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 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!
But before we get to our picks, let’s take a closer look at what you might find in a pre-workout supplement.
Top Pre-workout Ingredients:
Pre-workout supplements include many performance-specific ingredients. We included a brief description of the most common ones below.
- Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant included to boost energy levels and increase both physical and mental performance. No ingredient can compare hence why the potency of a product is typically determined by the caffeine content. You must be cautious though, however, as not building up a tolerance or taking too much can have extremely unpleasant consequences. (1)
- Beta-alanine causes the common tingles after a dose of pre-workout. No worries though, this is normal. This ingredient acts as a buffer against lactic acid; the stuff that causes an agonizing burning sensation in the muscles and makes you want to quit during most forms of exercise. It’s shown to also have other performance-supporting benefits. (2)
- Taurine speeds up your body’s recovery during a workout, thus reducing fatigue. This amino acid also prevents muscle cramps. (3)
- Citrulline, a vasodilator substance, facilitates enhanced blood flow to give you big pumps, but it can also help to build muscle, increase performance, and it has health benefits. (4)
- Creatine positively influences your ability to generate power during a workout. It’s also been shown through studies to increase muscle mass through various pathways and can have brain-enhancing effects, to name a few of its many benefits.
- Tyrosine may be beneficial for helping to manage stress during physical activity. (5)
- Betaine increases the body’s power output and can have the strength and muscle-building effects, although subtle. (6)
Ingredients may and often do vary between the different products, however, most do contain most of the above-mentioned ingredients.
Best Pre Workout (Tested and Ranked):
- Best Pre-Workout Overall: Transparent Labs BULK
- Strongest Pre-Workout: 4 Gauge Pre-Workout
- Best Nutrition: Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged
- Best For Strength: Performance Lab Sport Pre-Workout
- Best For Fat Loss: Transparent Labs Lean
- Best Caffeine-Free: Legion Pulse Pre-workout
- Best with Creatine: JYM Pre-Workout
- Best Delivery System: Old School Labs Vintage Blast
- Good Budget Option: Gold Standard Pre-Workout
- Good For Cardio: Jacked Factory NitroSurge
- Best For Simplicity: Jacked Factory Altius
- Best For Shredding: Cellucor C4 Ripped
- Best Pre-Workout For Women: Powher
- Best Stim-Free: Jacked Factory Pumpsurge
[Related: 11 Strongest Pre-Workout Supplements in 2021]
Best Pre-Workout Overall – 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 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.
Strongest 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.
We also like the addition of beetroot that enhances the nitric oxide-releasing effects of L-citrulline.
4 Gauge is a beast of a pre-workout.
Best Nutrition – 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, and beta-alanine.
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.
Best For Strength – Performance Lab Sport Pre-Workout
Performance Lab Sport is a stimulant-free pre-workout supplement that instead utilizes creatine, citrulline, beta-alanine, and carnosine to enhance your training experience.
The added 1,000mg Creapure pH10 creatine promotes muscle growth, strength, power, and brain performance while reducing the potential for stomach discomfort.
Carnosine helps to lessen oxidative stress in the muscles by neutralizing acid. Another interesting ingredient is Cordyceps that may increase ATP in the body, therefore, increasing muscle energy and optimizing the body’s ability to use oxygen during intense physical activity.
They also added Himalayan pink salt that has electrolytes to enhance and maintain hydration levels.
Best for Fat Loss -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.
Best Caffeine-Free – Legion Pulse Pre-workout
Legion Pulse is a top-ranked pre-workout 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.
Best Creatine – 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.
Best Delivery System – 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 arginine, an amino that increases nitric oxide 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 flavors and stevia for sweetness.
Vintage Blast is a well-dosed product for serious exercisers.
Good Budget Option – Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
Optimum Nutrition is a name synonymous with the best 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.
Good For Cardio – 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, and coconut water powder.
Aside from caffeine 125mg of caffeine per serving, Nitrosurge has an ingredient called theobromine that has shown to help boost energy 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!
Best For Simplicity – 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.
Best For Shredding – 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!
Best Pre-Workout For Women – Powher
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.
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 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.
Best Stim-Free – 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.
How We Decided On The Best Pre-Workout Supplements
Before we included these products on our list of best pre-workout supplements, we had to consider several criteria.
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.
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.
You’ll notice that while most pre-workouts 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.
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.
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.
If you want to learn more about pre-workout supplements, we have an entire pre-workout section that we recommend you check out!
- 10 Best Pre-Workouts for Weight Loss
- 12 Best Pre-Workouts Without Creatine
- 12 Best Tasting Pre-Workout Supplements
- 11 Strongest Pre Workout Supplements
- 10 Best Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout Supplements
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.
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.