Sometimes you need a little extra motivation to get you out the door and hit the gym. Pre workout is by far the most popular sports performance supplement. A well formulated pre workout can provide the proven ingredients you need to help stack on more muscle, increase strength, and boost your muscular endurance.
Pre workout supplements are a combination of different ingredient’s, created to improve energy, strength, and endurance. Pre workout can be a very beneficial supplement to improve performance and give you the extra bit of motivation you need, to smash out more reps, while also improving performance outcomes. A common problem found within most pre workout supplements, however, is that they don’t contain high enough doses to be truly effective.
Often times, pre workouts contain what’s called a proprietary blend.
Proprietary blends only list the combined amount of all the ingredients used in the blend; they don’t disclose how much of each ingredient the product contains.
A large majority of supplement companies and manufacturers typically use proprietary blends for several reasons
- Most companies claim that they use proprietary blends to prevent competing brands from learning the precise amounts and ratios of each ingredient, to protect their product formula, which is purely false.
- To create marketing hype! By marketing something different such as ‘new and improved formulas or ingredients!’, supplement companies can use marketing tactics to drive more revenue and get you to products based on fiction.
- Production costs are minimized while profit is maximized. Because the ‘Proprietary Blend’ does not reveal the exact amount, less than 1% of the supplement could be made up with the beneficial ingredients and usually more expensive ingredients while the rest are just ‘fillers’ or the ingredients that won’t be truly effective.
Before you purchase a pre workout, look at the supplement facts. If you see a combination of ingredients, listed under a blend that does not list the specific amount per ingredient, then don’t buy it. Blends provide supplement manufacturers with a loophole, to underdose the proven ingredients you need to effectively improve training capacity. Only purchase supplements that provide complete transparency in labeling, otherwise you’re most likely getting ripped off.
So what are the correct doses of the ingredients you need? We’ve listed out a few of the most popular pre workout ingredients below and included what the minimum effective dose you need to derive the performance benefit.
Popular pre workout ingredients include but are not limited to
I have to admit, as a consumer it’s rather difficult to find a high quality pre workout, when 99% of them are under-dosed and don’t provide a performance benefit. As a brand owner, it’s disappointing, to see how many brands rely on the ignorance of their customers and their lack of knowledge regarding dosage and evidence backed ingredients. Researching supplements is crucial to find a formulation that is truly effective.
That’s why I have put together a list of the best pre workout supplements based upon a few different criteria, including transparency in labeling, ingredient dosage, and research-based formulas and ingredients, so you can improve your athletic performance.
As a brand owner, I am constantly researching competing brands and products, and believe me I have seen every formulation of pre workout on the market. The pre workout supplements in this list are truly the best when it comes to dosage, ingredients, and formulation. We did not include any supplements which included proprietary blends within this review.
Swolverine’s PRE workout is a non-stim vegan pre workout formula. Swolverine’s PRE is clinically dosed and combines high-quality sports nutrition with potent antioxidant-rich superfoods. This natural pre-workout supplement is made with Citrulline Malate, Carnosyn Beta-Alanine, L-Carnitine, and nutrient-dense superfoods such as Pomegranate, Betaine Anhydrous, Coconut Water, and Ginseng.
Research suggests that PRE ingredients, Citrulline Malate, Pomegranate, and Betaine can improve greater gains in strength through the natural release of nitric oxide and by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Additionally, studies show that Beta-Alanine delays muscle fatigue and increases workout volume, leading to greater gains in strength.
What’s unique about this formulation is that it includes superfoods like pomegranate, betaine, and ginseng. Pomegranates and Betaine contain antioxidant-rich plant compounds, phenolic acids, and nitrates that may help reduce inflammation, and improve workout recovery by reducing muscle soreness. Studies show that pomegranates may reduce delayed onset muscle soreness by 13.4%. Citrulline malate has also been proven to increase blood flow, thereby reducing soreness and optimizing workout recovery.
It also contains a clinical dose of 3.2g of Carnosyn Beta-alanine which has been proven to buffer lactic acid, which will increase time to exhaustion and delay muscle fatigue. This will inevitably help increase workout volume, which translates to bigger gains.
Pre also has1000mg of Siberian Ginseng. Siberian ginseng, also known as Eleuthero, is a bit different than your traditional Asian or American ginseng. Heavily studied during World War II by the Soviet Union, Siberian ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that offers several benefits promoting the body’s resistance to stress. Studies have shown that eleuthero acts as a stimulant and may boost energy levels, reduce fatigue, and enhance exercise performance increasing nervous system function.
