Best Pre Workout Supplements Without Creatine
A lot of companies add creatine to their pre-workout products in an effort to convince you that it will stimulate you to be stronger and have more energy while you train. These manufacturers either don’t understand how creatine works or, more likely, are trying to get you to buy their product by making outright false claims. The reality is that creatine is not a stimulant. It has no place in a pre-workout supplement.
In this article, we identify and review the 10 best creatine free pre-workout supplements on the market. We’ll also give you the low-down on what to look for in a creatine-free supplement and answer some pressing FAQs on this rather confusing subject.
- Primal Muscle Surge
- Cellucor C4 Ripped
- RARI Nutrition Infinity
- Redleaf Energizer
- Jacked Factory Nitro Surge
- Legion Pulse
- Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy
- RSP Aminofocus
- Alpha Gx7
- Celsius Orange On-The-Go
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Primal Muscle Surge
Great Pump Product
Lovely Watermelon Flavor
Improved Recovery Time
Too Potent Sometimes
Primal Surge Pre-Workout is a scientifically dosed pre-workout designed for the hardcore bodybuilder. It contains such standby ingredients as beta alanine, citrulline, carnitine, and AKG. Ingredients such as caffeine and theobromine have also been included to enhance energy while also providing nootropic benefits in order to enhance the mind-muscle connection.Read more
Primal Surge works best as a pump producing product, with its emphasis on beta alanine and citrulline. This is not a stimulant pre-workout but can easily be stacked with a stimulant based product for a combined synergistic training effect. It does reduce muscle fatigue, so you will be feeling like your old self in no time. It can also elevate your mood, making it more likely that you will endure at the gym, and it increases muscle endurance as well.
2. Cellucor C4 Ripped
Plenty Of Flavors
This formula was carefully crafted to help you shed unwanted fat while keeping you highly motivated and pumped to reach your fitness goals as soon as possible. The key ingredients in this supplement are Carnosyn beta alanine that enhances muscle endurance, and C4 ripped, a special blend that boosts your energy levels and fat loss.Read more
These are not the only ingredients that make this supplement what it is though. It contains plenty of vitamins - vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B12. It also contains calcium, folic acid, and niacin for an all-around great feeling as you work out. There are plenty of flavors to choose from: berry, cherry, fruit punch, icy blue razz, tropical and raspberry flavor.
3. RARI Nutrition Infinity
350 mg caffeine
RARI Nutrition Infinity is a pre-workout that contains just six ingredients designed to boost your training performance. The first of these is caffeine which you get at 175 mg per scoop. So, if you take 2 scoops, which is recommended for advanced users, you get 350 grams, which is an ideal amount so long as you are not insensitive to caffeine. At this level, however, quite a few people will experience the jitters and may suffer from a post-workout energy crash.Read more
The key ingredients found inside have been precisely bioengineered and dosed to keep you going without too much side effects. This product also contains beta-alanine, betaine, tyrosine, citrulline malate, and Bioperine. At the two scoop dosage, all of these ingredients will give you ideal levels for max gym performance. The supplement is keto and vegan-friendly, gluten-free and made in the USA, so the ingredients come from a well-known source and anyone can take them.
4. Redleaf Energizer
Smart Blend Of Ingredients
No Harsh Stimulants
Modest Caffeine Dose
Burning, Tingling Sensation
Redleaf pre-workout is a caffeine-containing pre-workout geared towards the general fitness enthusiast rather than the hardcore bodybuilder. It contains cranberry extract for its antioxidant benefits, green tea extract to ramp up your fat burning potential, raspberry ketones for the same purpose and caffeine for energy.Read more
To give you greater strength and performance during your workout this product also contains beta-alanine, l-arginine AKG, glutamine and the 3 branch chain amino acids (leucine, valine, isoleucine). This product gives you a good blend of products to provide you with good overall coverage. However, some of the ingredients here are underdosed. The most significant came in point is caffeine, which is dosed at just 40 mg per serving. That is about a quarter of what you would get in a single cup of coffee.
