It’s a confusing world of supplements out there — pre workout supplements, while designed to give you the power and energy you need to get the most out of your routine, can be full of ingredients that may be less healthy than you thought.
Whether you’re new to pre-workout supplements or looking to switch up your routine for a healthier one, finding the right formula can be tricky.
Transparent Labs’ Lean Pre Workout is our healthy pre workout of choice, but we’ve researched and compared the healthiest pre workout options so all you have to do is scoop, mix, and hit the gym!
Lean Pre-Workout is a great choice for those seeking all-around nutrition support and a little extra fat-burning help. It's a well-rounded pre-workout that can be good choice for lots of different use cases.
LV10 = 10% off your entire order
Table of Contents
- 1 Criteria for Selection
- 2 The 4 Healthiest Pre Workouts
- 3 Pre Workout Ingredients to Look For
- 4 Pre Workout Ingredients to Avoid
- 5 What are the Advantages/Benefits of Pre Workout?
- 6 Going Forward
Criteria for Selection
In order to be included on this list, a pre workout supplement needed to meet the following criteria:
- All ingredients must be FDA approved and WADA compliant. No banned ingredients are contained in these pre workouts. These are safe for military personnel, athletes, or anyone else that is drug tested.
- All ingredients and their dosages must be disclosed on a fully transparent label.
- All key ingredients must be included at their clinical recommended dosages. No key ingredients should be under-dosed.
- Does not contain any artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors.
- Note: Pre-Kaged Pre Workout does contain sucralose, an artificial sweetener. Aside from this, it meets all of the other criteria. We left it on this list because some people are comfortable with this. The other pre workouts do not contain any artificial sweeteners.
The 4 Healthiest Pre Workouts
- Transparent Labs – Bulk Pre Workout
- Transparent Labs – Stim-Free Pre Workout
- Kaged Muscle – Pre-Kaged Pre Workout
- NutraBio – Pre Workout Non-Artificial
Transparent Labs – Bulk Pre Workout
With just over 200 mg of caffeine, BCAAs, Vitamin D3, and Zinc, BULK is a great choice if you're looking for a normal amount of caffeine + extra nutritional support.
LV10 = 10% off Transparent Labs
- Best overall pre workout
- Flavor options: strawberry lemonade, sour grape, green apple, orange, blue raspberry, tropical punch
- Contains caffeine
When you’re focused on health and wellness, it’s just as important to consider what your pre-workout doesn’t contain in addition to what it does contain.
Transparent Labs’ Bulk Pre Workout doesn’t have any artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or coloring. It also doesn’t have any gluten or GMO ingredients.
What it does have is a testosterone support vitamin complex and 4 grams of BCAAs to support lean muscle growth, 200 mg of caffeine for energy, and 6 grams of citrulline malate with 2.5 grams of betaine anhydrous for pumps.
Bottom line: Bulk Pre Workout is a well-rounded, no-nonsense pre workout that is well-suited for beginners and anyone that is looking to keep their caffeine tolerance low while still enjoying a legit pre workout.
In fact, Bulk Pre Workout was also chosen as one of the best pre-workouts for teens because of its clean ingredients and proper doses.
- Citrulline Malate 2:1 (6g)
- Beta-Alanine (4g)
- BCAA 2:1:1 (Instantized) (4g)
- BetaPure™ Betaine Anhydrous (2.5g)
- Taurine (13g)
- L-Tyrosine (1g)
- L-Theanine (360mg)
- AlphaSize® Alpha-GPC (300mg)
- Caffeine Anhydrous (180mg)
- Theobromine (50mg)
- Astragin (25mg)
Transparent Labs – Stim-Free Pre Workout
Transparent Labs Stim Free pre workout is the best all-in-one caffeine free pre workout.
All the bases are covered here, including pump ingredients, BCAAs, and elevATP to replenish your muscles' energy stores.
If you want a solid pre workout, but without any caffeine, this is a good pick.
LV10 = 10% off Transparent Labs
- Best caffeine-free pre workout
- Flavor options: strawberry lemonade, sour grape, green apple, blue raspberry, tropical punch
- Does not contain caffeine
It can be difficult to find an energizing pre workout when you’re sensitive to or avoiding caffeine and other stimulants. Thankfully, we have found the perfect pre workout for anyone looking to either cut down on caffeine or avoid it completely.
Stim-Free Pre Workout is a suitable alternative to caffeine-containing pre workouts and has ingredients designed to provide energy without resorting to stimulants. Taurine, a natural compound, has long been used to promote mental clarity and wakefulness.
Bottom line: Stim-Free Pre Workout is a great choice for someone that wants a clean, effective pre workout without any caffeine or other stimulants. That’s why it’s also on our list of the best clean pre-workout supplements.
