Pre-workouts are among the most popular bodybuilding supplements on the market today.
Second only to protein and on par with quality BCAAs, pre-workouts are the secret sauce countless athletes use to turn up the noise in the gym.
Virtually everybody takes pre workouts. That’s why you see so many ‘crazy’ looking people going to town in the gym. Are they that energetic naturally? Most of the time – hell no! Its the pre workout giving them that 10X coffee-redbull boost.
Speaking of coffee and Redbull, many pre-workouts are just that.
A bit of caffeine and some proprietary blend of a few clinically studied ingredients in unknown amounts adding up to 5 grams.
It’s an energy boost and nothing else because that’s all someone with a short-term mindset will notice. And let’s face it, that’s how the masses in the supplement industry label you.
The best pre-workout supplements, however, are formulated with ingredients that:
- Increase energy
- Enhance focus
- Improve endurance; and
- Increase strength & muscle growth
Energy is just one small piece of the pie, alongside quality performance and recovery ingredients that include: beta-alanine, citrulline malate, betaine, creatine, and select amino acids.
Together, these ingredients help you to push out more reps, increase blood flow to your muscles, and provide a much more intense level of performance than a ‘normal day in the gym’ has to offer.
Better yet, if you do your research right; then taking a pre-workout supplement can also help to support recovery after your training/exercise, which leads to quicker obtained and higher quality results.
Finding the right pre-workout supplement couldn’t be any easier
We’ve put a lot of time and resources into listing the top 10 best pre-workout supplements, complete with key ingredients and effective doses.
You may want to take a look at our top post workout supplements as well, as they tend to go hand-in-hand with pre-workouts. But before we hit the list, let’s cover a few topics that express our need to make a top 10 list in the first place. I mean, after all, can’t you just go into a store and expect to be given the best product?
The Pre Workout Supplement Industry
We’ve all seen the magazines and pre-workout supplement labels… take a single scoop (two, if you dare) and you’ll experience “superhuman strength”, “hours and hours of explosive energy”, and “insane pumps”!
Unfortunately, the pre-workout industry is among the most exaggerated and falsified of all the supplement categories (along with weight loss supplements).
In fact, pre-workout supplements are notorious for a number of devious practices:
- Using proprietary blends to hide under-dosed key ingredients (to save cost)
- Including a plethora of ingredients and “filling” the nutrition label to make it appear more effective
- Basing ingredients off of inaccurate, “cherry-picked”, or self-funded “scientific studies”
- Stacking each serving with excess caffeine and maltodextrin, giving the illusion of a highly effective product
With this understanding, we’ve taken the time to identify, test, and review some of the best pre-workout supplements that work to avoid the above mentioned deceitful practices. For more examples, check out the top 5 worst pre-workouts.
What to Look for in a Quality Pre Workout Supplement
Those “in the know” are familiar with the actual, scientifically proven ingredients that have been determined clinically effective in high-quality pre-workouts. We’ve listed a handful below:
Beta-Alanine: As a naturally occurring amino acid, research shows that pre-workout supplements with beta-alanine provide a trove of benefits.
One beta-alanine study states that “Chronic BA (beta-alanine) supplementation may further enhance HIIT (high-intensity interval training), improving endurance performance and lean body mass”.
Further studies support that beta-alanine supplementation can help to minimize workout-induced fatigue and even increase lean mass.
A collaboration of 23 exercise tests including supplementation with beta-alanine found clinical dosages to range between 2.6 and 6.4 grams per day.
Betaine: A compound typically found in plants (like beets) has been confirmed by multiple research-based studies to support benefits like increased strength, improved muscle endurance, and increases in the human growth hormone IGF-1.
One betaine study specifically states that, “…Betaine supplementation results in a moderate increase in total repetitions and volume load in the bench press exercise, without favorably impacting other performance measures.”
These same studies also indicate clinically effective dosages to be between 1.25 and 2.5 grams per day.
Citrulline: As one of the most common pre-workout ingredients, citrulline, an amino acid (often interchangeable with L-arginine), is effective in stimulating nitric oxide production and improving muscular endurance.
As it relates to muscular endurance, one citrulline malate study states, “…Citrulline malate might be useful to increase athletic performance in high-intensity anaerobic exercises with short rest times and to relieve post-exercise muscle soreness.”
Clinically effective doses of citrulline have been shown to be between 6 and 8 grams per day.
While these are just a few of the premium ingredients you should be on the lookout for when pursuing a new pre-workout supplement, it’s not enough to just have them included in a proprietary blend.
Instead, look for products that disclose specific amounts of each of the above ingredients!
The 10 Best Pre-Workout Supplements
10. Jacked Factory NITRO SURGE
To us, Jacked Factory Nitro Surge is the ultimate pre-workout for those looking for a cheap, simple, and clinically effective blend. Coming in at 30 serving per (small) bottle, each serving provides a mere 9 grams of powder mostly made up of l-citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine anhydrous. It does have a few other ingredients, but it’s important to note none are underdosed.