5. Jacked Factory Nitro Surge
Smart Caffeine Combo
Most Ingredients Under-dosed
May Cause Stomach Issues
Jacked Factory Nitro Surge is a stimulant based pre-workout that is available in just one flavor - cherry limeade. This product contains many of the key ingredients that you’d expect to find in a quality pre-workout, including l-citrulline, betaine, beta alanine, caffeine, l-theanine, hordenine, and black pepper fruit extract.Read more
You get 180 mg of caffeine anhydrous with this product, which is a little more than you would get in a cup of coffee. Most of the ingredients are known to be effective, however, the doses seem to be a little low on all of them to achieve a maximum training effect. Nitro Surge is a well-priced product, which provides you with a solid mix of energy, focus, and power producing ingredients. The citrulline is especially underdosed. You do get a smart caffeine combination, with the pairing of caffeine anhydrous and l-theanine.
6. Legion Pulse
Artificial Sweetener Free
Includes Theanine And Taurine
Caffeine Content Too High
Legion Pulse is a ‘natural’ pre-workout supplement that is free of artificial sweeteners and colorings. Each dose contains 350 mg of caffeine, which is about the same amount that you would get in two cups of coffee. This caffeine contains a good dosage to provide you with an immediate energy boost, offset fatigue and improve endurance levels.Read more
Some people will react badly to such a large dosage of caffeine. However, this product includes theanine and taurine which can offset the fatigue and jitters that may be experienced. Also included is citrulline, which will help to enhance nitric oxide output and improve the pump you get from your workout. Betaine is included to enhance your power output.
Perhaps the key ingredient in Legion Plus is Beta-Alanine, which will go a long way to helping you get an awesome, pump inducing workout. The Beta Alanine in this product is dosed at 4.8 grams per serving. This is a great amount. In fact, all of the ingredients in this product are well dosed, and at much higher levels than many competitor products. Despite the fact that there are no artificial sweeteners in Legion Plus, the taste is pretty good. You will especially enjoy raspberry candy, which really does taste like that unhealthy combination, despite being completely natural. It’s a little more expensive than some of the competition, but the high doses of well-chosen products make it well worth it.
7. Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy
Inulin For Fiber
Amino Energy from Optimum Nutrition is a BCAA supplement that contains a laundry list of ingredients. These include taurine, glutamine, l-arginine, l-leucine, beta-alanine, citrulline, l-isoleucine, l-valine, l-tyrosine, l-histidine, l-lysine HCI, l-phenylalanine, l-threonine, and l-methionine. These are combined into a 5-gram proprietary blend, which means that we do not know the exact dosages of each of these ingredients. Of key import, we do not know if we are getting the BCAAs in the ideal ratio of 2:1:1 in relation to leucine: valine: iso-leucine.Read more
We do know that there is 160 mg of caffeine in this product. That is about the same amount as you would get in a cup of coffee and, while it will not produce a jittery effect or post workout crash, may still be too little to produce an effective workout energy boost. This product also contains natural and artificial sweeteners (sucralose). You also get inulin for fiber. Amino energy comes in nine flavors. According to the majority of reviews, they are generally tasty, but not delicious.
8. RSP Aminofocus
5 Gram Amino Acid Blend
RSP Amino Focus is an amino acid and nootropic focus pre-workout supplement that combines essential amino acids with proven nootropics to provide a synergistic effect. The product combines three proprietary blends to provide an overall effect. The amino blend provides you with 5 grams of amino acids.Read more
There is also a TeaCrine blend, which is a natural extract of tea leaves that uses adenosine blockers to decrease feelings of fatigue while elevating dopamine, thereby supporting positive mood and motivation. Unlike caffeine and traditional stimulants, TeaCrine is not addictive, meaning you can never develop a tolerance, and you will always feel energized. RSP Amino Focus also includes Caffeine (from Green Tea), which enhances mental focus and energy. You also get Alpha-GPC, which is a naturally occurring phospholipid that plays a critical role in the brain, nervous system, and muscle functioning. It improves mood and reaction time while assisting in the development of the mind-muscle connection, with a smooth lift and no crash. A tri-blend of nootropics (Choline Bitartrate, Alpha GPC 50%, and CDP Choline) work together to provide you with laser-like focus to allow you to dial in on your workouts.
