Of all the supplements available, pre-workouts are some of the most popular on the market. When taken in preparation for a workout or a long run around the park, pre-workouts work to boost your mental and physical energy and give you a burst of motivation.
Finding the right pre-workout, however, can be quite a task. Many contain a wide variety of ingredients and dosages, all with their own different effects and methods to completely shift your mindset and performance.
While it’s important to make sure your sleep, nutrition and hydration are all in order for excellent workout potential, sometimes you need an extra boost. That’s where a pre-workout can make a huge difference. The right pre-workout choice can help you get the most out of your training and supercharge your efforts to see your goals through.
In such a saturated market and with so many products claiming to be the best, how do you know whether you’re making the right choice?
We’re here to help. We’ve combed the pre-workout market, looking at the biggest brands to the freshest up-and-comers, to find the top pre-workout choices available now.
⦁ All-natural and transparent formula
Performance Lab Pre
⦁ Natural and 100% transparent formula
National Bodybuilding Co. Stage Ready Pre-Workout
⦁ Naturally sourced
What is a pre-workout?
Pre-workouts are performance-enhancing supplements normally taken before exercise to provide a boost of motivation and energy. Usually available in powder form, you mix them with water and drink the formula at least 15-30 minutes before training.
Although we always recommend eating a great range of nutrient-rich foods to keep your physical and mental performance at its peak, pre-workouts work to give you a nudge in the right direction whenever you’re feeling sluggish or fatigued. Essentially, they provide a short-term energy, power, endurance and strength burst to help you dominate your workouts.
Why take a pre-workout?
You’d normally take a pre-workout before hitting the gym or setting off on a run. In fact, they are commonly taken by a range of athletes, bodybuilders and gym users to get that extra ‘push’.
Taking a pre-workout though could be very individual and everyone has different reasons. For some users, they wouldn’t be able to get to the gym without a pre-workout. These common, stimulating supplements work as a missing link to help boost enthusiasm and drive to exercise.
A pre-workout would work wonders for anyone who:
- Needs an energy lift to stick to their fitness goals
- Is looking to heighten muscle pumps from strength training
- Works long hours and finds it hard to exercise
- Wants to increase their rep count and maximize muscle growth
- Wants a legal, and natural way to improve their physical and mental performance
Best pre-workout ingredients
These are some of the best and rigorously researched ingredients to look out for in pre-workouts.
A staple found in most pre-workout formulas, L-citrulline works to improve blood flow for better workout performance. Also known as a vasodilator, the amino acid raises levels of nitric oxide in your body, which can improve blood flow and boost muscle pumps [source 1]. Studies show that increased muscle pumps may amplify muscle growth [source 2]. L-citrulline is found naturally in some foods like watermelon but optimal amounts can’t be consumed from food alone.
A popular stimulant found in fat burners and pre-workouts, caffeine is incredibly potent in enhancing mental and physical performance. Caffeine activates parts of the brain and nervous system to boost feelings of alertness, focus and motivation, making it a powerful pre-workout ingredient[source 3 and 4]. Not only this, but caffeine may also increase power output and your workout volume[source 5], as well as enhancing performance by releasing more of the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) [source 6].
This fatigue-fighting compound works to keep your muscles performing during the most intense workouts. If you’ve ever felt the burn on your final set, you’ll understand the fatiguing effects of acid buildup and how it can hold you back from making progress. Beta-alanine works to block this buildup and improve muscular endurance. Beta-alanine helps your body make carnosine, a molecule which reduces acid levels in muscles during exercise, lessening overall fatigue [source 7]. This can push you to train for longer periods at higher intensity.
A rigorously tested supplement taken by practically every athlete, creatine works to boost exercise performance by increasing your natural energy reserves (ATP) and delivering energy to your muscles [source 8]. Creatine is commonly used in pre-workouts as it’s the quickest natural way to regenerate your ATP stores. Because your body only stores a small amount, you need to supplement creatine. Creatine has been shown to boost power output as well as lean mass too.
L-theanine works well with caffeine to promote increased levels of mental alertness, without the annoying jitters. By introducing more calmness to your brain activity, you can stay focused on the task in hand – an intense workout. The smart-caffeine combination may boost cognitive performance and amplify alertness, helping you stay motivated during exercise [source 9].
