The Best Pre-Workout Supplements Reviewed
Whether you are an avid exerciser looking for an edge or a novice that is trying to get the motivation to get to the gym regularly, pre-workout supplements can be just what you need. These products have stimulants that help focus the mind and energize the body so you can get the most out of your dedicated workout time. We assessed some of the best brands on the market and we used effectiveness, accuracy, application, side effects, and product purity to determine which were good enough to make our list.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 4 hrs of research
Top Pre-Workout Supplements
1. Old School Labs VINTAGE BLAST
Pricey if using 2 scoops
There are many products you can try and out of them all, there are very good ones and those that are just ok. Old School Labs Vintage Blast remains a fan favorite because of all the versatility it offers. It can help with strength advances as well as help with endurance in increasing the ability for you to hit those cardio workouts hard. If you live for high-intensity interval style workout bouts, but have a hard time balancing those excessively high heart rate, this can help even it all out so you can get through multiple sessions.
When it comes to this category of pre-exercise supplements, the taste is spot on, and that is so necessary for anything that you want to take. You will be hard-pressed to take anything, even it if is formulated perfectly if you think it is gross.
This stuff is nice though because it works just the way it portrays itself, providing sufficient energy and lasts over an hour's time. You'll be pretty good with one scoop before your sessions.
Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are feeling a change in your performance or overall well-being, but you will be able to tell when this stuff kicks in. Not only will you be able to feel it but it offers steady distribution of energy, not just a quick high followed by a drop.
Many users say they don't get the annoying jitters with this one which is a nice bonus. It is full of clean ingredients which are also a solid attribute.
2. The Genius Brand PRE
Tested by 3rd party
If you have been in the game for a while now, and have a solid history of re-evaluating and adjusting your pre-supplementation profile in order to keep up with technology and keep up your edge in the gym, you will have a great appreciation for the Genius Brand PRE.
It is formulated with some of the very best components that are active and effective for a solid workout. Caffeine is not used in this one, nootropics are.
When quality matters and you are focused on pre-workout supplements that are clean and not filled with failed with synthetic, lab-made ingredients, the Genius Brand is a company that keeps their formulations on point.
This particular blend is made excluding any pesticides. Yes, it is kind of scary that these could be incorporated into many things you eat. There isn't anything fake or artificial and they don't use GMOs.
A neat point about this product is it will work for everyone, including vegans. It has those healthy fermented ingredients which studies show are beneficial for gut health. So this added feature is nice for those who may have issues with digestion.
It is also third-party tested with hard science backing up the formulation meaning there were significant time and effort put into this thoughtful, potent, and natural mix.
3. KAGED MUSCLE PRE-KAGED
Higher dosed active ingredients
High price per serving
Texture issues over time
The name is beastly and rightly so. Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged pre-workout supplement will definitely help you if you need to get that early morning workout in but have a terrible time getting yourself inspired enough to roll out of bed in the morning and hit it hard. If you keep this handy and ready to drink as you are getting yourself set up and packed for the day, you will be amped up to get to work by the time you are at the gym or hitting the pavement.
Pre-Kaged is literally, everything. It will help you with energy, which is to be expected from these supplements so no surprise there, but it can also help you a bit of extra endurance that will drive you through your workout. You may find yourself being able to bust out more reps without having to lower the weight.
This is an excellent well-rounded pre-workout supplement that can give you the edge in endurance, strength gains, and focus. All this, combined, will help you with weight loss if that is the goal. And weight loss can help with muscle definition. On top of all that, you may be able to help build upon mass too.
4. OPTIMUM NUTRITION Gold Standard
Great for Cardio
May cause itchiness
OPTIMUM NUTRITION Gold Standard pre-workout supplement is a popular brand that offers a wide range of fitness enhancement products including this product which will pack a significant punch and help you get going when you need a pick-me-up. If you are one who spends a significant amount of time in the gym each session, like over an hour, this is a solid product. It has serious lasting power.
Because of this brand's accessibility and popularity, there is ample feedback from those who have tried it. Its popularity isn't just from great marketing and distribution, but really from its quality ingredient mixes that limit artificial, fake fillers, backed up by a very competitive cost. The flavor is very good, it isn't overly sweet or tart, it is actually fairly mild with minimal aftertaste.
This supplement is low in sugar, which is a plus for pretty much everyone since sugar is not a component of good health or fitness. The beta-alanine used may cause some warm tingling sensations throughout your body. But for some, this is considered an enjoyable side effect. It works very nicely with high-intensity workouts and is a super helpful sidekick on cardio days.