- Citrulline Malate 2:1 (6g)
- BCAA 2:1:1 (4g)
- Beta-Alanine (4g)
- BetaPure™ (2.5g)
- Taurine (1.3g)
- L-Tyrosine (1g)
- Choline Bitartrate (500mg)
- ElevATP® Ancient Peat and Apple Fruit Extract (150mg)
Kaged Muscle – Pre Kaged Pre Workout
Pre-Kaged is one of the best "all-around" pre-workouts on the market today. When it comes to delivering proven ingredients at effective dosages, Kaged is a brand that delivers time and time again.
Pre-Kaged supplies pump, energy, and focus without any banned or shady ingredients, making it a great choice for tested athletes or anyone that cares what they put into their body.
- Best fully loaded pre-workout with “a little” extra caffeine
- Flavor options: cherry bomb, pink lemonade, fruit punk, berry blast, krisp apple, orange krush, grape
- Contains caffeine
- Does contain the artificial sweetener sucralose
We love being able to get a perfectly balanced amount of caffeine in pre workout powder. Pre Kaged optimizes the caffeine content and scoop size to avoid overconsuming (see below for ingredients to avoid – excessive caffeine is one of them!).
Our favorite things about Pre Kaged: it’s vegan, has a wide variety of flavors, and they work hard to ensure a perfect ratio of ingredients to activate your muscles. Kaged Muscle® has partnered with BetaPower®, CarnoSyn®, ProHydrolase®, SPECTRA™, and PurCaf® to develop their formula.
- Pure L-Citrulline (6.5g)
- Fermented BCAAs (3.5g)
- Fermented Leucine (3g)
- Betaine Anhydrous (2.5g)
- Taurine (2g)
- Tyrosine (1.85g)
- Beta-Alanine (1.6g)
- Creatine HCL (1.5g)
- Tender Coconut Powder (500g)
- B-Vitamins (500mg)
- Organic Caffeine (274mg)
NutraBio – Pre Workout Non-Artificial
NutraBio delivers a stacked pre workout with its Pre. Coming in at over 30 grams per scoop, it has a full energy, pump, BCAA, and hydration formula.
LIFTVAULT15 = 15% off at Nutri Cartel
- Best fully-loaded pre workout for long workouts (extra caffeine + hydration ingredients)
- Flavor options: sweet tea and green apple
- Contains caffeine
If you’re looking to increase your muscle pumps, then an additional 750mg of Nitrosigine may help with your athletic performance. NutraBio has partnered with many trusted researchers to formulate one of the best valued and comprehensive pre workouts available.
- L-Citrulline (6g)
- L-Leucine (3.5g)
- Beta-Alanine (3.2g)
- Creatine Monohydrate (3g)
- Betaine Anhydrous (2.5g)
- Agmatine Sulfate (1g)
- Nitrosigine (750mg)
- Creatine (500mg)
- Caffeine (350mg)
- L-Theanine (300mg)
- Huperzine-A (100mcg)
Pre Workout Ingredients to Look For
Here are some of the best pre-workout ingredients to look for when buying a pre-workout supplement.
What it is: caffeine is an odorless, tasteless chemical that occurs naturally in many foods. It is a common pre workout ingredient that helps with increasing energy and focus.
How it works: caffeine is a stimulant that affects nearly every system in the body. It increases blood flow to the muscles, aids in focus and concentration, and produces a more energized feeling.
Benefits: it’s estimated that nearly 80% of adults worldwide (and 90% of adults in North America) consume caffeinated food or drink daily. Caffeine is widely known to help you “perk up” – and that benefit extends to the gym. The average healthy adult is recommended to consume no more than 400mg of caffeine daily.
What it is: also known as L-Citrulline, citrulline malate is an amino acid that is found naturally in the body, and also in some plants, such as watermelons.
How it works: the body changes citrulline malate into L-arginine and nitric oxide.
Benefits: the body responds to L-arginine and nitric oxide by “opening up” blood vessels (vasodilation) which increases blood availability to the muscles, and lowering blood pressure.
What it is: beta-alanine is an amino acid that aids in the production of carnosine. Carnosine plays a role in muscle endurance in high-intensity exercise.
How it works: carnosine may allow the muscles to perform for longer periods before they become fatigued.
Benefits: carnosine helps regulate lactic acid buildup in the muscles (which causes spasms, cramps, and muscle fatigue).
What it is: creatine is a natural chemical found in muscle cells.
How it works: adding additional creatine to your pre workout blend helps muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise.
Benefits: creatine can increase muscle mass, exercise performance, and overall strength.
What it is: BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) can increase muscle growth, decrease muscle fatigue, and reduce muscle fatigue.
How it works: BCAAs, like leucine, stimulate the growth of new muscle and are very effective when paired with other protein sources, like whey.
Benefits: increased BCAA consumption can lead to increased muscle development in a shorter time frame.
Pre Workout Ingredients to Avoid
What it is: the FDA recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 400mg of caffeine daily, and that number decreases for adults with various medical conditions, including high blood pressure.
How it works: caffeine works by stimulating the nervous system and increasing blood flow, which in turn increases your mental focus, muscle strength, and overall feelings of energy.
Benefits: caffeine is one of the common pre workout ingredients that aid in increasing mental focus and physical energy.
