Best Pre-Workout Supplements Reviewed, For Energy, Cardio and More
A pre-workout is a supplement that you take… before a workout. No surprise there! But what’s less obvious is what exactly is in pre-workout…
How can a supplement help you to workout harder and see better results from your gym sessions? Do you need one? And are all pre-workouts made equal? Let’s take a look at the best pre-workout supplement and how all this affects the body…
How Do Pre Workout Supplements Work? Do they really benefit you?
Good preworkout supplements can help in a variety of ways:
Why Powder instead of Pills?
The fact is that your body absorbs the ingredients more efficiently this way, especially with the massive doses involved. Many of the best preworkout supplements also combine for 20 grams of combined dosages, and that will just involve too many capsules at one time.
How Do You Take these Supplements?
Your best bet is to follow the directions on the label. You should also make sure that the powder is completely mixed into the water you use, as clumps at the bottom of the glass are just wasted. If you also drink these clumps, it may be too concentrated and it can lead to GI issues and other side effects.
What’s Wrong With “Proprietary Blends”?
These blends don’t indicate how much of each ingredient is included. Supposedly, this is to stop competitors from copying their secret formula. On the other hand, it can enable unscrupulous manufacturers to “dress up” their labels. They can just put in inadequate amounts of great ingredients so they’re basically useless. For example, you need 6 g of citrulline for it to work, but a supplement with a secret formula can boast of containing citrulline (though secretly it contains just 1 gram or even less).
Are they safe? How to avoid Side Effects?
There are 2 ways to avoid side effects. One is to just pick a supplement that contains a particular ingredient that can cause side effects, such as picking Pre Bulk because it doesn’t have creatine. Just make sure that the supplement has alternative ingredients that offer the same benefits as the ingredient you’re avoiding.
The other way is to ease into the use of the supplement, so you can give your body time to get used to it. However, you can just use this list as your guide to preworkout supplements. Start with #1 and work down the list, and you’ll most likely find the supplement with the best pros and cons for your needs.
What’s inside A Pre Workout Supplement -which Ingredients Are Best?
While all pre-workouts are made differently, there are some commonalities between them and some things that we tend to see fairly regularly.
Here are some of the most common ingredients in pre-workouts, how they work and whether or not you should consider using them…
Yep, as it turns out, one of the most common ingredients in a pre-workout is caffeine. So what does caffeine do? Well, as you’re likely well-aware, caffeine makes you feel more awake and more alert.
It does this by reducing a substance called ‘adenosine’ in the brain which in turn is a bit like giving your brain a cold shower. This triggers the release of dopamine, norepinephrine and other stimulants, which in turn make you more alert and wired.
The result? You don’t feel as tired in the gym, you burn more calories and your heartrate speeds up. Moreover, you the increase in adrenaline can actually make you slightly stronger during lifts according to the research!
All the best pre-workout supplements will include caffeine but many will also include other stimulants like bitter orange and guarana. All these will have similar effects to caffeine but the way in which they work is different.
What’s crucial here is to try and avoid overdoing the stimulants to the point where you can end up feeling too wired and jittery and possibly even placing a strain on your heart. Bitter orange is a beta agonist for instance and many people will find this a little too intense (and it may also have addictive qualities).
Note as well that in order to build muscle you need to allow your body to rest – this is what puts it in an anabolic state. Ironically then, too much stimulant could actually damage your muscle gains!
A vasodilator is any compound that makes your veins widen and blood pump around your body more easily. Taking a supplement that has large amounts of vasodilators in it will make your entire body feel tingly and will give you more of a sense of pump during workouts.
More importantly, it will fuel you with more blood and oxygen to the brain and muscles to help you train harder. Many of the top pre workout supplements include nitric oxide for this purpose – though you can trigger a similar effect yourself with beet juice!
BCAAs are ‘Branched-Chain Amino Acids’. Citrulline is also an amino acid, and one of the best for stamina and recovery.
Amino acids are found in protein and are what we actually use to repair muscle. BCAAs are simply amino acids that are combined in a form that’s muscle ready’ and that therefore stimulate more protein synthesis. This is good news because it means you increase your capacity for protein synthesis. This also sends a signal to the body that reduces the rate of protein breakdown (it’s all to do with mRNA).
Oh and BCAAs also block the feel-good hormone serotonin. Why would you want that? Because serotonin makes us feel fatigued (it converts to melatonin!).
All this means that BCAAs in the top pre-workout supplements can prevent muscle breakdown and make you more driven during workouts.
Finally, the best pre-workout supplement will always be one that provides some readily available energy, in the form of glucose and potentially other types of energy – like ketones from MCT oil.
Either way, training hard takes energy and that means a good pre-workout should fuel you with the calories you need to burn through your workouts with ferocity.
So what’s the Best Pre workout On the Market Today?
