Pre-workouts are a godsend for those who need a little (or massive) push before engaging in intense physical activity for the purpose of improving performance and achieving goals. There are so many different options available to us, and that’s a good thing because we can customize our training experience according to what we like and dislike about these popular ergogenic aids.
Today, we’ve collected a list of the best pre-workouts without beta-alanine, one of the main ingredients found in pre-workouts that’s been shown in studies to enhance various factors of performance.
So why would anyone want to avoid it?
Well, this ingredient, while it can make a difference in your workouts, has a bit of a bad rap because it can cause an uncomfortable itching and tingling sensation. While this is nothing to be concerned about and completely normal, tell that to the people who don’t like it too much.
Top Beta-Alanine Free Pre-Workouts:
- Best Overall Pre-Workout: 4 Gauge
- Best Stim Free Pre-Workout: Performance Lab Energy
- Best Energy Caps: Sports Research L-Theanine and Caffeine
- Best Nootropic Pre-Workout: Cracked Chemistry Labs Pre-Workout
- Best Energy Drink: Celsius Live Fit Energy Drinks
- Best Pre and intra-Training Fuel: GU Energy Gel Packets
- Best For Women: Sheer Strength Labs Pre-Workout
- Best For Flavor Variety: Uptime 12-Pack Energy Drinks
- Best Caffeine-Only Capsules: Kaged Muscle Caffeine Caps
- Best Organic Pre-Workout: Organic Muscle Superfood Pre-Workout
Check out our top pre-workout formulas minus the itches…
1. Best Overall Pre-Workout – 4 Gauge
4 Gauge is our top pre-workout choice in this category and it does not contain any beta-alanine (no surprise there).
It’s an all-natural, very low-calorie (5 calories per serving) pre-workout that contains 150mg of caffeine per serving and 1g of creatine for muscle, strength, and brain-boosting effects. Although, that’s really not a lot of creatine which may be a good thing especially if you’re using a dedicated creatine supplement (which you should be if you want to maximize muscle and strength gains).
200mg of l-theanine works synergistically with the caffeine to prolong the brain boosting effects and minimize any potential side effects from caffeine.
6,000mg of l-citrulline enhance pumps by increasing blood flow and may have muscle-building properties.
Overall, 4 Gauge has enough firepower to blast you through any tough training session!
4 Gauge Video Review
Check out our full review of 4 Gauge here.
2. Best Stim Free Pre-Workout – Performance Lab Energy
We think Performance Lab Energy is a great pre-workout option that does not contain caffeine or any stimulants.
It’s also in capsule form which many may find to be more convenient than mixing and drinking your pre-workout.
The main selling point of Energy is that they’ve included compounds that are supposed to optimize the function of mitochondria, organelles within cells that break down and utilize nutrients from foods to generate energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is necessary for all metabolic processes.
Let’s talk about the key ingredients in Performance Lab Energy.
The first compound is MicroActive® Q10 (CoQ10). You may be familiar with it; Q10 is naturally produced by the body and stored in cells’ mitochondria. Low levels of Q10 have been linked to serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It’s also important to note that the production of this substance decreases with age.
Q10 converts to ubiquinol which is an antioxidant that has disease-fighting properties and hence why the supplement CoQ10 has been shown to be promising for maintaining heart health.
It also helps the cells to generate energy and may have many health benefits. According to Performance Lab, research has shown that the MicroActive® Q10 form is superior to regular CoQ10 and can double levels of this essential substance in just three weeks.
The next ingredient we’ll talk about is BioPQQ® (Pyrroloquinoline Quinone), a compound praised for its potential antioxidant properties. Additionally, PPQ supports mitochondrial function and development (1). However, there’s not as much research to support the supposed range of health benefits compared to other substances.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) primarily functions to help turn fat into energy that is then used by the body. Therefore, it’s easier to see how this substance supports mitochondrial functions and is important for many bodily processes.
L-carnitine is formed by the combination of two amino acids: lysine and methionine, and is then converted to the form acetyl L-carnitine (or vice versa) where most of it is stored in the muscles. Performance Lab uses a version of this compound that is highly bioavailable and does not need glucose to be absorbed into the cells.
Another addition to Energy is R-Lipoic Acid (Bio-Enhanced®) which is an antioxidant that supports fighting off oxidative stress and therefore enhancing performance and overall health.
