It’s been a long day at work. You get home, barely awake, and ready to take a nap on your nice soft bed. You decide to lay down and just close your eyes for a little nap. But then you remember, it’s arm day!
You know if you take a nap there’s no way you go to the gym. So you reluctantly get back up, open up that beautiful jar of pre-workout, slug it down, slap yourself in the face and hop in your car.
Pre-workout is a crucial part of anyone’s fitness routine whether they need it for an energy boost after a long day or if they simply want to make sure they are getting the most out of their workouts.
Almost every pre-workout boasts different combinations of ingredients that are supposed to be the best on the market and increase workout performance. Because of the insane amount of pre-workouts out there, I decided to do the work for you and give you some pros and cons of the pre-workouts that I recommend. After reading this article, I hope you are able to sift through all the BS and find the best pre workout powder for your specific needs.
Most pre-workouts have a million ingredients (not really but it seems like it). Some of these ingredients help while others don’t do much besides add flavor. The main thing you want to watch out for in a pre workout is the amount of sugar it has. A lot of pre workouts contain artificial sweeteners and other sources of sugar that don’t do much besides give the supplement taste and color. I like to look for pre workouts with only about 2-5 grams of sugar or no sugar at all to ensure the energy is not just a sugar rush and is pure.
As for what you want in your pre-workout:
Creatine is a staple ingredient in many pre-workouts. It is great for enhancing muscle growth, shortening muscle recovery, and supporting lean muscle mass. Pre-workouts usually contain anywhere from 1 to 5 grams of creatine. 5 grams a day is the recommended dose so beware if you already take a creatine supplement, you probably don’t want it in your pre-workout.
Caffeine is a very popular ingredient in pre-workouts and rightfully so. It is a natural stimulant that helps keep the body alert and provides clean energy for about 4-6 hours. It is most commonly found in coffee and a lot of pre-workouts contain anywhere from 100 to 300 mg.
BCAA’s or branch chain amino acids, are essential for any pre-workout that I use. Out of the 10 essential amino acids, BCAA’s provide three, isoleucine, leucine, and valine. These three amino acids help with muscle fatigue and soreness and allow for a faster recovery time between sets.
Citrulline Malate is a great ingredient for vascularity and feeling a “pump”. Many pre-workouts contain a form of citrulline because it helps improve blood flow throughout the body. This is especially useful for ensuring that your muscles get enough oxygen while you workout and it also helps to diminish fatigue. Citrulline will also assist you in looking shredded as it has a tendency to make your veins pop.
Beta-Alanine is another ingredient that helps to fight muscle fatigue and soreness. It is also the reason why you might feel a tingly sensation when you take certain pre-workout supplements.
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Pre-Workout Supplements That I Recommend
If you have read my previous article on optimum nutrition creatine, you would know how much I love optimum nutrition products and their gold standard pre-workout is one of the reasons why.
- 3 grams of creatine
- 175 mg of caffeine – enough to give you a much-needed energy boost
- 1.5 grams of citrulline malate
- Comes in 7 different flavors
- On the lower end in terms of price at $26.24 (Depending on the flavor)
- Contains Red 40
- Doesn’t provide a whole serving of creatine (to get a full serving you would have to buy another supplement)
- Due to the beta-alanine, it will give you that tingly sensation
- 175 mg of caffeine could be a little high for someone with no caffeine tolerance
Transparent labs is another well respected brand in the fitness industry. They are known for using all natural ingredients and making sure their customers know exactly what they are consuming. Their pre workout is high on my list for good reasons.
- Only 87 mg of caffeine – about the same as one cup of coffee and the perfect amount for those with a low tolerance
- No beta-alanine, which means no tingly feeling but also could be a con
- Very few ingredients and no artificial sweeteners – every ingredient matters
- Only $27 for 60 servings
- Gluten free and non-GMO
- No creatine – which could be a pro if you already take a creatine supplement
- Not a lot of caffeine if you already have a tolerance for it
If you don’t care much for creatine or caffeine, this product is great for providing clean and pure energy. Transparent Labs also offers a stim-free pre-workout that has NO caffeine for those that are caffeine sensitive.
C4 is one of the most well-known fitness brands in the world and its original pre workout has been the top selling pre-workout for years.
- Comes in 4 different flavors
- Trusted by professional body builders and athletes all over the world
- 150 mg of caffeine and 1.6 g of beta-alanine – Good amount for each as far as pre-workouts are concerned
- One of the lesser expensive pre-workouts coming in at around $38 for 60 servings on Amazon
- Only 1 gram of creatine – could be a positive if you are already taking a creatine supplement
- Tingly sensation
- Could be a lot of caffeine if you are sensitive
- Does not contain any form of citrulline or some more popular BCAA’s
Overall, the best pre-workout supplement is going to depend on your goals and how well you know your body. If you are extremely sensitive to caffeine, you’re probably going to want a pre-workout with a milder amount of caffeine. If you don’t care about anything but getting a good pump and bouncing off the walls with energy, I would suggest the optimum nutrition gold standard pre-workout or the C4 original pre-workout which basically give you everything you need.
Regardless of the pre-workout you choose, make sure it is sugar free, contains at least a couple of BCAA’s, and contains the right amount of caffeine and creatine for your liking. I wouldn’t recommend going over 200 mg of caffeine or over 5g of creatine.
Pre-workout can have an insane effect on your ability to perform in the gym and reach heights you never thought were possible. If you aren’t taking one currently or don’t want to for some reason, I would suggest that you at least drink a cup of coffee before you lift to get some extra energy.
Well, what are you waiting for, get the best pump of your life and get a bottle of pre-workout today!
If you found this article helpful, please feel free to leave a comment and provide your opinion on pre-workout!