We also found it’s made in a USA, GMP certified facility to ensure optimal purity and safety. Moreover, JF’s Nitro Surge provides a mild 180mg of caffeine alongside 90 mg of l-theanine to help smooth over its effects and reduce any potential jitters, which is always nice to see.
To summarize, Nitro Surge is a high-quality simple pre-workout that’ll get the job done. It provides several key ingredients at clinically effective dosages to provide power without jittery side effects. It tastes great, however, this is due to artificial and natural sweeteners.
JF Nitro Surge Overview:
- Provides 30 servings per container
- Clinically dosed key ingredients
- Made in a USA, GMP certified facility
- Provides quality energy without jitters
- Contains natural and artificial flavors
- Great supplement choice for beginners
9. BSN EndoRush
When it comes to sports nutrition and pre-workouts, it doesn’t get much better than BSN. EndoRush, BSN’s signature pre-workout supplement, is designed to greatly enhance your performance. Entering it with thousands of positive reviews from testers just like us, this pre-workout is all about 100% formula transparency and doesn’t contain a single proprietary blend.
EndoRush is also tested for banned substances (safe for athletes) and ICS trusted. We also like that it comes packed with a full 30 clinically effective servings at 13 grams per. While on the lower side, it makes up for it with a reduced cost ($17) and certain key dosed ingredients.
Additionally, it tastes fantastic- granted it’s naturally and artificially flavored. Finally, we strongly believe it’s best for those who want a few decently stimulative ingredients at key dosages.
BSN EndoRush Overview:
- Complete ingredient transparency
- Supplies 30 servings per container
- Has 3 unique performance blends
- One of Amazon’s highest rated PWOs
- 13 grams of powder per scoop (serving)
- Great overall value for less than $18
8. Kaged Muscle PRE-KAGED
Pre-Kaged (PK), by Kaged Muscle, is easily one of the best brands that hold true to science. Made with efficacy in mind, PRE-KAGED contains 20 clinically effective servings per container. Inside each serving are 32-grams of ingredients, which is among the highest we’ve ever seen. In most cases, Pre-Kaged more than doubles the amount of powder than its competition.
For its price at $35, we can say in full certainty that it’s a bargain. That’s because, in addition to its immense amount of powder (more bang for your buck), it also pays close attention to ingredient quality. More specifically, Pre-Kaged uses real science – not reapplied studies for essentially baseless claims. This means more premium ingredients and clinical dosages.
Moreover, Pre-Kaged knows that artificial and natural flavors and additives are hotly debated and questionable at best. As a result, they only use natural 100% natural flavoring without the use of any banned substances. In the end, Pre-Kaged is a great overall pre-workout supplement.
KM Pre-KAGED Overview:
- About 20 servings per bottle
- 7 different beneficial blends
- Various patented ingredients
- 32-grams inside every serving
- Scientifically proven dosages
- No banned substances (athlete safe!)
7. Old School Labs Vintage BLAST
Old School Labs has continued to impress us and many others for the longest time. Vintage Blast is their ‘man’s man’ type pre-workout supplement, but it can also be taken by women, too. What makes it so unique, though, is its two-stage ingredient release formula. This time release provides everything you need to start and finish strong without ever forming a tolerance.
Furthermore, each container of OSL’s Vintage Blast (VB) is made up of 20 servings. Each serving contains a little over 15 grams of effective ingredients. It’s also proudly certified Non-GMO, Gluten Free, GMP certified, and 100% friendly to both vegetarians and keto based diets.
While great, it also happens to sport one of the best micronutrient blends on this ranking. We found a solid variety of 7 vitamins and minerals- namely B vitamins -that are super beneficial. All in all, OSL is one of the most reputable and longstanding brands, so it’s hard to go wrong.
OSL Vintage BLAST Overview:
- 20 true servings per container
- 15.3 grams of powder per serving
- Unique 2-stage ingredient formula
- Includes a wide variety of ingredients
- Non-habit-forming (no dependencies)
- Certified GMP, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free
6. Vitamin Bounty Alpha Gx7
Developed by Vitamin Bounty, Alpha Gx7 is a decidedly simple yet effective pre-workout. Made with effectivity in mind, you can expect to find all the right ingredients at all the right dosages. And, unlike many pre-workouts, Gx7 keeps you focused without overstimulation (jitters/crash).
That said, each small container contains a full 30 servings of pure powdered power. In addition to this, it’s also one of the highest rated supplements on Amazon at over 2,400 great reviews. At its price of $25, this is likely best suited for newcomers or those who want fewer stims.
