18 Best Pre-Workouts of 2023, RDN-Approved (Dec Update)

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One of the most popular supplements on the market, pre-workouts often increase energy, blood flow, endurance, power, and even hydration. As such, you can find different combinations of beneficial ingredients (like caffeine, citrulline, and beta-alanine) in the form of powders, pre-made drinks, small liquid shots, and even chews and gum.

But with the glut of information on pre-workouts from ill-advised TikTok trends (i.e., dry scooping) to fit-fluencers peddling that good-good on all platforms, it’s easy to get lost. Which pre-workouts work, and which ones are just noise? We’ve spent years testing out the best pre-workouts for weight loss, men, women, and more, and we’ve got opinions. After working with a registered dietitian and personally putting these products to the test, here are what we consider to be the best pre-workout supplements for just about any fitness goal.

The 18 Best Pre-Workout Supplements of 2023

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine.

About Our Expert

This article has been reviewed by Justine Hays, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, a registered dietitian and experienced health writer. She reviewed the research we cite and the efficacy of the pre-workouts we list to help ensure we’re providing advice that’s safe and sound. However, everyone’s body is different, so before you try any new products, it’s best to consult your doctor.

Best Pre-Workout Supplements Video Review

Though we still want you to read our thoroughly researched pre-workout round-up, sometimes a video is easier to digest. We’ve got you covered on both. Check out our equally thoughtful and scrupulously researched video review below.

[Related: Are Preworkouts Worth It?]

How We Picked and Tested the Best Pre-Workouts

We tried a lot of pre-workouts (and hit a lot of PRs) before landing on this list. Here are the criteria we looked at. 

1. Value

Most pre-workouts cost between $1.00 and $2.00 per serving. Plenty are more expensive, and usually, the price is justified, but over two dollars per serving counts as “you should know this is pricey” territory. We made sure that all of the prices of the product on this list were in line (in our eyes, at least) with the ingredients included and the potency of the formula.

2. Transparency

A considerable number of pre-workouts consist of proprietary blends that tell you the ingredients but not the amounts that are provided. That means you won’t know exactly what’s effective and what’s not. Now, legally, they have to order the components by weight, so you can usually get a decent guess at the dose, and proprietary blends are so prominent in the industry that we didn’t outright disqualify a product that has one — but it definitely loses points for lack of transparency. We also chose some products for this list specifically because of their crystal-clear dosing.

3. Dosage

On a related note, scores of pre-workouts take research-backed ingredients but don’t use research-backed doses. For example, creatine needs to be dosed at three to five grams to have the desired effect. We know the research front and back, so we can assess how effective a dose is. (Note that sometimes, as is the case with tyrosine, we don’t really know the minimum dosage, but we can make an educated guess.) For the most part, we have only included picks on this list that contain the proper dosage for their ingredients.

4. Third-Party Testing

Some companies will employ a third party, like Informed Choice, Informed Sport, or NSF, to test their products (or their facility) for substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency or NCAA banned list. Many athletes will only take third-party tested products, particularly since questionable pre-workouts can be the ones that produce positive results.

5. Taste

If you don’t enjoy the way a supplement tastes, you’re probably not going to enjoy drinking it. While we know everybody is different, we still like to give some personal perspective on the flavor. After all, if we think a flavor is absolutely undrinkable, it’s good to know in advance. 

6. Solubility

Solubility is another important factor we like to consider. Practically speaking, you’re probably not going to be using a blender to mix up your pre-workout. For most of us, we like to toss a scoop in a shaker bottle and head to the gym. Considering pre-workout chunks are pretty bitter and difficult to swallow, good solubility is a must-have.

7. Side Effects

As mentioned above, everyone’s body is different, so while some people may feel tingly or jittery after a pre-workout, others may not. That’s why we have a variety of testers with different bodies and tolerances to give a well-rounded perspective on the side effects. 

With that said, it’s impossible to give a review that’s true for everyone. So, if you’ve never taken a pre-workout supplement before or have pre-existing medical conditions, it’s best to consult your personal physician before you buy.

Best Pre-Workout Overall: Transparent Labs Bulk

Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK
  • Caffeine: 200mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, and 300mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Strawberry Kiwi, Piña Colada, Blue Raspberry, Black Cherry, Peach Mango, Tropical Punch, Watermelon, Sour Grape, Green Apple, Orange, Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Lime
  • Price Per Serving: $1.67

Specs

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 6g of citrulline malate, 4g of beta-alanine, 2.5g of betaine anhydrous, 180mg caffeine, 360mg l-theanine, 1.3g taurine
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Strawberry Kiwi, Pina Colada, Blue Raspberry, Black Cherry, Peach Mango, Tropical Punch, Sour Grape, Watermelon, Watermelon Peach, Cherry Splash, Orange
  • Price Per Serving: $1.49

Pros

  • This pre-workout is transparent with clearly labeled, research-backed, and effectively-dosed ingredients.
  • BULK has boron and zinc that might help increase testosterone.
  • This pick contains alpha-GPC, taurine, and tyrosine, all of which may help with focus.

Cons

  • The large dose of beta-alanine may cause too much tingling.
  • BULK is somewhat expensive compared to similar options.
  • Transparent Labs uses stevia to sweeten this, which may taste bitter.

When looking for an excellent pre-workout supplement, we value research-backed ingredients in clearly disclosed dosages. Transparent Labs is a company that heavily prioritizes both of those elements in their BULK pre-workout. In fact, in our testing, it earned a perfect 5 out of 5 in multiple fields including formulation, solubility, and third-party testing. 

Transparent Labs BULK is our best-rated pre-workout, thanks in a big part to its…transparency. There aren’t any blends, it’s gluten-free and contains no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. If you read the label, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting and how much — which is crucial if you also take other supplements. (Accidentally doubling up on dosages for specific ingredients is dangerous at worst and redundant at best.)

BULK’s 200 milligrams of caffeine (per serving) is in the middle of the pack compared to other products on the market; our tester felt a productive surge of energy without a post-workout crash during testing. BULK features big hits of citrulline and beta-alanine, which gave our tester a nice pump toward the middle and end of their workout. Users apparently agree, as one of the five-star reviews states that Bulk “yields an intense pump, sustained energy, and no burnout after my workout.”

“Beta-Alanine is well researched and generally regarded as safe when taken by most adults, as directed,” says Justine Hays, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, a registered dietitian and experienced health writer. “Beta-Alanine works by preventing muscle fatigue, allowing you to work out at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.”

Each scoop also contains a solid dose of boron, which may potentially boost testosterone production in the body. (1

The flavors are on point as well, especially Blue Raspberry — our tester, a certified nutrition coach, rated it a perfect 5 out of 5.

It tasted the way you think a blue raspberry would taste,” he said. “This has a sweet flavor, but it isn’t so sweet that you have trouble drinking it.”

BarBend Testing Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs BULK at BarBend for testing

Transparent Labs brought a potent pre-workout to the table. BULK has effective doses of ingredients that can aid in focus, energy, blood flow, and testosterone production, making it a great choice all around.

Read our full Transparent Labs BULK Review.

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of l-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1.25g of betaine anhydrous, 1g of creatine hcl, 180mg caffeine, 90mg l-theanine, 75mg l-elevATP, 25mg AstraGin 
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch, Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Arctic White
  • Price Per Serving: $1.16

Specs

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of l-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1.25g of betaine anhydrous, 1g of creatine hcl, 180mg caffeine, 90mg l-theanine, 75mg l-elevATP, 25mg AstraGin 
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch, Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Arctic White
  • Price Per Serving: $1

Pros

  • The combination of citrulline and betaine anhydrous can help users achieve a pump, which research shows may lead to muscle growth. 
  • The addition of creatine can help improve muscle strength and size over time.
  • The combination of beta-alanine and caffeine may work well together to provide focused energy.

