10 Pre-Workout Supplements for Muscle 2020

Give yourself a big advantage with a pre-workout boost!

Working out can be daunting and if there was a supplement that could help us get through it easier, then everyone would be using it… oh wait, it’s called a pre-workout!

Possibly one of the greatest training aids we have available to us; pre-workout supplements can make a significant difference. Now, sometimes we just feel drained and the thought of going to the gym is just that… a thought.

But why let your low energy levels cause you to miss your workouts? After all, gains come when we’re consistent. Well, the good thing is that there are some amazing pre-workout supplements that will give you the edge and motivation to get up and be active when you don’t feel like it.

Best Pre Workouts for Bodybuilding at a Glance

#1 Best Overall: National Bodybuilding Co. Stage Ready Pre Workout

Summary: Our favorite pre workout product of 2020 that won gold across multiple categories in our 2020 supplement awards. Delivers on promises, with clean focus, big pumps and marked increases in power.

Click here to shop at National Bodybuilding Co.

#2 Performance Lab Pre

Summary: An advanced formula inside capsules makes this product stand out. Alongside the facts it has some good benefits to workouts and comes as pretty cheap.

Click here to shop at Performance Lab

#3 Transparent Labs Bulk

Summary: An industry staple that uses a tried and tested formulation and has good effects. Bulk is dependable and effective.

Click here to shop at Transparent Labs

Pre-workouts can help you to push a little more weight and allow you to keep training when you’d otherwise call it a day! And a good pre-workout contains a minimum of a few important ingredients like caffeine, Beta-Alanine, BCAAs, and L-Arginine as a base and all other ingredients are optional.

But, we’ll get into that shortly…

pre-workout Generation Iron supplement awards

What Does a Pre-Workout Do?

We’re always trying to get every advantage we can when it comes to training and performance of any sort. Well, a pre-workout gives you a big boost of energy during your activities.

So, if you’re an active individual who is willing to push yourself a little, quality pre-workout ingredients will increase your heart rate, blood flow, and focus to get you hyped for that big session!

The common ingredients include:

  • Caffeine (Nervous system stimulant)
  • Beta-Alanine (Non-essential amino acid, which aids in carnosine production)
  • L-Arginine (Amino acid which converts into nitric oxide for blood vessel vasodilation)
  • BCAAs (Essential branched-chain amino acids and building blocks of protein)
  • Creatine (Helps make adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which fuels muscle energy)
  • Betaine (Beneficial for muscle growth, power and helps produce carnitine)
  • Taurine (Amino acid which provides endurance benefits)
  • L- Citrulline (Boosts nitric oxide by converting into L-Arginine)

And there are studies to shows the effectiveness for performance especially with caffeine consumption. Like one study which showed it to have a positive effect on resistance training to failure and psychophysiological factors which contribute to physical exertion.

Pre-Workout Benefits

There are some pretty obvious benefits of pre-workout supplementation.

  • More focus
  • Longer training sessions
  • Increased cardio
  • Strength and muscle gains
  • Fat loss
  • Increased blood flow
  • Better recovery

According to a study, multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements do have promise as an ergogenic aid for people who are physically active. (1)

Another study showed a pre-workout mix which includes creatine, Betaine (trimethyglycine: TMG), dendrobium extract (Dendrobex™), and caffeine to have a better effect on energy, focus and fatigue than just caffeine alone. (2)

But, all you have to do is look at user experience to know that the benefits are real.

Are Pre-Workouts Safe?

Although these products are not monitored by the FDA, most are safe for consumption by the general public. However, you must use caution before using a product which contains caffeine, and other substances which could potentially cause adverse effects.

It’s always recommended to have a full health check before using such supplements, but if you don’t, always start with the absolute lowest does possible and only buy from reputable companies which test their products.

The recommended safe daily caffeine intake amount is 400mg per day. But, people who have built up a tolerance may be able to consume more. And if you’re training, you may be able to get away with extra caffeine consumption. (3)

But it’s imperative you build up your tolerance very slowly. Taking too much caffeine at once, especially if you’re sensitive, can be very dangerous and result in health consequences.

Possible Side Effects with pre-workout ingredients:

  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea

Keep in mind, there are different sizes and flavors for each product. We’ve listed information based on one size and flavor so be sure to check when ordering to ensure you get the desired product.


1st: Best Pre Workout for Muscle 2020: National Bodybuilding Co. Stage Ready Pre Workout

pre-workout

Get the latest and greatest pre workout formula with Stage Ready Pre Workout. Delivering quality muscle pumps, enhanced stamina and a nice hit of energy makes this the pre workout of choice for anyone looking to hit the weight room with a renewed ferocity.

We loved National Bodybuilding Co. pre workout because it delivers on it’s promises, tastes great and had us desperate to train more and use it again.

