16 Best Pre-Workout of Sept 2023, RDN-Approved

16 Best Pre-Workout of Sept 2023, RDN-Approved

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One of the most popular supplements on the market, people often turn to pre-workouts for help increasing energy, blood flow, endurance, power, and sometimes hydration. As such, you can find different combinations of beneficial ingredients (like caffeine, citrulline, and beta-alanine) in the form of powders, pre-made drinks, small liquid shots, and even chews and gum.

But with the glut of information on pre-workouts from ill-advised TikTok trends (i.e., dry scooping) to fit-fluencers peddling that good-good on all platforms, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds when choosing a pre-workout supplement. Which pre-workouts work, and which ones are just noise? We’ve spent years testing out the best (and the worst) pre-workouts, and we’ve got opinions. Here are the best pre-workout supplements for just about any fitness goal.

The 16 Best Pre-Workout Supplements of 2023

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. 

Best Pre-Workout Supplements Video Review

Though we still want you to read our thoroughly researched pre-workout round-up, sometimes a video is easier to digest. We’ve got you covered on both. Check out our equally thoughtful and scrupulously researched video review below. 

[Related: Are Preworkouts Worth It?]

How We Picked and Tested the Best Pre-Workouts

We tried a lot of pre-workouts (and hit a lot of PRs) before landing on this list. Here are the criteria we looked at. Note that these aren’t necessarily deal-breakers — some products are on the pricey side, for example, but the ingredient list justifies it. 


Most pre-workouts cost between $1.00 and $2.00 per serving. Plenty are more expensive, and usually, the price is justified, but over two dollars per serving counts as “you should know this is pricey” territory. We made sure that all of the prices of the product on this list were in line (in our eyes, at least) with the ingredients included and the potency of the formula.


A considerable number of pre-workouts consist of proprietary blends that tell you the ingredients but not the amounts that are provided. That means you won’t know exactly what’s effective and what’s not. Now, legally, they have to order the components by weight, so you can usually get a decent guess at the dose, and proprietary blends are so prominent in the industry that we didn’t outright disqualify a product that has one — but it definitely loses points for lack of transparency. We also chose some products for this list specifically because of their crystal-clear dosing.


On a related note, scores of pre-workouts take research-backed ingredients but don’t use research-backed doses. For example, creatine needs to be dosed at 3-5 grams to have the desired effect. We know the research front and back, so we can assess how effective a dose is. (Note that sometimes, as is the case with tyrosine, we don’t really know the minimum dosage, but we can make an educated guess.) For the most part, we have only included picks on this list that contain the proper dosage for their ingredients.


Some companies will employ a third party, like Informed Choice, Informed Sport, or NSF, to test their products (or their facility) for substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency or NCAA banned list. Many athletes will only take third-party tested products, particularly since questionable pre-workouts can be the ones that produce positive results.

Best Pre-Workout Overall: Transparent Labs Bulk

When looking for an excellent pre-workout supplement, we value research-backed ingredients in clearly disclosed dosages. Transparent Labs is a company that heavily prioritizes both of those elements in their BULK pre-workout. 

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Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK provides lots of beta-alanine for improved endurance, as well as a slew of ingredients to aid in focus — two key traits for lifters and endurance athletes alike. Plus, it has citrulline, which can help with nitric oxide production.

Transparent Labs BULK is our favorite pre-workout supplement, thanks in a big part to its…transparency. There aren’t any blends, it’s gluten-free and contains no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. If you read the label, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting and how much — which is crucial if you also take other supplements. (Accidentally doubling up on dosages for specific ingredients is dangerous at worst and redundant at best.)

BULK’s 200 milligrams of caffeine (per serving) is in the middle of the pack compared to other products on the market; our tester felt a productive surge of energy without a post-workout crash during testing. BULK features big hits of citrulline and beta-alanine, which gave our tester a nice pump toward the middle and end of their workout.

“Beta-Alanine is well researched and generally regarded as safe when taken by most adults, as directed,” says Justine Hays, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, a registered dietitian and experienced health writer. “Beta-Alanine works by preventing muscle fatigue, allowing you to work out at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.”

Each scoop also contains a solid dose of boron, which may potentially boost testosterone production in the body. (1) The flavors are on point as well, especially Blue Raspberry — our tester says it’s “not too sweet, which is a good thing.”

BarBend Testing Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs BULK at BarBend for testing


  • Caffeine: 200mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, and 300mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Strawberry Kiwi, Piña Colada, Blue Raspberry, Black Cherry, Peach Mango, Tropical Punch, Watermelon, Sour Grape, Green Apple, Orange, Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Lime
  • Price Per Serving: $1.67


  • This pre-workout is transparent with clearly labeled, research-backed, and effectively-dosed ingredients.
  • BULK has boron and zinc that might help increase testosterone which is important for building muscle.
  • This pick contains alpha-GPC, taurine, and tyrosine, all of which may help with focus.


  • The large dose of beta-alanine may cause too much tingling for some people who are sensitive to it.
  • BULK is somewhat expensive compared to similar options.
  • Transparent Labs uses stevia to sweeten this, which might leave a bitter aftertaste for some people.

Transparent Labs brought a potent pre-workout to the table. BULK has effective doses of ingredients that can aid in focus, energy, blood flow, and testosterone production, making it a great choice all around.

Read our full Transparent Labs BULK review.

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain: Transparent Labs BULK

There’s a difference between a pre-workout that energizes you and a pre-workout with ingredients that can help you put on muscle. We found the latter in Transparent Labs BULK with a formula intended to support testosterone production and help you get a solid pump, both of which can help you pack on some lean pounds.

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Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK

Transparent Labs BULK provides lots of beta-alanine for improved endurance, as well as a slew of ingredients to aid in focus — two key traits for lifters and endurance athletes alike. Plus, it has citrulline, which can help with nitric oxide production.

This research-backed formula features a wide range of time-tested ingredients that can help promote muscle growth in several ways. First, each scoop has a large dose of citrulline and betaine, which helped our testers get solid muscle pumps during testing. Research suggests that achieving a pump during workouts can actually trigger protein synthesis, resulting in muscle growth. (2) The doses of these ingredients included here fit with the 6 to 8 grams of citrulline and 2.5 grams of betaine that studies recommend. In practice, this worked out, as our testers did notice some nice pumps during our testing sessions. 

Also, the boron and zinc in BULK may help support healthy levels of testosterone, a hormone that builds muscle by stimulating protein synthesis and minimizing protein degradation. (3) A less direct way that BULK may help you pack on muscle is by delivering 200mg of caffeine and a 4,000mg shot of beta-alanine. This amino acid has been shown to delay muscle fatigue, which could help you push through your workouts to get that highly-coveted (and muscle-building) pump.  “A common side effect is skin tingling,” Hays says. “If this is uncomfortable for you, it can be alleviated by consuming lower doses.”


  • High doses of citrulline and betaine can help users achieve a pump, which research shows may lead to muscle growth. 
  • The zinc and boron included here can help support healthy testosterone levels, a hormone shown to facilitate protein synthesis. 
  • The combination of beta-alanine and caffeine may work well together to provide focused energy.


  • People may find the beta-alanine-induced skin tingles uncomfortable. 
  • We’d like to see creatine — a popular, research-backed ingredient that facilitates muscle-building performance in the gym. However, if you already take creatine or another supplement that includes creatine, this isn’t a consideration. 

If you’re focused on packing on as much muscle as possible, Transparent Labs BULK might be the right pre-workout. It has several ingredients that may help trigger muscle growth by supporting testosterone production, helping you achieve muscle-building pumps, and delaying muscle fatigue during workouts.

Strongest Pre-Workout: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Max

This pick’s ingredients stay true to its name — Jacked Factory maxes out its ingredients to provide one of the strongest pre-workouts on the market for those who want a little extra kick.

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Max

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Max

Nitrosurge Max is packed with massive doses of all your favorite pre-workout ingredients. For every two-scoop serving you’ll receive 9,000mg of citrulline, 2,500mg of betaine, 2,000mg of tyrosine, 350mg of caffeine, 250mcg of huperzine A, and more.

