Maximize your exercise performance without the caffeine crash or jittery brain-drain.
When it comes to stimulants, there’s really no contest: everyone loves caffeine.
Sure, in our Adderall age, there are certainly more powerful stimulants available. However, for a more sustainable headrush with a limited risk of long-term side effects, caffeine remains a reasonable choice for boosting performance, both mentally and physically.
Because caffeine is associated with “feel good” performance enhancement, many pre-workout supplements offer generous amounts of caffeine in their formulas. However, many of these same pre-workout supplements tend to mask their poor-quality ingredient forms and overall ineffectiveness with caffeine megadoses.
A few common problems with these cheap, weak supplements include:
- Jittery side effects related to excess stimulation
- Poor creatine absorption due to excess caffeine
- Low-grade creatine forms linked to gastric distress
- Unhealthy, pointless synthetic flavors and artificial additives
And more. In other words, caffeine isn’t the only problem with today’s standard pre-workout formula; although, it does often distinguish effective pre-workout stacks from ineffective formulas.
As a reliable “dopaminergic” brain booster, caffeine can be used to trick consumers into thinking an inferior, cheap pre-workout supplement is working as they misattribute the noticeable “feel good” effects of caffeine to the formula’s efficacy.
In this guide on the Best Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout, we cover the advantages of avoiding caffeine in your pre-workout stack, as well as how you can optimize your exercise performance with the best stim-free pre-workout ingredients.
But before diving into all of that, here is a deep-dive analysis of Performance Lab® Pre, the best all-in-one pre-workout supplement without caffeine.
Best Pre-Workout Without Caffeine:
Performance Lab® Pre
Performance Lab® Pre is a zero-calorie, caffeine-free pre-workout supplement with a unique beast-mode-in-a-bottle formula design.
Substituting the standard, additive-heavy pre-workout formula design with a clean NutriCaps® delivery system, Performance Lab® Pre also substitutes the typical stimulants found in pre-workout stacks with organic energy-boosting creatine and other all-natural ergogenic aids.
Altogether, Performance Lab® Pre works by:
- Boosting nitric oxide (N.O.) levels to support enhanced muscular blood flow and oxygenation, priming the “muscle pump” feel of every great workout.
- Saturating muscle tissue with additional creatine, the bodybuilder’s go-to source for stim-free organic ATP-stimulated muscle energy and endurance.
- Prolonging exercise endurance and intensity by buffering muscle acid buildup and replenishing hard-working muscles with hydrating electrolytes.
- Protecting against exercise-related oxidative stress and protein-damaging advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) for early muscle recovery support.
And more. Synergizing all the best caffeine-free pre-workout ingredients in a capsule formula, SPORT Pre is an ultramodern athletic supercharger for the ultramodern athlete.
- Sodium (from Himalayan Pink Salt), 140 mg
- NutriGenesis® Iron+,5 mg
- Setria® Performance Blend (L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione), 2200 mg
- Creapure® pH10 Creatine, 1250 mg
- CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, 800 mg
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract (95% proanthocyanidins), 100 mg
- Himalayan Pink Salt, 350 mg
Performance Lab® Pre upgrades strength, intensity, and muscle growth with a unique combination of highly potent, highly bioavailable pre-workout ingredients.
Compared to the standard hyper-caffeinated pre-workout supplements lining the shelves, Performance Lab® Pre is a smarter, cleaner pre-workout stack that naturally boosts exercise performance with all-natural, stim-free ingredients.
The game-plan here is simple:
- Prime muscle tissue for high-intensity performance.
- Protect muscle tissue against the deleterious side effects of high-intensity performance.
This push-pull combination of “priming” and “protecting” muscle tissue is what makes Performance Lab® Pre such an effective pre-workout stack for long-term athletic gains. By simultaneously heightening your muscle capacity for high-intensity exercise while neutralizing the protein-damaging consequences (e.g., oxidative stress, lactic acid, etc.) of high-intensity exercise, Pre helps you step up your game without immediately burning out.
This is further emphasized by Pre’s decision to avoid caffeine, thereby completely removing the risk of the infamous post-energy crash attendant upon caffeine use.
Inside and out, Performance Lab® Pre is a stim-free, synthetic-free, soy-free, allergen-free, non-GMO, eco-friendly, vegan-friendly pre-workout stack designed to truly maximize your athletic health and fitness.
What’s more, Pre’s formula comes packed in patented NutriCaps® capsules constructed out of fermented tapioca (pullulan), switching up the method of administration from powder to pill. This comes with the upside of removing all the artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives, etc. typically found in powder supplements that wreak absolute mayhem on the digestive tract.
