Flavored and non-fragrant, bulk-up and budget-friendly, nutritious and ambitious, pre-workout formulas are your number one source of optimal power before your workout. You want to get the most out of each workout, build muscle, and upkeep your energy throughout the entire day. Life isn’t getting any easier, so having the ultimate defense against fatigue during your workout is critical. We’ve weeded through the fluff and filler products to bring you ten best pre-workout formulas that are proven to work wonders.
The Best Pre-Workout Formula
You don’t just get a killer powder mix here, you get the backing of a 100% money-back guarantee, and the endorsement of Mike Matthews, best-selling author. Legion Athletics lays on the marketing pretty thick when it comes to having no fillers, and 100% of everything you need: we’re happy to report that it’s super packed, and follows through on the heavy promise of outdoing nearly all of the competition. Thanks to blends of nitric oxide and beta-alanine, you maintain the testosterone you produce when working out (fat loss aid), while improving your endurance to go a little bit longer, challenging your body through every new workout. On top of all that, they use very little additives for flavor, but whatever they are adding packs enough of a punch to ensure you’re not dreading this before your next workout: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as they say.
Nitric oxide boosts energy, and helps maintain testosterone production
Backed by best-selling author Mike Matthews, and a 100% money-back guarantee
Beta-Alanine greatly improves endurance
- BrandLegion Athletics
- Weight1.4 pounds
Blend it, mix it, or do whatever the hell you want with it: Cellucor put out the first major pre-workout formula that’s designed to get you into the gym, and carry you through when you feel like quitting. You can choose between ten different naturally-sweetened flavors (with very mild impact on pricing), all while getting an insane value on the quantity. C4 didn’t become the #1 best-selling pre-workout powder in America by chance. If you follow our buying guide’s information on when to take your pre-workout formula, you’ll see C4 kick in just when you need it most: in the middle of your workout, when you’re feeling the drag and thinking about cutting loose early. Thanks to enhanced ingredients like creatine monohydrate and amino recovery components, you’re able to take a beating, and keep on trudging along to get in the best workout of your life. Be sure to also check out our list of the best creatines for more great items like this.
2.5g of creatine monohydrate
Comes in ten flavors
Kicks in during the middle of your workout to carry you through
- Weight4.8 ounces
Coming in on the second place podium, Beachbody brings you an essential blend of energy-enacting nutrients that take you from zero to hero in no time flat. Due to the caffeine content, you can skip your morning cup of coffee before you hit the gym, and maintain all the benefits of a sharper mind, without the unsettling effects of coffee on your digestive system. Kiss muscle fatigue goodbye, thanks to a healthy boost of energy that stays with you through your workout, while still attributing all the work you’ve done to your core regions. Your post-workout should be a time of invigoration, not aching and that sleepy feeling that you’ve sometimes gotten in the past. Bulk up without passing out, thanks to Beachbody. And if you are a passionate runner, make sure you check our list of top supplements for runners.
Caffeine helps sharpen your focus, and improve your reactions
Gives you a healthy boost of energy from start to finish
Helps reduce muscle fatigue post-workout
- Weight8.5 ounces
You’re trying to wake up in the morning before hitting the gym, but you’re also trying to get in a hard workout and build muscle. It’s difficult, but not impossible. Amino acids are building blocks of your body’s protein, and your body is nearly 20% protein: it’s pretty important. Maintain your amino acids, thereby burning more fat at the gym, and promoting positive energy throughout the entire day. This product isn’t going to burn fat for you, but it will help in amino acid production and allocation, making your workouts slightly more effective. If you’re not one to jump up first thing in the AM, the energy effects of Amino Lean will be a whole new reason to get up for the day. This energy burst usually lasts for sixty minutes, but the beautiful thing is, it’s not going to give you any jittering effects in that first hour, or throughout the rest of the day. You can prepare it in one of the protein shakers from our list.