Cons

  • People may find the beta-alanine-induced skin tingles uncomfortable. 
  • This product has artificial sweeteners, which may not be ideal for all athletes.

There’s a difference between a pre-workout that energizes you and a pre-workout with ingredients that can help you put on muscle. We found the latter in Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build with a formula intended to support testosterone production and help you get a solid pump, both of which may help you pack on some lean pounds.

This research-backed formula features a wide range of time-tested ingredients that can help promote muscle growth in several ways. Each scoop has 3,000mg of citrulline and 1,250mg of betaine (clinically-researched doses), which helped our testers get solid muscle pumps during testing. Research suggests that achieving a pump during workouts can actually trigger protein synthesis, resulting in muscle growth. (2) Considering our testers achieved some nice pumps, the ingredients seemed to work for them. 

Jacked Factory’s formula also includes a gram of creatine HCl per serving. A widely-researched supplement, creatine may be able to help increase your strength gains when resistance training, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Bulk also packs a 4,000mg shot of beta-alanine, an amino acid that has been shown to delay muscle fatigue, helping you push through your workouts. “A common side effect is skin tingling,” Justine Hays, R.D., says. “If this is uncomfortable for you, it can be alleviated by consuming lower doses.”

If you’re focused on packing on as much muscle as possible, Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build might be the right pre-workout. It has several ingredients that may help trigger muscle growth, potentially promoting muscle-building pumps, all while delayin

Read our full Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Review.

Strongest Pre-Workout: Transparent Labs BULK Black

Transparent Labs BULK Black

Transparent Labs BULK Black

Transparent Labs BULK Black

Transparent Labs BULK Black is one of the strongest pre-workout supplements on the market. This product comes in five delicious flavors and has high levels of must-have pre-workout ingredients, like caffeine, citrulline, and beta-alanine.

Specs

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of l-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1.25g of betaine anhydrous, 1g of creatine hcl, 180mg caffeine, 90mg l-theanine, 75mg l-elevATP, 25mg AstraGin 
  • Flavors: Cherry Kiwi, Blue Raspberry, Peach Mango, Sour Gummy, Black Cherry
  • Price Per Serving: $1.83

Pros

  • This contains the caffeine equivalent of about three cups of strong coffee.
  • The doses of beta-alanine and citrulline are higher than they are in most other pre-workouts.
  • BULK Black doesn’t just hone in on energy; it also has ingredients for blood flow and focus. 

Cons

  • Other pre-workout supplements include a small dose of creatine, too.
  • Most of the flavors are more on the unique side, and there aren’t a ton to choose from.

For athletes who love sipping on caffeine before a workout, not just any pre-workout can offer an adequate energy boost. After testing this product ourselves, we think Transparent Labs BULK Black exceeds other formulas in energy-producing ingredients, making it the strongest pre-workout on the market.

One reason we like this formula for strength is that it contains a large, 8,000mg dose of citrulline malate. This ingredient may be able to help improve strength and endurance, as it increases blood flow to your muscles, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That’s paired with 305 milligrams of caffeine, which is more than most pre-workout supplements. For reference, a standard cup of coffee contains around 95 milligrams. 

You also get 4,000 milligrams of beta-alanine, which can help reduce muscular fatigue. (31) Another great addition is vitamin D. “Vitamin D is an important nutrient added into this supplement,” Justine Hays, R.D., says. “Most Americans don’t get enough vitamin D, so this might be a good choice for some people.” 

Tester scooping Transparent Labs Bulk Black as best pre-workout
Our tester scooping Transparent Labs Bulk Black as best pre-workout

Despite the heavy-handed caffeine, our tester experienced minimal crashing and had zero jitters. Users also reported that even a full scoop doesn’t interfere with sleep. 

One of our expert product testers who has used nearly 40 pre-workout products himself rates BULK Black as his favorite supplement of all time. His favorite flavor is Peach Mango, which he gave a 5 out of 5 rating.

This is so good that I don’t want to finish it. I want to sip it like a fine wine,” he says. He also gave BULK Black a 5 out of 5 for solubility, noting that it mixes well with water in a shaker cup.

Want the full scoop on pre-workouts? See our complete guide to pre-workout supplements here

Best Pre-Workout for Men: Transparent Labs BULK 

Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK
  • Caffeine: 200mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, and 300mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Strawberry Kiwi, Piña Colada, Blue Raspberry, Black Cherry, Peach Mango, Tropical Punch, Watermelon, Sour Grape, Green Apple, Orange, Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Lime
  • Price Per Serving: $1.67

Specs

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 6g of citrulline malate, 4g of beta-alanine, 2.5g of betaine anhydrous, 180mg caffeine, 360mg l-theanine, 1.3g taurine
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Strawberry Kiwi, Pina Colada, Blue Raspberry, Black Cherry, Peach Mango, Tropical Punch, Sour Grape, Watermelon, Watermelon Peach, Cherry Splash, Orange
  • Price Per Serving: $1.49

Pros

  • Since men are more likely to have a B12 deficiency, the 4,167 percent dose of your RDI in here might help. (4) (Of course, always check with your doctor before taking a new supplement. This is not a solution for those who have a vitamin deficiency.)
  • This contains the caffeine equivalent of about two cups of strong coffee.
  • You can choose from 12 different, unique flavors.

Cons

  • The caffeine content might be excessive for some. 
  • There is no creatine in this pre-workout.

Many men may supplement with a pre-workout to help boost energy, maintain focus, and potentially gain more muscle and strength. But they may also want a pre-workout that fills nutritional gaps and supports them where they may be most deficient. After testing this product ourselves, we think Transparent Labs BULK checks more boxes than we knew we needed, making it the best pre-workout for men on the market.

We like BULK because it contains over 4,000 percent of your daily need for vitamin B12, and research suggests that men may be more likely to have a B12 deficiency. (4) B12 is important because of its effects on energy levels and nerve function. One of the symptoms of deficiency is even muscle weakness, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough. (4)

If you need some extra pep in your step, Bulk contains about two cups of coffee’s worth of caffeine (200mg), which, along with the other ingredients, gave our testers a strong jolt of long-lasting energy with zero crashes. But for the uninitiated, that much caffeine may be too much if you’re new to pre-workout. Newbies (and night owls and the caffeine sensitive) take caution. 

Our testers tried the blue raspberry flavor and were impressed, noting it wasn’t too sweet, Plus, the powder mixes really well, which is ideal when you’re sipping your preworkout from a shaker bottle. 

This pre-workout contains a whopping 4,167 percent of your daily vitamin B12 needs to potentially help you avoid B12 deficiencies, which research suggests may disproportionately affect men. If you’re looking for a pre-workout that may help you prolong your time in the gym and fuel your muscle recovery, this pick also has beta-alanine, and citrulline.

Read our full list of the Best Pre-Workouts for Men.

Best Pre-Workout for Beginners: Onnit Alpha-BRAIN

Onnit Alpha-BRAIN Pre-Workout

Onnit Alpha-BRAIN Pre-Workout

Onnit Alpha-BRAIN Pre-Workout

Onnit Alpha-BRAIN Pre-Workout boasts a unique formula aimed to increase energy and focus. Choose between two flavors and several subscription options to save money.

Specs

  • Caffeine: 200mg (150mg in Tiger’s Blood flavor)
  • Key Ingredients: 2.4g of l-citrulline, 2.4g of beta-alanine, 200mg caffeine, 225mg ashwagandha, 250mg African palm oil
  • Flavors: Yuzu Peach and Tiger’s Blood
  • Price Per Serving: $2.99

Pros

  • Lighter dosages of ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine
  • Not many pre-workouts contain dedicated hydration ingredients like ashwagandha and African palm oil
  • Great for focus and energy
  • Third-party tested

Cons

  • The price per serving is expensive.
  • There are only two flavors to choose from. 
  • Mixed reviews on flavor options

Being a beginner in the gym can feel intimidating, but with the right guidance and supplementation, it may be a bit less daunting. Onnit Alpha-BRAIN Pre-Workout is designed with some of the most important basic essentials while giving you some extras for focus and endurance.

