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What’s the Best Healthy Pre-Workout?
Updated on June 9, 2023
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At Home Health
Diet / Weight Loss
What’s the Best Healthy Pre-Workout?

Our top pick goes to Kaged because they have plenty of options for beginners, athletes, and advanced bodybuilders who may want an extra boost during workouts.

Kaged pre-workouts are third-party tested and contain clinically-proven doses. This ensures the ingredients are both safe and effective.

“Nutrition always goes alongside exercise. A good amount of carbohydrates and protein as fuel for exercise helps in workout performance and recovery,” reminds our in-house medical expert, Dr. Rizza Mira, when talking about healthy pre-workout and its role in fitness.

When it comes to choosing the best pre-workout, it all boils down to your fitness goals and your personal preferences. 

In this guide, we’ll give you a rundown of the healthiest pre-workout supplements—including what to look for and what to avoid.

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5 Best Pre-Workout Supplements

1. Pre Kaged Pre-Workout – Best Overall

What’s the Best Healthy Pre-Workout? 6

Kaged has all sorts of pre-workout powders, making it a great option for beginners, fitness buffs, and professional athletes.

They have all-in-one blends and sports-oriented formulas that can help you meet specific fitness goals and needs, such as:

  • Building muscle mass
  • Improving recovery between sets and workouts
  • Increasing strength and workout performance
  • Enhancing focus so you can be more productive
  • Replenishing fluids and electrolytes
  • Increasing blood flow for stronger pumps

Kaged’s pre-workout supplements are also vegan-friendly and affordable. Plus, you can choose from caffeinated and non-caffeinated pre-workouts.

2. Swolverine PRE – Best Stim-Free Pre-Workout

What’s the Best Healthy Pre-Workout? 7

Swolverine PRE is the perfect pre-workout for vegans, people who have caffeine sensitivity or gluten intolerance, or who are simply after a stim-free option.

That’s because it has an all-natural plant-based formula that provides all the perks of a pre-workout—minus the caffeine, gluten, GMOs, or artificial stuff.

It contains a clinically-dosed blend of amino acids and antioxidant-rich superfoods for enhanced strength, endurance, recovery, and performance.

Unfortunately, it only comes in one flavor: mango lemonade.

3. Garden of Life Sport: Energy + Focus – Best Vegan Pre-Workout

What’s the Best Healthy Pre-Workout? 8

If you’re vegan but don’t mind caffeine, this pre-workout powder is for you.

Garden of Life’s pre-workout doesn’t contain gluten, soy, and dairy—making it a great option for people with common food allergies or intolerances.

Instead of the usual amino acids found in other pre-workouts, it uses organic ingredients to boost your energy and keep you focused on your workouts.

Unfortunately, its main ingredient isorganic cane sugar which adds 11 grams of sugar to each serving. So it’s not an option if you prefer a low-sugar pre-workout.

4. OUTLIFT Pre-Workout – Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain

What’s the Best Healthy Pre-Workout? 9

When it comes to muscle building, this Nutrex pre-workout is a solid option. It has a comprehensive blend of BCAAs and amino acids that can:

  • Amplify your energy, focus, and strength
  • Increase your endurance and output
  • Decrease muscle fatigue
  • Enhance muscle repair and recovery
  • Promote muscle growth

Each serving does contain 350 mg of caffeine, which is close to the daily recommended limit. So you have to be mindful of your caffeine intake.

5. Transparent Labs LEAN – Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss

What’s the Best Healthy Pre-Workout? 10

Unlike other pre-workout supplements, it has a combination of amino acids and fat-burning ingredients so you can lose more calories while you exercise.

Transparent Labs LEAN also promotes thyroid balance, which makes it an excellent pre-workout for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.

It doesn’t contain any artificial junk and is safe for people who follow vegan and vegetarian diets. But if you’re looking for a caffeine-free option, this isn’t one.

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What is Pre-Workout?

A pre-workout is like the breakfast you eat at the start of your day. But instead of preparing you for a day of activities, it prepares you for exercise.

Pre-workouts are supplements that you take before working out. They usually come in powder mixes or ready-to-drink juices and shakes.

There are two types of pre-workout supplements in the market:

  • Stimulant-based pre-workouts – also known as stim pre-workouts, they use stimulants to boost your energy
  • Non-stimulant pre-workouts – also known as non-stim pre-workouts, they don’t rely on caffeine or stimulants to give you energy

What Does Pre Workout Do?

A pre-workout blend typically provides you with plenty of carbohydrates. This is so it can fuel your body with energy and prepare it for workouts. 