AminoLean helps protect vitamins and nutrients from being ejected from the body
Sixty minute energy boost for gym performance (on average)
Energy with no jitter effects
- BrandRSP Nutrition
- Weight10.4 ounces
When you call yourself Gold Standard, you open yourself up to some harsh criticism and scrutiny. We walked into this with guns blazing, and Optimum Nutrition didn’t disappoint. You get the caffeine equivalent of one big cup of coffee, which helps increase your focus, while minimizing muscle fatigue through your workout. Gold Standard also appears to have an XR on that energy, so you won’t be tried after the gym; you’ll be good to go through the rest of the day. Earlier, we talked about creatine monohydrate and why it’s so important; you get 3g per serving with Gold Standard, while also getting some solid beta-alanine and whey protein thrown in the mix. All in all, this is a very straightforward product that keeps you moving. This product will be your gym bag essential.
Contains 3g of creatine monohydrate per serving
Caffeine for an energy boost; equivalent to one cup of coffee
Increases focus while minimizing fatigue
- BrandOptimum Nutrition
- Weight11.2 ounces
We’re dipping into the second half of our list, and there’s still some great products stacked-up. For one, Pump Surge earned our editor’s choice for the no-caffeine formula, giving caffeine-sensitive men the ultimate workout without any jitters along the way. These guys are seriously dedicated to ensuring you don’t get one drop of filler product or anything you don’t absolutely need. They’re ultra proud of their US-made CGMP facility that allows them to craft clean, high-quality formulas that don’t hide behind proprietary blends. No dye, no filler, and nothing but the best of the best. It’s going to be a little bit more per ounce, but it’s well worth it to know you got nothing but the best ingredients. Looking to upgrade your gym equipment as well? Check out our gym shorts review or out weightlifting shoes review.
Contains no caffeine, so if you’re sensitive to it, you’ll still be able to get in a great workout
Zero fillers thanks to their state-of-the-art CGMP facility in the US
Aids in allocating protein to your muscles for proper bodybuilding
- BrandJacked Factory
- Weight11.5 ounces
What better way to “unleash the beast” than going with Mr. Hyde? This brand has been around for a minute, and after moving on from their initial flagship model, they’ve added a high energy output, and ten eccentrically excellent flavors to choose from. You get a serious punch of caffeine in this container: 400mg, which is like having five or six coffees at once, so caffeine-sensitive guys should take a step back to Pump Surge further up the list. If you can handle your caffeine, you’ll get a burst of energy in about fifteen to thirty minutes after taking this, allowing you to get in a few hours of a workout (if you’re hardcore enough) and still upkeep that pep in your step all the way through the day. This is some powerful stuff, so be sure to read the caution label when using. And then rock that pull up bar!
High level of caffeine at 400mg per serving (not for caffeine-sensitive mens)
Comes in ten different excellent flavors
Optimal for eight hours of evenly-dispersed energy throughout the day
- BrandPRO SUPPS
- Weight10.4 ounces
You remember getting Icees at the movie theaters as a kid? This tastes just like the blue raspberry one. Taste aside, you also get a killer set of benefits from the high caffeine content to extend your squat rack and other gym sessions, and leave you with some energy when you head home, as well. With 320mg of caffeine, you’re having the equivalent of multiple cups of coffee per serving. Speaking of servings, there’s 33 per container, and when you pair that with the price and put it on a month-to-month basis, you’ll be able to keep yourself in full supply for under two-hundred bucks a year. NeuroCore is a fairly straightforward blend, leaving nothing to chance, and having everything to gain. Make sure to combine this with one of the probiotics for men from our list.
33 servings per container (inexpensive month-to-month cost)
320mg of caffeine for maximum energy boost
3.2 grams of beta-alanine per serving
- Weight1.6 ounces
This is all about the weightlifters reading this, because MusclePharm’s Assault blend is designated to help with additional power during pumps, thanks to the citrulline and agmatine compounds to safely dilate blood vessels to increase your lifting power on that weight bench. Based on the title and the exterior packaging, we were expecting it to taste like activated charcoal. You’re going for the benefits, and while taste isn’t a determining factor, it’s nice to know that this is one of the best-tasting formulas on our list. You’ll get a rough 30-day supply, while confidently knowing that your formula is free of banned substances, and contains absolutely no proprietary blends. MusclePharm takes your health and fitness into consideration above all else.
