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Pre-workout supplements are a popular option for those looking to gain muscle.

Designed to be consumed 30–60 minutes before your workout, pre-workout supplements commonly contain stimulating ingredients, such as caffeine, that allow you to work out harder and longer (1).

In addition to providing a boost to your workout, some pre-workout supplements contain ingredients that may be effective for muscle gain (1).

Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates supplements differently than medications and that the long-term effects of pre-workout supplements remain unknown.

Keep reading for our list of the 10 best pre-workout supplements for muscle gain.

We included pre-workout products on this list based on these criteria:

  • Effective ingredients: We chose products that contain research-backed ingredients in appropriate doses.
  • Third-party testing: All the products on our list have been third-party tested to ensure accuracy of the label and quality of the ingredients.
  • Reviews: The products below have mostly positive reviews online.

Why you should trust us

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 FDA regulations
  • is manufactured in facilities that adhere to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) 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

Additionally, every product was picked and reviewed by nutrition and fitness experts.

A note on price

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

Generally, prices range from $0.90–$2.25 per serving, or $30–$50 per container, though this may vary depending on where you shop.

Pricing guide:

  • $ = under $1.00 per serving
  • $$ = $1.00–$2.00 per serving
  • $$$ = over $2.00 per serving

Note that the serving recommendations vary between 1 and 2 scoops.

Best overall

Legion Pulse

  • Price: $$
  • Available flavors: Arctic Blast, Blood Orange, Blue Raspberry, Caffeine Free Blue Raspberry, Blueberry Lemonade, Cherry Limeade, Fruit Punch, Caffeine Free Fruit Punch, Grape, Green Apple, Caffeine Free Green Apple, Mojito, Pink Lemonade, Sour Candy, Strawberry Kiwi, Strawberry Margarita, Tropical Punch, Caffeine Free Tropical Punch, Watermelon
  • Certifications: Labdoor Certified, CGMP Certified

Legion Pulse is our top pick because it’s third-party tested and moderately priced and comes in 15 flavors, 4 of which are also available caffeine-free.

Each flavor contains L-citrulline, which helps improve blood flow to the muscles, and beta-alanine, which helps the muscles work harder and longer (2, 3, 4).

The caffeinated flavors contain 350 mg of caffeine, and all flavors contain L-theanine, which may help improve alertness and cognitive performance when combined with caffeine (5).

Keep in mind that because the daily recommended limit for caffeine is 400 mg per day, this supplement isn’t a great option if you regularly consume caffeine from other sources.

Notably missing is creatine, which means this pre-workout is a great option if you prefer to avoid creatine or already take a separate creatine supplement.

Legion uses third-party testing by Labdoor to assure quality and purity.

Nutrition facts per 2 scoops (23.6 grams) (varies by flavor) (6):

  • Calories: 5–10
  • Carbs: 4–6 grams
  • Added sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • third-party tested by Labdoor
  • 15 flavors
  • 4 caffeine-free flavors
  • naturally sweetened and flavored
  • gluten-free
  • vegetarian-friendly

Cons

  • not vegan-friendly as honey is used in the company’s natural flavoring
  • beta-alanine can cause a harmless tingling that some people dislike
  • sweetened with stevia and erythritol, which some people may prefer to avoid
  • high amount of caffeine

Best with BCAAs

Nutrex Research Outlift

  • Price: $$$
  • Available flavors: Blackberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Gummy Bear, Italian Ice, Miami Vice
  • Certifications: Informed Choice tested

Outlift by Nutrex Research includes an impressive list of ingredients, including the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): L-leucine, L-valine, and L-isoleucine.

While more research is needed, BCAAs may help promote muscle recovery and growth (7).

This pre-workout also features citrulline malate, beta-alanine, creatine, and caffeine, all of which may have benefits for athletic performance, according to research (2, 4, 8, 9).

However, keep in mind that 1 scoop of Outlift provides 350 mg of caffeine.