Nitrosurge Max is named to sound like a strong pre-workout, and it lives up to the hype. One scoop is enough for regular sessions and more potent than many other pre-workouts thanks to relatively large doses of citrulline and caffeine. But if you’ve got a big day coming up, then a double dip may be what you need. If you opt for the full two-scoop serving, you should notice big yet smooth energy within about 15 minutes. The citrulline dose is huge at 9,000mg, but it took us about half an hour to feel it, so you may have to experiment with your timing to make sure it hits at the right time. Despite being a potent formula, a serving of Jacked Factory is two scoops, so beginners can halve their intake for a more mellow pre-workout kick.

“Doses of caffeine larger than 3mg/kg body weight may cause unwanted side effects such as anxiety, upset stomach, and trouble sleeping,” Hays says. “If you are caffeine sensitive, you may want to stick to a single scoop or try to fit your workouts in first thing in the morning.”

While we do really like how potent this formula is, it would be nice to have more pump ingredients like betaine and a higher dose of arginine. We still enjoyed this formula, and the combination of ingredients works well. The flavor we tried, Strawberry Margarita, was a huge hit with our testers, with one even reporting that “it tastes like something you’d sip over ice by the pool.”


  • Caffeine: 350mg
  • Key Ingredients: 9,000mg of l-citrulline, 250mcg of huperzine A, 1,600mg of arginine
  • Flavors: Watermelon Rocket, Cherry Bomb, and Electric Blue Raspberry
  • Price Per Serving: $2.00


  • Jacked Factory provides the information for both one and two scoops on the label so you don’t have to do mental math. 
  • The price per serving is low if you’re only taking one scoop at a time. 
  • If you want a high dose of caffeine, this has you covered with 350mg per two-scoop serving. 


  • This pre-workout may be too potent for people new to pre-workouts.
  • Jacked Factory doesn’t give much information on why they chose certain ingredients. Many other pre-workout manufacturers explain each part in-depth.
  • The flavor options are limited, with only three choices, whereas other pre’s have nearly a dozen.

For a powerful pre-workout with high doses of ingredients like citrulline, beta-alanine, and caffeine, Nitrosurge Max is undoubtedly the way to go. We like the flexibility that lets you dial it back by taking one scoop instead of the full two scoops for days when you don’t need such a boost.

Want the full scoop on pre-workouts? See our complete guide to pre-workout supplements here

Best Pre-Workout for Men: Transparent Labs BULK Black

Many men may supplement with a pre-workout to help boost energy, maintain focus, and potentially gain more muscle and strength. But they may also want a pre-workout that fills nutritional gaps and supports them where they may be most deficient. After testing this product ourselves, we think Transparent Labs BULK Black checks more boxes than we knew we needed, making it the best pre-workout for men on the market.

Transparent Labs BULK Black

Transparent Labs BULK Black

Packed with over 17 grams of clinically-dosed ingredients like citrulline malate, caffeine, beta-alanine, and betaine anhydrous this formula has all the good things we look for in a pre-workout. It leaves out what we’d rather avoid like artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives.

One of the main reasons we like BULK Black is that it contains over 10,000 percent of your daily need for vitamin B12, and research suggests that men may be more likely to have a B12 deficiency. (4) B12 is important because of its effects on energy levels and nerve function. One of the symptoms of deficiency is even muscle weakness, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough. (4)

With each scoop, you’ll also receive a potent dose of citrulline and betaine to potentially aid in blood flow, which works well with the high doses of B12 since this vitamin helps red blood cell production. Another great addition is vitamin D. “Vitamin D is an important nutrient added into this supplement,” Hays says. “Most Americans don’t get enough vitamin D, so this might be a good choice for some people.” 

If you need some extra pep in your step, Bulk Black contains about three cups of coffee’s worth of caffeine (305mg), which, along with the other ingredients, gave our testers a strong jolt of long-lasting energy with zero crashes. But for the uninitiated, that much caffeine may be too much if you’re new to pre-workout. Newbies (and night owls and the caffeine sensitive) take caution.

Despite the heavy-handed caffeine, our tester experienced minimal crashing and had zero jitters. The flavor is stronger (with the Blue Raspberry, at least) than many of Transparent Labs’ other products, but our tester loved it. “This flavor is amazing,” he says. “Not too sweet, not too chemical-tasting.” BULK Black is on the more expensive side, but we think the price is more than justified for the quality and quantity of the ingredients.


  • Caffeine: 305mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, 2,500mg of betaine, 1,300mg of taurine, and 300mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Cherry Kiwi, Blue Raspberry, Peach Mango, Sour Gummy, Black Cherry
  • Price Per Serving: $1.83


  • Since men are more likely to have a B12 deficiency, the 10,000 percent dose of your RDI in here might help. (4) (of course, always check with your doctor before taking a new supplement. This is not a solution for those who have a vitamin deficiency.)
  • This contains the caffeine equivalent of about three cups of strong coffee to help with energy during workouts.
  • BULK Black doesn’t just focus on energy; it also has ingredients for blood flow and focus. 


  • Over 300mg of caffeine might be too much for people who don’t have a high tolerance. 
  • There is no creatine in this pre-workout, which might be a nice addition for muscle gains.
  • Most of the flavors are more on the unique side, and there aren’t a ton to choose from.

This pre-workout contains a whopping 10,417 percent of your daily vitamin B12 needs to potentially help you avoid B12 deficiencies, which research suggests may disproportionately affect men. If you’re looking for a pre-workout that may help you prolong your time in the gym and fuel your muscle recovery, this pick also has two types of caffeine, beta-alanine, and citrulline.

Read our full Best Pre-Workouts for Men review.

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Recovery: Momentous PR Lotion

Designed to be rubbed onto working muscles before a workout, Momentous PR Lotion can provide a better acid/base balance in the muscles, which may not only delay fatigue during workouts, but can also help reduce muscle soreness. 

Momentous PR Lotion

Momentous PR Lotion

This lotion helps decrease muscle soreness and improve performance. All you have to do is apply the product liberally to your working muscle groups to enjoy the benefits.

Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) is a base, which, if you remember some basic high school chemistry, neutralizes acids. How does this apply to recovery? Sodium bicarbonate can create an alkaline environment around muscle cells, which can shield them from the chemical stress that exercise-induced acid production can cause. (5) Less chemical stress can lead to less inflammation after a workout, cutting down on post-workout soreness. 

The problem is, baking soda creates a gas when mixed with acid, so taking it orally can make you extremely gassy at best, and it can rupture your stomach at worst. (6) Applying baking soda in the form of a topical lotion like Momentous PR Lotion solves this issue by bypassing the digestive system completely, since you rub it right onto your skin where it can be absorbed directly into the muscles. 


  • Caffeine: 0mg
  • Key Ingredients: Sodium bicarbonate
  • Flavors: N/A
  • Price Per Application: $3


  • Sodium bicarbonate can create a buffer against lactic acid buildup, which can minimize inflammation and soreness after workouts.
  • Using a lotion before hitting the gym is a good alternative for people who are sick of drinking down their supplements. 
  • Since this is a topical cream, users don’t have to worry about the gastrointestinal stress that ingesting sodium bicarbonate can cause. 


  • It smells like baking soda, which may not be a scent you want following you around the gym when you work out. 
  • Users have reported that the lotion gets sticky if you don’t wash it off your hands right away.
  • While the user reviews have been mostly positive, there aren’t many clinical studies on sodium bicarbonate and muscle recovery. 

While sodium bicarbonate supplements still require more research, positive anecdotal evidence from user reviews and professional athletes suggests that Momentous PR Lotion can be a solid tool for minimizing delayed-onset muscle soreness after hard gym sessions.

