Three of the best pre-workouts, including Vega Sport Premium Energizer, Ascent Pre-Workout, and Gnarly Sports Pre-WorkoutShare on Pinterest

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Pre-workout supplements are performance-boosting products intended for consumption prior to a workout.

Their popularity has increased in recent years, with some estimates suggesting they are the second most commonly consumed type of supplement, behind multivitamins (1).

There’s no single definition for what a pre-workout supplement should contain. Ingredients range in type and amount, depending on the product.

Most often, pre-workout supplements include caffeine as an active ingredient along with a combination of other compounds such as creatine, amino acids, and vitamins.

If you’re looking for a pre-workout supplement, it’s best to evaluate your choice based on the most up-to-date research while also ensuring that the option you choose is third-party tested for quality and purity.

This article will provide details on ingredients in pre-workout supplements and the research on their performance benefits, as well as a list of pre-workout supplements that meet Healthline’s standards.

We evaluated third-party tested, multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements on an individual basis and compared ingredients with the research to support their effectiveness.

Considering the differences across brands, we looked at the following attributes to determine which supplements made the list:

  • Quality: Supplement quality is confirmed by third-party testing, a process that ensures that the product you’re taking contains the active ingredients listed on the label. All pre-workout supplements listed here have been third-party tested.
  • Active ingredients: We chose pre-workout supplements with ingredients that have research-backed performance benefits. Supplements vary in composition, and it’s important to consider your individual needs before adding a supplement to your routine.
  • Allergens: Some pre-workout supplements may contain one or more of the eight major allergens. We mention allergen statements where pertinent. However, if you have an allergy, be sure to check the supplement label.
  • Price: Pre-workout supplements range in price. We’ve provided a pricing guide below to help you make the best choice for your budget.

Additionally, every brand and product on our list has been vetted to ensure that it aligns with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. Each product in this article:

  • adheres to allowable health claims and labeling requirements, per Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations
  • is manufactured in facilities that adhere to current good manufacturing practices established by the FDA
  • is produced by a medically credible company that follows ethical, legal, and industry best standards
  • is made by a company that provides objective measures of trust, such as having its supplements validated by third-party labs

A note on price

General price ranges with dollar signs ($–$$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher cost.

Generally, prices range from $1.02–$3.67 per serving, or $31.99–$110 per container, though this may vary depending on where you shop.

  • $ = under $1.25 per serving
  • $$ = $1.25–$2.00 per serving
  • $$$ = over $2.00 per serving

Note that the serving recommendations range from 1–2 scoops.

Best plant-based

Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: Acai Berry, Strawberry Lemonade
  • Active ingredients: vitamin B12, caffeine, electrolytes

Vega is a plant-based supplement company with a line of sport-specific products that are third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport.

The Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer is our pick for the best plant-based pre-workout because it combines caffeine and carbohydrates, a combination that has been shown to boost performance (2, 3).

One serving contains 100 mg of caffeine per serving, plus 16 grams of carbohydrates, which are primarily from coconut palm sugar and brown rice syrup.

Each serving contains the same amount of caffeine as a cup of home-brewed coffee — a smaller amount than is typical for pre-workout supplements.

A single serving also contains sodium chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium — electrolytes that play a vital role in hydration (4).

In addition, a single serving contains 1.2 mcg of vitamin B12, a nutrient that’s often lacking in vegan and vegetarian diets (5, 6).

Pros

  • third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport
  • vegan- and vegetarian-friendly
  • gluten-free

Cons

  • contains coconut, which may cause an allergic reaction in people with a tree nut allergy
  • lower in caffeine than some other pre-workout supplements
  • doesn’t include common pre-workout supplement ingredients such as creatine and beta-alanine

Best sugar-free

Garden of Life Sport Organic Pre-Workout Energy + Focus Sugar Free

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: Blackberry
  • Active ingredients: caffeine, nitrates, vitamin B12

The Garden of Life Sport Organic Pre-Workout Energy + Focus Sugar Free supplement is third-party tested, NSF Certified for Sport, and Informed Choice for Sport Certified.

