Pre workouts are designed with one focus in mind: to enhance your performance and make you more capable in the gym.
Each pre-workout is different which makes choosing the right one quite tricky. You don’t want a supplement that’s been under-dosed and not gives you all of the benefits you’re looking for.
Equally, however, you don’t want a supplement that’s got more than you need simply to make you pay more. All you’re looking for are proven ingredients in clinically-correct levels to ensure that you have a fantastic workout.
Almost all pre-workouts contain caffeine as the main ingredient due to its stimulatory nature. If you are looking for non-caffeine and stimulant free pre workouts check out our Top 10 list here. You most commonly find caffeine in coffee, but the caffeine within pre workouts tends to be synthesized in a lab.
For reference, one shot of coffee tends to contain around 80mg of caffeine. A venti caffe americano from Starbucks contains 300mg of caffeine. This is around the same amount found in most pre-workout supplements.
Another common ingredient you’ll see are BCAAs. BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) refers to leucine, isoleucine, and valine – all of which help promote muscle growth and reduce muscle catabolism. Leucine is most notable for spiking MPS (muscle protein synthesis) levels.
This is simply the process by which your body creates new muscle tissue. Isoleucine helps to draw glucose into the muscle tissue to provide it with a readily available source of energy and increase hydration levels. The research so far has suggested that valine has similar effects to leucine and isoleucine but they’re much milder.
You’ll most likely also see beta alanine listed on many pre-workout packages. Beta-alanine is the building block of carnosine, a molecule which helps to reduce the levels of lactic acid within the muscle. This leads to increased performance in the 60-240 second range, perfect for volume or hypertrophy gains.
Lastly, creatine is very commonly found in pre-workouts as it’s a very well-researched ingredient that can help boost your strength and power output. Creatine increases our stores of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a group of molecules which provide your body with energy.
By supplementing with creatine we provide our body with an immediate and effective source of energy that it can utilize extremely quickly to increase our performance.
Both beta-alanine and creatine are more effective when supplemented daily so on top of using a pre-workout which includes these ingredients you’ll also need additional supplementation.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements – 2017 Top 10 List
|2.||JYM Pre JYM|
|3.||Sparta Nutrition KRAKEN|
|5.||Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK|
|6.||Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged|
|7.||Gaspari Nutrition SuperPump 250|
|8.||RedCon1 Total War|
|9.||Inspired Nutraceuticals DVST8 White Cut|
|10.||Cellucor C4 Ultimate|
10 Top Rated, Strongest Pre-Workout Supplement Powders And Shakes For Energy, Pump And Focus Review
1. APS Mesomorph
There’s one component that really makes this product stand out compared to all the rest: DMAA (Dimethylamylamine), a neural stimulant which causes incredible increases in energy; even more so than caffeine.
APS have used a whopping 65 mg in Mesomorph to make sure that you get the full focus-enhancing dose. However, we prefer 25-50mg of DMAA so recommend a ½ to ¾ scoop if you choose this product.
Due to the nature of DMAA, this supplement definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. Don’t think it’s just like taking caffeine – it’s far more than that.
That’s why we don’t recommend it to any newbies. Though, if you think you’re ready to take your workouts beyond what normal pre-workouts allow, then this is a fantastic choice.
Unfortunately, a major downside about this product is that it uses proprietary blends. Essentially, proprietary blends are mixed prior to being added to the product and therefore, you can only know how much of the total blend is there, not of the individual ingredients.
From what we do know, there’s a full 3.2 gram dose of beta-alanine alongside Citrulline Malate in a 2:1 ratio. These are at the forefront of the first 6.5 gram proprietary blend so you can be sure there’s a decent amount of the latter ingredient.
The 3.2 grams of beta-alanine is what helps to buffer lactic acid and therefore, improve your endurance capabilities, power, and strength. The citrulline malate also works to reduce fatigue and improve performance. Coupling these together means that you can work harder, for longer.
You’ll also notice in the Mesoswell-Cell Volumizing ATP Matrix that they’ve included 3 different forms of creatine: di-creatine malate, creatine nitrate, and creatinol-o-phosphate. This means that there are three different pathways for increasing your ATP production. We also know that the total amount of creatine adds up to 3 grams – the perfect amount!
If you’re a fan of DMAA as much as we are, then this is definitely the product for you.
2. JYM Pre JYM
If you look at the ingredients, you’ll notice that there’s not a single proprietary blend. A proprietary blend is simply a blend of various ingredient mixed together before the supplement is made.