We had several people test Alpha-BRAIN (which is also the name of one of Onnit’s best multivitamins). Every single person commented on their increase in focus, which comes as no surprise with the nootropics like ashwagandha and dynamine. 

I usually feel more focused with most pre-workouts, but Alpha-BRAIN is one of the best for this,” one of our testers, a competitive weightlifter, remarked. “I have even taken this before work instead of coffee just for that extra attention.”

You’ll also find 2.4 grams of l-citrulline, which works to help increase the nitric oxide available for use to expand blood vessels and improve blood flow, while betaine may enhance muscular endurance. This is a winning combination for some gnarly muscle pumps.(8).

“The combination of ingredients bodes well for those rocking high-volume workouts,” says registered dietitian Chelsea Rae Bourgeios. “The beta alanine and L-citrulline can help boost performance and give you a good pump.”

However, Chelsea Rae says the formulation is just above average. “I’d give Alpha Brain a 3.25 out of 5 for its formulation because it contains proprietary blends and very little L-citrulline compared to other pre-workouts.”

There is 200 milligrams of caffeine in Alpha-BRAIN if you choose the Yuzu Peach flavor, but only 150 milligrams in the Tiger’s Blood flavor. That’s a great option for beginners who may be easing into adding caffeine to their daily routines.

Speaking of flavors, our testers unanimously recommend the Tiger’s Blood over Yuzu Peach.

I’d give Yuzu Peach a 3 out of 5 for flavor because it is bitter, but Tiger’s Blood is a clear 5 out of 5,” one tester reported.

If you choose to go with Alpha-BRAIN, be warned that it comes at a price: $2.99 per serving to be exact. That makes it the most expensive pre-workouts on this list. However, Onnit will knock 15 percent off the price if you opt for a subscription.

Best Pre-Workout for Pump: Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite Pre-Workout

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Pre-Kaged® Elite provides nine patented ingredients with 35 milligrams of vitamin B6 and 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B12 in a single 36-gram scoop. Each serving is 25 calories and includes caffeine, taurine, l-citrulline, beta-alanine, l-tyrosine, and two types of creatine.

Specs

  • Caffeine: 388mg
  • Key Ingredients: 1g of citrulline, 3.2g of beta-alanine, 2.5g of betaine anhydrous, 388mg caffeine, 3g creatine monohydrate
  • Flavors: Glacier Grape, Fruit Punch, Orange Mango, Caribbean Sunrise, Strawberry Lemonade
  • Price Per Serving: $2.99

Pros

  • This formula has large doses of ingredients like citrulline for blood flow and pumps. 
  • This one has coconut fruit water powder for electrolytes.
  • You also get 3,000mg of creatine monohydrate.

Cons

  • The caffeine content is very high, which may be too much for some. 
  • At $2.40 per serving, this product is a little pricey.

Getting a “pump” in your workout means you’re increasing blood flow to a muscle. For some, it might not just be an aesthetic benefit — more blood to the muscles may also help with hypertrophy and reducing muscle soreness. Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite may help facilitate pumps by potentially widening your blood vessels the same way the best nitric oxide supplements do.

We had a competitive weightlifter try out Pre-Kaged Elite before several of his training sessions. He rated it a perfect 5 out of 5 for its effects. 

This pre-workout doesn’t have that spike of energy and then dramatic decline like some mixes do,” he said. “Instead, it’s just like I have good energy throughout my workout.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger said that one of the best feelings in the world is the pump, and we tend to agree. We like that Kaged Elite includes ingredients like l-citrulline, which can help improve performance and blood flow to your muscles, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Combined with betaine anhydrous (an ingredient that promotes vascular function), you can get that coveted pump. 

Despite the high caffeine content (388mg per serving), our tester said he didn’t feel too jittery while taking the product. 

Scooping Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite into a container
Our tester scooping Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite into a container

In terms of taste, our tester rated Pre-Kaged Elite a 4 out of 5, noting that it’s very easy to drink. He also gave it a 5 out of 5 for solubility because he didn’t find he had to continually shake his bottle before every sip.

Kaged does run third-party testing on all its products, including this one. That may be part of the reason this pre-workout costs about $2.40 per serving.

Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss: Transparent Labs LEAN

Transparent Labs LEAN for Weight Loss

Transparent Labs LEAN for Weight Loss

Transparent Labs LEAN for Weight Loss

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, and 300mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Sour Peach, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Orange, Cherry Limeade, Sour Grape, Watermelon, Tropical Punch
  • Price Per Serving: $1.66

Specs

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 6g of citrulline malate, 2g of beta-alanine, 1.5g of betaine anhydrous, 180mg caffeine, 1.8g l-theanine
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Sour Grape, Fruit Punch, Sour Peach, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Orange, Tropical Punch
  • Price Per Serving: $1.66

Pros

  • LEAN has ingredients you might typically find in a fat burner.
  • This product is free of artificial sweeteners and colors.
  • This product comes in various tasty flavors so it won’t be a chore to drink your pre-workout.

Cons

  • The caffeine content might be too low for some people, especially if you’ve already built up a bit of a tolerance.
  • LEAN is a solid product, but it may not be enough for those looking for a dedicated fat burner.

The key to weight loss and burning fat is consuming fewer calories than you burn, but is there a pre-workout that might offer a little extra help? We think Transparent Labs steps up to the plate big time with this unique pre-workout formula.

Disclaimer: Please note that none of these products describe themselves as weight loss supplements and should not be taken as such. Please consult with a medical professional before beginning any weight loss protocol.

Transparent Labs LEAN has a lot of ingredients that you’ll also find in fat burner supplements. The iodine and zinc, may also support thyroid health. Thyroid health is important for maintaining a healthy body weight, as it controls your metabolism. Some research shows that your thyroid may slow hormone production and your metabolism when you lose weight, so having those support ingredients is potentially very helpful if weight loss is your goal. (5

If you’re taking it with a multivitamin, Hays urges caution, however. “If using this supplement along with a daily multivitamin or other supplements, be sure to read the labels so as to not overdo it on some micronutrients, such as copper.”

During testing, we did notice that this product doesn’t mix very well — there were floaties in the water even after some hardcore shaking. It’s not a huge issue, but if floating bits are a deal-breaker for you, you may want to try a different pre. Also, our tester wasn’t a fan of the taste, noting that it’s slightly bitter.

Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout

While some of the ingredients have lower amounts than dedicated fat burners and pre-workouts, the majority of the ingredients are dosed very well. Transparent Labs LEAN is a stand-out pre-workout that’s all-natural and might increase thermogenesis (aka the number of calories you’re burning) as well as support healthy thyroid hormone levels while you get your pump on in the gym.

Read our full Transparent Labs LEAN Review.

Best All-Natural Pre-Workout: Legion Pulse

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

This pre-workout supplement can come with or without caffeine and in 16 different flavors. Each serving provides 350 milligrams of L-theanine and eight grams of citrulline, which may facilitate better pumps. 

Specs

  • Caffeine: 350mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8g of citrulline malate, 3.6g of beta-alanine, 2.5g of betaine anhydrous, 350mg caffeine, 350mg l-theanine
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch, Blueberry Lemonade, Cherry Limeade, Pina Colada, Rainbow Sherbet, and Strawberry Kiwi
  • Price Per Serving: $2.25

Pros

  • No artificial colors, preservatives, or ingredients.
  • No additional sugars
  • Clinically-backed pre-workout ingredients
  • Third-party testing
  • Also available in a stimulant-free option

Cons

  • High price per serving at $2.25
  • Doesn’t contain creatine
  • Uses erythritol for sweeteners, the taste of which some people don’t like

If you’re choosing to utilize a pre-workout to boost your energy, focus, and pumps, but you want to avoid artificial or added sugars, colors, preservatives, and flavors, Legion Pulse might just be the best natural pre-workout for you. The brand claims this is “100% all-natural,” and because they use Labdoor for third-party testing, we’re inclined to believe it.

