Before we talk about the best preworkout, you might be wondering what they are…
Do you remember back in gym class, we were told that before a big sports event, bananas were the best breakfast you could hope for? Or that if you wanted to build muscle, or just look extra bad-ass, raw eggs were the equivalent of Popeye’s spinach?
And then every single time, there’d be at least one kid who would try eating exactly one banana before hitting the field hours later and fall over halfway through the tryout? Or was that just me?
Those were the original preworkout supplements, and they weren’t entirely a myth.
Potassium, found in bananas, is an electrolyte—think of it as electricity that powers your body. An abundance of it can prevent aches and pains and give you more energy during workouts. Eggs are protein. Bodybuilders found that, due to the high protein levels they had to consume, it was easier (and faster) to take them raw.
So the world may be moving past the idea of drinking eggs, but preworkouts are still popular, perhaps even more so now than they were all those years ago. It’s thanks to supplements. It’s never been easier, or more convenient, to get your fill of nutrients.
But do preworkouts work? Should you be indulging in them? Before I review what I think are the five best preworkout supplements for you, I’ll answer these questions and more.
It’s quite a task finding a solid, universal definition of what a preworkout is. The general consensus is that they are supplement products—mostly powdered drinks or shakes—that are meant to improve your energy levels and athletic performance.
I know, they sound suspiciously like steroids, but I can assure you they aren’t. The difference is simple:
Steroids, which are banned in almost every single professional sport on Earth, are performance-enhancing drugs. They’re synthetic hormones that give an athlete an unfair—and unnatural—advantage.
Preworkouts are performance-enhancing foods. This distinction is because their components are naturally found in what we eat. Ingesting them motivates your body to produce more hormones on its own, instead of overloading your system with something it didn’t create.
They’re used for a number of reasons, but the root is always the same: a preworkout allows you to push harder so your workouts can be more intense and bring you better results.
So before we pick the best preworkout for you, let’s explore them a bit more.
The best preworkout you can buy, when produced and consumed responsibly, will have proven benefits that make a real difference in your body’s ability to work.
I’ve already mentioned that potassium is an electrolyte, an important mineral that your body needs to function properly. One study found that a preworkout favorite, creatine, has just as much effect on your muscles after exercise as it does before.
Whether you’re taking supplements or acquiring these minerals through a cooked breakfast, you’re enabling your body to withstand intense workouts that it otherwise might not be able to handle.
That might sound unhealthy, but think of it as you do a strong cup of coffee before a long day of work. In fact, caffeine is also a popular ingredient in preworkout supplements, and it’s been proven to improve your power during exercise.
The best preworkout serves as fuel. The more you have, the further and faster you can go.
But, to answer the question of whether or not preworkout supplements work, you should take note that some of them won’t.
There are a few preworkouts that are phony and won’t be beneficial at all. They might contain harmful fillers, or they could just diluted them to save on production costs.
Do your research to make sure that your preworkout is legit to avoid wasting money on the fake ones. The best preworkout for you will be free of harmful additives and will contain ingredients that are proven to work.
For the most part, yes. But in order for that to stand true, you have to be aware of the risks before you even consider smelling a preworkout supplement. I don’t mean to worry you, or scare you away from them, but there are some horror stories out there.
For example, a number of preworkouts were caught with 2-aminoisoheptane or Aconitum kusnezoffii as an active ingredient. They list it under the ruse that it is a natural compound extracted from monkshood.
Except it’s not. It’s something called 1,3-DMAA, a chemical that has a similar effect to caffeine. But when it’s combined with caffeine—as it usually is in preworkouts—it can be extremely dangerous due to spikes in blood pressure and the fact that it pretty much functions as an amphetamine.
On a less terrifying note, some supplements may have an adverse effect. Not because they are bad, but because our bodies will react differently to them.
Most preworkouts are stimulants. If you have even a slight sensitivity to them, you could experience side effects, which include vomiting, cramps, headaches, itching, anxiety, and chest pain.
Preworkouts are safe to use, but you have to make sure that you understand the ingredients they contain. I know it sounds tedious, but it could literally be the difference between life and death.
Again, it’s not because they are dangerous. It’s just that our bodies are different, and the best preworkout supplement for someone else might prove to be too strong for you.
My apologies for the grim warnings. To balance out the negativity, here’s a list of sound ingredients that you don’t have to worry about. These aren’t the only ones that are safe, there are just too many to mention. When deciding on the best preworkout for you, look out for these contents.
A compound that’s found naturally in beets and like the above, it assists with strength and endurance.
If you’re ready for a preworkout, I’d love to help you to find a good one. I’ve chosen the five best preworkouts according to their ingredients, their safety, and of course their effects.
Users praise this as the best preworkout, and I can understand why. It works, it tastes great, and tests show it’s clear of all banned or controversial pollutants. You won’t experience crashes or any nervous side effects with use.
Its ingredients imply that this preworkout could assist with your metabolism, circulation, muscle recovery, and cognitive function.
You should note, though, that its great taste comes from added sweeteners. The caffeine content is also higher than it should be.
This almost took the title of the best preworkout. It’s revered by many weight trainers, and I don’t take too much issue with it. The preworkout has added supplements for an extra boost, with few side effects, and Legion is ranked first for quality on Labdoor.
But there are a few areas where it falls short. For one, the taste isn’t great. Also, two scoops are enough to cause tingling.
This is a more intense preworkout and could cause side effects in some. It also induces tingling—most likely due to the inclusion of taurine. It could help with circulation and cognitive function.
Lab tests come back clean for this all-American supplement, and Vintage Blast claims that we cannot become dependent on it.
This is the best preworkout if you aren’t sensitive to a big boost.
Tier 1 has a pretty solid product. It tastes good, it works well, and there are no side effects that I can see. But it has very high caffeine content. Two scoops are enough to exceed your recommended daily intake by at least 200 milligrams, so it won’t be suitable for everyone.
The supplement has a high ranking for quality, and customer satisfaction is impressive.
This is a great contender for the best preworkout, as it’s an incredibly powerful stimulant that works on your muscles too.
This is the best preworkout if you’re looking for a mild energizer. I like that Optimum Nutrition has created a product that’s easy on your system and your taste buds. Of course, not everyone will prefer a softer option, but if you do, I recommend this one.
In terms of supplementation, it contains the usual suspect—caffeine—as well as beta-alanine and citrulline. The added cayenne pepper gives an extra kick to your metabolism.
I chose Athlean R-X X-CITE as the best preworkout because I think it’s a great middle-ground product. Other preworkouts may have ranked higher for quality, but this one tastes good and has no jittery side effects or tingling.
Its caffeine levels (although there were discrepancies in the labeling) are deemed safe, so it’s fine as long as you keep an eye on how much you take in.
It’s a great product that speaks for itself, though it doesn’t hurt that it has a ton of rave reviews by happy (and healthy) customers speaking for it too.