Working out is hard. It requires motivation, focus, energy and a willingness to test and transcend your limits. A few are driven to push the envelope unaided. Most of us, however, need a boost to get going and to stay on course until the workout is finished. That’s what the pre workout is for.
Pre workout supplements provide that kick in the pants that’s often needed to move from sitting still to working out. They’re also there for you when you encounter physical barriers that used to call an end to your workouts. With the right pre workout supplement you’re able to push through those barriers and enter the zone where true progress is waiting.
Today’s pre workout supplements take a scientific approach to fitness. They provide the initial boost we mentioned, but also provide a range of other ingredients that promote blood flow, increase focus and enhance muscle recovery and growth. Here are the 10 best pre workout supplements of 2020.
1. Pre JYM Pre Workout Powder
Pre Jym Powder is loaded with the things you need to drive your workout to new heights. That includes caffeine and huperzine A to get you going and keep you focused, creatine to provide power and enhance stamina and branched chain amino acids to speed recovery and build bigger muscles.
There’s also calcium to help build strong bones to hold your new, larger muscles and black pepper to aid in absorption. It comes in 9 different flavors and mixes well with just about any non-carbonated beverage. Just be aware that there are 300mg of caffeine here. So try to resist the temptation to double up on the dose.
2. Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy
With Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy you get a nice balance of caffeine-driven energy and amino acid-driven stamina and muscle support. Mix a spoonful with your favorite non-carbonated beverage and it will help you transcend performance barriers and discover your potential.
ON Essential Amino Energy isn’t going to win any taste tests but you don’t buy this product to impress the judges at Le Cordon Bleu. You’re buying it to help you push through barriers and build a stronger, leaner physique. And it delivers all 10s in that regard.
3. ProSupps Mr. Hyde NitroX Pre-Workout
ProSupps Mr. Hyde NitroX provides a substantial caffeine jolt that’s sure to help you shake off the rust and get into your workout. It also features creatine to bolster muscle contraction and yohimbe to promote robust blood flow. As a result you’re likely to experience a new level of pump.
While at the same time leaving your old performance limits in the rear view. This is a serious pre workout for serious strength training. As for the taste, well, just try to remember the goal is muscle growth not happy taste buds.
4. MuscleTech Neurocore Pre Workout Powder
MuscleTech Neurocore Pre Workout provides a scientifically formulated combination of ingredients including L-citrulline, creatine and L-arginine. They help you achieve a radical pump, push through performance barriers and build bigger stronger muscles fast.
There is also rhodiola extract that will help your muscles deal with the stress you apply to them. Alas, there are no BCAAs to aid in recovery here. So you’ll need to get them somewhere else. But this is still a highly effective pre workout that will turbocharge your efforts.
5. Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Pre Workout
Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Pre Workout has you covered from the minute you hit the gym to the minute you hit the sack at night. There’s a generous but not outrageous amount of caffeine to get you going and creatine to promote muscle contraction when the pressure is on.
After you’ve turned in for the night the branched chain amino acids go to work repairing damaged muscle tissue and laying the foundation for bigger, stronger muscles. Pre-Kaged also provides antioxidants to prevent oxidative stress and reduce muscle soreness.
6. Betancourt Nutrition B-Nox Androrush Pre-Workout
Betancourt B-Nox Androrush is one of the most well-rounded pre workouts on the market. It has all the bases covered including that initial caffeine jolt and even maca root to promote testosterone production. There is creatine to help with muscle performance, black pepper to aid in absorption and BCAAs to aid in recovery.
So why isn’t it higher up our list? Because they hide exact amounts of these ingredients behind a kind of proprietary blend label. So you can never be sure exactly how much you’re getting of what. It’s not a deal breaker. But we prefer transparency.
7. Nitrosurge Black Pre Workout Supplement
Nitrosurge Black puts the emphasis squarely on providing you an energy boost to power your workout. To that end it provides straight up caffeine, teacrine and caffeine malate. The net result is that you’ll be laser focused and energized from locker room to shower.
There’s no fancy pants creatine or anything like that. Just caffeine and then a bunch of BCAAs to help speed muscle recovery and rebuilding afterward. It’s a true no-nonsense pre workout.
8. Cellucor C4 Original Pre Workout Powder
Cellucor C4 is another no-nonsense pre workout. But it takes a slightly different approach than Nitrosurge Black. With C4 there are no BCAAs to help with recovery.
Instead the focus is squarely on your performance in the gym. To that end there’s caffeine to get you going along with creatine and beta alanine to help with muscle performance. That’s it.
