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Manufacturers design pre-workout products to help increase muscle growth, enhance exercise performance, and maximize energy levels. These supplements have a lot of different ingredients combined in even more varying ratios. We’ve bulked up the research to help you determine the best pre-workout for your unique needs.
These supplements act similar to banned substances like steroids, but they’re legal products that feature safe ingredients to boot. While some still feature a high amount of stimulants, others prefer non-stimulating alternatives like creatine—there’s a wide range on the market.
Their sole purpose is to boost your performance, thus your results, in the gym. Some pre-workouts produce specific actions, like increasing blood flow, stamina or focus. Others combine different action paths, with a few even helping you lose weight.
We cover the most popular ingredients, with a focus on the research behind each, unlike most pre-workout reviews.
All the pre-workouts on our list have undergone extensive product development in their particular labs. We list their standout ingredients below to help you decide the best pre-workout supplement for your needs.
Whey protein isolate offers a healthy dose of clean plant based protein for muscle growth. This is a friendly option for vegans, too. It’s just about as potent as soy, but without the estrogen-mimicking reactions associated with soy.
Zinc is a critical nutrient for metabolism and regulating male sex hormones, which play an important role in muscle mass formation and maintaining a healthy weight . Zinc can also benefit your immunity and may even help boost mental health, staving off stress related to physical performance.
Clarinol CLA is a lesser known ingredient. Clarinol is an unsaturated fatty acid belonging to the omega 6 family. This nutrient is well reviewed to aid burn unhealthy body fat. Fat oxidation provides an alternative source of energy helping you sustain a low-calorie diet, promoting an increase in lean muscle mass .
L theanine (at 200 mg per serving) is an important amino acid (AA) that intensifies the stimulating effects of caffeine. You’ll often find it in green teas and it can help direct your focus while calming you down, versus the spastic nature of caffeine alone .
Coconut water (at 300 mg per serving in powder form) contains natural electrolytes like potassium and manganese. This helps replenish your hydration stores, which are often necessary after an intense workout. It also has antioxidant properties, as well, showing its ability to fight off free radicals and stress in the body .
Creatine monohydrate is a common ingredient found in pre-workouts. Creatine is an amino acid that decreases as you work out, causing fatigue . Creatine supplementation could help with energy levels and improve workout performance by mitigating fatigue.
4 Gauge might offer a significant boost in performance.
From the same company that made the always-popular weight loss pill Leanbean, this is one for the ladies on our list. Powher is easily the best pre-workout for women, functioning as a pre-workout supplement tailored for the female body.
It’s made with weight management in mind, containing just 3 grams of carbs per serving. Manufacturers made this product to promote a toned body, while keeping excess body fat away. Flavors are limited, though.
Enxtra (rights reserved) or the Alpinia Galanga extract comes from the ginger family. It’s popular for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Both actions are advantageous to gym enthusiasts as they encourage faster muscle recovery.
Vitamin B complex contains three B vitamins: B5 (pantothenic acid), cyanocobalamin (B12) and B6 (pyridoxine). These have a great effect on physical performance and vitality, at large . They also promote robust digestion and the formation of red blood cells.Powher also contains other nutrients, including but not limited to:
This women-centric pre-workout could help you lose weight and pump up muscle mass simultaneously.
Production of this pre-workout supplement happens in similar lab conditions as BRF, given they share the same manufacturer, Bauer. Capsiplex is listed as a “thermogenic” product, which means it enhances your body’s ability and capacity for burning excess fat, an important component of weight loss and toning.Company sponsored research points to this product helping with:
Piperine comes from the black pepper plant. The plant is beneficial for weight loss and a healthy digestive system .
Capiscum extract is another thermogenic plant, but this one comes from the chili pepper.
Niacin is vitamin B3, an important nutrient for helping your body convert calories into fuel. Because high niacin levels are associated with enhanced metabolism, it should help you with fat management too.
The thermogenic properties of Capsiplex could offer benefits for weight management.
This pre-workout supplement is lauded as the best pre-workout for athletes, claims supported by famous sports people on the official website including professional swimmers and boxers.
For people turned off by horrible-tasting supplements, Black Wolf is available in different flavors, including apple.Black Wolf may be useful for:
The green apple and blueberry flavors also contain caffeine anhydrous. With the fruit punch flavor, you’ll get huperzine.