This stim-free pre-workout also contains the mineral magnesium that is so vital to good overall health such as heart, and nerve function.
Lastly, Bioperine black pepper extract is a popular ingredient that supplies a substance called piperine that supposedly raises metabolic rate which means it may contribute to increased energy expenditure or calories burned. But perhaps it’s most beneficial for improving the absorption of certain nutrients.
They ingredients are housed in prebiotic nutricaps, the formula is vegan-friendly, soy and gluten free, non GMO and GMP certified.
About the brand
“Performance Lab® is the world’s most sophisticated nutritional supplement system for optimizing daily performance and long-range health.”
They use NutriGenesis®, lab grown vitamins, minerals and amino acids that supposedly improve absorption and bioavailability of these nutrients.
3. Best Energy Caps – Sports Research L-Theanine and Caffeine
If you want a product with minimal ingredients and not too potent regarding the caffeine content, then we also like these l-theanine and caffeine 2-in-1 softgels from the brand Sports Research.
The reason why is because research has shown that the combination of caffeine and l-theanine can enhance cognitive function or brain performance. This product uses organic caffeine (100mg per serving) and Alphawave l-theanine (200mg) to maximize the synergistic effect.
The other main ingredient is MCTs or medium chain fats from coconut oil which is a faster digesting source of energy but it may also help the body to use its own fat for energy.
So what do you get? From what we know based on research, l-theanine can have benefits for mental health but this also means it may promote a calm and collected feeling. Additionally, it could level out the effects of caffeine and it’s dosed right to cause this effect.
The product details also recommend the product as an alternative to energy drinks which also reinforces why we wanted to include it on our list.
The product is non-GMO, gluten and soy free and there are no fillers or artificial colors in these caps.
About the brand
Sports Research is a family-owned and operated business that has been around since 1980 and they offer some of the best quality products around at an affordable price point.
4. Best Nootropic Pre-Workout – Cracked Chemistry Labs Pre-Workout
If you prefer a conventional pre-workout formula then Cracked is another great option that we think belongs on our list of best pre-workouts with beta-alanine.
This is a great option if you’re looking for an extensive formula because it includes three specific blends that contain several ingredients for each one. These include an energy, nootropics, and adaptogenic blend and a synthesis complex.
Energy blend has ingredients like citrulline, creatine HCL, caffeine, and l -tyrosine. For the nootropics blend, you’ll find many interesting health-supporting compounds such as Lion’s mane, Reishi mushroom, cordyceps mushroom and coenzyme Q10 to name a few.
In the adaptogenic category, Cracked features Ashwagandha, Asian ginseng and turmeric. These are great anti-inflammatory compounds that have a range of health benefits.
Lastly, the synthesis complex contains black pepper fruit extract for enhanced ingredient absorption.
You’ll also get a decent dose of vitamins C and D and B vitamins.
The product contains natural and artificial flavors and is artificially sweetened.
Cracked seems to be a health focused pre-workout as the brand emphasizes eliminating the stimulants and nasty chemicals.
About the brand
Cracked offers a line of quality performance supplements and their pre-workout leaves out the beta-alanine so users can experience increased energy, and enhanced mental and physical performance minus the itching and tingling.
5. Best Energy Drink – Celsius Live Fit Energy Drinks (12 Pack)
Celsius Live Fit is a viable energy drink option for when you need a boost. And it has some extra useful ingredients as well.
And other than the 200 mg of caffeine per 1 can; the formula contains 100% of the daily value for the following nutrients… vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and B12, and biotin. Plus, there’s 41% chromium which is known to enhance the effects of insulin.
10 calories per can is also good for those looking to keep weight stable.
The product also contains a MetaPlus proprietary blend (1,810mg) which includes taurine, guarana extract, green tea leaf, glucuronolactone, and ginger extract.
There are no artificial flavors or aspartame but sucralose is an ingredient.
The ingredient taurine is an amino acid that is believed to have antioxidant properties, so there is evidence of its positive effects on heart health. And it may be beneficial in combination with caffeine for improving physical performance. (2, 3)
Guarana is another plant-based ingredient; which one study showed to provide additional benefits over caffeine. (4)
Green tea is nutrient-rich and its antioxidant properties are a big reason for its use in many products including the caffeine content.
