Out of all supplements on sale, pre-workouts are some of the most popular ones available. When taken before a gym workout or a long run in nature, pre-workouts work to enhance your mental and physical capacities – giving you a burst of motivation.
Needless to say, finding the right pre-workout for you can be a tricky task. Many contain a wide array of ingredients and doses, all with their own unique effects and properties to completely shift your performance and mental state.
While your nutrition, sleep, and hydration are all key to maximizing your workout potential, sometimes you’ll need an extra push. A pre-workout can make a huge difference here. Choosing the right pre-workout will help you get the absolute most from your training and aid your efforts to see your goals through.
In such a crowded market and with so many supplements claiming to be the best, how you do tell what is legit and what is not?
We’re jumping in to help. We’ve scoured the pre-workout market with a fine-tooth combo, looking at the biggest brands (and also fresh up-and-comers) to find the top pre-workouts you can get in 2021.
What are Pre-Workout Supplements?
Pre-Workouts are food supplements normally taken before exercise to enhance energy and performance.
Usually available in powder form – and less often in capsules – you mix them with water and chug down 15-30 minutes before exercising.
A good, natural pre-workout will stimulate your body’s energy levels, using ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine to nudge you in the right direction whenever you’re fatigued or sluggish.
Essentially, a pre-workout will provide you with a short-term power, endurance, strength, and energy burst to help you smash your workouts.
Why a pre-workout?
Athletes, bodybuilders, and regular gym goers all over the world take pre-workout supplements before hitting the gym or going for a run. Pre-workouts give you an extra push to go harder for longer where otherwise you’d be too fatigued to continue working out, or even get started.
Taking a pre-workout though is a very individual thing. For some people, they wouldn’t be able to motivate themselves to hit the gym without a pre-workout supplement. Others may use it to help them get a few extra reps to break their months-long plateaus in the gym.
These common, stimulating food products work as a key link to boost your drive and enthusiasm to exercise.
A pre-workout will work wonders for anyone who:
- Needs an energy kick to maintain their fitness routine
- Wants to increase muscle pumps from resistance training
- Has a hard time finding the motivation to exercise
- Wants to maximize muscle growth potential and increase their Rep Count
- Is looking for a natural, and legal way to put their physical and mental performance into high gear
Most Effective pre-workout ingredients
Here are some of the most effective and thorougly researched ingredients to look for in pre-workout supplements.
A staple ingredient in most pre-workouts, L-Citrulline works by boosting blood flow to your working muscles – resulting in increased performance. This ‘vasodilator’ amino acid is best known for delivering fuller muscle pumps, courtesy of elevated Nitric Oxide (NO) blood levels. Studies show that improved muscle pumps lead to amplified muscle growth. [source1] Although it’s available in small amounts in watermelons, L-Citrulline’s therapeutic effects are very hard to achieve with food alone.
A well-known stimulant in fat burners and pre-workouts, caffeine is the most effective legal enhancer of physical and mental faculties. Caffeine stimulates the parts of your brain and nervous system to boost functions like motivation, focus, and alertness – making it a potent pre-workout ingredient. Not only that, but caffeine also boosts workout volume and your power output, as well as enhancing energy through the release of extra epinephrine. [source2]
Beta-alanine: this fatigue-fighting molecule shines the brightest during intense workouts, by helping you to maintain peak performance. If you’ve ever felt the ‘burning’ sensation in your muscles while doing high repetitions, you’re aware of the fatiguing effects of acid build-up, which can prevent you from making progress. Beta-alanine works by blocking this build-up, and consequently, letting you do more reps, resulting in more significant muscle growth. [source3]
One of the most researched supplements taken by almost all athletes, creatine will boost your performance by expanding your natural energy stores (ATP) and efficiently raising power output of your muscles. [source4] Creatine is the fastest natural way to regenerate your ATP stores. Since your body only holds a small amount, you’ll need to supplement creatine to avoid depletion during exercise.
L-Theanine is a dietary amino acid that increases mental focus and cancels the jittery effects of caffeine – in fact, the two are shown to work incredibly well together. While L-Theanine keeps you in a mediative-like state, caffeine boosts your energy to exercise harder for longer. Together, caffeine+l-theanine will deliver clean energy and motivation without the crash. [source5]
Advantages to a pre-workout
If you’re lacking consistency, it will be hard to make any concrete progress. A good pre-workout will ensure you have more zest for going to the gym, and it will also increase your energy once you’re there lifting those weights.