Taurine (at 1000 mg per serving) helps with muscle contraction, which is necessary for repair and growth after a solid pump . It also contains antioxidant properties, which help you fight soreness and boost recovery post workout.
BioPerine is a special ingredient shown to support the absorption of other nutrients and minerals: bioavailability . It helps enhance the potency and efficacy of the other ingredients.
DMAE, or Deanol, is an organic compound that already exists in the body. People take DMAE to improve mood and stave off depression, but it may also support focus and muscle contractions. Motivation could be a benefit, too, according to one study .
Customers appreciate the various workout lines offered by the company.
When buying pre-workouts, you’ll want to choose a product suitable for your exact needs, whether that’s endurance or more energy.
Below you’ll find some of the most popular pre-workout ingredients that people buy and what they entail for your workouts:
BCAA stands for branched-chain amino l-acid and this amino consists of three compounds: isoleucine, valine and leucine. BCAAs aid in the production of protein, which supports the muscles in repairing themselves after a strong pump session . They also decrease fatigue and combat soreness.
EAA represents another group of AAs that offer similar benefits as BCAAs, including muscle recovery and better athletic performance and endurance. Some believe that EAAs pre-workout is the better option, though studies are inconclusive.
Caffeine is that powerhouse ingredient in your cup of coffee or green tea. It comes in different forms in pre-workouts, mostly from coffee or green tea.
Some forms of caffeine may be cleaner than others and for those that are sensitive or worried about the jittery effect caffeine brings, opt for a pre-workout that contains L theanine. This amino acid helps relax you while supporting the energy boosting effect of caffeine.
Beta alanine is naturally occurring in the human body and it supports carnosine levels, which aid in endurance. It also contributes to quick lean muscle mass gains.
Citrulline, a form of nitric oxide, marks one of many naturally occurring amino acids on the list. It’s said to benefit blood flow, relaxing veins and vessels for a smooth passage . This provides better muscle building results by offering better transportation and absorption of nutrients.
This AA functions as a building block for protein production. It also plays a role in boosting the immune and digestive systems, both important markers for those that workout hard on a regular basis.
L arginine, or nitric oxide, is found in fish, red meats, poultry and dairy products. It’s another AA that participates in the synthesis of protein. Arginine might be beneficial for the immune and hormonal systems, too, the latter being especially important for testosterone levels in men .
Theacrine is an alkaloid found in teas and coffees. It works similar to caffeine, in that it’s a natural stimulant. This substance has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, lowering pain in the body and fighting bloatation and swelling. Theacrine is very useful in workout recovery.
Unlike many of the natural substances included on this list, Nitrosigine is a premade complex. It’s made specifically for enhancing athletic performance and it combines ingredients commonly found in pre-workouts like inositol, potassium silicate and arginine.
Nitrosigine enhances blood flow and energy levels .
Adaptogens consist of any plants that classify as herbal remedies, regardless of their use. They include ginseng, licorice, rhodiola, maca, ashwagandha and moringa.
Aframomum, otherwise known as “grains of paradise”, is a common natural remedy found in a variety of supplements. It comes from the ginger family, similar to Enxtra. This substance might boost testosterone and immunity pre-workout, though studies aren’t conclusive at this time.
You’ll often find sweeteners in pre-workouts, whether it’s for flavor or a quick boost in energy. Depending on the product, this might be a synthetic sweetener like aspartame or Stevia, whereas other supplements feature straight sugar.
This is a highly contested topic, where some say artificial sweeteners do more harm than good, including minor consequences to severe ones such as cancer.
One downside could be that these substances actually change the way you taste food . For example, consuming artificial sweeteners regularly might lead you to find most vegetables completely unsatisfying or naturally sweetened fruits not sweet enough.
If you have to get these sweeteners in a pre-workout, do so with caution, otherwise choose natural sweeteners instead.
There are other pre-workout ingredients that you should flat out avoid at all costs.
Otherwise known as methylhexanamine, DMAA is a drug created for use as a nasal decongestant. People in the weight loss and physical performance worlds picked it up eventually for its ability to boost energy.
This amphetamine is now illegal in the United States, because of its dangerous side effects, including a tightening of the chest, heart attacks, and breathing difficulties.
DMHA is another form of methylhexanamine, making it an amphetamine. As far as we know, the legality around this substance is up for debate.
