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This article was written by one of our qualified writers, and fact-checked by our experts. The numbers in parentheses (e.g. 1, 2, 3, etc.) throughout the article, are reference links to peer-reviewed studies.
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The 17 Best Pre-Workout Supplements of 2022 Review & Ranked

These are our picks for the best pre-workout supplements tested by our team of experts, for a variety of needs and fitness goals.
Tom Miller, CSCS

Written by Tom Miller, CSCS

Updated by Matthew Magnante

Last Updated onAugust 10th, 2022

We select products we think are useful for our readers. We may earn money when you click on links on this page. View our disclosure for more details.

With such an abundance of pre-workout products on the market, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding on which to get. But don’t fret, that’s why we’re here, to help guide you through the process. This article will help to understand how these top supplements work and which are the best pre workout supplements for individual needs.

Some of these pre-workouts are formulated with men’s performance in mind, while some may be better suited for women. Regardless, the choices on our list are created to help you achieve new personal records whether in the gym, box, field, or wherever you choose to perform. Additionally, there are options for those looking to add muscle mass and/or drop some fat pounds!

Here are the list of the absolute best pre-workout supplements we tested for Strength, Weight Loss, Muscle Mass, Weight Gain, Cardio and more…

Top 17 Pre-Workout Supplements Ranked (Updated)

How Much Do Pre-Workouts Cost?

This highly varies based on the product but you can expect to pay an average of $1-$2 per serving. Factors such as brand, ingredients/number of ingredients, and dosages all affect the price. There are also higher quality products that will obviously cost more as with almost anything else.

For example, Transparent Labs Bulk is a top-notch product that prioritizes transparency, potency and purity and not to mention, it has many high-quality ingredients. Compared to a product like Six Star pre-workout, for example, it’s a much more in-depth option. 

Therefore, it will cost a little more per serving. 

We recommend checking out all of our pre-workout recommendations to learn the difference between these products. As with anything, whichever you pick depends on your goals but also your budget. There’s something for everyone.

Pre-WorkoutsWhy we love it Price 
Transparent Labs BULKTransparent formula clean ingredients$49 — $1.63 Per Serving
4 Gauge Pre-Workout150mg caffeine 200mg with L-theanine combined as Smart caffeine$45 — $2.25 Per Serving
Wrecked Pre-WorkoutStrongest pre-workout with 17 research-backed ingredients$49.95— $2.49 Per Serving
Assassin Pre WorkoutAnother strong pre-workout with 600+ mg caffeine$55 — $1.37 Per Serving
Kaged Muscle Pre-KagedNatural flavors, good taste with smart ingredients$40 — $2 Per Serving
Legion Pulse Pre-workoutNatural nitric oxide to boost energy, endurance & muscle growth$35 — $1.42 Per Serving
Transparent Labs LeanTransparent formula, top ingredients for weight loss$49 — $1.63 Per Serving
Pre-Kaged Stimulant-FreeCaffeine Free to crush workouts day or night$28 — $1.33 Per Serving
JYM Pre-WorkoutInclude creatine HCl and 300mg of caffeine $49 — $1.63 Per Serving
Old School Labs Vintage BlastBest delivery System with 2-stage pre-workout formula$30 — $1.5 Per Serving
Gold Standard Pre-WorkoutGood Budget option with great ingredients$29 — $0.96 Per Serving
Jacked Factory NitroSurgeFor great Cardio hard-hitting doses of amino acids$26 — $0.85 Per Serving
Jacked Factory AltiusAll natural, high performance preworkout men and women$36 — $1.8 Per Serving
Cellucor C4 RippedHigh-octane experience with the best in energy, pumps$40 — $1.33 Per Serving
PowherWell dosed low-caffeine pre workout supplement for women$45 — $1.8 Per Serving
Jacked Factory PumpsurgeStim-Free with brain boosting Alpha-GPC$30 — $1.50 Per Serving

Best Pre-Workout Supplements for 2022:

Best Pre-Workout Overall

This is the category we’d suggest for those who want a versatile pre-workout option that will work for most people. Our best overall pre-workout pick has a quality formula with a transparent label that includes ingredients proven to increase energy, enhance performance, and boost your mental game!

Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK
Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK won’t win an award for most caffeine per serving but make no mistake, it’s the bomb! Each serving of BULK contains 180mg of caffeine per serving. To many hardcore caffeine users, this may not seem like much but it’s sufficient in combination with the high dose of other ingredients such as citrulline and beta-alanine. Plus, there’s a testosterone support complex including vitamin D, zinc, and boron.

It’s also a natural formula so there’s no artificial anything!

Bulk discloses all of the supplement ingredients and amounts on the label (hence the name transparent), and the brand is known for very high-quality products that are dosed as effectively as it gets. 

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BULK Pre-Workout Coupon

The Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout is designed to help you recover better with a nice dose of BCAAs and many other suitable ingredients. This all comes from a company that focuses on creating products that are fully transparent.