Several of our testers, including two personal trainers, have tested Legion Pulse. One actually went through the entire container because he liked it so much.

I like the one-to-one ratio of caffeine and l-theanine because the caffeine content here is high, but the l-theanine balances it out so you don’t feel jittery or over-stimulated,” he said.

(If you don’t want caffeine, Pulse also comes in a stimulant-free version.)

Shaker bottle with Legion Pulse
Our tester and a shaker cup with Legion Pulse

Pulse contains clinically-backed dosages of the key ingredients you would expect to see in a pre-workout, like beta-alanine, l-citrulline malate, and betaine anhydrous. We love the inclusion of 2.5 grams of betaine, which plays a key role in muscular endurance. Throw in electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and calcium, and Pulse delivers a well-balanced product.

Chelsea Rae Bourgeois, registered dietitian, weighed in on Pulse’s formula, giving it a 3.75 out of 5. “There are no proprietary blends, and all ingredients are backed by scientific research that Legion has linked to their website,” she said. “However, it has a hefty dose of sodium and caffeine in each serving, which isn’t ideal for all athletes.” 

There are several flavor options available for Pulse. Our testers rated the flavors an average of 4 out of 5, noting that you might pick up on an aftertaste.

To keep the product natural, Legion uses erythritol as a sweetener,” points out one of our testers, a certified health coach. “That can sometimes create a bit of an aftertaste, which I definitely got.”

Legion Pulse comes in around $2.25 per serving, which is definitely higher than average. We see the brand offer big sales around the holidays, and they also have a subscription savings that takes as much as 30 percent off the price.

Check out our full Legion Pulse Pre-Workout Review.

Best Pre-Workout Lotion: Momentous PR Lotion

Momentous PR Lotion

Momentous PR Lotion
  • Caffeine: 0mg
  • Key Ingredients: Sodium bicarbonate
  • Flavors: N/A
  • Price Per Application: $3

Specs

  • Caffeine: N/A
  • Key Ingredients: Sodium bicarbonate
  • Flavors: N/A
  • Price Per Serving: N/A

Pros

  • The pre-workout lotion delivers the active ingredient directly to your muscles through the skin.
  • The sodium bicarbonate can help lessen the lactic acid burn.
  • This supplement may help minimize the inflammation that causes delayed-onset muscle soreness.

Cons

  • The lotion smells like baking soda (no surprise there), so you’ll be smelling it when you work out. 
  • Some users may not like the sticky feeling on their hands.

Instead of the multi-pronged approach that most pre-workouts use — stacking caffeine, beta-alanine, betaine and a host of other ingredients — Momentous PR Lotion’s active ingredient is simply sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. It’s a base that some studies have suggested may help equalize the lactic acid buildup in muscles during exercise, reducing the burn and helping you push out more reps. (5

Athletes can take this along with traditional pre-workouts if they’re looking for an additional boost from stimulants, or they can just use the lotion on its own to help combat fatigue and increase muscle recovery. 

User reviews have been hugely positive, reporting everything from less soreness and increased power output to fewer cramps during endurance workouts. Just be sure to wash your hands before you start lifting, as users say the lotion tends to get sticky if you don’t wash it off your hands right away. 

This lotion goes directly to your muscles to potentially help reduce lactic acid build. More studies are being done on the effects of sodium bicarbonate, but initial findings and anecdotal evidence shows that this supplement may be a new road to pushing out those last few reps in your workout. 

Best Tasting Pre-Workout: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

  • Caffeine: 360mg
  • Key Ingredients: 6,000mg of l-citrulline, 3.2g of beta alanine, 360mg of caffiene
  • Flavors: Arctic While, Black Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Blueberry Lemonade, Cherry Limeage, Cotton Candy, Fruit Punch, Grape, Green Apple, Natural Peach Mango, Pineapple, Rocket Pop, Sour Peach Rings, Strawberry Margarita, Swoleberry, Watermelon
  • Price Per Serving: $0.93

Specs

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of l-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1.25g of betaine anhydrous, 1g of creatine hcl, 180mg caffeine, 90mg l-theanine, 75mg l-elevATP, 25mg AstraGin 
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch, Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Arctic White
  • Price Per Serving: $1

Pros

  • Jacked Factory Nitrosurge has 16 different flavor options (we personally enjoyed the strawberry margarita and fruit punch).
  • The price per serving is reasonable, considering the potency of this formula.
  • The product lists ingredients for both one and two scoops.

Cons

  • The caffeine content from two scoops of this pre-workout may be too high for some. 
  • With such an intense formula, it’s surprising that there’s no creatine in here.

With any supplement, it helps greatly if you can stomach the taste. The last thing you need is your stomach turning in the middle of a set of squats (been there, done that). Thankful, Jacked Factory Nitrosurge comes in 16 flavors, all of which are objectively delicious and pretty unique. Our testers unanimously gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 for taste.

Kate Meier, BarBend editorial member and competitive weightlifter, says Nitrosurge is her go-to pre-workout because the Strawberry Margarita flavor “is like heaven on earth.”

If it weren’t for the caffeine, I’d probably just drink this all day long,” she said. 

The formula itself varies; Jacked Factory has one- and two-scoop information on its label. Overall, the key players are all here: caffeine, beta-alanine, betaine anhydrous, l-theanine, and l-citrulline.  

Kate rated Nitrosurge a 5 out of 5 for its overall effects, but has a word of warning:

I only use one scoop each time I work out, which has 180 milligrams of caffeine but is lighter on ingredients like beta-alanine and betaine,” she said. “There is a two-scoop dosage on the can, but that is too much caffeine for me. One scoop is just right!”

At around $1 per serving, it’s hard to find a flaw with this pre-workout. But there are some shortcomings. For example, Nitrosurge isn’t third-party tested, so be careful if you’re taking this leading up to a competition. Additionally, you won’t find any creatine here.

[RELATED: Best Creatine Supplements]

Best Pre-Workout for Running: XWERKS Ignite

Xwerks Ignite

Xwerks Ignite
  • Caffeine: 150mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3,000mg of citrulline malate, 2,000mg of l-tyrosine, 200mg of DMAE
  • Flavors: Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon
  • Price Per Serving: $1.63

Specs

  • Caffeine: 150mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of citrulline malate, 1.5g of beta-alanine, 2g l-tyrosine, 150mg caffeine
  • Flavors: Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon
  • Price Per Serving: $1.63

Pros

  • The citrulline and beta-alanine here may help aid in muscle endurance for longer training sessions or runs. 
  • This contains l-tyrosine, DMAE, and the herb rhodiola rosea, which may help you focus more while running.
  • Xwerks cites research to back up its ingredients. 

Cons

  • Some people may not like the beta-alanine tingles.
  • This product has caffeine, which may not be ideal for some runners.
  • There aren’t any hydration-focused ingredients in this pre-workout.

Compared to lifting, running generally requires more endurance and stamina, though it is possible to balance strength training and running. For those reasons, runners should reach for a pre-workout that prioritizes ingredients that stimulate long-term energy, focus, and performance when pounding out some miles. 

If you’re a runner chasing more miles and improved focus, you might prize XWERKS’ science-backed ingredient list. This formula notably includes electrolytes like calcium and magnesium lactate. Despite broad claims that lactate hinders performance, it may bolster endurance and can be gentler on the stomach than other forms of magnesium. (6)

After taking this product, our tester, herself an avid runner, reported that her energy levels and focus were great, with no jitters to speak of. “Citrulline and beta-alanine may support longer runs by helping to delay fatigue,” Justine Hays, R.D., says.

Also, our tester reported that the tingly feeling from beta-alanine was modest, which we like for running. After all, it might not be great to have your face on fire while you’re trying to keep your breathing under control. Beta-alanine is also well-known for enhancing muscular endurance and regulating pH balance, both of which are important when running.