While up 400 mg of caffeine per day is considered safe, this product isn’t suitable for people who are sensitive to caffeine or regularly consume caffeinated beverages throughout the day.

Outlift is third-party tested by Informed Choice (10).

Nutrition facts per 1 scoop (25.1 grams) (11):

  • Calories: 0
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Added sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • contains BCAAs
  • five flavors

Cons

  • expensive
  • contains a high dose of caffeine, which may not be suitable for some people
  • beta-alanine may cause a harmless tingling sensation, which some people dislike
  • contains artificial flavors and colors, which some people prefer to avoid
  • unclear whether the product is vegan-friendly

Best without creatine

Dymatize PreWO

  • Price: $$$
  • Available flavors: Cherry Watermelon, Chilled Fruit Fusion, Pineapple Orange Crush, Sweet Cherry Lime
  • Certifications: CGMP Certified, Informed Choice tested

According to Dymatize, PreWO is designed to maximize energy, strength, and intensity in the gym.

While creatine is considered safe and unlikely to cause adverse effects at low doses, higher doses can sometimes cause stomach upset (12).

As Dymatize PreWO doesn’t contain creatine, it’s worth considering if you prefer to avoid creatine or are already taking a separate creatine supplement.

Each serving provides citrulline malate, beta-alanine, and 300 mg of caffeine, as well as the following ingredients:

  • Betaine (BetaPower): Derived from beetroot, betaine may improve muscle strength and power, though more research is needed. BetaPower is a highly purified form of betaine (13).
  • Inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (Nitrosigine): A patented compound composed of arginine and silicon, Nitrosigine may enhance energy and improve workout recovery (14, 15).
  • Theacrine (TeaCrine): Similar in structure to caffeine, theacrine may work synergistically with caffeine to enhance exercise performance. However, one small study found no benefit of theacrine for muscle strength or power (16, 17).

Dymatize products are manufactured in CGMP-certified facilities and third-party tested for banned substances by Informed Choice.

Nutrition facts per 2 scoops (20 grams) (18):

  • Calories: 45
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Added sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • Informed Choice certified
  • creatine-free
  • four flavors

Cons

  • unclear whether the product is vegan-friendly
  • expensive
  • contains artificial sweeteners, which some people prefer to avoid
  • beta-alanine may cause a harmless tingling sensation, which some people dislike

Best caffeine-free

The Genius Brand Genius Pre

  • Price: $$
  • Available flavors: Blue Raspberry, Grape Limeade, Sour Apple
  • Certifications: CGMP-certified, tested by Labdoor

If you prefer to avoid caffeinated supplements, then The Genius Brand Genius Pre is worth considering.

The pre-workout is caffeine-free but still offers many of the performance and stimulant benefits, thanks to theobromine and a group of ingredients called nootropics (19).

Nootropics are compounds or supplements that can boost mental performance. Caffeine is the most widely consumed nootropic. Here are some of the nootropics found in Genius Pre:

  • Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (A-GPC): A-GPC may improve the mind-muscle connection and motivation, allowing for gains in muscle strength, though more research is needed (20, 21).
  • Alpha-hydroxyisocaproic acid (HICA): HICA is thought to decrease muscle protein breakdown and increase muscle gain. However, recent research on this is lacking (22).
  • Ancient peat and apple fruit extract (ElevATP): This patented ingredient could potentially boost energy levels, allowing for increased muscle strength and power (23).
  • Rhodiola rosea: Also known as golden root extract, Rhodiola rosea may decrease fatigue with exercise (24).

This pre-workout also contains citrulline malate to help increase blood flow to the muscles, as well as AstraGin, a compound that is thought to boost energy levels, though this effect hasn’t been confirmed in humans (4, 25).