Check video review of BULK pre-workout. 

Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout Review


Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain

Not all pre-workouts are created equally which is why if you’re looking to pack on the muscle mass, you should choose the right one for the job. Ingredients such as creatine and betaine have been scientifically proven to aid in muscle growth via multiple pathways.

4 Gauge Pre-Workout

4 Gauge pre Workout
4 Gauge pre Workout

4 Gauge may be one of the coolest-looking pre-workouts but it does not lack effectiveness. It looks like a shotgun shell but that’s just part of the appeal. 

According to the company Roar Ambition, 4 Gauge is the “safest and strongest pre-workout on the market”. While we can’t make a claim that bold, we did try it and it certainly has the firepower to help you achieve prs. 

Having only 150mg caffeine per serving, that’s hard to believe. However, there’s more to it than that. 200mg of L-theanine world with caffeine for sustained effects, 1,000mg creatine is sufficient for increased strength and power, and 100mg rhodiola rosea can reduce stress while training. 

Coconut water keeps your cells full with water and Acetyl L-carnitine is important for energy production and it may have some benefits for the heart and blood sugar and performance.

With more than 6,000 customer reviews 4 Gauge score over a 9 out of 10.

We also like the addition of beetroot that enhances the nitric oxide-releasing effects of L-citrulline. 

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4 Gauge Pre-Workout Review

4 Gauge is safest and one of the strongest pre-workout on the market. Each serving contains 150mg caffeine plus 200mg L-theanine combined as "Smart caffeine," 6g citrulline for pumps, carnitine for fighting fatigue and Rhodiola Rosea for all-around performance.

4 Gauge is a beast of a pre-workout. Check out our video review below:

4 Gauge Pre-Workout Review – Does It Have The Firepower?


Strongest Pre-Workout

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then you’re probably going to want something with an insane dose of caffeine and stimulants that’ll have you energized for hours to ensure peak performance all session long. 

Wrecked Pre-Workout

Wrecked Pre Workout
Wrecked Pre Workout

If you want to wreck the weights then this is one of those pre-workouts where you’ll be feeling all sorts of effects from the long list of performance-aiding compounds. 

Where to start… They’ve included an absolutely massive dose of l-citrulline at 9,000 mg per serving. Most products include an upper end of 6,000 mg dose of l-citrulline. That should make for some huge pumps!

There are actually over 18 ingredients in the product, many that you’ll commonly find in other pre-workouts and others that aren’t as common. 

A serving has 250 mg of caffeine and the energy boost will be noticeable, however, it’s the other ingredients that create the full experience most people want when they take a pre-workout supplement. 

There are also health-supporting compounds such as lion’s mane mushroom that has anti-inflammatory properties. There are also other similar ingredients such as turmeric that is very anti-inflammatory, and tart cherry, while it helps with inflammation, may also have positive effects on muscle strength according to research (1). 

Anti-inflammatory substances may help to enhance recovery from hard workouts and stressful activities (1).

In addition, the product contains several more ingredients that have been shown to aid performance in some form. 

It’s naturally and artificially flavored and artificially sweetened with a few unique flavors to choose from. 

The lengthy profile of ingredients and high doses make this one of the strongest pre-workouts on the market currently!

It’s also made in the USA.

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Wrecked Pre-Workout Coupon

Each serving of the Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout contains 30.3 grams of scientifically-backed 17 different high-quality ingredients. The transparent formula delivers intense and long-lasting energy, skin-tearing muscle pumps, laser focus, and explosive power. 

Read the full review of Wrecked Pre-Workout.


Assassin Pre Workout

Assassin Pre Workout
Assassin Pre Workout

Apollo Nutrition offers a very potent product and one of the strongest pre-workouts on the market that will no doubt give you the energy and performance boost that you need to assassinate your workouts!

It’s loaded with an absurd insane 600+ mg of total caffeine including 500mg from caffeine anhydrous and 133 mg from di-caffeine malate. So you get the super fast absorption from anhydrous plus the dicaffeine malate helps with digestive comfort in addition to providing the benefits you’d expect from caffeine. 

The product also includes 300mg of Eria Jarensis, an interesting ingredient that we’ve not talked much about in other pre-workout reviews. 

You’ll also get 1500mg L-tyrosine, 300mg Theacrine, and 3.5g beta-alanine for focus, energy and performance. 

While you’re going to get a full spectrum of performance benefits with high doses of each ingredient, the caffeine content is no doubt the highlight of this product. It should provide a powerful energy and focus boost even for the most caffeine-tolerant people. 

Buy at nutrition faktory 


Best Pre Workout for Nutrition

Many of us can really benefit from a pre-workout that only boosts performance all-around, but that also supplies a healthy profile of vitamins, minerals, and hydration support. 

Kaged Muscle Pre Kaged 

Pre-Kaged is another excellent pre-workout that contains 274mg caffeine per serving, which is about three times what you’d get in a cup of coffee. In addition, there’s a nice dose of creatine for muscle and strength-building effects, plus citrulline, betaine, beta-alanine, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, and sodium (for hydration).

