Everyone loves to talk about their favorite pre workout supplement, but everyone is different. You probably want different effects or are doing a different workout than the next person.
We’ve upgraded this page from a mere Top 10 list to a total “Buyer’s Guide” tailored to what you want — not what some store wants.
In this guide, we’ll ask you a series of questions, explain things a bit, and suggest three or four pre workouts for you to consider.
Open Labels Rule
In general, we prefer products whose labels are 100% open and nonproprietary, a recent trend the best companies have taken. No more hiding the expensive/good stuff at the bottom of the list!
No scams here
If this is your first time at PricePlow, we are a price comparison site affiliated with the stores so we stay as unbiased as possible. We take just one advertiser at a time, but our opinions are never for sale… and certainly won’t push BS that will get your Visa charged $70 every month, like many other awful, biased “Top 10” lists.
Instead, we send you to the best priced stores (Amazon included), and let you go from there.
Before you leave, you’re encouraged to sign up for PricePlow’s email price drop alerts on any product below so you never miss hot deals on your favorite supplements.
Let’s get started:
Choose how you’d like to get your recommendations:
The only true answer to the question, “What’s the best pre workout supplement?” is, “It depends…”
Based on our opinions.
We suggest the guide, since it’ll be tailored to your needs, not ours. But you’re free to see what we’ve been using – it moves around relatively frequently.
We’ll start with the “Choose your own adventure” Guide. The first question is simple enough:
Question 1: Do you want stimulants or stimulant-free?
This question is simple enough, but hugely important. The stimulant products (all of which are caffeine-based) will add a lot more energy, but they aren’t for everyone.
If you work out at night, don’t like caffeine, or are on a stimulant-break, choose the stim-free path. You could also look at this path for some powerful strength- and pump-inducing nitric oxide supplements to stack into your existing pre workout.
Everyone else will want to head into the stimulant section, where we’ll have things broken down in more detail.
The Best Pre Workouts with Stimulants
Welcome all stim-lovers!
Our next question is also simple yet important:
Question 2a: Do you want powder, pills, or Ready-to-Drink (RTD) Bottles?
The majority of the best stuff is powder-based, so that’s where most readers will go. Pills just don’t typically have enough space to get you the energy, pumps, and focus enhancement that you want. There’s also a better selection of powders, which are more possible.
Some of the pill products are crazy good though – just note that they’re mostly geared towards high-energy and focus. But if you want muscle-blasting pumps out of your pill-based pre workouts, you’ll need to head to the stimulant-free section and get pills there as well, though.
The Best Pre Workout Supplement Powders
Welcome to the best pre workout supplement powders area – this is where most people want to be.
The road forks in a big way here. Pick the option that best suits you – you can always come back and try a different path:
Question 3a: Do you most want high-energy, focus, Pumps, Value, or balanced one-scoopers?
Typically, the energy section is the most popular area – this is where you can get your stimulant fix, and then some.
The focus area contains supplements that are marketed towards that tunnel-vision feeling. They have a higher ratio of nootropics (cognitive enhancing ingredients) but don’t necessarily have to have a ton of caffeine.
With value, we show you how to find the best deals when on a budget. This is PricePlow, after all – that’s what we do!
To go after pumps, you’re looking for products that are geared more towards the pump than the stim (but aren’t stim-free).
Finally, the section we’re most excited about, one scoop wonders. These are products that have everything you want in one scoop. But for that to happen, it depends on your caffeine tolerance, so we’ll have to break it down a bit further.Energy, Focus, Pumps, Value, or One-Scoopers?
The Best Pre Workout Supplements for Energy!
Yes! The best high-energy pre workout supplements money can buy. There’s no shame in being a stim-junkie, so long as you’re healthy, know your limits, and take occasional stim-breaks.
Next question, and this one is important:
Question 4a: Do you want DMAA / DMHA or No DMAA?
That’s right, pre workout supplements with DMAA are still out there! However, it’s a bit of a long story, so if you don’t know much about this ingredient, click to read about DMAA down below first and then come back and decide what you want to do.
Meanwhile, the hot new stimulant of 2016 is DMHA, which is kind of like “DMAA-lite”, and we get into below.
Our quick take: if you’re conservative or new to pre workout supplements, skip the 1,3. If you know what’s going on, have cycled through a few other energy supplements, and are looking for that next level, then either of these ingredients — when used appropriately – is downright unbeatable.
High-Energy Pre Workouts with DMAA or DMHA
The long story short is that DMAA is going to bring the most flat-out intensitystrong>, and our all-time favorite pre workout uses it. But it’s a bit much for some users, who want to take it down a notch, but still want a nice “extra” feel. In those cases, DMHA, which is more like a “DMAA-lite” stimulant, is the way to go.
DMHA is also listed on labels as 2-amino-6-methylheptane yet is sometimes labeled as 2-aminoisoheptane. You can read way more about it in our detailed DMHA blog post.
High-Energy Pre Workouts with 1,3
Starting with our favorite:
The reason we love APS Mesomorph (whose 1,3 is labeled as “Geranaburn (geranium oil extract)”) is because they’ve disclosed to us that the maximum serving size of one full scoop contains 65mg DMAA.
So for us, we’re big fans of Mesomorph at ½ to ¾ of a scoop, and you won’t really find a more intense energy supplement out there. It’s also a great deal.
To top it off, there are the following other ingredients:
- 6.5g of beta alanine (endurance), citrulline malate 2:1 (endurance and nitric oxide pumps), and AAKG (nitric oxide)
- 4.5g total of creatine, taurine, creatine nitrate (the nitrate adds more pumps), creatinol-o-phosphate, and a bit of agmatine. If there’s enough agmatine, it will also keep nitric oxide around longer for additional pumps.
- Glucuronolactone (added to various energy drinks), caffeine, theobromine, and of course, the 1,3 dimethyl.
This is a no-joke product that is to be taken seriously. Start light and enjoy the ride, Mesomorph is here to stay.
One last thing: try the Rocket Pop flavor – it’s just like those old blue bombsicle popsicles from childhood! Seriously enjoyable to drink from start to finish.
Innovative Labs WICKED
Oh dear! If APS Mesomorph wasn’t enough energy for you, and you think you might need even a bit more, then Innovative Labs WICKED takes it up one extra notch, all the way to 70mg DMAA in a full two-scoop serving, paired with 300mg caffeine!
The honest truth is that this is as intense of a supplement as we recommend. If you can’t going with this, then you are either extremely stimulant-resistant, or it’s seriously time to take a stim-break. This is where the train stops, in our opinions.
What’s cool is that Wicked uses two silicate-based pump supplements — ingredients bound to silica have often shown a higher propensity for better absorption. In this case, we have citrulline silicate as well as agmatine silicate, and that’s not to mention the creatine nitrate which will also yield pumps.
There’s a bunch more to it as shown in the label below, turning it into an explosive workout that lives up to its name – perhaps a bit much so. We personally stick with our Mesomorph, but many high-stim users who we trust have flat out loved this.
Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals Jack’d Up
The name Jack’d Up is definitely not meant to deceive you – this is basically a Jack3d clone, DMAA is included and all!
Hi-Tech went ahead and made some upgrades, though, so on paper, it looks even better than the original Jack3d! Instead of just getting creatine monohydrate, for instance, you’re getting creatine nitrate, which will add to the pump factor – something that was lacking in the original Jack3d (but most of us are okay with that – we’re here for the energy!)
To further improve those pumps, a bit of agmatine sulfate has also been added – but since it comes after the 1,3 on the label, it probably won’t be much.