Given its origin, though, it’s better you avoid it, as well, due to the potential consequences that accompany amphetamines.
Despite legal measures, some manufacturers sneak these substances into their products since they do offer some positive benefit when you’re bulking up.
For example, companies may list them by another product name, or further down the ingredient list where they could easily go unnoticed.
Use caution when choosing which pre-workout you want to take. Examine the ingredient list and customer feedback with discretion, so you get what you need.
What one man, or woman, needs from a pre-workout may differ from another. Some are better for quick bulk, while others focus on losing weight and building lean muscle simultaneously.
For those craving a strong jolt of energy pre-pump session, choose something like BRF which offers 250 mg of caffeine per serving. This is also an excellent choice for those concerned with clean protein, considering its whey contents.
On the other hand, Powher and the thermogenic Capsiplex are both suitable options if you want to burn fat while you pump.
For all out endurance and power, choose something like Black Wolf. It contains Creatine for starters, and BioPerine for increasing the bioavailability of all the nutrients in the supplement. This could offer you the highest amount of benefits for better results.
Each product is designed for different pre-workout needs and most on our list offer the following benefits, although each has their specific focus.
Energy is a necessary component of a strong workout. When you’re fatigued or lacking that get-up-and-go, a strong pump will be scarce, if not impossible to come by.
This is why ingredients like B vitamins exist in pre-workout supplements. Caffeine is a more obvious component here, with some pre-workouts offering a very high dose. Do note it might come with a crash afterward, so take care on timing your consumption well.
There are loads of natural ingredients, and remedies on the market, aimed at boosting your stamina. This means you can go faster, for longer. It’s especially important when you’re looking to make gains and up your workouts in quantity and duration.
A hardcore workout is nothing without a strong focus. When you’re lifting heavy weights and taking part in routines like circuit training, you need to bring your A game or it’s easy to get distracted.
Pre-workout supplements can aid in this, containing substances that support you as you tune out the surrounding distractions.
Chances are you’re looking to take one of these supplements because you’re not getting the desired results at the gym quick enough.
A quality pre-workout can help with that as many of them feature ingredients particularly for recovery and soreness. The better your post workout goes, the better your results will be.
The details of product development around the best products, be it creatine powder or something for fat burning, can be overwhelming. Before you buy, you’ll want to understand the ins and outs of these products at large, beyond what each one contains.
Some products are legal, some aren’t, like the banned substances we’ve mentioned in this review, including DMAA and DMHA.
While none of the items reviewed feature illegal components, there’s a high chance that others you’ll come across on the market do. Buy smart and examine every detail before you get one.
All the power supplements on our list are deemed safe because they contain mostly natural pre-workout ingredients such as citrulline. Some of them are made in certified labs, as well, indicating that a high level of oversight exists around the production process.
However, what’s safe for one individual may be dangerous for another who has specific conditions such as heart complications.
If you’re affected by a high caffeine intake, be cautious and choose a pre-workout that contains a very low caffeine content or one that’s caffeine free. Some are completely stimulant free.
We recommend, for peace of mind, that you seek medical advice from your trusted doctor before embarking on a regime.
Technically, no. Each one on our list contains safe and natural ingredients. It is imperative, though, that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and not overdo the servings as it may lead to unintended consequences with time.
Some pre-workout products for power might induce:
To our knowledge, none of the pre-workouts on our list come with any negative consequences beyond this. But again, this works on a case-by-case basis, so use them with caution and consult a doctor should you experience any problems.
Pre-workout products may differ slightly in terms of dosage and recommended time of consumption. However, most of them are meant to be taken 15 minutes to 30 minutes pre-workout.
Based on research, the best pre-workout supplements are designed to help increase your performance. Get started when you buy a product with ingredients and flavors suitable for you. Choose something that contains safe ingredients made in certified labs.
Some feature muscle building products like creatine or citrulline for bulk. Others focus on mental energy and contain a high caffeine content and or tyrosine. Do you prefer to go stimulant free? Avoid the jitters and choose a caffeine free option.
We cannot provide medical advice for people, so it’s best you take your time in choosing the best supplement for you. Consult a doctor if you have questions, he or she may be able to assist you.
Visit the official product websites and enter your email address for updates from these companies. Some of them roll out new items on the regular.