Advantages to using a pre-workout
Pre-workouts work to support your normal nutrition to deliver increased energy and concentration for your training sessions. Benefits of taking a pre-workout include:
- Increased physical performance – The role of many pre-workouts is to raise your energy levels and focus. By combining a range of natural compounds like creatine, caffeine and beta-alanine, a pre-workout can enhance mental preparedness, deliver power to your muscles and help you feel more motivated to hit the gym.
- Boosted blood flow – Pre-workouts contain compounds that boost levels of nitric oxide, which is used by your body to improve blood flow. This can deliver more oxygen to your working muscles, improving your pump and increasing your workout intensity.
- Better muscular endurance – Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that’s stored in muscle and provides your body with energy. By supplementing with a pre-workout containing creatine, your muscles can access more energy and will perform better.
- Improved muscle recovery and growth – Some pre-workouts contain vasodilators and other ingredients that can help increase blood flow to muscle tissue, improving recovery and growth. If you can push harder too, you’ll be able to increase your rep count and really challenge your body.
Our Ranking Criteria
These three pre-workouts have been significantly researched, tested and reviewed under our strict testing criteria. Our individual reviews go even more in-depth, but to summarize what we look in a supplement:
- The formula – Looking at not only the ingredients, but the doses too.
- Price – Ensuring the supplement offers good value for money.
- Testimonials – What do other customers think? It needs to have positive feedback from users.
- Trust – We want to be sure these products are completely risk-free and made by a reputable company, since you’ll be taking these daily.
- The Manufacturer – And the brand authority.
- Where to Buy – We’ll direct you to these product’s websites, so you can learn more about them, and purchase if you’re interested in giving them a try.
The top 3 pre-workouts
Here, we list our top three pre-workouts you should check out.
1. Performance Lab Pre
Performance Lab is big on creating supplements that are free from side effects and commonly exclude ingredients like caffeine. Its pre-workout is no different. The stim-free ‘performance supercharger’ aims to improve energy, increase the intensity of your workouts and boost muscle mass growth. Using a collection of natural compounds and vitamins, you benefit from a formula that works to improve blood flow as well as muscle recovery too.
Like most pre-workout supplements, it’s full of performance-enhancing ingredients – including creatine and amino acids – however the exclusion of caffeine helps it stand out. This makes it an ideal pre-workout choice if you are sensitive to the stimulant. For some though, they may need the kick that caffeine provides.
Pre includes a ‘performance blend’ of L-citrulline, Kywoa and L-glutathione and ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine to support energy and boost muscle pumps, helping you take control of your workouts and power through to the end. The creators also say the completely clean formula can lead to better muscle growth, especially when taken before strength training, HIIT and endurance training.
Performance Lab also comes in capsule form, making it a little different from the rest on this list.
Performance Lab Pre is packed with a collection of proven ingredients that work to accelerate your athletic advancement. Here are some of its best ingredients:
- Creapure Creatine (1250mg)
- CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine (800mg)
- Himalayan Pink Salt (350mg)
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract (100mg)
- Nutrigenesis Iron (2.5mg)
Performance Lab is a highly regarded supplement company and many of its supplements are loved. Customers appear to praise this capsule-based pre-workout for its ability to boost performance and appreciate the clean formula.
“I love [a] pre-workout that can get me through a tough workout. But this one is even better! I don’t get the jitters or itchy skin.”Beth
“This is the most clean pre-workout Formula I have ever used. Despite It not using caffeine it gives energy and endurance.”Charles
“Definitely felt a boost during my workouts. A bit tough to swallow so many pills sometimes, overall a great product! Great price!”Matthew
- Completely transparent ingredients label
- Supports muscle recovery and growth
- Clean, synthetic free formula
- Vegan and vegetarian friendly
- Not ideal if you prefer the caffeine ‘kick’
- Only available direct
Want to know more? Performance Lab Pre is available to buy direct on the official website
2. National Bodybuilding Co. Pre Workout
Designed for bodybuilders and advanced athletes aiming to extend their workouts, this pre-workout is packed with a concoction of natural ingredients all in clinical doses.
The creators claim one scoop of National Bodybuilding Co. Pre Workout before your gym sessions can elevate all aspects of your training performance, by increasing muscle pumps, boosting cognitive focus, and buffering and hydrating muscle tissue. They say it’s been tested and used in over 20 scientific studies, to ensure the ingredients doses and combination provide maximal pump enhancement, blistering energy and iron focus.
