All around the world, people are becoming more and more aware of their health and wellness. They are working out and adopting an overall healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy and using nutritional supplements. One of the supplements many people are using is a pre-workout supplement, or “pre workout” for short.
The problem is, they don’t always know that much about these supplements and there are so many different brands and formulations on the market, it’s difficult to choose the best one. Many people end up blindly purchasing a product off their local vitamin store shelf, however, you don’t have to do that.
In this article, we’re going to explore a few different aspects of pre-workout supplements.
- What is a pre-workout?
- Common Ingredients in pre-workouts
- Who should be using pre-workouts?
- What are the advantages of pre-workouts?
- What are the potential side effects of pre-workouts?
We will also be offering you some reviews on what we feel are the top 5 best pre-workouts on the market today. We hope that this will help you to be more informed when you go shopping for your pre-workout and leave you better equipped to choose the best one for you.
What is a Pre-Workout?
A pre-workout is a dietary supplement made with a variety of ingredients that is formulated to improve your energy levels as well as your overall athletic performance. Typically, they are available in powder form: flavorless or flavored. The flavorless option can be combined with your favorite beverage to create a drink to be consumed prior to a workout. The flavored options are typically added to water.
If you are using a pre-workout supplement, you should consume it about 45 to 30 minutes prior to beginning your workout. This will give the ingredients time to become effective and then allow you the time to use those benefits before they are processed out.
Who Should be Using Pre-Workouts?
When you think of pre-workout supplements, you probably picture bodybuilders, weightlifters, and other serious athletes. This is true to a certain extent- they do use pre-workouts to increase their endurance, give them energy, improve muscle development, and decrease recovery time. However, the truth is, pre-workouts are made for anyone that wants to get the most from their workouts. Here is a list of some of the people that can benefit from using a pre-workout.
- People that want to burn fat/lose weight
- Anyone that wants to improve effectiveness of workouts
- Athletes/weekend warriors
- Anyone that wants to increase intensity and length of workouts
Advantages of Pre-Workouts
There are several advantages of using a pre-workout, such as:
- Increased muscle mass
- Improved energy levels
- Increased endurance
- Improved/faster post-workout recovery
- Motivation for HIIT workouts
- Improved endurance
- Improved motivation for HIIT workouts
- Pre workout is a supplement to use to take before workouts to increase performance
- Anyone can benefit from using a pre workout, from the average joe to pro athletes
- There are many brands to choose from but not all equal
Top 5 Best Pre-Workout Reviews
If you’re interested in finding a good pre-workout to start using, it’s important to note that you are going to encounter a lot of options. So many, in fact, that you may begin to feel overwhelmed. That is where we come in. We have done the research and come up with what we believe to be the top 5 best pre-workout supplements on the market today. We hope that this information helps you make your decision.
- XWERKS Ignite – Best overall pre workout supplement
- Pre Lab Pro – High quality formula from trusted brand
- Crazy Nutrition Pre-Train – Powerful pre-workout powder for men and women
- Cellucor C4 – Original, trusted pre-workout supplement
- Transparent Labs Preseries – Effective ingredients from reputable company
XWERKS Ignite – Editor’s Choice
XWERKS Ignite is cool, calm, and collected – but also provides you with laser-like focus that you can depend on. This pre workout has been formulated with the goal of optimizing your performance and has been voted top pre workout by numerous publications.
XWERKS Ignite contains a harmonious combination of ingredients that promises to increase your focus, stamina, and energy- which allows your workouts to be longer and more intense. XWERKS is not like some of the other manufacturers. They do not believe in using proprietary blends. They make sure that the dosage of each and every ingredient in their formula is clearly listed on the label.
This formula has been made with ingredients that are scientifically proven to help you get the most from your workout. XWERKS Ignite provides users with refreshing, long-lasting, and steady energy unlike other supplements that simply flood the body with stimulants for a surge of energy followed by a crash.