5. BSN N.O.-XPLODE
Won't cause a crash
Keeps your system regular
BSN N.O.-XPLODE will have you feeling it's effects within minutes. The nice thing about this pre-exercise supplement is it goes through the system well as it is very easily digestible and you won't mind drinking it because it tastes good. It is simple enough to use, put some powder in a bit of water and then mix or shake up and you have your drink smoothly blended.
Not only does this breakdown in the system easily but while it gives you the boost you want, it doesn't seem to cause the rough crash afterward which can be brutal. This is a product that can help you get yourself through those last couple of difficult reps.
While you should take this one slow if you are new to using it, not that surprising as you should really be doing this with any new supplement to see how it works in your body, a half a scoop can go a long way for most.
There is a significant amount of caffeine used so expect a burst. This stuff may make you feel invincible and some find it incredibly addictive. Which can be a good thing when it translates to killer workouts in the gym.
6. Red Leaf Energizer
Compliments female nutrition
Could raise blood sugar
May disrupt sleep
When you need a pick me up or a boost to get your burn on in the gym, Red Leaf Energizer will do the trick. There is a yummy flavor profile and this is a supplement that you can customize to your needs and how your body responds to caffeine.
It gives you the option of taking the amount that works best for you. That could be a lower dose. Or, if you really need to pack a punch, you can go higher in dose.
You will get a significant amount of energy from this product, even if you need a boost in the middle of the day you can use this as an energy drink. Although if you are more interested in its effects for your gym performance, it works really well for heavier workouts where you may be combining aerobic work with anaerobic work.
Even though it can potentially hit hard depending on how much you take, there isn't too much of an issue for most with the jittery after effects.
With so many pre-workout supplements on the market, the taste will be a deciding factor for most. This one isn't chalky or syrupy. And it mixes well. If you like kool-aid, this tastes pretty similar.
7. Jacked Factory CREASURGE
Creatine & Stimulant
Takes one scoop
Great for strength
May cause bloating
If you are looking for a stacked pre-workout supplement, this is for you. The combination of creatine and the stimulant in this powder offers fuller pumps and increased endurance in the gym. Jacked Factory CREASURGE could become your new go-to creatine product.
This pre-workout supplement can be used in phases. With about 5 grams per day, you can reach saturation over time.
It can be used before your workout, during, or after. You can decide which timing seems to work best with your body and the results that you desire. There is a money-back guarantee, so you aren't going to lose out on this product if you don't like it. Another great bonus is it isn't overly pricey so if you do like it, it won't hit you too hard in the wallet when it is time for a refill.
One scoop of this mix per day and you are set. It tastes great so you may be tempted to drink more. Just be aware it won't add to the performance benefits. Limiting the amount you use also spreads out this product to last longer.
8. Sheer Strength Labs KETO
Keto diet friendly
Slow, sustained energy
When you are on a specific diet it may be hard to find a suitable pre-exercise supplement. Many times you could be put off by sugars and net carbs. And this is especially true for people on the Ketogenic diet. Sheer Strength Labs' product provides more versatility for those that are on restricted diets.
Sheer Strength Labs KETO will give you the energy you need without too much stimulation. It is intended for people on the Ketogenic diet. And it may work with any other diet that has similar low-carb guidelines.
Keto can make workouts seem harder. Sheer Strength Labs KETO pre-workout supplement may help you beat the low-carb lag!
While this pre-workout supplement is formulated to work for the keto diet, it isn't going to put you into ketosis. That requires time or specific products, many of which are unproven.
However, if you need a complimentary pre-workout supplement to get those reps up, this one will work. It isn't made with anything artificial. The taste isn't the best on the market. But it is doable for sure.
The company is top notch and if you are unhappy with anything it isn't hard to get ahold of them. They make good on keeping their customers happy.
Overall, the powder works well dissolving into your water and it doesn't immediately settle on the bottom which can make a big difference in how it goes down.
9. MuscleTech NeuroCore
Transparent ingredient list
Intense tingles on the skin
Has Yohimbe Bark
MuscleTech NeuroCore offers a decent pre-workout supplement. The nice thing about this brand and their product is that they keep things transparent. All the ingredients are listed and they don't use anything "proprietary". So if there is anything you are sensitive to or prefer not to take, you will know it upfront.
Made without the fillers, this pre-exercise supplement will give you the stimulants you are looking for. It can help scorch those calories which, in turn, burns fat. And the amino acids that are included in the mix offer an excellent boost endurance. It also has just a bit of creatine.
You may need to take two scoops for the ultimate response. But, depending on your workout schedule, you may be able to get more than a month out of one bottle.
