The 6 Best Pre-Workout Supplements of 2020

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Athletes and bodybuilders use pre-workout supplements as an integral part of their workout. These are used for boosting workout performance, muscle strength, endurance and recovery (1).

Most pre-workout supplements contain ingredients like caffeine, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), creatine, nitric oxide, vitamins, and other substances that have proven to aid muscle strength and repair (2, 3, 4).

However, the sheer variety of pre-workout supplements in the market can be confusing, especially for beginners.

It is imperative to select a supplement that suits your requirements, contains the ingredients in the right dosage, is non-habit forming, and affordable.

Let us look at the top 6 pre-workout supplements of different types, their dosage, and side effects.

Top Pre-Workout Supplements: Our Picks

1. Best Pre-Workout Supplement with Testosterone: Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout

2. Best Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout Supplement: Performance Lab Sport Pre

3. Best Gluten-Free Pre-Workout Supplement: Old School Vintage Blast Pre-Workout

4. Best Natural Pre-Workout Supplement: Promix Pre-Workout

5. Best Pre-Workout Supplement With Nitric Oxide: BSN N.O. –Xplode Pre-Workout

6. Best Overall Pre-Workout Supplement: Legion Athletic Pulse Pre-Workout Drink

1. Best Pre-Workout Supplement with Testosterone: Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout

Testosterone is a male hormone that regulates the sex drive, mood, and muscle-building activities. Modern lifestyle has effects that are detrimental to the human body, which also affects the production of testosterone. Many athletes and bodybuilders use supplements with testosterone to give their natural muscle-building abilities an extra push.

About Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout

Transparent Labs is a US-based health supplement company known for making “clinically effective” doses backed by science, with ingredients of the best quality. Their Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout is one of the few pre-workout supplements that include testosterone in their formula.

The supplement contains a testosterone complex that gives your exercise an extra boost, thus, helping you sustain workout sessions longer. It also includes 19 active ingredients to give your body “pump,” including nitric oxide– a vasodilator that relaxes your muscles.

In addition to being gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan-friendly, the supplement is naturally-made, with no artificial sweeteners, coloring, or preservatives.

What it Contains:

Each serving (22.08 gm) of Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout contains:

  • Citrulline Malate 2:1 – 6000 mg
  • Beta-Alanine – 4000 mg
  • BCAA 2:1:1: – 4000 mg
  • BetaPure (TM) Betaine Anhydrous – 2500 mg
  • Taurine – 1300 mg
  • N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine – 600 mg
  • Choline Bitartrate – 500 mg
  • L-Theanine – 360 mg
  • Caffeine Anhydrous – 180 mg
  • Mucuna Pruriens (98% L-Dopa) – 70 mg
  • L-Norvaline – 60 mg
  • Synephrine – 50 mg
  • Hordenine – 25 mg
  • BioPerine – 5 mg
  • Vitamin D3 (as Cholecalciferol) – 3000 IU
  • Zinc (as Zinc AAC) – 30 mg
  • Boron (as Boron Citrate) – 5 mg

Each 662 gm container of Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout contains 30 servings. It is best taken 20 to 30 minutes prior to your workout with water. The supplement is available in five different flavors: Blue Raspberry, Tropical Punch, Sour Grape, Green Apple, and Strawberry Lemonade.

The Pros:

  • Packed with testosterone-increasing ingredients
  • Gluten-free and Non-GMO
  • Contains BCAAs
  • No artificial sweeteners or preservatives

Summary: Transparent Labs is an established name in the health and wellness industry, despite being founded just six years back in 2014. Their Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre-Workout contains a potent mix of workout boosting ingredients that aid muscle building, stamina building, and recovery. It is one of the best pre-workout supplements with testosterone.

2. Best Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout Supplement: Performance Lab Sport Pre

Not everyone responds in the same manner to caffeine, which is a strong stimulant. However, it is found in several workout supplements. Only a few manufacturers are able to achieve the perfect mix of stimulant-free ingredients without compromising on the quality and effectiveness of the product.