XWERKS has also included nootropic ingredients in their formula. Some of the most important ingredients featured in this formula are:
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Vitamin B6 and B12
- CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine
The energy blend in XWERKS Ignite provides you with energy that will last through your entire training session, plus the brain-boosting nootropic ingredients keep you focused while the endurance blend helps you workout longer, increase reps, and recover faster than with other pre-workouts.
XWERKS is known for bringing no BS products to the market which also includes protein powder, creatine and other products. They use ingredients that are backed by science. Ignite is ideal for anyone that is serious about taking their training to the next level and achieving results that are real and measurable. It is available in four yummy flavors: watermelon, blue raspberry, green apple, and orange.
Pre Lab Pro
Pre Lab Pro comes in a delicious natural berry flavor and promises to support your workout in a variety of ways. According to their website, this formula will increase speed and endurance as well as improve strength and stamina. It also offers benefits for those in anabolism, cardio, and recovery.
The best part is, Pre Lab Pro contains some unique ingredients that are not found in other pre-workouts, including nootropics as well as ingredients that support homeostasis. This product is a favorite for many because the ingredients and dosages are some of the most certified in the industry.
Some of the key ingredients include beetroot powder, Setria performance blend, natural caffeine, and L-theanine, along with other certified ingredients.
Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train
Crazy Nutrition is one of the most well-known names in the fitness supplement arena. Their pre-workout formula, Intensive Pre-Train supports their reputation by providing energy that lasts, support for HIIT workouts, decreasing fatigue, and so much more.
Intensive Pre-Train by Crazy Nutrition contains unique ingredients like most of the others on our list. One of these is a caffeine-booster, EXtra. In addition, they have included KSM-66, which is an ashwagandha extract not found in other pre-workouts on our list.
According to Crazy Nutrition, anyone wanting to increase energy levels and improve focus should use Intensive Pre-Train daily. In addition, this supplement promises to help delay fatigue and help users crush their workouts, along with a variety of other benefits. One thing that makes this one different is that you can get three containers for the price of two from the competitors.
Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder
Cellucor Pre-Workout Powder comes in two versions: Original and Extreme.
Many people consider the Original C4 to be the first mass-produced pre-workout and chances are, you know someone that has used it. This is typically the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions “pre-workout”. In fact, it has been around for more than a decade, which means it is one of the most established brands in the industry.
Each serving of Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout offers the following:
- 6 grams CarnoSyn beta-alanine
- 1 gram creatine
- 1 gram arginine
- 150 milligrams caffeine
These are four clinically proven ingredients at optimum dosages to ensure that you can improve your workout from a variety of angles. Finally, Cellucor C4 Original is available in two sizes: 30 servings or 60 servings and comes in a variety of flavors: Orange Burst, Icy Blue Razz, Cherry Limeade, Watermelon, and Fruit Punch
Next is the Cellucor C4 Extreme, which promises to deliver all of the benefits of the C4 Original, but better. This formula has no calories or sugar, so it’s not going to mess up your macronutrient balance or affect your weight loss goals.
The primary ingredients in this formula are:
These ingredients are among the best ingredients for pre-workouts, which is why Cellucor made our list. The amount of each is higher in the C4 Extreme than in the C4 Original. For example, each serving contains 200 milligrams more caffeine and 2 milligrams more of beta-alanine. This is 25% more than the original version.
Cellucor C4 Extreme is available in two sizes: 30 servings and 60 servings and comes in a few unique flavors: Sour Batch Bros, Icy Blue Batch, Fruit Punch, Ultra Frost, Watermelon.
Again, Cellucor is one of the oldest and best established companies in the pre-workout industry.
Transparent Labs Pre-Workout
Like Cellucor and the others on our list, Transparent Labs is also a well-known and respected name in the fitness supplement arena. This company is known for their variety of fitness supplements that target a variety of health and fitness goals.
At this time, Transparent Labs has five pre-workout products on the market. Some of them are formulated to help users improve energy levels and others are formulated to help users bulk up and still others are formulated for weight loss. Finally, some of them contain stimulants, while others are stimulant-free, or stim-free.