One serving contains 85 mg of caffeine per scoop in addition to a nitric oxide booster made of a combination of spinach, beet, and kale, all of which provide a source of dietary nitrates.

Dietary nitrates are compounds that positively affect exercise performance when converted to nitric oxide after ingestion.

Nitric oxide has been found to increase blood flow to working muscles, improve oxygen efficiency during exercise, and reduce time to exhaustion (7, 8).

This plant-based supplement also contains vitamins B12, C, and K and an antioxidant blend.

Just keep in mind that this product contains erythritol, a sugar alcohol, which some people may prefer to avoid.

Pros

  • third-party tested, NSF Certified for Sport, and Informed Choice for Sport Certified
  • less expensive per serving than some other pre-workout supplements
  • vegan- and vegetarian-friendly
  • certified gluten-free
  • certified organic
  • sugar-free

Cons

  • available in only one flavor
  • lower in caffeine than some other pre-workout supplements
  • contains erythritol

Best for recovery

Ladder Pre-Workout

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Fruit
  • Active ingredients: L-citrulline, L-theanine, creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, caffeine

Ladder Pre-Workout is third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport.

It’s made with a combination of creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, L-theanine, phosphatidylserine, and caffeine.

One serving contains 5 grams of creatine, 1.6 grams of beta-alanine, 200 mg of caffeine, and 6 grams of L-citrulline.

This pre-workout is our pick for the best for recovery because it contains L-citrulline, a nonessential amino acid that may aid recovery by reducing muscle soreness after exercise (9, 10).

The additions of creatine and beta-alanine also offer performance-enhancing benefits.

At the recommended intake of 3–5 grams per day, creatine has been found to act as a performance-enhancing compound that also increases lean muscle mass when used in combination with short, high intensity exercise bouts (11).

Additionally, beta-alanine has a performance-enhancing effect through mechanisms that delay muscle fatigue. Research suggests that doses of 4–6 grams per day for 2–4 weeks are the most effective (12).

Pros

  • third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport
  • vegan- and vegetarian-friendly
  • gluten-free
  • lower in added sugar than some other pre-workout supplements

Cons

  • contains a high dose of caffeine, which may not be suitable for those sensitive to caffeine
  • pricier than some other pre-workout supplements
  • contains beta-alanine, which may cause a tingling feeling in some people

Best for endurance

Klean Athlete Klean Pre-Workout

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: Lemon Tea
  • Active ingredients: caffeine, nitrates

Klean Pre-Workout is a vegan supplement that’s third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport.

One scoop contains 75 mg of caffeine and 5 grams of TruBeet Beet Root Extract.

Because it contains beetroot — a source of dietary nitrates that may have a positive effect on endurance exercise performance — this our top choice pre-workout for endurance exercise (13, 14).

The powder is sweetened with a combination of sugar and stevia leaf and is free of artificial flavors and colors.

Pros

  • third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport
  • vegan- and vegetarian-friendly
  • gluten-free

Cons

  • more expensive than some other pre-workout supplements
  • available in only one flavor

Best for focus

Promix Pre-Workout

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: Lemon, Mixed Berry, Strawberry Lemon, Tingle-Free Lemon, Cherry Lime, Raspberry Lemon
  • Active ingredients: beta-alanine, vitamin B12, N-acetyl L-tyrosine, taurine, caffeine

Promix Pre-Workout comes in six flavors, all of which are third-party tested. The Lemon flavor is also NSF Certified for Sport.

One serving of this pre-workout supplement contains 200 mg of caffeine and 3.2 grams of beta-alanine. A single serving also includes 1 gram of taurine, an amino acid that may help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (15).

This supplement is our top pick for focus because it also contains L-tyrosine, a nonessential amino acid that may have a positive effect on cognitive function (16, 17).

