When looking for the best pre workout solutions most people will head straight for the supplements and with good reason, they are quick, convenient and are packed with essential ingredients that can help you to train to your maximum. Of course, there are pre-workout meals or snacks that can also provide a boost and we will cover those along with our pre-workout buying guide at the bottom of this post – but to start, we tested a range of supplements designed to give you the best pre-workout boost and have compiled our results here to help you make the biggest gains during your workout.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements
There are hundreds of pre-workout supplements on the market and choosing the right one for you can be tricky. In truth, compiling a list like this is difficult as everyone has different needs, varying levels of training intensity and volume and different nutritional plans. That being said, this list should provide enough detail to allow you to make an educated decision on which supplement would be best for you and all of these options will benefit those looking to increase strength, focus, potential hypertrophy and reduce levels of fatigue whilst undertaking a weight training workout.
Blackwolf has been around for a few years now and has always been a brand that has impressed us, but they have recently relaunched their Pre-Workout supplement and have three excellent options to choose from – one of which is caffeine free which is ideal for anyone who either wants to avoid caffeine or likes to work out late at night.
In terms of cost, Blackwolf is not the cheapest option but it is absolutely packed with the good stuff and will have you full of energy, fully focused and lasting longer during your workouts. Each 18.5g serving is made up of 11 key ingredients, all of which are designed to boost your physical and mental performance. There are 6000mg of L-Citrulline Malate (twice as much as MyProtein), 3200mg of Beta-Alanine, 3000mg of Creatine, 200mg of caffeine (in 2 of the 3 flavours), 1000mg of L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate as well as 6 other key ingredients that all improve performance, focus and concentration.
Blackwolf is endorsed by former olympians and in our testing we felt more benefit from the Blackwolf pre-workout than we did with any other brand. There are three flavours to choose from – with the Green Apple and Blue Raspberry flavours both containing caffeine and the Fruit Punch flavour being caffeine free.
What we enjoyed most from all three flavours was the improved performance we had when lifting on heavy compound exercises (with a couple of reps improvement seen in first couple of sets) but also the lack of tingling and sweating that some other brands tend to induce.
Blackwolf seem to have gone all out to make this flagship product really stand out and the fact that they have spent years working towards this is a testament to their commitment to excellence. Find out more about Blackwolf and get the best price when you buy direct using our link below.
4Gauge Pre Workout
4Gauge is another premium pre-workout supplement and this is one of the purest mixes you can find. Manufactured here in the UK as well as in the USA, 4Gauge are one of the most transparent companies we tested when it comes to discussing exactly what is in their products. If you are looking for a supplement that is going to give you maximum energy for your gym sessions and will promote positive recovery without being loaded with any of the bad stuff then 4Gauge is an excellent option.
There are a few things that set 4Gauge apart from the competition. First up, they do not use any ‘proprietary blends’ in their products – this is a term used by some companies to hide the amount of certain ingredients in their mix – you won’t find this with 4Gauge. Everything that goes in to this supplement is research backed and clinically dosed which means you get the right amount of each nutrient or stimulant and won’t be left sweating out the bad stuff. This is not a cheap pre-workout but at the same time it does offer good value for money when you consider the high quality of ingredients that go in to it and that everything is GMP approved.
There are of course no banned substances in this product and there are also no artificial sweeteners that the cheaper brands do contain. In terms of what you do get, you will find 150mg of caffeine – that may sound low compared to some brands but they are very open about the reasoning for this – as the other natural ingredients that are included will give a better overall effect on the body – and with 200mg of L-Theanine you will be super focused for your workout as well as benefitting from it long after you have finished lifting weights.
Other key ingredients found in 4Gauge are 1000mg of creatine, 6000mg of L-Citrulline, 300mg of red beet, 500mg of L-Carnitine and 100mg of Rhodiola Rosea which helps fight off fatigue as well as keeping you mentally focused. There are further recovery boosting benefits to be found in the 300mg of coconut water powder which is packed with hydration boosting electrolytes.
There are just 5 calories per 14g serving and each container has 20 14g servings which should last a good 4 to 6 weeks at least.