9. Evlution Nutrition ENGN Shred Pre Workout
This is a true ‘pre workout’ in that it doesn’t provide much in the way of BCAAs to promote recovery. But there are other ways to get those if you want. ENGN is designed to light a fire under you so that you don’t waste a minute of workout time searching for motivation or hoping your energy levels will emerge from hiding.
There’s no doubt it puts wind in your sails. But because of that conspicuous lack of BCAAs (and the price) we couldn’t justify bumping it any higher up the list.
10. BSN N.O.-Xplode Pre Workout Supplement
The last of our best pre workout supplements also puts the focus squarely on how you perform in the weight room. N.O.-XPlode features a host of ingredients designed to optimize muscle performance and turbo charge your internal engine.
There’s also a smattering of vitamins and minerals thrown in because, hey, why not? The ingredient list is impressive but too long to rehash here. And unfortunately, much of what’s included is hidden behind a proprietary blend label.
What is a Pre Workout Supplement?
A pre workout is a type of supplement intended to provide the user a boost of energy so they can break through physical barriers and get more from their workout. Of course, the best known and most popular pre workout in the world is a good old fashioned cup of coffee.
But commercially available pre workout supplements provide more than just a jolt of caffeine. (Although, to be sure, many of them do provide that.) They also include ingredients such as branched chain amino acids or BCAAs (1), creatine (2), beta alanine (3) and more. These ingredients serve multiple purposes including extending the amount of time your muscles can work before failure, boosting adrenaline levels and promoting lipid oxidation (fat burning).
At the end of the day the pre workout supplement should enable the user to build larger, more powerful muscles than they otherwise would be able to. This in turn will pay multiple health benefits including increased metabolism and a reduced chance of developing diabetes. More on those benefits now.
What Are the Benefits of Pre Workout Supplements?
If you are interested in getting more from your workouts you should consider a pre workout supplement like one of those listed above. While these used to be the exclusive domain of bodybuilders they’ve lately gained widespread acceptance as word of their many benefits has made the rounds. Today, there is significant evidence to support the notion that…
Pre workout supplements enhance physical performance. – This is the primary reason people use pre workout supplements. They’ve spent long hours in the gym trying to improve their overall conditioning but have run into performance limitations (4). It happens to everyone sooner or later. You reach the point where your body seems to say “Enough”. When this occurs there are two paths to choose from: either accept the limitation your body is trying to impose or transcend it by way of a pre workout supplement. More and more often people are choosing to use the pre workout and break through the barriers holding them back.
Pre workout supplements lead to increased metabolism. – Muscle tissue actually increases your metabolism (5). This allows your body to burn calories even when you’re sitting still. (The same can’t be said for fat tissue.) This increased metabolic activity helps ensure any weight you lose stays lost. But even before the new enlarged muscles start burning adipose tissue while you sleep the ingredients in the pre workout are busy raising body thermogenesis (6) and suppressing your appetite. Two more key elements of any successful attempt to lose weight and keep it off.
Pre workout supplements enable faster recovery. – When you work your muscles to failure tiny tears appear in the muscle tissue (7). These tears cause the aches and pains you feel the day after the workout. If you simply let nature take its course it may be several days before you are able to work out again. A pre workout supplement will provide the amino acids necessary to speed this process up. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. And proteins are the building blocks of muscle. Providing your body with a dose of these essential building blocks will help speed up the process of muscle repair and recovery.
Pre workout supplements help maintain energy levels. – During any strenuous workout you are going to gradually exhaust your reserves of energy. Running low on energy is a major reason people aren’t able to transcend those performance limitations we mentioned earlier. A good pre workout supplement will provide you with the energy needed to keep at it when you ordinarily might have given up. This will enable you to push back the performance envelope.
Pre workout supplements contain BCAAs. – While BCAAs are present in beef and a few other types of food most people don’t get enough from their everyday diet to provide for their needs when it comes to building muscle. Sure, you might get enough to maintain the muscles you have. But if you want to progress to the next level you’ll likely need to supplement. That’s where pre workouts come in. Not all have BCAAs. But the ones that do provide your body what it needs to repair the damage done in the gym and propel you to a stronger, leaner physique.
Pre workout supplements enhance mental focus. – It’s no exaggeration to state that successful workouts are equal parts physical and mental. If your brain is not into what you’re doing you’re going to lose focus and performance will suffer. When it comes time to face down the performance limitation demon you’ll be more likely to give in and walk away if your mind isn’t hell-bent on pushing through. Most pre workout supplements provide a generous dose of caffeine which is well-known for its ability to focus the mind (8).