One drawback is the higher dose of beta-alanine, which can cause a tingling sensation known as paraesthesia. While research suggests this is a harmless side effect, Promix does offer a “tingle-free” flavor without beta-alanine for those who prefer to avoid that ingredient (12).

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • Lemon flavor NSF Certified for Sport
  • lower cost than many other pre-workout supplements
  • available in multiple flavors
  • “tingle-free” flavor available without beta-alanine
  • vegan-friendly

Cons

  • only one flavor (Lemon) is NSF Certified for Sport
  • contains a high dose of caffeine, which may not be suitable for those sensitive to caffeine
  • contains beta-alanine, which may cause a tingling sensation in some people

Best for high intensity

Gnarly Pre-Workout

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade Caffeine-Free, Mango
  • Active ingredients: citrulline malate, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), beta-alanine, ginseng

Gnarly Pre-Workout is a third-party tested supplement that’s NSF Content Verified. One flavor, Strawberry Lemonade, is also NSF Certified for Sport.

One serving of this pre-workout contains 180 mg of caffeine, 2.5 grams of beta-alanine, 5 grams of citrulline malate, and 4 grams of vegan BCAAs.

Beta-alanine has been found to affect muscle fatigue and improve strength performance when taken at the recommended dose of 4–6 grams per day for 2–4 weeks. However, it can cause uncomfortable side effects in some people (12).

Gnarly Pre-Workout also contains citrulline malate, a compound that may have a positive effect on performance during high intensity exercise.

Citrulline malate has been found to improve blood flow to working muscles while also reducing fatigue during high intensity exercise and strength training. However, research is mixed regarding dose and effectiveness (18, 19).

Pros

  • third-party tested — all flavors NSF Content Certified
  • vegan- and vegetarian-friendly
  • gluten-free
  • free of artificial flavors
  • lower cost

Cons

  • only one flavor, Strawberry Lemonade, is NSF Certified for Sport
  • contains a high dose of caffeine, which may not be suitable for those sensitive to caffeine
  • contains beta-alanine, which may cause a tingling sensation in some people

Best with whey

Ascent Pre-Workout

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: Orange Mango, Raspberry Lemonade
  • Active ingredients: caffeine, whey protein isolate

Ascent Pre-Workout is third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified. One serving contains 150 mg of caffeine and 5 grams of protein from whey protein isolate.

This pre-workout supplement is unique in that it doesn’t contain creatine or beta-alanine. That means it’s a better choice if you’re looking for a supplement that provides a performance boost from caffeine alone.

While the caffeine in this pre-workout does offer a performance boost, the minimal protein per serving is unlikely to affect performance or recovery. However, the supplement can still contribute to total daily protein intake to support muscle protein synthesis (4, 20, 21, 22).

Pros

  • third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified
  • less expensive per serving than many other pre-workout supplements
  • certified gluten-free

Cons

  • contains milk, one of the eight major allergens
  • no vegan option available
  • may not contain enough caffeine to affect performance or recovery

Best caffeinated

Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: Grape, Berry Blast, Fruit Punch, Pink Lemonade, Krisp Apple, Orange Krush, Cherry Bomb
  • Active ingredients: caffeine, L-citrulline, BCAAs, beta-alanine, creatine HCL, taurine, N-acetyl L-tyrosine

Pre-Kaged is a pre-workout supplement that’s third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified.

With 274 mg of caffeine per serving, Pre-Kaged is higher in caffeine than many other pre-workouts. If you’re looking for a significant source of caffeine in a single serving, Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout is our pick for the best caffeinated option.

Up to 400 mg of caffeine per day has been found to be safe for consumption, with milligrams per kilogram of body weight providing a guide for customizing based on individual needs.

Research shows that 1.3–2.7 mg of caffeine per pound (3–6 mg per kg) of body weight has a performance benefit (23, 24).

Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout also contains L-citrulline, BCAAs, beta-alanine, creatine HCL, and a proprietary blend of antioxidants.

Pros

  • third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified
  • vegan- and vegetarian-friendly
  • gluten-free

Cons

  • contains a high dose of caffeine, which may not be suitable for those sensitive to caffeine
  • pricier than many other pre-workout supplements

Best for injury prevention

Vital Performance PRE

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: Watermelon Blueberry, Lemon Grape, Yuzu Clementine, Passion Fruit
  • Active ingredients: collagen, BCAAs, L-citrulline, caffeine

Vital Performance PRE is a pre-workout supplement in the sport-specific line of the Vital Proteins brand. It’s third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport.

A 2-scoop (26-gram) serving of the pre-workout powder contains 140 mg of caffeine and 1.5 grams each of creatine nitrate and arginine nitrate. It also provides 5 grams of BCAAs and 5 grams of collagen peptides.

The addition of collagen to this pre-workout supplement makes it our top choice for injury prevention.

Collagen plays an important role in the function of connective tissue. Research suggests that collagen supplementation may be beneficial for injury prevention and have a positive effect on joint health (25, 26, 27).

Pros

  • third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport
  • available in four flavors
  • less expensive than many other pre-workout supplements

Cons

  • not vegan- or vegetarian-friendly
  • some reviews noting that customers dislike the taste

Best budget-friendly

True Athlete Natural Energized Training Formula 2.0

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch
  • Active ingredients: creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, caffeine, beetroot extract

True Athlete Natural Energized Training Formula 2.0 is a pre-workout that’s third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport.

One serving contains 3 grams of micronized creatine monohydrate, 1.6 grams of beta-alanine, and 150 mg of caffeine. It also includes nitrates from beetroot extract.

The powder is available in one flavor, Fruit Punch, and is free of artificial sweeteners and flavors. Its lower price point makes it our top choice for a budget-friendly pre-workout.

Pros

  • third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport
  • gluten-free
  • budget-friendly

Cons

  • available in only one flavor
  • contains a high dose of caffeine, which may not be suitable for those sensitive to caffeine
  • isn’t vegan- or vegetarian-friendly

Best caffeine-free

Thorne Training Bundle

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: Lemon, Berry
  • Active ingredients: creatine, beta-alanine, essential amino acids

The Thorne Training Bundle is a unique pre-workout because it’s a combination of three separate supplements intended to be taken together instead of a single pre-mixed powder.

This approach may be cumbersome for those who are looking for a simple pre-workout supplement routine. However, the ability to split the ingredients based on individual needs may be appealing to some.

The combination includes creatine, an amino acid complex, and a sustained-release formulation of beta-alanine. All three formulations are caffeine-free, making this our top choice for those looking to avoid caffeine.

In addition, all three products are third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport.

One serving of the bundle provides 1.6 grams of beta-alanine, 7.6 grams of amino acids, and 5 grams of creatine monohydrate.

Pros

  • third-party tested and NSF Certified for Sport
  • option to separate each ingredient to customize to your individual needs

Cons

  • consists of multiple products, which may be cumbersome for some
  • available in only two flavors
  • isn’t vegan- or vegetarian-friendly

Here’s a quick look at how our top picks compare:

Price rangeBest forThird-party testedCaffeinated
Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer$• plant-based
• lower caffeine
yesyes
Garden of Life Sport Organic Pre-Workout Energy + Focus Sugar Free$• plant-based
• gluten-free
• organic
• sugar-free
yesyes
Ladder Pre-Workout$$• recovery
• plant-based
• higher caffeine
yesyes
Klean Athlete Klean Pre-Workout$$$• endurance
• plant-based
yesyes
Promix Pre-Workout$• focus
• higher caffeine
• beta-alanine-free option
yesyes
Gnarly Pre-Workout$$• high intensity workouts
• plant-based
• higher caffeine
yesyes
Ascent Pre-Workout$• muscle building
• gluten-free
• lower caffeine
yesyes
Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout$$$• higher caffeine
• plant-based
yesyes
Vital Performance PRE$$• injury preventionyesyes
True Athlete Natural Energized Training Formula$• budget-friendlyyesyes
Thorne Training Bundle$$$• non-caffeinated yesno