Coming at a really great value, this pre-workout supplement is formulated with almost everything you'd want. And it all comes at a great price. It works to motivate well for your workouts and get you through tough ones. Take it close to your exercise session and you will be set.
10. Skinny Fit Jump Start
Cleans out the system
Weight loss support
Made for women
Doesn't dissolve easily
This pre-workout supplement was with women and their unique body chemistries in mind. Skinny Fit Jump Start is going to be a dear friend of any lady who is gearing up to lose weight. It can help clean out your system. And that alone may cut a bit of weight. It can also help you gain the energy you need. On top of all of that, it may reduce bloat as well.
This pre-exercise supplement is definitely pink. It's all part of its gimmick and plays up the appeal towards women. If you can get past that - or if you are loving that - what is inside works well too.
You can mix this in your coffee, protein shake, smoothie, juice or water. You may have the best luck mixing it in a mixer to get the best result, though.
The Skinny Fit Jump Start pre-workout supplement will give you that boost you need to work through your exercise session. And it doesn't cause a rough crash when it wears off. For some, it even curbs their appetite which can be key to weight loss success.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
There can be many various ingredients used in the formulation of these supplements which each ingredient having its own active benefits. When looking at the supplementation that is right for you, you need to take into account what types of ingredients you will find and what they are meant for. Once you understand their functionality you can find the best formulation for your desired effects. The other important part of supplementation is determining if the formulation is made of active ingredients that offer proven effectiveness over cheap fillers that don't result in any sorts of gains.
L-arginine is commonly used and as an amino acid it primarily functions as a rebuilding ingredient to help worn down and torn muscles from intense strength training build back up and strengthen. Additionally, it works with glutamate and proline as well as combines well to increase the effectiveness of creatine so that you can properly recover after your workout. The way this ingredient helps you prepare for your workouts is by helping to even out and regulate blood pressure so that you have a more efficient flow of your blood. As blood is the source of oxygen transportation throughout the body, this helps flush oxygen into the muscles which improve endurance to get more pump out of each rep. Last, this functional ingredient can help with improved energy.
Citrulline malate is used to help nitric oxide promotion which helps with proper circulation and in turn, better oxygen consumption for the body. Every part that has the appropriate supply of oxygen will simply run better and produce a much better output.
It is common to drink some coffee to get ready for a workout or combine a bit in a shake because caffeine is a stimulant and increased energy is exactly what one wants going into a grunt session. Not only can it help you with energy levels but it can also keep you alert, and give your metabolism a bit of a push to help you burn more while you are exercising which can help with overall fat reduction. This is especially important for those who are looking to lose weight or those who are looking to get more definition in their musculature.
The main branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) used in supplementation include leucine, isoleucine, and of course, valine. Together these BCAA's are very functional for a thorough top-to-bottom performance push. They amp up endurance abilities, help with energy management, develop bigger muscle mass, as well as assists in recovery.
Yet another functional amino acid, beta-alanine is helpful for constructing muscle tissue and building mass. It is also useful for decreasing lactic acid accumulation that occurs during exercise. Lactic acid can inhibit performance, so decreasing its build-up is helpful for improved efficiency and muscular capacity.
When you want bulk and strength combined, you are going to want to look into creatine. While it is naturally formed in our bodies, supplementation with extra creatine can provide substantial additional nourishment for muscle tissues when they have had their naturally stored energy exhausted. This ingredient helps muscles go beyond what they can naturally offer which is especially useful for high-intensity training sessions. It helps your body go the distance and offer more ability to work more than what it may be able to do on its own. It is also a vital player in recovery by slowing down the breakdown of tissues while you are active and working out and accelerating the growth of new muscle tissues when you finish.
Whey protein can work well before or after workouts or a combination of both. It can help regenerate broken muscle tissues and replenish proteins within which help prep muscles for a workout just as it can help muscles recuperate after a workout.
Sodium bicarbonate has been shown in research studies to decrease acid and thus improve work production. So you may be able to improve your output in the gym. As interest in this ingredient grows, it continues to be studied in exercise physiology labs. One interesting result that is showing promise with regards to the effects of sodium bicarbonate is its ability to offer improved endurance.
Nitrates are also used in many forms of supplementation because of their abilities to promote smooth blood flow which helps improve endurance, increases resilience all during an exercise session. Also, another neat feature of this ingredient is its' ability to prevent the amount of pain or irritation you may feel after your workout. This added benefit is true for both the pain you may experience in your joints and muscles. If you have sensitive joints, this is going to be very helpful because this ingredient can provide some assistance to weak joints and help you get through your sessions without feeling too many negative aftereffects in those joints once you finish.