Here’s how the formula can enhance your workouts:

  • Hydrates and buffers muscle tissue – Train harder for longer
  • Raises NO levels – Big pumps allowing you to lift big weights
  • Optimizes ATP production – Get more energy to muscle and last longer
  • Boost neurotransmitter synthesis – Activate messengers in your brain and focus

Containing clinically backed amounts of key ingredients for a pre workout like L-citrulline, agmatine sulfate and NAC, alongside patented powerhouse ingredients like Vaso6, Infinergy and TeaCrine makes this a pre workout formula built purely for performance, with no expense spared or unwanted fillers.

Pros

  • Advanced effective formula
  • Solid performance benefits including lasting muscle pumps, clean energy and raw power
  • Patented ingredients and clinical doses
  • Tastes good
  • Free US shipping!

Cons

  • Could use a little more beta alanine
  • Premium pricing / formulation, more suited for advanced athletes
  • Only available direct

Click here to purchase this pre-workout

National Bodybuilding Co. Stage Ready Pre-Workout won for Best Pre-Workout in GI Supplement Awards. Check it out here!


2nd: Performance Lab Sport “Pre”

pre-workout

Performance Lab Sport “Pre” is another high quality pre-workout supplement available to the public at a great price point. Performance Lab Sport is one of the most rigorously scientifically vetted brands and all of their pre-workout products are free of synthetic additives (which might dehydrate the muscles), non-GMO, and vegan friendly. Sport “Pre” increases nitric oxide in the blood to support the oxygenation of muscles during workouts, improves endurance by hydrating the muscles, and enhances both anaerobic and aerobic exercise by increasing ATP reductase.

Pros: 

  • Capsules make it easy to use
  • Advanced formulation
  • Vegan friendly
  • No Caffeine (Pro/Con depending on your preference)

Cons: 

  • Only available direct
  • Capsules may put off some people
  • Missing some stim/focus ingredients

Price: $39.00 / box (120 capsules) 

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


3rd: Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK

Pre-Workouts

Backed by science with clinically effective dosages, this pre-workout is most effective for those looking to increase in size and muscle mass. BULK contains 6,000 mg of citrulline malate, 4,000 mg of beta-alanine, 4,000 mg of BCAAs, and 2,500 mg of betaine to boost your workouts and your muscle growth. BULK will reduce fatigue and increase your energy to give you a more impactful and longer lasting workout.

Pros: 

  • Good on a budget
  • High amount of Citrulline Malate for pumps
  • Multiple Flavors

Cons: 

  • Fairly safe formulation
  • Very high beta alanine dose

Price: $49.00 / tub (1.46 lbs. powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


The Runners Up

4th: Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged

pre-workout

Increase the performance and intensity of your workout with this high quality pre-workout powder available from Kaged Muscle. Pre-Kaged is unmatched in terms of ingredient quality and synthesis of the blend of proteins. Kaged Muscle lab tests every batch to make sure each is fully loaded as advertised — 274 mg pure caffeine, 2 g taurine, 6.5 g fermented BCAAs, 6.5 g pure l-citrulline, and 2 g of their patented betapower blend. It’s an unbeatable combination that is guaranteed to supercharge any workout.

Pros: Kaged contains BCAAs and has well-dosed ingredients. With no artificial colors or flavors, it does compete with other pre-workouts in that regard.

Cons: It is pretty pricy and does contains sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener. The caffeine content may be high for those sensitive.

Price: $39.99 / box (21 oz powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


5th: Transparent Labs PreSeries LEAN

Pre-Workouts

The perfect supplement for cutting, LEAN is great for those looking to target stubborn fat while keeping on that lean muscle. LEAN contains 6,000 mg of citrulline malate, 2,500 mg of betaine, 2,000 mg of BCAA, 1,500 mg of beta-alanine, and 600 mg of L-tyrosine to improve strength and muscle endurance, reduce fatigue, and improve memory. LEAN is great for those looking to slim down without losing that hard work done in the gym.

Pros: Like BULK, this product is well-dosed and third party tested. With all-natural ingredients, it is a solid pre-workout for cutting.

Cons: LEAN is on the expensive side and does not have the best ingredients for fat loss. It may be effective for cutting, but depending on your goals, other pre-workouts may work better.

Price: $49.00 / tub (1.09 lbs. powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


6th: Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy

pe-workout

Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy supplies essential amino acids — leucine, valine, and isoleucine — which are important for muscle growth and effective for recovery. There’s 100 mg of caffeine from green tea and/or green coffee for energy during your training sessions. But, there’s only 5 calories per servings so it’s fine for those trying to lose weight. There’s no sugar with only 1g of carbs and more than 10 flavors to choose from. You can’t go wrong with ON products as they’re all made with high-quality ingredients.

Pros: This pre-workout is inexpensive, keto-friendly, and comes in a variety of flavors. Great for recovery, it will also improve focus and energy levels.

Cons: Details of this pre-workout in terms of quantity of each ingredient is unknown and it does contain artificial flavors and soy.

Price: $21.99 / box (9.5 oz powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


7th: Muscletech Vapor One Pre-Workout

MuscleTech has been making great products for years and Vapor One is no different. They take pride in their one scoop serving and the ingredients are high-quality as you’d expect. Now, besides the creatine (3 g), beta-alanine (3.2 g), and L-citrulline (5 g), there’s nitrosigine and vasodrive-AP which promote big pumps during your workouts (4). Plus, you’ll get a nice dose of L-theanine (125 mg) and caffeine (350 mg) for some serious focus and energy. There’s no sugar or fillers whatsoever, so you can be sure you’re getting great results with no side effects.