But a prominent substance in green tea called Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is largely responsible for the therapeutic effects since it acts as an anti-atherosclerosis, anti-cardiac hypertrophy, anti-myocardial infarction, anti-diabetes, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. (5, 6)
Ginger has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, while It’s one of the healthiest nutritional ingredients we could possibly consume. (9)
Celsius Live Fit is a top-tier energy product that uses some pretty effective ingredients.
About the brand
Headquartered in the sunny state of Florida, Celsius is a global brand whose mission is to “inspire those who want to live fit by giving them a sustained energy source that’s specially formulated to work with your body to help you reach your goals”. They take pride in using healthier ingredients and leave out the sugar, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.
6. Best Pre and intra-Training Fuel – GU Energy Gel Packets (24 Pack)
If you’re the type who likes to get your energy from snack pouches then look no further. The GU energy gel packs are a unique, fun, and convenient way to get some energy before and during your physical activities.
You can choose the assorted bundle that includes various flavors such as salted caramel, chocolate outrage, vanilla bean, strawberry banana, tri-berry and jet blackberry, or you go with one or the other.
Keep in mind though, that certain flavors contain caffeine while some do not, and the amounts vary depending on the flavor.
The ingredients include BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) that may help with performance, electrolytes for maintaining hydration, a little caffeine for energy and mental alertness, and both simple (fast-digesting) and complex (slower digesting) carbohydrates to supply your body with fuel.
The gel packs are vegan, gluten-free and kosher.
About the brand
Over 20 years ago, Dr. Vaughan created the first energy gel to help support his daughter’s performance as an ultra marathon runner, and from that GU Energy was born and has since expanded into offering a lineup of performance-focused products.
7. Best Pre-Workout For Women – Sheer Strength Labs Pre-Workout
Sheer Strength pre-workout was formulated specifically to support the pre-workout needs of women.
There’s 175 mg of caffeine per serving which is enough to give a noticeable boost in energy. However, it’s nothing too crazy and certainly not what we’d call a very potent pre-workout. But we still strongly recommend users to build up their tolerance to caffeine if new to taking pre-workouts or if they’re not used to having this much caffeine regularly.
That means taking a portion of a serving for a few days before slowly increasing the dose.
This pre contains 1.25 grams of l-arginine alpha ketoglutarate which is supposed to increase blood flow by dilating blood vessels. However, we don’t know quite how significant the effect would be as there aren’t many studies on its effects. Not to mention, arginine in supplement form may not be as effective for increasing nitric oxide production compared to citrulline, the next ingredient in this formula.
Another key ingredient is l-citrulline DL malate which is l-citrulline and malic acid which supposedly improves the absorption and bioavailability of this potent vasodilator.
There’s also 350mg of Velvet bean of mucuna pruriens – a supposed “magic” legume or herbal ingredient rich in proteins and essential fatty acids but that has been used extensively for medicinal purposes (10). This unique substance contains L-dopa, a chemical produced in the body that plays a role in how we feel and think. Each serving of Sheer Strength women’s pre-workout contains 15% L-dopa.
It’s believed to possess properties that are responsible for relaxation but it also used as a aphrodisiac for sexual stimulation.
The last ingredient on the label is theobromine, a milder stimulant derived from cocoa beans (similar to caffeine) that can boost mental functioning but that’s also promising as a health-promoting compound (11).
The formula is third-party tested, non GMO and GMP certified.
About the brand
Sheer Strength Labs supports improved performance and health which is why they created products that make you feel good and motivated to work toward your goals minus the stuff that makes you feel terrible.
8. Best Energy Drink For Flavor Variety – Uptime 12-Pack Energy Drinks
Uptime energy drinks are a big hit for their flavors but we also picked this one because it’s sugar free, has a light taste, and includes vitamin C, L-theanine and coenzymeQ10.
There’s 142 mg of natural caffeine (from green tea and not lab created) per bottle and only 0-5 calories which is perfect for those who want to lose weight and are worried about their calorie intake.
The combination of ingredients is great for lasting energy, mental functioning and overall health.
This is the 12-pack option that included six different flavors so you’ll never get bored in that sense.
They do use the artificial sweetener sucralose but the drink is naturally flavored.
About the brand
Uptime energy owners Ben and Carrie bought the company in 2012 and dedicated their time to crafting energy drinks that contain clean energy from natural caffeine, and beneficial beverages that offer crisp and light flavors that are inspired by nature.