When you sweat a ton, your body’s pH levels can be thrown off because of the water and mineral loss. Beta-alanine might help keep everything in homeostasis so you can continue to perform optimally for longer. 

Our tester mixing up XWERKS Ignite pre-workout

One thing we weren’t crazy about was the taste, as our tester, a certified health coach, rated it at a 4 out of 5. “I definitely picked up on an artificial taste,” she said. “If you like pre-workout to be very sweet, you would like this. I recommend diluting it with some extra water.”

Read our full XWERKS Ignite Pre-Workout Review.

Best Non-Stim Pre-Workout: Genius PRE 

Genius Pre Workout

Genius Pre Workout

This pre-workout powder delivers a robust blend of energy, pump, and endurance-boosting ingredients.

Specs

  • Caffeine: N/A
  • Key Ingredients: 6g l-citrulline malate, 2g CarnoSyn beta-alanine, 1g l-tyrosine, 1g l-arginine, 1g taurine, 2g betaine anhydrous
  • Flavors: Sour Apple, Blue Raspberry, Grape Limeade, Sour Cherry
  • Price Per Serving: $1.80

Pros

  • There are zero stimulants and a heavy focus on pump ingredients. 
  • This product’s label is great for transparent dosing — you know exactly how much of each ingredient you’re ingesting.
  • You can subscribe to a monthly delivery and save – even on Amazon

Cons

  • Some people find that stevia leaves a bad aftertaste. 
  • Not third-party tested

You don’t need to be bouncing off the walls to have an effective workout. Plenty of gymgoers prefer one of the best non-stimulant pre-workouts that won’t cause unwanted jitters or a crash. Our tester loved Genius Pre because he said it provided some good focus for his workouts.

I felt relaxed and ready instead of being overstimulated,” one of our testers noted, giving its overall effects a solid 4 out of 5. “Also, because the dose of beta-alanine is smaller than what you’d fine in many other pre-workouts, you don’t really get those tingles.”

In lieu of stimulants, the formulation of this non-stim pre-workout combines high-quality sports performance ingredients with antioxidant-rich natural additions. These worked well together to give our testers good pumps during their workouts. The blood flow ingredients took a bit longer to feel, so you might want to take this earlier before hitting the gym than other stimulant-based pre-workouts.

“With no caffeine in this supplement, you can control how much you take in before a workout,” says Justine Hays, R.D. “This makes it a nice option for people who are caffeine sensitive.”

One big hitter in this formula is 6 grams of citrulline malate, which promotes nitric oxide production for improved endurance and better pumps. Having more blood flowing to your muscles may also aid in recovery and delay fatigue by buffering local lactic acid buildup more efficiently.

Genius Pre earned a 5 out of 5 for both taste and solubility from our product testers. “The Blue Raspberry flavor is just like a slushie I remember having as a kid,” he said.

Where Genius Pre falls short is that it isn’t third-party tested. However, the brand does claim that it is free of artificial flavors and banned substances.

Best Pre-Workout for Athletes: JYM Pre-JYM

Pre Jym Preworkout

Pre Jym Preworkout

Exceptionally well dosed and very high in caffeine, Pre Jym shines for both its ingredient profile and its range of delicious flavors.

Specs

  • Caffeine: 300 mg
  • Key Ingredients: 6g of citrulline malate, 6g of BCAAs in 2:1:1 ratio, 2g beta-alanine, 2g creatine HCL, 1.5g betaine, 50 mg huperzine A, 500 mg of beet root extract
  • Flavors: Orange Mango, Raspberry Lemonade, Rainbow Sherbet, Grape Candy, Cherry Limeade, Tangerine, Pink Lemonade, Black Cherry
  • Price Per Serving: $1.83

Pros

  • Additions of BCAA, creatine and huperzine A are great for athletes.
  • The doses in this pre-workout match those recommended in the latest research. (7)
  • Many flavors to choose from.
  • Subscribe-and-save option

Cons

  • Not third-party tested
  • Contains sucralose
  • High price point of about $1.83 per serving

If you want a pre-workout geared for performance and not just pumps, Pre-JYM might be it. First, we need to call out that if you’re a competitive athlete, Pre-JYM is not third-party tested and therefore we can’t guarantee that it’s free from banned substances. However, if that doesn’t matter, keep reading to find out why we love this so much.

In terms of giving you a good pump, Pre-JYM excels,” says one of our testers, who has used more than three dozen pre-workouts. “I also feel clear-headed and really focused for my workouts.”

Pre-JYM offers all the key ingredients pre-workouts should have, like caffeine, beta-alanine, l-citrulline malate, and betaine. Each of these ingredients packs a powerful punch for energy, focus, endurance, and more. 

Pre JYM Pre Workout Testing

However, what sets Pre-JYM apart is that it includes 6 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids). Using one of the best BCAA supplements may lead to better protein synthesis as well as prevent fatigue. 

On top of that, Pre-JYM offers a few grams of creatine, known for its role in energy and performance. While the 2-gram dosage is less than the 3 to 5 grams we see in creatine supplements, it is nice that you get a little bit here. 

There are very many flavors of Pre-JYM available, and our testers mostly liked them, rating the ones they tried (Pineapple Strawberry and Rainbow Sherbet) a 4.5 out of 5. They warn that the taste is a little sweet.

Read more in our Pre-JYM Pre-Workout Review.

Best Pre-Workout With Creatine: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of l-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1.25g of betaine anhydrous, 1g of creatine hcl, 180mg caffeine, 90mg l-theanine, 75mg l-elevATP, 25mg AstraGin 
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch, Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Arctic White
  • Price Per Serving: $1.16

Specs

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of l-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1.25g of betaine anhydrous, 1g of creatine hcl, 180mg caffeine, 90mg l-theanine, 75mg l-elevATP, 25mg AstraGin 
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch, Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Arctic White
  • Price Per Serving: $1

Pros

  • This contains 1,000mg of creatine HCl.
  • This product doesn’t fall short on the pre-workout staples like betaine, beta-alanine, and citrulline.
  • Jacked Factory adds l-theanine, which may help increase focus.

Cons

  • The powder does contain artificial flavors and sweeteners. 
  • Other brands offer more flavor options.

If you’re someone who likes to supplement with creatine, but don’t love the idea of taking tons of different supplements, you’ll love that Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build contains a 1g dose of creatine HCl. You get a creatine and pre-workout supplement in one!

Creatine is a common staple for many gymgoers who are looking to get stronger and bigger. While many varieties of creatine exist, Nitrosurge Build contains creatine HCl. Creatine HCl may be a more bioavailable form of creatine, which can help eliminate the stomach issues often associated with monohydrate.

This formula also contains some major pre-workout players in solid doses, like citrulline, dosed at three grams. Citrulline works to help increase nitric oxide levels, which, in turn, can relax the blood vessels, improving blood flow. This can potentially help you achieve better pumps, improve recovery, and even improve endurance. (8

We have used Jacked Factory Nitrosurge, but we haven’t gotten to use “Build” yet. However, customer reviews are largely positive, as many people love the taste.

You can definitely feel the pump while working out,” one reviewer says. “I am very sensitive to a lot of pre-workout products; this one doesn’t bother me like other brands do.” 

If your current supplement stack could use an overhaul, you may want to add a pre-workout and creatine combo that allows you to take one less supplement per day. This pre-workout provides pre-workout staples, like citrulline and betaine, while also including a full dose of creatine HCl.

Best Vegan Pre-Workout: Naked Nutrition Naked Energy

Naked Nutrition Naked Energy

Naked Nutrition Naked Energy

Naked Nutrition Naked Energy

Naked Nutrition Naked Energy is a simple, powerful formula that is vegan-friendly. It comes in several flavors as well as options for a non-stimulant version. 