The five pre-workouts that Transparent Labs has to offer are as follows:
- Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout
- Preseries Stim-Booster
- Preseries Stim-free
- Preseries Lean Pre-Workout
- Preseries Pump
Transparent Labs is different from many of the other companies. Instead of applying an all-in-one approach to their pre-workout formula, Transparent Labs offers targeted formulas for various goals. This pre-workout lineup is one of the best ones you can find today.
How We Picked
We tried a lot of pre workouts and here is some of the criteria we considered when picking the winners:
Value – Does the product justify the price?
Customer Service – How’s the support after your purchase?
Transparency – Do they inform you on all the ingredients or use a proprietary blend?
Taste – Let’s be honest, if you’re going to spend your hard earned money, the product should at least taste enjoyable.
FAQs about Pre-Workouts
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about pre-workouts:
What is a pre-workout?
This is a fitness/dietary supplement that is consumed prior to working out. It is formulated to improve overall performance and to help users get the most from their workouts.
Is a pre-workout necessary?
This question is a bit tricky because the answer depends on what you mean by “necessary”. If you just want to get in shape and not necessarily push past limits or break records, you may not need it. However, if you want to push your limits, it might be exactly what you’re looking for. They are also ideal for those days when you haven’t gotten much sleep the night before and need the motivation to get out of bed.
Are pre-workouts safe?
This depends on the ingredients used. The primary issue is the stimulants that are used and in most cases, that is caffeine. However, there are some that contain bitter orange peel or synephrine. You should avoid these.
When should a pre-workout be taken?
There really is no general guideline here. The directions on your pre-workout of choice will tell you. However, a good rule of thumb is to take it about 30 minutes prior to your workout.
Common ingredients in pre-workouts
As we mentioned, when you start shopping for a pre-workout, you’ll see that there are lots of different brands on the market. The formulas are all pretty similar. Most of them use some combination of the following ingredients:
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, is the first one we will look at. This is a tripeptide, which is a combination of three amino acids. BCAAs contain leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs are there to facilitate muscle growth and reduce the rate of protein breakdown. Ideally, you should share a ratio of 2:1:1 of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. That is, if you have 7 grams of leucine, it’s important to have 3.5 grams of isoleucine and valine.
The second ingredient we will look at is beta-alanine. This is an amino acid that is often included as part of a pre-workout supplement to combat the burning sensation you get in your muscles, due to lactic acid build up, especially during HIIT workouts. This means that you can increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
Research shows that beta-alanine has a high rate of efficacy. However, it does have a potentially uncomfortable side effect. We say “potentially” because though some people find it to be unpleasant, there are others who don’t even notice it. This side effect is a tingling sensation throughout the body. It is harmless, but some people find it too uncomfortable to complete their workout.
Caffeine is another ingredient that is commonly found in pre-workouts. This is the ingredient that gives you a burst of energy and helps keep you focused. Some research indicates that in addition to energy and mental alertness, caffeine boosts memory, burns body fat, and improves exercise performance.
As you will discover, caffeine is often found in pre-workout formulas. This is what gives you the energy boost and helps you focus. In addition to energy and mental alertness, caffeine may also help with memory, exercise performance, and help decrease body fat.
There are two common forms of caffeine: anhydrous caffeine and dicaffeine malate.
In anhydrous caffeine, all of the water has been removed so it’s less than 0.5% water by weight. This is an ultra-concentrated form of caffeine, which is the potency required for these supplements. Plus, it’s cheaper to produce, which means the overall price of the supplement will be cheaper as well.
On the other hand, dicaffeine malate, also known as Infinergy, is where two molecules of caffeine are bonded with one molecule of malic acid. This form of caffeine still provides the same energy-boosting effect- but has a more desirable effect on your digestive system.
There are some pre-workouts that use natural caffeine in their formulas, but many people don’t feel like it’s as effective as the above two.
Creatine is a substance that is naturally produced in your body and stored in your skeletal muscles and provides you with energy and strength. It is also found in dietary sources such as poultry, red meat, and seafood. It is also sold as a standalone supplement- and it can also be found in many of the pre-workout formulas on the market.