The downside to this is that manufacturers don’t always list the full ingredients of these blends or the amount in which the ingredients come in. This results in cheap, low-quality, ineffective powders.
Jym Pre Jym contains not a single proprietary blend so that you know 100% what’s in your powder so that you can make an informed decision.
Not only this, but Pre-Jym doesn’t contain any ‘abbreviated formulas’. This refers to mixes which use the correct doses of all the ingredients but may not contain enough ingredients to get the job done.
For example, a powder may just contain caffeine, creatine, and BCAAs. Whilst this is a good mix, it could be enhanced through other ingredients.
That’s why Pre Jym contains all of the ingredients that are backed by research to give you results with your workouts.
Each serving gives you:
- 6 grams of citrulline malate
- 6 grams of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio
- 3 grams of Leucine
- 1.5 grams of Isoleucine
- 1.5 grams of Valine
- 2 grams of creatine HCl
- 2 grams of CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine
- 1.5 of Betaine
- 1.5 grams of Tyrosine
- 1 gram of Taurine
- 600 Milligrams of N-acetyl L-Cysteine
- 500 Milligrams of betavulgaris L. (beet) extract
- 350 Milligrams of choline bitartrate
- 300 Milligrams of caffeine
- 300 milligrams of Alpha-Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline (50%)
- 5 Milligrams of BioPerine
That’s an incredibly strong mix of effective ingredients.
As the supplement contains a caffeine content flirting with the upper recommended level, those who are stimulant sensitive will want to take a lower dose.
3. Sparta Nutrition KRAKEN
With Sparta Nutrition’s Kraken, you’re getting an absolutely LOADED pre-workout that may have only 200mg of caffeine, but much higher doses of DMHA and Eria Jarensis extract than we’ve ever seen. The difference to not only your performance but your mood, too, is unreal.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to use unique and interesting stimulants but doesn’t like the side effects high amounts of caffeine can have, then this could be the perfect product for you. It delivers everything it promises and even more!
In terms of the pump effects, there’s a full 4-gram dose of L-Citrulline, the correctly dosed HydroMax + Taurine water pump combination, one whole gram of agmatine, and L-Norvaline as an added bonus.
The supplements you’re used to taking will possibly give you just 1/5th of the pump that Kraken provides. Trust me, one workout with this pre-workout will leave your muscles bulging out of your clothes.
The supplement is completely creatine free which some of you may see as a negative. However, creatine is best taken at the same time at the same dose each and every day. This makes it much better suited as an additional supplement opposed to as part of a pre-workout blend.
Creatine can also dehydrate you if you don’t drink enough water and the last thing you want to be doing throughout your workout is constantly visiting the water tank and losing focus on your lifting.
They’ve also made sure to use an interesting array of flavors. Sour Gummy Bears and Sex on the Beach are both available options which should mask the ‘chalky’ taste that the HydroMax sometimes brings.
4. NutraBio PRE-Extreme
Just one scoop of this powder contains more ingredients than we’ve ever seen before! So, we better delve straight into it.
NutraBio has made sure not to use any mysterious proprietary blends in their pre-workout. Every ingredient is fully disclosed and comes in at clinical, proven doses.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the 15 grams of carbohydrates. Not many products utilize the power of carbs, but NutraBio want to make sure that you’re fully loaded with glycogen and so, have included 15 grams of CusterDextrin (highly branched cyclic dextrin).
The next blend is called Athletic Endurance and Performance Complex and that’s why there’s 6 grams of L-Citrulline DL-Malate and 2.5 grams of CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine.
There’s also an ATP Power, Strength & Recovery Complex which features 3.5 grams of L-Leucine to boost MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis), 2.5 grams of Betaine Anhydrous, 2 grams of PharmaPure Creatine Monohydrate, and 1 gram of Creatine HCI. These all work to increase your energy as well as your power output.
Next up is an Electrolyte & Hydration Optimizer with 1.5 grams of taurine, 525mg of TRAACS Calci K (calcium potassium phosphate citrate), and 189mg of Sodium Phosphate. This addition is extremely prevalent as they’ve included 3 grams total of creatine which can cause dehydration. NutraBio has really gone the extra mile to ensure that you get only benefits with PRE-EXTREME.