Nutrition facts per 1 scoop (15.7 grams) (26):

  • Calories: 0
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Added sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • caffeine-free
  • contains nootropics, which may help with mental performance
  • naturally flavored and sweetened
  • vegan-friendly
  • CGMP-certified manufacturer

Cons

  • not third-party tested
  • beta-alanine may cause a harmless tingling sensation, which some people dislike
  • fewer flavors than other pre-workouts on this list
  • includes ingredients that are proprietary blends

Best for serious lifters

SHIFTED Maximum Formula Pre-Workout

  • Price: $$
  • Available flavors: Berry, Tropical
  • Certifications: third-party tested by Armada Nutrition

SHIFTED Maximum is a newer pre-workout formula that’s quickly becoming a favorite among serious weightlifters and other athletes.

The powder is designed to provide optimal effective doses of its main active ingredients, including 5 grams of creatine monohydrate, 300 mg of caffeine, 2.5 mg of beta-alanine, and 150 mg of L-theanine.

It also includes beetroot extract, as well as several nootropic ingredients, including Alpha-GPC, ElevATP, and Rhodiola rosea. While more research is needed, these ingredients may have cognitive benefits and help improve athletic performance (20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27).

In a study of 14 exercise-trained adults, researchers found that consuming SHIFTED Pre-Workout 45 minutes before a workout significantly improved measures of attention, reaction time, vigor, and fatigue compared to a placebo (28).

It’s worth noting that SHIFTED Maximum Formula Pre-Workout contains two proprietary blend products, AstraGin and ElevATP. Because the specific amount of each ingredient used in these blends is not disclosed, some people may prefer to avoid this pre workout.

SHIFTED products are third-party tested by Armada Nutrition.

Nutrition facts per 1 scoop (30 grams) (29):

  • Calories: 5
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Added sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • effective dose of creatine
  • vegan
  • soy-free
  • gluten-free
  • proven effectiveness (though the study had a small sample size)

Cons

  • includes ingredients that are proprietary blends
  • only two flavors
  • beta-alanine may cause a harmless tingling sensation, which some people dislike

Best stimulant-free

Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

  • Price: $$
  • Available flavors: Blue Raspberry, Cherry Limeade, Fruit Punch, Green Apple, Lemon Lime, Orange, Sour Grape, Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Punch
  • Certifications: third-party tested by Analytical Resource Laboratories

Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout supplement is a great option if you prefer a product that does not contain stimulants such as caffeine, yohimbine, or theobromine.

Instead, the product contains citrulline malate, beta-alanine, BCAAs, and betaine (BetaPure) to provide a boost to your workout.

Keep in mind that beta-alanine can cause a tingling sensation that some people may find uncomfortable, but it’s harmless (2).

The product also includes black pepper extract, which may have anti-inflammatory properties, and huperzine A, a plant extract that may have cognitive benefits, though more research is needed (30, 31).

Stim-Free Pre-Workout is third-party tested by Analytical Resource Laboratories for quality assurance.

Nutrition facts per 1 scoop (21.4 grams) (32):

  • Calories: 0
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Added sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • stimulant-free
  • vegan-friendly
  • non-GMO
  • free of artificial flavors and sweeteners
  • nine flavors

Cons

  • beta-alanine may cause a harmless tingling sensation, which some people dislike

Best for pump

Do Vitamins PurePump

  • Price: $$
  • Available flavors: Lemon, Unflavored
  • Certifications: Labdoor Tested for Purity, Labdoor Tested for Sport, CGMP certified, certified vegan, keto certified

Do Vitamins PurePump is designed to boost the feeling of a “pump” in your muscles during a strength workout.

Specifically, the product contains L-citrulline, an amino acid that improves blood flow to muscles, which can lead to a pump. However, its effectiveness for muscle gain is mixed (3, 4).

It also contains L-arginine, another amino acid associated with pump, though studies suggest that L-arginine is unlikely to lead to a pump because it is broken down before it reaches the bloodstream (33, 34).

Additionally, this pre-workout includes alpha-lipoic acid, which may help improve muscle recovery. It also contains 1 gram of creatine monohydrate, which is known to support muscle gain, though research suggests an effective dose of 3 grams per day (8, 35).