9. Alpha Gx7
Increases Blood Flow
Researched And Tested
Most Ingredients Underdosed
Bad Crash Afterwards
Alpha Gx7 provides you with a mix of both stimulant and non-stimulant ingredients. It contains some key ingredients, each of which has been scientifically proven as an effective workout enhancer. These include beta-alanine at a dosage of 2 grams per serving.Read more
Arginine, the precursor to nitric oxide, is included in this product at a dosage of 1500 mg. This will increase blood flow leading to an enhanced workout pump effect. You also get 1.5 g of citrulline malate to enhance your training energy and endurance, carnitine, taurine, and theobromine. You also get caffeine at a dosage of 250 mg per serve. Again, this is less than you get with Legion Plus, by a hundred mg. This may not be enough to provide you with a decent energy surge for your workout. In fact, most of the ingredients in this product could do with an increased dose of about 30% to be more effective.
10. Celsius Orange On-The-Go
No Beta Alanine
Celsius Orange on the Go is a general-purpose energy enhancer that can be used as a pre-workout supplement. It contains 200 mg of caffeine, along with 60 mg of Vitamin C, Vitamins B6, and B12, calcium, chromium, and sodium.Read more
Also included are green tea extract, guarana seed extract, and ginger root. This combination of ingredients is designed to boost metabolism and enhance fat burn and training energy. Each box contains 14 ready to pour sachets. Simply pour a sachet into the water and drink it. It comes in four tasty flavors; orange, berry, cranberry lemon, and coconut. The sachets have no sugar so they are diabetic friendly. The flavors and colors are all-natural, and no preservatives have been added, so make sure to drink it before it expires!
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Although creatine is a naturally occurring nutrient and athletes have been anecdotally reported to have been taking creatine supplements since the 1960s, its widespread use as a dietary supplement did not begin until the early to mid-1990s. Consequently, concern has been raised regarding its short and long term medical safety. Analysis of available literature indicates that the only side effect reported from creatine supplementation is muscular weight gain.
However, concerns have been raised regarding whether creatine supplementation results in long term suppression of endogenous creatine synthesis, causes renal and liver damage, promotes dehydration, alters electrolyte status, increases blood pressure, causes GI upset, promotes severe muscle cramping, and/or promotes injury during training. Careful analysis of available literature indicates that although more research is needed, there is no scientific evidence to substantiate these concerns.
Probably the most commonly reported anecdotal side effect from creatine supplementation is a greater incidence of dehydration, muscle cramps, or heat intolerance in athletes who train hard in hot and humid environments. It is possible that since creatine may allow an athlete to train more intensely, this may predispose the person to dehydration and/or heat injury. There have been some anecdotal reports that creatine supplementation may cause gastrointestinal (GI) distress (i.e., stomach upset, gas, diarrhea, etc.). The theory suggests that although creatine is absorbed intact from the gut, there may be an upper limit to intestinal absorption of creatine. If this is so, then the excess creatine ingested may serve to cause gas and loose stools and/or diarrhea. Analysis of the available scientific literature, however, does not support this view, in that no study has shown creatine supplementation to have caused significant GI distress when taken at the recommended doses (about 5 to 8 g per serving up to 35 g/day).
The reason to avoid creatine in a pre-workout supplement is quite simply that there is no reason to put creatine in a pre-workout. Creatine is not a stimulant in that it will not cause you to have an immediate surge of energy the way that drinking a cup of coffee does. Creatine work by mean of a chronic effect - it builds up phospho-creatine levels in the muscle tissue cumulatively over a period of weeks. As a result, timing is immaterial when it comes to taking creatine.
In addition to causing no beneficial effect to your pre-workout, creatine is potentially negative when put into pre-workout. That’s because of creatine’s tendency to draw water into the stomach. This can cause stomach upset in some people. So, including creatine in your pre-workout may actually give you stomach issues while you are working out. The whole point of taking a pre-workout is that the ingredients are meant to be timed to do something to benefit you during the workout. If you are a person who does not get any stomach issues from taking creatine and want to add it to your pre-workout, you can certainly do that. It will not do you any harm, but it will not specifically benefit your performance because it is taken pre-workout.
Creatine free supplements are similar to those that do not contain them, except that they focus more on their purpose, which is to provide you with ingredients that will provide an immediate effect on your training. Creatine free supplements will allow you to avoid the potential bloating that some people get when taking creatine. You will probably also find that creatine free pre-workout supplements are considerably cheaper than those that do contain creatine.