Pre workout supplements make bigger muscles. – There’s no point beating around the bush here. You want bigger muscles. Pre workout supplements will help you get bigger muscles for all the reasons laid out above. ‘Bigger muscles’ doesn’t have to mean turning into Arnold circa 1973. Unless of course that’s what you want. For most people it just means replacing body fat with muscle so that they look and feel better. Pre workout supplements can help you do that.
Pre workout supplements reduce appetite. – If you are constantly packing in the food you’ll need to work twice as hard in the gym to burn off all the excess. A better way to lose weight and build strong, lean muscle is to eat less but eat smart: fewer saturated fats, more protein etc. Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant (9). (If you have any doubts try drinking an espresso before lunch and see what happens to your appetite.) Pre workout supplements contain caffeine that can help curb your appetite.
Who Could Benefit from a Pre Workout?
It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that a pre workout supplement can help you get more from your workouts. (Although there’s plenty of science that goes into the formulation of these supplements.) All you really need to do to discover how effective they can be is to try one. Your experience will provide all the proof you need. That said, lots of people still have questions regarding whether or not a pre workout supplement can help them. So we’ve compiled this brief list of those who can benefit from using one of these supplements.
Those attempting to improve their endurance. – As we mentioned earlier one of the biggest reasons people aren’t able to make progress in the gym is that they run out of energy. A pre workout supplement can provide you the energy boost necessary to extend your endurance and push through performance limits.
Those who lack motivation. – Most people need to feel motivated before they’ll bother to get up off the couch and exercise. But acting on motivation requires focus. It doesn’t take much to distract most people. And distractions eat away at motivation like acid (10). As we’ve seen a pre workout supplement can boost your mental focus. This greater focus will help you avoid getting distracted and enable you to act on your desire to exercise.
Those who just want to get stronger and healthier. This is the number 1 reason to use a pre workout supplement. After all, you’re exercising for a reason. You want to have greater strength and more energy in your everyday life. If all you do is go to the gym and call it quits every time your body objects you’re just spinning your wheels. A pre workout supplement will help you push through into the unchartered territory where progress awaits.
What’s the Best Time to Take a Pre Workout Supplement?
This would seem like a no brainer. After all, it’s a ‘pre workout’ supplement. So, when you’re supposed to take it is right in the name. Right? Well, sort of. That truth is it may not be in your interest to take it in the locker room before you head out to wrestle with the free weights. Why? Because caffeine can take a while before it kicks in (11). So if you’re hoping the caffeine will help you get through the start of your routine you might want to take it up to an hour before you hit the weights. If you’re hoping that caffeine boost will come online during the mid-point of your workout where you normally start to wither then taking it in the locker room might be a good idea.
Is There a Downside to Pre Workout Supplements?
The downside of taking a supplement that promotes strenuous activity is that strenuous activity always carries with it the risk of injury. If you are to avoid hurting yourself as you push through performance limits it will be vitally important that you maintain proper form at all times. And, if you are working with barbells and the like, that you have a spotter (12).
Of course we can’t discuss pre workout supplements without mentioning caffeine. While modest amounts of caffeine aren’t considered harmful and may even be beneficial (13), consuming too much caffeine, especially late in the day, can lead to insomnia. Some pre workouts go all-in on the caffeine. So it’s important to know how much is in the one you plan on taking. Especially if you’re the type of person who tends to work out late in the day.
It’s also possible that you could build up both a physical and mental tolerance to your pre workout supplement. If you feel like your pre workout is not giving you the boost it was a few weeks ago try going off it for a while and then restarting with it.
Should I Also Take a Post-Workout Supplement?
This is a question we see a lot. But not one with a yes or no answer. It depends on what pre workout supplement you’re taking, the amount of exercising you do and what you hope to achieve from taking one. Most people take post workout supplements to aid in muscle recovery. But if your current pre workout choice is rich in BCAAs there’s little justification for loading up on more after you workout.
On a related note, if you are not really pushing the performance envelope then you’re probably not in need of extra BCAAs to repair muscle tissue. Even if your post workout supplement is just a protein pill or a protein shake it may not be necessary if you just sit down to a nice steak dinner when you finish your workout.
The Bottom Line
A good pre workout supplement can help you get more from your workouts and achieve a higher degree of overall health. They’re safe, effective and affordable and they can ensure the money you’re spending on your gym membership isn’t wasted.
Each of the pre workout supplements on our list has a proven track record of enabling enhanced physical performance. They’ll help you hit the ground running, enable you to push through performance barriers that had been holding you back and help you recover faster.