Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Intense Workouts
When shopping for pre-workout supplements, most folks focus on the energy boost. Keep in mind, the best pre-workout supplements also contain a number of critical amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. These not only provide a spike in energy during the workout, but they also prep the muscles for the post-workout recovery. Exercise is very taxing on the body. If your diet isn’t sufficient to fuel you properly, supplements are a great way to help the cause. And yes, of course the best pre-workout supplements also help athletes maintain focus and energy during these periods of hard-driving movement. But ultimately it’s due to the ingredients, not a magic potion.
Buyers beware. Pre-workout supplements are not regulated by the U.S.D.A. Some of these which promise nothing more than an energy jolt are just heroic doses of caffeine and other synthetic stimulants. Check out the labels and look for some of these key terms we describe further below:
- Vitamin D
Read below for our analysis of some of the best pre-workout supplements on the market today. Whether working out at home or the gym, properly fueling your body is critical for peak performance. When shopping for the best in strength training gear, rowing, and other cardio equipment, consider the kind of workout supplements you’ll want as back up.
The Top Pre-Workout Supplements
What’s in Pre-Workout?
The following are some of the more common ingredients seen in pre-workout formulas:
- Caffeine: Your old friend from coffee and cola, this stimulant helps to keep you focused and energized.
- Beta-Alanine: A naturally occuring non-essential amino acid that your body already produces, Beta-alanine aids in the production of carnosine, a compound that plays a role in muscle endurance in high-intensity exercise.
- Arginine: Another type of amino acid, converting to nitric acid in the body in order to help improve blood flow.
- Creatine (often Creatine Nitrate): Increases muscle energy stores, cell hydration, and assists in muscle growth. It’s worth noting, that while Creatine Nitrate does improve the solubility of Creatine when compared to Creatine Monohydrate, you’re talking about a nominal difference packaged with an increased cost. If the pre-workout you like uses Monohydrate instead of Nitrate, you’ll still be reaping the necessary benefits.
- L-Cirtrulline: Another amino acid which helps increase oxygen content in the muscles during workouts.
- BCAAs: Branch-chain Amino Acids which include Valine, Leucine, and Isoleucine. Referred to as “essential amino acids,” the body cannot produce them and must obtain them from food. Consumption of these during workouts helps reduce fatigue and speed muscle repair from exercise.
- Vitamin D: A fat-soluble vitamin, this nutrient helps build health bones. A lack of Vitamin D can cause fatigue, pain, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
- Magnesium: A mineral which serves as a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems, hard exercise quickly depletes the body of this and good workout supplements are needed to re-supply.
Keep in mind, pre-workout supplements aren’t for everyone. Individuals on prescription medications, and those with heart conditions, should definitely consult their own physician before selecting from among any supplements. Whereas shopping for the best protein powders we’ve reviewed here really comes down to an issue of protein grams and price, these pre-workout mixes contain enough caffeine that more consideration should be given to the recipe.
Do You Need Pre-Workout?
Many people swear by them, and even though you won’t be boosting your performance by a significant margin you’ll still be feeling better and getting more enjoyment out of your workouts—a priceless benefit in the grand scheme of things. A lot of this comes down to just how hard you’re planning to exercise, and what kind of diet you’re utilizing. When trying to lose weight, you’ll be reducing your caloric intake sufficient that you might need a boost to make up for the lack of carbohydrates in your diet. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re simply looking to walk on a treadmill without any real direct goals, these might be more of a boost than you want.
Disclaimer: Dietary supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA for strength, composition or purity. Taking supplements of any kind is always done at your own risk.
The Other Contenders
Nitrosurge includes the common beta alanine and caffeine as well as other ingredients such as L-Citrulline, and betaine anhydrous that are involved with energy production and retention. It’s steep on the energy side, and some have experienced that over-energized jittery feeling, as well as an occasional upset stomach. That said, if you aren’t susceptible to issues with high caffeine doses, Nitrosurge could still work well for you.