When shopping for a pre-workout, it’s important to consider your individual training goals, as well as the following factors:

  • Active ingredients: Look for active ingredients known to impact performance. Ingredients such as caffeine, beta-alanine, creatine, nitrates, and BCAAs have all been studied for their performance benefits (28).
  • Individual needs: Choose a pre-workout supplement with ingredients specific to your needs. Supplement formulations vary by brand, so it’s important to review labels for ingredients you may need to avoid.
  • Additives and sweeteners: Many pre-workouts contain artificial ingredients, such as flavors, colors, and sweeteners, that some people may prefer to avoid. Be sure to read labels carefully to ensure you’re purchasing a product that fits your needs and preferences.
  • Third-party testing: Because the FDA does not regulate supplements in the same way as pharmaceuticals, third-party testing is the only way to ensure that a pre-workout contains the types and amounts of ingredients that it claims to on the label.

Furthermore, competitive athletes should look for products that are certified safe for sport.

As Kelly Jones, MS, RD, performance dietitian and owner of StudentAthleteNutrition.com, explains, “It’s imperative that pre-workout supplements be third-party tested, either by NSF for Sport or Informed Sport, to ensure that they’re free of substances banned by most sports governing bodies, including anabolic steroids and prescription drugs.”

Checking labels and product websites is the best way to confirm that the product you choose is third-party tested.

Pre-workout supplements can offer a variety of performance benefits, depending on their active ingredients and the amounts they contain.

“The benefits of pre-workout include reduced fatigue, improved cognitive function, delay in muscle soreness, and improved performance,” explains Sara Cully, RD, certified personal trainer and owner of Sara Cully Nutrition.

Common ingredients in pre-workout supplements, such as caffeine, beta-alanine, and creatine, may have a positive effect on performance when taken in the amounts recommended in the research (28, 29).

Research suggests that caffeine has an effect on perceived effort, beta-alanine has an effect on fatigue during high intensity exercise, and creatine contributes to increases in strength when taken over a period of time (12, 23, 30)

Additional pre-workout ingredients, such as tyrosine, may influence cognitive function, and others, such as nitrates, may have a positive effect on endurance (7, 8, 16).

However, it’s a good idea to make sure that any supplement you add to your diet is included only in combination with a balanced diet that meets your energy needs.

“I always suggest food first, supplementation second,” says Cully. “Once nutrition and sleep is consistent, supplementing can help some individuals improve performance if it is suitable for them.”

Do you need a pre-workout?

Wisconsin-based sports dietitian Abby Olcott, MS, RDN, explains, “A pre-workout supplement can be helpful to give the body the extra capacity to push harder and longer during workouts, improving the adaptations made from those workouts.”

However, she points out that no pre-workout supplement can make up for a diet that doesn’t meet your energy needs or is missing essential nutrients.

“If you can’t get through a workout without taking a pre-workout supplement, it may be a sign that you are under-fueling and need more energy from food,” she says.

For this reason, prioritizing diet and recovery before adding a pre-workout supplement is the most advantageous approach for performance. Always talk with a sports dietitian or another healthcare professional before taking a supplement.

Because pre-workout supplements vary in ingredient composition, it can be difficult to compare brands and dosages. Knowing which ingredients impact performance can help you determine which supplement is best for you.

Research suggests that the following ingredients provide performance benefits.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a known central nervous stimulant that offers a performance benefit when taken prior to exercise.

Cully explains that caffeine can be helpful in both aerobic and anaerobic activity.

“It’s been consistently shown to improve performance when dosed at 3–6 mg/kg body mass,” she says. “An added benefit of using caffeine is the bonus in cognitive function that is seen, which can help in the skills required for sports, like timing and responsiveness.”