About Performance Lab Sport Pre

Performance Labs is a UK-based food supplement firm that was established in 2015. The company is steadfast in its mission to deliver nutrients of “unparalleled purity” and uses a patent technique called ‘NutriGenesis.’

NutriGenesis is a technique of cultivating micronutrients without them losing any nutritional value in the process. Performance Lab Sport Pre uses a clean formula with potent ingredients in their pre-workout mix.

The product replaces stimulants like caffeine with creatine (as Creapure, a patent ingredient). This vegan-friendly supplement is manufactured in GMP-compliant facilities and is devoid of soy, gluten, egg, fish, nuts, wheat, synthetic additives, and allergens. It is also tested for banned substances.

What it Contains:

Each serving (6 Nutricaps capsules) of Performance Lab Sport Pre contains:

  1. Sodium (from Himalayan Pink salt) – 140 mg
  2. NutriGenesis (R) Iron+  – 2.5 mg
  3. Setria (R) Performance Blend [L-Citrulline (Kyowa Quality), L-Glutathione (Setria)] – 2200 mg
  4. Creapure (R) PH 10 [contains 94% Creatine Monohydrate (83% creatine)] – 1250 mg
  5. CarnoSyn (R) Beta Alanine – 800 mg
  6. Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pinus Pinaster) (95% proanthocyanidins) – 100 mg
  7. Himalayan Pink Salt – 350 mg

Each bottle of Performance Lab Sport Pre contains 120 capsules or 20 servings. The firm recommends taking a serving of six capsules approximately 45-60 minutes before your workout.

The Pros:

  • Vegan-friendly and Non-GMO
  • Free from additives, colors, and preservatives
  • NutriGenesis of vitamins and minerals for better efficiency
  • Made in GMP-certified facilities

Summary: Performance Lab Sport Pre is one of the best caffeine-free pre-workout supplements. It includes diverse, patented ingredients and uses the NutriGenesis technique for better results. The company makes all its products with a “clean formula,” meaning without any additives.

3. Best Gluten-Free Pre-Workout Supplement: Old School Vintage Blast Pre-Workout

Many people are gluten intolerant and look for products made from alternative ingredients. Many food supplements come with a claim to be “gluten-free,” but there are few which come with the reliability of a trusted name like Old School.

About Old School Vintage Blast Pre-Workout

Old School Labs is a California-based food supplement firm that was founded in 2013 with a view to bringing back the ethos in the food supplement business of California’s “golden era” of bodybuilding.

Their Vintage Blast Pre-Workout is imbued with the same founding principles. The supplement is a non-GMO and gluten-free powder that is also keto-friendly and uses no artificial sweeteners.

The supplement takes pride in its two-stage formula; which means that it uses different propensities of different nutrients on the basis of their absorbability in the body in order “to start and finish strong.”

The all-natural nitric oxide elevating pre-workout powder is tested by third-parties and contains no substances that are artificial or banned.

What it Contains:

Each serving (15.3 gm) of Old School Vintage Blast Pre-Workout contains:

  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) – 250 mg
  • Niacin (as Inositol Hexanicotinate) – 30 mg
  • Vitamin B6 (as Pyridoxine HCI) – 10 mg
  • Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin) – 50 mcg
  • Pantothenic Acid (as Calcium D Pentothinate) – 10 mg
  • Magnesium (as Magnesium Oxide) – 50 mg
  • Sodium (as Sodium Chloride) – 50 mg
  • Potassium (as Potassium Citrate) – 99 mg
  • Stage 1 Group: Start Strong
  • L-Citrulline Malate – 5000 mg
  • Beta-Alanine – 1000 mg
  • L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate – 1000 mg
  • L-Carnitine Tartrate – 250 mg
  • Caffeine Anhydrous – 150 mg
  • Stage 2 Group: Finish Strong
  • D-Aspartic Acid – 2000 mg
  • N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine – 250 mg

Each container of Old School Vintage (306 gm) contains 20 servings. It is advised to take one serving 15-30 minutes before working out, starting with half a serving for tolerance assessment.

