As you lace up your running shoes or step into the gym, you’re probably no stranger to the term “pre-workout powder.” But what exactly is this exercise elixir that fitness enthusiasts swear by? We’re going to break it all down for you. What are the best pre-workout powder brands? Should you be taking pre-workout supplements? Is it *actually* healthy?
Keep reading to learn more about the best pre-workout powder.
Note: This article contains affiliate links, meaning In On Around will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me maintain the site. As always, I value full transparency & only work with brands I love and trust.
What Is Pre-Workout Powder?
Pre-workout has become a staple for many, promising improved performance and heightened energy levels. However, before you dive headfirst into the realm of exercise supplements, let’s scrutinize what pre-workout really entails.
Pre-workout powder is a dietary supplement designed to be consumed before exercise to enhance physical performance. It typically comes in powdered form and is mixed with water or other beverages. Pre-workout supplements are formulated with a variety of ingredients, which can include caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and herbs. The primary goal of pre-workout powder is to provide a quick energy boost, improve endurance, increase focus, and reduce muscle fatigue, ultimately helping individuals get the most out of their workout sessions.
Ingredients Found In Pre-Workout Powder
There are many ingredients commonly used in pre-workout powder, such as:
- Caffeine: A stimulant that provides energy and enhances focus.
- Beta-Alanine: Amino acid that may improve endurance and reduce muscle fatigue.
- L-Arginine: An amino acid that supports nitric oxide production for better blood flow.
- L-Citrulline: Another amino acid that aids in blood flow and reduces muscle soreness.
- Creatine: A compound that boosts strength and power during high-intensity exercise.
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Leucine, isoleucine, and valine to promote muscle growth and reduce muscle soreness.
- Tyrosine: An amino acid that supports mental focus and alertness.
- Taurine: An amino acid with potential energy-enhancing effects.
- Beetroot Extract: Contains nitrates to improve blood flow.
- Electrolytes: Minerals like potassium and sodium to maintain proper hydration.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Such as vitamin C, B-vitamins, and magnesium to support overall health and energy.
- Adaptogens: Like ashwagandha or rhodiola to reduce stress and fatigue.
- Black Pepper Extract (Bioperine): To enhance the absorption of other ingredients.
- Artificial Sweeteners or Flavorings: For taste – best to be avoided/limited.
Potential Side Effects From Pre-Workout Powders
With these ingredients comes a host of potential side effects. If you’re especially sensitive to caffeine, are pregnant, or breastfeeding, it’s best to speak with your doctor first before consuming any pre-workout powders.
Even the best pre-workout powders can cause…
- Caffeine Jitters, Shakiness & Caffeine Crash
- Pre-workout powders often contain high levels of caffeine, which can lead to restlessness, nervousness, and a jittery feeling.
- Digestive Issues
- Ingredients like beta-alanine may cause stomach discomfort, bloating, or diarrhea in some individuals
- Tingley feeling after drinking
- Usually caused by the ingredient beta-alanine.
- Sleep Disturbances & Insomnia
- Increased Heart Rate
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Anxiety and Irritability
- High Blood Pressure
- Tolerance and Dependency
- Kidney Strain
- Cardiac Issues
- Gastrointestinal Upset
- Allergic Reactions
- Nervous System Effects… and more.
Is Pre-Workout Safe?
Pre-workout supplements can be safe when used responsibly and within recommended dosages, but there are potential risks associated with their use, including side effects like increased heart rate, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances, especially if they contain high levels of caffeine. It’s essential to choose reputable brands, be aware of your own sensitivities, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have underlying health concerns.
It’s important to consider: are you consuming a lot of caffeine on a daily basis? Are you drinking energy drinks? Would any of your other supplements interact with the pre-workout powder?
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid pre-workout powders. It’s recommended to avoid having over 100 mg of caffeine. Speak with your healthcare professional.
Is There Caffeine In Pre-Workout?
Yes, caffeine is a common ingredient found in many pre-workout supplements. It is included to provide a quick energy boost and enhance alertness, making it easier for individuals to power through their workouts. The amount of caffeine in pre-workout products can vary significantly, with some containing as much as several cups of coffee in a single serving (be very careful with this)!
It’s very important to understand the amount of caffeine in any supplements, especially if you are extra sensitive to caffeine or plan to work out in the evening to avoid potential sleep disturbances. Use caution with high amounts of caffeine – it can do more harm than good.
When Should You Take Pre-Workout?
