The 5 Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Men, According to Registered Dietitians

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Best Overall

Transparent Labs BULK

BULK

Pros
  • 12 flavors to choose from
  • No artificial sweeteners or colors
  • Ingredients to support muscle growth and mental performance
Cons
  • Caffeine may be too high for some people
  • No creatine

Based on our extensive testing, we found that Transparent Labs’ Bulk Pre-Workout has everything you need to increase your reps, energy, and focus during your workouts. Each serving contains 8 grams of citruline malate, an amino acid salt that enhances blood flow to your muscles while removing waste and increasing nutrient delivery. All of these factors help to improve strength and recovery during and after your training sessions. We love that it includes the dose that most commonly produces study results.

I appreciate that each serving also has 200 milligrams of caffeine to enhance energy and L-tyrosine and Taurine to boost focus and cognitive performance as you focus on getting through your workout. “Plus, Transparent Labs lives up to its name with third-party testing and transparent labeling that discloses the exact amount of each ingredient,” says Boufounos. This pre-workout supplement has no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors and comes in 12 fruity flavors.

Read more: Best Supplements for Men

Caffeine 200 milligrams
Key Ingredients Beta-alanine, betaine anhydrous, citrulline malate
Certifications Informed Choice

Best Budget Supplement

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Pros
  • Contains creatine
  • 175 milligrams caffeine
  • Only $1.10 per serving
Cons
  • Includes a proprietary blend

ON Gold Standard Pre-workout is budget-friendly, costing just over a dollar per serving, and widely available at most health food stores and large supermarkets as well as online. For the price, you really can’t beat the quality, especially as it’s Informed Choice certified so you know you’re getting what’s on the label and nothing that’s not.

Creatine supports muscle growth and recovery from intense exercise, reduces muscle damage, lowers the risk of musculoskeletal injury, and even has neuroprotective effects when taken in doses of 3 to 5 grams. Each serving of this pre-workout has 3 grams of creatine to provide this support and protection during tough workouts. It also has 1.6 grams of beta-alanine, an amino acid needed for carnosine production. Supplementing with beta-alanine increases carnosine production in the muscles, which then reduces oxidative stress and acid buildup in the muscles, especially in Powersports and exercises lasting between 1 to 4 minutes.

Caffeine 175 milligrams
Key Ingredients creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, Acetyl-L-carnitine, N-acetyl-tyrosine
Certifications Informed Choice

Best Caffeine-Free Supplement

Transparent Labs Stim-Free

Stim-Free

Pros
  • Clinically effective doses of beta-alanine, citrulline, L-tyrosine, and taurine
  • Non-stimulant
  • No artificial sweeteners
Cons
  • May not provide the same energy boost as other pre-workouts
  • Some users dislike the taste

“For men who are sensitive to stimulants or who exercise in the late afternoon or evening and want to avoid caffeine, Transparent Labs offers a stim-free pre-workout,” says Boufounos. While it’s caffeine-free, the rest of the ingredients are clinically dosed, meaning key ingredients like citrulline malate, beta-alanine, and betaine anhydrous are added in amounts proven to be effective for exercise performance, adds Boufounos.

We also love that it includes BioPerine, a black pepper extract, to help your body better absorb the active ingredients in the supplement. This stimulant-free formula comes in 7 flavors, is gluten-free, and contains no artificial sweeteners or colors.

Caffeine None
Key Ingredients L-citrulline malate, beta-alanine, betaine anhydrous, taurine, L-tyrosine, Senactiv, apple fruit extract, Bioperine, huperzine A
Certifications Informed Choice Certified

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Best Vegan Supplement

Gnarly Pre-Workout

Pre-Workout

Pros
  • Available in travel sticks or multi-serving can
  • Three flavors to choose from
  • Also available caffeine-free
  • No added sugars or artificial sweeteners
Cons
  • No creatine
  • Some people dislike the tangy taste

This pre-workout contains 180 milligrams of caffeine from green tea and 150 milligrams of Asian Ginseng, which provides a natural boost of energy. Asian Ginseng is useful in this pre-workout as it may help act as an anti-inflammatory and reduce the accumulation of exercise metabolites that contribute to fatigue. You’ll also find ginger, beta-alanine, and branched-chain amino acids to help you build endurance and push yourself during workouts.

And while many users enjoy the taste, some feel it’s a little too tangy. While it’s free from added sugars and artificial sweeteners, it does have stevia added, which some people may not enjoy the taste of.

Read more: Best Vegan Protein Powders

Caffeine 180 milligrams
Key Ingredients Beta-alanine, citrulline malate, branched-chain amino acids, caffeine, Asian Ginseng root powder
Certifications NSF-Certified for Sport

Best High Caffeine Supplement

All Black Everything Ultimate Pre-Workout

Ultimate Pre-Workout

Pros
  • Free from dairy, soy, and gluten
  • Vegan friendly
  • 350 milligrams of caffeine per serving
Cons
  • Contains artificial sweeteners

If you’re looking for a pre-workout that will give you a big boost of caffeine while still staying within overall safe amounts, All Black Everything Ultimate Pre-Workout is a safe choice. The FDA advises that 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is safe for healthy adults, although everyone has different tolerance levels. With 350 milligrams of caffeine per serving, one scoop of this pre-workout will give you the physical and mental energy needed to push through a tough workout.

It includes citrulline malate as a nitric oxide enhancer and beta-alanine to help reduce muscle fatigue. It also includes botanical extracts to support nutrient absorption, improve muscle strength, and reduce inflammation. AstaGin is made of Panax notoginseng and astragalus. It helps your body absorb nutrients, increases protein synthesis in muscle cells, and increases the absorption of the amino acid arginine.

Caffeine 350 milligrams
Key Ingredients Citrulline malate, vitamin B12, vitamin B3, beta-alanine, taurine, choline bitartrate, mango leaf extract, methylliberine, Senactive, AstraGin
Certifications Informed Choice Certified

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What Are the Main Ingredients in Pre-Workout Supplements?

While all pre-workouts include different types of ingredients in different amounts, common ingredients include citrulline, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids, creatine, tyrosine, and a variety of botanicals that may help support performance or recovery.

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Who Should Not Take Pre-Workout?

“Men with certain medical conditions, such as heart problems, high blood pressure, or sensitivity to stimulants, should avoid pre-workout supplements,” says Boufounos. Always check with your medical provider and pharmacist before adding a supplement to your routine.

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Can I Take Pre-Workout Supplements If I Have a Medical Condition?

While pre-workout won’t interfere with all medical conditions or medications, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before taking any new supplement if you do have a medical condition. If you take medications or other supplements, you may want to check with your pharmacist as well to make sure there are no potential medication interactions.

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Are There Any Potential Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements?

Some ingredients in pre-workout products can cause side effects, depending on what ingredients are included and in what amounts. Beta-alanine, which may cause a tingling effect, and caffeine, which could cause nervousness or jitters, are common side effects.

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How Do Pre-Workout Supplements Improve Workout Performance?

Various ingredients in pre-workout improve performance in different ways. Nitric oxide enhancers, like L-citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine anhydrous, help increase blood flow to your muscles, while caffeine and ginseng improve energy and focus.

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Meet the Experts

  • Melissa Boufounos, CHN is a sports nutritionist and the owner of MB Performance Nutrition near Ottawa, ON
  • Nicole Ibarra, RD, LD is a registered dietitian, brand consultant and entrepreneur

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