There are literally thousands of pre workout supplements, and new brands emerge everyday. To make matters worse, they all claim to have the absolute best pre workout supplement…But they can’t all be the best!
The truth is, most pre workout supplements are terrible, but the right one can make a profound difference when it comes to:
Energy And Focus
Unfortunately, not all pre workout supplements are created equal. Many of them claim to provide these types of benefits, but most of them don’t make good on those claims. In fact, about 90% of the pre workout supplements we’ve reviewed (it’s approaching 1000) are either:
The reality is that most pre workout supplements rely heavily on stimulants like Caffeine, Theacrine, DMAA, etc. to get you hyped up and feel energized, but very few of them contain clinical doses of non-stimulant ingredients that actually improve your physical performance.
Furthermore, the stimulant-induced high you get from those types of pre workouts tends to come with a subsequent crash, leaving you feeling run down and out of it when you should be feeling awesome! A great workout should have you feeling tired but happy, presumably because you just killed it and your triggered a nice natural Endorphin rush.
You don’t need to be all jacked up on stimulants to have a good workout. In fact, you’ll have a much more quality workout with a more well-rounded pre workout supplement that contains moderate levels of stimulants but also provides clinical doses of performance enhancing ingredients that ACTUALLY make you stronger.
Fortunately, there are several pre workout supplements out there which contain moderate levels of stimulants (not an overload) as well as clinically effective doses of proven ingredients that actually improve your physical performance and will help you achieve your fitness goals faster.
That is precisely why we created this list! To separate the over-hyped, in-effective nonsense from the handful of products that actually perform.
If you’re tried every pre workout on this list and still haven’t found exactly what you’re looking for, you may just be better off making your own. If that’s the case, check out these articles where we breakdown how to make your ideal pre workout from scratch.
- How To Create The Ultimate Pre Workout Supplement
- Alpha GPC: A Seriously Underrated Performance Enhancer
- Increaser Stnregth Annd Power With Betaine
Granted, you have to be willing to do little work (purchasing a bunch of powders, measuring them, mixing them, etc.), but it pays for itself in no time if you have the time. If you’re like most people though, and you’d rather just purchase a pre workout supplement that’s already assembled, works great, and isn’t a hassle, just read on…
OUR CRITERIA FOR THE BEST PRE WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS…
When it comes to evaluating any supplement–whether it be a fat-burner, pre workout, or protein supplement–There are only a few things that actually matter. As it turns out, shiny packaging isn’t one them! Although which pre workout you prefer is ultimately a matter of opinion, there are some objective qualities that can be used to determine whether a pre workout is worth taking.
To many people think pre workouts are some magical formulas that some crazy scientist made in a lab, but in reality they’re usually formulated by people who just research the ingredients online and then have a manufacturer whip it up. So when it comes to what constitutes a “great” pre workout, it’s actually pretty simple…
The best pre workout supplement needs to have effective ingredients.
The stated ingredients have all been studied extensively (preferably in humans) and have been PROVEN effective for the stated purpose. There are thousands of ingredients used in dietary supplements that have never shown the slightest bit of efficacy in any study, or worse, have been proven INEFFECTIVE in studies but are still sold with false claims attached to them.
Unfortunately, the use of these ingredients remains rampant due to the unwillingness of supplement companies to stay current with the research and admit they were wrong. If you pumped out a million bottles of Garcinia Cambogia and then read three studies that prove it doesn’t work, you’d probably just ignore them too…
But the fact is scientific research is constantly evolving. It’s time we ditched ingredients like Arginine, which science has revealed to be ineffective, and swap it for Citrulline, which science has revealed VERY effective.
Of course, these two ingredients are only examples. There are hundreds more out there which have proven ineffective but are still in use because people just don’t know the difference…But then again that’s the point of this site: education. We love good challenge.
CLINICAL DOSES OF THOSE INGREDIENTS
The best pre workout supplement needs to contain clinical doses of each ingredient.