Research shows that supplementing with creatine– whether as a standalone supplement or in a pre-workout- can increase your body’s stores. This will increase your strength and muscle mass, as well as improve your workout performance and recovery time.
The 5th common ingredient we’ll look at is L-citrulline. According to research, the reason this is often included is because it stimulates blood flow by expanding blood vessels to reduce blood pressure. This gets more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, making your workout a lot more efficient.
According to the experts, you should be getting 1,000 to 2,000 IU of Vitamin D each day to see improvements in cardio fitness, muscle strength, and recovery from intense workouts. We can naturally get Vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but many people are actually deficient, making it a critical part of your diet.
Magnesium is another nutrient that many people are deficient in and is often included in pre-workouts. Ideally, you should get approximately 200 to 400 milligrams daily. This is the nutrient that has an impact on a variety of important bodily functions, including muscle growth, muscle contractions, and more.
Finally, beetroot is often included as part of pre-workouts. You need approximately 500 milligrams of this to improve your muscle pump and endurance. If you are engaging in strength training, muscle pump is critical.
Some other ingredients commonly found in pre-workouts include:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Amino acids
Of course, this is not an extensive list- there may be some ingredients that are not included here. Also, as we mentioned, the formulation will vary based on the brand and the goals of that particular pre-workout. There are no regulations in place that require a certain amount of each ingredient. For example, artificial sweeteners are often included- but there are some people who prefer to avoid supplements that contain them due to the potential health dangers associated with them. This is completely understandable- you have plenty of other options available.
It is very important to note that, when you are looking for a pre-workout, you need to find out if they have been third-party tested for potency, purity, and quality. They will typically have a stamp from the USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) or NSF International. Unfortunately, the FDA treats supplements as food, not drugs, so it’s easy for companies to be dishonest in their labeling. That being said, if your supplement has been third-party tested, you should probably trust that they are safe.
Disadvantages of Pre-Workouts
If you are just starting to use pre-workout supplements, it’s important to look at both sides. In addition to the above advantages, there are a few disadvantages you may experience. We’ll explore those below:
As mentioned above, caffeine is one of the most common ingredients in pre-workouts. It is included because it is what provides the energy to power through the workout. Research has shown that it will boost energy and decrease fatigue.
The problem is caffeine makes some people feel jittery. It may also make you restless, increase your heart rate, make you feel sleepy but unable to rest, increase anxiety, and experience nausea and headaches.
Bloating is another common side effect experienced with pre-workout supplements. This is probably because of the creatine. Research shows that creatine increases lean body mass & HIIT capacity but causes water retention, bloating, and potentially other digestive issues- which brings us to the next one.
Some users report digestive upset from using a pre-workout. There are several of the common ingredients that could trigger digestive upset. They are as follows:
- Sodium bicarbonate
Another potential reason for the digestive upset is not using an adequate amount of water when mixing your drink. The instructions are on the package for a reason. Don’t assume that a more concentrated dose is better for you and will yield greater results. The truth is, a concentrated dose could cause diarrhea- which is not a good thing when you are trying to work out.
Finally, some users complain of headaches when they use a pre-workout. In most cases, headaches are blamed on the citrulline. This is an amino acid that increases blood flow to your muscles- which helps to increase muscle size. That being said, your brain is also a muscle, which means blood flow is increased there as well and could trigger headaches due to the pressure change. Some people have reported experiencing migraines.
All around the world, people are becoming aware of their overall health and well-being and are adopting healthy lifestyles that include working out and supplementation. Many are turning to pre-workouts because they’ve heard so many wonderful things about them and how they can help push past limits and get in better shape. Unfortunately, they don’t know that much about them and often start shopping for them before they do. That is what this article is for.
We have explained more about pre-workouts and some of the most common ingredients found in them. We’ve also looked at some of the advantages as well as some of the potential side effects. Finally, we’ve reviewed what we feel are the top 5 best pre-workouts on the market today. We hope that we have helped you make your decision, and you will get started right away.