Specs

  • Caffeine: 200 mg or stim-free, depending on the flavor
  • Key Ingredients: 2g beta-alanine, 1g creatine, 1g l-arginine, Vitamins C, B3, B6, B12, folate, and calcium
  • Flavors: Unflavored, Citrus, Fruit-Punch, Stim-Free (this flavor has a slightly different ingredient profile)
  • Price Per Serving: $1.50

Pros

  • Certified vegan. 
  • Flavored and unflavored options
  • No artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors
  • Stim and stim-free options
  • Third-party tested
  • Contains additional vitamins and minerals

Cons

  • Contains 6g of sugar
  • Unflavored option is a little bitter

If you’re following a vegan diet, it can be difficult to find a pre-workout that caters to your dietary restrictions. We like Naked Nutrition because its pre-workout formula is certified vegan no matter if you choose a flavored or unflavored option, or one of its pre-workouts with caffeine or the stimulant-free version.

This isn’t just a good vegan pre-workout; it’s just a good pre-workout, according to our testers.

I tested the unflavored version that has 200 milligrams of caffeine, and it had great effects on my workout,” said one of our testers, who rated it a 4 out of 5 for its effects. “I love that I didn’t get the tingles from it but still felt a boost in energy.”

Scoop of Naked Nutrition Naked Energy
A scoop of Naked Nutrition Naked Energy

The formulation for each Naked Nutrition pre-workout varies depending on which option you want (flavor- and stimulant-wise). All options contain added vitamins like B6, B12, and C. You’ll also find a modest amount of beta-alanine and creatine. These dosages are under what we typically expect from a pre-workout, however.

“This formula has low doses of L-arginine, creatine, and beta-alanine, making it more appropriate for endurance athletes,” says registered dietitian Chelsea Rae Bourgeois. 

In terms of taste, our team was able to try both the unflavored version as well as the Citrus flavor. The unflavored product left a bitter taste in our tester’s mouth – literally.

If you choose the unflavored option, I recommend mixing it in a sports drink,” she said. 

The Citrus flavor, on the other hand, earned a perfect 5 out of 5 from our tester.

Best Budget Pre-Workout: Cellucor C4

Cellucor C4

Cellucor C4

This pre-workout takes a straightforward approach with an eight-ingredient formulation and a low caffeine dosage of 150mg, making it a great option for beginners.

Specs

  • Caffeine: 150 mg
  • Key Ingredients: 1.6g beta-alanine, 1g citrulline malate, Vitamins C, B6, and B12
  • Flavors: Cherry Limeade, Strawberry Watermelon, Grape, Watermelon, and many, many others
  • Price Per Serving: $0.70 or $0.58 depending on the container size

Pros

  • One of the most affordable pre-workouts on the market at $0.58 per serving
  • 150mg of caffeine
  • Notoriously delicious flavors
  • Dissolves well 

Cons

  • Not third-party tested
  • Not many clinically-backed dosages of key ingredients
  • Contains artificial flavors and sucralose

C4 may be the most recognizable pre-workout there is. It’s the starter pre-workout, the one you grab when you’re a teenager and just curious about how caffeine and beta-alanine make you want to run through a brick wall. And bonus: It is insanely affordable, priced at around $0.58 a serving. 

Fortunately, just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s no good; C4 is popular for a reason. First, it has 150 milligrams of caffeine, which our tester says is the sweet spot.

It’s enough for a boost, but not so much that you are over-stimulated,” he says. “This is great for beginners or people who are just getting started with pre-workouts.”

You’ll also find ingredients like beta-alanine, which, yes, might give you the tingles, but is known for its ability to prevent muscle fatigue. Cellucor throws in a number of vitamins and minerals as well, including energy-boosting B6 and B12.

Yes, creatine and citrulline malate are on the label, but at just 1 gram each, they are under-dosed for what we typically like to see in a pre-workout. We also don’t love all the artificial ingredients in Cellucor.

However, if you want something that tastes good, you can’t go wrong with C4, our testers all agree, rating it a 5 out of 5 for taste.“I’ve probably had just about every flavor of C4 available, and they are all delicious,” he says.

Best Pre-Workout for Women: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is a third-party tested supplement that has clinically supported dosages of key ingredients. Highly rated for its taste, this product also comes in at a great price.

Specs

  • Caffeine: 175mg 
  • Key Ingredients: 3g creatine, 1.5g beta-alanine, 750mg l-citrulline
  • Flavors: Blueberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Green Apple, Watermelon
  • Price Per Serving: $1.09

Pros

  • Clinically supported dosages of caffeine and creatine ideal for energy and focus
  • Four flavors available that are highly rated
  • Affordable at $1.09 per serving
  • Informed Choice third-party tested

Cons

  • Contains some artificial flavors and sucralose
  • Contains Blue 1
  • Not the strongest pre-workout for pumps

Most pre-workouts aren’t specifically designed for men or women (and we believe men, women, and non-binary people alike can consume them). Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard has some ingredients that may support women during intense training sessions and aid in improving performance, making it one of the best pre-workouts for women.

This formula has a dose of folate and a vitamin B-complex. “Folate is an important nutrient for overall health, especially in women,” Justine Hays, R.D., says. Folic acid supplements (or folate) can be important for women for supporting energy and reproductive and post-menopausal health. It’s also involved in red blood cell health — folate deficiency can cause anemia and severe fatigue, making it much harder to function daily, let alone push hard during workouts. 

Our tester, Kate Meier, has used Gold Standard Pre-Workout several times. 

This gave me a really good energy level and focus for my workout without insane tingles, like some pre-workouts cause,” she said.

Kate gave the taste of Gold Standard a perfect 5 out of 5 for taste, noting that you’ll definitely experience a sweet taste, but it isn’t so sweet that you can’t drink it. She also noted that you’ll have no problem getting this to dissolve in water. 

I didn’t even use the blender ball one time, and its solubility was still perfect,” she said.

We love that the Gold Standard line from Optimum Nutrition is third-party tested through Informed Choice, so we know that we can trust the label. We don’t love that the label has several artificial ingredients. Also, we should point out that you’ll find sucralose in this pre-workout, which is probably why Kate and our other testers found the drink to be so sweet.

Read our full Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Review.

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Recovery: Momentous PR Lotion

Momentous PR Lotion

Momentous PR Lotion
  • Caffeine: 0mg
  • Key Ingredients: Sodium bicarbonate
  • Flavors: N/A
  • Price Per Application: $3

Specs

  • Caffeine: N/A
  • Key Ingredients: Sodium bicarbonate
  • Flavors: N/A
  • Price Per Serving: N/A

Pros

  • Sodium bicarbonate can create a buffer against lactic acid buildup, minimizing soreness after workouts.
  • Using a lotion before hitting the gym is a good alternative for people who are sick of drinking supps.
  • Since this is a topical cream, there are no GI issues to worry about. 

Cons

  • It has a strong baking soda scent.
  • Users have reported that the lotion gets sticky if you don’t wash it off your hands right away.
  • There isn’t much clinical research behind this product.

Designed to be rubbed onto working muscles before a workout, Momentous PR Lotion can provide a better acid/base balance in the muscles, which may not only delay fatigue during workouts, but can also help reduce muscle soreness. 

Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) is a base, which, if you remember some basic high school chemistry, neutralizes acids. Basically, it helps shield you from the chemical stress that exercise-induced acid production can cause (i.e. less muscle soreness). (5) Many of the five-star reviews on the Momentous website confirm these claims, with one saying that “as an active 52-year-old, this lotion increases muscle stamina, and also reduces soreness any recovery.”

The problem is, baking soda creates a gas when mixed with acid, so taking it orally can make you extremely gassy at best, and it can rupture your stomach at worst. (6) Applying baking soda in the form of a lotion solves this issue by bypassing the digestive system completely, since you rub it right onto your skin where it can be absorbed directly into the muscles. 