It’s not enough to just use research-backed ingredients. Those ingredients must also be dosed at a level we know is effective (based on the studies).
Many companies try to get away with listing “research-backed” ingredients on the label, but under-dose them and bank on the fact that the average consumer won’t know the difference.
Dosing is everything. It’s more important than the ingredients themselves if you think about it. At 5g/day, Creating is a highly effective, reliable muscle-builder. At 1g/day, it does nothing.
The more extensively a supplement has been studied, the more we know about its optimal dose. Often times we refer to this dose as the “clinical dose” but more often it’s a “clinical range”. The only way to know for sure if a particular ingredient is as effective as it was in studied is if the dose falls within the clinical range.
Be careful about companies throwing around the word “clinically dose” too. Many supplement companies put the term “clinically dosed” on their packaging or advertising, but if you read the fine print, it’s really “per two servings”, meaning it’s only half clinically dosed. If that’s not unethical, what is?
100% TRANSPARENT LABELS
The best pre workout supplement doesn’t use a proprietary blend.
The manufacturer doesn’t hide behind proprietary blends and instead discloses the dose of each individual ingredient. In the early days of the supplement industry, supplement companies used to group all the ingredients together into one “proprietary blend” so that they didn’t have to list the doses of each ingredient.
The reason they said they did it is was so that competitors wouldn’t know the exact formula…To be absolutely clear, that’s a load of BS!
The reason it’s not a valid excuse is simply because the studies in which any ingredient was proven effective are publicly accessible, meaning which ingredients and at which doses they work the best is common knowledge. There’s nothing proprietary about any company’s proprietary blend. Don’t fall for it.
The only reason to use a Proprietary Blend is if you have something to hide and your customers are too stupid to ask questions. Any reputable brand has adopted a transparent labeling approach at this point, but there are still plenty that hide behind Proprietary Blends. As a consumer you should NEVER buy any product with a proprietary blend. If enough people do that, they’ll cease to exist.
Needless to say, we disregard any pre workout supplement with a proprietary blend. How could we evaluate it if the brand won’t even tell us whats in it? You’ll notice each product below features a full Supplement Facts panel, so you can see for yourself that each ingredient is dosed appropriately.
FOLLOW THE SCIENCE AND YOU CAN’T GO WRONG
When it comes to selecting the very best pre workout supplements, our approach is purely scientific. Science, after all, is the only way to really determine what works and what doesn’t. A lot of people get wrapped up in marketing and forget the simply fact that:
How effective a supplement is depends on how effective each ingredient in it is.
There’s not magic going on…
Once you understand the science behind the ingredients in a given supplement–in this case we’re talking pre workouts–it’s easy to tell which ones are worth using and which ones belong in the trash. If the ingredient(s) in a supplement haven’t been proven to work. they probably don’t. That’s why we disregarded all products that don’t abide by the criteria listed above to come up with this list.
It’s time you stop being manipulated into buying that under-dosed nonsense from the sales rep at GNC. Below are the best pre workout supplements based on the objective criteria above. Welcome to the world of truly effective pre workout supplements…
The Absolute Best Pre Workout Supplements
The following list contains what we consider to be the best all-around pre workout supplements based on solely on the objective, scientific criteria described above. The stimulant level in each of these is would you might consider “moderate” There are no super high-stim pre workouts on this list.
If you’re more interested in high-stimulant pre workout supplements, check out our Strongest pre workout supplements list.
Momentum Nutrition CatalystFIND IT HERE
Catalyst was formulated by SuppWithThat.com Founder and Momentum Nutrition Co-Founder/CEO, Matt Theis, who spent years analyzing, understanding, and studying the science behind supplements before coming to the unfortunate realization that most pre workout supplements are under-dosed, ineffective, and marketed in a misleading manner.
So, he did the only thing that made any sense–created his own pre workout–based on a few simple principle that other pre workout supplements typically lack…
Scientifically Proven Ingredients
Clinical Doses Of Those Ingredients
Third Party Testing
Like all Momentum Nutrition supplements, adhering to these these strict standards places Catalyst on an entirely different level than other pre workout supplements.