Adverse effects: excessive caffeine, whether greater than 400mg or more than what your body can manage, can lead to withdrawal symptoms, hypertension (high blood pressure), tremors, and heart attacks. If you’re looking to cut down on caffeine, a stim-free pre workout is a great way to start.
What it is: DMAA and DMHA are similar types of stimulants that can be found in natural sources, but most are produced synthetically. DMAA has been banned in many countries (including the USA) due to safety concerns.
How it works: DMAA is a stimulant similar to pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. It’s often marketed for increased energy or fat/weight loss. DMHA is also a stimulant marketed for the same purposes, though it is slightly less potent than DMAA. DMHA is still legal in the USA.
Benefits: DMAA.DMHA are both stimulants and can provide increased fat burning and promote feelings of energy.
Adverse effects: stimulants like DMAA and DMHA can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. DMAA is illegal, and DMHA is unregulated. Consuming large or unregulated stimulants can lead to kidney, liver, or cardiovascular complications.
What it is: yohimbine can be naturally sourced from the bark of Yohimbe trees. It is available in the USA as a prescription medication.
How it works: yohimbine increases blood flow and circulation which can aid in muscle development.
Benefits: yohimbine is prescribed for erectile dysfunction. It is clinically effective in increasing blood flow.
Adverse effects: Yohimbe products containing man-made yohimbine hydrochloride as an ingredient are not legal to sell as a dietary supplement in the US. It must be used under the direct supervision of a physician.
What it is: there is a belief that PEA can be used to decrease inflammation and soreness. There is insufficient evidence to this claim.
How it works/benefits: there is insufficient evidence to support any benefit or adverse effects when used as a pre workout supplement.
Adverse effects: because of the lack of research and data on the use of PEA as an athletic enhancer, it’s not advisable to take PEA as a supplement.
What it is: Eria Jarensis is a species of orchid long believed to aid in athletic performance.
How it works: it is believed that Eria Jarensis extracts can be used as a stimulant to decrease appetite and increase energy. At this time, there is insufficient evidence to indicate that Eria Jarensis accomplishes these claims.
Benefits: if effective, there may be a slight increase in blood flow to the muscles. Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies that support a benefit to Eria Jarensis.
What are the Advantages/Benefits of Pre Workout?
Pre workout powders are gaining popularity and used across many fitness disciplines to increase stamina, energy, and muscle development. With a wide variety of dietary supplements available, it’s hard to discern which are the healthiest and which may be harmful.
Many athletes choose to use pre workout supplements to give them an added boost of energy. Most pre workout formulas include stimulants (ex. caffeine) to give you more power, stamina, and endurance to complete harder workouts. In addition to stimulants, amino acids and other ingredients are added to facilitate recovery and muscle building (especially regarding lean body mass).
If you’re looking for the best pre workout supplement for a health-conscious athlete, it’s important to remember to check the ingredients and avoid unhealthy, under-researched formulas.
If you’re managing any health conditions, be sure to talk to your medical professional about any new supplements or formulas you’re adding to your diet. For all the pre workout newbies, it’s a good idea to start your pre workout regiment with only half a serving to ensure your body tolerates it well.
Things to Look for in a Healthy Pre Workout
When looking for the best pre workout supplement, identify any allergies or sensitivities you may have and avoid products with those ingredients. If you are sensitive to caffeine, aim for a pre workout with low or no caffeine.
Because pre workout supplements are not monitored by governing bodies, ensure you check for brands that publish all ingredients used. Look for brands that partner with research institutions and heed their dosage recommendations.
What’s the Best Way to use Pre Workout Supplements?
First, always read and follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions and be careful to monitor other supplements that may interfere: for example, it may not be the best idea to follow your morning latte with a high-caffeine pre workout.
Most pre workout supplements need a little time to take effect. Ideally, your pre workout should be consumed 15-30 minutes before your planned physical activity.
You’ve decided to add the healthiest pre workout to your routine, and that’s fantastic! We’ve laid out 4 of our favorite healthy pre workouts and identified the best ingredients to look for.
Out of our favorite options, Transparent Labs – Bulk Pre Workout, Transparent Labs – Stim-Free Pre Workout, Kaged Muscle – Pre Kaged Pre Workout, and NutraBio – All Natural Pre Workout, we’ve identified what we think is the most healthy option. With a transparent ingredient list, a variety of flavor options, moderate caffeine amounts, and none of the ingredients we’d avoid, Transparent Labs’ Bulk Pre Workout was our supplement of choice.
If our first choice doesn’t work for you, we are pleased to report that our 3 runners-ups also met our criteria to be among the healthiest pre workout, but we felt that they may lack for some in other areas. NutraBio’s All Natural Pre Workout was healthy and natural, but only available in two flavors. Transparent Labs’ Stim-Free Pre Workout, a great first choice for someone looking for a stimulant-free option, does not advertise as vegan, and may not be a good choice for someone adhering to that dietary lifestyle.