Other old favorites from Jack3d, including beta alanine and schisandra extract, are still here in Jack’d Up as well.
We’re doing our best to find out how much DMAA is in this supplement – we’ll let you know as soon as we can.
Our flavor recommendation is watermelon — it’s seriously better than any of those original Jack3d flavors.
Jack’d Up Deals, Alerts, and Coupons
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High-Energy Pre Workouts with DMHA
This category’s been a big grower in 2016, but we have a few fun selections for you, starting with the best up top:
Giant Sports Giant RIOT
Want to try a high-energy DMHA pre workout, and not DMAA? Then Giant RIOT is the one.
This is a follow-up to their “energy drink” that you should also consider, named Giant RUSH.
However, Giant RIOT has far more in terms of both energy and pumps — it’s more of a true pre workout supplement, whereas Giant RUSH was a better simple energy and focus drink.
Added Energy from Bai Mudan White Tea?
The reason this is here instead of the countless other DMHA-based pre workouts is due to whatever’s going on with Giant Sports’ Bai Mudan white tea extract. We don’t know what this stuff is standardized/extracted for, but every time we try it, we simply notice that extra something. Giant RIOT is no different.
At 300mg caffeine, you can full-scoop it for a fantastic training session, but it works just as well if partially dosed (allowing you to get the price under $1.00/workout).
Pump-wise, the standard L-Citrulline + taurine + agmatine combination is in effect here, but it seems to hit harder than you’d expect given the doses. No clue why, but it might be because we drink plenty of water to get that taurine “water pump”.
All told, Bruce Kneller of Giant Sports is a major reason why there’s so many quality DMHA pre workouts out there, but this is seriously the best of the bunch for that energy.
A note on the flavor – get mango! Watermelon just isn’t as good.
Giant Riot Links and Deals
Mike and CJ’s Giant RIOT Review
Inspired Nutraceuticals DVST8 (“White Cut” Edition)
2016’s hottest new pre workout supplement! This is the first supplement to take the all-new DMHA stimulant and mix it into “one-scoop-wonder” mode, by adding a clinical dose of 4g L-Citrulline for pumps that can back up the energy!
Now here’s where this one differs: The combination of the “smoother” DMHA and the three forms of caffeine really come on a bit more slowly and don’t hit you in the face hard. Some people want that, others don’t.
Ultimately, you’re getting 162.5mg caffeine in each scoop, and we found that 1.5-2 scoops is our sweet spot. The caffeine blend consists of 100mg straight caffeine per serving, as well as 50mg dicaffeine malate (provides 37.5mg caffeine) and 50mg caffeine citrate (provides 25mg caffeine). Those two absorb slower than the straight caffeine, so you have more of a slow-roller with this one, but wow does it feel fantastic once you dial it in!!
The muscle-building agents come from 2g of betaine, which functions similarly to creatine, and at our favorite 1.5 scoops, you get more than the clinical dose of 2.5g where gains were shown in study.
Inspired Nutraceuticals is staying away from artificial colors, no need for that, and the flavors are fantastic – so far our favorite is California Gold, but if you like a strong Blueberry flavor, then check out Pacific Crush!
DVST8 Best Deal and Price Comparisons
- Click Here to go to the best deal (coupon included)
Our DVST8 White Cut YouTube Review
MAN Sports GAME DAY
Gameday!!! The original Game Day was on our Top 10 list, but times changed. Thankfully, MAN Sports changed with them, and upgraded GAME DAY to have a whole new feel!
MAN Sports is best known for their candy flavors, and GAME DAY definitely comes through in the taste department.
This one’s a bit tougher to decipher since it’s a proprietary blend, but we know that each scoop has 300mg caffeine, so it’s likely to be a bit stronger than Giant Rush up above. There’s also L-Tyrosine for added focus.
Game Day Deals and Info Links
Note: The 30 serving tubs are for the new formula. The “60 serving” tubs were for the older version, which was really 60 “½ servings”.
See our GAME DAY Review on YouTube
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High-Energy Pre Workouts without 1,3
Starting with the most intense energy:
Performax Labs HyperMax XT
When we tried HyperMax XT, we were simply floored — and it seems to get better every time we use it! This is a truly powerful energy supplement, but it’s also balanced. It’s so strong that that we don’t recommend full-scooping it until you’ve really figured out where you stand with it.
The key is that it contains Eria Jarensis extract / N-Phenyldimethylamine, 2015’s popular non-DMAA stimulant. In our research, this PEA-like stimulant is a fantastic mood-booster that lasts longer than regular PEA, and about the strongest thing out there that isn’t “banned” and isn’t 1,3 or DMHA.
Every scoop has 325mg caffeine, assisted with even more PEA for the initial hit of energy up front, and then the other stims come in to support. We’re not huge fans of the proprietary blend in energy and focus matrix, but the fact is that it flat out works.
But it’s more than the energy – it’s also the mood support. If you’re just not feeling the motivation, or are having one of those “bad-time” workout slumps, HyperMax XT will turn that frown upside down right away. Thank the PEA blend for that one!
And despite this being the energy section, we still get plenty of pumps and endurance too! To balance things out, you have a legit 4g clinical nitric oxide boosting dose of L-Citrulline, and you get your endurance from beta alanine orotate (known as “Beta-O”), a new synergistic blend that makes beta alanine even better thanks to orotic acid.
We just can’t say enough good things about this supplement — you can see our review and full ingredient panel below the price links:
HyperMax XT Deals and Info Links
Note: In the pages above, the new formula we’re talking about is 25 servings — and we could easily get 35-40 workouts out of this tub!!
Rich Piana’s 5% Nutrition 5150
YES! Rich Piana and the 5% Crew have made it to our Best Pre Workout Supplement guide with insane amounts of energy in their superbly-named pre workout, 5150.
5150 is California’s Welfare and Institution Code for “Involuntary Psychiatric Hold”, which is right up the alley of Piana and 5% Nutrition.
Inside, you’re going to get 400mg caffeine, but unlike a lot of other high-stim supplements, you also get a full dose of 4g citrulline malate – proven for a serious nitric oxide boost!
Yet the caffeine isn’t the only stimulant – not by a long shot! You also have hordenine, synephrine, higenamine, and newcomer halostachine. If you’ve been looking for something potent and a little different, this halostachine dose could be the one for you.
On the focus side of things, a healthy 750mg dose of N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine and 500mg Choline Bitartrate keep the neurotransmitters moving, so that you get the mind-muscle-connection you’ve been wanting.
This is the product that Rich Piana’s fans wanted, and now they got it. The only question is, are you a 5%-er too?
Muscle Elements PreCre XS
Muscle Elements PreCre has long been one of our top pre workout supplements. There’s nothing not to like about these guys.
But at 244mg caffeine, PreCre wasn’t enough for some. That’s where PreCre XS comes in, with a rocking 419mg caffeine!
A full 5g of creatine
The great thing about PreCre has always been the full 5g dose of creatine. That stays. In fact, everything from PreCre has stayed, including the 10g carbs for the carb pump:
PTS-Surge – Shuttle those carbs into the muscles
What we also like about the PreCre family is the use of their PTS-Surge ingredient that helps shuttle the 10g carbs into muscles. It’s enough to drive a serious pump, but not so much that you are feeling bloated!
Overall, for those looking at huge caffeine and no DMAA/DMHA, this is the one that actually works.
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One last very important question to get you to the focus-driven pre workout supplements:
Yes, DMAA (1,3 dimethylamylamine) supplements are still out there! This a relatively long story, so you can click here to head over to our DMAA section to read the updates, look at some research, and decide if you want to use a pre workout with the ingredient.
