With the bodybuilding and weightlifting industries being as popular as they are, there are always going to be people like you (and me!) looking for an edge.
However, a lot of companies out there look to take advantage of those that aren’t entirely sure what they’re looking for.
After all, we’re weightlifters – not scientists.
Every pre-workout product will make amazing claims about how they will transform your body.
Needless to say not all beasts (or supplements in this case) are equal.
We decided to take the guess work out of it for you and round up the best preworkouts that actually work.
All of the products we have recommended in this article are what we consider to be the best safe & legal preworkouts. Please remember to never exceed the maximum recommended daily intake listed on the packaging of these products.
The Best Preworkouts 2018
|Mr Hyde |
|400mg||2.5g||2.5g||Available on Bodybuilding UK
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|350mg||4.8g||0g||Available on Amazon
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|Dr Jekyll||100mg||2g||2g||Available on Amazon
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|iSatori Pre-Gro Max||350mg||2g||2g||Available on Amazon
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|GAT Nitraflex||325mg||1.5g||0g||Available on Amazon
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|BSN N.o Xplode||275mg||1.8g||3g||Available on Amazon
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|Gold Standard Preworkout||175mg||1.5g||3.4g||Available on Amazon
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|Cellucor C4||160mg||1.6g||1g||Available on Amazon
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|Musclepharm Assault||300mg||2g||1.5g||Available on Amazon
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What is beta-alanine and why is it important?
Beta-alanine is almost an essential when it comes to bodybuilding. It raises carnosine levels in the muscles which allows you to perform more work at a higher intensity. It is the ingredient that gives you a slight tingle – it may make you feel slightly weird the first time you try one!
Every single study including beta-alanine has demonstrated a significant increase in muscle carnosine levels within humans.
What is creatine and why is it important?
Creatine is naturally produced by the body, as well as being found in red meats and fish, and is used for muscle recovery. It is also useful for helping you to perform high intensity work. Unlike beta-alanine, it has mixed results based on the person taking it – although has been shown to work on a large range of people.
Creatine reduces inflammation and muscle cell damage following intense exercise. With greater intensity and better recovery, your muscles are able to grow larger and more efficiently, making you stronger as a result.
The Best Preworkouts: IN DETAIL
Pro Supps: Mr Hyde Review
Mr Hyde by Pro Supps was the number one pick from our fitness experts and was also rated the highest across many social networking sites.
“No other preworkout can match the intensity of Mr Hyde” – we’ve seen this comment a hundred times over across sites like Reddit and weightlifting forums. This opinion was also backed up word-for-word by the TubbyGorilla fitness experts.
It will give you more energy and focus than you’ve ever had for your workout before, ensuring you can push out more reps at a higher weight than ever before.
With a mammoth 400mg of caffeine per serving – the highest caffeine content of any of our best preworkout list – it’s easy to see how it gives you such an energy boost.
With many of these supplements you’ll need to up your intake over time, but that is certainly not the case with Mr Hyde.
Your increase in energy, endurance capacity and concentration will be truly unrivalled with other gym pre-workouts or alternatives.
Also included in each serving is a healthy dose of beta-alanine and creatine, further helping to boost the intensity and effectiveness of your workouts and muscle recovery.
Take Mr Hyde approximately one hour before your workout and avoid other caffeine consumption for 12 hours before and after. It’s also recommended that you don’t take it within 4 hours of going to sleep – because you probably won’t get to sleep!
This is an exceptional product for those training early in the morning, but will also be more than adequate for those working out later in the day too.
Bodybuilding customer reviewers (over 1,000 of them!) have rated the flavours, and tended to find the fruit variants the nicest in taste. This is great news considering many gym drinks are not the friendliest on the palette!
We give Mr Hyde a rating of 5 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Bodybuilding.
Legion Pulse Review
This is the Editors Pick – hey, that’s me! (and the other guys and girls at TubbyGorilla) – which we’ve awarded to the preworkout that we feel deserves a notable mention.
It is the highest ranked product in this list that you can buy on Amazon in the UK – we appreciate that is something that a lot of our readers are looking for.