This pre-workout also contains powdered vegetables containing antioxidants, thus reducing the risk of post-workout cellular stress. Coconut water powder is added to help keep you hydrated during physical activity which has a significant impact on performance.

One potential drawback is that the formula uses the artificial sweetener sucralose. Some don’t like the taste, and others experience stomach discomfort from artificial sweeteners. You’ll need to know how your body reacts to it as it’s an individual thing. 

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Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged

Pre Kaged  Pre Workout Powder is the perfect pre-workout energy supplement for explosive energy throughout your workout. Its quality ingredients like: 6.5g of Pure L-Citrulline + Creatine HCl and alot more.

Read Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged full review


Best Pre-Workout For Strength

Achieving PRs can come down to our supplement choices such as opting for a pre-workout formula that focuses on the strength component of performance. If you want that little extra power to give you an edge in the squat or bench press, look for ingredients such as creatine, betaine, Alpha-GPC, citrulline, and beta-alanine that have been shown in studies to have positive effects on strength performance. This is our pick for when you want to hit keep increasing the poundages!

Legion Pulse Pre-workout

Legion Pulse is a top-ranked caffeine free pre workout supplement for a reason as it’s a top choice among workout enthusiasts. Three key ingredients in Legion Pulse are citrulline, beta-alanine, and ornithine. Ornithine assists in the lipid oxidation process that burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates or glycogen.

The caffeine content is relatively high at 350 mg per serving which is more ideal for exercisers that are tolerant to larger doses of this potent ingredient. 

There are no artificial flavors or sweeteners.

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Legion Pulse Pre workout

Legion Pulse Pre Workout is all natural Nitric Oxide pre-workout, the drink to Boost Energy & Endurance. It is creatine free, naturally sweetened & flavored. Safe & Healthy. 

Read Legion Pulse full review

 


Best Pre-Workout For Fat Loss

A top-notch fat-shredding formula will work by focusing on one or more of the various mechanisms that cause fat loss such as appetite suppression, direct fat metabolization, and increased calorie burning.

Transparent Labs LEAN

Transparent Labs Lean
Transparent Labs Lean

Lean, from the same company as Bulk, was formulated to help with fat loss. Of course, it still offers the same 180 mg of caffeine per serving. And you still get a massive 6,000mg or 6g citrulline plus 2,500mg of Beta Pure betaine for muscle gains and performance. 

360 mg L-theanine keeps you calm and works synergistically with caffeine. The formula contains thyroid support and fat loss support. Guggulsterones (sounds weird I know) may have appetite-suppressing effects and synephrine (found in bitter orange) may target fat cells. 

Another ingredient in L-norvaline could prolong the blood flow enhancing effects of citrulline so this formula has a lot going for it, especially for cutting.

LEAN pre workout supplement comes in Green Apple, Sour Grape, Strawberry Lemonade, and Blue Raspberry

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Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout Coupon

Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout - A potent energy-boosting "cutting" formula? Check out our breakdown and final opinion on this super hot product.

Full Transparent Labs review 


Best Caffeine Free Pre-Workout

Some people either can’t tolerate caffeine or they just prefer to do without it for whatever reason. While nothing is quite as strong compared to the nervous-system boosting effects of caffeine, with the many great stim-free pre-workout options on the market currently, there are formulas that come close minus the jitters and potentially undesirable side effects of stims.

Pre-Kaged Stimulant-Free Pre Workout

Pre Kaged Stimulant Free Pre Workout
Pre Kaged Caffeine Free Pre Workout

Supercharge your workout performance with great energy without the Caffeine Jitters.

No need to choose between an intense workout and a good night’s sleep. Pre-Kaged Stimulant Free pre workout supplement designed specifically to help you obliterate your evening and even late-night training sessions without keeping you up.

Pre-Kaged stimulant-free version packs all of the same features of Kaged Muscle Pre Kaged as for improved pumps, focus, and performance.

The Pre-Kaged Stimulant Free is featuring the premium, patented, scientifically tested ingredients:

  • 6.5g Fermented BCAAs
  • 6.5g Fermented L-Citrulline
  • 1.5g Patented Creatine HCl
  • 1.6g CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine
  • 2g BetaPower® Betaine Extract
  • 500mg Coconut Water Powder
  • 100mg Spectra™ Antixoidants

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Pre-Kaged Stimulant (Caffeine) Free

Supercharge your workout performance energy without the Caffeine Jitters for evening and late-night training sessions. Suitable for both Men & Women this pre workout delivers increased strength, endurance & long lasting pumps.

 

Use it to lift heavier, push longer, and crush workouts day or night. 


Best Pre Workout with Creatine

While creatine is the most well-studied and proven natural and safe ingredient for promoting muscle growth, strength gains, and all-around performance, it’s not for everyone. Water retention is one of the most common side effects of using it and this typically doesn’t sit well with certain people. Not to mention, you may take a dedicated creatine supplement and using a pre-workout that includes it could be overkill.

