Enter the pre-workout supplement. Pre-workouts are for those who run out of energy halfway through their workout. The right pre-workout can provide an energy boost.
Pre-workouts are great for when you hit a plateau. If you’re struggling to reach a strength goal, a fat loss goal, or an endurance goal, a pre-workout boost might be what you need to hit the next level.
Many bodybuilders take pre-workout supplements. Similar to breaking through a plateau, a pre-workout supplement can fuel long, grueling workouts and help you stay strong through all your reps and sets.
Best Pre-workout Ingredients
There are two main categories of ingredients in most pre-workout supplements:
Caffeine is the most popular stimulant, and it’s a natural one.
Caffeine provides a great pick-me-up energy boost that can sustain you through long, intense training sessions.
It can supercharge your mental focus and help you power through your workout, both mentally and physically.
Almost all pre-workout supplements include caffeine. However, some pre-workouts rely on creatine or some other combination of amino acids or vitamins that help with focus.
Several pre-workouts contain creatine instead of or in addition to caffeine. While creatine doesn’t offer the same type of energy boost, it does help keep water in the muscle.
Think of it this way: creatine can reduce the chance of dehydration
Amino acids are the smallest components of protein. They are the building blocks that help your body repair itself.
Pre-workouts might include any of the following amino acids:
No hidden ingredients All natural ingredients, no artificial sweeteners “Smart caffeine” by combining caffeine and L-Theanine You can safely take a double serving Ships worldwide; check for current exclusions Made in and shipped from the UK and USA Produced and sold by a top-rated supplement company Vegetarian and vegan friendly
Only one flavor, “fruit blast” Only available by ordering online.
4 Gauge pre-workout supplement comes in an impressive looking package. The red bullet-shaped container holds 20 servings with a guarantee to “load your guns” written on it.
With the promise of feeling its effects within 15 minutes, 4 Gauge is one of the fastest working pre-workout supplements we’ve seen.
You can even take a double dose of 4 Gauge without suffering harmful side effects.
One downside of 4 Gauge is that it is currently available in only one flavor. However, we are convinced that this product will not disappoint.
4 Gauge Ingredients
6000 mg L-Citrulline DL-malate
1000 mg Creatine Monohydrate
300 mg Red Beet (Beta Vulgaris)
200 mg L-Theanine
150 mg Caffeine Anhydrous
100 mg Rhodiola Rosea
500 mg Acetyl-L-Carnitine
300 mg Coconut Water Powder
How to take it
Mix 2 scoops with water or juice approximately 30 minutes before your workout. Always begin with a half serving the first time you try any new pre-workout supplement.
4-Gauge is a premium pre-workout product designed by one of the top supplement companies in the world.
With an easy-to-read ingredient label that hides nothing, we appreciate that 4-Gauge is made with only top quality, natural ingredients.
As far as pre-workout supplements go, it’s on the low side for caffeine content at only 150 mg. However, it’s a combination of beetroot extract and citrulline malate act as an additional energy booster.
In our opinion, this is also the best pre-workout for cyclists, and runners.
Read our full 4 Gauge review if you want to learn more about this top pre-workout supplement in our list.
Four fruity flavors available Discount available when purchasing multiple bags Over 1600 5-star reviews No artificial flavors, sweeteners, chemicals No illegal ingredients; safe for competing athletes No creatine Ship worldwide in the next business day. See website for countries who are currently excluded Black pepper extract for better digestion and absorption
Refunds will not be issued for empty containers Free shipping only for orders in the USA exceeding $150
As the name suggests, Preseries “Bulk” pre-workout was created for “bulking.”
Preseries is also available in “Lean” and “Stimulant-free” options for those who are cutting (weight loss) or those who want a caffeine-free energy boost.
Designed by Transparent Labs, we were thrilled to read that this pre-workout supplement is very clean.
This supplement contains no dyes or artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners or flavors, and no harmful chemicals or additives.
