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Pre-workout supplements have become increasingly popular among women looking to ramp up their fitness routines.

Depending on their ingredients, they can help build lean muscle, improve exercise performance and recovery, and even increase overall energy expenditure in healthy adults (1, 2).

That said, not all products are created equal.

We researched the best pre-workouts based on the following criteria:

  • Quality of ingredients. Pre-workout supplements are made with high quality, research-backed ingredients.
  • Third-party testing. Pre-workout supplements are tested for purity and accuracy by third-party organizations.
  • User reviews. Pre-workout supplements have mostly positive customer reviews.

Here are the 6 best pre-workout supplements for women in 2021.

When looking for a pre-workout supplement, women should consider the specific ingredients, especially the caffeine content.

While caffeine has been shown to improve strength and athletic performance, some individuals may be more sensitive to caffeine’s stimulative effects (3, 4, 5).

Another common ingredient is beta-alanine — an amino acid that research suggests may prevent the buildup of acid in muscle tissue, allowing your muscles to work harder (6, 7).

However, one thing to note is that beta-alanine can cause a harmless tingling sensation that some individuals dislike.

L-citrulline is another amino acid to look for, as it has been shown to boost nitric oxide production, which improves blood flow to the muscles. As a result, your muscles are able to receive more oxygen and nutrients, supporting both muscle performance and growth (8, 9).

You may also come across L-arginine — another amino acid that’s frequently found in pre-workouts, either on its own or with L-citrulline.

While some studies show that it boosts nitric oxide production, L-arginine has not been found to benefit exercise performance, as it’s broken down before it reaches the bloodstream (10, 11, 12).

If increasing strength is your top priority, look for a pre-workout supplement that includes creatine.

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements in the fitness industry and has been shown to improve both muscle strength and weightlifting performance (13).

It’s also important to note that while many of these pre-workout supplements are marketed toward women, the products are not formulated to meet gender-specific nutritional needs.

As a result, the supplements on this list can be enjoyed by all healthy adults, regardless of their gender.

The short answer — no. That’s because you can likely get all of the nutrients you need to support your workout from your diet alone.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that these supplements are not meant to replace a well-balanced, healthy diet.

However, if you want the convenience of a pre-workout supplement, make sure to choose a product that has undergone third-party testing to ensure the quality and purity of its ingredients.

Also, keep in mind that while pre-workouts are considered safe for healthy adults, we recommend talking with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements (14).

Best overall

Naked Energy

Price: $

Naked Energy is not only certified gluten-free and vegan but also free of soy, dairy, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners.

Plus, it has been third-party tested by Eurofins Scientific, so you can trust the quality of its ingredients.

Speaking of ingredients, Naked Energy includes 200 mg caffeine, which is equivalent to approximately two 8-ounce (237-mL) cups of coffee.

It also contains beta-alanine and creatine, making the supplement a great choice if you’re looking for a pre-workout to boost your energy levels and help build muscle.

However, it includes L-arginine rather than L-citrulline, so you likely won’t reap any improved blood flow benefits.

If the unflavored version is too natural for your taste, this supplement also comes in a fruit punch flavor that’s sweetened with pure cane sugar and natural flavors.

Many customers agree that the taste isn’t the best, but its simple, natural ingredients and effectiveness more than make up for it.

Best caffeinated

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Price: $$$

If you’re a seasoned caffeine drinker, this pre-workout may give you the kickstart you’re looking for. That said, if caffeine isn’t your thing, 1 of the 10 flavors (green apple) is caffeine-free.

If you do opt for a caffeinated flavor, each 2-scoop (24.2-gram) serving contains 350 mg of caffeine.

Keep in mind that an 8-ounce (237-mL) cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine, so it’s not a bad idea to try a one-half serving first to assess your tolerance before going all in.

The rest of the ingredient list makes this pre-workout supplement ideal for both strength and endurance training.

In addition to beta-alanine and L-citrulline, the ingredients include L-theanine, which may help lessen the intensity felt by such a big dose of caffeine (15).

Finally, you can rest assured that you’re getting what’s on the label, as this product is third-party certified by Labdoor.

Best for strength training

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Price: $

With 3 grams of creatine per scoop (10 grams), Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is great if you’re looking to build muscle and strength in the gym.

One serving also includes beta-alanine and a more modest 175 mg of caffeine to help your muscles work harder and fight fatigue.

Optimum Nutrition’s pre-workout is certified by Informed Choice — a third-party testing organization that specifically tests products for impurities and the presence of substances banned in sports.

It’s worth noting that the supplement includes a proprietary blend called AstraGin, which includes Panax notoginseng extract and Astragalus membranaceus.