While sodium bicarbonate supplements still require more research, positive anecdotal evidence from user reviews and professional athletes suggests that this product can be a solid tool for minimizing delayed-onset muscle soreness after hard gym sessions.

When Should I Take Pre-Workout?

As the name implies, you want to take your pre-workout before you train. The general rule is to mix the powder (if you’re taking a powder, not a pill) in about eight ounces of water and ingest it 30 to 60 minutes before training. This time can allow the ingredients — like caffeine, beta-alanine, and taurine — to absorb and start taking effect. (29)

It might be helpful to take particularly high-dose and large pre-workouts a bit longer before training to allow your body more time to process the extra ingredients, though. On the flip side, if you like to take a long warmup, taking it closer to your arrival might allow for the effects to not kick in fully until you’re done warming up.

If you train at night, you may want to avoid caffeinated pre-workouts. Some pres contain 150mg of caffeine, with certain products packing 300mg or more. The half-life of caffeine has a huge range from three to nine hours, depending on the individual. If you take 300mg at 5 p.m., you could still have 150mg circulating at 8 p.m. on the low end, or it may still be circulating at nearly full potency.

How Much Do Pre-Workouts Cost?

The price of pre-workout varies (though not significantly) primarily based on a) the ingredients used and b) the doses of those ingredients. Products that prioritize transparent dosing — meaning the ingredients aren’t wrapped up in obscure blends — will typically be pricier. The reason is that you’re actually getting that ingredient, and you’re getting it in a relatively complete dose.

Best OverallTransparent Labs BULK$1.49 per serving
Best for Muscle GainJacked Factory Nitrosurge Build$1 per serving
Strongest Pre-WorkoutTransparent Labs BULK Black$1.83 per serving
Best for BeginnersOnnit Alpha-BRAIN Pre-Workout$2.99 per serving
Best for PumpsKaged Pre-Kaged Elite$2.99 per serving
Best All-NaturalLegion Pulse$2.25 per serving
Best TastingJacked Factory Nitrosurge$1 per serving
Best for RunningXWERKS Ignite$1.63 per serving
Best Non-StimGenius Pre$1.80 per serving
Best for AthletesJYM Pre-JYM$1.83 per serving
Best VeganNaked Nutrition Naked Energy$1.50 per serving
Best BudgetCellucor C4$0.58 per serving
Best for WomenOptimum Nutrition Gold Standard$1.09 per serving

When considering the price of pre-workouts, you’ll want to look at the price of the container in unison with the number of servings you’re getting rather than just the price of the container as a whole. The pre-workouts on this list range from around $1.43 per serving to about $3.00 per serving. On average, you can expect to pay about $2.05 per serving. The number of ingredients also affects the price. A product that has creatine in addition to basic pre-workout ingredients, for example, will almost always carry a higher price tag. Supplements with added vitamins and nutrients also jack up the price a bit. 

It helps a lot if you know what kind of support you want out of your pre-workout. If you’re looking for a little energy, then a basic pick with ample caffeine will do the job (and probably for less money). If you want the full kit — pumps, energy, focus, and hydrating minerals — then know you’ll likely need to shell out more.

Benefits of Pre-Workouts

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Everyone is different. So, you may not experience every single effect pre-workout has to offer. With that said, there’s a host of benefits most pre-workout supplements have to offer. 

More Energy

The first thing people tend to associate with pre-workouts is their potential stimulative effects, which can affect just about every part of a workout. Obviously, caffeine (often the primary ingredient in pre-workouts) is a stimulant, but it is also linked to better power, endurance, perceived exertion, and even cognition. (12)(13)(14) For example, a randomized, double-blind study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when compared to a placebo, 10 athletes improved their speed, reaction time, movement time, and decision-making time when supplementing with caffeine. (15)

How much caffeine do you really need, though? For reference, a small cup of coffee has about 60 to 100 milligrams of caffeine, and pre-workouts range from 70 to over 400 milligrams per serving. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends three to 6mg per kilogram of body weight.

Improved Blood Flow

Citrulline is one common ingredient you can expect to find in most pre-workout supplements. Most companies include this product to help promote blood flow to potentially help increase your muscular endurance and promote muscle pump. And while there’s some research that shows citrulline may help promote improved blood flow in adults, there is no conclusive evidence yet. (31)

Boosted Performance

In most formulas, you can expect to find some beta-alanine. Generally, this ingredient is known for causing your skin to feel a little tingly — which not every athlete loves, so start with small doses at first. But this ingredient may also be able to help reduce lactate concentrations, improving endurance and performance. (32

Another meta-analysis of 15 studies published in Amino Acids found that beta-alanine reliably increases muscular endurance for short-duration activities (between one to four minutes). (16)(17) But most research on the subject involves higher doses than you’ll find in most pre-workout supplements, which is worth noting.

With regard to betaine (also called trimethylglycine), two studies published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition have shown significant power increases in the back squat among men who took 1.25 grams of it twice a day for two weeks. (18)(19)

One Downside

Herbal ingredients also have the highest rates of contamination, and without third-party testing, there’s no guarantee that a product won’t be contaminated. They don’t have to provide proof of purity, safety, or efficacy as long as they aren’t using any new ingredients as of 1994 (due to the DSHEA Act).

When judging the effectiveness of a pre-workout, we didn’t disqualify anything that had a questionable ingredient. Rather, we looked at the overall impact of the product. Even if a product contains a couple of not-so-science-backed inclusions, we still consider it reputable if there are enough quality, well-dosed ingredients.

Other Pre-Workouts We Tested

While we narrowed down the best pre-workouts to our list above, they weren’t the only products we tried. Here are a few others we tried but didn’t think were the best of the best.

  • Cellucor C4 Powder: Cellucor’s C4 supplement is a popular option that’s pretty cheap, too (less than $1 per serving). But it’s not third-party tested, it’s pretty below average with caffeine, and it lacks some of the ingredients we love in other products (like creatine).
  • Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout: This one has a pretty high dose of caffeine (about 350mg per serving), which may be too high for most gymgoers. Plus, our testers thought the aftertaste was a little unpleasant, like an artificial sweetener.
  • Naked Nutrition Pre-Workout: We actually enjoyed this product and think it deserves an honorable mention. However, we think you can get better products with more robust ingredient lists (like our picks above) for $1 per serving.
  • Cira Pump Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout: This is a caffeine-free pre-workout that we just didn’t love more than our stim-free pick above. Our testers generally find Cira supplements a little too sweet and that was the case here, too.

What Ingredients Are In Your Pre-Workout Supplement?

Not all pre-workout ingredients are useful, while others might be surprisingly beneficial. Here’s a rundown of the ingredients that you’ll usually find and actually want in your pre-workout.

Wondering whether you can build a tolerance to pre-workout? Learn more in our video.

Let’s talk a bit more about those ingredients and what the research says in regard to each of them.

Caffeine

Caffeine is associated with alertness, endurance, power output, strength, and perceived exertion. (12) The FDA puts one small cup of coffee at 100 milligrams of caffeine, while a tall (355ml) coffee from Starbucks has about 235 milligrams. 

Pre-workouts typically contain anywhere from 80 to 350mg of caffeine. An effective dose is three to 6mg per kilogram of body weight.

Creatine

The best-researched ergogenic aid besides caffeine, creatine helps power output, anaerobic capacity, and fatigue, all while increasing muscle size by drawing more water into them. You don’t have to take it with your pre-workout since it’s an anytime supplement — the point is to increase the creatine in your muscles over time rather than loading creatine quickly. 

Three to five grams daily of creatine is effective. (24) She also notes that creatine monohydrate is the most commonly used and cost-effective creatine, though other types of creatine are on the market.