The product is the definition of ‘no-frills’, it knows what it wants to be and it does that extremely well.
It contains more beta-alanine than every other product in this list – in fact, it contains more than double the amount than every other supp in this post with the exception of Mr Hyde…and it still has 92% more than that!
Pulse, by Legion, contains zero creatine. Only one other product in this best gym preworkout shortlist opts to go with that approach.
However, they’re completely content with this way of doing things.
On their site, this is what they have to say about why Pulse doesn’t contain creatine:
“We don’t think a pre-workout supplement is the right place for it. One of the reasons for this is there’s evidence that co-ingesting caffeine with creatine may negate some of its muscle and strength benefits.”
Now, there is evidence that does contradict their beliefs, but we appreciate their way of thinking…Why offer something they can’t be assured works?
This approach extends as far as only including six ingredients in Pulse. Most of its competition contains a minimum of ten, if not substantially more.
They want to focus their efforts on providing ingredients in their supplements that definitely work. Rather than going for a greater variety of ingredients, they opt for less range with greater quantity of each. We like that.
Legion Athletics argue there is not enough scientific evidence to back up the performance benefits of a range of ingredients, including L-arginine, tyrosine, B vitamins, taurine, branched-chain amino acids, L-norvaline and eviodiamine.
We give Legion Pulse a rating of 4.8 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
Pro Supps: Dr Jekyll Review
Dr Jekyll defies the logic of our ranking system.
It is an anomaly – but it’s one that we’re delighted makes its way into this post.
With just 2g of beta-alanine and creatine, you’d think it seems a fairly average pick of the bunch.
Then you look at the caffeine content – or lack of it – with just 100mg; the lowest in this list so far.
So how exactly does it makes its way into third place in this ‘best of’ post?
Well, Dr Jekyll focuses less on an outright energy buzz and more on giving you a pump for increased endurance, making it a seriously effective anabolic preworkout.
It does this through beta-alanine, but also through anabolic compounds such as L-Leucine and L-Norvaline that focus on targeting your senses. The inclusion of creatine should also gives you a further increase in your workout ability, whilst aiding and improving muscle recovery too.
Some say that the effects can be even stronger than Mr Hyde, with less of the tingles.
Due to the lower caffeine content, this product can be taken at any time of the day – perfect for those that work out in the evening.
You can also stack Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; 1 scoop of Dr Jekyll with half a scoop of Mr Hyde.
The added benefit of this supplement is Pro Supps ability to provide preworkouts that taste really good, although avoid the cotton candy flavour.
We give Dr Jekyll a rating of 4.7 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
iSatori Pre-Gro Max Review
This product is so crazy it gets its growth stimulants from colostrum – the same stuff found in breast milk.
Actually, if you think about it…
It’s kind of genius. If you want gains as crazy as you are, of course.
New born babies develop at a rate that is never matched again throughout our lives, so it stands to reason that the fuel they need to do that will be premium.
And besides, you’re not actually drinking breast milk, it’s just a stimulant that is found in both. *Shudders*.
Pre-Gro Max is also packed with plenty of good old fashioned creatine, Citrulline Malate, astragin and nitrosigine.
Citrulline Malate is a compound of L-Citrulline, and in the past has primarily been used to treat fatigue and muscle weakness in debilitating illnesses…
But now it’s spread into the world of athletic performance, increasing energy and general wellbeing.
Astragin helps to line your intestines for better overall absorption of ingredients and stimulants, and can also help those with digestive issues.
Nitrosigine is a patented form of arginine and was developed specifically for the bodybuilding market. It helps to give you a nitric oxide boost – allowing for greater pump and improved blood flow.
All of these ingredients combine to make one of the nicest tasting pre-workouts on the market, especially Mixed Berry. It dissolves extremely well too – any lumps are cleared easily when mixed with water.
We give Pre-Gro Max a rating of 4.4 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
GAT Nitraflex Review
This is only one of two products in this best preworkout review that does not contain creatine.
