The global pre workout supplement market is valued at over $13 billion USD, and is projected to grow at 8.3% per year over the next 8 years. Every supplement company is jumping into this opportunity, so there are more options than ever for consumers to choose from.
Unfortunately, selecting the best pre workout supplement isn’t easy, especially when many of the products available on the market aren’t backed by science. Some of these supplements are loaded with proprietary blends supported by shady marketing.
To help you choose wisely, I’ve created a list of criteria you can use to find the best pre workout product.
First, What is Pre Workout?
Pre workout is a broad group of supplements. It’s really just any supplement designed to be taken before working out. There are a few main types of pre workouts: energy boosters, pump supplements, and focus enhancers. Some pre workouts combine these functions for maximum benefit to gym-goers or competitive athletes.
Benefits of Taking Pre Workout
- Boosted Energy: The primary reason that people seek out pre workout is for the stimulant ingredients like caffeine, yohimbe, theobromine, or theacrine. These help excite your central nervous system to increase your energy, endurance, and motivation in your training.
- Enhanced Focus: One of the biggest trends in pre workout in recent years is the inclusion of nootropic ingredients to improve focus and mental acuity in the gym.
- Increased Fat Mobilization: Taking pre-workout (and more specifically caffeine) helps improve the availability of fat as fuel in the body. Because caffeine raises your core temperature, you can burn more calories and, as a result, more fat.
- Increased Strength: The ingredients in pre workout can work together to improve energy levels, mind-muscle connection, and blood flow which can result in increased strength in the gym.
- Improved Blood Flow: Some of the ingredients commonly found in pre workout increase nitric oxide levels in the blood which helps open blood vessels and get crazy muscle pumps. This helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles which can help improve muscle growth and recovery.
How To Choose the Best Pre-Workout
When I’m looking to pick the best pre-workout, I’m looking at several things. The best companies will have third-party testing and certification, use clean and natural ingredients, and be vetted by science.
The supplement industry isn’t regulated by the FDA, so it’s possible that supplements contain unnecessary fillers or ineffective forms of certain ingredients. If a pre workout is manufactured in a low-quality manufacturing facility, it’s possible that the supplements could become contaminated. This is especially bad if you’re a professional athlete who is subject to USADA or WADA testing.
If you want a pre workout that has top quality manufacturing processes and ingredients, look for supplements that have been checked and tested by third-parties. NSF International offers supplement and vitamin testing and a Certified for Sport program that identifies quality supplements for athletes.
A little bit of research goes a long way when looking for the best supplement for your needs. Not only should you look for the best performance-enhancing ingredients, but also verify that the ingredients are dosed at a clinically effective level.
More expensive supplements are not necessarily better. For example, Nutricost Pre-Workout Complex is a great supplement and it’s one of the most affordable pre-workouts on Amazon. We’re also totally okay with paying more for high-quality ingredients, which is why we regularly buy Transparent Labs BULK and LEAN pre-workouts, even though they are more expensive than many other pre workouts.
Pre-Workout Supplements: How To PROPERLY Use It To Boost Performance
Most Common Ingredients in Pre-Workout Supplements
- L-Arginine: L-Arginine is an amino acid that assists in protein synthesis in the body. It also can help improve blood flow.
- Vitamin B12: B vitamins are included in pre workouts to improve metabolic function and increase energy levels.
- Beta-Alanine: Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid which increases levels of carnosine in your muscles, which can help delay the onset of fatigue. This is the pre-workout ingredient primarily responsible for the tingling or itchiness some people experience after taking pre workout.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is likely one of the most widely consumed “supplements” in the world. It’s easily accessible in the form of coffee, tea and energy drinks. It’s a stimulant that helps fire up your central nervous system and increase energy levels.
- L-Citrulline: L-citrulline is a building block of nitric oxide which improves blood flow and muscle pumps.
- Creatine: Creatine is another popular fitness supplement with notable performance benefits. It plays a role in production and circulation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is a form of fuel for muscle contractions. This is also a popular supplement for bodybuilders looking to increase muscle volume.
- L-Theanine: L-theanine helps counteract the negative impacts of high levels of caffeine. It can help improve your focus in the gym to sharpen your mind-muscle connection.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Pre Workout
There are hundreds of pre-workout supplements on the market. You can find countless options at your local supplement shop, on Amazon, and directly from the supplement company. These are a few things you’ll want to think about before buying a certain pre workout.
Your Training Style
When choosing a pre workout, you’ll want to find a supplement that will benefit your specific training style. If you’re doing powerlifting, you’ll want something different than if you’re trying to set a new 5k PR. The best pre workouts for running will have more ingredients tailored towards improving your endurance and recovery. The best pre workouts for lifting will be more focused on improving muscle pumps and short bursts of effort.
Your Caffeine Tolerance
Caffeine is one of the primary ingredients in most pre workouts, and for good reason. Doses of 3 to 13 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) have been shown to improve exercise performance. However, if you’re sensitive or highly-tolerant to caffeine, you may need to choose a different pre workout. Stimulant-free pre workouts are still beneficial for people who may not like the jitters or crash from caffeine. If you already consume a high amount of caffeine, you may need to look to a pre-workout with a higher dosage of caffeine to feel the effects.
Your Diet and Nutrition Needs
There are different pre workouts that will work better for different dietary and nutrition needs. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and avoid additional calories, you will probably want a calorie-free pre workout supplement. If that’s the case you will want to find a pre-workout that doesn’t contain sugar. If you’re trying to bulk and you want pre-workout carbohydrates for fuel, you may look for a different type of supplement.
Proof of Effectiveness
Not only should you look at the ingredients in your pre workout, but also you should look at the dosages. If a particular compound has been shown to improve performance, there is a dosage associated with every study — so do your research to see what the minimum effective dose is.