One of the best-tasting formulas on this list
Free of banned substances and 100% proprietary blend-free
Contains citrulline and agmatine for increased pumps
- BrandMuscle Pharm
- Weight12.8 ounces
Last but not least, we have B-NOX, fortified by chemists, scientists and bodybuilders to be the excellent product that it is today. This blend of top-notch ingredients is designed for daily use, giving you a completely balanced energy boost to hit the gym, and stay for longer. B-NOX focuses around the fact that most pre-workout formulas end up giving you the jitters or making you crash afterwards, but with their formula, you get just enough of a kick without throwing your heart into overdrive. If you’re still not certain what you need in a pre-workout formula, be sure to continue down and read our buying guide for more information to better assess your needs, and circle back to this list to make a final decision.
Fortified for daily use before the gym
Formulated by bodybuilders, scientists and chemists for maximum innovative blend
Combination of caffeine and n-acetyl tyrosine for maximum energy
- BrandBetancourt Nutrition
- Weight1.4 pounds
What to Consider When Purchasing Pre-Workout Formulas
Truth is, there’s not a lot to pre-workout formulas. There’s a ton of review "best pre-workout" articles online that make these seem far more complicated than they actually are: identify the ingredients, understand what they do to your body, and contour the right formula to your workout style. If you’re walking into this blindly, looking for some direction and information, we’re about to tell you everything you need to know, and spoiler: you don’t need a doctorate to pick the right mix for you.
Ingredients - It’s the most important aspect: we’ll break down ingredients on each individual product, and discuss their main benefits. Each core ingredient has specific attributes to offer to your workout and post-workout energy levels, while some ingredients will merely be coloring, flavoring, and non-active ingredients to bind the effects.
Number of Servings - This is where value comes into play. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to one specific formula that works for you, you’re going to look at it in servings per year, and rack up a total cost. High servings, low cost: that’s where we want to hit.
Price - This ties into the number of servings. We recommend getting the best results by breaking down each individual serving per price. For some formulas, you’ll know you’re only spending $0.17 per serving, and get X benefits. On the other hand, at $0.21 per serving, you get X benefits from another. Price and servings are a factor, but not an end-all.
Light-Preventative Packaging - Remember when we were told to “Go get some sun, it’s good for you,” and all that? Well, turns out, it does a lot of harm. If you put your formula package up on the windowsill and let the sun get to it, even for just four or more hours, you’re going to damage everything sitting inside. Light-prevention packaging is nice, but so long as you keep this in the cabinet and nice and sealed, it doesn’t have to be a make-or-break kind of thing.
Pre-Workout Formulas FAQS
Q: What is a Pre-Workout Formula, and do You Need The Best Pre-Workout?
A: Pre-workout formulas blend specific vitamins and minerals together, giving you a boost for your workout, and helping you retain energy afterwards. Many of these claim to give you a better, more focused workout experienced, though that’s only true on some occasions: a powder that drastically increases focus would run for a lot more, you know?
These usually contain B vitamins, as well as caffeine, to dilate your blood vessels and give you a boost to serotonin production, which many B vitamins are able to help with. Serotonin makes you happy, caffeine keeps you alert, happiness leads to being “in the zone,” and boom, you have a formula for success.
These come with flavorings and light added colors, and we’ll tell you right now, these are technically unnecessary product. You’re going to see these in just about every single formula on the market; it’s basically unavoidable. Don’t let flavorings be your downfall, because you’re going to severely limit the number of formulas you’ll be able to have, and drive up the cost to astronomical heights.
As for if you need it, the answer is a hard yes. You can achieve a sexy six pack, bulk-up on leg day, and improve your overall fat burn, but keep in mind that pre-workout formulas are not fat-burning supplements, or anything of the sort. They help maintain your energy, so you’re not going to crap out on the next gym day, and you’re not going to be wrecked for the rest of the day.
They’re all about boosting performance, but keep in mind, nothing, and I repeat, nothing is a miracle supplement to do the work for you. Proper vitamins, micros and macros in your diet, accompanied by a solid workout regimen, are what’s going to make the different you see in your body. Pre-workouts are going to help upkeep energy, and in some cases, prevent critical vitamin loss that can occur from working out too hard.