There are many reasons to use a pre-workout supplement, most notably to increase your energy and ability to perform when you being your workout session. Getting an extra couple reps, lifting heavier, or running faster and farther are all reasons one may be interested in trying one of these products out. The only supplementation that is worth taking is those that are going to be accurate in how they work. They should offer results in a manner you expect them to, so below is a list of the benefits that come with the supplementation we chose on our list.
Going to the gym sluggishly doesn't make for the beginnings of a stellar workout. If you have been lagging or had a long day, the increased energy level you need to perform may be top on your list for why you prefer to use one of these products. The ability to provide this boost is through the use of ingredients that are known to stimulate the body and your body's systems, helping it become alert and wired for the energy expenditure ahead. There has been research on the effectiveness and accuracy of many of these products. Looking at how and if they can provide that extra bit of pizazz when you are headed into the gym, the results have shown that for the most part many actually do give you a bit of an edge.
Part of the increase of energy you gain also correlates to your being able to become more attentive and focused on the activities you are engaging in. Focus helps you get the most out of any activity, but especially in the gym, when time matters and you want to make the most out of your session, zoning in a targeting your goals for the session will benefit you immensely versus being all over the map. This also helps your workout to be much more accurate, so if you are lifting by muscle group each day you are going to ensure each group gets the most effective session evenly across the board. This is very important for overall body balancing and even strength gains. It looks good too when your body is proportionally distributed in muscle mass.
Getting an extra couple reps in, maybe even lifting heavier each time you go in, these are both examples of increased power output and it has been shown in many studies that a pre-workout supplement may give you that bit of extra push which will help you accomplish this. There is nothing better than leaving your session feeling like you excelled and surpassed your previous personal bests achievements.
Those who are really focusing on weight training for definition, power, or mass will really appreciate muscle power. But they can appreciate endurance as well. Similarly, those who are training for more endurance-style activities will also appreciate the stamina support that these products can bring. Their effectiveness at helping stimulate better, more smooth blood flow helps improve the oxygen distribution to your muscles and your body's systems which will provide that extra bit of fortitude to push your way through a particularly challenging exercise or session when you are feeling like you have little left in the tank.
Whether you are working up a sweat to lose weight or to increase definition, the added stimulation these products put forth in your system will help you burn a bit more during your sessions. Whether that be by slightly raising your metabolism to burn a bit more, or just give you the ability to push harder, that extra "umph" will help scorch calories which do help weight loss goals.
When it comes to application, we are talking about serving size. We all break down those things we take in our systems differently. Our age, gender, height, and weight can all play a factor in how our body regulates the kind of supplementation we should take. That means there isn't a blanket rule about the amount of a pre-workout supplement we should take.
Additionally, the ingredients and their concentration differ in each product which will also play a huge factor in dosing. Therefore, the best advice is to always follow the directions the manufacturer of the product provides. Start out with the lowest amount and slowly work your way up from there once you have an idea of how the product works for you and how your body breaks it down.
If there is anything you should be particularly careful of regarding these types of products is when you take them. The key here is "pre-Workout" supplement. This means you must take them before you engage in exercise for them effectively provide you with the effects you want.
The amount of time necessary for these supplements to break down in your system can vary among brands but in general, if you allow yourself about 30 minutes to digest them before your session, you should be all set. So if you're a morning person, you will probably add your pre-workout supplement to a light breakfast right before you head to the gym.
Don't wait too long, though. Unless stated in the specific product's instructions, try not to take them super early because you want them to be highly active during your session. If you take them and wait too long to exercise, you could risk them being less effective. This is because these, mostly stimulant-heavy products, will have their "pick-me-up" potency reduced. In essence, if you wait too long, it is pretty much not going to help you to take one of these in preparation for your sweat session.
Like with any type of drug, medicine, or supplement there can be a potential risk of side effects. You should always be aware of any potential hazards or interactions anything you take can have with other medications or supplements you are taking or with the way your body responds to various ingredients. The biggest concern that should be noted with these types of products is that they are mainly based on stimulants, therefore one can overuse and potentially have over the top agitation results.
Some side effects that occur with excess agitation include shaking, anxiety, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and inability to sleep restfully to name a few. Those with heart issues or other medical concerns may want to exercise caution with anything that can stimulate.
Dehydration is one of the symptoms that can often be overlooked or that those taking a stimulant may simply be unaware of. Think of a stimulant the same way you think of coffee, and how it works in your body. What is one of the biggest thing coffee can do? It can cause you to pee! These products work in just the same way, they can behave like a diuretic, therefore, ensuring you are appropriately hydrating with plenty of water is truly essential to ensuring you don't have any issues here.