Do Vitamins PurePump is third-party tested by Labdoor for purity and potency. It’s also Labdoor Tested for Sport and BSCG Certified Drug Free, both of which ensure that a product is free of all substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Nutrition facts per 2 scoops (7.6 grams) (36):

  • Calories: 5
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Added sugar: <1 gram
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • third-party tested for purity and potency
  • Labdoor Tested for Purity
  • certified vegan
  • certified keto
  • non-GMO
  • gluten-free
  • unflavored option

Cons

  • low creatine dose
  • only one flavored option

Best budget-friendly

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

  • Price: $
  • Available flavors: Blueberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Green Apple, Watermelon
  • Certifications: Informed Choice Certified

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is one of the more affordable products available, at just $0.94 per serving.

It contains an effective 3-gram dose of creatine monohydrate, which may improve performance and muscle gain, as well as 175 mg of caffeine (8, 9).

However, it does contain a proprietary blend, which some may prefer to avoid, as the brand does not disclose the specific amount of each ingredient used.

This proprietary blend, AstraGin, is thought to boost energy levels, but there are currently no human studies to support this effect (25).

Lastly, this product is third-party tested and certified by Informed Choice.

Nutrition facts per 1 scoop (10 grams) (37):

  • Calories: 10
  • Carbs: 3 grams
  • Added sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • certified by Informed Choice
  • affordable
  • effective dose of creatine
  • four flavors

Cons

  • contains a proprietary blend

Best natural

NAKED Energy Pure Pre-Workout Formula

  • Price: $
  • Available flavors: Citrus, Fruit Punch, Unflavored
  • Certifications: third-party tested, certified vegan, certified gluten-free

NAKED Energy is a great option for someone looking for a pre-workout that is free from preservatives and artificial additives.

The powder comes in an Unflavored version, or you can choose Citrus or Fruit Punch, both of which are sweetened with monk fruit and cane sugar.

The pre-workout is also vegan-friendly, certified gluten-free, and free of soy, wheat, and dairy.

As for active ingredients, the pre-workout includes beta-alanine and 200 mg of caffeine to help boost performance in the gym (2, 9).

It also includes creatine monohydrate. However, one serving contains just 1 gram of creatine, which may not be enough to provide muscle gain benefits (8).

It’s worth noting that NAKED also offers a stimulant-free version of its pre-workout formula.

NAKED products are third-party tested by Eurofins Scientific.

Nutrition facts per 2 scoops (4.64–16 grams) (varies by flavor) (38):

  • Calories: 0–45
  • Carbs: 0–10 grams
  • Added sugar: 0–6 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • certified gluten-free
  • certified vegan
  • minimal ingredients
  • free of preservatives and artificial additives
  • flavored varieties are naturally sweetened
  • stim-free version available
  • unflavored option
  • affordable

Cons

  • only two flavors
  • low dose of creatine
  • 6 or 9 grams of added sugar in flavored options, depending on the flavor

Best personalized

Gainful Pre Workout

  • Price: $$
  • Available flavors: Sour Watermelon
  • Certifications: CGMP

Gainful Pre Workout is a personalized supplement that contains a blend of caffeine, L-theanine, L-citrulline, and beta-alanine. Because the product is personalized, the specific amounts of these ingredients, as well as the nutrition information, will vary.

This pre-workout also contains BCAAs, which are thought to help improve performance and recovery when taken as a supplement. However, the research on the effectiveness of BCAA supplements is mixed (7).

Unlike other products on our list, Gainful is a subscription-based service that includes access to a registered dietitian for expert guidance.

According to the company’s website, all ingredients are sourced from reputable manufacturers, with a certificate of analysis (COA) required for each ingredient. However, its final products are not third-party tested to confirm purity and potency.