Best Pre-Workout for Pumps: Huge Supplements Wrecked

Getting a “pump” in your workout means you’re increasing blood flow to a muscle. For some, it might not just be an aesthetic benefit — more blood to the muscles may also help with hypertrophy and reduce muscle soreness. This specific pre-workout can help facilitate pumps by potentially widening your blood vessels the same way nitric oxide supplements do. 

Huge Supplements Wrecked

Huge Supplements Wrecked

This product packs 17 ingredients at high doses, including 8,000mg of citrulline, 3,500mg of beta alanine, 250mg of caffeine, and 3,000mg of betaine anhydrous. Plus, you’ll find 1,500mg of tyrosine and 197mg of Himalayan pink sea salt, as well.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said that one of the best feelings in the world is the pump, and we tend to agree. We like that Wrecked includes some less common yet potentially very effective ingredients like Hydromax™ (glycerol) and agmatine sulfate that work together to provide that coveted pump. The glycerol is intended to drive water into the muscles, which may greatly increase endurance, while agmatine sulfate works to enhance nitric oxide availability and allow for more blood flow to the muscles. 

Wrecked also includes n-phenethyl dimethylamine, which is an extract from orchids that may help improve mood, focus, and energy by increasing dopamine and noradrenaline production. We should mention that this ingredient is banned by some major agencies like WADA and NCAA, so use caution if you compete in a drug-tested sport. “The effect of this n-phenethyl dimethylamine is similar to other stimulants,” Hays says. “Paired with a higher amount of caffeine in one scoop, [this] may not be a healthy choice for some people, so speak to your healthcare provider before taking this.” 

One Serving of Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout
One Serving of Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout


  • Caffeine: 350mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8,000mg of l-citrulline, 4,000mg of Hydromax™ glycerol, 3,550mg of beta-alanine, and 600mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Rainbow Mojito, Bomb Popsicle, Rainbow Burst, Peach Rings, Sour Gummy
  • Price Per Serving: $2.50


  • This formula is great if you’re looking for a potent formula. It has doses that are practically double that of most pre-workouts.
  • This formula has large doses of ingredients like glycerol and citrulline for blood flow and pumps. 
  • The l-citrulline in this product may facilitate muscular endurance, and beta-alanine might aid with lactic acid buffering.


  • The caffeine content is very high at 350mg per serving, which may be too much if you’re a beginner or don’t have a high tolerance. 
  • There’s no creatine in Wrecked’s formula.
  • The serving size is quite large at 30.2g per serving. That’s about the same weight as a scoop of some protein powders.

With a large dose of l-citrulline, glycerol, and agmatine sulfate, Huge Supplements Wrecked is the right choice if you’re looking to increase blood flow and achieve some skin-splitting pumps. Give this a try during your next upper body session, and you just might not be able to touch your head from the arm and shoulder pump.

Best All-Natural Pre-Workout: Swolverine PRE 

If you’re choosing to utilize a pre-workout to boost your energy, focus, and pumps, but you want to avoid artificial or added sugars, colors, preservatives, and flavors, Swolverine PRE might just be the best natural pre-workout for you. 

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout may lack stimulants, but it makes up for that with a great blend of high-dosed ingredients to help improve blood flow, recovery, and endurance. The citrulline malate and betaine anhydrous can give you the edge you need to conquer your next gym session.

While artificial sweeteners may not technically be bad for you, there are many people who choose to avoid them. If you’re in that camp, then you’ll like that this formula not only has no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or dyes, but is also non-GMO, gluten-free, fully vegan, and all-natural. PRE also has less than one gram of sugar per serving and no added sugars. All this to say, if artificial ingredients aren’t your thing, you can rest easy. PRE’s formula is also non-stim, which means it contains no caffeine or stimulants — a boon if you work out late at night or watch your caffeine intake closely.

If you like to experiment with flavors, you might be disappointed that PRE only has two options, but our tester was a fan of the Mango Lemonade. It’s more mango than lemonade,” he says. “It’s pretty refreshing.” Since this doesn’t have any stimulants, it contains ingredients that are designed for blood flow and focus, which our testers definitely felt during their workouts. This would be a great pre-workout for light days or high-rep workouts.

Nick Reading Swolverine's PRE Supplement Facts
Nick English Testing Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout


  • Caffeine: None
  • Key Ingredients: 5,000mg of citrulline malate, 3,200mg of beta-alanine, and 2,500mg of betaine anhydrous, 1,000mg of coconut water powder
  • Flavors: Mango Lemonade and Strawberry Dragonfruit
  • Price Per Serving: $2.20


  • This is an all-natural supplement that doesn’t contain any artificial colors, preservatives, or ingredients.
  • PRE has less than one gram of sugar and no added sugars. Perfect if you’re trying to keep your carb intake low or tracking calories closely.
  • This is a stimulant-free pre-workout. 


  • The price per serving is higher than some other similar options, though those may not have the same quality ingredients.
  • PRE doesn’t contain creatine, which many pre-workout users are looking for.
  • There are only two flavor options, and both are somewhat unique. It’d be a great addition to have a more mainstream flavor or two, like blue raspberry or fruit punch.

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout is an all-natural, stim-free, vegan pre-workout that boasts potentially beneficial ingredients, like citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine, with none of the artificial stuff you may be looking to avoid. It is well formulated in its ingredient list and dosages with some nice extras too.

Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss: Transparent Labs LEAN

The key to weight loss and burning fat is consuming fewer calories than you burn, but is there a pre-workout that might offer a little extra help? We think Transparent Labs steps up to the plate big time with this unique pre-workout formula.

Transparent Labs LEAN for Weight Loss

Transparent Labs LEAN for Weight Loss

Third-party tested and clearly dosed, Transparent Labs LEAN has a huge variety of ingredients for endurance, power, alertness, and focus. 

Disclaimer: Please note that none of these products describe themselves as weight loss supplements and should not be taken as such. Please consult with a medical professional before beginning any weight loss protocol.

Transparent Labs LEAN has a lot of ingredients that you’ll also find in fat burner supplements. A big one is synephrine, which some studies have found may increase the number of calories burned in a given day — an effect that may be enhanced by the hordenine that’s also present in this product. 

Some of the ingredients, like iodine and zinc, may also support thyroid health. Thyroid health is very important for maintaining a healthy body weight because it controls your body’s metabolism. Some research shows that your thyroid may slow hormone production and your metabolism when you lose weight, so having those support ingredients is potentially very helpful if weight loss is your goal. (5)  If you’re taking it with a multivitamin, Hays urges caution, however. “If using this supplement along with a daily multivitamin or other supplements, be sure to read the labels so as to not overdo it on some micronutrients, such as copper.”

Convenience is another one of the biggest benefits here since you don’t have to worry about taking two separate pre-workout and fat-burning supplements. You can find more potent fat burners and pre-workouts separately, but it’ll likely end up costing you more. During testing, we did notice that LEAN doesn’t mix very well — there were floaties in the water even after some hardcore shaking. It’s not a huge issue, but if floating bits are a deal-breaker for you, you may want to try a different pre. Also, our tester wasn’t a fan of the taste, noting that it’s “slightly bitter.”

Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout


  • Caffeine: 200mg
  • Key Ingredients: 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, and 300mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Sour Peach, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Orange, Cherry Limeade, Sour Grape, Watermelon, Tropical Punch
  • Price Per Serving: $1.67


  • LEAN has ingredients you might typically find in a fat burner.
  • This product is free of artificial sweeteners and colors, like nearly all of Transparent Labs’ products.
  • This product comes in a variety of tasty flavors so it won’t be a chore to drink your pre-workout.


  • The caffeine content might be too low for some people, especially if you’ve already built up a bit of a tolerance.
  • LEAN is a solid product, but it may not be enough for those looking for a dedicated fat burner. Remember that it’s a pre-workout with fat-burning ingredients, not the other way around.

While some of the ingredients have lower amounts than dedicated fat burners and pre-workouts, the majority of the ingredients are dosed very well. Transparent Labs LEAN is a stand-out pre-workout that’s all-natural and might increase thermogenesis (aka the number of calories you’re burning) as well as support healthy thyroid hormone levels while you get your pump on in the gym.