This pre-workout is also vegan-friendly and GMO-free. Preseries Bulk contains 19 active ingredients that are proven to help with energy and reduce fatigue while you train.
Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-workout Ingredients
6000 mg Citrulline Malate
4000 mg Beta-Alanine
4000 mg BCAA instantized
2500 mg BetaPure Betaine Anhydrous
1300 mg Taurine
600 mg N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
500 mg Choline Bitartrate
360 mg L-Theanine
180 mg Caffeine Anhydrous
70 mg Mucuna Pruriens
60 mg L-Norvaline
50 mg Synephrine HCl
25 mg Hordenine
5 mg Black Pepper Extract
How to take it
Take PreSeries Bulk pre-workout 20 to 30 minutes before your workout.
As with all new pre-workout supplements, it is recommended that you start with a half serving.
Mix half a scoop with 8 to 12 ounces of water. If you don’t experience adverse side effects, increase to one full scoop mixed with 16 to 24 ounces of water before your next workout.
We are impressed with the many 5-star reviews for this particular pre-workout supplement.
Also, Transparent Labs certainly does appear to be transparent. There is nothing hidden from the label of Preseries Bulk.
This pre-workout supplement is best used for someone who is looking to add muscle mass, i.e. “bulk”.
It also claims to boost endurance, power, and focus along with offering a muscle pump effect.
Organic caffeine Fermented amino acids for easier digestions Voted Best Pre-Workout in 2018 by The Vitamin Shoppe No fillers, artificial flavors or colors No banned substances or ingredients Available in 4 fruity flavors Available in a 1-serving sample size Available from Amazon and other websites
Moderate level of caffeine; don’t take later on in the day
Kaged Muscle is a supplement company made up of scientists, formulators, and athletes.
When it came to producing their first supplements, it took the KM team over two years of studying, developing, and testing before finally releasing their products to the public.
As such, you can be sure that all of their supplements are made with top quality ingredients based on cutting edge science.
Pre-Kaged promises to supply energy, strength, and endurance. It helps you stay focused on your entire training session.
500mg Coconut Water powder
6g patented carnosyn®
5g fermented BCAAs
100mg Spectra™ Total Orac
2g patented BetaPowder ®
274mg Purcaf® Organic Caffeine
5g Patented Creatine HCl
5g Pure L-Citrulline
How to take it
Mix one scoop with 16 to 20 ounces of cold water and drink 30 to 45 minutes before workout. Always begin with a half serving the first time you try a new pre-workout supplement.
We like Kaged Muscle’s pre-workout because it’s backed by science and research. A third party company tests all their products. We’re impressed by the 28 months of work that went into the production of KM’s supplement line.
Pre-Kaged pre-workout supplement is easy to mix and is recommended for those athletes who require intense focus and energy drive for their workouts.
100% natural No artificial sweeteners, flavoring, food dyes, or unnecessary fillers Also available without caffeine It is sweetened naturally with stevia and erythritol Available in 8 fruity flavors 100% money back guarantee on first-time purchases only Free shipping and returns Promises no digestive side effects Discount for buying in bulk
Highest caffeine level of all pre-workout supplements Only available from the Legion website
With only seven ingredients, this pre-workout supplement promises a big boost of energy with 350 milligrams of caffeine but no energy crash.
Pulse pre-workout contains the most caffeine out of all the pre-workouts listed in this review. Compare this to the average cup of coffee, which has approximately 100 mg of coffee.
You’ll want to be extra careful with how close you take this supplement before your anticipated bedtime.
Pulse Pre-workout Ingredients
8 g L-Citrulline Malate
8 g CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine
5 g Betaine Anhydrous
2 g L-Ornithine HCl
2 g Taurine
350 mg Caffeine Anhydrous
350 mg L-Theanine
How to take it
The first time using this product, mix one scoop with 10 to 12 ounces of water. Consume 15 to 30 minutes before working out.