9. Best Caffeine-Only Capsules – Kaged Muscle Caffeine Caps
Kaged Muscle is popular with the fitness crowd, offering a great line up of products and so their caffeine capsules were intriguing for this category of supplements.
A serving size is one capsule which contains 200 mg of PurCaf caffeine from green coffee beans. There are no other active ingredients in these caffeine capsules and we’d expect a subtle yet noticeable boost in energy that should be enough to give you that little edge you need.
The appeal to these is that there’s no mixing and drinking down potentially unpleasant flavors. There are no artificial colors or flavors.
About the brand
Kaged supplements is one of the industry’s premiere brands. Their products are “health-focused” and while they realize diet, exercise, sleep, sunlight, and hydration are all more important, a quality supplement can “amplify your natural potential“.
10. Best Organic Pre-Workout – Organic Muscle Superfood Pre-Workout
Last but not least, Organic Muscle has some pretty good products but what this pre-workout will offer you over the others is that, one, it contains organic ingredients, and two, it’s rich in superfoods and healthy nutrition.
A serving provides 150mg of performance-supporting caffeine plus three blends to support blood circulation and pumps, energy, focus and stamina, and energy expenditure.
There are many ingredients including adaptogenic herbs and superfoods that support good health and stave off disease but that also increase focus, well-being, and mental state which plays a big role in motivation.
You’ll find compounds like beet root, ginseng, yerba mate, rhodiola rosea, cordyceps mushrooms, and turmeric powder to name a few of the beneficial ingredients that contribute to physical and mental performance.
There are also no artificial flavors or sweeteners, fillers, gluten, and GMOs, and it’s a vegan-friendly formula.
Organic Muscle pre-workout with superfoods is best for those who want better workout performance but also health benefits.
About the brand
Organic Muscle was founded by James B after landing in the ER from taking a dangerous, “stimulant-ridden” supplement. This led him to want to create safe, organic, and natural ingredients that work.
Check out our full review on the 5 Best Organic Pre-Workout Supplements Reviewed For 2022.
What Is Beta-Alanine and Why Does It Cause The Tingles?
If you look at the label on most pre-workout specific supplements, you’re most likely going to find the ingredient beta-alanine. The good thing is that there’s a reason for that, however, the downside is that many pre-workout users aren’t okay with the sometimes very uncomfortable itchy, tingling sensations that it often causes.
Why does it do that? Let’s talk about what it is and why it causes the feelings of pins and needles in the skin.
What is beta-alanine?
You might be surprised to know that beta-alanine is an amino acid (non-protein building) that is produced by the body, therefore, it’s non-essential which means we don’t necessarily need to take it in supplement form.
However, studies have shown that taking beta-alanine can improve physical or athletic performance, such as increasing endurance and reducing fatigue.
Beta-alanine and the amino acid histidine produce carnosine, a substance that acts as a buffer against lactic acid that builds up in our muscles during exercise and causes the burning feeling. This can be painful and causes most people to stop their activity and wait until it subsides before continuing.
Typically, our muscles contain more histidine than beta-alanine which limits the production of carnosine in the muscles. So when we use beta-alanine supplements, more carnosine is produced which should reduce the acidity in the muscles and increase the duration of which we can do an activity. This is what is believed to be responsible for the performance enhancing effects of this compound and the reason it’s found in most pre-workouts.
According to research, using a beta-alanine supplement can increase carnosine levels by as much as 80%! (12)
The evidence is optimistic when it comes to using beta-alanine. But we completely understand that everyone has a preference or unique experience when it comes to performance-focused supplements. That’s why we’ve shown you the pre-workouts we would use if beta-alanine wasn’t an option.
What’s with the pins and needles?
Also known as paresthesia, the itching and tingling sensations can invoke panic in those who are not used to it. They may think that something is very wrong, especially if they are not aware of the effects of beta-alanine.
However, it’s not cause for alarm as this feeling is totally normal.
The exact mechanisms that cause the pins and needles is not completely known. However, according to most research, it’s likely due to beta-alanine affecting the nerves enough to cause this experience.
It’s also important to note that beta-alanine will affect people differently and so while some can tolerate it, others cannot. And, of course, the dose plays a role too.