Some scientific studies suggest that by simultaneously consuming caffeine and creatine, you can weaken the muscle building effects that the latter has to offer. That is why GAT recommend that you take a separate creatine supplement and leave the preworkout to do what it was born to do – give you that killer energy boost and muscle endurance that really lasts for your entire session.
There are natural testosterone boosters which help you to maximise your strength and muscle gains, even without the missing ingredient listed above.
This is another tasty preworkout, which is perfect if you can’t stomach something that isn’t as nice in flavour, such as Legion Pulse.
Considering GAT Nitraflex has the lowest beta-alanine levels in this review (1.5g per serving) we were blown away with how much energy and endurance it gave us to see us through our workouts from start to finish.
We actually found the post-workout crash to be surprisingly strong, although that may be mostly down to the 325mg of caffeine per serving. Even though you’re having an energy crash, you won’t sleep after taking this pre.
The packaging does not recommend taking this before sleep, so late night workouts probably aren’t an option unless you’re a night owl. 5 hours latest before bed time is the recommended timing from GAT.
We give GAT Nitraflex a rating of 4.4 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
BSN N.o Xplode Review
BSN N.O. Xplode is a big favourite on bodybuilding forums across the internet.
With a delicious taste in all flavours, it comes down to the quality of the ingredients and the effect they have on your body as to what defines this PWO.
Whilst this is a re-engineered mix of their original ‘pre-workout igniter’, we believe it’s less effective than the previous version. This is a common occurrence with these supplements, as some high-power ingredients do get banned for being a little too effective on the body.
However, we can’t knock a company too hard for coming back fighting with new formulas that meet regulations and still help to give you an exceptional workout. Especially when it’s now a lot tastier than it used to be.
As well as giving you a serious boost physically, the focus and motivation you get with BSN NO Xplode is seriously effective.
This supplement ticks all of the boxes, with a great amount of caffeine, beta-alanine and a whole load of creatine. 3 grams to be precise!
In fact, there’s only one drink on this list with more creatine and that’s up next…
We give BSN NO Xplode a rating of 4.3 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Preworkout Review
With the lowest amount of beta-alanine in this review, and on the extremely low scale when it comes to caffeine, there’s no surprise when we say that Gold Standard PWO does not give you a massive muscle pump. However…
One thing we noticed with this product was an increase in energy that really lasts.
Even better still?
It doesn’t seem to affect you later in the day, with no noticeable energy crash after your workout. This is surprising given the level of alertness it can help you achieve.
Because of the low caffeine levels, you’re also able to take this product for evening workouts. This is great for those that don’t get time either in the morning or the afternoon, or for those that actually like to get to sleep at night.
If you’re prone to getting the shakes or the jitters then you should also be safe with this product – it’s the beta-alanine that often does that to people. You either love the feeling or you hate it, there’s no in-between!
But it’s fine if you fall on the fence of not enjoying that feeling in your body. No two bodies are the same, and that’s why so many different variations of preworkout supplements are out there performing for so many different people.
Gold Standard Preworkout is something we’d recommend to many lifters, but also to those taking part in high-energy sports such as martial arts.
We give Gold Standard Preworkout a rating of 4.3 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
Cellucor C4 Review
If you are looking for a product that you can use daily without any risk of ill side effects (or worse – a lessened or compromised effect on your body) then this is a good choice for you.
C4 is good all-rounder.
Its nitrate-enhanced delivery makes it easy to absorb in the body, getting all of the other ingredients right into the muscle where you want them.
You can expect mental focus, good energy levels and decent gains with a manageable bit of pump on the side. The level of energy boost you get is not massive, but this makes it a benefit if you’re on the lookout for your first ever pre workout supplement – some products can take users by surprise with the tingles and the pump!
We joke about it there, but it’s a serious point to consider. You may actually feel worse if you head straight in for a scoop of Mr Hyde or similar if you’re a small individual that’s never tried a preworkout before.
It’s got low levels of all of the basic ingredients you could ask for before heading to the gym, from beta-alanine and creatine to L-arginine to get the blood flowing through the muscles at optimum levels for your workout.