JYM Pre-Workout

Jim Stopanni’s JYM Pre-Workout is another hot option that includes cysteine which helps to protect against cell damage during training. 

The formula includes 2g creatine HCl that may be better absorbed in the body and you get a hefty 300mg dose of caffeine per serving

The black pepper extract increases the effectiveness of the product as it helps to improve nutrient absorption. 

The supplement contains artificial sweeteners.

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JYM Pre-Workout

Pre JYM Pre workout provides direct source of energy during your workout, in addition to providing other critical performance-enhancing benefits. Include ingredients like creatine HCl and beta-alanine and betaine to fuel your muscles for more strength during workouts.

Read JYM pre-workout full review


Best Pre Workout For Men

A good male-focused pre-workout will often include creatine and testosterone-supporting ingredients.

Old School Labs Vintage Blast

Vintage Blast is a 2-stage pre-workout formula for men and women that strategically delivers performance-supporting ingredients. 

This product includes 1g of l arginine, an amino that increases nitric oxide levels in the body for better blood flow. D-Aspartic acid makes for a vital part of Vintage Blast. This compound may help to increase the body’s natural testosterone production.

Vintage Blast also contains a respectable profile of vitamins (C, B6, B12) and minerals or electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, and sodium. 

A serving provides 150mg of caffeine and contains natural flavor options and stevia for sweetness.

Vintage Blast is a well-dosed product to boost serious exercise capacity.

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Old School Labs Vintage Blast

Vintage Blast Pre workout is two-stage natural pre workout energy drink for men and women; steady delivery of ingredients to power you through workouts and competitive events.

Read Old School Labs Vintage Blast full review


Best Low-Cost Pre-Workout

While you won’t get all the bells, whistles, and fancy schmancy ingredients that you’ll find with other options, who doesn’t love a good value that’ll still deliver when it comes to better performance.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Optimum Nutrition is a name synonymous with the best pre workout supplements on the market. 

Their pre-workout formula offers many powerful nutrients while having just 175mg of caffeine in each serving. It also contains 1.5g of beta-alanine and 3g of creatine to support extended performance, strength, and power.

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Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Gold Standard Pre-Workout comes loaded with Creatine, Beta-Alanine, and Caffeine for Energy, Keto Friendly, Fruit Punch, 30 Servings.

Read Gold Standard pre-workout full review


 

Good For Cardio

Whether you’re attacking a WOD, long run, or regular cardio session, certain ingredients in higher doses can help you to last a lot longer and hence, make more progress!

Jacked Factory NitroSurge Pre-Workout

The first of several products from Jacked Factory in this review, Nitrosurge Pre-workout uses a potent combination of ingredients to exert its effects. These include BCAA, L-citrulline, beta-alanine, betaine, L-tyrosine, agmatine sulfate and coconut water powder. 

Aside from caffeine 125mg of caffeine per serving size, Nitrosurge has an ingredient called theobromine that has shown to help boost energy levels and cardio benefits. 

This product is rather straightforward, containing effective, science-backed ingredients and not too many things that most people have never heard of. So you definitely cannot go wrong with it!

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Jacked Factory NitroSurge PreWorkout

NitroSurge Pre Workout can be used intra, pre, or post workout with hard-hitting doses of proven 2:1:1 branched chain amino acids, l-citrulline, all-natural caffeine, and l-tyrosine for energy, endurance, strength, and performance.

Read NitroSurge pre-workout full review


Best Pre-Workout For Simplicity

While you probably noticed the options on this list offer a specific advantage over the other, this is our pick if you want to keep things super simple, and just go with something that you don’t need to read too much into before buying.

Jacked Factory Altius

Another choice from Jacked Factory, Altius utilizes citrulline malate, betaine anhydrous, and beta-alanine. Each dose packs in 325mg of caffeine for mega energy and brain-boosting effects. There are no proprietary blends which is always preferred as you know exactly what you’re getting. 

In addition, Altius contains no artificial flavors or dyes. The same amount of Bioperine is included here as it is in Nitrosurge.

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Jacked Factory Altius

Altius Pre Workout is the ultimate all natural, high performance preworkout powder for men and women. Maximize workouts with this premium, pre workout energy drink. Experience skin-tearing pumps, endless endurance...

Read Altius pre-workout full review


Best Pre-Workout For Shredding

If your goal is to get shredded then you’ll want something with strong research behind it to ensure your fat-loss efforts are not in vain.

Cellucor C4 Ripped

Cellucor C4 Ripped is a shredding-focused pre-workout formula that contains a modest (compared to other options) 150mg of caffeine but that’s more than enough for most people. It’s a creatine-free formula that contains 1.6g Carnosyn beta-alanine, 1g arginine, green coffee bean, Capismax cayenne pepper, and coleus forskohlii root extract (forskolin).  