We enjoyed the natural ingredient profile of 4Gauge, the great tasting berry flavour and ultimately how it made us feel for our workouts and beyond. No horrible tingling sensations or sweats and really getting the feeling of a physical and mental boost during heavy lifting workouts.
Without a doubt, 4Gauge is one of preferred pre workout options.
The Pre-Workout (MyProtein)
The Pre-Workout by MyProtein is one of our favourite pre workout supplements thanks to it having the perfect balance of caffeine, creatine and a range of essential vitamins that will not only boost your performance in the gym but also promote recovery following your workout.
It’s not the cheapest option by a long shot but it does over excellent value for money with 30 servings per tub and an extensive list of vitamins and ingredients. Each serving provides 175g of caffeine, 2000mg of creatine, 1000mg of leucine, 3000mg of L-Citrulline Malate and a whole host of vitamins including Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Thiamin and Niacin. Some of the caffeine is made up of Guarana extract and overall this pre-workout supplement has a really good overall profile that should have you flying through your weights session.
Each serving is 14g in total and should be mixed with 300-400ml of water and it is advised to consume it around 30 prior to your workout. There are 6 flavours to choose from with Blue Raspberry being our favourite of the two we tested (Fruit Punch was the other) but both were perfectly palatable and the Blue Raspberry was actually enjoyable.
We found when using The Pre-Workout that we had a noticeable improvement in alertness, focus and were able to push out an average of 1-2 extra reps per set with compound lifts.
The main reason for putting The Pre-Workout in our top two is that it has an overall ideal blend of ingredients and has more benefits than simply pepping you before and during your workout. It also comes from Europes premier supplement retailer which makes it a safe choice in our eyes. Always check the ingredients before taking and be sure to follow all safety advice given by the manufacturer.
Iron Labs AC8
Iron Labs is a well known and reputable supplement brand and the AC8 Xtreme pre-workout supplement is one of its leading products. It is manufactured in the UK and is one of the more budget pre-workouts available that does a decent job.
Each container contains 40 7.5g servings which should be mixed with cold water and consumed 30 minutes before your workout. Within each 7.5g serving you will find 200mg of caffeine, 1.5g of creatine monohydrate, 1.25g of dextrose monohydrate (giving a further energy boost and no doubt sweetening the flavour), 1g of Beta-Alanine, 1g of L-Glutamine, 1g of L-Taurine, 0.75g of Citrulline Malate and Vitamin B12 which can help reduce fatigue.
Beginners are advised to stick to the 7.5g daily dosage whilst more advanced users might opt for a double dosage.
There are 4 flavours to choose from and we tested the Tropical Blast flavour which was pleasant to drink and not too sweet as found in similar products from other manufacturers. It was certainly evident in our workout that we had used a pre-workout supplement and the caffeine levels from a single scoop felt about right – leaving you feeling alert but not with too many tingles or hot sweats.
The inclusion of Glutamine is a welcome addition thanks to its muscle recovery properties and we had no issues with focus, energy or fatigue during our workout. Iron Labs do offer a range of other supplements that you can stack with AC8 and they include BCAA’s, Creatine and extreme blend that gives a zinc-magnesium boost. We would suggest the BCAA’s and the creatine along with a single 7.5g measure of AC8 would be the perfect combination.
Overall, if you are looking for a pre-workout supplement that you can use consistently and have a modest budget then the AC8 mix is a top option.
Cellucor C4 original is marketed as America’s best selling pre-workout supplement and it is of course available in the UK. There are 8 flavours to choose from and we love the two size options with 195g and 390g packs providing either 30 or 60 servings in total. We tested the Orange Burst flavour but with the 8 flavours in total there should be something to everyone’s taste.
Enough of the flavourings, let’s take a look at the good stuff and give you the breakdown of ingredients. Each serving size is 6.5g and is packed full of multi-vitamins as well as ingredients you would find in your usual pre-workout supplement. You will find a healthy dose of Vitamin C (37.5mg), Vitamin B6 (0.5mg) Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 all of which will not only help you in the gym but also boost your overall health when taken with a well balanced nutritional plan (yes we hate the word diet).