We award Cellucor C4 a rating of 4.2 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
Musclepharm Assault Review
Specifically designed for the modern-day athlete, we firmly believe that MusclePharm is one of the best preworkouts around on paper.
In terms of the ingredients they’ve included; the variety, the quality and the balance, they tick absolutely every box.
300mg of caffeine should keep you highly energised, and with reasonable quantities of beta-alanine and creatine included too, you know your muscles are really going to feel the benefit.
When a product has been on the market as long as this one has and is still selling, you know that the creators are doing something right.
It boosts your strength and power during workouts or before competing in high-energy sports.
Assault makes use of powerful amino acids, creatine, strong stimulants and a nitrate delivery pathway for a solid, unquestionable power boost.
We only wish it gave you more of a pump. It definitely doesn’t compete with other competitors in this list when it comes to that undesirable urge to lift weights, but that does make it a more suitable option for PWO beginners.
We give Musclepharm Assault a rating of 4 out of 5. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
What is a Preworkout?
Did you get through this list but yet still not fully understand what a PWO is?
That’s totally fine – we get it.
We have all been there before, trying to improve our lives in the gym and hearing about the next big product…but not really understanding exactly what it does.
If you’re still unsure and sat there banging your head then we hope this answers it for you:
A gym preworkout is something you take before a workout – usually in liquid form – to give yourself a huge energy boost.
It’s not just energy boosts you can get from these though, the increased pump you get in your muscles can allow you to improve the weights you’re lifting to allow you to make quicker strength progressions.
They can also include other ingredients too to help with muscle growth, recovery and more – but each review above should tell you exactly what each product is used for.
As we said earlier in this post:
NEVER exceed the recommended intake listed on the packaging.
They will give you one hell of an energy boost as they are; your heart could end up with a scare if you take too much per day.
Are Preworkouts Steroids?
None of the pre-workouts listed in this post are considered steroids. They are all entirely legal supplements that contain no illegal ingredients. They are all safe, but remember to stick to the maximum daily serving size to avoid side effects.
Preworkout vs Coffee or Green Tea
We get lots of people asking us whether preworkouts are really worth the investment over products like coffee, green tea or even caffeine pills.
For every 8 people out there agreeing that preworkouts are an essential gym product, there are 2 saying that they don’t make a difference.
A common myth we’d like to prove incorrect is that ‘preworkouts have no more caffeine in than a cup of coffee‘. We hear this a lot and it’s simply not true:
A shot of espresso will typically contain 60-70mg of caffeine. A regularly brewed coffee will contain 80-95mg. A can of Red Bull has a similar amount.
The lowest caffeine preworkout supplement in this review has 100mg, with the highest caffeine preworkout 400mg. That’s like taking 6.5 shots of espresso, before even considering the other valuable ingredients that you find in pre-workout products such as beta-alanine, creatine and more.
Green tea is similar; some people will feel an energy boost with this natural drink – that’s undeniable. In fact, 1 of the 3 external fitness experts that we consulted for this post said that they use green tea for a six week period and then use a preworkout for a six week period.
Do You Need to Cycle Preworkouts?
As we suggested above, some people find it beneficial to cycle their preworkouts. This means to take it for a period of time, and then you stop taking it for a similar period of time. You then repeat this process for as long as you train.
This one will come down to personal preference and the way your body reacts to preworkouts, caffeine and other ingredients.
No two bodies are the same remember, so the only advice we can give is to listen to your own. Unless your body is telling you to ignore the maximum intake on the packet, of course!
Some people find that, over time, their bodies build up a tolerance to the increase in caffeine and it starts to give them less workout benefits as a result.
In complete contrast to this, some fitness fanatics find that they can take a relatively harmless preworkout like C4 and reap the benefits for years on end.
We have found that a large percentage of powerlifters eventually need to work their way up to stronger preworkouts, and we’ve estimated that between 30-50% of people will need to cycle these supplements for maximum benefits.
We would recommend taking these products in stages, or ensuring that you never over-do it. Know your limits.