If no ill effect occurs, take a regular sized dose by mixing two scoops of pre-workout with 20 to 24 ounces of water.
Note that two scoops are meant for intense weight training workouts or cardio sessions that last longer than 45 minutes.
Legion’s Pulse pre-workout supplement promises to boost your energy and mood, help you focus while increasing your endurance and strength without any side effects.
With 350 milligrams of caffeine, this seems surprising.
However, Pulse pre-workout is backed by scientific research and recommended with an average of 4.5 out of 5-star reviews by over 1000 happy customers. We think this is the best pre-workout without creatine currently on the market.
If you decide to try this pre-workout supplement, we caution you to start with a very low dose because of its high caffeine content. That being said, if you’re looking to get highly-stimulated this is the best pre-workout for pump!
100% satisfaction, 30-day money back, guarantee Available in capsules Only natural ingredients, vegan-friendly Free from caffeine No synthetic substances Gluten, soy, allergen-free No need to cycle International shipping
Must drink large amounts of water with the capsules No caffeine Only available at the Performance Lab website
Performance Lab’s sport pre-workout supplement promises to enhance muscle strength, improve physical performance, increase blood flow, and increase endurance.
This pre-workout is one of the unique pre-workouts on this top-10 list.
First of all, it’s the only one that comes in capsule form.
Second, it contains no caffeine.
Third, it is made of some unique ingredients, including Cordyceps fungus and pine bark extract.
Lastly, for improved digestion, the capsules are infused with prebiotics.
Performance Lab Sport Pre-workout Ingredients
1000 mg Creatine
500 mg L-Citrulline
750 mg Cordyceps Sinensis
250 mg L-Glutamine
300 mg L-Carnosine (N-beta-alanyl-histidine)
350 mg Himalayan Pink Salt
100 mg Maritime Pine Bark Extract
How to take it
What makes Performance Lab’s pre-workout supplement unique is that it comes in capsules.
Take 4-6 capsules 45-60 minutes before workouts along with 16 to 32 ounces of water.
Always begin with a half serving the first time you try a new pre-workout supplement.
We’re very excited to add this pre-workout to our list of top 10 pre-workout supplements. It adds a high quality, caffeine-free option should you be a person who doesn’t tolerate caffeine well.
Because of that, we think this is the best stim-free pre-workout supplement in our best pre-workout supplement list.
The all natural ingredients, no synthetic substances also make it a very attractive proposition for those who like all things natural.
Best of all, you can test out this premium product for 30 days before determining whether or not it is for you. Although Performance Lab does offer a full refund, you will need to cover the cost of shipping.
Available in 7 fruity flavors Free shipping on orders over $59 from bodybuilding.com website Ships to most countries around the world A 90-day full refund or online-store credit
High in caffeine (300 mg) Contains sucralose, an artificial sweetener Natural and artificial flavors Artificial coloring (FD&C Red #40 and FD&C Blue #1)
Dr. Jim Stoppani has made a career in muscle-building. Dr. Jim’s company, JYM Supplement Science, was named the brand of the year in 2018.
This award is given to the supplement brand that has built itself on science, research, and top quality products.
Dr. Jim himself picked the 13 ingredients that went into the making of Pre-Jym. There are no fillers, no artificial ingredients, and no proprietary blends.
Every ingredient added to Pre-Jym has been accounted for in the label. Each amount has been tested to ensure there is no under-dosing.
6 g citrulline malate
6 g BCAAs
2 g Con-Cret® patented Creatine HCl
2 g CarnoSyn® beta-alanine
5 g Betaine
600 mg N-acetyl L-cysteine
500 mg Beet Root extract
300 mg Caffeine
150 mg AlphaSize® alpha-GPC
50 mcg Huperzine A
5 mg BioPerine® (black pepper fruit extract)
5 g Tyrosine
1000 mg Taurine
How to take it
Mix one scoop of Pre JYM in 14 ounces of water and drink 30-45 minutes before workouts. Always trial a half scoop the first time you use any pre-workout supplement.