What are The Top Pre-Workout Ingredients?
In this section, we’ve included details for the most common ingredients you’ll find in pre-workouts. However, not all of the options on this list of best pre-workouts without beta-alanine will contain all of these ingredients.
Many of the substances have extensive research to back their efficacy and others may not work the same for everyone. However, a good quality pre-workout supplement should contribute to improved performance.
Because beta-alanine is found in most pre-workout formulas, we had to include options that contain fewer ingredients or that are not the typical pre-workout.
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, stimulants are a type of drug that will stimulate the nervous system. There are also other stimulants that do work such as yohimbine and theacrine but they’re not as potent.
This widely-used substance is found in various plants such as cocoa plants and teas 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 affects the brain but in a good way, of course. 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. 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.
Side effects and optimal dosing
Caffeine can and does cause undesirable side effects in some instances. Although, when consumed the right way, the chance of experiencing side effects is greatly reduced. 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 the section on beta-alanine for this information.
L-citrulline is one of the most common ingredients but there’s also some great research on it.
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 healthy blood pressure.
The sweet spot for l-citrulline seems to be 4-6g/day. Although, higher doses have been used safely and effectively.
Check out our top citrulline product picks here.
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.
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 (13). Combined with caffeine, it’s been said to prolong the positive cognitive effects and help to prevent unwanted effects like jitters and the common post-caffeine crash (14, 15).
100-300mg/day is a typical therapeutic amount although it’s unclear whether there’s a perfect dose.
Tyrosine is considered a catecholamine precursor which apparently has cognitive-enhancing properties (16).
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 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 (17).
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.
How We Decided Our Picks
This one was quite easy… choose our favorite pre-workout supplements that do not have any of the ingredient beta-alanine. Therefore, we picked what we believe to be the best products overall as long as they leave out this one compound.
Also keep in mind, for this review, the term “pre-workout” does not necessarily mean we’ve included only products that say the word “pre-workout” on the label. That’s because most pre-workouts contain beta-alanine, and so we had to find some alternative options too.
Here are some criteria we considered before including our top picks.
Brand reputation/quality of product
First and foremost, we do not recommend products that we ourselves would not use. We hate spending hard-earned cash on iffy products with little user experience and feedback but also subpar formulas.
So you’ll find options from well-known brands and/or those that have really made a name for themselves with quality products over the last few years.
We also place safety and transparency high up on the list which is another reason to choose a pre-workout from one of these companies.
Caffeine is an important consideration because, and unless you prefer a stim-free pre-workout, it’s going to cause the most noticeable effect. The products we chose to include in our review had to contain at least a decent serving of caffeine. Of course, we cannot say what the perfect dose is and so this will depend on the individual.
Was price a factor?
Not necessarily. You’ve probably heard the saying “you get what you pay for” many times and this is often true even with pre-workouts. That doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable, quality options because there are many on this list. It all comes down to what you are looking for.
Does it contain beta-alanine?
This one is quite obvious but we made sure to check over the product labels for all picks on this list to make sure they do not contain any beta-alanine.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best pre-workout without beta-alanine?
In short, there’s no “best”. Pre-workouts without beta-alanine can range from supplements labeled “pre-workout” to energy drinks, caffeine pills, energy gels, and many other options.
Are Pre-Workouts without beta-alanine less effective?
There are studies that support the performance benefits of beta-alanine, however, other proven ingredients may make up for its absence. Beta-alanine may help but it’s not necessary in a pre-workout.
Are there ingredients that work similar to beta-alanine?
Ingredients that can have a similar effect on performance include creatine, caffeine, taurine, branched chain amino acids, betaine and theobromine to name a few.
How to make sure a pre-workout supplement does not have beta-alanine?
We recommend looking over the product label a few times because it can be easy to miss an ingredient at first glance.
These best pre-workout without beta-alanine are formulated to give you energy and enhance your training experience without the itching and tingling under the skin. While it’s nothing to be worried about, we understand that everyone has their own preference.
You probably noticed that we included a variety of options and some not labeled “pre-workout,” however, it was the only way we could offer you several choices. Therefore, while you’ll find pre-workout specific supplements, there are also great products that you can take before a workout that will help your performance.
Before choosing one for yourself, take a few minutes to check out the picks on this list and the buying guide is also a helpful resource in your quest to find the best option for your needs and goals.