Pros

  • COA required for each ingredient
  • personalized formulations
  • access to registered dietitian
  • CGMP-approved facilities
  • some organic ingredients

Cons

  • requires a subscription
  • not third-party tested
  • only one flavor available

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

Price rangeBest forCaffeine per servingThird-party testedCertified safe for sport
Legion Pulse$$recreational lifters350 mgyesyes
Nutrex Research Outlift$$$• high caffeine dose
• BCAAs
365 mgyesno
Dymatize PreWO$$$• recreational lifters
• creatine-free
300 mgyesno
Genius Pre$$• supporting mental performance
• caffeine-free
0 mgnono
SHIFTED Maximum Formula Pre-Workout$$serious lifters300 mgyesno
Transparent Labs Stim-Free$$• stim-free
• vegan diets
0 mgyesno
Do Vitamins PurePump$$• pump
• competitive lifters
• vegan diets
200 mgyesyes
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout$tight budgets175 mgyesno
NAKED Energy Pure Pre-Workout Formula$• minimal ingredients
• tight budgets
• vegan and gluten-free diets
200 mgyesno
Gainful Pre Workout$$personalized formulationpersonalizednono

Choosing a high quality pre-workout supplement that’s worth your money can be challenging.

Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a pre-workout supplement:

  • Third-party testing: Ideally, choose products that are third-party tested by an organization like USP, Labdoor, Informed Choice, or NSF. Third-party testing ensures that the contents of the product match what’s on the label.
  • Safe for sport: If you’re a competitive athlete, it’s best to select a product that’s certified safe for sport by a third-party lab such as NSF, Informed Choice, or Labdoor.
  • Research-backed ingredients: While more research is needed when it comes to the effects of supplements on various aspects of sports performance, some ingredients have been studied more than others. Examples of ingredients to look for are caffeine, beta-alanine, L-theanine, L-citrulline, and creatine (2, 8, 9).
  • Propriety blends: A proprietary blend is a specific mixture of ingredients. The concern with these is that you don’t know how much of each ingredient the product contains. If you’re sensitive to any ingredients in a propriety blend, it’s best to choose a different product.
  • Unwanted ingredients: If you prefer to avoid certain ingredients, such as artificial flavors or sweeteners, it’s a good idea to look for a product that is unsweetened or contains a natural sweetener such as cane sugar or stevia.
  • Stimulants: Consider whether you want a product containing stimulants, such as caffeine, or you prefer a stim-free powder. If you’re new to supplements with stimulants, it’s a good idea to start with a half serving to assess your tolerance before consuming the full dose.

Pre-workout supplements are generally considered safe for most healthy adults. However, these products are not completely without risk (1).

Some ingredients are not well tolerated by all individuals. For example, caffeine can affect sleep, stress levels, and even blood pressure in some people (9, 39).

Beta-alanine can also cause a harmless tingling sensation that some people dislike.

Because the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way as medications, it’s a good idea to choose products that are third-party tested to ensure that the product actually contains what it claims to on the label.

Finally, children and people who are pregnant or nursing should not use pre-workout supplements. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking any new supplements.

What do pre-workouts actually do?

Pre-workouts are designed to be taken before a workout and contain ingredients that may help boost exercise performance and promote muscle gain (1).

Who should use pre-workouts?

Pre-workouts are meant for healthy adults looking to boost their performance in the gym.

While pre-workouts may have benefits for exercise performance, they’re not a replacement for other lifestyle factors that can affect your workout, such as fueling properly before a workout, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and practicing proper form.

Pre-workouts should be paired with a structured training program designed by a certified fitness professional. After all, these supplements are only as effective as the workouts they’re meant to support.

When should I take a pre-workout?

Most pre-workouts are meant to be taken with water about 30–60 minutes before your workout. The exact timing varies by product, so it’s best to follow the directions on the label.

If you’re new to using pre-workouts, it’s a good idea to start with a half serving to assess your tolerance before consuming a full dose. This is especially important for pre-workouts that contain stimulants.

Pre-workout supplements contain a variety of ingredients that may help you gain muscle by allowing you to work out harder and longer.

It’s important to choose a pre-workout supplement that’s third-party tested and contains effective ingredients.

As with any new supplement, it’s a good idea to get the OK from the healthcare professional before adding a pre-workout to your routine.