These ingredients, on their own, have shown in various studies to contribute to calorie burn and appetite suppression. Therefore, this is an ideal recipe for a shredding formula.  

Acetyl tyrosine is added to support the body’s energy stores. An adequate dose of vitamin C provides antioxidant effects that help the body to stave off sickness. 

C4 is one of the most iconic pre workout supplements and a true favorite!

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Cellucor C4

Cellucor C4 Pre Workout delivers a high-octane experience with the best in energy, pumps, endurance, performance, and focus, including 1.6g CarnoSyn beta alanine, 1g NO3-T creatine nitrate, 1g arginine AKG, and 150mg caffeine, with ZERO sugar, carbs, or calories.

Read Cellucor C4 Ripped pre-workout full review


Best Pre-Workout For Women

Men and women are biologically much different which is no secret. Pre-workouts designed specifically for women tend to include the right amount of the right ingredients such as lower caffeine doses.

Cira Pre-Game

Pre-Game Pre-Workout
Pre-Game Pre-Workout

Another pre-workout that caught our interest was Cira Pre-Game that seems to step it with the doses compared to a lot of women’s pre-workouts.

We’ll start with the 200 mg of caffeine which is nothing to scoff at. This is the same dose compared to a lot of options geared toward men. But there are a lot of women who aren’t as sensitive and can handle a bigger jolt of nervous system stimulation.

We were also impressed with the 6,000 mg or 6g l-citrulline which is the higher end of what you typically see in pre-workouts.

Other ingredients that you can expect to benefit from are beta-alanine, betaine, l-tyrosine, and l-theanine. Two other ingredients to note are theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine but milder, and AstraGin™, a compound that aids in the absorption of vital nutrients and helps to maintain a healthy gut environment.

The product does have natural flavors but also artificial flavors and sweeteners. It’s a completely plant-based, vegetarian-friendly formula.

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Cira Pre-Game

This pre-workout is strong! Pre-Game pre-workout helps increase energy, endurance, focus, and strength.  Get 10% off your order use code FV10. This coupon is exclusive to our readers.


Powher

Powher Pre Workout For Women
Powher Pre Workout For Women

Do you got the Powher? You could with a full dose of this women’s-focused pre-workout supplement that looks the part with its pink labeling and powder color. Aside from being visually appealing, Powher is formulated to be light on the stimulants with just 100mg of caffeine per serving size

A unique ingredient in EnXtra has shown to extend the effects of caffeine so you can train longer and harder. It also has B vitamins that support good health and fat oxidation. 

Of course, you still have citrulline malate for pumps and performance along with beta-alanine and other common ingredients. RedNite is a potent version of beetroot that has antioxidants and may improve muscle performance. Coconut water is added to the formula to help you stay hydrated during whatever activities you’re up against. 

It does contain artificial sweetener if that matters to you.

But Powher is a great option for women and one of the best in our opinion. 

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Powher Pre Workout

Powher is a clinically-dosed, easy-on-the-caffeine pre-workout supplement for women that has become quite the buzz. Powher support intense workouts, increased motivation with zero side effects.

See full Powher review


Best Stim-Free Pre Workout

Stims are no joke and for those who are sensitive to their effects, it’s just not an option. For this reason, we’ve located the best stim-free pre-workouts that work via other potent compounds that don’t mess with your nervous system.

Jacked Factory Pumpsurge

Jacked Factory PumpSurge is stimulant/caffeine-free which many prefer. While you won’t get the same effects, caffeine-free pre-workouts typically focus on other ingredients that enhance pumps, focus, endurance, and muscle performance. 

L-citrulline, taurine, and betaine increase nitric oxide production and consequently enhance blood flow. 

Other brain-boosting substances include Alpha-GPC (100mg) and Huperzine-A that increase acetylcholine transmission; a chemical that enhances cognitive performance.

AstraGin helps with nutrient absorption and natural hormone production. 

Pumpsurge is a USA-made product with a transparent label and there are no fillers or dyes. 

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Jacked Factory Pumpsurge

 Jacked Factory Pumpsurge Pre Workout is a one of a kind scientifically dosed pre workout without caffeine. This unique formula is different from most pre-workouts because it relies exclusively on fully dosed ergogenic boosters and brain enhancing nootropic ingredients.


What are Top Pre-workout Ingredients:

Pre-workout supplements include many performance-specific ingredients. We included a brief description of the most common ones below.

Caffeine

Caffeine is such a prominent ingredient that the decision to use a specific pre-workout is commonly based solely on this single substance. 

There are caffeine-containing pre-workouts and then there are non-caffeine/stim versions. While you don’t need caffeine to experience beneficial effects from these ergogenic aids, being a potent nervous system stimulant, you sure won’t feel the same energy levels boost without a dose of it. Sure there other stimulants that do work such as yohimbine and theacrine but hardcore pre-workout users know it’s not quite the same.