What Are The Side Effects of Preworkouts?
The side effects of preworkout drinks can include:
- Tingling sensations
- Post-workout energy crash
- Light-headedness or feeling dizzy
- Feeling jittery
- Itchy skin
- High blood pressure
- Kidney failure
Some of these symptoms are more common than others, naturally.
Tingling sensations are mostly caused by the beta-alanine that gives you a range of other workout benefits. It might feel strange at first, but many gym go-ers crave this feeling after a while!
Post-workout energy crashes and insomnia – or struggle sleeping – are down to the large caffeine quantities. That’s why it’s really important to either take these before a morning workout, or to opt for a low-caffeine preworkout like Dr Jekyll if you plan to work out in the evening.
Dizziness, nausea and headaches are usually associated with a low tolerance to some or all of the ingredients included in a PWO. We would always recommend opting for one of the less-intense options on this list first, and take just a small scoop when you first start out.
Some of the side effects can be serious – listen to your body and to the experts too. If you think you’re struggling, lay off the supplements for a few weeks until you need that big energy boost for setting new PBs with your lifts.
What the Experts Think
We asked fitness bloggers what their favourite preworkout supplement is, and here’s what they had to say:
Josh from DIY Active said “I’m a big fan of Assault by MusclePharm. It has enough energy boosting components to pump me up for the workout and power through it, while also helping build strength and muscle.”
Chris from Caliber notes he is really liking Pulse by Legion. He gave several reasons for liking this product: it has a “large amount of caffeine, relative to many other pre-workouts, which is well-balanced with theanine”. He also said it has “no fillers or artificial sweeteners and that it has a limited set of well-researched ingredients”. Finally, “he said it has no obvious jitters or unpleasant comedown.”
David from How To Beast stated “my favourite preworkout is BULK by Transparent Labs because it contains the proper doses of caffeine, citrulline malate, and beta-alanine. These are the proven ingredients for increasing strength and muscle endurance, and every other pre-workout I have seen is under-dosed.”
Some Other Things Preworkouts May Include
Energy enhancers help you to train harder for longer by either stimulating your central nervous system or your brain.
Some also help your cells to metabolise faster – giving them direct energy at the source.
Typical energy boosters include dry caffeine and certain Amino acids known as BCAA’s.
BCAAs are essential for optimising your workouts and progress at the gym.
Strength and Impact Enhancers
Strength enhancers give you temporary boosts in strength making it easier to do your lifts and reps at higher than your usual weight.
At first, you may wonder, what’s the point if it’s temporary?
But the beauty of it is that after the boost in energy wears off, you still have all of the benefits of your work out – increased load on your muscles and you’ll be stronger when you return to the gym too.
These strength boosters typically include creatine – great for muscle reparation – and the amino acid Beta-Alanine; an essential in modern weightlifting.
There are also a whole whack of amino acids that improve the impact of your workout by allowing more blood (and therefore nutrients, oxygen and healthy goodness) into your muscle cells.
That means they repair and build up more easily – giving you maximum muscle build for your efforts.
No, this is not the bit where we tell you that pre-workout supplements will make you smarter.
So why brain boosters for a workout?
Fitness is as much in the mind as it is in the body:
Your mind gets tired and typically starts giving up before your body would.
So we want to wake up your brain and get it working on full power to keep you focused and motivated throughout your workout.
You’ll be more determined than ever to squeeze out those extra reps, which will lead to both short and long-term benefits.
Common boosters are tyrosine, a mood enhancing amino acid and phenylthylamine, an amino acid that helps your brain to produce all of its world famous happy chemicals: dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Don’t worry, we can’t pronounce them properly either.
Nutrition is still your number one energy source.
There is not much point in boosting your energy levels chemically if you don’t have the fuel to keep yourself going with.
Your body runs on carbohydrates as it’s primary energy source – so we made sure that our top products had plenty.
With all of the boosting and enhancing these supplements will be doing, you are sure to be building some epic muscle in no time.
But your body also needs something to build it all out of: Protein.
With that in mind, we also ensured our picks had good protein levels.