“The choice of pre-workout blends depends on the timing, intensity and duration of exercise. For short exercises, fats fuel the body. For longer exercises, protein and carbs provide long lasting muscle support,” says Dr. Mira.

Carbs are converted into glucose, which then raises your blood glucose levels. It gives your body a quick and adequate source of energy, especially the muscles which are used for the exercise.

In addition to boosting your energy levels, pre-workout may also contain ingredients that can enhance your overall performance. It can:

  • Improve mental focus while exercising
  • Increase endurance and stamina
  • Reduce muscle damage
  • Prevent muscle fatigue
  • Build muscle (lean body mass)
  • Help you recover faster after workouts

Ultimately, what a pre-workout does depends on its ingredients.

Is Pre-Workout Safe?

Pre-workouts are safe for most healthy adults. However, you need to be mindful of their ingredients and your daily intake regardless of your health.

They can be overloaded with sugar, caffeine, and other stimulants, which are not good if you take stimulant medications or have certain health conditions (e.g., diabetes and caffeine sensitivity).

You want to choose pre-workouts from reputable companies that list all ingredients and nutrition information on the supplement label.

Talk to a doctor before taking any pre-workout supplement. They can determine whether or not it’s safe for you to consume.

When To Drink Pre-Workout Supplement

The best time to take a pre-workout is 30 to 60 minutes before you exercise. 

By then, its active ingredients will reach their full effects. This ensures you’ll be able to make use of the energy and have enough of it for your workout.

Stimulant-free pre-workouts can be taken at any time of the day. They’re a great option if you prefer working out a few hours before sleep.

However, you need to be careful when drinking stimulant-based pre-workouts:

If Your Pre-Workout Has Caffeine

Caffeine-based pre-workouts are best taken 30 to 60 minutes after a light meal.

You also need to wait for another 30 to 60 minutes before you start exercising.

It will help you avoid side effects such as nausea, lightheadedness, and “coffee” jitters, which can happen if you take caffeine on an empty stomach. 

“It is important to take note of the level of caffeine in your pre-workout supplement. This is to prevent adverse health reactions like high blood pressure, heart irregularities or insomnias,” says Dr. Mira.

This also ensures that your pre-workout supplement works as intended. Eating too much food or too many fibers and complex carbs can delay its absorption.

If Your Pre-Workout Has Stimulants

You should avoid drinking any stim pre-workouts at night or late in the afternoon. They can keep you awake and disrupt your normal sleeping pattern.

It’s best to take them anywhere between the morning and early afternoon. This means that you should also limit your exercises to this time frame.

How Often Should I Take Pre-Workout? 

While pre-workouts are safe to use daily, it doesn’t mean you should. 

Pre-workouts are not necessary for working out. Many pre-workout supplements contain natural ingredients that you can get from healthier sources.

You must only drink pre-workouts if you need a quick energy boost before exercising but don’t have the time to prepare a full meal.

If you need energy, health experts recommend eating healthy foods rich in vitamins and minerals before a workout routine. Some examples are:

  • Home-brewed coffee
  • Whole-grain sandwich with lean meat
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Eggs

At most, you can take a pre-workout supplement once daily for every day that you work out. Remember to follow the instructions on the packaging.

Can You Take Pre-Workout Twice A Day?

It depends on the pre-workout you’re taking. 

Stim-free pre-workouts can be taken up to twice a day. Caffeinated pre-workouts should only be taken once a day, even if you work out a lot.

Keep in mind that the recommended caffeine intake for most healthy adults is up to 400 mg of caffeine and up to 35 mg of niacin.1,2

Stim pre-workouts usually contain 150 to 300 mg of caffeine and 25 to 40 mg of niacin. So if you drink them several times a day, you could potentially exceed this limit.

What Should I Look For in My Pre-Workout?

Here are three things you want in a pre-workout supplement:

1. Fully Disclosed Ingredients

A reputable company will give you full disclosure of its ingredients.

Deciding between a stim-based and stim-free pre-workout, and knowing what ingredients are included, can help you narrow down your options.