When it comes to taste, though, this is where it really shines. We found Gx7 is available in the three different great-tasting flavors, such as Cherry, Watermelon, and Blue Raspberry. So you know, these delicious flavors can be attributed to the use of artificial and natural flavors & dyes.
VB Alpha Gx7 Overview:
- Includes key pre-workout ingredients
- Provides a solid 30 servings per bottle
- Great for supporting increased energy
- One of the highest rated pre-workouts
- Contains artificial and natural flavors
- Backed by scientifically proven dosages
5. The Genius Brand Pre-Workout
Here at SupplementDemand, Genius holds a special place in our hearts. This is because unlike a surprisingly huge amount of supplements, they actually care about the bottom line: you. That said, Genius’s nootropic PRE is best known for other reasons, though. We’re talking gains- and a lot of it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many of you though. A lot of you already tried it!
If you haven’t yet, don’t worry. This brain-boosting pre-workout costs about $38 on Amazon and includes about 20 servings of powder at 15.8 grams of gains-inducing powder per serving. That was a long sentence, which only serves to highlight the importance of nootropics. Of course, it wouldn’t be accurate to say this brand is genius without going over the specs of why that is.
For starters, Genius PRE contains clinically effective dosages of key ingredients. It’s completely sweetened without the use of artificial ingredients, is organic, vegan-friendly, and free of stimulants like caffeine, DMAA, and also DMHA. For $38, it continues to satisfy the best of us.
Genius Pre Overview:
- Supplies 20 servings per container
- 15.8 grams of powder per serving
- Clinically dosed nootropic pre-workout
- Several patented (premium) ingredients
- Free of Caffeine, DMAA, and also DMHA
- 100% naturally sweetened, organic, vegan
4. JYM Supplement Science Pre-JYM
Founded in 2013 by the legend Dr. Jim Stoppani, PRE-JYM is the proverbial ‘star-child’ of Jym Supplement Science. Made with pure efficacy in mind, each tub of Pre-Jym contains 30 total servings at 26.5 grams of power inducing powder per serving, which is easily better than most.
Contained inside each serving are a wide variety of clinically dosed ingredients. Some of these are more premium patented forms too like CarnoSyn Beta-alanine and AlphaSize to name a few. Furthermore, Pre-JYM is made in a USA, GMP certified facility for ensured safety and purity.
That said, Pre-JYM is available in a multitude of different flavors. It should be noted, though, that it has both artificial and natural flavors and colors. It’s also produced on regularly cleaned equipment that processes potential allergens for some people, like dairy, gluten, soy, and egg.
JYM Pre-JYM Overview:
- Provides 30 (26.5g) servings a tub
- Complete ingredient transparency
- Wide profile of effective ingredients
- Available in 5 great tasting flavors
- Contains artificial flavors & colors
- Developed by the beast Jim Stoppani
3. Legion Athletics PULSE
Developed by Mike Matthews, Legion PULSE is one of our most all-time favorite pre-workout supplements to date. Although, if you’re familiar with Legion Athletics, this likely doesn’t come as a surprise to you, either. To us, this is due to a variety of factors that combine for greatness.
Designed with pure, unadulterated effectivity in mind, we found each tub sports 21 full servings. Each serving contains 24.88 grams of powder, which errs on the far better side of pre-workouts. That said, you can expect to find a wide range of clinically effective ingredients. What’s more, PULSE doesn’t include any questionable artificial additives like sweeteners, flavors, or colors.
When it comes to ingredient quality, in particular, this supplement truly shines. That’s because it provides 6 clinically dosed ingredients and is made a USA, certified GMP and NSF facility. While not the type of supplement to give your grandma, it’s priced competitively at $40 on Amazon.
Legion Pulse Overview:
- Includes 21 (24.88g!) servings per tub
- 6 Clinically effective key ingredients
- Made in a USA, cGMP and NSF facility
- No artificial sweeteners, dyes, or fillers
- Available in 7 different flavors to pick from
- Excellent longstanding company reputation
2. Koala Freak by Staunch Nation
Bodybuilding guru, Calum Von Moger, founder of Staunch Nation, developed Koala Freak pre-workout with a simple goal in mind; to make the kind of pre-workout he’s always wanted to take, and break all the under-dosing in the supplement industry.
Koala Freak is an enthusiast’s pre-workout supplement that prides itself on its ability to deliver four key benefits:
- Increased energy and blood flow
- Reduced fatigue
- Improved muscular endurance; and
- Sharpened mental focus (big time)
After using Koala Freak on a two-week trial, I can personally attest to the true power of this supplement.
My team and I have had the opportunity to try countless different pre-workout supplements in the past 4 years and we’re confident in saying that Koala Freak is, without a doubt, one of the best all-around pre-workout supplements that we’ve ever tried.