Although we are impressed by Dr. Jim Stoppani’s resume and commitment to quality, we do find that Pre-Jym pre-workout label has some concerns.
It does contain artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and artificial colorings. It also states to the residents of California that it contains chemicals known to cause cancer and congenital disabilities or reproductive harm.
Considering the 300 mg of caffeine in a serving, we advise you to schedule this pre-workout along with your training at least 8 hours before your bedtime.
Available on both Amazon and Cellucor websites 30 day, full money back, 100% satisfaction guarantee Available in 12 fruity flavors Save money with a monthly subscription One of the most affordable pre-workout supplements
“Explosive Energy Blend” contains undefined amounts of N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, Velvet Bean seed extract, and Theacrine Artificial sweetener (sucralose) and artificial color (FD&C Red #20) added Unsuitable for people who have pre-existing health conditions
Cellucor’s original pre-workout is one of the most affordable pre-workout supplements on our top 10 list. C4 provides an energy boost from caffeine, enhances performance thanks to creatine nitrate, and promotes endurance and muscle pumps.
C4 comes in an astonishing 12 flavors. You can purchase C4 in the standard 30 serving size or a massive 60 serving size container, which saves a bit of money.
With a lower caffeine content of 150 mg mixed in with a proprietary explosive energy blend and 1 gram of Creatine Nitrate, C4 promises to give you the energy boost you need to finish your workout.
425 mg Explosive Energy Blend, includes 150 mg caffeine anhydrous, N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, Velvet Bean seed extract, Theacrine.
1 g Creatine Nitrate (NO3-T)
6 g CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine
1 g Arginine AKG
How to take it
Mix 1 level scoop of Cellucor C4® with 6 ounces of water. Take 20-30 minutes before training. Tingling sensations may occur, which Cellucor credits to beta-alanine.
Start with a half serving the first time you try this or any new pre-workout supplement.
C4 Original has been America’s top-selling pre-workout supplement for a while. Aside from C4 pre-workout, Cellucor also has other supplements to support your training and nutritional requirements.
C4 Original has gathered many faithful users in its five years. Users like that it takes effect quickly, has a pleasant taste, and it has very few if any side effects.
See your doctor before taking this or any other pre-workout supplement.
Available in 3 fruity flavors Zero fillers or dyes No creatine (pro/con) 100% money back guarantee within 30 days. Check the website for details before ordering 2000 5-star reviews For muscle building and fat burning You can take a double dose once every 24 hours
Artificial flavors Available only in the US and Canada Contains sucralose (artificial sweetener) Available only from Jacked Factory websites
Nitrosurge comes with many big promises. Explosive energy. Instant strength gains. Laser focus. Endless endurance. And powerful pumps. Can it really deliver?
This pre-workout contains a couple of unique ingredients that other pre-workouts don’t have.
It also has a moderate level of caffeine. You’ll still feel the energy boost, but you shouldn’t be up all night if you allow
Nitrosurge claims to raise nitric oxide levels, which is a vasodilator. It increases blood flow in your body and lowers your blood pressure, which gives that “muscle pump” feeling.
3 g L-Citrulline
6 g Beta Alanine
25 g Betaine Anhydrous
180 mg Caffeine Anhydrous
90 mg L-Theanine
50 mg Theobromine
25 mg AstraGin™
25 mg Hordenine HCl
How to take it
Mix 1 scoop with 6 to 8 ounces of water 30-40 minutes before workout. Always begin with a half serving the first time you try a new pre-workout supplement.
Nitrosurge by Jacked Factory is different because it is one of the only pre-workout supplements that promises both muscle building and fat burning.
Nitrosurge is one of the more affordable pre-workout supplements on this list. It also contains a moderate level of caffeine as far as pre-workouts go.
Although there are some artificial flavors and sweetener added, this pre-workout also guarantees that it uses premium ingredients backed by scientific research.