The product comes in the Blueberry Lemonade flavor and doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners. Vouching for guaranteed results, the company offers a full refund in case of unsatisfied customers.

The Pros:

  • Keto-friendly
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Made in the USA in FDA-certified facilities
  • Third-party tested

Summary: Old School Vintage Blast Pre-workout mix is a one of a kind supplement in its technique to release nutrients in the body in two staggered stages. The product is claimed by the company to be completely non-habit forming and containing all-natural ingredients with no banned or artificial components.

4. Best Natural Pre-Workout Supplement: Promix Pre-Workout

Many health supplement manufacturers make tall claims regarding their products while using important ingredients in non-effective doses. Thus, it is best to select products with the right proportion, known and natural components, and minimal artificial additives.

About Promix Pre-Workout

Promix is a Florida-based firm founded in 2011 and strives for manufacturing supplements that have “measurable positive benefit.” It avoids ingredients that may look good on the label but falter on the overall performance that they promise.

Promix Pre-workout is a powder-form supplement that is made from natural ingredients and is available in five flavors: Lemonade, Wildberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Limeade, and Tingle Free lemonade.

The non-GMO supplement is free from soy, corn, and gluten, and even the flavoring is from natural sources (crystallized lemon juice). Furthermore, it has no hormones, chemical bleaches, sweeteners, or additives, either.

In addition to aiding your workout, the product also contains a dosage of N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, a widely known nootropic agent, to boost your cognitive strength and help release dopamine—a hormone which regulates moods, pleasure, and general inspiration.

Every batch of its Promix is tested by third parties for purity and is manufactured in cGMP-certified facilities.

What it Contains:

Each serving (2 scoops of 10.5 gm) of Promix Pre-Workout contains:

  • Beta-Alanine – 3.2 gm
  • N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine – 3 gm
  • Taurine – 1 gm
  • Caffeine Anhydrous — 200 mg

Other ingredients include Vitamins C and B-12, non-GMO cane sugar, whole-leaf stevia leaf extract, crystallized lemon juice, and natural color and flavor depending on the variant.

Each container of 420 gm of Promix Pre-workout contains 40 servings. It is recommended to take a serving (2 scoops) 20-30 minutes before the workout session with water.

The Pros:

  • All-natural ingredients
  • No hormones, additives, or artificial sweeteners
  • Available in exciting natural flavors
  • Contains nootropic properties

Summary: Promix Pre-Workout is a great natural pre-workout supplement with the right dose of ingredients in effective quantities. The product is gluten-free and comes in several flavors, which are all extracted from natural ingredients. Its quality is assured by third-party testing and cGMP compliance as well.

5. Best Pre-Workout Supplement With Nitric Oxide: BSN N.O. –Xplode Pre-Workout

Nitric Oxide is widely known to dilate your blood vessels and lower blood pressure. The discovery was made by three biologists in 1998 for which they even won the 1998 Nobel Prize.

The discovery was not lost on the health supplement industry, which has now begun to consider the signaling function of nitric oxide in the vascular system to leverage its vasodilating properties.

About BSN N.O. –Xplode Pre-Workout

Bio-Engineered Supplements and Nutrition Inc. or BSN was founded in 2001 and has been one of the oldest players in the food supplements market.

Their N.O. –Xplode Pre-Workout comes packed with three different complexes to give you a crucial pre-workout boost.

The “Master Performance Blend” is a combination of Myogenic matrix, endure shot, Thermic Energy, NO Alpha Fusion, and Shock Composite to give you power, pump, and endurance to sustain those grueling workout sessions.