Below are some common pre-workout ingredients and their potential benefits:

Stimulants and Energy Boosters

Common Pre-Workout IngredientType of IngredientProven Effects
CaffeineStimulantIncreases your energy and focus
Enhances endurance for high-intensity exercises
Improves reaction time and exercise performance
GlucoseSimple carbohydrateIncreases energy levels
Nitric oxideNeurotransmitterImproves output and performance in resistance training
Can increase blood flow, which may help with burst training
Optimizes recovery after exercise
Vitamin B6 and B12Essential nutrientMeets your body’s increased demand for B vitamins during exercise
Helps sustain your energy throughout a workout routine
Encourages your body to burn fats and protein for energy Important for nerve conduction for muscle agility 

Amino Acids

Common Pre-Workout IngredientProven Effects
Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate (AAKG)May enhance muscle strength and peak power performance for certain exercises
Can increase muscle growth
Beta-AlanineDecreases mental fatigue and improves resistance to high volume training
Can delay muscle fatigue and improve endurance for high-intensity muscular contractions
Betaine AnhydrousReduces fat and increases muscle
Promotes muscle growth 
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)Enhances muscle growth and performance
Creatine MonohydrateIncreases strength performance during heavy resistance training
Improves workout recovery
Builds lean muscle mass
L-CarnitineEncourages your body to burn fat for energy
Improves heart function and breathing during aerobic training
Reduces fatigue during aerobic and anaerobic exercises
L-Citrulline MalateEnhances performance and delays fatigue during resistance training and high-intensity exercise
Speeds up muscle recovery after intense workouts
L-TheanineDecreases stress and improves concentration so you can stay focused on exercising
When combined with caffeine, it can boost your athletic performance while reducing its negative effects
L-TyrosineReduces stress and can keep you from feeling tired during workouts
Increases your energy over time
Enhances endurance so you can exercise for prolonged periods
TaurineReduces muscular fatigue
May improve performance for longer exercises and endurance training
Increases fat metabolism and energy expenditure to help you lose weight
Has an antioxidative effect that promotes recovery after exercise

Herbal Extracts

Common Pre-Workout IngredientProven Effects
GinsengReduces psychological stress which can help with your motivation
Decreases fatigue during intense anaerobic exercises
Green Tea ExtractSupports weight loss by helping you burn more fat during exercise
Decreases muscular damage, allowing for faster recovery

2. Clinically-Proven Doses

Many pre-workouts are underdosed and don’t contain enough ingredients to deliver their full effects.

To get the most out of a pre-workout supplement, opt for brands that provide clinical research-proven dosages of the ingredients you want.

3. Third-Party Tested

Pre-workout products that undergo third-party testing are reviewed by an unbiased laboratory outside the company. It ensures they: 

  • Meet industry standards in sports nutrition
  • Provide the ingredients listed on the label
  • Do not contain banned substances

Some pre-workout supplements have hidden ingredients that can be harmful to your health. Examples include anabolic steroids, painkillers, and growth factors.

Independent testing ensures you’re getting a high-quality pre-workout.

What Should I Avoid in A Pre-Workout?

Knowing what to avoid will also help you choose the best pre-workout supplement for your fitness goals. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Proprietary Blend

Stay away from pre-workout supplements with proprietary blends because you’ll never know what you’re getting with each serving.

They can have too much or too little of certain ingredients, which can be unsafe, unhealthy, or ineffective.

2. Caffeine & Other Stimulants

Pre-workouts containing more than the recommended 400 mg of caffeine should be avoided since they are basically overdosed.

You may also want to avoid stim pre-workouts in these situations:

  • You have caffeine sensitivity
  • You frequently eat food or drink beverages high in caffeine
  • You take supplements with caffeine—like caffeine pills
  • You’re taking other stimulant medications

Stimulants shouldn’t be taken together since their effects can add up. Too much caffeine also causes unwanted side effects even if you’re not sensitive to it.

3. Dietary Restrictions

Watch out for ingredients that are incompatible with your diet restrictions or dietary preferences. For example:

  • If you’re vegan, then you’d want a pre-workout blend that derives its amino acids from plant-based proteins.
  • If you prefer natural ingredients, you should steer clear of pre-workout supplements that use artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.
  • If you have lactose intolerance, you should pick a dairy-free pre-workout.

These are just a few possible scenarios. Remember to read the ingredients list and discuss them with your doctor so you know which ones to avoid.

Why Take Pre-Workout?

Workouts can be physically and mentally draining, which is why you’ll need energy and the right mental state.

Pre-workout supplements prepare your mind and body before every workout, so you’ll have the motivation, strength, and endurance to finish your sets.

A well-formulated pre-workout can also help you recover quicker, so you’re always ready for another set. This allows you to reach your fitness goals faster.

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Updated on June 9, 2023
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2 sources cited
Updated on June 9, 2023
  1. Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  2. The Nutrition Source: Niacin – Vitamin B3.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.
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