Q: How Long Before a Workout Should You Take Pre-Workout Formula?
A: Each container is going to have a different opinion/instruction on this. It all depends on the mixture, but for the most part, this is fairly easy on the stomach, and takes a normal time of thirty minutes to a full hour to really hit your bloodstream in full form.
You want it to achieve peak levels, giving you the most bang for your buck, and the most energy to walk away with from your workout. If you take it on your way into the gym, you’re not utilizing all of its potential. You’re essentially wasting most of the reason for taking these pre-workout formulas in the first place, because they kick in towards the end of your workout session. Then, you’re left with all this energy, which is going to quickly burn off, and leave you feeling sluggish. You’re supposed to use this energy burst to hustle harder in the gym.
Q: Should You Eat Something Along With Your Pre-Workout Formula?
A: Absolutely. These are going to contain high levels of vitamins that aren’t going to be absorbed into your bloodstream properly, unless it’s able to piggyback on foods you’ve already consumed. You should eat about ten minutes before taking your pre-workout formula.
The number one thing with any multivitamin, pre-workout formula, or supplement of any kind, is that you’re not going to absorb 100% of the ingredients. It’s impossible; there’s too much scientific irregularities to pinpoint the exact percentage that you’ll actually retain, and convert into energy. What we can do, is take science-backed methods, and utilize them to reduce the percentage of vitamins and minerals that end up in our waste.
Acid in your stomach breaks down food, vitamins, minerals, the whole lot of them. Through this process, it determines what’s going to make it into your bloodstream, what’s going to just be waste, and works everything out. When your pre-workout formula rides on the back of vitamin and nutrient-packed foods, your body is identifying them as food and energy, and that helps you retain more.
Q: Should You Take a Pre-Workout Formula on Non-Training Days?
A: It’s not recommended, no. You’re either going to feel a buzz for an hour and then a crash (even in no-carb, no-sugar mixes), which isn’t going to help your day. You’re taking a load off, you’re off work perhaps, and you just want to have a good day. Making yourself feel sluggish isn’t going to help.
Because of the high concentrates of specific vitamins, you get energy thrown into your body quickly, it gets absorbed, used, and you’re still retaining your meal and supplement benefits, you did your cardio, you did your resistance training, but you still have the energy to keep going throughout the day without feeling exhausted.
Q: Should You Use Pre-Work Formulas if You Are Taking Post-Workout Supplements?
A: This is where it gets tricky, because we can’t be certain what you’re taking for post-workout supplements, and as a result, we can’t recommend any specific action. With that being said, you should know this:
Your body used the best pre-workout formula to get through the exercise, distribute energy, and keep you moving. Post-workout supplements work entirely differently. When you elevate your body temperature after a workout, you need four hours to return to your standard 98.6 degrees. This higher internal temperature can be hostile towards the food from breakfast that’s still being digested and absorbed, which is why we always look for fast, packed foods to enjoy after a good workout.
So the pre-workout formula is really only there for energy reasons, whereas the supplements are helping to absorb nutrients from your pre-workout meal, your post-workout protein, and also works to produce and maintain healthy levels of amino acids in the gut. Amino acids work to extract nutrients from your stomach acid, and the whole cycle comes full circle.
Q: Are Pre-Workout Formulas Dangerous?
A: Like any concentrated formula, yes, they can be, but before that freaks you out, let’s explain. A lot of these products are going to contain protein-packed and muscle-building creatine (which works better after a workout, mind you). So our #1 product contains creatine and 2.5g of it. That amount isn’t dangerous. Hell, if you have five servings in eight hours, it’s still not dangerous.
For a male, every six pounds of body weight you have, you can take up to one gram of creatine per twenty-four hour period. For example, a 150-pound guy can drink 25g of creatine a day before it’s going to start doing anything negative to your body. After a certain amount, you can cause liver and kidney damage.
Everything in these pre-workout formulas has a potential volatility rating. Then again, so does everything else we eat. You know if you have too much coffee, your heart rate is going to spike to a dangerous level. You know that if you have too many calories, it’s going to have the negative effect of putting on weight. Apply that basic common sense to these products, and you’ll be beyond fine, and far beneath the threshold for any danger.