Unlike most other pre workout supplements–which are essentially just a cocktail of stimulants meant to jack you up for an hour then bring your down hard–Catalyst contains clinical doses of the most effective performance enhancing ingredients in existence, providing the following benefits:
Smooth Energy And Focus
More intense, fulfilling workouts lead to greater gains over time and when it comes to making each and every workout count, not many pre workouts compare. Additionally, Catalyst:
Contains No Fillers Or Artificial Dyes
Is 100% Transparent
Is Third Party Tested
There plenty of great products on this list, but if you compare the ingredients in Catalyst, doses of those ingredients, and servings per container, you’ll find Catalyst is not only the best pre workout supplement, but also provides the best bang for your buck!
You can find Catalyst here, or read on for other highly recommended pre workout supplements…
Pulse contains nothing but effective ingredients at highly effective doses which are towards the high end of the clinical range. Although there are no other stimulants in the formula, the hefty 350mg dose of Caffeine and Theanine can easily provide the focus and alertness that many users of pre workouts have become accustomed to.
All together, Pulse has what it takes to…
- Enhance Energy/Focus
- Increase Strength/Endurance
- Promote Some Serious Pumps
That last part–the serious pumps–is definitely what you’ll get from Pulse, mostly due to clinical doses of Citrulline AND Ornithine, two amino acids that are not generally found together but certainly belong together if better pumps and blood flow is the goal…
You can learn more about Pulse here.
Nutrabio Pre Extreme V3
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing, transparently-dosed pre workout that contains just about every research-backed performance enhancing ingredient under the sun, not to mention a potent stimulant blend, look no further than Nutrabio’s Pre Extreme V3. It may appear pricey but you definitely get what you pay for with this one. That is:
- Better Muscular Endurance
- Strength Increases
- Lazer-Like Focus
- High Amounts Of Energy
We can honestly say Nutrabio has outdone themselves with this one. This is the DEFINITION of an “all-in-one” pre workout (sorry Pre JYM).
HAK Nutrition Pre HAKFIND IT HERE
Pre HAK gives us hope that the supplement industry–particularly the pre workout category–is headed in the right direction.
It can definitely be considered an “all-encompassing” pre workout, containing everything from a moderate dose of Caffeine/Theacrine, to strength/endurance enhancers and BCAAs…Not to mention a unique cognitive fatigue-fighting blend, not something you see in most pre workouts these days.
As far as stimulants go, like we said, Pre HAK is what you could call “moderate”. For the average person, it won’t be particularly overwhelming but will provide a smooth, focused, sustained flow of energy with no real come down. Not to mention…
- Serious Pumps
- Better Muscular Endurance
- Less Fatigue (Both Mental And Physical)
- Enhanced Recovery
- Increased Strength/Muscle (Over Time)
In other words, Pre HAK provides everything you could ever really want in a pre workout. Whether or not you need BCAAs is probably going to be the deciding factor between Pre HAK and something like Pulse or Catalyst, but if you’re taking BCAAs anyway, Pre HAK is the way to go.
If you take a close look at the formula, it’s definitely got an edge of Pre-Kaged and Pre JYM, though all three formulas are similarly “all-encompassing” and contain several of the same ingredients (and doses).
If we’re comparing those three, Pre HAK i no doubt the more innovative one of the bunch, though they all provide similar levels of stimulation. You can read our in-depth analysis of Pre HAK here.
Kaged Muscle Pre-KagedFIND IT HERE
Although relatively unknown until recently, Kris Gethin has been a major player in the fitness industry and Bodybuilding.com for a while and, based on the ingredient profile of Pre-Kaged, we can tell he does his research.