There’s not going to be a single answer to that, obviously. Not everyone’s the same. But then we do have 3 good answers to this question, and we’re pretty certain that at least one of these candidates will suit your needs:
4 Gauge – Best Pre Workout On The Market 2017
This has 6 grams of highly effective citrulline, and it also packs the vaunted caffeine and L-theanine combo – which can actually act as a “smart stack” or brain supplement!
It elevates your mood and focus with rhodiola rosea, increases your stamina with L-Carnitine, and it’s even packed with natural electrolytes because it contains coconut water powder. The “4” in 4 Gauge refers to how it will boost your power, focus, stamina, and pumps. The “Gauge” refers to the many ingredients it packs, backing each other up.
Creatine is one of the most beneficial supplements out there. It gives you greater intensity, improved recovery, better anaerobic capacity, bigger muscle volume, and even improved brain function. It’s also widely regarded as safe. It’s one of the reasons why 4 Gauge ranks so highly on this list.
It contains proper dosages of various proven ingredients that can seriously enhance your workouts. It’s not just effective, but it’s also widely regarded as safe. You also don’t have the beta alanine that can cause your skin to tingle for a while. Even the caffeine jitters aren’t there because there’s also the L-theanine.
Not much: 4 Gauge tends to be as strong as the strongest pre workouts out there, but still remains safer or easier to use. However there is still some caffeine, so if you are a beginner to pre workouts, you may want to slowly get into 4 Gauge, instead of hammering a double dose on the first day!
4 Gauge is however, priced at the higher end of the market, though there are discount sale offers for multiple orders. So don’t expect this to be a cheap throwaway product for careless use.
4 Gauge contains effective ingredients and they’re all here in the right amounts to make them actually effective. It’s also generally safe. You get energy, stamina, focus, and pumps. For now, for us, this is the best pre workout supplement on the market.
In 2nd Place: Altius by Jacked Factory
The “Altius” name implies new heights in preworkout supplements, and it has largely succeeded. Like our top rated supplement on the list, it contains citrulline, beta alanine, Betaine, and caffeine.
It also has a nootropic component, though here it uses Alpha GPC instead of the choline bitartrate and Mucuna Pruriens combo.
In terms of sheer power, this is probably the strongest pre workout on the market! The potential problem here is that there may be too much of it, so it can be too intense.
The caffeine dosage is big at 325 mg, which is close to what you get for 3 cups of coffee. We prefer the saner L-theanine in 4 Gauge, but note that Altius will seriously pump you up even on the toughest days.
This is probably great for those who have already been trying out a lot of other preworkout supplements, and have not received the results they wanted.
It’s safe to say that here you will get the energy and pep you need for your workout. The dosages are that ample, while for many athletes it’s still regarded as within the “safe” range. You will undoubtedly get the power, endurance, and mental focus for your workout.
This has lots of caffeine, without the L-theanine to mitigate the side effects. This is a powerful preworkout, so the main concern is that it may be too powerful. So you might want to heed the directions about how you should start with just a half dose at first so you can gauge your body’s reaction to the formula.
Ounce for ounce, Altius is loaded with strength and stamina boosters. You just need to test it at first. If your body can take it (and many probably can), then it’s a very good formula.
In 3rd Place: Pre Jym
The Jym series of supplements come from the creative mind of Jim Stoppani, and they been so successful that Stoppani is now virtually a household name in the industry. This is the pre workout component of the series, and it again showcases the solid ingredients list and proper dosage that you should be looking for.
Here you have citrulline, beta alanine, caffeine, and creatine too. The dosages are ample, though it’s not quite as intense as the others. While it does offer 6 g of citrulline along with 300 mg of caffeine (with no L-theanine), the beta alanine is just at 2 g and the Betaine is at 1.5 g.
It contains Huperzine A for better focus, and it also has the Bioperine extract that helps with the absorption.
You can pick one of the 4 available flavors, so you should be able to find one that’s not too bad. Its mixability can be an issue though. You may want to use more water than what’s recommended on the directions, and the water should be a bit warm too. You’ll also want to shake the supplement container before every time you take a sip.
Here the ingredients are once again a solid cast of performers, and the dosages are by and large ample enough to be effective. It even has the BCAAs and the Bioperine as well. It’s a well-known brand that offers good results as attested by a horde of fans, and it’s fairly safe. It should work for most without any issues at all and you should find a flavor that you won’t mind drinking on a regular basis.
Aside from the tingling sensation you get from the beta alanine, you may have slight issues to factor in. Here you get the caffeine equivalent of 2 cups of coffee, without the L-theanine to cushion you from the jitters. We tend to like other smoother natural effects.
With all things considered, Pre Jym deserves its place here on this list of top preworkout supplements. It contains a solid list of ingredients though it may lack some of the top elements that the best stuff offers. Despite the risk of side effects, for the most part it’s fairly safe as long as you take the time to ease into it. Don’t chug the drink, but instead you should sip a little over a half-hour time frame so you don’t shock your system.