Best Pre-Workout Supplement Reviews
Pre-workout supplements are designed to give you an extra boost of energy during your cardio or strength exercise routine. They are usually powders you can mix in with water or another liquid, but they may also be premixed drinks. They do not all have the same ingredients, and they do not all offer the same benefits or work inside your body the same way. If you are primarily a runner, you will likely not want to take the same supplement a powerlifter would take.
It can be a confusing topic, but it is one worth looking into because these supplements can make a difference and help you achieve your goals. We've done a lot of research for you. Read on to learn about the best pre-workout supplements according to our panel.
In a Hurry? The top ten winner after 23 hours of research
Carnosyn Beta Alanine
Naturally sourced caffeine
Taste is good
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout
- Genius Pre Workout
- Naked Energy: Natural Pre Workout Supplement
- Vintage Blast
- Bulk Supplements Creatine Monohydrate
- Pride Natural Electrolyte Powder
- Jacked Factory PumpSurge
- Six Star Pre Workout Explosion
- Legion Pulse Pre Workout
- B.S.N N.O. Explode Pre Workout
10 Best Pre-Workout Supplements
1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout
Carnosyn Beta Alanine
Naturally sourced caffeine
Taste is good
Takes a few days for the body to adjust to this product
The synergistic combination of the ingredients in ON Gold Standard Pre Workout provides you with an intense energy boost when you hit the gym. Ingredients can also help with focus so you can get things done.Read more
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout promises outstanding energy, focus, and endurance by delivering a powerful blend of clinically dosed scientific ingredients that can power up your workouts. In this product, you get 175 grams of naturally sourced caffeine, 1.5 grams of Carnosyn beta-alanine, 3 grams of Creapure creatine monohydrate and 1.5 grams of citrulline malate. Creapure is a brand name for creatine produced in Germany by AlzChem Trostberg GmbH, one of the most trusted manufacturers.
Other active ingredients include citrulline malate and carnitine. The citrulline malate works by increasing your nitrogen levels and, in turn, blood flow throughout your body. Carnitine gives your cells more fatty acids that can help cells make energy, and is also used in some weight loss supplements.
This is a product you can count on, with ingredients sourced from well-known companies. We are happy to give it our stamp of approval as the number one supplement pick.
2. Genius Pre Workout
Uses natural ingredients
Vetted by third party testing
May help with cognition
Reviewers wanted a better taste
Genius Pre Workout guarantees to boost your workout performance. It relies on substances called nootropics to deliver its benefits.Read more
Nootropics is a blanket term for drugs and supplements that can possibly improve your cognitive ability, giving you a greater ability to focus during and after workouts. The idea behind Genius Pre Workout is to help you build a stronger body by strengthening your brain’s cognitive ability in a safe way. Genius sets itself apart from energy drinks because it contains no caffeine. Instead, Genius uses huperzine a, taurine and I tyrosine. These are all three made from naturally occurring ingredients.
Huperzine a is made from Chinese Peat Moss and may aid in memory. It is sometimes used as a treatment for people with reduced cognitive function. Taurine is an amino acid. Scientific tests indicate that taurine can help with athletic performance. L tyrosine is another amino acid that may help you be more alert. Together, these three ingredients will give you extra energy and may make your workouts more effective without using caffeine, which can have adverse health effects. The drink uses stevia as a sweetener and has undergone successful third party testing.
3. Naked Energy: Natural Pre Workout Supplement
No Added Artificial Sweeteners, Colors or Flavors
Flavor is okay, not too sweet
A bit pricey
Naked Energy is a company that distinguishes itself by only using all-natural vegan-friendly ingredients with no GMOs or artificial flavors.Read more
This product is also labeled as having no artificial colors, gluten, or soy. It has 10 ingredients, listed on the label, that are familiar and easy to understand. Some of the ingredients include caffeine, l-arginine, creatine, and beta-alanine. If you aren’t familiar with l-arginine or beta-alanine, they are both nonessential amino acids that help with energy delivery and can reduce lactic acid buildup as you work out.