With 2000 great reviews, it seems that Nitrosurge delivers on its promises.
9 fruity flavors to choose from No fillers No Pikatropin (a nootropic, available as a dietary supplemen only in the UK) Available on Amazon and at Bodybuilding.com Optional monthly subscription saves you money
Proprietary blend means there are unspecified amounts of stimulant ingredients Contains artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and artificial color (FD&C Red #40)
With 300 mg of caffeine in a proprietary Mind-to-Muscle Matrix blend, Pre Workout Engine is one of the highest rated and most affordable pre-workout supplements.
This pre-workout is designed by Evlution Nutrition, a top-rated company that produces other supplements. Evlution prides itself on continually improving their products to meet the demands of their customers.
Pre Workout Engine promises increased energy, power, and focus. It also claims to enhance mood, prevent fatigue, and increase muscle endurance.
We believe that this is the best pre-workout supplement for cutting or for people looking to lose weight.
Mix 1 scoop with 8 ounces of cold water. Take 15 to 30 minutes before training. Always try a half serving the first time you try any new pre-workout supplement.
ENGN Pre Workout Engine has many positive reviews from happy users. More than 3000 reviews on Bodybuilding.com and nearly 700 reviews on Amazon give this pre-workout supplement at least a 9 out of 10 review.
ENGN pre-workout has been designed for all athletes.
Due to its high caffeine content, we recommend scheduling your training and use of this product during the first half of your day.
*Individual results may vary. Please speak with your doctor or physician before undertaking any new weight reduction, supplement, or exercise regime.
When should I take pre-workout?
Most pre-workouts should be taken approximately 20-30 minutes before you hit the gym.
Some act a little faster, some act a little slower. Each product is unique. Read the instructions before you take a pre-workout and follow them carefully.
Is taking a pre-workout supplement safe?
Pre-workouts are generally safe for the average gym goer who is over 18 years of age.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid pre-workouts.
If you have a pre-existing health condition and you’re taking prescription medication, consult with your doctor before taking any supplement, especially a pre-workout with stimulants.
People who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine should consider picking a supplement without caffeine.
Do pre-workout supplements make you gain weight?
Pre-workout supplements are not designed to make you gain weight. They are designed to give you the energy and focus you need to power through an intense workout.
Some pre-workouts contain ingredients that reduce the chance of dehydration. Very few people will notice any fluid retention, but it could happen. Each body will react differently.
Is it okay to take pre-workout supplements on an empty stomach?
Pre-workout supplements do not need to be taken on an empty stomach. However, they should be taken with plenty of water.
Most instructions direct you to mix the pre-workout supplement with upwards of 3 to 4 cups of water.
Carefully read and follow the instructions of the pre-workout supplement you purchase.
Can I drink protein shakes and still use pre-workout supplements?
Yes, you can take a pre-workout supplement along with a protein shake before you train.
The main concern would be additional caffeine, and since whey protein supplements don’t have any caffeine, you should be safe.
However, you may find yourself dealing with a stomach full of liquid which might be uncomfortable and result in more bathroom breaks.
Ideally, you would take a pre-workout supplement 30 minutes before your workout, train for approximately an hour, and then have your protein shake.
Protein powder supplements are designed to help your muscles repair themselves after you’ve pushed your body to its limit.
The Final Word
Because we know that every person has different goals, different training regimes, and different digestive systems, it might take some trial and error to find the best pre-workout supplement for you.
When trying any new supplement for the first time, especially ones like pre-workout which typically have a stimulant like caffeine, it’s always best to start with a half serving.
Just remember that a pre-workout supplement is only a supplement; it’s not a magic pill. As such, pre-workout supplements should be taken in combination with a solid workout routine and a healthy nutrition plan.
Disclaimer: The information on this site has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products on this page are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Results in description and Testimonials may not be typical results and individual results may vary. We may earn commission if you click the links and buy the products featured on this page. Read our disclosure and disclaimers page.