Overall, Swovlerine’s PRE hits every aspect for performance, and is built to help improve strength, endurance, and build muscle mass through clinically dosed sports nutrition and superfood ingredients. The mango-lemonda flavor is also bomb.
Nutrabio’s PRE is a comprehensive and heavily stacked pre workout formula and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Nutrabio’s PRE contains a robust panel of electrolytes, as well as proven muscle building sports performance ingredients such as Beta-Alanine, L-Citrulline, L-Leucine, Creatine, Betaine Anhydrous, Vitamin B6, B12, and is loaded with 350mg of caffeine, theanine, and huperzine-a for the get-up-and-go and mental focus you need to power your performance and train harder.
NutraBio® launched the first ever proprietary blend free, fully dosed prew orkout back in 2002 and has set the standard ever since. PRE contains 22 research backed ingredients, which are all clinically dosed to increase power, strength, focus, and pump.
The only downside is that it’s 20 servings. But honestly for $39.99 this PRE workout beats 99% of any other pre workout on the market.
Transparent labs is one of the best brands in the industry, providing full transparency with all of their products and optimal dosing.
Transparent Labs Stim Free Pre workout contains 6g of Citrulline Malate, 4g of Beta-Alanine, and a clinical dose of 2.5g of Betaine Anhydrous, and 150mg of elevATP for better gains in strength, endurance, and muscle mass.
Stim-Free contains key ingredients for mental focus and cognition such as choline, tyrosine, and Huperzine A. What’s even better from a consumer point of view, is that Transparent Labs stim free pre workout, has 10 different flavors, so you have plenty of options, for anything your heart desires.
Not to mention, Transparent Labs adds a 4g of branched chain amino acids. During high-intensity training, the body utilizes amino acids for fuel. Composed of the essential Branched Chain Amino Acids, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, BCAAs facilitate the process of protein synthesis, which helps muscle growth and prevents muscle mass breakdown*
Overall, this is a great formula, with the ability to help delay muscle fatigue, increase muscle mass, and improve recovery.
I know what you’re thinking. C4 really? To clarify, I am not talking about the same C4 you can buy at Costco stacked on a pallet that sells in a pack of 3 for $30. The original C4 would never make this list because it’s under-dosed, which is the exact reason why it is so damn cheap.
C4 Dynasty though… One of the best formulations ever created, with real clinical doses. Also the reason why it’s $69.99 for only 20 servings. See the difference here?
Like NutraBio, C4 Dynasty is packed with clinically dosed, and research backed ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. C4 Dynasty includes 6.4g of Carnosyn Beta Alanine, 10g creatine complex, including creatine HCL, and creatine Nitrate, a 10g citrulline complex, 400mg of PeakATP, 150mg of elevATP, 200mg of Alpha-Size GPC, and 350mg of caffeine for a pick me up you’ll never forget.
To be honest, $70 for this product is completely justified, considering this insanely stacked formulation. If you’re looking to improve your athletic performance, then I would highly recommend this pre workout. You can spend $70 on two tubs of pre work out and get 60 servings of an under-dosed formula, that will literally provide no benefit at all, or spend the $70 on this and actually improve your athletic performance.
The bummer about this pre workout, is that it is a limited-edition release.
Thavage PRE is Chris Bumstead’s premier pre workout product, made by Raw Nutrition. Thavage. Why Thavage? Well, Chris Bumstead jokes that, “thavage” is his attempt at saying “savage” while embracing his lisp. Pretty Thavage if you ask me.
C Bum’s Thavage delivers with a solid and clinically dosed formulation with a two scoop serving engineered to improve mental focus, energy, while producing a great pump and comes in 5 amazing flavors.
This formula includes L-Citrulline to help increase endurance during training and blood flow and Betaine Anhydrous which has been suggested in clinical studies to improve muscle strength and power production. Together, these ingredients combine to support a performance ready environment for working muscle and sustained contractions.
2 scoops of Thavage delivers 6g of Citrulline Malate, 3.2g of Beta-Alanine, 2.5g of Betaine Anhydrous, 1g of Agmatine, 1.5g of Nitrosigine, providing maximum blood flow, for better endurance capacity and nutrient delivery straight to the muscle tissue.
Thavage also produces extreme mental focus with 1g of Alpha GPC, 324mg of Caffeine, Huperzine A, Bitter Orange, and 150mg of L-Theanine.
Overall Thavage is a great pre workout, only C bumm-er, is that for a clinical dose you get 20 servings.