Read our full Transparent Labs LEAN review.

Best Pre-Workout Lotion: Momentous PR Lotion

Instead of the multi-pronged approach that most pre-workouts use — stacking caffeine, beta-alanine, betaine and a host of other ingredients — Momentous PR Lotion’s active ingredient is simply sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda. It’s a base that some studies have suggested may help equalize the lactic acid buildup in muscles during exercise, reducing the burn and helping you push out more reps. (5

Momentous PR Lotion

Momentous PR Lotion

This lotion helps decrease muscle soreness and improve performance. All you have to do is apply the product liberally to your working muscle groups to enjoy the benefits.

Athletes can take this along with traditional pre-workouts if they’re looking for an additional boost from stimulants, or they can just use the lotion on its own to help with combatting fatigue and increasing muscle recovery. Momentous made this a lotion instead of something edible because ingesting baking soda can cause all kinds of gastrointestinal issues, from excessive gas (think Mentos in a bottle of Coke) to stomach ruptures. With that in mind, bypassing the digestive system altogether seems like the right choice. 

User reviews have been hugely positive, reporting everything from less soreness and increased power output to fewer cramps during endurance workouts. Just be sure to wash your hands before you start lifting, as users report that the lotion tends to get sticky if you don’t wash it off your hands right away. 


  • Caffeine: 0mg
  • Key Ingredients: Sodium bicarbonate
  • Flavors: N/A
  • Price Per Application: $3


  • The pre-workout lotion delivers the active ingredient directly to your muscles through the skin, which is faster than going through the digestive system. 
  • The sodium bicarbonate can help lessen the lactic acid burn that makes you want to drop your weights before you finish your set. 
  • This supplement can create a buffer against lactic acid, which may minimize the inflammation that can cause delayed-onset muscle soreness. 


  • The lotion smells like baking soda (no surprise there), so you’ll be smelling it when you work out. 
  • Some users may not like the sticky feeling some people have reported getting from using the lotion.

Momentous PR Lotion goes directly to your muscles to potentially help reduce lactic acid building. More studies are being done on the effects of sodium bicarbonate, but initial findings and anecdotal evidence show that this supplement may be a new road to pushing out those last few reps in your workout. 

Best Tasting Pre-Workout: Huge Supplements Wrecked Enraged

With any supplement, it helps greatly if you can stomach the taste. The last thing you need is your stomach turning in the middle of a set of squats (been there, done that). If you’re seeking a palatable pre-workout, then this pick is for you.

Huge Supplements Enraged

Huge Supplements Enraged

If you want energy and focus this pre-workout features massive doses of energy and focus ingredients with 225mg of caffeine per scoop, 500mg of alpha GPC, and 25mg of huperzine A from only one scoop though Huge provides information regarding two scoops for people who want more potency.

Wrecked Enraged comes in four flavors, all of which are objectively delicious and pretty unique. Our favorite is the Blue Razz, which is reminiscent of a blue Icee and so tasty that we wanted seconds. We also really appreciated that Wrecked Enraged didn’t upset our stomachs like many high-dosage pre-workouts are prone to doing.

As far as the formula goes, Wrecked Enraged includes a massive dose of caffeine and beta-alanine, so you might want to start off with one scoop to assess your tolerance. Our tester has plenty of experience with pre-workouts, and they noted that one scoop was more than enough to feel stimulated. Plus, the Blue Razz flavor was a hit with our tester. “It’s so good,” he says. “It tastes like a blue Icee.”

Wrecked Enraged also has some less common ingredients, like alpha-GPC, which we found really helps our focus and mood. A normal dose of alpha GPC is around 300 to 500mg — this product offers double that with a two-scoop serving. It’s worth noting, however, that this contains a potentially focus-enhancing ingredient called n-phenethyl dimethylamine, which is banned by the NCAA and WADA. Be sure to use caution with this supplement if you’re sensitive to stimulants, Hays says. “When paired with alpha-GPC and n-phenethyl dimethylamine, the high dose of caffeine can cause undesirable effects.”


  • Caffeine: 450mg
  • Key Ingredients: 4,000mg of beta-alanine, 1,000mg of alpha GPC
  • Flavors: Blood Razz, Death Wish, Blue Razz, Mango Citrus
  • Price Per Serving: $2.25


  • Wrecked Enraged has a massive dose of alpha GPC, which might help you focus your energy into making gains. 
  • The price per serving is reasonable, considering the potency of this formula.
  • There are tasty staple and unique flavors to select from. 


  • It contains a competition-banned ingredient, so if you compete in a drug-tested sport, you shouldn’t take this pre-workout. 
  • The caffeine content from just one scoop of this pre-workout is very high and might be too much for many people. 
  • With such an intense formula, it’s surprising that there’s no creatine in here.

Delicious, well-priced, and fully dosed, Huge Supplements Wrecked Enraged is a pre-workout with clinically-proven ingredients for gym rats who want a variety of tasty and unique flavors to choose from. 

Best Non-Stim Pre-Workout: Swolverine PRE 

You don’t need to be bouncing off the walls to have an effective workout. Plenty of gymgoers prefer a non-stimulant pre-workout that won’t cause unwanted jitters and a subsequent crash.

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout may lack stimulants, but it makes up for that with a great blend of high-dosed ingredients to help improve blood flow, recovery, and endurance. The citrulline malate and betaine anhydrous can give you the edge you need to conquer your next gym session.

In lieu of stimulants like caffeine, the formulation of this non-stimulant pre-workout combines high-quality sports performance ingredients with antioxidant-rich natural additions like pomegranate. These worked well together to give our testers good pumps during their workouts.  The blood flow ingredients took a bit longer to feel, so you might want to take this earlier before hitting the gym than other stimulant-based pre-workouts.

Also, while there aren’t any stimulants to provide extra energy, our testers reported feeling more focused. And thanks to the lack of stimulants, our testers felt good using PRE for more focus during long drives and late nights in the office. “With no caffeine in this supplement, you can control how much you take in before a workout, Hays says. “This makes it a nice option for people who are caffeine sensitive.”

One big hitter in this formula is five grams of citrulline malate which promotes nitric oxide production for improved endurance and better pumps. Having more blood flowing to your muscles may also aid in recovery and delay fatigue by buffering local lactic acid buildup more efficiently. Also, a monstrous dose of 3,200 mg of beta-alanine might further enhance your lactic acid threshold and delay fatigue. Combine these, and you can workout harder for longer to achieve more gains.

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout Suggested Use
Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout Suggested Use


  • There are zero stimulants and a heavy focus on pump ingredients. 
  • PRE is made from all-natural and vegan ingredients. 
  • This product’s label is great for transparent dosing — you know exactly how much of each ingredient you’re ingesting.


  • Some people find that stevia leaves a bad aftertaste. 
  • If you don’t mind stimulants, there are other formulas with more robust and potent formulas.
  • There are only two flavors and none of the “safe” flavors you’ll find elsewhere, like fruit punch or blue raspberry.

Stimulants aren’t the only game in town for targeting better and more intense workouts. This formula has the right blend of ingredients that can help you achieve an awesome workout without causing unwanted caffeine jitters or crashing energy levels after your workout.

Best Pre-Workout for Running: Xwerks Ignite

Compared to lifting, running generally requires more endurance and stamina, though it is possible to balance strength training and running. For those reasons, runners should reach for a pre-workout that prioritizes ingredients that stimulate long-term energy, focus, and performance when pounding out some miles. 

Xwerks Ignite

Xwerks Ignite

This pre-workout includes calcium and magnesium lactate, which have been shown to bolster endurance. Plus, it contains vitamins B6 and B12 that may help maintain healthy energy levels.