The caffeine comes from unroasted coffee beans. You do pay extra for these ingredients, but it may be worth the cost if you are concerned about additives or need a gluten-free product. Miraculously, Naked Energy is able to give this product a fruit punchy flavor without using any sugar. The directions say to mix the powder and drink it about twenty minutes before you work out for the best results. You can mix it with water, or use your favorite drink. This also makes a good breakfast smoothie, giving you energy for work even if you don’t plan on exercising right away.
4. Vintage Blast
2 stage energy delivery
Improves mental focus
Sustained energy release
Money back guarantee
May cause stomach cramps according to some reviewers
Vintage Blast pre workout powder efficiently delivers benefits with a two stage time release system.Read more
Vintage Blast is the first pre-workout formulation designed to deliver a two-stage energy and power boost. This makes sure that you get a sustained release of energy. With Vintage Blast, you get a range of assimilation and digestive properties to infuse energy into your muscle cells. The two-stage delivery system will boost your overall work capacity as well as giving you a better training pump.
Vintage Blast will also improve mental focus and training drive, as well as reducing post-training soreness. The product can help reduce lactic acid buildup. It will also deliver key vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and other micronutrients to your muscles that may improve your levels of hydration, pH levels, and reduced oxidation.
The ingredients in Vintage Blast have been vetted by third-party testing. If you are not satisfied, the company does offer a money-back guarantee. The two-stage nature of this product makes it stand out from other supplements.
5. Bulk Supplements Creatine Monohydrate
Made of pure creatine
Has no taste because of no additives
With this product, you get the simplicity of pure creatine monohydrate, with no frills, delivered straight to your cells for workout energy.Read more
The simplicity of the product means a lower price point, putting it within the reach of more fitness buffs. The creatine powder is micronized during production. Micronization is a process that reduces the diameter of the individual creatine particles. This makes the powder quicker to dissolve in your favorite drink, and you can digest it faster.
You can take creatine for any exercise or sport activity, but it is especially helpful for sports with repeated explosive movements like boxing and powerlifting. This is because creatine works by optimizing your system for adenosine triphosphate (ADP), which naturally boosts energy during intense physical activity.
Often, supplements will mix creatine with amino acids or BCAAs to stack benefits. If you are looking for multiple benefits, like improved cognition and more rapid recovery, you may want to look at a different product.
Bulk Supplements puts all its products through purity tests, and this product is both gluten free and vegan. It is a good value for what it is.
6. Pride Natural Electrolyte Powder
Great energy booster
Has different uses
Does not offer BCAAs, creatine, etc
This sweet tasting powder is designed to prevent dehydration and replace electrolytes, both before your workout and during your recovery period afterwards.Read more
Pride Naturals Electrolyte Powder does not contain any amino acids, creatine, or plant based sources of protein. Instead, the powder helps replenish electrolytes you lose via sweat during your workout. Sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and potassium are all electrolyte ingredients contained in this product to help you recover and avoid fatigue.
Electrolytes may also give you more energy and endurance. This product is sugar free and flavored with stevia. You could use this as a substitute for sodas or other sugary drinks, if cutting down on sugar is one of your goals. The powder is versatile and isn’t just for workouts, unlike for creatine or BCAA drinks which are best suited to being pre workout drinks.
Reviewers indicate that Pride Naturals dissolves easily in water or your favorite liquid. It comes in berry, lemon lime, and orange flavors. The taste will take some getting used to if you are accustomed to sugar, but it is not a bitter or bland flavor at all.
7. Jacked Factory PumpSurge
Carries multiple benefits
Brand had great reputation
Increases nitrogen, blood flow
PumpSurge, by the mighty Jacked Factory, is another nootropic supplement that contains no stimulants and promises "skin-tearing pumps" for dedicated users.Read more
The product contains ergogenic boosters as one of its top ingredients. “Ergogenic” is an umbrella term that describes anything you can take or use that improves your performance or helps remove limits to performance. Ergogenics are not always chemical in nature; something as simple as an ankle brace is an ergogenic, because it removes or lessons the limitations caused by an injury.