The formula focuses on using safe and natural ingredients to deliver ‘impressive results within a short time frame’. The safe and transparent ingredients list also shows the creators don’t want it to cause any unwanted side effects. This results in ‘a powerhouse supplement’, essential for all competitive and noncompetitive athletes.
National Bodybuilding Co. Pre Workout is available in powder form, with a 30 day supply.
National Bodybuilding Co is packed with a series of proven ingredients that work to enhance your athletic capacity. Here are some of its best ingredients:
- Vitamin B1 (5mg)
- Caffeine Anhydrous (150mg)
- Beta-Alanine (1000mg)
- Coconut Water Powder (300mg)
- Di-caffeine Malate (100mg)
- L-Tyrosine (400mg)
Reviews for this product are highly positive. Users comment on the smooth energy lift and improved strength during their workouts.
“Second time trying it, just to make sure. Just the right amount of everything to get me going for early morning training and keep me going for work afterwards. Has my recommendation for sure!”Jason
You can read our full National Bodybuilding Co. Pre-Workout Review here.
- Naturally sourced ingredient profile
- Added vitamins
- Clinically researched
- Maximal pump enhancement
- Clean energy lift
- Only available direct
- Premium price
Interested? National Bodybuilding Co. Pre Workout is available direct on the official website
3. 4 Gauge
An all-natural, clean pre-workout, 4 Gauge is ideal for anyone looking for a potent way to enhance endurance, strength, focus and motivation in the gym.
Using a ‘4-in-1 formula’ to enhance every aspect of a workout, the creators say 4 Gauge helps to deliver the most effective, explosive and focused workout experience possible without any side effects. Because of the clever caffeine and L-theanine combo, you should experience a cleaner energy lift without the crash.
In the mix, you get a good combination of our most favorite pre-workout ingredients, all included at relevant clinically-dosed servings too. With no artificial sweeteners or flavors, each ingredient has been optimally dosed to ensure you get a safe and effective product that you can take without the need for cycling. Each inclusion has its own specific pre-workout attributes, whether you want more focus, increased energy, better power output or strength, 4 Gauge should deliver.
The shotgun shell packaging is excellent and convincing to say the least as well.
4 Gauge is completely natural, with no added artificial sweeteners or flavors. Each ingredient makes up a completely effective formula, designed to take your workouts to the next level. They include:
- Caffeine Anhydrous (150mg)
- L-Theanine (200mg)
- Citrulline DL-Malate (600mg)
- Rhodiola Rosea (100mg)
- Red Beet (300mg)
- Creatine Monohydrate (1000mg)
- Coconut Water Powder (300mg)
- Aceytl L-Carnitine (500mg)
4 Gauge is popular with many users, from athletes to regular Joe gymgoers. It’s one of the most competitive formulas on the market and has a huge web presence.
“The fact that 4 Gauge is completely transparent with their ingredients and processes says a lot about the company as a whole. In addition, 4 Gauge is without a doubt the best tasting pre workout I have ever had.
About 20 minutes after drinking two scoops, I feel very focused and energized due to the “smart caffeine” blend of caffeine and L-Theanine. On top of the focus, I also feel skin-splitting pumps during every workout.”Chris, USA
“What I love about 4 Gauge is that I get a clean surge of energy with a feeling of improved strength and focus too. I’ve never performed better during my high-intensity resistance training. I also now am addicted to the pump feeling it gives me. Most pre-workouts I’ve tried make it so I can’t sleep. But 4 Gauge provides the perfect balance of energy and focus. All this might sound too good to be true…but it’s not.”Ricarda, Germany
- Natural and transparent formula
- No artificial sweeteners
- Striking packaging
- Boosts muscle pumps and reduces fatigue
- Good, science-backed ingredient selection
- Manufactured in cGMP- and FDA-approved facilities
- Only available direct
- Just one flavor (fruit blast)
Interested in this pre-workout? 4 Gauge is available to buy direct on the official website
Conclusion to the best pre-workout
That concludes our best pre-workout guide! If you struggle to hit the gym at your full potential, a pre-workout could be just the motivation you need. These top three supplements have all been smartly dosed and significantly researched to ramp up your energy levels, amplify focus, provide satisfying muscle pumps and promote muscle recovery too.
If you want the best workout experience, diet and hydration always comes first. Be sure to always keep your nutrition balanced and ensure you drink enough water before adding a pre-workout into the mix. This will ensure you’re fully prepared to challenge your body.
Once you add a high quality pre-workout like the ones we’ve listed above, your workout experience should be on another level.
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