If you’re a runner chasing more miles and improved focus, you might prize Xwerks’ science-backed ingredient list. This formula notably includes electrolytes like calcium and magnesium lactate, which, despite broad claims that lactate is a hindrance to performance, have been shown to bolster endurance and can be gentler on the stomach than other forms of magnesium. (6)

You’ll also find a moderate dose of citrulline, which may potentially aid in blood flow to deliver much-needed oxygen to tired muscles, so you can push further and run harder. Our tester reported that their energy levels and focus were great, with no jitters to speak of. “Citrulline and beta-alanine may support longer runs by helping to delay fatigue,” Hays says.

Also, our tester reported that the tingly feeling from beta-alanine was modest, which we like for running since it might not be great to have your face on fire while you’re trying to keep your breathing under control. Beta-alanine is also well-known for enhancing muscular endurance and regulating pH balance, both of which are important when running.

When you sweat a ton, your body’s pH levels can be thrown off because of the water and mineral loss. Beta-alanine might help keep everything in homeostasis so you can continue to perform optimally for longer. One thing that we didn’t love, though, is the taste. “It was okay,” our tester says. “It was artificial-tasting and pretty sweet.” 


  • Caffeine: 150mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3,000mg of citrulline malate, 2,000mg of l-tyrosine, 200mg of DMAE
  • Flavors: Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon
  • Price Per Serving: $1.63


  • The citrulline and beta-alanine here may help aid in muscle endurance for longer training sessions or runs. 
  • This contains l-tyrosine, DMAE, and the herb rhodiola rosea, which may have neuroprotective properties and might help you focus more while running.
  • Xwerks backs up the inclusion of the ingredients with citations to notable journals on its website. 


  • Despite the reserved 1,500mg dose of beta-alanine, some people who haven’t taken it before may find the tingles to be too much.
  • Though the 150mg dose is modest, it’s still equivalent to about a cup and a half of coffee which might be detrimental to runners.
  • There aren’t any hydration-focused ingredients in this pre-workout.

Xwerks’ thoughtfully designed blend promotes the endurance and energy that both newbie and veteran runners will appreciate. The well-dosed (but not overpowering) ingredients for possible boosts in energy, blood flow, and focus make this a winner in our book.

Best Research-Backed Pre-Workout: Huge Supplements Wrecked

Pre-workouts often have proprietary blends of ingredients that may or not be supported by research. Huge takes the guesswork out of the equation and only uses ingredients whose effects are supported by research. 

Huge Supplements Wrecked

Huge Supplements Wrecked

This product packs 17 ingredients at high doses, including 8,000mg of citrulline, 3,500mg of beta alanine, 250mg of caffeine, and 3,000mg of betaine anhydrous. Plus, you’ll find 1,500mg of tyrosine and 197mg of Himalayan pink sea salt, as well.

Wrecked is one of the stronger pre-workouts we’ve seen with a large dose of one of the most researched ingredients on the market: caffeine. Despite the high caffeine content, we liked how the energy came on in a more measured way rather than all at once, thanks to the different types of caffeine used.

Caffeine anhydrous absorbs quickly for a quick initial boost, while di-caffeine malate is more of a slow release for sustained energy and focus without a crash. Beta-alanine is dosed at 3,500mg, which is appropriate for potentially boosting endurance and buffering lactic acid buildup, according to the literature, though you are likely to experience some intense tingles. (7

On top of the stimulants, Wrecked comes stacked with ingredients that are designed to help with your pump, including large, clinical amounts of betaine anhydrous and l-citrulline. It comes in four different flavors, all of which are legitimately tasty and mix well. We should note that if you’re double-scooping every time (which is what Wrecked considers a “full dose”), the price per serving is on the high side. But if you take the single-scoop approach, then Wrecked is pretty cost-effective, even if the doses are considerably lower (though still fairly potent).

Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout
Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout


  • The doses in this pre-workout follow along with the latest research. (7)
  • Wrecked doesn’t only focus on one area. It has ingredients for pump, focus, and energy.
  • It’s rare to see such a potent dose of alpha GPC and glycerol in pre-workouts.


  • Wrecked doesn’t include creatine in its formula.
  • The doses in this pre-workout might be too high if you’re a beginner or sensitive to stimulants.
  • If you follow the two-scoop serving size protocol, then the price per serving is on the more expensive side.

Loaded with clinically dosed, research-backed ingredients, Wrecked Pre-Workout has everything that we look for in a pre-workout supplement. Though the scoop size is somewhat large, and you have to take two scoops to receive the full doses of every ingredient, we think it is worth it to get the clinically-relevant amount of each ingredient for maximum potential.

Best Pre-Workout With Creatine: Kaged Pre-Kaged

If you’re someone who likes to supplement with creatine, but you don’t love the idea of taking tons of different supplements, you’ll love that Kaged Pre-Kaged contains a 1.5g dose of creatine HCl.

Kaged Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout

Kaged Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout

This pre-workout supplement comes in a 20-serving tub and provides L-Citrulline, L-Leucine, and L-Valine, to name a few, per 20-calorie scoop. There are seven flavors available including Grape, Fruit Punch, and Krisp Apple.

Creatine is a common staple for many gymgoers who are looking to get stronger and bigger. While many varieties of creatine exist, Kaged Pre-Kaged contains creatine HCl. Creatine monohydrate is the most well-researched and widely available type of creatine on the market, but it can cause stomach upset in some, especially in larger doses. Creatine HCl may be a more bioavailable form of creatine, which can help eliminate stomach issues with supplementation.

Pre-Kaged also contains some major pre-workout players in solid doses, like citrulline, dosed at 6.5 grams. Citrulline works to help increase nitric oxide levels, which in turn, can relax the blood vessels, improving blood flow. This can potentially help you achieve better pumps, improve recovery, and even improve endurance. (8

We enjoyed the Krisp Apple flavor, even before drinking it — the apple scent came through strong just from the powder itself. “It definitely smells and tastes like apples,” our tester says. “I liked the flavor.” However, the powder doesn’t mix very well, resulting in a thick consistency and some sediment at the bottom of the shaker bottle

Kaged Pre-Kaged
Kaged Pre-Kaged at the BarBend Garage Gym


  • Caffeine: 274mg
  • Key Ingredients: 1.5g of creatine, 6.5g of citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 3.5g of BCAAs
  • Flavors: Grape, Fruit Punch, Pink Lemonade, Berry Blast, Krisp Apple, Orange Crush, Cherry Bomb
  • Price Per Serving: $2.25


  • You can reap the benefits of creatine without having to take a supplement separately since this contains a full-sized serving. 
  • This product doesn’t fall short on the pre-workout staples like betaine, beta-alanine, and citrulline, while also having a bunch of extras, like BCAAs and coconut water powder for hydration.
  • Kaged uses a transparent formula and boasts an Informed Choice certification that this pre is free of banned substances.


  • The powder does not dissolve fully, which leaves a weird mouth feel after drinking. 
  • This isn’t a super affordable pre-workout by any means, which may turn off lifters who are working with a tight budget.

If your current supplement stack could use an overhaul, you may want to add a pre-workout and creatine combo that allows you to take one less supplement per day. This pre-workout from Kaged provides pre-workout staples, like citrulline and betaine, while also including a full dose of creatine HCl.

Best Pre-Workout for Beginners: Swolverine PRE

Being a beginner in the gym can feel intimidating, but with the right guidance and supplementation, it may be a bit less daunting. This pre-workout is designed with some of the most important basic essentials for pre-workouts while giving you some extras for focus and endurance.

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout may lack stimulants, but it makes up for that with a great blend of high-dosed ingredients to help improve blood flow, recovery, and endurance. The citrulline malate and betaine anhydrous can give you the edge you need to conquer your next gym session.

Beginners often benefit from keeping things simple in the weight room, and the same can be said for their supplements. If you’re just starting out, it might be helpful for you to experience a pump to feel like the correct muscles are being used, so Swolverine PRE includes a large dose of citrulline and betaine. Citrulline works to help increase the nitric oxide available for use to expand blood vessels and improve blood flow, while betaine may enhance muscular endurance. This is a winning combination for some gnarly muscle pumps. (8) This held true for our tester, who reported noticeable pumps and improved focus during workouts. 