Pre-workout formulas often contain anywhere from 75-400mg caffeine per serving. 

This widely-used substance is found in various plants such as cocao plants and tea and is used in many different beverages and products – a cup (or two) of coffee is quite possibly the most common. Coffee is the go-to for people needing to fight fatigue and stay awake for a long work shift.

It’s fast-absorbing and the most profound effects are on the brain. Caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter adenosine that makes us feel tired and it may also boost key brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine while increasing blood adrenaline levels (1, 1). This means it could also be good for mood too which further contributes to the beneficial exercise-aiding benefits of caffeine.

Caffeine may have so many benefits that we couldn’t possibly talk about them all, however, better performance, enhanced cognitive function, longevity, and health all seem to be the good side effects of this long-used food.

Different forms of caffeine in pre-workouts

Depending on the pre-workout, you may find variation in the form/s of caffeine used. Anhydrous and dicaffeine malate are the most common.

Anhydrous means “with all water removed” and is less than .5% water by weight. It’s a super concentrated form of caffeine and less is needed for extreme potency. It’s also cheaper to produce.

Dicaffeine malate also known as Infinergy is two caffeine molecules bonded to malic acid. While it still has many of the same effects we know and love from caffeine, it’s believed to have a much more desirable effect on the digestive system compared to other variations like anhydrous for example.

Natural caffeine is also sometimes used in pre-workouts however it’s not quite as efficient compared to anhydrous for example. 

Potential for side effects and dosing recommendations

With the good also comes some of the potential negatives. Because caffeine is considered a psychoactive drug due to its effects on the central nervous system, taking too much or not building up a tolerance can result in serious side effects. 

Anxiety, palpitations, nausea, dehydration, high blood pressure and dizziness are the most common issues that many experience although there is such a thing as fatal doses. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and many other sources recommend a daily intake of no more than 400mg, or two-four cups of coffee. While it’s not uncommon for people to consume more than this it’s not recommended. Also be sure not to have too many caffeine-containing food items in a 24-hour period as well.

See our caffeine pill picks!

Beta-alanine

If you get the itches after downing a serving of pre-workout, you can thank the beta-alanine, an amino acid often added to these supplements. No worries though, it’s harmless and it actually supports your gym and home workouts too. Beta-alanine converts to carnosine in the body which acts as a buffer against lactic acid – the burning sensation in the muscles from physical activity (2).  

That means it reduces the severity of this sometimes very uncomfortable sensation and in return, you should be able to train longer and get more results faster. This acid causes fatigue in the muscles and slows the muscles’ ability to contract as efficiently so interfering with this process can be a great way to make better progress (3, 4).

The common dosing for beta-alanine is 2-5 grams/day (5). Beta-alanine also improve blood flow, and fight muscle fatigue.

Citrulline

Everyone loves the “pump” after a set of flyes or bicep curls. It’s not just for show though, a good pump is caused by the widening of blood vessels and this could help to flood nutrients in the muscles.

Studies have found that it can also increase muscle size and muscle strength, increase growth hormone after training and recovery and because it’s a vasodilator, it could be beneficial for sexual performance and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

The sweet spot for l-citrulline seems to be 4-6g/day.

Check out our top citrulline product picks here.

Creatine

Creatine is just one of those ingredients that work and it had better if it’s still highly recommended after thousands of studies have proven its efficacy. An amino acid found in red meats and some seafoods, it’s also naturally produced in small amounts by the body. However, the body doesn’t produce enough of it to be beneficial.

Creatine has been shown to have many intriguing effects especially for performance and muscle gains.

It’s also safe to use and there are many different forms that have come out. Creatine Monohydrate is the most used and proven however other forms such as hydrochloride (HCL) seems to be just as effective and no loading is needed. 

The dosages vary but with creatine monohydrate which is probably the most commonly used in pre-workouts, but anywhere from 2-10 grams/day has been shown to be safe and effective. If you want the full benefits of creatine though, it may be better to use a separate creatine product to load and/or take on the days you don’t train as it’s recommended to take a serving daily for best results. 

Not all pre-workouts contain creatine though so make sure to check the label if you prefer to have it included. 

Find your ideal creatine intake with our creatine dosing calculator

L-theanine

Found in green tea, research has found that this amino acid can have favorable effects on certain factors of mental health such as stress and anxiety and may promote calmness without drowsiness but enhance mental alertness (6). Combined with caffeine, it’s been said to prolong the positive cognitive effects and help to prevent unwanted effects like jitters and post-caffeine crash (7, 8).

100-300mg/day is a typical therapeutic amount although it’s unclear whether there’s a perfect dose.

L-tyrosine

Tyrosine is considered a catecholamine precursor which apparently has cognitive-enhancing properties (9).

Where it may really shine though is during high-demand situations. In other words, it could help you to maintain focus, memory, and other cognitive abilities when challenged. 