The final three mixes are titled Focus & Drive Stimulation Complex, Nitric Oxide Performance Matrix, and Nutrient Absorption Enhancer. In these, you’ll find a ridiculous 350mg of caffeine – far beyond what other products are offering. The caffeine is also separated into caffeine anhydrous and caffeine malate to make sure the effects are smooth and sustained.
It would take us far too long to discuss all of the ingredients and benefits of PRE-EXTREME so you’ll have to try it for yourself. Be warned, after just one scoop you may never want to try another pre-workout again!
5. Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK
Per serving, you get:
- 6000mg of Citrulline Malate
- 4000mg of Beta-Alanine
- 4000mg of BCAA in a 2:1:1 ratio
- 2000mg of L-Leucine
- 1000mg of L-Isoluecine
- 1000mg of L-Valine
- 2500mg of BetaPure Betaine
- 1300mg of Taurine
- 600mg of N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
- 500mg of Choline Bitartrate
- 360mg of L-Theanine
- 180mg of Caffeine Anhydrous
- 60mg of L-Norvaline
- 50mg of Synephrine
- 25mg of Hordenine
- 5mg of BioPerine
Alongside a testosterone support matrix which includes a blend of vitamin D3 (3,000 IU), Boron (5mg), and Zinc (30mg).
First off, let’s address the stand-out ingredient that most of you are probably questioning: caffeine. We all know how effective caffeine is. Yet, in just a 180mg dose will it really provide the same energy you normally get?
Obviously, the impact won’t be as big as other pre-workouts. However, it’s important to stress the negatives of having too much caffeine such as anxiety, shakes, and just an overwhelming sense of unease. If you really want to maximize the benefits of caffeine, then take one and a half scoops for a 270mg total.
The product also contains 4g of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio which means there’s 2 grams of the leucine to help increase muscle building and reduce muscle catabolism if you’re on a cut.
If you want a product which delivers exactly what’s on the label, then Transparent Labs are the right choice. With 13 clinically proven ingredients, your workouts will feel better than ever.
6. Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged
With 8 different blends included in the full mix, founder Kris Gethin has really delivered with his pre-workout Pre-Kaged.
First up is Pro-Pump designed to give you a ridiculous pump thanks to 6.5 grams of fermented l-citrulline and 200mg of quercetin dihydrate.
For those of you unfamiliar with the latter ingredient, quercetin is a flavonoid that’s been shown to improve endurance through increased mitochondrial biogenesis. It can also help enhance the body’s ability to utilize other ingredients in Pre-Kaged.
After Pro-Pump comes the Muscle Fuel Matrix that consists of 3.5 grams of BCAAs – 1750mg of L-Leucine, 875mg of L-Isoleucine, and 875mg of L-Valine. However, the BCAAs don’t stop there as their Anabolic Activator mix uses 3 grams of L-leucine making for 4.75mg total!
Up next is the Endura-Burn Matrix with 1.6 grams of CarnoSyn (Beta-Alanine) and 100mg of Capsimax (Capsicum Extract). Pre-Kaged really make sure that there’s no base left uncovered when it comes to your performance.
There’s really something for every area of your workout; including a strength and power matrix, hydrate and defend blend with 500mg of coconut water powder, and a neuro focus matrix.
Each blend is fully disclosed which means there’s no proprietary blends whatsoever. No secrets, no fillers – just pure performance boosters designed to give you the best workout of your life.
If you’re a fan of Kris Gethin or even if you’ve never heard of him before, Pre-Kaged doesn’t disappoint!
7. Gaspari Nutrition SuperPump 250
SuperPump 250 is an industry veteran that many lifters swore by until it was taken off the market. Now, it’s returned with an even better formula than before!
The stimulants in this powder are what set it apart from the rest. The 350mg ‘Insane Energy Blend’ contains 250mg of caffeine anhydrous, 70mg of DMAA, and 30mg of Theobroma cacao extract.
Combining high levels of caffeine and DMAA together in one supplement means that this pre-workout packs a real punch for both your energy levels and mood. Yet, as we’ve stated earlier on, we prefer about 50mg of DMAA so you may want to take a reduced dose.
In terms of pumps, there’s 3 grams of L-Citrulline and 750mg of Agmatine Silicate. SuperPump really does what it says on the tub. Binding silica with arginine improves the bioavailability and absorption rates. We recommend drinking a lot of water when taking this product as taurine is included, too; an ingredient which helps with water-based pumps.