What it Contains:

Each serving (1 scoop of 18.5 gm) of BSN N.O. –Xplode Pre-Workout contains:

Myogenic Matrix – 5.1 gm

  • Creatine Blend (Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Anhydrous)
  • Taurine
  • Di-Calcium Phosphate
  • Di-Sodium Phosphate
  • AstraGIN proprietary blend (Astragalus membranaceus extract [root]) (Panax Notoginseng [root]) Endure Shot

Endura Shot – 2.9 gm

  • CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine
  • Potassium Bicarbonate
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Magnesium Oxide
  • Cholecalciferol 

Thermic Energy – 1.3 gm

  • N-Acetyl Tyrosine L-Tyrosine
  • Caffeine Anhydrous
  • Grapefruit
  • Bioflavonoid complex

N.O. Alpha Fusion – 1 gm

  • L-Citrulline Malate
  • Danshen Extract (Salvia miltiorrhiza)(root)
  • Grape Skin Extract
  • Phyllanthus Emblica Extract (fruit)(CAPROS)
  • Hawthorn Extract (aerial parts)
  • Folic Acid

Shock Composite – 290 mg

  • DMAE Bitartrate (2-Dimethylaminoethanol)
  • DL-Phenylalanine
  • Nicotinic Acid
  • Calcium D-Pantothenate
  • Toothed Clubmoss Extract (aerial parts)
  • Thiamin HCl
  • Pyroxridoxine HCI
  • Cyanocobalamin

Each 1.11 kg unit of BSN N.O. –Xplode container has approximately 60 servings. It is advised to take one serving of one scoop 15-20 minutes before your workout with cold water.

The supplement comes in several different flavors: Blue Raz, Cherry Limeade, Fruit Punch, Grape, Green Apple, Pineapple Vice, Watermelon, and Scorched Cherry.

The Pros:

  • Three different complexes to give you lasting pump and endurance
  • Caffeine for extra focus
  • Two decades of industry experience
  • Available in diverse flavors

Summary: BSN is a respected name in the health supplement domain and has won multiple awards. There are very few pre-workout mixes available in the market which provide such a diverse range of ingredients and come in different flavors. BSN N.O. –Xplode Pre-Workout is surely one of the most effective pre-workout supplements with nitric oxide.

6. Best Overall Pre-Workout Supplement: Legion Athletic Pulse Pre-Workout Drink

Pulse by Legion is one of the very few brands which has been able to blend a diverse range of ingredients in effective doses to create what is likely one of the best pre-workout powders available.

About Legion Athletic Pulse Pre-Workout Drink

Legion Athletic was founded by Mike Matthews, a bestselling author on health and fitness. The inspiration behind establishing Legion was to create a brand of supplements based on “pure science” at a fair price.

Legion Athletic Pulse is arguably the only brand that packs a powerful dose in each of its main ingredients. It contains a variety of substances that not only improve the workout sessions by increasing muscle strength and endurance, but also enhance energy and focus.

Legion Athletic contains no artificial sweeteners, is made in the USA, and uses no proprietary blends, which enhances transparency and trust in the product. The supplement comes in 14 different flavors such as Cherry Limeade, Fruit Punch, Grape, and Green Apple, among others.

What it Contains:

Each serving (2 scoops of 23.76 gm) of Legion Athletic Pulse contains:

  • L-Citrulline DL-Malate 2:1 – 8 gm
  • CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine – 3.6 gm
  • Betaine Anhydrous – 2.5 gm
  • Caffeine Anhydrous – 350 mg
  • L-Theanine – 350 mg
  • AlphaSize Alpha-Glyceryl Phophryl Choline (GPC) 50% – 300 mg

Each unit of Pulse contains 498.96 gm or about 21 servings. The product guide recommends taking one serving (one scoop) 15—30 minutes before a moderate workout, and two scoops before an intense workout.

The powder also comes with a money-back guarantee, which can be availed if you are not 100% happy with the results.

The Pros:

  • Made in GMP-compliant facilities in the USA
  • Naturally sweetened and colored
  • No proprietary blends and 100% transparency 
  • Money-back guarantee

Summary: Legion Athletic Pulse is a premium brand in the pre-workout category and is one of the best overall. The powder uses no proprietary blends and contains effective ingredients in scientifically-measured doses. When it comes to pre-workout supplements, look no further.