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that could help with performance and health. It naturally occurs in the body and in some foods and is considered a conditionally essential nutrient that may need to be supplemented in those with certain illnesses that cause it to be used up at a faster rate (10). 

Aside from possibly being beneficial for cancer and diabetes, taurine has been shown to reduce fatigue and protect against muscle damage, while also potentially increasing fat burn (11, 12).

Some research even found a reduction in post-exercise soreness in combination with BCAAs which may be good for recovery and faster gains (13).

A good safe and effective dosage range is 500-2000mg/day. However, up to and maybe higher than 3000mg.day has shown to be safe (14).

Ingredients may and often do vary between the different products, however, most do contain most of the above-mentioned ingredients.

How Do We Pick the Best Pre-Workouts?

Before we included these products on our list of best pre-workout supplements, we had to consider several criteria. 

Value

Value can be defined by comparing the ingredients/doses, servings per container, and the price.

While some products are more expensive than others, keep in mind that they may have more ingredients/high amounts per serving, and quality can and does vary between products. 

We believe all of the pre-workouts on this list are fairly priced for what they offer. 

Brand/Reputability 

Choosing pre-workout products from proven brands that have good reputations is preferred. That’s because they’ve been around for a while and many people have had a chance to test out and provide feedback on the products. 

There’s nothing like peace of mind knowing that the products are lab-tested and the companies have good manufacturing practices. 

However, we don’t think you have to rule out all newer and less heard of options if the brand looks promising and can prove good manufacturing practices along with having mostly positive feedback and are growing in popularity. 

Ingredients

You’ll notice that while most pre-workouts supplements contain common ingredients such as caffeine, citrulline, beta-alanine, tyrosine, etc., a lot of products include ingredients with fancy names and supposed unique benefits. 

It’s fine to consider these options even if there’s not as much research behind some of the ingredients but it’s best to choose ones that do have a few studies to support the potential benefits. 

But you can never go wrong with simple either as you know the ingredients do work. 

Dosage

As for doses and efficacy of formulas, well, this really depends on how each user responds to a pre-workout. For example, one person may do just fine and even prefer less caffeine while others won’t feel much with 150mg of caffeine and will need 300+ mg per serving.

But also keep in mind that many products lower in caffeine typically contain higher doses of other performance-aiding ingredients. Sometimes trial and error is the only option!

Be sure to check out the full reviews on the above products to learn more about the ingredients and dosages.

Honesty/transparency

Typically, we prefer products that disclose all of the ingredients and exact doses for each one. While proprietary blends aren’t always necessarily a bad thing, there’s really no way to know if you’re getting the most optimal doses. 

What are the Benefits of Pre-Workouts?

Pre-workout supplements are formulated to do what the name implies – enhance your workout experience.

Energy boost

This is no doubt the primary reason that most people take a pre-workout. For whatever reason, many just don’t have the energy or enthusiasm they need to blast through their training sessions. A sedentary lifestyle, crappy diet, and lack of sleep can all contribute to low energy levels and while these things should be addressed, sometimes it’s life.

But you still have to get in your workouts and so caffeine and other energy-boosting ingredients are typically a safe and effective way to accomplish this. 

Although, it’s important to know that not all pre-workouts supplements contain stimulants and many focus more on enhancing physical activity through other mechanisms. 

Better focus

Ingredients such as caffeine, l-tyrosine, theanine, alpha-GPC, Huperzine-A, taurine, acetyl and L-carnitine have all been shown to enhance focus. 

There are lots of promising studies on these ingredients.

Enhanced physical performance

Most pre-workouts contain ingredients that have been researched for their ability to help enhance one or more factors of performance. 

We could go down the list but we recommend you take the time to read through the information on each product to learn about how each compound exerts its effects.

Strength and size

Two ingredients in particular – creatine and betaine have actually been shown to enhance muscle gains and strength.

Many would be surprised to know that creatine doesn’t just fill your muscles with water but this super ingredient can increase muscle growth via multiple pathways as science has shown. It can also help produce strength and power (15). 

Betaine is another surprising substance. In a study of twenty three subjects who followed a 6-week resistance training regime, the volunteers who took 2.5g/day experienced an improvement in muscle to fat ratio, increased muscle size, work capacity, and power (16).

Does Pre-Workout go Bad?

Pre-workout does, in fact, go bad. The reasons for this could be due to a bad batch, expired product, type of ingredients used, or how it’s stored. If it smells bad, looks discolored, clumps up, or lacks potency, then you know it’s probably gone bad.

In that case, it’s time to pick up a fresh tub!

Now, it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between a “best by” date and unusable. The best by date simply means it’s most potent when used before this date. You could still use it after.

Pay attention to things like smell, color, taste, and most importantly, do you feel it working?

Read more on this here.

When Should I Take Pre-Workout?

While we do recommend adhering to the label instructions for optimal results, most products say to take a serving mixed with water 30 minutes prior to the workout. This is enough time for it to start to kick in. 

It may take a little longer to get the full effects which is also why you probably get more energized as the session progresses. 