The chemicals L-Citrulline, Taurine, and Betaine are all associated with increased nitric oxide, which causes better blood flow. This is the “pump” in the name-the pumped feeling you can get when you lift weights and blood rushes to your muscles. The augmented blood flow also delivers muscle-helping nutrients.
All these ingredients, and others, are clearly recognizable on PumpSurge’s packaging. This is good. Some supplements will use vague terminology like “proprietary blend” to mask their inferior or unproven benefits. With PumpSurge, you know what you are getting at all times and can research each ingredient if your so desire.
Jacked Factory also offers a generous money back guarantee for PumpSurge. There are no fillers or dyes, and PumpSurge comes in a range of fruity flavors. We think this is a good choice for its reasonable price, as well as the reputation that Jacked Factory has as a supplement supplier.
8. Six Star Pre Workout Explosion
Caffeine, without jitters
Large serving of creatine
May increase ATP levels
Can help you work out longer
Science is unclear, and Six Star urges two other products
Six Star Nutrition Pre Workout is a powerful strength and energy booster that contains carnosine, beta alanine, creatine monohydrate, arginine AKG, and caffeine anhydrous to help you push yourself a bit harder and make your workouts more intense.Read more
The caffeine component of Six Star Nutrition Pre Workout delivers a stimulant effect without being too overpowering, so you don’t suffer the jittery effects that come with other formulations.
The product comes in three flavors. It is designed only for pre workout use. Six Star promises increased energy, better focus, and an increase in muscle growth with Explosion. It contains 3 grams of beta-alinine, which may help inhibit lactic acid buildup and let you work out for longer amounts of time. You can mix or shake the powder, or blend it with other ingredients for a shake or smoothie.
In addition to this pre workout powder, Six Star suggests their whey protein powder to take between meals. You can also take the whey protein before or after a workout. Finally, Six Star offers a product called Creatine X3 as a dedicated after workout supplement. This is a possible detractor, since there are other products you can take that will give most of these effects with just one package. We did not see any other companies suggesting you purchase three products at once like this.
Six Star mentions a study where test subjects taking a creatine product identical to the one in Explosion were able to increase their maximum bench press weight 18.6% more than subjects who took a placebo or took nothing. The study was at the University of Ohio. However, Six Star does not provide any citations or links to the study results. We were unable to find any publications on the study after an internet search.
9. Legion Pulse Pre Workout
Effective pump inducer
90-day money-back guarantee
Does not contain creatine
Legion Pulse pre-workout is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements we were able to find. It contains citrulline, anhydrous caffeine, ornithine, and beta-alanine to deliver a powerful cross benefit training effect.Read more
The combination of citrulline malate and theanine, both associated with increased nitrogen levels, will pump more blood to your muscles while the beta alanine content gives you a boost. The product is labeled as having all-natural ingredients.
Legion Pulse promises a caffeine boost that will not leave you feeling jittery or cause a crash later. This is because they have included 350 mg of caffeine, which Legion Athletics says is a nice median amount for people with a range of body weights. For comparison, you get 350 mg of caffeine in a plain grande coffee from Starbucks.
Ingredients are precisely measured and dosed to maximize growth, with no side effects when used properly. Legion Athletics is confident enough in its product to offer a 90-day money-back guarantee.
You also get the option to buy Legion Pulse without caffeine, which is a nice perk we did not see from other products. Legion Athletics also promises no stomach aches after using Legion Pulse.
10. B.S.N N.O. Explode Pre Workout
Energy increase from caffeine
Helps with nitric acid/blood delivery
Has a sweet flavor
Caffeine dosage within suggested limits
Can only be used pre workout
B.S.N N.O. Explode pre-workout energy igniter delivers a potent blend of ingredients to fire up your workout and provide you with a strong surge during your sets.Read more
The product’s main ingredients are 274 mg of caffeine, 1.8 grams of beta-alanine, and 3 grams of creatine. The mixture promises to deliver energy, muscle pumping action, and more strength specifically as your workout set comes to an end. There is also a nitric oxide stimulating effect for increased blood flow.