The Dosage of Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-workout supplements are generally available in powdered or pill form and are consumed with water. It is often advised to take these 15 to 45 minutes before the scheduled workout.

The dosage, while depending on the recommended serving size, usually ranges from 1-2 scoops or pills. You must take care not to consume more than the suggested quantity because supplements contain high quality and concentrated ingredients like stimulants and vasodilators.

As a matter of precaution, you should start with half the recommended dosage and slowly increase it as you build a tolerance to the supplement.

Since these supplements and the claims they make are not held up to the stringent rules of the FDA, be sure to start taking them only after consulting your physician (5).

Summary: Pre-workout supplements should be taken as per the recommended dosage before workouts for the best results. You must choose the right product, and go for supplements with quality assurance and certifications to ensure quality.

The Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-workout supplements are not known to cause any severe side effects, but studies have shown that they could be hazardous to health (6). This happens when a pre-workout supplement contains banned substances, and its sustained consumption over a period of time leads to adverse effects.

Manufacturers sometimes load their products with a high quantity of ingredients, sometimes even beyond the permissible limits. For instance, many supplements contain a high dosage of caffeine (up to 500 mg) against the DRA of 200-400 mg. This might result in symptoms like headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety, drowsiness, and jitters (7).

Similarly, the intake of other popular ingredients like creatine, BCAA’s, and sodium present in such supplements could lead to symptoms like headaches, bloating, issues with digestion, water retention, and tingling sensations (8, 9, 10).

These supplements also contain artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and flavors to enhance the taste. When consumed over time, these additives could also pose issues. Even the amount of water consumed by these supplements may cause side effects (11).

Hence, it is suggested to adopt a cautious approach and follow simple precautions like taking lower doses of the supplements to avoid any discomfort.

Another option is to consume the supplement by spreading the intake in more than one dose. A daily dose can be divided into smaller servings to lessen the chances of any discomfort caused by consuming large quantities.

Additionally, always consult an expert before starting such supplements or changing their dosage. People on other medication, pregnant women, children, and other vulnerable people should avoid them.

Summary: Though not potentially harmful, some pre-workout supplements could cause discomfort owing to reasons like the presence of an ingredient in large quantities or consuming a higher amount in a single dose. The best approach, therefore, is to have a proper understanding of the exact quantity of the ingredients present in your supplement.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do All Pre-Workout Supplements Boost Muscle Strength and Repair?

No. You need to pick the right supplement that serves the specific purpose you are looking for. For this, you must be well-versed with the effects of different ingredients on the body and muscles.

Different ingredients in the pre-workout supplement help the body in the varied aspects of the workout. For instance, creatine as a supplement is known to increase power and strength, whereas caffeine increases endurance in the body.

Thus, a pre-workout supplement should be chosen according to the specific workout goals you are trying to achieve, like increasing endurance, building muscles, or gaining strength, etc.

How Can I Choose the Most Suitable Pre-Workout Supplement?

Here are some other things to keep in mind while choosing the best pre-workout supplement for your needs:

  • Analyze the ingredients used in the composition of the supplement and their proportion.
  • Opt for supplements being tested by third parties for quality.
  • Understand the possible side effects and interference with existing medication.

It is important to keep in mind the above points since an overdose, or the lack of an ingredient in the supplement might not make the supplement less effective but even lead to some unwanted side effects.

I Can’t Afford Pre-Workout Supplements; What Are Some Good Food Items to Eat Before a Workout?

High-energy fruits and food items are great substitutes for pre-workout supplements. Thus, you can resort to increasing the intake of natural energy-giving items like bananas or a cup of coffee as an alternative. What’s more, you won’t have to worry about the side effects that supplements could probably cause.

The Final Note

The rising demand for pre-workout supplements all over the world is a testament to their popularity. Using a combination of effective ingredients, these supplements help enhance the quality and duration of your workout by supporting better muscle strength, muscle repair, endurance, or stamina.

While they are mostly safe and have no significant side effects, pre-workout supplements should be taken in moderation and under expert guidance. You will see the best results if you choose the right product and consume it the right way.

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