Taken before every workout, Performance Lab® Pre can help you boost your bodybuilding performance without the usual caffeine crash-and-burn.
Stack with Performance Lab® Post + Maintain
To maintain consistent progress with your anabolic gains, fat loss, and other fitness-related goals, stacking a pre-workout supplement with a post-workout supplement and a “rest day” stack can help. A more complete Performance Lab® SPORT workout stack looks something like this:
- Pre – a caffeine-free pre-workout performance enhancer designed to boost nitric oxide (N.O.), muscle strength, endurance, and tissue protection.
- Post – a clean “sport-drink-in-a-capsule” post-workout formula designed to promote anabolic muscle gains and protect against muscle breakdown.
- Maintain – an anabolic muscle nourishment formula designed to restore depleted muscle tissue on rest day for maximum exercise recovery.
Here are the formula breakdowns of Performance Lab® Post and Performance Lab® Maintain, respectively:
Performance Lab® Post Formula Analysis
- Sodium (from Himalayan Pink Salt), 140 mg
- NutriGenesis® Potassium+, 25 mg
- Creapure® pH10 Creatine, 1750 mg
- SR CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, 1200 mg
- Ajipure® L-Glutamine, 600 mg
- P40p™ Pomegranate Extract, 100 mg
- Himalayan Pink Salt, 350 mg
Keep the train rolling by stacking Performance Lab® Pre with Performance Lab® Post, an advanced post-workout formula for quicker muscle repair and recovery.
With SPORT Pre’s creatine supply fueling exercise performance, Performance Lab® Post further replenishes muscle creatine levels designated for post-exercise repair, recovery, and growth. As one study in 2013 observed, post-workout creatine supplementation was found effective at improving body composition and strength.
Additionally, Pre supplies sustained-release beta-alanine for fast-twitch muscle recovery, a pure L-glutamine form for muscle anabolism and immune health, and pomegranate extract to combat oxidative stress (free radicals).
Altogether, the exercise benefits of Post include:
- Protection against muscle catabolism (breakdown)
- Promotion of robust growth and fast recovery
- Replenishment of exercise-depleted energy and nutrients
Similar to Pre, Performance Lab® Post comes packages in clean, prebiotic-infused NutriCaps® capsules, ensuring greater nutrient absorption and gut health.
Taken consistently with consistent exercise and adequate rest, SPORT Post can help you get the most results out of your exercise with minimal muscle fatigue and soreness.
Performance Lab® Maintain Formula Analysis
- NutriGenesis® Iron+,5 mg
- Creapure® pH10 Creatine, 3000 mg
- SR CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, 1600 mg
Filling a void left by most supplement manufacturers, Performance Lab® Maintain provides a muscle-reloading formula cut down the basics required for rest-day recovery and growth.
Uniquely designed to pair with Pre and Post, Performance Lab® Maintain offers an inbetweener “maintenance” stack to help you build stronger muscles faster on rest day, without unnecessarily loading you up on ergogenics intended for acute performance enhancement.
Because creatine must accumulate in muscle tissue to reach peak effect, only taking creatine during workout days may pose a problem. Not to mention that taking too much creatine and beta-alanine all at once to compensate for not supplementing on off days runs the risks of:
- Gastric distress
- Uncomfortable tingling
- Incomplete absorption
And, conversely, choosing to take your creatine-loaded pre-workout stack on your rest days is a waste of your pre-workout formula’s other performance enhancers.
Combined, Pre + Post + Maintain works as a convenient solution for getting the consistent daily creatine + beta-alanine intake requirements required to produce the greatest muscle + strength gains from your workout regimen.
Get the Best Deal on Performance Lab® Maintain Here.
To get a better understanding of how a caffeine-free pre-workout can help you maximize your performance, jump down to the Top 5 Non-Caffeinated Pre-Workout Ingredients list below.
Or continue reading to learn the advantages and disadvantages of pre-workout caffeine supplementation, including why the caffeine-free route is ultimately the best way to go.
The World’s Favorite Drug: Caffeine
Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, energy shots, workout supplements, fat loss supplements, nootropic supplements, energy-boosting gum pack—more and more, it seems like caffeine is sneaking its way into everything these days. And from a seller’s point of view, this makes sense: caffeine makes people feel good, and people buy things that make them feel good.
- What’s more, caffeine makes people feel good in a reliably way that’s relatively safe to other habit-forming stimulants and quote-unquote “drugs.”