If you want the benefits of creatine, it’s best to take it after your session at the gym. After you work out, your muscles will do their best to recover from being torn up, beaten, stretched and pumped vigorously. If you take creatine after exercising, creatine will rush to your muscles to help them recover faster and grow more. Throw protein and carbohydrates into the mix, and you have a great recipe for improved muscle growth and recovery. All in all, creatine serves to prepare you for your next session, so it should be taken after your gym appointment!
When it comes to finding an effective creatine free pre-workout formula, you definitely need to do your homework. A lot of products out there are ‘kitchen sink’ formulas that throw a whole lot of ingredients together in a proprietary blend. This leaves you scratching your head as to whether each ingredient has been effectively dosed. Some of them even contain ingredients that are potentially dangerous.
Here are the ingredients that you should look for in your creatine free pre-workout. First things first, we have citrulline. This is an amino acid that helps your body create more nitric oxide, which is a natural vasodilator. This just means that it helps your blood vessels dilate, which enables more blood and oxygen to travel to your muscles. This is great if you are into endurance training, but it can be useful for strength training as well.
Caffeine is a common ingredient found in many pre-workout supplements. Caffeine is an effective fat burner that helps you cut down fast. It also gives you an energy boost, something that coffee lovers already know. Caffeine can have side effects, however. It can make you feel jittery, or “wired”, as many users would describe it. If it’s a higher dose, it can increase your heart rate too, making it unsafe for people who suffer from heart disease. The crash after your session can be quite intense, and you could even become addicted to it. Last but not least, it can cause insomnia, which is especially notable if you exercise in the evening.
Vitamin B is a natural tool that gives you an energy boost. This is especially true if you are a little vitamin B deficient. They give you an energy boost by extracting the nutrients you get from your food. Red blood cell creation also depends on this vitamin. Thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid are the vitamins you lose when you work out. By taking a vitamin B complex, you will replace them, and won’t feel so tired as a result.
Beta-alanine is one more amino acid that is commonly found in pre-workout supplements. It’s a non-essential amino acid, which means that it is naturally produced by our body, and does not need to be sourced from our diet. They do make proteins, but they also have a few other significant roles. Beta-alanine improves your performance, it builds lean muscle mass. If you are older, it may even delay muscle fatigue.
Betaine is also an amino acid that is found naturally in beets and some other vegetables. This is a fairly new ingredient, so we do not know yet how exactly it works. It has been thought that it does improve endurance and strength.
The rest of the ingredients found in your supplement are likely flavor enhancers and sweeteners, and maybe even preservatives. These ingredients can vary a lot from one producer to the other, so we won’t waste time explaining them. Some supplements have something called a proprietary blend. This means that the blend that certain producer uses is unique to their brand. Although that may sound like a great thing, it should be in fact avoided, if possible. This is because we do not know the proportion of the ingredients inside their blend. You do now that you will be getting 1000 mg of their blend, for an example, but you don’t know what that blend actually looks like. This is bad because sometimes a blend can have too much caffeine, or it could be all filler, and you wouldn’t even know it, and could suffer as a result!
Using your supplement the right way could mean a world of difference for your session and recovery. As the name suggests, you should be taking your supplements before you work out. Do not take it right before you go to the gym though! Most of the ingredients found in your supplement take at least 30-60 minutes to reach their full potential, and you should consider this when drinking your pre-workout supplement. If you take it as you enter the gym, you could be well done with your work out and only then feel the effects you craved so much. It’s safer to take your supplement earlier than later. Do not worry about taking it too early - caffeine, the ingredient that gives you that energy boost, has at least three hours to course through your blood at full potential. The effects are doubled down only after 3-5 hours! So, taking it 30 minutes to an hour before you go to the gym will give you maximum benefits. If you work out in the evening, this could be a problem though since the caffeine could make it hard to fall asleep.
One more mistake you could also be doing is taking your supplement on an empty stomach. If you ever had coffee on an empty stomach, you know what we are talking about. That jittery feeling, the shakiness of your limbs, light-headed feelings and nausea are all side effects of taking caffeine on an empty stomach, and they are something you do not want to experience while focusing on working out. A small meal 30-60 minutes before you exercise can be all that you need. Plus, having a meal before you work out will boost your energy by itself. If you want to maximize the potency of your supplement, have a meal that doesn’t have so many fibers in it, so avoid nuts, raw fruits, and raw vegetables.