The moderate amount of carnitine may help with fat oxidation and potentially aid in endurance as well. We like that PRE has carnitine since many beginners start working out in order to lose weight. Research suggests that betaine supplementation may help increase carnitine levels naturally, too, so the ingredients work well together in PRE. (9) Notably absent are caffeine and other stimulants. Though this could actually be a plus for beginners to start off without a caffeinated pre-workout until they need the extra push down the line. 

Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout
Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout at the BarBend garage for testing.


  • Not many pre-workouts contain dedicated hydration ingredients like the coconut water powder you’ll find in PRE.
  • The carnitine included here may help with fat burning.
  • Since PRE is stim-free, it’s great for working out later in the day.


  • The price per serving is on the pricey side.
  • There are only two flavors to choose from. 
  • We’d like to see a more robust ingredients list, especially with ingredients for focus other than only taurine.

Swolverine PRE contains common pre-workout ingredients — like citrulline malate, beta-alanine, and betaine — without overdoing the other ingredients and overwhelming the user. This can be a helpful supplement to take when you’re just starting out on your fitness journey and trying to dip your toes into the pre-workout pool.

Best Vegan Pre-Workout: Onnit Total Strength + Performance

If you’re following a vegan diet, it can be difficult to find a pre-workout that caters to your dietary restrictions. Plant-based eaters can rest assured that there are pre-workout supps on the market free of any and all animal-based products — this pick is one of the best. 

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Onnit Total Strength + Performance

Onnit Total Strength + Performance

Onnit contains a Power Blend with longjack, which can help fuel muscle contractions, a Performance Blend with BCAAs, glutamine and beta-alanine, which can help boost performance during exercise, and a Support Blend with resveratrol that can help you push through during tough training.

The three blends in this vegan product — Performance, Power, and Support blends — are all designed to accommodate a different aspect of working out. Onnit has this pre-workout third-party tested and certified to be safe for sport, so you can take it with confidence, knowing that it really is vegan and only contains what the label says. We particularly like that BCAAs and glutamine are in the performance blend to potentially aid in recovery and deliver amino acids to your muscles during your workout. 

This pre-workout is also one of the few that have actually been used in research to test its effectiveness. Resistance-trained young men took this supplement and trained hard for four weeks and saw improvements in their bench press and lean mass over a placebo, so it has that going for it too. (10) The big downside here is that you can’t see exactly how much of each ingredient is in the formula since Onnit uses proprietary blends. That’s not to say this isn’t a solid pre-workout, but if you prefer to know the exact amounts of each ingredient, you may be disappointed. 


  • Caffeine: None
  • Key Ingredients: Performance Blend with BCAAs and l-glutamine. Support Blend has resveratrol
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade and Pink Grapefruit
  • Price Per Serving: $2.00


  • This pre-workout contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which may support cellular health and recovery from the vascular stress of working out.
  • Total Strength + Performance is 100 percent vegan. 
  • Onnit’s pre is Informed Sport Certified to be free of banned substances. 


  • Onnit uses proprietary blends, so you can’t be exactly sure how much of each ingredient there is. 
  • There are only two flavors to choose from. 
  • We’d like to see a more robust B-vitamin complex that includes B12.

If you’re looking for a pre-workout that may help you prolong your time in the gym and fuel your muscles, this pick has all the ingredients you need. BCAAs, glutamine, and resveratrol are all designed to support your workouts and recovery in different ways. This pre-workout may not be typical, but it’s hitting all the right notes.

Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout: Transparent Labs LEAN

So you’re in a fat loss phase, and you want everything you ingest to support that goal? You really just need to be eating the right number of calories and macros, but sometimes a little extra help might be nice. Transparent Labs LEAN pulls double-duty as a pre-workout formula with ingredients you’d find in a fat burner. 

Transparent Labs LEAN for Thermogenics

Transparent Labs LEAN for Thermogenics

Third-party tested and clearly dosed, Transparent Labs LEAN has a huge variety of ingredients for endurance, power, alertness, and focus. 

Transparent Labs LEAN has aspects of a standard pre-workout formula, featuring caffeine, beta-alanine, and citrulline malate, all of which are designed to support your workout in different ways. In addition to the tried-and-true ingredients, Transparent Labs LEAN contains acetyl l-carnitine HCI, an ingredient that might help transport fatty acids out of the mitochondria to enhance the fat-burning process. (7)

The dose is adequate, but you will likely find higher doses in dedicated fat burners. But be careful not to overdo some micronutrients if you also take a multivitamin, Hays says. “The daily upper limit for copper is 10mg. One scoop of LEAN contains 1mg, [which already meets] your daily need.” 

LEAN also has a good dose of iodine and zinc, which might help support thyroid hormone production, a potentially vital factor in weight loss. This is especially important because even moderate weight loss can cause your thyroid to decrease hormone production, and those hormones control your metabolism (how fast you burn calories). (5)

On top of that, there are a variety of flavors to choose from, though one tester reported that LEAN tasted slightly bitter and not very sweet. It also requires some aggressive shaking to dissolve the powder fully compared to some other products. We’d suggest this pre-workout if you’re looking for a little extra calorie-burning and metabolism support without committing fully to a fat burner.

Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout at the BarBend garage.


  • This has ingredients like carnitine for potential fat-burning benefits. 
  • LEAN is tasty, and we really enjoyed the Sour Peach and Grape flavors. 
  • You can potentially save time and money by combining two supps into one. 


  • There’s no stimulant-free option, whereas many fat burners offer both a stim-free and caffeinated version.
  • LEAN doesn’t include any extra vitamins, electrolytes, or creatine. 
  • It doesn’t dissolve as well as some other pre-workouts and requires extra shaking to avoid small clumps.

Transparent Labs LEAN is designed to help perk you up to have a solid gym session with its pre-workout ingredients. And if you’re looking to lose body fat or burn some extra calories, this pick may help speed up the process thanks to its acetyl l-carnitine HCI and thyroid support ingredients.

Best Pre-Workout for Women: KOS Bolt from the Blue

Most pre-workouts aren’t specifically designed for men or women (and we believe men, women, and non-binary people alike can consume them), but KOS Bolt from the Blue has some ingredients that may support women during intense training sessions and aid in improving performance.

KOS Bolt from the Blue

KOS Bolt from the Blue

This pre-workout strays from the typical ingredients list and pulls its effectiveness from a blue energy and focus blend with ingredients for energy like ginseng and green coffee beans along with potential mood boosters like ashwagandha and rhodiola for a balanced and clean and organic pre-workout devoid of artificial ingredients.

At first glance, you’ll be able to tell that this isn’t your typical pre-workout that’s loaded with chemicals and stimulants. Though this does have stimulants, it’s not packed to the brim with them like some other pre-workouts. We like the gentle energy provided by a modest dose of 70mg of caffeine (about a cup of coffee). On top of that, you’ll find ingredients that may support your mood, like ashwagandha, which may reduce stress and anxiety. This can be particularly beneficial for women (or men) who might find the gym environment intimidating or anxiety-inducing.

There are also immunity-supporting ingredients like cordyceps and lion’s mane since gyms (though we love them) can be somewhat grimy at times. This formula also has a 20mcg dose of folate and a vitamin B-complex. “Folate is an important nutrient for overall health, especially in women,” Hays says. Folate can be important for women for supporting energy and reproductive and post-menopausal health. It’s also involved in red blood cell health — folate deficiency can cause anemia and severe fatigue, making it much harder to function daily, let alone push hard during workouts. 

KOS only makes this in one flavor, though — Electric Boostberry (blue raspberry). We should also note that the ingredients are in a proprietary blend, so we don’t precisely know how much of each of them is included in the formula.


  • Caffeine: 70mg
  • Key Ingredients: Organic ashwagandha, ginseng, spirulina, and B-complex
  • Flavors: Electric Boostberry
  • Price Per Serving: $1.43


  • This formula is all-natural, organic, and vegan with no artificial ingredients.
  • Ashwagandha and rhodiola are included for mood support. 
  • The lion’s mane and cordyceps here may support your immune system and provide some energy to boot.


