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Best pre-workout

Which pre-workouts are best?

Many people take pre-workouts before they hit the gym to help increase their energy and motivation. This can lead to better results and, potentially, help you reach your conditioning goals more quickly. 

Anytime you are taking a supplement, it is always best to stick with reputable brands because they are not only proven to be effective but can also be relied on to use high-quality ingredients.

For example, the company behind Cellucor C4 Original pre-workout has sold over 3 billion servings worldwide. It has been making supplements for 15 years, so there is little chance of it containing unsafe ingredients.

What to know before you buy a pre-workout

What is a pre-workout?

Pre-workouts are a supplement designed to take before you exercise to help you get the most out of your workout. They generally include three main ingredient categories, including stimulants, pump enhancers and nootropics.

Stimulants help increase your energy by blocking receptors in your brain for the chemicals that make you feel tired. This allows you to exercise harder and for longer than you might otherwise.

Pump enhancers can work via several mechanisms depending on the ingredient in question. Most increase the amount of nitric oxide in your bloodstream, which in turn increases the blood flow to your muscles. Others aid in the production of ATP, which is your body’s energy source. Both of these can help improve performance and decrease delayed onset muscle soreness after a workout.

Nootropics are generally associated with improved cognitive performance, and they are said to do this by increasing the blood and oxygen flow to the brain. When used in a pre-workout, they help improve motivation and mental focus.

Should you take a pre-workout?

Whether or not you should take a pre-workout is a personal choice that no one can answer for you. Many athletes achieve optimal conditioning without the use of any supplements at all. However, many others struggle to work up the energy or motivation to head to the gym every day or simply don’t see the results they would like. If you fall into this latter group, a pre-workout might be the solution you desire. For even better results, you may want to consider also using a post-workout protein powder to give your muscles the building blocks they need.

Pills vs. powder

Pre-workouts come in both pill and powder form, each of which has its own benefits. Without a doubt, pills are more convenient. They are easier to transport and don’t require any messy mixing before use. However, they can take longer for the body to absorb, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. Another issue is achieving the proper doses in pills since they are limited in size, and it is difficult to get enough grams of the various active ingredients into them.

Powders are easier for the body to absorb quickly and don’t require you to swallow several large pills, which is a struggle for some people. Also, you can easily tweak the dosage to suit your personal needs.

Features to look for in a quality pre-workout

Amino acids

Amino acids play a significant role in building muscle. They are produced naturally in your body, but you can increase your levels through foods and supplements. Your body uses 21 types of amino acids, but nine are considered the most essential. Many pre-workouts include essential amino acids, most commonly branch-chain amino acids like leucine and arginine.


Many gym-goers take creatine separately to help them improve their athletic performance and build more muscle mass. However, you can also find pre-workouts that contain creatine, so there is one less supplement you have to buy.


Caffeine is the most commonly used stimulant in pre-workouts because it is highly effective and well-tolerated by most people. The caffeine in pre-workouts may come from green tea, coffee or other sources.

Proprietary blends

Along with the above ingredients, most pre-workouts include proprietary blends that may contain vitamins, extracts, herbs and other ingredients to make them more effective. You should always read the ingredient label carefully of any pre-workout you are considering to ensure it doesn’t contain any ingredients to which you may be sensitive.


Pre-workouts come in flavored and unflavored options. If you will be mixing your pre-workout with water, a flavored option is usually the best choice. However, if mixing your pre-workout into juice, a protein shake or other beverage, an unflavored option will be more suitable.

How much you can expect to spend on a pre-workout

Most pre-workouts cost $15-$40 for 30 servings.

Pre-workout FAQ

Are pre-workouts safe?

A. Pre-workouts are generally considered safe. However, they may be unsuitable for people with certain heart conditions or who are sensitive to stimulants. However, the FDA does not regulate them, so it is best to stick with reputable brands and read the ingredient labels carefully.

How long before a workout should I take a pre-workout?

A. It is generally recommended to take your pre-workout 20-30 minutes before exercising so it has time to start working.

What are the best pre-workouts to buy?

Top pre-workout

Cellucor C4 Original pre-workout

What you need to know: Touted many gym-goers for its efficacy, C4 Original pre-workout should give you that extra boost you need before hitting the gym.

What you’ll love: It’s available in a wide range of flavors and dissolves quickly in water without leaving any grittiness behind.

What you should consider: It produces a tingling feeling in some people that may be uncomfortable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top pre-workout for the money

Optimum Nutrition Essential Amin. O

What you need to know: If you want energy without a lot of caffeine, Essential Amin. O is the way to go.

What you’ll love: It contains a blend of vital amino acids to help you get maximum results from your workouts. Many people find it provides not just energy but also mental focus too.

What you should consider: It’s not calorie and carbohydrate-free.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer

What you need to know: In addition to 100 milligrams of caffeine, it also contains electrolytes to keep you hydrated.  It is suitable for vegans, is gluten-free, and is non-GMO Project certified. 

What you’ll love: It's easy to mix as you only need one scoop in ice-cold water.

What you should consider: Vega Sport used a new formula, so previous users might find the taste somewhat different. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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