In This Article
In This Article
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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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:
Kaged’s pre-workout supplements are also vegan-friendly and affordable. Plus, you can choose from caffeinated and non-caffeinated pre-workouts.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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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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:
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:
Ultimately, what a pre-workout does depends on its ingredients.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Here are three things you want in a pre-workout supplement:
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:
|Common Pre-Workout Ingredient||Type of Ingredient||Proven Effects|
|Caffeine||Stimulant||Increases your energy and focus|
Enhances endurance for high-intensity exercises
Improves reaction time and exercise performance
|Glucose||Simple carbohydrate||Increases energy levels|
|Nitric oxide||Neurotransmitter||Improves output and performance in resistance training|
Can increase blood flow, which may help with burst training
Optimizes recovery after exercise
|Vitamin B6 and B12||Essential nutrient||Meets 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
|Common Pre-Workout Ingredient||Proven Effects|
|Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate (AAKG)||May enhance muscle strength and peak power performance for certain exercises|
Can increase muscle growth
|Beta-Alanine||Decreases mental fatigue and improves resistance to high volume training|
Can delay muscle fatigue and improve endurance for high-intensity muscular contractions
|Betaine Anhydrous||Reduces fat and increases muscle|
Promotes muscle growth
|Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)||Enhances muscle growth and performance|
|Creatine Monohydrate||Increases strength performance during heavy resistance training|
Improves workout recovery
Builds lean muscle mass
|L-Carnitine||Encourages your body to burn fat for energy|
Improves heart function and breathing during aerobic training
Reduces fatigue during aerobic and anaerobic exercises
|L-Citrulline Malate||Enhances performance and delays fatigue during resistance training and high-intensity exercise|
Speeds up muscle recovery after intense workouts
|L-Theanine||Decreases 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-Tyrosine||Reduces stress and can keep you from feeling tired during workouts|
Increases your energy over time
Enhances endurance so you can exercise for prolonged periods
|Taurine||Reduces 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
|Common Pre-Workout Ingredient||Proven Effects|
|Ginseng||Reduces psychological stress which can help with your motivation|
Decreases fatigue during intense anaerobic exercises
|Green Tea Extract||Supports weight loss by helping you burn more fat during exercise|
Decreases muscular damage, allowing for faster recovery
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.
Pre-workout products that undergo third-party testing are reviewed by an unbiased laboratory outside the company. It ensures they:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
Watch out for ingredients that are incompatible with your diet restrictions or dietary preferences. For example:
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.
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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