In addition to the vitamins listed above you also get 150mg of caffeine (equivalent to two cups of coffee), 1.5g of creatine, 1g of Arginine (which helps with your pump thanks to it promoting the production of nitric oxide in the body), 1.6g of Carnosyn Beta-Alanine (which is a patented ingredient that aids endurance for strength based activities) and 200mg of L-Tyrosine.
We found C4 to be a tasty and easy to drink pre-workout drink and could happily use this on a daily basis before a workout. We’d prefer there to be a slightly higher level of caffeine and creatine but you can supplement the latter further if you wish. For anyone hitting the gym first thing in a morning, C4 will give you a great boost, but you will need some post-workout recovery in addition to just C4 if you want to give your muscles the best chance of recovery and repair.
JYM Supplement Science
Supplement Science are a big brand in the fitness industry and their JYM pre-workout product offers equally big portions and some heavy hitting numbers that are designed to give you the best chance of a big training session when you hit the gym. Although it achieves all of these aims, it is unfortunately pretty big on price too and is easily the most expensive of all options we reviewed – that being said, this is a fully stacked supplement so there will be no need to add more to the mix and with so many benefits it will be worth the extra investment for some users.
Each portion is a staggering 26g and resembles more of a protein scoop than a pre workout scoop but for that you get some extras that none of the other supplements we reviewed offer. Each container will provide around 30 servings and each serving contains 2g of creatine, 2g of CarnoSyn Beta Alanine, 1.5g of Betaine, 600mg of L-Cysteine, 1g of Taurine, 150mg of AlphaSize, 500mg Beetroot extract, 3g of Leucine, 1.5g of Isoleucine, 1.5g of Valine, 1.5g of Tyrosine, 300mg of Caffeine, 6g of Citrulline Malate and 50mcg of Huperzine. This really does contain the biggest range of strength, focus and energy boosting properties of all these supplements and also offers the best for recovery too. There have been studies performed that suggest the Amino Acid Citrulline Malate should be served as a 6g dose to get the maximum benefits from it – JYM is the only product that gets close to providing you with 6g per serving.
It has been touted that JYM is probably the best pre workout available in the UK today, and that may well be true. But there are some advisories from us if you are considering buying it. It is quite a potent and powerful mix so beginners or those taking it for the first time might want to start off with half servings. The caffeine content alone could leave you in a pool of sweat by the time you finish your first exercise if you go all in on a full serving. The flavours are not the best and we found them a little sweet for our liking, but if you can stomach the 26g serving and tolerate the sweet taste then this is probably the best all-in-one supplement to take prior to your workout.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
Optimum Nutrition is perhaps one of the largest supplement brands known globally and the Gold Standard Pre-Workout piggy backs off the name of the ever popular Gold Standard Whey Protein. That being said, this pre-workout is manufactured in the UK and is subject to very stringent FDA laws.
Coming from Optimum Nutrition we already knew the standard of this supplement was going to be pretty decent and if reputation and the credibility of the company you are buying your supplements from is important to you then this will most likely be a great option. They also 100% guarantee there will be no banned substances in their products so if you are competing professionally then it is also a great option.
Each pack contains around 30 servings and each portion size is 11g in total so there is a fair amount to consume compared to some others on our list, but nowhere near as much as JYM from Supplement Science. Each 11g scoop contains your RDA or above of Vitamin D, Vitamin B1, Niacin, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6. This means you will not need to stack this pre-workout with multi-vitamins as you get that benefit from this blend. Each scoop is packed with Amino Acids and you get 1.5g of Citrulline, 1.5g of Beta Alanine, 3.4g of Creatine, 175mg of Caffeine and 375mg of L-Carnitine. You can stack this with Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA’s if you wish.
There are 5 flavours in total to choose from and we opted for the Fruit Punch flavour which was pretty pleasant taste and consistency wise. The caffeine dose in this is not too big for beginners but you will feel the tingle from it along with the Beta-Alanine. We love the larger dosage of creatine in this blend and the vitamin mix is also a welcome addition.