The ingredients, potency (amount of caffeine), and how your workouts are structured may all play a role in the “best” time to take a pre-workout though. For example, some people do a longer pre-training warmup so having a scoop 20 minutes before may be optimal. If you get straight into hitting the weights or pounding the pavement then 30-45 minutes could give you the best experience. 

Caffeine in pre-workouts is usually absorbed in the body pretty quickly and within about 45 minutes of ingestion. Anhydrous is ideal for fast absorption hence why it’s used in pre-workouts (17).

Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Itch?

You can thank the beta-alanine for the itchy, tingly feeling associated with taking a pre-workout product. This is also known as paresthesia. It’s not harmful but for many, it’s very uncomfortable. It’s usually very noticeable in doses higher than 500mg. 

Niacin, also known as B3 can also cause this tingling sensation often called ‘niacin flush’ and especially as it’s usually included in pre-workouts in large amounts. It doesn’t, however, seem to have the same beneficial effects on performance compared with beta-alanine. 

Learn more about this here.

How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?

There’s no definitive answer to this. Caffeine can last from a couple hours to 8+ hours (although it’s not as potent). However, because pre-workouts include a mixture of other ingredients this can vary as the other compounds may affect the length of caffeine effectiveness. 

Additionally, pre-workout dosage, ingredient quality, your age, weight, body composition and sensitivity to certain compounds affect the length of effectiveness.

You might expect most pre-workouts to last anywhere from 2-4 hours on average.

Check out this supplement guide to learn more about the lasting effects of pre-workouts.

It’s exactly what the name implies, taking a scoop of dry powder. While it’s not new by any means and you’ve probably seen Larry Wheels do it, this recent TikTok trend definitely sets a bad example. 

While it does work faster this way, you can a) inhale and choke on the powder which some health experts say can cause aspiration pneumonia, and you can b) cause much faster absorption due to not diluting with water, and while some get away with it, if you are not accustomed to taking such big amounts of caffeine, it can be detrimental to health or maybe worse.

Not to mention, many who do these dry scoop challenges do not adhere to the safety precautions especially regarding the dosage. 

Caffeine overdosing is no joke and one 20-year-old woman apparently suffered a heart attack after dry scooping pre-workout powder. It’s possible it’s caused a few deaths too.

If you want to learn more about pre-workout supplements, we have an entire pre-workout section that we recommend you check out!

FAQs

What is pre workout?

A pre-workout is a dietary supplement formulated to enhance physical and mental performance through the use of various ingredients such as caffeine, l-theanine, beta-alanine, and l-citrulline to name a few, although this varies based on the product.

What does pre workout do?

Pre-workout improves your performance ability, although the mechanisms by which this occurs depends on the product and ingredients used.

What is the best pre workout?

There is no “best” pre-workout. However, many find that certain products work best for them. This is highly subjective.

When to take pre workout?

This depends on many factors such as the product, training structure and the intensity of exercise. Typically, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour before a session is an ideal timeframe.

How long does pre workout stay in your system?

This depends on the product, ingredients, dosages and factors related to each person. The various compounds means a different overall lasting effect (18).

How long does pre workout take to kick in?

This depends on the product quality, ingredients, dosages, and factors related to each individual. However, it usually takes anywhere from 30-90 minutes for the full effects to take place (19, 20).

Why does pre workout make you itchy?

The itchy sensation after taking a pre-workout is due to the ingredient beta-alanine. It’s harmless when used in recommended dosages.

Why does pre workout make me poop?

The caffeine in combination with the mixture of various chemicals stimulates the bowels and causes the poops!

Final Note

While there are tons of options on the market, we believe these are among the best pre-workouts.

While all are formulated to all do the same thing, boost performance, you’ll notice there’s variety regarding the actual ingredients/formulas. This is important to keep in mind because we all have different goals and needs and even tolerate caffeine differently.

Here is final recap of the 17 best pre-workout supplement to buy in 2022:

  1. Transparent Labs BULK
  2. 4 Gauge Pre-Workout 
  3. Wrecked by Huge Nutrition
  4. Assassin by Apollo Nutrition
  5. Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged
  6. Legion Pulse Pre-workout
  7. Transparent Labs Lean
  8. Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Stim-Free
  9. JYM Pre-Workout
  10. Old School Labs Vintage Blast
  11. Gold Standard Pre-Workout
  12. Jacked Factory NitroSurge
  13. Jacked Factory Altius
  14. Cellucor C4 Ripped
  15. Pre-Game by CIRA Nutrition
  16. Powher
  17. Jacked Factory Pumpsurge

We hope that us breaking each product down will help you to choose the best one for you and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us! Also, check out our review of the best fat burners for men.

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Tom Miller, CSCS
Tom Miller, CSCS
Tom is a professional content strategist who loves to write about health and fitness, he is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) additionally an expert crap shooter, qualified bro scientist, unmatched at being the best lifter in my local gym.

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