SuperPump is primarily focused on providing an incredible pump which is why most of the ingredients are geared towards boosting NO levels and improving blood flow. Yet, with 250mg of Caffeine and 70mg of DMAA, you don’t need to worry about sacrificing your energy levels whatsoever.
8. RedCon1 Total War
Don’t let the short ingredients list fool you, Total War packs everything you need to succeed.
Right off the bat, there’s 6 grams of Citrulline Malate which acts as a potent Nitric Oxide booster for increased blood flow and best of all, pumps. This is coupled this with 1 gram of agmatine and 1 gram of taurine for more of a water-based pump.
You’ll also find 3.2 grams of beta-alanine – the full clinical dose shown to buffer lactic acid for better endurance, power, and strength.
Total War also brings the perfect level of caffeine at 250mg. That’s not too much so that you get the shakes and not too little that you don’t feel it.
There’s more stimulants in the form of N-Phenyl Dimethylamine and 100mg of DMHA. All of this makes for a more sustained, smoother energy increase.
One of the biggest selling points is that Total War contains no artificial colors whatsoever. This means you don’t need to worry about any of the possible ill side effects from unnatural coloring.
All in all, Total War is a very well-rounded pre-workout supplement that we expect to see making huge waves in the fitness industry.
9. Inspired Nutraceuticals DVST8 White Cut
First and foremost, we have to cut to the best part: Inspired Nutraceuticals have combined three forms of caffeine alongside DMHA for an energy blend that’ll blow your socks off.
These all make part of their ThermoFocus Blast which includes 100mg of caffeine anhydrous, 50mg of caffeine citrate, and 50mg of di-caffeine malate. This makes for a total of 162.5mg of caffeine, so we’ve found the real sweet spot to be around 1.5-2 scoops for full effect.
There is a big issue in that they do not disclose how much DMHA is being used and therefore, it can be tricky to adjust the dosing. We suggest starting with one scoop and only increasing if you feel it absolutely necessary.
In terms of pump-enhancements, there’s 4 grams of l-citrulline in each scoop. Kicking the dose up to two scoops dramatically increases this to 8 grams! You’ll also receive 2 grams of betaine per scoop – another reason to take 1.5-2 scoops if you can tolerate it as the clinical dose of betaine is 2.5 grams.
Our personal favorite flavor is the mango-tasting California Gold. Yet, those who like a strong blueberry flavor will love their Pacific Crush!
It’s a warm welcome from us for Inspired Nutraceuticals who have seemingly outdone themselves with the return of DVST8.
10. Cellucor C4 Ultimate
Per scoop, you get 6 grams of citrulline malate which shows that Cellucor isn’t playing around. Not only have they used the full dose, but they’ve used citrulline malate which is even more effective at increasing l-arginine levels than taking straight l-arginine due to its bioavailability.
There are actually six ingredients all designed to increase your pump! The citrulline malate isn’t working alone. You’ll also find betaine, arginine AKG, and nitrosigine.
As well as this, there’s 300mg of caffeine! That’s definitely enough to avoid having to go in for another scoop. 250-300mg of caffeine is the range where caffeine is the most effective.
By using the upper limits of this range, Cellucor has ensured that you’re going to feel awake, alert, and ready to crush your workout.
Lastly, there’s 3.2 grams of Beta Alanine. Once again, this means you don’t have to double scoop which can really ramp the costs up.
Unfortunately, you may want to increase the amount of betaine as there isn’t the full clinical dose. Also, at 1 gram of creatine, it is hardly effective for saturating the muscles. Creatine is better supplemented alongside a pre-workout opposed to as part of one anyway.
1. How do I choose the best pre workout supplement?
The best supplements will contain a combination of ingredients which boost your mood, energy, strength, and endurance capabilities. They’ll also include some sort of pump inducing ingredients to increase blood flow to the muscles to establish a better mind-muscle connection and help improve the appearance of your muscles throughout your gym time.
Here are the common ingredients you’ll want to look for:
• Caffeine: 200 – 300mg depending on your tolerance level
• Betaine: 1.25 – 2.5 grams
• BCAAs: 5 – 10 grams in a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine
• Citrulline Malate: 6 – 8 grams
Ingredients such as beta alanine and creatine are undoubtedly useful for performance. However, they’re best taken every single day at a steady dose. This makes them helpful in pre-workouts, but not necessary, and far better taken alongside your supplements and diet opposed to as part of a blend. Another choice and definitely worth checking supplement would be Crazy Bulk’s No2 Max Nitric Oxide Booster.