N.O. Explode comes in five fruity flavors, including blue raspberry, fruit punch, grape, green apple, and watermelon. It is possible to look up the exact ingredients in each flavor on the retailer’s website; although the main difference is only in the exact flavonoids and colors, this is still useful information to know.
Reviewers indicated that N.O. Explode is easy to mix, dissolving in water or your favorite drink to deliver a juicy product that goes down easy without any chalkiness or aftertaste. Reviewers indicated the mix has a fizzy consistency. This product is designed to take a half hour or so before a workout, and should not be taken for post workout recovery or on days when you don’t train.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
It may have a huge ingredient list, but does it work?
In this review, we looked strictly at pre-workout supplements. We have reviewed post-workout recovery supplements, weight loss/ weight gain aids, protein supplements and energy aids in other sections of the website.
We did note where a product has other useful benefits and assigned scores effectively. But we were not interested in products not advertised as being useful for 15 to 30 minutes before an actual workout.
Some of the products in this review have extra benefits, but in order to make the list, each product had to do one thing well: prepare you for your workout by increasing its effectiveness.
So we focused on products that we found effective. The thing is, we are all different. What is effective for one user may not be much help for someone else. So it was important for us to explore different ingredients, providing summaries of each ingredient's purpose to help you pick and choose the benefits you need. Some fitness buffs use caffeine regularly with no problems; for others, caffeine can cause overstimulation. So we have shared when caffeine is an ingredient. We wanted to help our readers learn about ways to get energy without using caffeine. This is one example of how the idea of effectiveness is not one size fits all.
The features of pre workout supplements mostly include ingredients and benefits.
Features can also include flavors and production processes. A supplement with all natural ingredients will appeal to someone who finds it important to stay away from certain chemicals and processes. For our review, we made sure to pick a range of products that will offer options for features.
If you think about it, the array of features offered by supplements is overwhelming. Since most of the features are things you cannot see or touch, manufacturers sometimes go overboard in listing them out. If you shop for a new treadmill, it is simple to see which ones have cooling fans or cup holders. With supplements, it may be harder to tell what "17 all natural ingredients designed to get your muscles pumped" may mean.
For that reason, we have worked to provide plain language and ingredient descriptions in our reviews, to better help you make choose the one that best suits your needs.
A single purpose supplement can still be versatile in different ways.
Versatility here refers to what a product can do besides prepping you for a workout. Since the article is about pre workout supplements, we were not as strict and exacting on this criteria as we may have been. There are some things you can buy that can and should only have one use. Pet shampoo and boxes of nails are both examples of this.
With supplements, things get a little murky because quite often manufacturers will offer several perks, like a powder you can take before you work out as well as when you first wake up in the morning. So while our aim was to share the best pre workout supplements with you, we also included some that are not only for that extra boost. Products that can do more are always a good way to save money.
A bigger ingredient list does not mean a bigger value.
Would you buy pure creatine powder, that can give you strength for explosive movements but will not help with recovery?
You may, for your own reasons. And by using the creatine, you would be getting a good value. This is because paying for a product with other features may be more expensive. Nobody wants to pay for something they do not plan on using.
If, on the other hand, you do want something that can energize you, help you recover, give your muscles more fuel, and help you recover and stay awake after a hard session. In this case, your goal would be to have a list of your most important features, match them with ingredients, and then go from there when you examine possible supplements.
Brand names aren't everything, but a company's reputation is important.
We feel most comfortable endorsing products that we know have either a history or a proven record of reliability and honesty.
This is why many of our reviews were for products produced by long running and well known companies. Having been around for ten or twenty years does not automatically mean a company is perfect, but it does say something that the company has survived for that long in a competitive market.
Of course, there is also something to be said for startup companies. Every large, successful company had to start out small. There is nothing wrong with purchasing from a brand that is only a year or two old. Just make sure to look at reviews, compare ingredients, ask questions, and make sure you are comfortable with your ultimate decision.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Marketers are clever at getting people excited without providing much concrete evidence for their claims.