Our quick take is that 1,3 is a great selection for those who are experienced with several other high-energy pre workout supplements and are ready for the next level, so long as you’re in healthy condition. But if you’re a rookie or more on the conservative side, go with the section without it focus pre’s.
One note is that the supplements in the DMAA section aren’t marketed as focus enhancers, and don’t typically have a ton of other cognitive boosters. The DMAA just puts a lot of us in the zone all on its own.
Focus Pre Workouts with DMAA
The following pre workout supplements all contain DMAA. Although they’re not marketed as focus-enhancers, it’s in our opinion that there isn’t much of a better cognitive focus-boosting ingredient than DMAA itself.
Starting with our favorite:
We love Mesomorph for the main reason that we know there’s 65mg DMAA in one full 15.5g scoop (the max dose). This type of transparency that APS has provided to us is welcomed, and the reason why it’s our top DMAA-based pre workout supplement.
Besides the DMAA, there honestly isn’t a ton in there with the sole purpose of cognitive effects. Caffeine is obviously a focus enhancer in its own right, but that’s everywhere. Agmatine sulfate has been linked to a mental boost, but it’s at the bottom of a 4.5g proprietary blend of six ingredients, so we’re not sure how much is in there.
Point being, if you enjoy DMAA for focus, you can dose this one exactly as you wish. We stay between 25-50mg, which is roughly ½ to ¾ scoop.
As its name would imply, LIMITLESS is a DMHA-based focus supplement that, quite frankly, is nearly cheating!
Inside of LIMITLESS is a nootropic named phenylpiracetam, which isn’t exactly a “supplement”, but it flat out works.
Phenylpiracetam is made by combining a molecule of the nootropic piracetam with PEA. This gives you a stimulating burst of focus and motivating mood-enhancement that is unparalleled in the racetam world!
But that’s not all for focus, there’s also N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine with some CDP-Choline, although they’re in a proprietary blend so we don’t know the dosing.
This isn’t a focus-only supplement though. There’s also 4g citrulline malate and some agmatine for the pumps — but yes, this does lean more towards that focus.
The issue: Adaptation to the Phenylpiracetam
The drawback with LIMITLESS is that phenylpiracetam isn’t a daily compound to take. It loses effectiveness when used like that, as many people gain tolerance to it relatively quickly. This means that this is a great product to have around, but it’s likely not going to be your only one — just when you need a superb workout say 1-3x/week. We’d not recommend it months on end.
Either way, if you haven’t tried phenylpiracetam yet, then get in here! We’ve had no jitters or sides with this, just straight focus when used sparingly:
Gaspari Nutrition is making a comeback, and with that is SuperPump 250!!
First, the DMAA dose – it’s higher than even Mesomorph:
250mg caffeine, 70mg DMAA
Clearly this dose isn’t for rookies, as 70mg DMAA is about the max we’re interested in taking. It hits so well though.
And SuperPump 250 stays true to its name in having 250mg caffeine. To provide the additional focus, there’s taurine and L-Tyrosine, but they’re in a proprietary blend so we don’t know how much… they do feel good though.
If you want DMAA and not DMHA, then the question is whether you want this or Mesomorph!
SuperPump 250 vs. Mesomorph?
We discuss this in the YouTube review below, but here’s the quick points:
- SuperPump 250 has a bit more DMAA, but 50mg less caffeine.
- Mesomorph has beta alanine, while this doesn’t.
- SuperPump 250 has less creatine (1.5g total), so it’s not clinically dosed.
Overall, the focus is going to be similar, but it will depend on how much DMAA and caffeine you want, and only you can answer that one.
Juste note that this comes in a DMAA and DMAA-Free version, so make sure you get the right one!
SuperPump 250 Best Price Links and Info
Our SuperPump 250 Review on YouTube
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Best pre workout supplements for focus without 1,3
These products are marketed as focus-enhancing supplements, and come through in full force:
Myokem has done one of the best jobs out there of being the go-to high-energy / high-focus pre workouts without DMAA, filling a market gap that so many tried to conquer, but constantly failed.
The focus blast comes primarily from their higher dose of citicoline (also known as choline CDP – the higher quality form of choline) and Huperzine A, two ingredients that will boost the amounts and longevity of your acetylcholine neurotransmitters – also known as the “learning neurotransmitter”.
It provides a great amount of tunnel-vision focus, helping you concentrate on every last rep, but without egregious amounts of caffeine – just 175mg per scoop after a minor 2015 reformulation.
There are a ton of other ingredients included, many of which help increase focus or ar stimulants:
But it’s really the high-dose citicoline and huperzine that really get us fired up – everything else is just bonus. What an incredible focus-driven blend!
Magnum Nutraceuticals LIMITLESS
This is a fantastic pre workout formula that was very well-devised in its quest for focus. For most users, it will be a true one-scooper, with a caffeine dose is somewhere in the 225mg range (unfortunate that it’s a proprietary formula) and enough pumps to balance it out, unlike most other focus-based pre workouts.
The focus enhancers come with a 1.42g “HAPPY BRAIN” proprietary formula, front-loaded with L-Tyrosine and then caffeine. After that, you get a serious 30:1 bacopa monnieri extract and choline.
One thing that we love is the use of whey protein isolate as an “anti-caking agent” – instead of getting extra silica like many other products use, Magnum added whey isolate, which is a far more beneficial ingredient anyway. This adds a bit of powdery-ness to the formula, but is a great idea for those who don’t want too much silica or other emulsifiers.
To top it off, the dual-phase flavor systems are incredible – for instance, you get a hit of fruit punch followed with a kick of delicious peach.
The point is, LIMITLESS definitely lives up to its name, but you gotta be a fan of the high-dose L-Tyrosine and bacopa next to the caffeine – those are the main drivers here, with a bit less choline riding shotgun.
Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK
Transparent Labs has seemingly come out of nowhere and is surging all over this industry online — and for great reason too! Their success started with this hugely popular pre workout, PreSeries Bulk!
BULK has a monstrous non-proprietary label that brings the focus in a new way — 2x as much L-theanine than caffeine (360mg l-theanine vs. 180mg caffeine). These two are quite synergistic, but you never see this kind of dose because, quite frankly, L-Theanine is expensive!
But… it gives an exceptionally focused workout effect… without needing to double-scoop or have to take a ton of caffeine in its place.
No artificial sweeteners / colors / flavors!
Transparent Labs started things fresh with a 100% commitment to natural sweeteners (like stevia) — and no artificial colors! While stevia isn’t as delicious as sucralose, the users have responded that it’s worth it! No more worries about whatever the next negative sucralose study is going to say – you’re already ahead of the curve with Transparent Labs.
Customize your strength with STIM-FREE
A good idea to go along with it: to keep your focus high but stimulants low: Transparent Labs also has a stimulant-free pre workout, STIM-FREE, also artificial color/sweetener-free. So you can half-scoop each for even less caffeine, but keep the focus high!
Cost is a concern, but we have the best coupons around…
The worst part of Transparent Labs’ supplements are the high price tags if paying full retail price. The good news is that we negotiated an internet-leading coupon, so that you can find the best deals with us! See the final prices in the links below:
PreSeries BULK Prices and Links
Our PreSeries Bulk Review on YouTube
The guys on PricePlow’s YouTube reviewed PreSeries Bulk, and were blown away its strength:
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VALUE-based Pre Workout Supplements
Sometimes, you don’t want to spend a dollar a day (or even more) on your pre workout. And as the official industry cheapskates, we got you covered. This is PricePlow, after all!