We could certainly feel the benefit of this supplement and there was no come down after the workout, although we’d recommend consuming a good post workout protein shake packed with BCAA’s after you workout and consume plenty of water as normal throughout the day.
Overall, we loved the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard supplement and if you can get it whilst it is on offer then it is well worth the investment.
Freak Athletics Venom
Another UK made Pre-Workout is Venom by Freak Athletics and it is another that is relatively well priced and contains 8 ingredients designed to maximise your strength, focus and energy levels during your workout. With each tub containing 25 – 50 servings (depending on whether you double up the 5g servings), each 5g scoop contains plenty to help you when lifting heavy weights.
The key ingredients found in Venom are 1.2g of Citrulline Malate, 1.25g of Beta Alanine, 0.9g of Arginine, 250mg of Taurine, 100mg of Betaine, 175mg of Caffeine and 100mg of L Tyrosine.
It is recommended to to mix 1 to 2 scoops with 200-400ml of cold water and shake well. We tested the Cherry Cola flavour and we very impressed with the flavour – in fact, we would go as far to say it is the best cherry cola flavoured supplement we have tasted – it also mixed really well with the water leaving no nasty residue.
We found the that the energy levels started to kick in to action very quickly, perhaps more so than any of the other products we tested – with us feeling ready to go after just 15 minutes. It is suggested to take this supplement 20-30 minutes prior to your workout but if you are pushed for time then Venom might actually be the best option.
Although this pre-workout is well packed with the ingredients you need you will likely need to stack a few other supplements to get good post recovery nutrition inside you. You will also need to supplement your Creatine separately – although we quite like that you can do this.
Overall, Venom is a really good budget option that tastes great and gives you a much needed energy and strength boost almost as quickly as you can drink it.
Evlution Nutrition Pump Mode
Our final pick when it comes to pre workout supplements is the Evlution Nutrition Pump Mode Nitric Oxide Booster. This is somewhat different to the other products we tested as it is more focused on boosting your performance during the workout and it does this by aiming to improve vascularity and blood flow to the muscles.
In addition to Vitamin C and Vitamin D (both very welcome additions to the mix), the prime ingredients come in the form of HydroMax (1.5g) and Betaine Nitrate (1g). The latter is responsible for boosting Nitric Oxide in the body which helps to improve blood flow whilst HydroMax is a highly concentrated from of Glycerol which helps the muscles absorb fluids which in turn helps you to look super ‘pumped’.
We didn’t feel any immediate impact from this product but we only tested it once. Reviews on the whole of the Evlution supplement are very positive and it may well be the case that with a couple of week’s usage you will start to see results. In terms of taste there were no issues although nothing to shout home about either.
You can take this in addition to a pre-workout which seems like it would be a good option – but always check the instructions yourself before stacking multiple products.
Pre-Workout – A Buyers Guide
Choosing the right product for you is never easy and you should take in to account your goals, your experience and consider how you have reacted to supplements in the past. For example, if you consume very little caffeine in your daily life then taking on huge caffeine hits prior to your workout could leave you feeling not so great – you may also experience come-downs or a ‘crash’ when the effects start to wear off. If you prefer caffeine free pre-workouts then are some good options in terms of nootropics that you might want to consider.
Pre-Workout supplements can be an excellent addition to your workout but they are certainly not required. If you are a casual gym goer who works out a few times per week and are happy to maintain current levels then there is little benefit in taking a pre-workout. Likewise, if you are beginner you will probably see little to no extra gains by taking a supplement than you would by just going to the gym and working out. However, if you are a year in and have hit a plateau and have exhausted other options, or if you feel that your body needs some extra support then a pre-workout can be a great option.
How Much Is Too Much?
We would say you should never exceed the manufacturer guidelines and that goes for all forms of supplementation. Sometimes the guidelines are a little vague though or it isn’t clear for what duration you should take a supplement. With pre-workout powders we would suggest to use them 1-3 times per week so long as that is in line with manufacturer suggestions – but like all supplements it might prove worthwhile having a rest from them for a week every 6-8 weeks. This will also prevent your body from becoming over-reliant on them.
We will be bringing you some snack ideas very soon so please watch this space.