Benefits of taking a pre-workout supplement include:
- Better physical performance – The combination of natural ingredients like citrulline, caffeine and beta-alanine will invigorate your workouts, allowing you to push harder and really challenge your body.
- Boosted blood flow – Feel stronger and experience shirt-ripping muscle pumps.
- Better muscular endurance – By supplementing with creatine you’re effectively feeding your body with a more consistent source of energy in your mitochondrial cells.
- Improved muscle recovery and growth – The vasodilators and other ingredients in pre-workouts will increase nutrient delivery to your working muscles, improving growth and recovery in the process.
Our Rating Criteria
The top 3 pre-workouts of this year have been inspected, analyzed, and tested under our rigorous criteria. We go quite in depth in our individual reviews of these supplements, but to summarize what you’ll need to look for in a supplement:
- The formula – Not just the product’s ingredients, but also their doses.
- Price – And value for money.
- Testimonials – What are the customers saying?
- Trust – The companies of these products need to be reputable and trustworthy, with years of experience in the industry in order to make our short-list.
- The Manufacturer – Is the brand authoritative? You’ll be taking these supplements daily, we need to ensure they’re as safe and clean as they get.
- Where to Buy – We’ll link you up with these product’s websites so you can learn more, ask the manufacturer any questions, and buy the product if it sounds like the one for you.
The 3 of The Best Pre-Workouts
Here, we list our top three pre-workouts you should check out.
1. 4 Gauge
As a 100% natural, clean pre-workout, 4 Gauge is ideal for anyone looking for a potent method of enhancing focus, strength, endurance and motivation for training.
Using a 4-in-1 formula to optimize every aspect of performance, the creators of 4 Gauge have developed a formula that delivers the most effective, focus, and explosive experience possible without the side effects. Its clever caffeine and L-Theanine combo will have you experience a smooth energy lift without the twitchiness.
In the mix, you get a synergistic combo of our most favorite pre-workout ingredients, all clinically dosed to ensure potency but also safety.
There are no artificial sweeteners or flavors in 4 Gauge. No sight of proprietary blends too. To us, this shows transparency and confidence in their pre-workout.
The way in which 4 Gauge has been formulated means you can take it without the need for cycling. Each ingredient has its own pre-workout effects, whether you’re looking for increased focus, more energy, or stronger power output.
The shotgun shell packaging just adds to the overall great impression we’ve had using this pre-workout.
When it comes to the ingredients, 4 Gauge packs a punch and most importantly to us, it’s completely free of side-effect causing fillers and artificial flavors.
Each ingredient plays a part in an extremely effective formula, designed to take your workouts to a level above. They are:
- Caffeine Anhydrous (150mg)
- L-Theanine (200mg)
- Citrulline DL-Malate (600mg)
- Rhodiola Rosea (100mg)
- Red Beet (300mg)
- Creatine Monohydrate (1000mg)
- Coconut Water Powder (300mg)
- Aceytl L-Carnitine (500mg)
4 Gauge is one of the most trusted pre-workouts on the market, as shown in testimonials from Pro athletes and regular gym Joes.
“The fact that 4 Gauge is completely transparent with their ingredients and processes says a lot about the company as a whole. In addition, 4 Gauge is without a doubt the best tasting pre workout I have ever had.
About 20 minutes after drinking two scoops, I feel very focused and energized due to the “smart caffeine” blend of caffeine and L-Theanine. On top of the focus, I also feel skin-splitting pumps during every workout.”Chris, USA
“What I love about 4 Gauge is that I get a clean surge of energy with a feeling of improved strength and focus too. I’ve never performed better during my high-intensity resistance training. I also now am addicted to the pump feeling it gives me. Most pre-workouts I’ve tried make it so I can’t sleep. But 4 Gauge provides the perfect balance of energy and focus. All this might sound too good to be true…but it’s not.”Ricarda, Germany
- Natural and open-sourced formula
- No artificial flavors or sweeteners
- Striking shotgun shell packaging
- Reduces fatigue and increases muscle pumps
- Good, science-backed ingredient choices
- Manufactured in cGMP- and FDA-approved facilities
- Excellent reviews
- Only available on its official website
- There’s only one flavor (fruit blast)
Sound like your ideal pre-workout? 4 Gauge can be bought directly from manufacturer
2. Performance Lab Pre
Read our full Performance Lab Pre review here.