What we appreciate the most, is the determination Staunch Nation had towards making a product that works. Just look at some of the ingredients…
- Beta-Alanine: Reduces exercise-induced fatigue, improves anaerobic exercise capacity, and increases potential workload, which results in increased lean mass. Each serving of Koala Freak contains 4 grams of beta-alanine.
- Caffeine Anhydrous: Increases muscle endurance and strength. Each serving of Koala Freak contains 360 mg.
- L-Theanine: When paired with caffeine, theanine has been shown to reduce the effects of mental and physical stress, increase the production of nitric oxide, and improve alertness, focus, attention, memory, mental task performance, and mood. Each serving of Koala Freak contains 360 mg of l-theanine.
- Citrulline Malate: Improves muscle endurance, decreases muscle soreness, and improves aerobic performance. Each serving of Koala Freak includes 6 grams of citrulline malate.
- Betaine: Improves muscle endurance, increases strength, and increases growth hormone and IGF-1. Each serving of Koala Freak contains 2 grams of betaine.
All-in-all, Koala Freak and Calum Von Moger have nothing but love from the Supplement Demand team! We realize that it isn’t one of the major, commercialized brands that most of you are familiar with, but if you’re in the market for a truly killer pre-workout, we highly recommend giving this one a try!
1. Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK – Best in Class
Made by Transparent Labs, PreSeries BULK is truly a best in class pre-workout supplement. This isn’t a statement to be taken lightly, either. We firmly believe this for a number of reasons.
Some primary factors include affordability, effectivity, safety, purity, and upstanding reputability. That said, TL as a whole has a lot to offer and is best known for never compromising on quality.
While nice, we’re most impressed by the ingredients found in PreSeries BULK. Each container (bag) supplies a full 30 servings worth of powder at 22 grams per serving, which is unheard of. Furthermore, each serving consists of 19 active ingredients all at clinically effective dosages. A few notable ingredients include 2:1:1 BCAAs, Beta-Alanine, Citrulline Malate 2:1, and BetaPure.
We also really like their unwavering dedication to safety and purity. More specifically, neither PreSeries BULK or any other TL supplement contains artificial ingredients or additives of any kind. Instead, they opt to flavor their products with gluten-free, Non-GMO natural food-based ingredients. Truth is, very few supplements can compete with this premium level of quality.
TL BULK Overview:
- 110% formula transparency
- Zero artificial ingredients
- Free of most major allergens
- Full clinically proven dosages
- Includes 19 active ingredients
- Very high-quality pre-workout
The Bottom Line
In the end, choosing the right pre-workout supplement for you can be a naturally daunting choice. The sheer amount of options, blends, and ingredients alone is enough to leave one’s head spinning. To counter this, we went ahead and did all the heavy lifting and research.
That being said, pre-workout supplements can be an absolute game changer when it comes to fitness. In many cases, it often means the difference between achieving goals and not.
So, are pre-workouts truly worth it?
From our years of industry experience and what we’ve seen, absolutely. While not necessary, pre-workouts usually enable you to push just a little bit farther, harder and get you focused. While not for everyone – and especially not your grandma – we think you’ll like a quality PWO.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a pre-workout supplement?
A ‘pre-workout’ is a popular type of supplement taken by bodybuilders, runners, and athletes. These supplements are usually taken to enhance exercise performance. There are a virtually limitless amount of unique pre-workouts available as there are unique fitness goals. Some pre-workouts are made to aid strength while others are for entirely different reasons- and people.
How can a pre-workout benefit me?
As mentioned above, pre-workout supplements are designed to increase fitness performance. Assuming you have a supplement that fits your personal needs best, some benefits may include increased oxygen uptake, less fatigue, and improved mental clarity to name a few. But, again, how a pre-workout can benefit you wholly depends on its ingredients, dosages, and your body.
Are there any negative side-effects?
There can absolutely be side-effects from taking a pre-workout. However, what you experience or how you react depends on a very large number of factors that can’t be ‘blanket statemented’.
Like everything in life, moderation is key. As you know, too much of anything can result in bad effects. This holds true even for things necessary for life to exist like nutrients, water, and food.
So, the difference between a good or bad experience is smart decision making. If you take one very high in stimulants, you’ll probably experience jitters or an energetic crash later on. The most common effect you’ll likely feel is a tingly sensation if the pre-workout has beta-alanine. While this can be initially alarming, it’s perfectly harmless and will gradually dissipate in time.
If you have any medical issues or are hesitant for any reason, talk with your doctor about it first. Do not take a pre-workout supplement if you’re pregnant, nursing, or under the age of 18.
When should you use a pre-workout?
Realistically speaking, the best time to take a pre-workout is about 20-40 minutes before your lift. This helps allow enough time to pass for the ingredients to become active in your body.
Interestingly, some people tend to chug their pre-workout as they’re walking in. This is definitely something you want to avoid if you want to get the most out of your supplement.