For a 240g tub, Nitrosurge provides a lot of servings for a great price.
Approximate cost per serving (30 servings)-($.80)
Optimum Nutrition is a near household name on account of the popularity of their Gold Standard protein powder, found in just about every supplement store from coast to coast. Their Amino Energy pre workout comes in a multitude of flavors and sizes for your convenience. Amino Energy’s caffeine recipe comes from either green tea or coffee beans. That said, it’s also a bit of a melting pot of amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine and valine—the three amino acids that make up a proper BCAA compound. The challenge there is that because it’s a proprietary blend, and thus there is no knowing whether these three are dosed in the standard 2:1:1 ratio that is ideal for a BCAA supplement.
Approximate cost per serving (30 servings)-($.60)
Similarly to Pump Mode, Genius pre workout isn’t loaded with caffeine in order to give you that needed energy boost. This mix uses L-Citrulline, EleATP, and L-Arginine, which all support a boost in energy production.
It’s a little on the pricey side, working out to just under $2 per serving, but given that there aren’t a ton of alternatives out there for those with a caffeine sensitivity, Genius is still worthy of a slot on our list.
Approximate cost per serving (20 servings)- ($1.90)
Also on the list of more intense pre workout supplements, Alpha Gx7’s primary energy boosting ingredient is beta-alanine. Aside from being one of the stronger and better tasting options we’ve come across, it also dilutes better than much of its competition. This means you’re less likely to deal with that annoying grittiness that comes with many other supplements, nor are you likely to see any residual powder at the bottom of your shaker that has yet to dissolve.
Approximate cost per serving (30 servings)- ($1.00)
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Cellucor C4 Original
Cellucor’s C4 is one of the more popular pre-work supplements out there right now. It combines caffeine, creatine, CarnoSyn beta-alanine, TeaCrine, and arginine. Each of these ingredients is added to support muscle endurance, focus, and overall energy.
C4 Original comes in a variety of flavors, sizes, and additional ingredients (I’m a fan of the Cherry Limeade).
2. BSN Endorush
BSN is another top name in the workout supplement category, and one we’ve also featured on our best protein powder guide. Their Endorush pre-workout mixture is equally as popular, and contains caffeine, creatine monohydrate, creatine nitrate, and beta-alanine.
The 390g tub is the largest of the available selections and comes in a couple of different flavors. For customers looking to get a primarily creatine-fueled product, Endorush is the ideal mixture.
3. Evlution Nutrition ENGN
ENGN by Evlution Nutrition supplies the usual ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine, however they also include L-Tyrosine (an amino acid), and Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (a natural compound found in the brain) in their formula. These ingredients have been added in an effort to increase focus and brainpower.
4. Evlution Nutrition Pump Mode
Another supplement by Evlution Nutrition is Pump Mode, which is quite different from the composition of ENGN. It includes betaine nitrate (metabolizes in Nitric Oxide), hydromax (a form of glycerol), and Vitamins C and D, but it forgoes the use of any stimulants like caffeine or other energy boosters.
Nitric Oxide is involved in the flow of oxygen in your blood, Hydromax Glycerol is a compound that can help prevent dehydration during exercise, and the vitamins can support other healthy bodily processes.
You can learn more about Hydromax Glycerol here.
5. Old School Labs VINTAGE BLAST
Vintage Blast by Old School Labs is another popular option with online shoppers, averaging a solid 4.3/5 star rating out of over 13,827 reviews.
Vintage Blast sells itself on its proprietary “two-stage” mixture. Instead of kicking in soon after consumption and lasting for a relatively brief amount of time, Vintage Blast claims it works more slowly, fuelling longer workouts, and preventing that dreaded energy crash. Previously offered in “flavorless” form, it is now available in blueberry lemonade flavor. It is also gluten-free, and GMO-free (though kinda pricey when compared to alternatives).