Pre-Kaged is one of those “all-encompassing” type pre workouts which includes not just performance/energy enhancing ingredients, but also BCAAs and some recovery enhancing ingredints as well. Altogether, Pre-Kaged provides the following benefits:
- Enhanced Endurnace/Strength
- Better Recovery/Less Soreness
- Optimal Muscle Growth (Especially If Training Fasted Or Dieting)
- Energy/Focus (Though Not Overwhelming)
If you’re looking for an all-in-one deal, we’d consider Pre-Kaged and based on the overall ingredient file, we’d place it a notch about Pre JYM, though the two are quite similar.
JYM Supplement Science Pre JYM
There was a time when Pre JYM was considered by many to be the best pre workout supplement in existence. To be fair, there are still are a bunch of dumb JYM Army idiots running around like chickens with their heads cut off ranting about how his products are the best, but anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about when it comes to supplements knows that Pre JYM is certainly NOT the best.
Unfortunately, in an attempt to create the most comprehensive pre workout supplement ever, Stoppani ended up under-dosing some key ingredients that ultimate take away from the efficacy of the formula, hence why it isn’t number one on this list.
The under-dosed ingredients include:
- Beet Root Extract (doesn’t contain enough Nitrate to matter)
- Alpha GPC (only contains 300mg, should be 600mg)
- Creatine HCL (only contains 2g, should be 3-5g)
That said, it does contain a very comprehensive ingredient profile and definitely deserves a spot on this list. Pre JYM will
- Enhance Endurance/Strength
- Support Muscle Growth
- Increase Energy And Focus
If you’re interested in learning more about Pre JYM, check our our complete Pre JYM Review.
First there was Pre JYM, the outrageously popular pre workout by Jim Stoppani. Then…came a whole bunch of other really great pre workout supplements which kind of exposed the fact that Stoppani’s formula is nothing special…
Well, if you like Pre JYM, then you’ll like B4Gym too, without a doubt. Why? Because it’s almost an exact clone except it retailers for much cheaper.
Unfortunately, Pre JYM isn’t the best pre workout to completely rip-off becuase it suffers from some issues itself. Specifically, the under-dosing of:
- Alpha GPC
- Beet Root Extract (Nitrates)
That said, it does contain the same comprehensive list of ingredients that Pre JYM contains, so the truth can’t be denied. B4Gym will effectively:
- Enhance Endurance/Strength
- Support Muscle Growth
- Increase Energy And Focus
And again, it retailers for less than Pre JYM so it makes perfect sense to switch over. For all the JYM Army nut jobs out there…sorry, but it was only a matter of time before someone made the same formula and sold it for less!
Muscle Elements PreCre
PreCre is one of the most unique pre workout supplements we’ve come across and, despite it being smack in the middle of this list, some people might actually find it to be their ideal pre workout supplement.
While most pre workouts rely on stimulants to provide mental “energy”, Muscle Elements has included clinical doses of Creatine and Cyclic Dextrin (a carb) to actually increase the amount of real energy you’re body has at it’s disposal during workouts.
That’s not to say it contains no stimulants. It just doesn’t rely on them…
Ultimately, PreCre will:
- Increase Strength/Endurance
- Increase Muscle Mass Over Time
- Provide Serious Pumps
- Improve Aspects Of Recovery
- Provide Moderate Levels Of Energy/Focus
So, if you’re looking for something a little different than you’re average pre workout, give PreCre a try. You can learn more about it by reading our complete PreCre Review. If you prefer higher levels of stimulants in your pre workout, consider PreCre XS instead.
Jacked Factory Altius
Altius is basically what you would come up with if you took all the most extensively-researched performance enhancing ingredients found in so many pre workouts, combined them, and left out all the extra nonsense.
Ultimately Altius will:
- Increase Strength/Endurance/Performance
- Increase Muscle Size Over Time (Creatine)
- Enhance Recovery
- Provide Moderate Energy/Focus
The only issue we’d point out is that Altius contains a sub-clinical dose of Alpha GPC, a seriously effective strength-enhancing supplement that tends to be pretty expensive. The only pre workout that contains a true clinical dose (600mg) of Alpha GPC is Catalyst.