Pros: Quality ingredients like beta-alanine, creatine, and L-citrulline are included to improve pumps and enhance endurance. No sugar and fillers are added benefits to this product.

Cons: It is slightly high in caffeine, so those sensitive may get jitters and for the price, there are others that may offer a more well-rounded pre-workout.

Price: $39.99 / box (16 oz powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


8th: Bare Performance Nutrition “Flight”

pre-workout

Here’s a great product from an even better company which is veteran owned. Bare Performance “Embrace the Suck” is an excellent pre-workout which should give you ample energy for optimum performance. The mix includes several beneficial ingredients which include cognizin, Teacrine, Dynamine, and caffeine. Cognizin is a substance used for cognitive health, which may promote focus. Then you have Teacrine which is an alkaloid and a study showed it to be effective for endurance and it’s even more powerful when combined with caffeine for cognitive function (5). This effect is even more pronounced when combined than either substance on its own due to the synergistic effect.

Pros: This product is great for optimal performance and has ingredients to aid in cognitive health as well. It comes from a veteran-owned company who cares about quality.

Cons: It is pretty high in caffeine and the taste is okay, but can be rather sour. It also does not contain creatine.

Price: $36.99 / box (14 oz powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


9th: Controlled Labs White Warped Pre-Workout

Pre-Workouts

Each serving of White Warped supplies 250mg of caffeine Anhydrous for energy support and 100mg of di-caffeine malate which has similar effects to caffeine. There’s also a Spectra blend which includes many beneficial ingredients like grape seed extract and resveratrol to name a few. Grape seed extract is good for blood flow and had antioxidant properties. And resveratrol also has antioxidant properties along with being anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants are very important for protecting the body’s cells from disease-causing free-radicals. So, you’re not only getting a pre-workout with White Warped but there’s a lot more included for health benefits as well.

Pros: White Warped is great for energy support and has many beneficial ingredients with antioxidant properties. It will provide some benefits of a pre-workout supplement, but it has good overall health benefits.

Cons: The taste is okay and while it does have pre-workout properties, it is not the best for really giving you a boost for that tough workout.

Price: $28.79 / box (11.64 oz powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


10th: Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout

A scientifically-backed pre-workout formulation that supports high energy levels that will last the full duration of your workout. C4 has 1.6 g Carnosyn-patented beta-alanine, 1 g creatine, 1 g arginine, and 150 mg of caffeine to get you absolutely pumped for your workout. C4 will not only improve the oxidization of your muscles while you work out, but it will help you focus and improve your stamina so that you can work out for longer.

Pros: Cellucor C4 is effective for giving you energy, focus, and supporting recovery. It is great for giving you long-lasting stamina to keep your workouts going longer.

Cons: It does tend to clump together and some may experience jitters. It is a little pricey and uses sucralose to give it flavor, but is not the best tasting pre-workout.

Price: $49.99 / box (19 oz powder) 

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


11th: Staunch Koala Freak Pre-Workout

pre-workout

Koala Freak is an excellent atypical pre-workout formulation for those who find regular pre-workout to be a little rough on their system. Koala Freak boasts an impressive “jitter-free” clean energy blend that will help you get pumped for your workout without making you feel like you’ve just smoked meth. Koala Freak has 6 g citrulline malate, 3 g beta-alanine, 1 g betaine anhydrous, and 360 mg of L-theanine in every serving.

Pros: Koala Freak has well-dosed ingredients to enhance muscular endurance and the caffeine combo of caffeine and L-theanine is great for a no-jitter pre-workout.

Cons: It is missing creatine and is a little pricey for missing some key ingredients that other pre-workouts do have.

Price: $49.00 / box (16 oz powder)

Click here to purchase this pre-workout


Wrapping It Up

Pre-workout supplements are an incredible tool and aid for training or any physical activity.

They definitely give you a boost (There’s no doubt about it) and the options are limitless. But, that means you’ll need to decide which is best for you. Pre-workouts contain a lot more than just caffeine though; they can supply your body with even more effective nutrients for reaching your fitness goals.

BCAAs, creatine, and ingredients which increase nitric oxide make for a potent stack before you head to the gym. Now, some products have all ingredients, and others have only a select few, but it just comes down to choosing a quality product that works!

So, you can’t go wrong with any of these 10 totally awesome pre-workout supplements!

List of 10 Pre-Workout Supplements

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

References:

1- “Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review”.

2- “Effects of a Pre-workout Supplement on Lean Mass, Muscular Performance, Subjective Workout Experience and Biomarkers of Safety”.

3- “Caffeine: How much is too much?”. Mayo Clinic.

4- “Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update”. 2012 Jul 20.

5- “The effects of TeaCrine® and caffeine on endurance and cognitive performance during a simulated match in high-level soccer players”.

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Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.