Most people prefer to take their pre-workout powder about 30 minutes before starting their workout, but this comes down to personal preference.
Do You Need To Take Pre-Workout Supplements?
No, you do not need to take a pre-workout supplement whatsoever. If you have a balanced diet and are adequately hydrated, you can have a productive workout without pre-workout supplements. It’s always best to speak with your doctor first before starting any supplements.
What To Look For In Pre-Workout Supplements
When evaluating pre-workout supplements, consider the following factors to make an informed choice:
- Uses organic ingredients (ideally certified organic)
- Free of unecessary additives, artificial sweeteners (like sucralose, erythritol, and acesulfame potassium) or added sugar
- Free of stevia – you can learn more about stevia on gut health here: Is Stevia Safe?
- Certified gluten-free – you can learn more about gluten here: Clean Organic Gluten-Free Protein Powder – Protein Powder 101
- Low in caffeine
- Free to artificial dyes (… yes, they’re in some pre workout powders, which is so unecessary)
- Transparency: Choose brands that provide transparency through third-party testing for purity and quality, as well as clear labeling.
- If it’s difficult to find the full ingredient list on the brand’s website, it’s a red flag.
- Low in heavy metals
If you’re looking for more workout supplements, check out this article on protein powder: Clean Organic Gluten-Free Protein Powder – Protein Powder 101.
Pre-Workout Safety & Precautions
- Speak with your doctor before starting any pre-workout supplement routine
- Always follow the label’s dosage instructions. Do NOT take more than what’s recommended.
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid taking pre-workout after 2-3 pm, so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep
- If you’re struggling with your sleep, here are some more tips to combat insomnia: Open When You Can’t Sleep! 18 Tips To Beat Insomnia
- Avoid Combining with other stimulants: Avoid using pre-workout supplements alongside other stimulants, such as energy drinks, to prevent overstimulation.
- Don’t fall victim to convincing marketing
- Many of these pre-workout brands tout muscles & electric, engaging graphics on their labels – don’t overlook their ingredient list and fall into the marketing trap.
What Does Stim vs. Stim-Free Mean in Pre-Workout Powders?
Stim stands for “stimulant.” The main difference between stim pre-workouts and stim-free pre-workouts is the addition or exclusion of caffeine.
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Best Pre-Workout Brands
This information was pulled in October 2023. Ingredients may have changed. Please check with the brand before purchasing to confirm the ingredient list. Unfortunately, no pre-made pre-workout products made the cut for the “best” category. Most companies either did not provide me with their Certificate of Analysis, or their products contain additives that should be limited, like stevia.
Best Option: Organic Foods
- Instead of opting for a supplement, you can opt for real whole food sources of quick carbohydrates, such as:
- A teaspoon of honey with a pinch of salt
- Learn more about salt here: What Are The Healthiest Salt Brands? Minerals In Salt 101
- A banana
- Organic oats
- Organic Greek yogurt
- Handful of organic nuts
- Beetroot juice (which is known to enhance endurance & improve blood flow) 
- Matcha (not on an empty stomach) – To learn about the best matcha brands on the market, check out: Green Tea & Matcha Benefits
- Vegetable juice
- Electrolyte Drinks, especially in preparation for longer or intense workouts – To learn more about electrolytes, check out this article: What To Look For In Electrolyte Powder – Electrolytes 101
- A teaspoon of honey with a pinch of salt
Better Pre-Workout Brands [9 Brands]
These didn’t make the “best” category, mostly because they contain one ingredient that shouldn’t be in supplements, like stevia.
- This is the best pre-workout option if you’re comfortable consuming stevia.
- Caffeine: 90 mg
- Ingredients: Beet Pomegranate Organic Tapioca, Organic Coconut Water, Organic Green Coffee Bean, Organic Matcha Green Tea, Organic Yerba Mate, Organic Pomegranate Juice Powder, Organic Beetroot Juice Powder, Organic Spinach, Organic Kale, Organic Ashwagandha, Organic Rhodiola Root, Organic Ginseng, Organic Maca Root, Organic Cordycep Mushroom, Organic Eleuthero Root, Organic Apple Powder, Natural Berry Flavor, Organic Raspberry, Organic Cranberry, Organic Monk Fruit, Organic Raspberry Flavor, Organic Stevia
- Transparency: Their full Certificates of Analysis is available right on their website (which is a huge win!)  From their 2020 beet pomegranate COA, they had the following heavy metal levels:
- Arsenic: <15 ppm per day
- Lead: <5 ppm per day
- Cadmium: <5 ppm per day
- Mercury: <15 ppm per day
- Cons: Contains stevia, although it’s the last ingredient so it’s likely in very small amounts. If it didn’t contain stevia, it would be in the “best” category.