AstraGin is considered safe for healthy adults, and it’s thought to support the absorption of nutrients in the body and boost energy levels. However, there are currently no studies in humans to confirm these effects (16).

Best tasting

Alani Nu Pre-Workout

Price: $$

With 10 unique flavors to choose from, such as Rainbow Candy, Carnival Candy Grape, and Hawaiian Shaved Ice, it’s easy to see why this pre-workout is a fan favorite.

Not only does Alani Nu taste delicious, but its ingredient mix is simple and effective.

Each scoop (9.9 grams) provides 200 mg of caffeine, 200 mg of L-theanine, 6 grams of L-citrulline, and 1.6 grams of beta-alanine to boost energy, attenuate caffeine jitters, improve blood flow, and fight muscle fatigue.

Plus, this pre-workout includes L-tyrosine, which may help improve performance by increasing adrenaline and dopamine — two neurotransmitters thought to be beneficial during exercise, particularly in heat or unfavorable conditions, though the research is mixed (17, 18, 19, 20).

Alani Nu’s products are manufactured in a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-compliant facility, and the pre-workout powder has over 7,000 mostly positive online reviews, with customers noting its great taste and energy-boosting effect.

Best for caffeine-sensitive

Ora Organic Renewable Energy Pre-Workout Powder

Price: $$$

If the tingles from beta-alanine and large doses of caffeine aren’t your thing, this pre-workout from Ora Organic is a better choice.

In addition to being free of beta-alanine, each 1-scoop (10-gram) serving includes just 90 mg caffeine — about the same amount as 1 cup (237-mL) of coffee.

Another ingredient that you’ll see in this product is beetroot juice, which may increase nitric oxide production and blood flow to your muscles, though the research is mixed (21, 22, 23).

Lastly, this pre-workout includes adaptogens, which are substances used in herbal medicine to help counteract stress. When it comes to exercise, adaptogens may help fight fatigue and improve mental performance (24).

All of Ora Organic’s products are third-party tested by various organizations, including Eurofins and JK BioScience Analytical Laboratories, and have a Certificate of Analysis (COA) available for customers to view testing results.

Based on reviews, customers appreciate the company’s testing process and use of high quality ingredients. However, many note that the taste is not spectacular.

Best caffeine-free

Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

Price: $$$

Transparent Labs Stim-Free is geared toward those looking to avoid stimulants altogether.

This pre-workout supplement has been third-party tested and delivers effective ingredients to give your workout a boost, just without the caffeine.

On the ingredient list, you’ll find L-citrulline for improved blood flow to your muscles during exercise, as well as beta-alanine.

Just keep in mind that while this product is completely stimulant-free, beta-alanine can cause a harmless tingling sensation.

This product also contains a few unique ingredients, including black pepper extract, which may have anti-inflammatory properties (25).

You’ll also see huperzine-A — an extract from a plant known as Chinese club moss (Huperzia serrata). The substance is thought to boost your mental energy, though there’s currently no exercise-specific evidence to support this (26).

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are also listed on the label. BCAAs have been shown to increase muscle growth and decrease muscle soreness (27, 28, 29, 30).

However, as they’re found in other dietary sources of protein, you may already be consuming adequate amounts of BCAAs throughout the day.

Pre-workout supplements may help boost your energy levels and improve your athletic performance.

However, not all supplements are created equal.

When choosing a pre-workout, make sure to consider your personal fitness goals and read the ingredient list carefully.

Some supplements also include proprietary blends, artificial sweeteners, and other additives, so be sure to check for these if you prefer to avoid them.

In addition to looking for products with or without certain ingredients, you’ll want to factor in how the supplement tastes.

To ensure quality and safety, look for supplements that have been third-party tested, and be cautious of those with proprietary blends, especially if you’re sensitive to any of the ingredients.

Additionally, some pre-workout supplements contain allergens, so be sure to double-check the ingredient label if you have an allergy.

Given that certain ingredients are not be recommended if you take certain medications or are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional before trying any new supplements.

Finally, given that stimulants affect everyone differently, we recommend starting any caffeinated pre-workout supplement with a smaller dose to assess your tolerance.

Depending on the ingredients, a pre-workout supplement can provide a boost to your fitness goals by increasing your energy levels and improving muscle performance and recovery.

However, as there’s a wide variety of pre-workout supplements on the market, it’s important to do your research to find a safe and effective product that meets your workout needs.

In general, look for products that have been third-party tested and include ingredients like L-citrulline, creatine, beta-alanine, and caffeine, depending on your tolerance and preferences.

Most importantly, talk with a healthcare professional before adding a pre-workout supplement to your fitness routine.