout ingredients available today. Caffeine, L-arginine, L-citrulline, creatine, BCAAs, and other components have all been proven to accelerate workouts. These ingredients and others have been validated in double-blind, placebo-controlled trials published in peer-reviewed journals.
Q: How do I choose a pre-workout?
A: Consider your workout goals when choosing a pre-workout. Do you want to build muscle? Burn fat? Last longer? Get a better pump? Most pre-workouts advertise specific benefits, making picking the right one for your unique health and fitness goals easy.
Q: What is nitric oxide?
A: Nitric oxide is a natural compound produced by your body. It relaxes blood vessels and aids in blood flow. Some pre-workout supplements target nitric oxide using natural nitric oxide boosters – like beetroot extract. Beetroot is rich in nitrite, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Studies show that taking beetroot can raise NO levels in your bloodstream.
Q: How much should I spend on a pre-workout?
A: The average pre-workout costs $25 to $40 for a one-month supply. You can find cheaper and more expensive pre-workout supplements, with some as low as $10 and others over $100.
The Top Pre-workout Supplements of 2021 Final Word
Choosing the right pre-workout is challenging. There are more options than ever.
Plus, all pre-workout supplements claim to boost your workout, yet many of them fail to live up to that promise.
Some pre-workout supplements contain proven ingredients at substantial dosages, while others overload you with caffeine and other stimulants.
That’s why many people use pre-workout supplements to accelerate weight loss, boost muscle building, improve endurance, enhance focus, and enjoy other proven benefits at the gym.
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Please understand that any advice or guidelines revealed here are not even remotely a substitute for sound medical advice from a licensed healthcare provider. Make sure to consult with a professional physician before making any purchasing decision if you use medications or have concerns following the review details shared above. Individual results may vary as the statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.