We say “quote-unquote” (in quotes now—ha ha) because, though many people refer to caffeine as a “drug,” caffeine is a natural, plant-based compound. As a naturally occurring compound, caffeine is found in roughly sixty different plant species, including:
- Coffee Beans
- Tea Leaves
- Cocoa Beans
- Kola Nuts
- Yerba Maté
- Guarana Berries
- Yaupon Holly
Which is interesting and all, but the more important question here is:
What Exactly is Caffeine?
Caffeine, or 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine (if you want to get fancy with it), is an alkaloid, which means that its chemical structure is predominated by nitrogen. Pure caffeine is highly water-soluble and can, thus, act rapidly on the brain and body after ingestion without aid of fatty foods (as is the case with fat-soluble compounds).
Structurally, caffeine is similar to adenosine, a compound that binds with adenosine receptors to induce cognitive drowsiness and fatigue. Which gives us the perfect segue into the more importanter question:
What Exactly does Caffeine do?
Caffeine, as a compound structurally similar to adenosine, binds to adenosine receptors to block the drowsiness-inducing effects of adenosine. In other words, caffeine achieves its stimulatory effects on the central nervous system (CNS) through its inhibitory effects on adenosine, resulting in a boost on:
- Catecholamines – dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, etc.
- Adrenal Activity – encouraging the release of stress hormone cortisol.
- Dopamine Signaling – in high dosages (300+ mg), caffeine may increase the availability of dopamine receptors.
Other well-known effects of caffeine intake include vasoconstriction (reduced blood flow), cognitive arousal, and an improved mood. However, the degree to which these effects measure up as “pros” or “cons” depends on several key factors, both objective and subjective.
The Pros vs. Cons of Caffeine for Exercise
Several factors largely determine the advantageous vs. disadvantageous use of caffeine for exercise performance enhancement. However, perhaps the two most important factors are:
- Dosage – the amount of caffeine per serving
- Timing – when you take caffeine (i.e., morning or night?)
- Caffeine Sensitivity – your personal tolerance to stimulants
Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and therefore they require smaller dosages to reach peak effect. Others, on the other hand, may feel like they need to guzzle a significant amount of caffeine just to reach their cognitive baseline.
Regardless, with these personal variables in mind, the general “pros” and “cons” of caffeine use for exercise include:
Pro #1 – Cognitive Performance
As a dopaminergic stimulant, caffeine may heighten mood and intensity for greater mental motivation in the gym. Taken prior to exercise, caffeine may help ward off mental fatigue in service of a more alert, more exercise-ready mindset.
- Study: in a placebo-controlled study on the effects of caffeine consumption on judo athletes, morning caffeine ingestion was suggested to have “ergogenic properties with the potential to benefit performance, increase anxiety and vigor, and decrease the simple reaction time.”
Con #1 – Anxiety, Nervousness, and Jitteriness
Conversely, the mood- and intensity-boosting advantages of caffeine may also tip over into cognitive impairment by promoting anxiety, nervousness, and jitteriness. Encouraging mental arousal, caffeine may often encourage too much arousal, throwing the mind into a scatterbrained state of anxiety that can be detrimental to athletic performance that requires cool composure.
- Study: under conditions of anxiety disorder, caffeine consumption may exacerbate anxiety symptoms, potentially as a consequence of increased sensitivity to caffeine associated with anxiety disorder. Abstaining from caffeine altogether may significantly help maintain a level head under such conditions.
Pro #2 – Thermogenic Fat Loss
In addition to boosting cognitive arousal, caffeine’s stimulatory effects also seem to boost thermogenesis, or fat burning. By encouraging the activity of “fight or flight” catecholamines and stress hormones, caffeine seems to heighten the body’s energy expenditure capacity, potentially resulting in greater fat loss results during exercise.
- Study: in one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 100, 200, and 400 mg caffeine dosages were observed to determine the stimulant’s effects on thermogenic, metabolic, and cardio health measures. The results: caffeine dose-dependently increased thermogenic energy expenditure in association with increased plasma lactate and triglyceride levels.
Con #2 – Poor Sleep Quality
Nothing disrupts exercise performance and metabolic health quite like sleep deprivation. Contributing to a wide range of metabolic disorders and performance decrements, poor sleep quality is often associated with excess caffeine use. And the relationship between the two is a downward spiral: caffeine promotes sleep deprivation, which encourages further caffeine use, etc. etc.
- Study: comparing the sleep disruptive effects of caffeine administered at 0, 3, and 6 hours prior to bedtime, a group of researchers observed that “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep and provides empirical support for sleep hygiene recommendations to refrain from substantial caffeine use for a minimum of 6 hours prior to bedtime.”