So here’s what we do:
Check PricePlow’s Supplement Deals page
If you’re new to PricePlow, then you must bookmark our deals page and sign up for price drop alerts! This is basically our flagship page, and without a doubt the most popular one on the site.
To scan for pre workouts, open the page and do a search for Pre Workout and you’ll find all the related deals.
The general rule of thumb is that we’re looking for pre workout deals that will give us $0.50 per quality workout. So if it’s a two-scooper, we need to see it priced at 25 cents per scoop or less.
And we find these deals like crazy. They’re not always the best pre workouts, but when you can get a full tub for ten bucks and are on budget mode, why not?
They also make great gifts for your bro’s at the gym, and the gym staff / trainers.
Awesome protein deals too!
Once you get used to our deal alerts, you’ll also realize that you’ll never have to pay full retail on protein powder again. Just like we need $0.50 per solid workout to make that page, we need 42g of non-spiked protein powder per dollar to get onto the deals page.
While you’re at it, also check our BOGO (buy one get one free) page. This page shows all of the BOGO deals out there (with the best hot deals going up top). Visitors rarely leave disappointed on either of these pages.
See PricePlow’s Free Supplement Samples Page
We have a free sample page that has a few different offers – check them out. This page gets a new offer once every couple of months, so be sure to bookmark it and check it regularly.
We also email new offers to our newsletter, which you get subscribed to when signing up to any deal alerts on this page.
iForce Maximize Intense
iForce Nutrition has been through several pre workout supplements over the last five years or so, and one of the strongest ones was Maximize Intense, from a couple of generations ago.
This product is nearly perpetually also on our hot deals page, and makes for quite a stiff cocktail. It’s more of a high-energy workout (whereas Pump Igniter is obviously marketed towards pumps), and you can make a tub last forever and even use it as a quality energy drink / focus enhancer at school or work.
Build your own
Only you know exactly what you want. If you want to keep it budget, you can tinker with all sorts of stuff on your own. It all starts with a caffeine pill (or even a home-brewed cup of coffee), and some bulk ingredients like agmatine and/or l-citrulline, and add some cheap carbs and you’re off to the races.
Cost-effective focus-enhancers include ALCAR (acetyl L-carnitine) and choline bitartrate (citicoline is our favorite version, but it’s also more expensive).
You can also add beta alanine and creatine if you’d like – these don’t necessarily need to be taken before working out, but now’s a good time to get at least half of the daily dose in.
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Best PUMP Pre Workouts
This is an interesting area here, because there’s not as many pre workout supplements that balance in a ton of pumps without getting you over-stimmed.
Perhaps companies figure that you can always just add some stimulant-free pump pre workout powder to a half-dose of an energy pre workout, but the reality is that stimulants are cheap, while pump ingredients are less so.
Point being, things have definitely skewed towards the energy side of the equation over the years, but there are some products that deliver some pretty stupid pumps without overwhelming you with stimulants to get you there:
What a pre workout this is. NutraBio is an industry veteran whom we couldn’t respect more. Their formulas are so open that they even disclose the amount of coloring, flavoring, and sweetener inside! (The colors are always natural, by the way.)
PRE Extreme took the scene by storm, not only because it has a fantastic array of pump ingredients, but also because it has 15g of carbs from high-end cluster dextrin – which provide fantastic pumps!!
It comes with a caveat though — you need to be able to handle the 350mg caffeine in order to get that full serving of pump action. The good news is that it’s a caffeine blend that has some caffeine from caffeine malate, which causes it to last longer and doesn’t hit as “hard” as 350mg of straight caffeine anhydrous.
There are four different pump ingredients (five if you count betaine!), all of them are hugely dosed, and that’s why it’s here. Starting with 6g citrulline malate (2:1 ratio), which is 4g of actual citrulline. That’s enough on its own, but there’s also Nitrosigine arginine silicate and agmatine too!
Meanwhile, the ergogenics are fully loaded – 3g worth of creatine and 2.5g worth of betaine!
To top it off, there’s extra electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, etc… which we’ve seen get removed from pre workouts. Did we say it’s loaded? It is! You just can’t go wrong with this stuff!
Note on the carbs: Pre EXTREME contains 15g carbs, but if you don’t want the carbs, go with NutraBio PRE (without the Extreme). It’s carb-free… but that will lower pumps too.
Olympus Labs CONQU3R Unleashed
Reformulated in late 2015, CONQU3R Unleashed is without a doubt the most intense 300mg of caffeine out there. This stuff is loaded to the gills – and will have you pumped to the gills – even at less than a full serving-size!
The pumps come from all sorts of different pathways, and you’re just going to be strong and solid with this stuff. For instance, you have a serious dose of 4g of L-Citrulline, a full gram of agmatine, and two grams of HydroMax glycerol for the famed “water pumps”. That’s an unreal blend to mix with the caffeine.
Thanks to the alpha GPC (a relatively expensive cognitive enhancer), the caffeine feels fantastic. Even stim junkies should just start at 1.5 scoop, you really don’t need a whole lot more than this in our opinions.
The unsung hero, though? 2g of COP (Creatinol-O-Phosphate), which just seems to make workouts feel ‘stronger’. We need more human performance research on this one though!
Texture problems have been fixed!
What’s funny is that the original CONQU3R was easily one of the worst-textured supplements on the market, and we still loved it to death. That problem has now been fixed!!!
The product is now crazy effective and delicious!
Oh yeah!!! There’s three pump ingredients in here, but they combine for 10.5g worth of powder, so you know it’s going to be big.
Kaged Muscle is Kris Gethin’s supplement company, and it picked up right where where Pre-JYM left off.
Let’s cut to the chase – the 6.5g of fermented L-Citrulline is simply unheard of, and it’s everything you’d imagine it to be. One scoop yields about 250mg caffeine, and more pumps than three scoops of the competition!
The secondary pumps come from the 2g of taurine, but make sure you get plenty of water for that to activate.
And finally, the third “pump” ingredient is actually an ergogenic muscle-builder, betaine. 2g here is just 500mg short of the clinical dose for muscle gains, but it still provides quite the pump.
If you enjoy BCAAs, you’re in luck here too, as you’ll get 3.5g of fermented BCAAs that mix great.
Is this beet root doing something more??
This product leans more towards the natural side, with mostly stevia for sweetening, and beet root extract for the coloring. Our question is this – is this beet root providing a bunch of nitrates for even more pumps? Because it almost feels like it!
We’ve seen pictures of Kaged Muscle’s beet root extract vs the competition, and it’s clearly a deeper, “danker” purple color. We’ll publish those soon on this blog, but it makes us wonder how much else is in there besides just the coloring.
Anyway, come for the 6.5g of L-Citrulline, stay for everything else!
[This marks the end of the PUMP pre workout powder section. You can click the back button to go back to your last selection.]
ONE SCOOP PRE WORKOUT WONDERS
This is the new section here that we’re most excited about. Our faithful followers on Facebook are always interested in legit “one-scoopers” – products where “30 servings” actually means 30 serious workouts, and it’s balanced across energy, pumps, ergogenics, and focus. No fuss, no games, no need to stack in extra stuff.
The major issue is that we all have different caffeine tolerances, so we need to break it down a bit more. The key is to find something with balance at your personal stimulant tolerance.
So let us know how much caffeine you want pre workout:How much caffeine do you want pre workout?
Caffeine <= 200mg
Below are the “lower stim” pre workouts that are heavier in pumps. They’d cost too much for someone who needs 400mg caffeine to get going, but they’re perfect for those of us who hate those high-caffeine pre workouts that you need to half-scoop, but then only get you half-pumped.