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- Caffeine: 100 mg
- Transparency: Certified Organic and Glyphosate Residue Free certified (which is amazing and hard to come by).
- Ingredients: Organic Lemon Powder, Organic Coconut Water Powder, Organic Baobab Powder, Himalayan Pink Salt, Organic Aloe Vera Powder, Organic Ginger Extract, Organic Acacia, AmaTea Organic Guyusa Extract, Organic Green Tea Extract, Organic Lion’s Mane Extract, Organic Coffee Extract, Organic Bacopa Extract
- Check out the other Organifi products I love here: Greens Powder Guide
- While their supplement has great ingredients, they were not able to share a Certificate of Analysis for this product, unlike their other products. They sent me a test report for Desmethylsibutramine, but their R&D team said it’s the only document available. They would be in the best category if I could review their full test results with heavy metal levels.
- They quickly sent me their full Certificates of Analysis from August 2023, which showed the following:
- Arsenic: <0.001 ug/day
- Lead: 0.190 ug/day
- Cadmium: 0.016 ug/day
- Mercury: 0.008 ug/day
- Caffeine: 150 mg
- Ingredients: Organic Strawberry Powder, Citrulline Malate, Beta Alanine, Vegan BCAA Blend, Stevia Leaf, Lime Extract, Caffeine, Taurine, Ginseng, Organic Maca Root, Monk Fruit
- Cons: Contains stevia. If it didn’t contain stevia, it would be in the “best” category.
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- While their supplement looks like it has great ingredients (and they have a baseline “test report” on their site), I did not get a response after requesting their Certificate of Analysis for heavy metal levels. They would be in the best category if I could review their full test results.
- Caffeine: 200 mg
- Available Flavors Lemon, Mixed Berry, Strawberry Lemon, Tingle Free Lemon, Cherry Lime, Raspberry Lemon, Florida Orange
- Ingredients (Lemon Flavor): Vitamin C, B12, Beta-Alanine, L-Tyrosine, Taurine, Lemon Oil, Lemon Juice, Lemon Extractives, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Monk Fruit, Turmeric
- Transparency: Their testing data is available on their website, however it’s not their official 3rd party test report with a date. There is no way to verify if this information is updated or accurate.
- Cons: some of their other flavors, like pink lemonade, contain “other natural extractives”
- While their supplement looks like it has great ingredients, I did not get a response after requesting their Certificate of Analysis for heavy metal levels. They would be in the best category if I could review their test results.
- Comes in a capsule form
- Ingredients: Organic Rhodiola Rosea (300 mg), Organic Matcha Tea (100 mg), Organic Beets (50 mg), Organic Maca (50 mg)
- Cons: Can be a high dose for some people, so speak with your doctor first before consuming. Their label says to consult a healthcare practitioner if you’re taking antidepressant medication, take hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, or have an iron deficiency. Those with biopolar disorder should avoid this.
- They refused to send me their Certificate of Analysis for heavy metal test results.
- Caffeine: 150 mg
- Pros: Certified Organic by CCOF
- Ingredients: Organic Coconut Water Powder, Real Salt, Adaptogen Endurance Blend: Organic PeakO2 (Cordyceps Militaris [Cordyceps], Ganoderma Lucidum [Reishi], Pleurotus Eryngii [King Trumpet], Lentinula Edodes [Shiitake], Hericium Erinaceus [Lion’s Mane], Trametes Versicolor [Turkey Tail]), Organic Beet (Root) Powder, Organic Tart Cherry (Prunus Cerasus) (Fruit) Extract, Organic Caffeine (from Coffee Arabica (Fruit) Extract) (Coffeeberry), Organic Watermelon Flavor, Citric Acid, Organic Stevia Leaf Extract (Steviol Glycosides).
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural flavors and stevia (they would be in the “worst” category if they didn’t use as many organic ingredients)
- I did not get a response after requesting their Certificate of Analysis for heavy metal levels.
- Caffeine: 75 mg
- Ingredients: Organic Fruit (Lemon, Berry or Orange) Flavor, Potassium Citrate, Non-GMO Citric or Malic Acid, Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Himalayan Pink Salt, Organic Caffeine, Organic Stevia, Viamin B12
- Cons: Contains stevia.