Pro #3 – Vasoconstriction
Caffeine has a vasoconstrictive effect, meaning that this stimulant promotes the constriction of blood vessels, thereby decreasing blood flow. While this sounds like a negative (as we’ll get into in “Con #3” below), caffeine’s vasoconstriction may potentially have a pain-relieving effect on headaches, namely headaches associated with excessive flow to the brain.
- Study: as one study on caffeine’s vascular mechanisms of action suggests, “caffeine has some cardiovascular properties and effects which could be considered beneficial,” involving the association between decreased cerebral circulation and migrainous headache.
Con #3 – Vasoconstriction
One of the main reasons we take pre-workout supplements: boost circulation. And so, naturally, the vasoconstriction effects of caffeine are typically viewed as a negative when it comes to performance enhancement. Whether we’re talking nootropic cognitive enhancers or bodybuilder pre-workout stacks, the goal is to boost blood flow, not inhibit it.
- Study: in one 2009 study on the effects of daily caffeine use on cerebral blood flow, caffeine was shown to reduce cerebral blood flow by an average 27%, which may significantly impact cognition and goes against the vasodilatory aims of pre-workout N.O. boosters.
Okay, so is Caffeine a Legitimate Performance Enhancer?
Research is a funny thing. If you want to find a group of studies that confirm your belief that caffeine is a legitimate performance enhancer, you can easily do so—and ditto for research that confirms the belief that caffeine actually impairs performance.
Based on the study’s compiled above, the performance enhancement potential of caffeine significantly depends upon how much caffeine you use, your personal caffeine tolerance, and when you take caffeine (i.e., how close to bedtime).
Of course, much of this is common sense.
But with a better understanding of how caffeine affects your mental and physical performance, you may make a smarter decision as to whether or not you want caffeine in your pre-workout stack (or any stack for that matter).
An Optional Source of Pre-Workout Caffeine: Performance Lab® Stim
One of the major advantages of taking a caffeine-free pre-workout supplement: you’re given the option of taking or not taking additional caffeine on the side on an as-needed basis. Sometimes you wants the ‘feine, other times you do not. But having the option is everything.
With Performance Lab® Stim, a nootropic-enhanced “Caffeine 2.0” pill, you can enjoy the stim-free benefits of Performance Lab® SPORT Pre while also having a modestly dosed source of caffeine (50mg caffeine per pill) readily available to take pre-workout or intra-workout (or whenever you need it).
Performance Lab® Stim’s formula splits into two key stacks:
- Stack 1: caffeine + L-theanine for performance-tuned stimulation, with the latter ingredient (theanine) reducing the jittery side effects of the former (caffeine) without compromising its energy-boosting benefits.
- Stack 2: L-tyrosine + a smart B-complex for caffeine balance and recovery, accomplished by these ingredients’ promotion of catecholamine (dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine) replenishment in defense against the well-known caffeine crash and comedown.
Paired with SPORT Pre, Performance Lab® Stim grants you the option of having (or not having) a healthy, crash-free source of caffeinated performance enhancement, without the typical jittery side effects associated with stimulants.
- Supplement Facts: NutriGenesis® Caffeine Balance B-Complex: Riboflavin+ (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B6+, Folate+ (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12+, Natural Caffeine (from Coffea robusta seeds), Suntheanine® L-Theanine, Ajipure® L-Tyrosine
Get the Best Deal on Performance Lab® Stim Here
Top 5 Non-Caffeinated Pre-Workout Ingredients
Whether you’re looking at a caffeinated or non-caffeinated pre-workout supplement, some of the best pre-workout ingredients you need to look for include:
An organic compound highly concentrated in muscle tissue, creatine works as precursor fuel for the natural production of ATP energy, a cleaner, more natural energy source than the stimulatory effects of caffeine. As a dietary supplement, creatine boosts exercise performance by:[13,14]
- Replenishing exercise-depleted ATP energy
- Stimulating insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
- Buffering muscular lactic acid build-up for better endurance
Because creatine concentrates in muscle tissue, ongoing supplementation is required for creatine to reach peak muscle saturation and, thus, peak ergogenic effect.