Instead, here’s what we love on the lower end of the energy side:
Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK
Look out for Transparent Labs, their one-scoop-wonder here, PreSeries Bulk, has taken the industry online by storm!
The caffeine rests at 180mg for a full scoop, which is actually doubled by a generous serving of the expensive focus and calming ingredient, L-Theanine. If you haven’t had this before, you must try the combination – it makes for a very very smooth pre workout that we can’t stop raving about!
The pumps come from a generous dose of citrulline malate, and aside from the l-theanine, you’re also getting nice doses of N-Acetyl Tyrosine and Choline for the focus boosters.
No artificial sweeteners or colors!
On top of that, Transparent Labs has kept up with the trend to go with natural sweeteners – this is a stevia-based product. While the flavoring is admittedly not as good as others on this page, many users believe that it’s well worth it.. one less thing to worry about. You’ll also see no nasty colors either.
It gets better though, if you want to go even lower-stim:
Customize the stim strength with STIM-FREE
Transparent Labs also has a stim-free pre workout aptly named STIM-FREE. You can then mix and match these two products to get just the right amount of caffeine, while keeping the pumps and focus at full strength!
The biggest problem with the products from Transparent Labs is that they’re quite expensive. The good news is that PricePlow has negotiated the best coupon on the web with Transparent Labs – less money for everyone is always better.
PreSeries BULK Prices and Links
CJ and Amin reviewed it on PricePlow’s YouTube channel, and were just all about it:
NutraBio Fighter Fuel
Now this is an interesting low-stim pre workout that’s really caught our attention!
Marketed towards anyone doing extreme HIIT style workouts — MMA fighters, CrossFitters, sprinters, etc… NutraBio’s Fighter Fuel has just 100mg caffeine but fully-loaded doses of everything high-end athletes need, including 19g carbohydrates from top-quality cluster dextrin!
With Fighter Fuel, you’ll get 3g creatine and 2.5g betaine, but also a large dose of citrulline malate (6g, the malate is the best form for endurance) and 3.5g leucine.
There are other aminos added to the mix, and a sweet amount of N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine at 1.5g for the focus.
Athletes like this also need electrolytes and vitamins, which Fighter Fuel brings as well. But what they don’t want are proprietary blends or artificial colors – and you won’t get either of those here. If this is your first time seeing NutraBio, note that their products are “110% open formula” — even the amount of natural coloring and flavoring is disclosed!
It’s got everything a fighter / crossfitter would want, but anyone wanting low-stims should be interested.
Note: This comes in a Men’s and Women’s version where the women’s is even lower in stims (80mg caffeine) and carbs, so anyone can try either one!
NutraBio Fighter Fuel Links and Deals
Olympus Labs CONQU3R Unleashed (at One Scoop!)
We mentioned this in our high-pump area, and we’ll say it again here – we’ve never seen a company do so much with just 150mg caffeine – but that’s per one scoop, not one serving! The pumps are through the roof, thanks to the multitude of pump ingredients inside.
The caffeine is complemented by a nice dose of focus-boosting alpha GPC, which is a great alternative to choline and several users prefer it as their mind-muscle “connector”.
The pumps are multi-path and diverse, thanks to the doses of HydroMax glycerol (1g / scoop), 2g citrulline per scoop, and a 500mg agmatine per scoop. You can do a heaping scoop to get a bit more out of it, since this is only with 150mg caffeine!
Olympus Labs did this with five patented ingredients, so if you want ingredients you can trust a bit more, they’re your go-to for that reason as well.
[This marks the end of the <=200mg one-scoop section. You can click the back button to go back to your last selection.]
200mg < Caffeine < 300mg
We assume that most people will end up here, and it’s the most common place to find the top well-balanced pre workout supplements. Interestingly… it’s where the least new pre workouts have been created lately!
Muscle Elements PreCre
Starting with the stimulants of this PricePlow favorite supplement, you’re going to get a total of ~244mg caffeine, which comes from 200mg caffeine that’s assisted by 44mg caffeine from the natural guarana extract.
PreCre is a true one-scooper in terms of the creatine inside – you get a full 5g dose (4g from monohydrate, 1g from creatine HCl), so on your workout days, your creatine needs are completely taken care of.
On top of that creatine dose, one of the keystones of PreCre is how you get the pumps – a combination of 10g of fast-acting carbs, combined with the insulin-boosting ingredient PTS-SURGE gives you the long-forgotten carb pump that too few companies promote anymore.
10g carbs doesn’t sound too serious, but when mixed with the nutrient partitioning effect of PTS-SURGE, which helps drives the carbs into your muscle cells, you get a serious (and different) kind of pump that brings serious strength along with it.
This contains 1.2g of beta alanine, however, so if you want your clinical dose of 3.2g, you’ll need to add more later on in the day.
To match the focus with the stims, a solid 500mg of N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine has been added to 150mg DMAE.
Magnum Nutraceuticals LIMITLESS
If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll probably guess that this pre workout is geared towards those who want focus. And that’s exactly what this is – a seriously well-blended focus-driven drink.
Magnum won’t state the exact caffeine dose, but they’ve confirmed that it’s somewhere in this range – our guess is somewhere around 225mg per scoop. And when you have such solid focus ingredients like a huge dose of L-Tyrosine alongside bacopa monnieri and choline, the stims hit on the perfect level.
In terms of getting one-scoop dosing on pumps and muscle-builders, Magnum makes it pretty easy: 5g of straight L-citrulline (awesome!) and 2.5g betaine, a mass/strength/power/endurance booster.[35,36,37]
There’s also a 7g proprietary blend of creatine isolate, creatine pyruvate, creatine phosphate, beta alanine, and whey isolate 90%. We’re not sure what numbers, but we’re confident that the creatine blend is going to get you to your minimum 3g daily. However, the beta alanine dose is likely closer to 1-1.5g, so you’d need to add more later on in the day, which is often recommended anyway.
Why the whey?
The whey isolate has been masterfully added because it works as an anti-caking agent. It adds a bit of “powdery” texture to the product, but Magnum would rather have this (and its benefits) instead of more silica, which is just everywhere!
Another cool thing about Magnum’s new products – dual flavor systems: for instance, the fruit punch comes with a kick of peach at the end, and it’s really enjoyable!
Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged
Note: This product is not fully-dosed in creatine *nor* betaine, so it may not count here. But it is well-dosed. There’s not many full-dosed products in this stimulant range.
Kris Gethin’s supplement company, Kaged Muscle, has been doing phenomenally well lately. It all started with Pre-Kaged, which picked up where Pre-JYM left off.
Most importantly, the 274mg of PurCaf organic coffee is 91% pure, so it yields ~250mg caffeine.
This is the product in the list if you want mostly natural ingredients, because that’s what Kaged Muscle goes for here.
Where the creatine (1.5g instead of 3g) falls and natural betaine (2g instead of 2.5g) fall just a bit short, the huge doses of fermented L-Citrulline (6.5g) and the fermented BCAAs (3.5g) help make up for it.
Pre-Kaged uses mostly stevia and beet root extract, so it stays true to the natural side of things as much as possible – not easy to do when you’re messing with as much product as this one.
If you haven’t tried a supplement in this caffeine range with PurCaf, give it a try – it definitely feels cleaner than pure caffeine anhydrous – but you’ll need to add a dash of creatine, betaine, and beta alanine elsewhere, unfortunately.