Pre-workout supplements usually come in big bottles and jars, and sometimes we may not be able to spend all of it before the expiration date. The expiration date is simply the time when your supplement will start losing its potency - it will not go completely bad. So you shouldn’t rush to throw it out as soon as it reaches that date stamped on the bottle. But if you do decide to drink them after that date, you may find yourself feeling more tired, simply because the supplement lost its efficiency.
Sometimes, as the expiry date approaches, your pre-workout can become clumpy, or hard. Most pre-workouts contain something known as hygroscopic ingredients, meaning that they attract water molecules and hold them at normal temps. If your supplement tends to get clumpy, it could mean that it is 100% natural. This is because artificial colors and sweeteners tend to stay dry, making the whole supplement powder-like for a long time. If you want to avoid this clumpiness, it’s a good idea to keep the silica gel packet you received with the supplement inside. If you didn’t receive one, you can always just head out and buy one. Keep the packet buried in the powder at all times, and your powder will be usable until you spend it all. You should also regularly stir and shake your powder. If left alone for a longer period of time, the powder will turn clumpy, because it absorbs moisture. You can fix this by keeping your jar in a cool and dry place, like the fridge. If you already have a clumpy powder, don’t worry, it’s still safe to use! All you need to do is throw it in a blender, or break it up with a knife until it returns to its normal state. Make sure that it’s completely powdery - clumps could lead to you taking a larger dose than recommended, causing side effects we don’t want to experience.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Before pre-workout supplements were commercially available, bodybuilders would just take a cup of coffee before starting to work out. This happened from the 1960s to the 1980s, and it was only in 1982 in Venice, California, that the very first supplement called Ultimate Orange was created. It was created by Dan Duchaine and quickly gained popularity. Sadly, thanks to the active ingredient ephedra, many people experienced heart attacks, and Ultimate Orange ceased to exist. But this supplement created a new wave of other supplements that had a much better formula. They were more powerful and had arginine and citrulline added, something we can still see today. In 2005, chemist Patrick Arnold created something we are all familiar with - Jack3d! Jack3d had a new ingredient, DMAA, added to it, which was a source of controversy. This supplement was also banned though because DMAA was thought to cause shortness of breath, chest pains and a higher risk of heart attacks. Supplements today are much safer, and you shouldn’t worry about any risks besides the ones associated with caffeine.
Other Factors to Consider
Creatine free supplements will provide you with a focused list of ingredients that are designed to provide you with immediate benefits in the workout. That is not to say that creatine is not a great workout supplement. It is but just doesn’t need to be taken immediately before the workout. You can always take it after a solid workout session to boost muscle growth! We hope our guide has helped you see why a pre-workout creatine-free supplement is better, and that you have found one that you like.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most definitely! Creatine is the most studied supplement that exists. It will improve your strength and help you to build muscle. However, the time of day that you take it does not matter. And, as we have already stated, taking it in your pre-workout formula will not stimulate your workout because it is taken at that time. In some people, it may actually cause stomach upset while in the gym. You should take 5 grams of creatine with 250 ml of water every day, ideally after you just finished working out, to help your muscles grow bigger and recover faster.
Creatine will regenerate the body’s key energy system, ATP. ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate. Creatine builds up in the muscle cell as creatine phosphate. When you work out, your ATP stores are quickly used up. As it does so, ATP loses a phosphate molecule to become ADP. The stores of creatine phosphate in the muscle store will immediately replace that lost molecule to restore ATP. As a result, you will be able to be stronger for longer. In reality, it means that, whereas you may have gotten out 7 reps, with creatine you should be able to get 8 or 9.
You should definitely opt for water pre-workout. Even though milk provides a great mix of protein, carbs, and fats, it is very slow to digest. This will slow you down in your workout and may produce a bloating, gaseous effect - not what you want when you’re going for a personal best!
A pre-workout is designed to put into your body ingredients that will act immediately to improve your performance in the gym. Specifically, it should:
Provide a pump effect
When it comes to regular medicine, it is often advised that you take your pills on an empty stomach, so it can be more effective. But the situation changes with creatine-free supplements. You can take your supplement after eating and not worry about the effectiveness. It might take a longer time to work, but it will still be absorbed and working fully. Taking it on an empty stomach will deliver the effects much faster, but you should not work out with an empty stomach, so make sure to drink your supplement 30-60 minutes before your session!