  • Bolt from the Blue is missing many traditional pre-workout ingredients like citrulline, beta-alanine, and others.
  • The proprietary blend doesn’t show exact amounts of each ingredient, leaving users to infer how much of each is included.
  • The caffeine content is very low at 70mg, which many people won’t even notice. 

If you’re looking for a squeaky clean organic pre-workout to support your needs as a woman when going to the gym, then this might be a good option for you. The folate and B-vitamin complex are squarely in line with women’s needs, while the mood and immune support are nice additions here too. 

Read our full Best Pre-Workouts for Women review.

When Should I Take Pre-Workout?

As the name implies, you want to take your pre-workout before you train. The general rule is to mix the powder (if you’re taking a powder, not a pill) in about eight ounces of water and ingest it 30 to 60 minutes before training. This time can allow the ingredients — like caffeine, beta-alanine, and taurine — to absorb and start taking effect. (29)

It might be helpful to take particularly high-dose and large pre-workouts a bit longer before training to allow your body more time to process the extra ingredients, though. On the flip side, if you like to take a long warmup, taking it closer to your arrival might allow for the effects to not kick in fully until you’re done warming up.

A person jumps rope in the gym while wearing headphones.
Credit: Flamingo Images / Shutterstock

If you train at night, you may want to avoid caffeinated pre-workouts. Some pres contain 150mg of caffeine, with certain products packing 300mg or more. The half-life of caffeine has a huge range from three to nine hours, depending on the individual. If you take 300mg at 5 p.m., you could still have 150mg circulating at 8 p.m. on the low end, or it may still be circulating at nearly full potency.

How Much Do Pre-Workouts Cost?

The price of pre-workout varies (though not significantly) primarily based on a) the ingredients used and b) the doses of those ingredients. Products that prioritize transparent dosing — meaning the ingredients aren’t wrapped up in obscure blends — will typically be pricier. The reason is that you’re actually getting that ingredient, and you’re getting it in a relatively complete dose.

When considering the price of pre-workouts, you’ll want to look at the price of the container in unison with the number of servings you’re getting rather than just the price of the container as a whole. The pre-workouts on this list range from around $1.43 per serving to about $3.00 per serving. On average, you can expect to pay about $2.05 per serving. The number of ingredients also affects the price. A product that has creatine in addition to basic pre-workout ingredients, for example, will almost always carry a higher price tag. Supplements with added vitamins and nutrients also jack up the price a bit. 

Best Pre-Workout Overall Transparent Labs BULK $49.99

Per Serving: $1.67

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Gain Transparent Labs BULK $49.99

Per Serving: $1.67

Strongest Pre-Workout Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Max $39.99

Per Serving: $1.99

Best Pre-Workout for Men Transparent Labs BULK Black $54.99

Per Serving: $1.83

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Recovery Momentous PR Lotion $34.95

Per Use: $3.00

Best Pre-Workout for Pump Huge Supplements Wrecked $49.95

Per Serving: $1.99

Best All-Natural Pre-Workout Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout $52.99

Per Serving: $2.11

Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss Transparent Labs LEAN $49.99 

Per Serving: $1.66

Best Pre-Workout Lotion Momentous PR Lotion $34.95

Per Use: $3.00

Best Tasting Pre-Workout Huge Supplements Wrecked Enraged $44.95

Per Serving: $2.25

Best Non-Stim Pre-Workout Swolverine PRE Pre-Workout $52.99

Per Serving: $2.11

Best Pre-Workout for Running Xwerks Ignite $49.00 

Per Serving: $1.63

Best Research Backed Pre-Workout  Huge Supplements Wrecked $49.95

Per Serving: $1.99

Best Pre-Workout without Creatine Kaged Pre-Kaged $44.99

Per Serving: $2.24

Best Pre-Workout for Beginners Swolverine PRE $52.99

Per Serving: $2.12

Best Vegan Pre-Workout Onnit Total Strength + Performance $59.95

Per Serving: $1.99

Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout Transparent Labs LEAN $49.99

Per Serving: $1.66

Best Pre-Workout for Women KOS Bolt from the Blue $36.99

Per Serving: $1.32

It helps a lot if you know what kind of support you want out of your pre-workout. If you’re looking for a little energy, then a basic pick with ample caffeine will do the job (and probably for less money). If you want the full kit — pumps, energy, focus, and hydrating minerals — then know you’ll likely need to shell out more.

Benefits of Pre-Workouts

The first thing people tend to associate with pre-workouts is their potential stimulative effects, which can affect just about every part of a workout. Obviously, caffeine (often the primary ingredient in pre-workouts) is a stimulant, but it is also linked to better power, endurance, perceived exertion, and even cognition. (12)(13)(14) For example, a randomized, double-blind study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when compared to a placebo, 10 athletes improved their speed, reaction time, movement time, and decision-making time when supplementing with caffeine. (15)

How much caffeine do you really need, though? For reference, a small cup of coffee has about 60 to 100 milligrams of caffeine, and pre-workouts range from 70 to over 400 milligrams per serving. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends three to 6mg per kilogram of body weight.

But again, a pre-workout supplement isn’t just caffeine (though some people do just take caffeine before a workout). Some pre-workouts are formulated without it. The most common additions include beta-alanine for endurance, citrulline for blood flow, betaine and other ingredients for power, and alpha GPC or tyrosine for focus. All these ingredients may give you an extra boost that can help you get the most out of your training.

Running Outside
Image via Shutterstock/4 PM production

Those ingredients have relatively solid research behind them. For example, a hugely popular meta-analysis of 15 studies published in Amino Acids found that beta-alanine reliably increases muscular endurance for short-duration activities (between 1-4 minutes). (16)(17) With regard to betaine (also called trimethylglycine), two studies published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition have shown significant power increases in the back squat among men who took 1.25 grams of it twice a day for two weeks. (18)(19)

Plenty of pre-workouts contain unusual plant ingredients — like toothed clubmoss or hawthorn berry, for example. These may not have the most convincing or robust evidence supporting their abilities to improve performance, relying instead on anecdotal evidence or promising preliminary results. 

Herbal ingredients also have the highest rates of contamination, and without third-party testing, there’s no guarantee that a product won’t be contaminated. They don’t have to provide proof of purity, safety, or efficacy as long as they aren’t using any new ingredients as of 1994 (due to the DSHEA Act).

When judging the effectiveness of a pre-workout, we didn’t disqualify anything that had a questionable ingredient. Rather, we looked at the overall impact of the product. Even if a product contains a couple of not-so-science-backed inclusions, we still consider it reputable if there are enough quality, well-dosed ingredients.

What Ingredients Are In Your Pre-Workout Supplement?

Not all pre-workout ingredients are useful, while others might be surprisingly beneficial. Here’s a rundown of the ingredients that you’ll usually find and actually want in your pre-workout.

Let’s talk a bit more about those ingredients and what the research says in regard to each of them.


Caffeine is associated with alertness, endurance, power output, strength, and perceived exertion. (12) The FDA puts one small cup of coffee at 100 milligrams of caffeine, while a tall (355ml) coffee from Starbucks has about 235 milligrams. 

Pre-workouts typically contain anywhere from 80 to 350mg of caffeine. An effective dose is three to 6mg per kilogram of body weight.


The best-researched ergogenic aid besides caffeine, creatine helps power output, anaerobic capacity, and fatigue, all while increasing muscle size by drawing more water into them. You don’t have to take it with your pre-workout since it’s an anytime supplement — the point is to increase the creatine in your muscles over time rather than loading creatine quickly. 

Three to five grams daily of creatine is effective. (24) She also notes that creatine monohydrate is the most commonly used and cost-effective creatine, though other types of creatine are on the market.