Last, special populations should always exercise caution when taking anything, including pre-workout supplements. If you are pregnant or nursing, under a certain age, or have specific medical conditions, just ensure that before you take one of these products or really anything on the market, that your medical provider gives you the "OK."
For most athletes, avid exercisers, or specifically any competitor the ingredients in the supplementation you take should never contain banned substances or anything that the NCAA, The World Anti-Doping Agency, or any ingredients not approved to take by the FDA. In general, when a product has these supplements, it is safe to say, there is a high risk these could be unsafe for your health.
In the world of supplementation, one that is not highly regulated, and with so many ingredients that I haven't had enough studies done, there are some ingredients that are not banned but are controversial. There are ingredients that have supporters and naysayers on both sides. Because there may not exist enough research and studies to conclude as a matter of science and fact that the ingredient is either proven safe or proven unsafe, they stay up for debate.
Artificial sweeteners and colors aren't something that is banned (in the states) or factually known to be highly toxic with proven catastrophic side effects. But many individuals have strong opinions about taking or eating anything that uses them. That is why there is a market for more natural and organic products with raw ingredients that don't include any artificial coloring, sweeteners, or other fake fillers.
In Europe, many of these ingredients are banned, so if you are outside the US, the products you have to choose from will vary in that respect from those that you are able to obtain in the United States. For those of you who aren't too concerned about these artificial ingredients though, this may be a section that rates lower on your priority list, but we felt it was still worth mentioning to the masses.
Some of these pre-workout supplements come with all the bells and whistles. Some don't. If they don't, you can always mix and match. BCAA supplements and carb blockers are sold separately. Many products can be combined into one super-regimen of supplements. Just make sure and do your research first!
You hear a lot about third-party testing these days. And for good reason. It wasn't that long ago that many supplement companies were caught lying. Either their supplements didn't contain what was listed on the bottle. Or they contained different levels than the packaging said. Third-party testing helps protect consumers. It means that the company sent their product to an unbiased lab. The lab then tested it and confirmed everything on the label matched the prodcut inside.
Other Factors to Consider
There are many brands and many formulations which are available to choose from. You can spend some time trying out various different products to see if you like them or if they work well for you and then if they have a satisfaction warranty which many do, you always have the option of returning it without losing out monetarily. That can take time and a lot of effort to conduct such individualized research. If you just want to skip to the chase and try to get a better rundown of the differences between products on the market to save you some time finding a quality supplement to use, our list is a pretty good place to start.
At the end of the day, the best products will have quality ingredients with decent potency and have some form of clinical backing or science behind their formulations. They will have solid, verified reviews and feedback, a good reputation, and be made by a trustworthy company. They should also have a solid record of effective performance. When combined with a nutritious eating plan, plenty of rest and water, and regular exercise, these products should be a valuable addition to your healthy and active lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Is it safe to take pre-exercise supplements?
As discussed in our criteria section, special populations should take precaution and always seek the advice of medical professionals before taking anything, including these products. For most healthy adults, however, these are going to be fairly safe. Always read the directions and follow the dosing instructions so that you ensure your body responds well to the ingredients
q: What is a "Proprietary Blend?"
This is a mix of ingredients specifically formulated by a particular brand or company that may not be detailed on the ingredients list. Due to the fact that ingredient lists are not heavily regulated, you may not know exactly what is used in these recipes. If that could pose an issue for you, if you are more strict when it comes to what you take into your system, this type of set-up may not be ideal. Sometimes, these blends are used in order to keep the use of ingredients that aren't as high quality or as active as others out of the public eye.
q: What is caffeine's potency?
Normal amounts of caffeine in the system, like a cup of coffee, for instance, will begin to take effect in your body an hour after you take it. It will hit a peak in its potency in terms of effects and then start to wear off from there. You could have the effects of this stimulant in your system for up to 7 hours.
q: What are some initial symptoms of caffeine withdrawal?
You may feel some shakiness, sweating, or insomnia.
q: What is a type of herbal stimulant?
Guarana is a good example. This is very often seen in diet supplements as it is said to help with appetite suppression and as an aid to boost your energy levels. There is proof that it has positive results when it comes to the ability to shed weight. Even though it is herbal, don't be fooled that there are no potential side effects. It is still a stimulant and as such overdosing is serious business. Take too much of this stuff and it could be fatal. If used in moderation, for most healthy adults, it will give you that boost you want with little to no unhealthy manifestations.
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- This Is How Your Brain Becomes Addicted to Caffeine , Smithsonian ,
- Over-The-Counter Stimulants for Weight Loss, LIVESTRONG Health and Fitness Source ,