Be sure to look for a pre-workout that contains the optimal caffeine dose according to research (23).

Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid that plays a role in buffering muscle pH during high intensity exercise such as sprinting. “Research for doses of 4–6 grams daily is common, but more research is needed for specifics in dosing,” explains Cully (12, 31)

Nitrates

Nitrates are found in foods such as beets, celery, and leafy green vegetables like spinach. They’re also a common ingredient in pre-workout supplements.

Nitrates enhance performance by acting to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. “Nitrates may also help to lower the oxygen cost of exercise, which leads to improved efficiency during exercise, especially endurance workouts,” explains Olcott (7, 8).

Creatine monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is a compound that’s commonly found in pre-workout supplements.

Its effect is not as immediate as those of other compounds, such as caffeine. Research indicates that creatine monohydrate must be taken over a consistent period of time to have a performance benefit (11, 30).

“[Creatine monohydrate] takes time to improve performance with supplementing,” explains Cully.

“You can’t take just one dose of creatine and see performance improvements in your next workout. It will take, depending on the individual, about 30 days to saturate the muscles with a creatine dose of 3–5 grams daily.”

Other ingredients, such as proprietary antioxidant blends, herbs, and high dose vitamins and minerals, require more research to confirm their effectiveness for supporting athletic performance.

Potential side effects from pre-workout supplements depend on the ingredient types and amounts found in the supplement.

Some common ingredients can result in side effects that may be unpleasant for some people. Common ingredients in pre-workout supplements and their potential side effects are listed below.

  • Caffeine: reported side effects include headache, digestive upset, rapid heart rate, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping (32)
  • Beta-alanine: reported side effects include a tingling sensation when high doses are consumed (12)
  • Citrulline malate: may result in digestive discomfort for some people (19)
  • Creatine monohydrate: may result in short-term water retention (33)

Additionally, some ingredients may interact with medications, so it’s important to speak with a sports dietitian or another healthcare professional before taking a pre-workout supplement.

Keep in mind that although pre-workout supplements can give you a boost of energy, it’s important to make sure you’re not using them in place of a healthy diet and lifestyle, which is the best way to support your workout plan.

Who should use a pre-workout supplement?

Pre-workout supplements may be appropriate for both untrained and trained people looking for a performance boost. Ingredient formulations will greatly influence the effects of the pre-workout supplement.

If you’re interested in trying a pre-workout supplement, it’s important to evaluate the available products based on your individual needs and health status and to check with a healthcare professional before trying one.

Who should not use a pre-workout supplement?

Pre-workout supplements often contain stimulants, such as caffeine, that may not be appropriate for some people.

Anyone with a chronic health condition, such as heart disease or high blood pressure, and anyone who is pregnant or nursing should consult a sports dietitian or another healthcare professional before taking a pre-workout supplement.

Are creatine supplements more effective than pre-workouts?

It’s difficult to compare creatine alone to multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements because of the variations in their formulations.

Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements have different ingredient amounts and variations that influence their effectiveness. Additionally, many pre-workout supplements include creatine in combination with other ingredients that also affect performance.

Consider taking a creatine supplement if you’re committed to taking a supplement over a longer period of time, as research shows that creatine should be consumed over multiple days to fully saturate muscles (11).

Other pre-workout ingredients, such as caffeine and beta-alanine, can have more immediate effects. This may make them more appropriate options for those who are looking for a performance boost after a single serving.

Pre-workout supplements may help boost your exercise performance.

Before adding a pre-workout supplement to your routine, consider your nutritional needs and fitness goals. Not all pre-workout supplements are created equal, so it’s important to customize your choice based on your needs.

Optimal nutrition and improved fitness depend on a balanced diet that meets your individual needs. In addition to maintaining a nutritious diet, allowing enough time for recovery after workouts is essential.