Older research suggested that five or so grams of citrulline, an amino acid that’s found in high amounts in watermelons, may help with circulation and thereby improve most areas of performance, from endurance to power output. (30) However, a more recent meta-analysis suggests that citrulline doesn’t improve performance. (22)While there are a few meta-analyses that have shown mixed results, the benefits are minor at best.


Beta-alanine is linked to improved endurance, both in cardio-focused intervals and strength training with higher reps (between 60 and 120 seconds of continuous work). It’s also known for the tingly feeling (paresthesia) you may feel in your extremities when you take it. Because it allows you to endure more, it may help with hypertrophy. The standard dose is 1.6 to 3.2 grams. 

If you can’t stand the tingles, splitting the dose into 0.8 to 1.6 grams every three to four hours can prevent the paresthesia. (21)

Betaine Anhydrous

Found in beets and leafy greens, betaine is best known for links to power output, blood flow improvements, and muscular endurance, but it might also slightly decrease post-exercise cortisol, which can actually be helpful in your body’s response to stress. An effective dose is 2.5g per day, split into two doses for resistance training. (23


Taurine may help with improving focus. Since it might draw water into cells, it may enhance recovery and muscle cramps, as well. You can take up to six grams per day about one to two hours before exercise. (25)


Also used for “focus,” data suggests tyrosine may reduce particularly acute stress — like exercise — by helping you produce adrenaline and dopamine. Research has only been performed on people taking at least 5 grams, and a minimum effective dose hasn’t been established, but look for at least 500 milligrams.

An effective dose might be 100 to 150mg per kilogram of body weight taken an hour before exercise, but large doses can cause GI distress and might need to be split up. (26)

How to Choose the Best Pre-Workout for You

These sorts of products can make some folks a little concerned about side effects and unintended consequences. They’re legal, so the potential for damage is low (though you should consult your doctor first), but there are some things worth keeping in mind when you’re trying to figure out which is the best pre-workout supplement for you.

Remember, Caffeine Is a Drug

Caffeine is a real drug. It can cause anxiety, diarrhea, and maybe even temporary high blood pressure. This doesn’t mean that caffeine is inherently bad for you. It just means everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine. 

Commonly Labeled Pre-Workout Ingredients
Commonly Labeled Pre-Workout Ingredients

Caffeine can also make it harder for the nervous system to relax or enter a parasympathetic state conducive to recovery. If you regularly take caffeine, consider taking a week off from it every couple of months to keep you from building up too strong a tolerance for it. And if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, consider avoiding it altogether.

Beta-Alanine Has a Surprising Side Effect

Perhaps the most common pre-workout ingredient that isn’t caffeine (or flavoring), beta-alanine typically causes paresthesia, a “tingling” sensation on the skin. It’s temporary and harmless, and while some love the feeling of the ingredient “kicking in,” not everyone likes it.

Not All Pre-Workout Ingredients Need to Be Pre-Workout

Creatine and beta-alanine don’t have to be taken right before a workout. If you take them every day, they may imbue you with their benefits regardless of the time of day you take them since they work over longer time periods than other pre-workout ingredients.

One of the Best Pre-Workouts Is Carbohydrates

It’s not sexy, but it’s pretty tough to have a great workout without plenty of carbs in your system. A balanced meal of protein and carbs a couple of hours before a workout can do wonders for performance. (27) If you’re in a rush, a meal replacement shake typically has a good balance of macros to launch you into a workout.

Remember the Dosage

We’ve already noted the best-supported dosages in the previous section, but many products will talk a big game about how well-supported their ingredients are but then use low dosages. (This is especially common with citrulline and tyrosine.) It’s good to look at the research and make sure that a supplement provides the ideal dosage before you make a purchase.

Is Pre-Workout Bad for You?

Pre-workout isn’t inherently harmful to healthy people who can tolerate the ingredients well. If you’ve never taken a pre-workout before or if you’re starting a new one, it’s usually advisable to start off with a half scoop or less to assess your tolerance and how you react to the ingredients. Some people may not tolerate certain ingredients well, so it’s important to start small. We also strongly recommend talking to your doctor before starting any supplement regimen, pre-workouts especially. If you have any pre-existing conditions, speaking with a physician before making changes to your diet or supplement routine is a must.

The Scoop on Dry Scooping

Social media stars on platforms like TikTok and Instagram have started a trend known as dry-scooping — where you scoop pre-workout powder directly into your mouth. This is ill-advised and dangerous. 

Many pre-workouts have hundreds of milligrams of caffeine in them, and diluting that powder into water allows your body more time to absorb and process it. Otherwise, you risk absorbing too much caffeine too quickly, which can lead to jitters, an upset stomach, and an elevated heart rate.

The dangers of dry-scooping is about both the rate of ingestion and the amount, but much more so the amount. A person dry-scooping one or two scoops is still only getting 150 to 300mg most likely, which isn’t a toxic dose, even short-term. A toxic dose would be 20 to 40mg per kilogram of bodyweight, or about 1,800 to 2,000mg for a 200 pound individual.

Still, there are other potential hazards associated with dry scooping. For example, you can also choke on the powder. There’s a reason the directions on pre-workout powders tell you to mix it with water into your favorite shaker bottle. (28

Final Word

If you’re engaged in sports, supplements (like pre-workouts) may be super helpful. They might increase the amount of energy you have and the effectiveness of the exercise. We’ve tried dozens of pre-workouts to land on this list of the best pre-workout supplements on the market for almost any athlete, whether you love or hate caffeine, want to improve your run time, or just get a better pump.

We looked at the price, taste, ingredients, and effectiveness of every one of these supplements. While plenty of people have different ideas about what constitutes a “high quality” pre-workout, we think we’ve put together a tremendous guide to picking the best pre-workout supplements for a variety of fitness goals. 


What does a pre-workout do?

It depends on what’s in the pre-workout, but ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine, and betaine have been linked to higher energy levels, better power production, and improved endurance. Some ingredients, like tyrosine and taurine, may even improve focus.

What is the best pre-workout?

There are so many options on the market for pre-workouts, and many seem to have similar formulas. One that stands out from the noise with a potent and robust ingredients list is Transparent Labs BULK. It has well-dosed levels of citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine to potentially support blood flow and endurance. You’ll also find a moderate helping of stimulants and focus ingredients with 200mg of caffeine along with alpha-GPC, theobromine, and taurine.

Can I take pre-workout every day?

Strictly speaking, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so, but it is usually ill-advised. The more regularly you take pre-workout, the less effective each dose usually becomes because you build up a tolerance. We generally try to only take pre-workout before particularly challenging sessions or when we really need an extra kick of energy. It’s also a good idea to occasionally take some time off from pre-workouts. You’ll be surprised how much more you might notice the effects after a week away from the ingredients.

How long does pre-workout last?

Everyone’s body processes the ingredients in pre-workouts differently, so it’s difficult to pin down an exact time. That said, you can usually feel the effects of a pre for anywhere from two to six hours, depending on a variety of factors. What and how recently you’ve eaten, how strong the pre-workout is, and your own biochemistry all may play a role in how long a pre-workout lasts.

How much does a pre-workout cost?

The short answer here is that the price of a pre-workout supplement will vary greatly depending on the ingredient list, dosages, and quality of each ingredient. Most fluctuate between about $1.40 to $3.00 per serving with the average price costing about $2.05 per serving. Although this may seem expensive to some, you tend to get what you pay for with pre-workout supplements.

What is dry scooping pre-workout?

Dry scooping refers to taking a scoop of pre-workout powder dry, as the name implies, without mixing it in a shaker bottle or cup, then (optionally) washing it down with water after. It can be dangerous, though, as mixing the pre-workout with water allows your body time to absorb the ingredients more slowly. We advise against it and always recommend following the label of your pre-workout supplement for instructions on how best to take it.

Is it better to drink pre-workout before or during workout?

It’s best to drink your pre-workout before going to the gym, as it can take a good thirty minutes to “kick in.” For optimal results, and if you’re in a hurry, it may be best to take pre-workout on an empty stomach so that it digests quickly.


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