- I did not get a response after requesting their Certificate of Analysis for heavy metal levels. They wouldn’t be my first choice.
- Caffeine: 200 mg
- Ingredients: Red Beet Root Juice Powder, Green Tea Extract, L-Theanine, Potassium, Magnesium Malate, Sodium, Vegetable Capsules
- Cons: No organic ingredients
- Ingredients look good, but they refused to send me their Certificate of Analysis for heavy metal test results. They wouldn’t be my first choice.
- Caffeine: 200 mg
- Ingredients: Vitamin C, Caffeine, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Calcium, Beta-Alanine, Creatine, L-Arginine
- Cons: Their other flavors contain added sugar and undisclosed flavorings
Worst Pre-Workout Brands
These fall into the worst category since they contain one or more ingredients that don’t meet our standards for supplement safety.
- Thorne Pre-Workout Elite
- Cons: Contains undisclosed flavorings, maltodextrin, and stevia.
- Trace Minerals Clean Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains cane sugar, xylitol, undisclosed natural flavors, multiple gums, and stevia (hard pass!).
- Jocko Pre Workout
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural flavors, and fermented sugar cane.
- Bowmar Nutrition
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural flavors, and rebaudioside M (from stevia)
- Bloom Original Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural and artificial flavorings, and sucralose
- Phybius AM Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural and artificial flavorings, sucralose and acesulfame potassium
- C4 Original Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural and artificial flavorings, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and artificial blue dye (gross!)
- Onnit Total Strength and Performances
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural flavorings, maltodextrin, and stevia.
- Klean Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains added cane sugar, undisclosed natural flavorings, and stevia.
- Kaged Pre-Kaged Premium Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural flavorings, sucralose, and stevia.
- Shifted Maxmium Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural flavorings, and sucralose.
- Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-Workout Supplement
- Cons: Contains undisclosed natural flavorings, and stevia.
- 4 Gauge Pre Workout
- Cons: Contains dextrose, undisclosed natural flavorings, and stevia.
- Ascent Pre Workout Drink
- Cons: Very difficult to find their ingredients on their website (big red flag). Contains non-organic whey, undisclosed natural flavors, stevia, and cane sugar.
- One Sol Creatine
- Cons: In a gummy bear format with sucralose. They do not disclose some of their flavorings, like “natural gummy bear flavor.”
- Choq Chad Mode Clean Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains maltodextrin and gums. Contains 3 grams of sugar per serving. Not organic.
- Legion Pulse Natural Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains ethythritol, natural flaors, and stevia.
- Umzu Zuum Pre-Workout
- Cons: Contains added sugar, undislocsed flavoring, and stevia.
… and many, many more. Certificates of Analyses were not requested for the above “worst” category, since their ingredient list doesn’t meet my initial standards.
Final Thoughts – Best Natural Pre-Workout Supplement
The best assets in your fitness journey are a well-balanced diet, hydration, and consistent exercise. Pre-workout powders are NOT necessary – I prefer to consume high-quality organic snacks or drinks rich in minerals before working out instead of relying on a supplement. However, many people love pre-workout powders to naturally enhance performance. You be the judge!
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Frequently Asked Questions – Best Natural Pre-Workout Supplement
Click on the below FAQs to learn more about Pre-workout supplements organic pre-workout, plant-based and herbal pre-workout, clean energy supplements that are non-GMO, homemade, caffeine-free, energy-boosting pre-workout nutrition.
How do natural pre-workout supplements compare to traditional pre-workout products?
Natural pre-workout supplements typically use plant-based ingredients and exclude synthetic compounds, offering a cleaner and more holistic approach to enhancing exercise performance compared to traditional pre-workout products, which often contain synthetic stimulants and artificial additives.
Are there any side effects of using natural pre-workout supplements?
Yes, while natural pre-workout supplements tend to have fewer side effects than traditional counterparts, potential side effects may still include gastrointestinal discomfort or mild allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
What ingredients should I look for in natural pre-workout supplements?
In natural pre-workout supplements, look for ingredients such as caffeine from natural sources, amino acids like citrulline and beta-alanine, and adaptogens like rhodiola or ashwagandha to support energy, endurance, and focus.
Can natural pre-workout supplements help improve workout performance without the jitters?
Natural pre-workout supplements can enhance workout performance without the jittery side effects often associated with high doses of synthetic stimulants like caffeine.
Do you take pre-workout supplements?
Let me know your thoughts and key takeaways in the comments below!
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