Guys at Performance Lab are big on making supplements that are free from stimulants and commonly avoid ingredients like caffeine. Its pre-workout fits in this category too. The stim-free PRE ‘performance supercharger’ aims to give your workouts a boost while maximizing muscle growth. It features natural compounds and vitamins to enhance your blood flow and muscle recovery as well.
Like most pre-workouts, Performance Lab Sport PRE is full of legal performance enhancers – including creatine and amino acids – but the exclusion of caffeine makes it a bit unique. This makes it a perfect pre-workout pick if you are sensitive to stimulants. For some though, the lack of the caffeine kick will be a downside.
Pre features a performance blend of Kyqoa, L-Citrulline, and L-glutathione as well as ingredients like beta-alanine to support sustained energy and muscle pumps, helping you to take control of your training sessions ’till the very end. The makers, Opti-Nutra, say the completely clean and vegan-friendly formula can give you more robust muscle growth, especially when taken before resistance training or HIIT.
Another feature that sets Performance Lab Pre apart is that it comes in capsule form – making it more convenient than the other options on this list.
Like any top pre-workout, Performance Lab Pre had to be packed with a collection of proven ingredients for us to rank it among the very best.
Some of its best ingredients that will contribute to your athletic advancement include:
- Creapure Creatine (1250mg)
- CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine (800mg)
- Himalayan Pink Salt (350mg)
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract (100mg)
- Nutrigenesis Iron (2.5mg)
Performance Lab is a highly renowned supplement company. Many of its customers praise this capsule-based pre-workout for its clean formula and the ability to boost performance.
Performance Lab is a highly regarded supplement company and many of its supplements are loved. Customers appear to praise this capsule-based pre-workout for its ability to boost performance and appreciate the clean formula.
“Definitely felt a boost during my workouts. A bit tough to swallow so many pills sometimes, overall a great product! Great price!”Matthew, UK
- Zero proprietary blends
- Assists in muscle growth and repair
- One of the cleanest cGMP approved formulas on the market
- Vegan friendly
- Missing the caffeine ‘kick’
- Only available direct
Interested? You can buy Performance Lab Pre directly on the official website
3. National Bodybuilding Co. Pre Workout
Read our full Stage Ready Pre-Workout Review here.
Made for bodybuilders and pro athletes aiming to prolong their workouts, this pre-workout is heaping with a concoction of strong ingredients all in clinical doses.
The makers claim one scoop of National Bodybuilding Co.’s Stage Ready Pre-Workout before your gym sessions will boost your muscle pumps, cognitive focus, along with buffering and hydrating your working muscles.
They say the formula has been tested and used in over 20 clinical trials. This way, it’s ensured to deliver maximal energy, blistering pump enhancement, and steady focus.
The formula consists of safe ingredients, though they did opt to include artificial flavoring which some people won’t be the biggest fans of.
National Bodybuilding Co features a series of clinically tested ingredients that work together to boost your athletic capacity.
Some of its best ingredients include:
- Vitamin B1 (5mg)
- Caffeine Anhydrous (150mg)
- Beta-Alanine (1000mg)
- Coconut Water Powder (300mg)
- Di-caffeine Malate (100mg)
- L-Tyrosine (400mg)
A fairly new product to the market, which makes finding legitimate user reviews hard. Though they official website has some amazing testimonials from their uses. And despite its freshness, the supplement has already been featured in some best-lists on Generation Iron.
“Second time trying it, just to make sure. Just the right amount of everything to get me going for early morning training and keep me going for work afterwards. Has my recommendation for sure!”Jason
- Strong ingredient choices for energy and focus
- Added vitamins for general health
- Well dosed
- Great for pumps in bodybuilders who’re cutting
- Clean energy release
- Only available directly
- Contains artificial flavors
You can learn more on Nationalbodybuildingco.com
Conclusion to the best pre-workout
That sums up our best pre-workout supplement guide!
If you find it hard to exercise at your full potential, a pre-workout could provide the energy and the motivation you need. These top three picks have all been rigorously tested and analyzed by our team and represent the best pre-workout supplements for amplifying focus, increasing energy levels, and promoting muscle recovery too.
If you want the best possible workout experience, diet and sleep will always come first. Be sure to optimize your lifestyle before adding any supplement to the mix.
Once you add in a pre-workout to an already strong foundation though, your training experience should take off to a whole new level!