MTS Nutrition Clash
Marc Lobliner is certainly one of the “loudest” personalities in the fitness industry. You’ll find him on YouTube ranting about his personal issues, commenting on issues he doesn’t even try to understand first, and gossiping about others in the industry.
That said, MTS Nutrition (his brand) does make some pretty good products from time to time, and clash is definitely one of the better pre workout supplements you’ll find. The benefits include:
- Increased Strength (Muscle Mass Over Time)
- Better Muscular Endurance
You’ll need two servings to acheive true clinical doses of each ingredient, so Clash should really be viewed as a two-scooper (20 servings total) pre workout, but at that dose, it’s one of the best, for sure.
ANS Performance Ritual
When it comes to product formulation, ANS Performance is one of the most consistent brands. They’ve always been pretty transparent and tend to stay on the scientific side of things, rather than using speculative (possibly dangerous) ingredients in their formulas.
Ritual contains several ingredients which will:
- Enhance Endurance
- Increase Focus/Energy
- Improve Recovery
- Promote Fat-Loss
The only thing we need to point out about Ritual is that some of the ingredients are under-dosed on a per serving basis, so you should really be taking two scoops if you want to get the most out of it. Want to learn more? Check out our Ritual Review.
There was actually a time when Nitramine was at the top of this list. It was pretty cutting edge when it first came out, providing a delicate balance of physical performance enhancement and mental stimulation that allowed for multiple servings but didn’t require it.
Altogether, the ingredients in Nitramine will:
- Increase Focus/Energy/Mood
- Burn Fat
- Enhance Endurance/Strength/Performance
You may be thinking “150mg of Caffeine? That’s it?”, but rest assured the other stimulants in the formula pack a powerful punch so it’s a lot more intense than jus taking 150mg of Caffeine. To learn more, check out our complete Myokem Nitramine Review.
Citadel Nutrition Tier 1 Plus
Tier 1 Plus is the slightly more Caffeinated version of Tier 1 by Citadel Nutrition, a brand which set standards for transparency and testing when most companies were still hiding behind proprietary blends.
Now that times have changed, and transparency is basically expected by anyone who isn’t stupid, Citadel may have lost some of it’s edge, but Tier 1 Plus ABSOLUTELY deserves a spot on this list.
The benefits include:
- Increased Strength
- Muscular Endurance
Short, sweet, and to the point is how we’d describe this one. It’s simple, effective, and contains absolutely no unnecessary fillers or additives.
Viper Pre-Workout is similar to Tier 1 in terms of the general benefits it provides but where Tier 1 provides a clinical dose of Creatine Monohydrate in each serving, Viper provides a clinical dose of Citrulline Malate (6g) in each serving.
To be clear, whether this is a good tradeoff depends entirely on your individual goals. If you it’s pumps and muscular endurance you’re after (more reps, more sets), you’ll want to go with Viper though. Citrulline is hands down one of the most effective performance enhancing ingredients and works immediately, whereas Creatine takes time to accumulate in muscle tissue.
Choose The Best Pre Workout Supplement For You
Our approach is purely scientific. Every supplement mentioned on this list measures up in the eyes of science by providing clinical doses of research-backed ingredients. Some are more unique than others and we’d recommend trying a few different pre workout supplements to see what you like.
These are all great option but individual preference still plays the biggest role in selecting your deal pre workout…So don’t be afraid to experiment. Also, don’t take the number rank too seriously. It’s just a way of organizing the list. You may very well find that you like #3 better than #1.
As stated above, every pre workout on this list is “moderate” on the stimulants. If you want a pre-worout supplement that will make your eyes pop out of your skull, take a look at our Best Pre-Wokouts For Stimulant Lovers list.
Or, you could go the mad scientist route and mix your own pre workout supplement following our How To Create The Ultimate Pre-Workout Guide…Just a thought.