Best Pre-Workout Creatine: Creapure® pH10
- Creapure® pH10 is 99.5% pure creatine monohydrate
- pH-balanced to enhance bioavailability
- Clean and easy-to-absorb to reduce bloating and gastric distress
A well-known sports nutrition aid, namely for the skin-tingling sensation associated with it, Beta-Alanine replenishes levels of carnosine, a dipeptide molecule, in muscle tissue, namely fast-twitch muscle fibers, for increased muscle strength and power during high-intensity exercise. Consistently loading and maintaining muscle carnosine benefits muscle performance and recovery by:
- Delaying onset of muscle fatigue and failure
- Enhancing overall muscle strength and stamina
- Neutralizing exercise-induced free radicals
- Inhibiting advanced glycation end-products (AGEs)
- Buffering the impact of muscle-damaging acids
And more. The strength and endurance benefits of beta-alanine are unmatched and pair incredibly well with the endurance-boosting advantages of creatine supplementation.
Best Pre-Workout Beta-Alanine: CarnoSyn®
- CarnoSyn® is the only beta-alanine with NDI (New Dietary Ingredient) status
- Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)
- Well-backed by years of clinical research
#3) L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione
L-Citrulline is an amino acid that, once absorbed, converts in the body to L-arginine, a nitric oxide (N.O.) booster that enhances muscular circulation, strength, and growth. In other words, L-citrulline works as your go-to pre-workout “muscle pump” booster.
Additionally, L-Glutathione is an antioxidant enzyme that, when paired with L-citrulline, benefits athletic health and performance in a few ways. Combined, L-citrulline + L-glutathione work by:
- Promoting oxygen delivery to muscle tissue
- Protecting muscle against oxidative stress
- Sustaining L-citrulline’s N.O.-boosting bioactivities
- Improving muscle energy and anabolism
- Strengthening immunity against gym-related challenges
And more. Stacking these two compounds may significantly boost performance and protect against the deleterious side effects of boosted performance.
Best Pre-Workout L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione: Setria® Performance Blend
- Setria® Performance Blend is made by Kyowa Hakko Bio Co. Ltd., a world leader in health supplement development
- Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline is exceptionally clean and bioavailable
- Setria® is an advanced glutathione form that pairs well with Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline
#4) Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Formed by the harsh salty climes of the sea, maritime pine bark extract supplies proanthocyanidins, a potent class of antioxidants that:
- Promote endothelial production of nitric oxide (N.O.)
- Protect muscle tissue during intense training
- Boost long-term cognitive attentional performance
Look for maritime pine bark extract standardized to 95% proanthocyanidins for optimal results with this unique performance enhancing herbal extract.
#5) Himalayan Pink Salt
Hydration is key to athletic health and muscle growth, and, yet, when it comes to rehydration, we tend to overlook the importance of electrolytes to sustaining healthy H2O levels. As a natural source of electrolyte trace minerals, Himalayan Pink Salt is a smart choice for restoring sweat-depleted electrolytes when taken in a pre-workout context.
Frankly, our caffeine options are far from limited. If you want caffeine, you can get some. Odds are you’re enjoying a hot cup (or a cold can) of caffeine right now, as you read this.
However, what is hard to come by is a real-deal health and fitness supplement that genuinely supports athletic health and fitness. And with its all-natural, hard-hitting ergogenics packed in its caffeine-free pre-workout formula, Performance Lab® SPORT Pre certainly fits the bill.
What’s more, Performance Lab® designs its formulas to synergistically stack on top of each other:
- Still want an optional source of caffeine with Pre’s stim-free formula? Add Performance Lab® Stim to the mix.
- Need a couple post-workout and recovery stacks? Try Performance Lab® Post and Performance Lab® Maintain.
The point isn’t to completely force you into a caffeine-free workout but to grant you the option. Head to www.performancelab.com to see more formulas to stack with SPORT Pre.
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- Evans J et al. Caffeine. [Updated 2020 Mar 22]. StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan.
- Heckman MA et al. Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in Foods: A Comprehensive Review on Consumption, Functionality, Safety, and Regulatory Matters. J Food Sci. 2010 Apr; 75(3): R77-87.
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- Cooper R et al. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 33.
- Oliver JM et al. Oral Creatine Supplementation’s Decrease of Blood Lactate During Exhaustive, Incremental Cycling. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013 Jun; 23(3): 252-8.
- Hobson RM et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul; 43(1): 25-37.
- McKinley-Barnard S et al. Combined L-citrulline and Glutathione Supplementation Increases the Concentration of Markers Indicative of Nitric Oxide Synthesis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Jun 10; 12: 27.
- Aldret RL, Bellar D. A Double-Blind, Cross-Over Study to Examine the Effects of Maritime Pine Bark Extract on Exercise Performance and Postexercise Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, Muscle Soreness, and Damage. J Diet Suppl. 2020; 17(3): 309-320.