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Caffeine >= 300mg
Allright stim-junkies – what’s out there with more than 300mg of caffeine that isn’t just a glorified energy drink?! Who’s got enough pumps and muscle-builders to balance all that stim without blowing your entire supp budget?
Mesomorph has it all, and when we say “all”, we mean full doses of creatine, beta alanine, caffeine… and DMAA!
So before we begin, beware that this is an advanced, hardcore supplement whose ~300mg caffeine is matched by 65mg DMAA – not a beginner’s dose by any means.
In fact, it’s probably still worth starting at ½ to ¾ of a scoop if you’ve never combined DMAA and caffeine before – the energy is extremely intense!
As for everything else that makes it a one-scoop wonder:
- 6.5g blend that includes a full 3.2g of beta alanine (endurance), citrulline malate 2:1 (endurance and nitric oxide pumps), and AAKG (nitric oxide)
- 4.5g blend that leads to 3g creatine from creatine monohydrate, taurine, creatine nitrate (the nitrate adds more pumps), creatinol-o-phosphate, and a bit of agmatine. If there’s enough agmatine, it will also keep nitric oxide around longer for additional pumps.
- Then there’s still more energy — glucuronolactone (added to various energy drinks), caffeine, theobromine, and of course, the 1,3 dimethyl.
There’s a reason why this has been our #1 product for so long. It’s no joke! So start light and let it rip, once you get to the full one scoop status you will not have a bad workout.
Flavor to go with? Rocket pop – just like the blue bombsicle popsicles you’d eat as a kid back in the day. The tub actually comes in three colors of powder. Pretty cool!
Best Deal, Price Comparisons, and Alerts for APS Mesomorph
CJ and Amin’s Mesomorph Review
CJ and Amin reviewed it, and they were done with this tub before they even knew it! Amin ended up settling on 2/3 to 3/4 scoop (admittedly not getting the full doses of creatine or beta alanine), but CJ was all about the full scoop:
We loved NutraBio’s PRE Extreme v3.0 when we first made this list, and the new v4.0 is even better! So it definitely keeps this spot here.
If you need a one-scooper without DMAA/DMHA, this is the choice. End of story.
Take a look at the formula below to see how loaded this stuff is!! It has a high-energy balance of pumps, stimulants, focus factors, and 15g carbs so you never bonk!
What’s cool about this energy blend is that it has 350mg caffeine spread from 250mg caffeine anhydrous, but also 133mg dicaffeine malate (providing an extra 100mg caffeine). The dicaffeine malate (tradenamed Infinergy) is a slower-releasing form, so you get a way better stim-feel than just 350mg hitting you all at once.
That blend not only makes it last longer, it makes it easier to handle and prevents a crash.
Note: NutraBio PRE contains no carbs, whereas PRE-Extreme has 15g carbs from cluster dextrin. It will depend on what your goals are and if you like training fasted, but you definitely get better pumps with the Extreme version and its carbs!
NutraBio PRE and PRE Extreme Prices and Links
Our PRE-Extreme Review on YouTube
You can see our review of the brand new v4.0 below:
Northbound Nutrition Pinnacle
Let us tell you about these newcomers, Northbound Nutrition: We’ve loved everything they’ve thrown our way!
To start it off, you get 325mg caffeine from natural natural sources of green coffee bean extract. The consensus on this form of caffeine is that it just feels better and has less of a crash, so big plus there.
This was one of the products that started to “disappear” at the gym — trainers took a liking to it, and we had to fight to get our review run finished. This usually only happens with the DMAA kind of pre workouts, but not in this case – everyone’s just loved this one, no DMAA needed!
Crazy clinical doses!
Need one-scoop action? You got it — the bulging 27.3g scoop throws down 8g citrulline malate (giving pumps and endurance), 4g beta alanine (endurance and tingles), plus a a clinical 3.2g creatine on top of a clinical 2.5g betaine!!
So nothing is underdosed here!! You have a smashing amount of nitric oxide boosters, endurance, and ergogenics. Done and done.
Yet the pumps aren’t over yet — now you get relatively high amounts of pine bark extract and grape seed extract — 200mg each. Not cheap, but worth it for these pumps.
And the focus isn’t low-dosed either! 1.5g of L-Tyrosine is well above average, as is the 300mg Alpha GPC. That 300mg dose is getting close to the study where they had gains in leg strength, but it’s mostly here for focus.
Natural Colors and Antioxidants included!
Then there’s the extras, with antioxidants via Spectra’s Total ORAC, a few carbs packed in from the natural colors of fruit juice powder and beet root, as well as rice concentrate for a more natural emulsifier.
Northbound is clearly on to something here, so add this to your list this year!
The Best Pre Workout Pills (with stims)
The stimulant-based pre workout supplements definitely bring the energy, but not always as much on the pump side. If you need that, you can always stack in pills from our stimulant-free section.
We have one more very important question:
You can read our DMAA explainer and come back.
The simple rule is that if you’re new to energy supplements, a conservative user, or aren’t sure, you should start DMAA-free.
But if you know what you’re doing and want to take things to the next level, the DMAA selection can definitely get you there. Use it responsibly and follow the label instructions exactly as stated.
Energy Pills with DMAA
Get ready to get your socks blown off:
Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals Stimerex Hardcore
If you need to get rocked with stims in order to rock your workout, then Stimerex Hardcore is about as intense as it comes.
As requested, there’s 1,3 dimethylamylamine (DMAA), but that’s just the start. Hi-Tech Pharma brings 25mg of their industry-secret ephedra extract, which adds some fat burning.
Now, note that ephedra is only legal because the ephedrine alkaloids have been removed per the FDA’s 2004 ruling. However, to make up for this, Hi-Tech added in acacia rigidula extract, which provides various PEA alkaloids and methylsynephrine that burn fat as good (or better) than the ephedra alkaloids removed in the first place!
For more energy, theobromine, green tea extract, and just a dash of yohimbe are included to burn more of your fat for sheer energy.
Stimerex Hardcore contains 150mg caffeine per capsule, and one cap is really all it takes for a great workout. We honestly don’t recommend two capsules at a time (the label states one at a time) unless you really really know what you’re doing.
This stuff is no joke. Treat it as such and have a good time with one!
APS White Lightning
White Lightning is a bit simpler than Stimerex Hardcore, so if you want to take it slightly easier, this is your DMAA-based option.
It contains a simple mix of caffeine, DMAA, and coleus forskohlii extract (our favorite stimulant-free fat burning ingredient that boosts energy in your system via cAMP). There’s no ephedra or PEA alkaloids, so the ingredient label is a bit less intense here.
We unfortunately don’t know the dosing inside of the blends, but like Stimerex Hardcore, you only want to take one capsule at first. Experienced users can try two capsules, but don’t do this if you’re not ready.
APS White Lightning Deal Links
Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals HydroxyElite
Do you remember the original OxyELITE Pro? This is quite nearly a clone of USPLabs’ old best-selling fat burner, but with one added ingredient (garcinia cambogia for hydroxycitric acid).
Yes, this is marketed as a fat burner for weight loss dieters, but there’s no doubt that it functions as an absolutely fantastic pre workout pill as well. We can’t say enough good things about this formula.
At just 100mg caffeine per capsule, you can dose one or two caps (always start with one), and let the DMAA, yohimbe, and thyroid boosters do the rest of the work in terms of getting some serious focus on.
HydroxyElite has been selling like crazy, and the reviews have been downright fantastic. Even if you’re not dieting, one or two caps pre workout will seriously get you going.
Just remember to eat accordingly – the appetite suppression system works ridiculously well with HydroxyElite, and if you’re in muscle-building mode, you have to remember to eat on schedule!