This is not to say that marketing is bad or that you can never trust what a company says about itself. You just have to educate yourself and learn to look at supplements with a knowledgeable eye.
Think of the things you read as things that each ingredient may do or can potentially do. Then research that ingredient by finding and using an impartial source. You may be surprised at what you find. Doing your research, and understanding that supplement companies have a vested interest in your purchase decision, will help you find a supplement that will meet your needs while keeping your expectations realistic.
Most trainers and other fitness experts would feel comfortable suggesting creatine as a standalone supplement or as part of a multi ingredient mixture.
This is because there is research and science behind creatine use. It is safe when used in the proper doses. It is not something to be taken every day, but is something you can take for specific workouts, just prior to starting them.
Finding and reading studies--they are easy to find on the web--will help you understand what creatine will and will not do for you. It is associated with short term strength gains for intense physical activity.
It is wise to apply this same method, of reviewing scientific studies, to each ingredient that a supplement offers before you buy.
Other Factors to Consider
Before you buy a supplement, or consider buying one, it pays to consider what use it has. This review is for pre workout supplements, as we have discussed, but some of the products on this list can also work as recovery options or energizers. You should consider what the product's use is, and also what you plan to use it for. That way you will know that you can get what you need out of the product and you will be satisfied with your decision.
Ease of Use
We included ease of use because, while virtually all of these products can be mixed with liquids to drink, some of them are pre mixed and others can be used in cooking.
We suppose, technically, that anything in powder form can be used for cooking. Pancakes come to mind. You can make protein pancakes by putting some of the supplement powder in the flour. They usually will enhance the flavor, or at least have a negligible effect, but it would be good to know if a supplement has a particularly unappealing flavor. And, of course, most of us would not want cherry limeade or other fruit flavors in a pancake.
Premixed drinks are easier to use than powder mixes. Powder mixes that dissolve quickly are easier to use than extra thick or insoluble ones. For some supplements, you may as well use a mixer or blender each time because you will struggle to get the powder dissolved. In each case, we want you to know what you are getting into with your purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Are supplements safe?
Supplements are safe if you use them appropriately and are following the exact directions supplied by the manufacturer. They are not "legal steroids." While not inspected or certified by the FDA, supplements are subject to the same safety and truth in advertising rules as any other consumer product.
If you are in doubt or if something seems off, you may be able to talk to a doctor about possible side effects. A medical professional will know more about chemicals and how they interact with your body that most fitness buffs will.
q: Do supplements work?
That is a complicated question. The best supplements, those with good reputations and track records, will have a positive impact on your energy level and workout progress. It is important to consider a brand's track record and reviews before making a purchase.
Managing expectations is also important, too. The same supplement may not do for you what it does for a friend or for a reviewer. If you use supplements as part of an overall routine, with regular exercise and a healthy eating plan, the supplements will compliment everything else you are doing and will help you meet your goals.
q: Do I need supplements?
We are of the mind that supplements are not an essential component of a successful health and fitness plan. You can build strength and improve your overall wellness with regular cardio and weight bearing exercise, without adding supplements into the mix. They are called supplements because they are supplemental to what you are already doing, when used properly.
On the other hand, supplements can absolutely help you meet your goals faster, and are a huge advantage for certain physical endeavors. A martial artist, who needs to make fast and impactful movements, might benefit from taking creatine shortly before a lifting session. Creatine, specifically, aids you in making explosive movements.
q: What is the deal with amino acids?
Amino acids occur naturally in your body and are what your body uses to make protein. Protein aids in muscle growth. Proteins are made of what is called long chains of DNA. Without amino acids, your body cannot put together these long chains. The appeal of some supplements is that they will give your system more amino acids to work with, which can aid in muscle construction.
q: Can supplements be bad for you?
They can, but virtually any consumable product can be dangerous if you overuse it or use it an ways that are not recommended. Always follow directions when using your supplements. Use them only for the reasons manufacturers say to use them. For example, you would not take creatine in the morning as a means of getting you energy throughout your workday, because creatine gives short lasting intense physical energy and does not improve mental focus for a whole eight hour work day.