Swolverine’s Greens+Reds is an amazing supplement to use as a natural pre workout. Greens+Reds contains nitrate rich ingredients such as beet root and pomegranate, which helps improve oxygen and nutrient delivery, for better recovery, endurance capacity, and strength.
Pomegranate, which doesn’t get enough attention as it should, is one of the most promising up and coming sports nutrition ingredients proven to have ergogenic benefits on strength, recovery, and endurance.
In fact, a systematic review conducted by Cambridge University found that pomegranate has the potential to enhance endurance, strength performance, and improve post workout recovery by conferring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and improving cardiovascular responses during and following exercise (R).
Furthermore, a study published in the Journal Plos One investigated the effects of pomegranate supplementation on recovery, muscle damage, and muscle soreness following an Olympic weightlifting training protocol. Study results concluded that pomegranate ingestion 60 minutes pre workout improved total workload by 8.3%, maximal load lifted by 3.26% and cut down DOMS by 13.4% 48 hours post workout.
Swolverine’s Greens+Reds has 2500mg of Wheat Grass, which contains essential amino acids, proven to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis as well as spirulina, which is proven to reduce muscle damage and improve recovery. On top of that, it contains 500mg of organic turmeric and black pepper extract to help with optimal absorption.
Did I mention, this Greens supplement is also proprietary blend free? Not something you see very often in a greens powder. Most try to stuff in as many ingredients as possible, which means tiny doses, that do.. nothing.
Equip uses clean, whole food ingredients, which is one of the reasons why I like the brand. Every product they produce is from real food and simply formulated. Equip’s Pre workout PureWOD, is an all-natural pre workout made with superfood ingredients, and proven sports nutrition such as green tea leaf, l-carnitine, coconut water, beta-alanine, creatine monohydrate, and branched chain amino acids.
The major downfall of Equip’s PureWOD is that some of the key ingredients are under-dosed. With l-arginine and l-carnitine, at 500mg, and beta-alanine at 2.5g you’re not getting the full benefit. However, it does have 1g of coconut water, 4g of BCAAs, and 4g of creatine monohydrate. So, although it comes up short on the key amino acids, is does deliver a clinical dose of BCAAs and Creatine Monohydrate for more strength, power and muscle protein synthesis.
For an under-dosed pre workout, the price tag is also a negative on this product at $54.99 for 30 servings. Considering there are no trademarked ingredients, the price tag on this product should be about $10 cheaper.
Earth Fed Muscle is a uniquely positioned brand in the supplement space. The branding is corky, fun, and extremely creative. What’s even better are their product formulations. Earth Fed’s mission is one of the best I’ve seen, and the reason why they make supplements, is just as important as their products in my opinion. Environmentally conscious with 98% plastic fee containers, and partnered with Truly Grass Fed Whey in Ireland, quality is of the upmost importance. And as a smaller player, they do more big things in a major way, than the biggest brands in the industry.
Earth Fed Muscle’s Pre workout supplement, Stampede contains 6g of Citrulline Malate, 5g of Beta-alanine, 2g of Betaine, 500mg of Tyrosine, and 250mg of caffeine anhydrous.
Simple and straightforward this pre workout supplement delivers three key ingredients to help build more muscle mass and improve training performance.
Astroflav created a unique pre workout formulaton with Flip Mode. Flip mode is a clinically dosed formula which emphasizes mental focus, cognition, and energy.
Astroflav delivers on the sports performance side, with 6g of Citrulline Malate, 3.2g of Beta-Alanine and 500mg of Agmatine. Where this pre workout really shines is in the robust nootropic and mental focus formulation. Flip side packs in 1g of tyrosine, 350mg of caffeine, 200mg of Eria Jarensis (the first pre workout I have ever seen this in) DMAE, theanine, hordenine, Choline, Niacin, Alpha Yohimbine, Huperzine A, and Isopropylnorsynephrine a stimulant.
This cognition and nootropic formula is quite impressive, however there are no clinical studies which prove the efficacy of Isopropylnorsynephrine in regards to the stimulatory potential of this compound, yet only anecdotal reports to increase energy.
N-Phenethyl Dimethylamine Citrate is a simulant derived from the Eria Jarensis plant. It’s often compared to DMAA or AMP Citrate but is not so hardcore. However, this compound is lacking in human clinical trials, and is another ingredient which is not supported by research based evidence.
Overall, this formulation has some definite great features, and a solid base with citrulline malate, beta alanine, and agmatine, as well as a great focus panel. However it does contain a few ingredients that are not supported by clinical evidence.