Citrulline

Older research suggested that five or so grams of citrulline, an amino acid that’s found in high amounts in watermelons, may help with circulation and thereby improve most areas of performance, from endurance to power output. (30) However, a more recent meta-analysis suggests that citrulline doesn’t improve performance. (22) While there are a few meta-analyses that have shown mixed results, the benefits are minor at best.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is linked to improved endurance, both in cardio-focused intervals and strength training with higher reps (between 60 and 120 seconds of continuous work). It’s also known for the tingly feeling (paresthesia) you may feel in your extremities when you take it. Because it allows you to endure more, it may help with hypertrophy. The standard dose is 1.6 to 3.2 grams. 

If you can’t stand the tingles, splitting the dose into 0.8 to 1.6 grams every three to four hours can prevent the paresthesia. (21)

Betaine Anhydrous

Found in beets and leafy greens, betaine is best known for links to power output, blood flow improvements, and muscular endurance, but it might also slightly decrease post-exercise cortisol, which can actually be helpful in your body’s response to stress. An effective dose is 2.5g per day, split into two doses for resistance training. (23

Taurine

Taurine may help with improving focus. Since it might draw water into cells, it may enhance recovery and muscle cramps, as well. You can take up to six grams per day about one to two hours before exercise. (25)

Tyrosine

Also used for “focus,” data suggests tyrosine may reduce particularly acute stress — like exercise — by helping you produce adrenaline and dopamine. Research has only been performed on people taking at least 5 grams, and a minimum effective dose hasn’t been established, but look for at least 500 milligrams.

An effective dose might be 100 to 150mg per kilogram of body weight taken an hour before exercise, but large doses can cause GI distress and might need to be split up. (26)

How to Choose the Best Pre-Workout for You

These sorts of products can make some folks a little concerned about side effects and unintended consequences. They’re legal, so the potential for damage is low (though you should consult your doctor first), but there are some things worth keeping in mind when you’re trying to figure out which is the best pre-workout supplement for you.

Remember, Caffeine Is a Drug

Caffeine is a real drug. It can cause anxiety, diarrhea, and maybe even temporary high blood pressure. This doesn’t mean that caffeine is inherently bad for you. It just means everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine.

Commonly Labeled Pre-Workout Ingredients
Commonly Labeled Pre-Workout Ingredients

Caffeine can also make it harder for the nervous system to relax or enter a parasympathetic state conducive to recovery. If you regularly take caffeine, consider taking a week off from it every couple of months to keep you from building up too strong a tolerance for it. And if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, consider avoiding it altogether.

Beta-Alanine Has a Surprising Side Effect

Perhaps the most common pre-workout ingredient that isn’t caffeine (or flavoring), beta-alanine typically causes paresthesia, a “tingling” sensation on the skin. It’s temporary and harmless, and while some love the feeling of the ingredient “kicking in,” not everyone likes it.

Not All Pre-Workout Ingredients Need to Be Pre-Workout

Creatine and beta-alanine don’t have to be taken right before a workout. If you take them every day, they may imbue you with their benefits regardless of the time of day you take them since they work over longer time periods than other pre-workout ingredients.

One of the Best Pre-Workouts Is Carbohydrates

It’s not sexy, but it’s pretty tough to have a great workout without plenty of carbs in your system. A balanced meal of protein and carbs a couple of hours before a workout can do wonders for performance. (27) If you’re in a rush, a meal replacement shake typically has a good balance of macros to launch you into a workout.

Remember the Dosage

We’ve already noted the best-supported dosages in the previous section, but many products will talk a big game about how well-supported their ingredients are but then use low dosages. (This is especially common with citrulline and tyrosine.) It’s good to look at the research and make sure that a supplement provides the ideal dosage before you make a purchase.

Is Pre-Workout Bad for You?

Pre-workout isn’t inherently harmful to healthy people who can tolerate the ingredients well. If you’ve never taken a pre-workout before or if you’re starting a new one, it’s usually advisable to start off with a half scoop or less to assess your tolerance and how you react to the ingredients. Some people may not tolerate certain ingredients well, so it’s important to start small. 

We also strongly recommend talking to your doctor before starting any supplement regimen, pre-workouts especially. If you have any pre-existing conditions, speaking with a physician before making changes to your diet or supplement routine is a must.

The Scoop on Dry Scooping Pre-Workout

Social media stars on platforms like TikTok and Instagram have started a trend known as dry-scooping — where you scoop pre-workout powder directly into your mouth. This is ill-advised and dangerous. 

Many pre-workouts have hundreds of milligrams of caffeine in them, and diluting that powder into water allows your body more time to absorb and process it. Otherwise, you risk absorbing too much caffeine too quickly, which can lead to jitters, an upset stomach, and an elevated heart rate.

The dangers of dry-scooping is about both the rate of ingestion and the amount, but much more so the amount. A person dry-scooping one or two scoops is still only getting 150 to 300mg most likely, which isn’t a toxic dose, even short-term. A toxic dose would be 20 to 40mg per kilogram of bodyweight, or about 1,800 to 2,000mg for a 200 pound individual.

Still, there are other potential hazards associated with dry scooping. For example, you can also choke on the powder. There’s a reason the directions on pre-workout powders tell you to mix it with water into your favorite shaker bottle. (28

Final Word

If you’re engaged in sports, supplements (like pre-workouts) may be super helpful. They might increase the amount of energy you have and the effectiveness of the exercise. We’ve tried dozens of pre-workouts to land on this list of the best pre-workout supplements on the market for almost any athlete, whether you love or hate caffeine, want to improve your run time, or just get a better pump.

We looked at the price, taste, ingredients, and effectiveness of every one of these supplements. While plenty of people have different ideas about what constitutes a “high quality” pre-workout, we think we’ve put together a tremendous guide to picking the best pre-workout supplements for a variety of fitness goals. 

FAQs

What does a pre-workout do?

It depends on what’s in the pre-workout, but ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine, and betaine have been linked to higher energy levels, better power production, and improved endurance. Some ingredients, like tyrosine and taurine, may even improve focus.

What is the best pre-workout?

There are so many options on the market for pre-workouts, and many seem to have similar formulas. One that stands out from the noise with a potent and robust ingredients list is Transparent Labs BULK. It has well-dosed levels of citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine to potentially support blood flow and endurance. You’ll also find a moderate helping of stimulants and focus ingredients with 200mg of caffeine along with alpha-GPC, theobromine, and taurine.

Can I take pre-workout every day?

Strictly speaking, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so, but it is usually ill-advised. The more regularly you take pre-workout, the less effective each dose usually becomes because you build up a tolerance. We generally try to only take pre-workout before particularly challenging sessions or when we really need an extra kick of energy. It’s also a good idea to occasionally take some time off from pre-workouts. You’ll be surprised how much more you might notice the effects after a week away from the ingredients.

How long does pre-workout last?

Everyone’s body processes the ingredients in pre-workouts differently, so it’s difficult to pin down an exact time. That said, you can usually feel the effects of a pre for anywhere from two to six hours, depending on a variety of factors. What and how recently you’ve eaten, how strong the pre-workout is, and your own biochemistry all may play a role in how long a pre-workout lasts.

How much does a pre-workout cost?

The short answer here is that the price of a pre-workout supplement will vary greatly depending on the ingredient list, dosages, and quality of each ingredient. Most fluctuate between about $1.40 to $3.00 per serving with the average price costing about $2.05 per serving. Although this may seem expensive to some, you tend to get what you pay for with pre-workout supplements.

What is dry scooping pre-workout?

Dry scooping refers to taking a scoop of pre-workout powder dry, as the name implies, without mixing it in a shaker bottle or cup, then (optionally) washing it down with water after. It can be dangerous, though, as mixing the pre-workout with water allows your body time to absorb the ingredients more slowly. We advise against it and always recommend following the label of your pre-workout supplement for instructions on how best to take it.

Is it better to drink pre-workout before or during workout?

It’s best to drink your pre-workout before going to the gym, as it can take a good thirty minutes to “kick in.” For optimal results, and if you’re in a hurry, it may be best to take pre-workout on an empty stomach so that it digests quickly.

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