[This marks the end of the energy pre workout pills with DMAA. You can click the back button to go back to your last selection.]
Energy Pills without DMAA
Just because there’s no DMAA here doesn’t mean these aren’t seriously intense… but first, we have to tell you about a nitric oxide pill that has a bit of energy:
Gaspari Nutrition PlasmaJet
If you are in this section looking for pumps, then this is where you belong. The rest of the supplements below are pure energy.
Gaspari Nutrition is back, and they are bringing it bigtime.
The new version of PlasmaJet, the long-awaited nitric oxide pill with purpose, is unlike anything we’ve ever tried.
It’s in this section because there’s 40-50mg caffeine – not much on the energy side, but just enough for an evening workout and to get a dash of vasodilation going (caffeine only becomes vasoconstrictive when the doses are way higher).
But the key ingredients are the new arginase inhibitors that actually prevent your nitric oxide from breaking down – so it’s a bit different compared to most other nitric oxide pills that only focus on producing more NO — which this one does too.
The two ingredients that do this are N(omega)-hydroxy-nor-L-Arginine & Boron amino acid chelate, and you can read about them in the blog post linked above.
Even crazier, you have Cnidium Monnieri Extract, standardized for osthole. This actually functions like many of the ED drugs do out there!! However, there’s one crazy catch: it smells really… “skunky”!
Ultimately, the pumps and strength increases are through the roof. If you want that, then sign on up here. If you’re looking for just energy, then see the next product. Our review is below!
PlasmaJet Deals and Information
Our PlasmaJet Review on YouTube
Magnum Nutraceuticals Rocket Science
Rocket Science is a fantastically-named energy pill with just about everything you’d want in terms of energy and focus.
First off, each capsule contains 100mg of caffeine, from a mix of the fast-acting caffeine anhydrous and slower-digesting dicaffeine malate. This means you can get anywhere from 100-300mg caffeine from 1-3 capsules, allowing for some nice customization.
In the 605mg proprietary blend, the PEA will quickly jump-start you, and it’s enhanced by hordenine, which can make its effects last longer. The tyrosine can increase focus alongside the citicoline and vinpocetine.
L-theanine is included, which we like a lot – it’s not only a cognitive enhancer, it also helps take the edge off of all of the stimulants by inducing a slightly calming effect that goes well with high-stim products like this one.
Finally, for mood support, dendrobium has been added.
The biggest question is the dosing – this is a proprietary blend, so we don’t know what we’re getting in terms of the mood and focus enhancers, but at two capsules, things really start cooking. 3 capsules is for advanced users only – per Magnum, you shouldn’t exceed more than three in a day.
ALR Industries Viper Hyperdrive
ALR Industries, a subsidiary of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, has been running the Hyperdrive series for a decade, if not longer, and is now in the fifth generation. In Viper Hyperdrive, you get one of the strongest DMAA-free capsule formulas on the market.
It all starts with a solid dose of the popular acacia rigidula alkaloids, which yield all kinds of fast-acting PEA alkaloids — the energy and mood enhancement from them is intense!
Those are then followed by synephrine, which is a relative of ephedrine and helps to activate your “flight or fight” adrenaline system, energy-smoothing theobromine, mood-enhancing 5-HTP, and a dash of yohimbine HCl for good measure.
With 150mg caffeine per capsule, one cap is normally all it takes, but serious users can get quite a lot of stimulation out of two capsules.
This is a clear choice for dieters (as is nearly everything from the Hi-Tech Pharma family), but you definitely don’t need to be a dieter to enjoy the mood enhancement you’ll get from Viper Hyperdrive!
If you’re looking for DMAA-free focus, then Myokem is the company you’ll want to investigate. Pyroxamine is the sister supplement to the Nitramine powdered pre workout, and while it’s marketed as a fat burner, there’s no questioning its prowess in pre workout time.
If it’s focus you want, then Pyroxamine is a fantastic choice, with high doses of citicoline and huperzine A, as well as pikatropin picamilon and theobromine.
There’s a lot of stimulants and cognitive enhancers, and a lot of fat burners can claim this, but Myokem simply does it right. Each capsule contains only 100mg caffeine, but check yourself at 2 capsules even if you think you’re a 300mg caffeine kind of person – this blend is that intense!
Myokem Pyroxamine Deals and Links
- Click Here to go to the best deal (includes coupons)
- Read more on our page and get price alerts with PricePlow
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Best RTD (Ready-to-Drink) Pre Workout Bottles
The honest truth is that none of these are “good deals” compared to the powders and pills out there. But when in a pinch or during travel, you can’t beat having one around or in the car.
Pro Supps Mr. Hyde RTD
The great part about ProSupps’ Mr. Hyde RTD is that it is 100% open formula – you know exactly what you’re getting here, and that’s ultimately why it’s our #1 RTD.
What might come as bad news (but maybe not) is that it’s blasted with a total of 419mg of caffeine in the bottle, just like the powdered version of Mr. Hyde!
This means that we’d literally only drink half of it or so. The cool part is that 69mg of that is with dicaffeine malate, and 50mg is caffeine citrate, both of which take a bit longer to kick in. Either way, it’s going to kick strong and hard.
So if you’re a responsible stimulant-junkie, this one might be your choice since you know how to dose it. And at a full bottle, you’ll also get a near-clinical-dose of beta alanine (2.5g).
While there’s only 1g of creatine, that’s 1g more than any of the other products listed in this section, so it gets you ⅓ of the way to your creatine goals for the day.
Any pumps? More than the competition…
In terms of pumps, it’s basically going to come down to 500mg of agmatine sulfate, the ingredient that keeps nitric oxide around longer. There’s also 500mg L-Citruline Aspartate 1:1, meaning 250mg L-Citrulline. Not sure if you’ll be feeling that at all, since it usually takes us at least 1.5g of it to start feeling the pump. We won’t complain though, this is more pump and ergogenics than the other products.
The energy is smoothed out by Picamilon and Hordenine, then augmented further by adrenaline-boosting N-Methyl Tyramine.
Aggressive yohimbe blend?
The one thing to watch out for is the 2mg yohimbe bark extract coupled with 2mg rauwolscine – these are more aggressive ingredients, and while they’re dosed small, they still might affect a few people who are yohimbe-sensitive.
Overall, this is as close as we’ll currently come to a “real” pre workout supplement and less of an energy drink, but just like powdered Mr. Hyde, if you can’t handle all of that caffeine, you’re going to need to be smart about drinking ½ to ¾ bottle.
Mr. Hyde RTD Deal and Information Links
VPX Redline Xtreme RTD
Leave it to VPX and their insanely popular Redline family to have the best-in-class pre workout RTD. Redline Xtreme comes in both RTD and “Shot” forms – we’re talking about the RTD here.
The bottles are almost completely proprietary blends, which we’re not fans of, but the ingredients inside stand out amongst the competition. You’re led off with endurance-boosting beta alanine, and then an undisclosed amount of caffeine. It’s suggested that you drink half a bottle to assess dose.
You’ll get great focus and mood support from the N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, sulbutiamine, and vinpocetine, mixed with hordenine and 5-HTP and even some St. John’s Wort. These are some ingredients rarely used together and definitely not in many pre workouts, so if you’re looking for a mood kick, you have to try this!
There’s also an extra blast of energy from some N-Methyl Tyramine and yohimbine HCl.
The entire Redline family always brings strong, powerful products, but this might just be our favorite one because it’s so different from anything else out there. It feels good – so long as you don’t drink too much!
ABB Speed Stack
Following the ever-popular Redline family is the just-as-popular line of ABB RTDs. ABB has several of them, but Speed Stack is the one we prefer pre workout.
What’s funny about Speed Stack is that it contains just about every good ingredient that isn’t in Redline Xtreme, and vice versa. The stimulants come primarily from yerba mate extract, which provides the caffeine, theobromine, and even theophylline.
Meanwhile, cocoa extract is used to get more theobromine. A solid fat-burning / energy blend comes from octopamine and Advantra Z brand synephrine. The one issue is that the only true focus ingredient here is DMAE – Redline has a bit more focus, whereas this may be more reasonable at one bottle.
We often see crazy price drops on Speed Stack, so sign up for deals below:
NO-Xplode RTD is definitely not an RTD version of the new NO-Xplode – there’s a lot less going on in here. For instance, there are no carbs and no creatine, as opposed to the powder, which has both.
Inside, it starts with a 2g of proprietary beta-alanine and taurine (in an entire bottle).
After that, there’s a pretty serious focus-boosting complex of DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA), which gets converted to tyrosine and then later helps boost your epinephrine and norepinephrine levels. That’s mixed with DMAE, and Huperzine A, but the focus isn’t done yet:
The 842mg energy blend also has N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine in front of its caffeine, which is finally finished off by Advantra Z synephrine.
For the third time, we’re disappointed with the fact that we don’t know how much caffeine is inside, one reason why Mr. Hyde RTD is higher up on this one.
This may or may not come as good news, but NO-Xplode RTD has a lot less aggressive stimulants than the above two products. If you just want caffeine as your primary stim, and don’t like all those other forms of energy, this is a better option.
[This marks the end of the RTD pre workouts section. You can click the back button to go back to your last selection.]
Welcome to the stim-free section. Normally we’re looking for serious pumps here, but some products also add great focus, so keep your eyes peeled.
The pills section all target pumps or muscle-building, but there are some focus-based options in the powder section.
Stimulant-Free Pre Workout Powder
No doubt, this is one of the most fun areas of this page. Where else can you get pumped to the gills without worry of getting over-stimmed?
Last question – choose what’s most important to you:
Most will choose pumps, but also see what’s cooking in the other two sections, since there’s some very interesting products and a few great deals there.
The value area also contains some pre workout additives that are unflavored, and you can easily add them to your existing energy-based pre workout or energy drink for extra-powered workouts.Pumps, Focus, or Value?
Stimulant-Free Pre Workout Pump Powders
Ladies and gentlemen, after quite some time, we have a new pump champion!
If you’ll look at the profile of USPLabs MaxREPS+NO3, you’ll see why: 30 legit, bombastic servings of:
- 8g 2:1 Citrulline Malate
- 2g Arginine Nitrate
- 2g L-Citrulline
All priced well under $30! Quite honestly, we’re not sure how (or if) USP is making any money at all on this stuff – but that’s not our problem!
In each scoop, you have a total of 7.33g citrulline, and the malic acid (from the malate) goes to increase endurance, as does the nitrate. Not only have we never seen this much nitrate in one serving, we’ve almost never seen this much citrulline in one either!!!
We’ve tried MaxREPS for all kinds of situations, and the workouts and pumps are just downright stupid. You can easily half-scoop it and make it last two months, but when the price is so good, we just go all-out with one scoop!
We’re not sure how this will get beaten in the future, but if it is, we’ll be wildly surprised. Get this now.
MaxREPS NO3+ Prices and Info Links
- Click Here to go to the best deal (includes coupons)
- Read more on our page and get price alerts with PricePlow
PS: USPLabs is back to no artificial colors in MaxREPS+NO3!
PES High Volume
When we first looked at the label for High Volume, we simply laughed out loud. This has basically every last thing we could want in a stim-free pump pre workout supplement, and then some!
The first thing to note is that there are 36 scoops, but 18 servings per container. You can easily get away with 1 scoop, but 1.5 scoops is where we normally hang out (two scoops for special occasion arm days, though).
Each full serving has a ridiculous 4g of L-Citrulline, more than the clinical dose, 2g of arginine nitrate – our favorite form of nitric-oxide boosting nitrate – and a full 1g of agmatine sulfate. That’s 7g of pump ingredients – and we’re not talking about citrulline malate in there either – it’s straight up citrulline.
This alone is fantastic – you get additional nitric oxide from three pathways! They’re supported by a solid 250mg vitamin C too.
But on top of that come the water pumps and strength boosters! The water pump is a mix of taurine and HydroMax glycerol, which front-load a 3.75g proprietary blend.
To top it off, Amentoflavone has been added, and this may work as a serious strength booster as well as mood enhancer.
Make no mistake, High Volume lives up to its name – this stuff is the real deal and will have you swollen in no time. It’s almost not even fair.
PES HIGH VOLUME Links and Deals
- Click Here to go to the best deal (includes coupons)
- Read more on our page and get price alerts with PricePlow
Giant Sports Giant Pump
Before High Volume, there was Giant Pump, which uses 1.5g of Glutamine Nitrate and 1g of agmatine. These are supported by vitamin C and norvaline.
Sodium glycerophosphate is the wild card here, used for the hydration-pump, but it’s the nitrate that we’re after in Giant Pump.
Note that Giant Pump works a lot better if you take it with carbs – the vitis vinifera in the Stilbenox ingredient functions as a nutrient partitioner, and will help drive those carbs to your muscle cells instead of fat!
For fun, Giant Pump includes a tape measure inside, so you can measure your gains. Like High Volume, it too lives up to its name!
Stimulant-Free Focus Powders
This is a relatively thin category, but the few products out there are definitely well-formulated:
RedCon1 BIG NOISE
A newcomer to the field in late 2016, RedCon1 is a brand that’s doing things differently. Standing for the “Ultimate State of Readiness”, RedCon1 is a Special Forces themed brand that is big on focus.
And with their stim-free pre workout, BIG NOISE, they bring the focus in spaces, using not only 300mg Alpha GPC, but also 250mg citicoline! These are the two best forms of choline, and when other brands are arguing over which one is best, RedCon1 decides to use BOTH of them!
On top of that, you get a feel-good 200mg rhodiola rosea extract, and a large 200mcg of Huperzine A as well. Even one of the pump ingredients, agmatine sulfate, increases neurotransmitter activity!!
That’s not all, as there’s also glycerol for pumps (drink plenty of water), and betaine anhydrous which aids in muscle growth but gives a pump in its own right.
Without a doubt, this is the best-feeling stim-free pre workout supplement on the market right now. If you’re a focus junkie but don’t want the stims, you gotta try the BIG NOISE!
Transparent Labs PreSeries STIM-FREE
Transparent Labs has come out like a bolt of lightning, and with good reason – their formulas are epic, they use only natural sweeteners, and they don’t use artificial colors.
PreSeries STIM-FREE is the partner to their award-winning PreSeries BULK supplement, except that it has no stimulants and more ergogenics and different focus ingredients to help make up for that.
This is an all-around “one scoop wonder” that provides full doses of creatine, betaine, and even taurine and BCAAs.
But you’re here for the focus, and for that we get quite a nice blend of 600mg N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine and 500mg choline bitartrate, smoothed out by just a bit of mucuna pruriens.
There are two things to watch out for here, though:
- Heavy-handed scoopers: When we weighed out a full level scoop, we got way more than the expected 23.44g. While that yields ridiculously pumped up workouts (you’re getting more citrulline malate and betaine), it’s gonna drain your tub faster than 30 workouts… and the beta alanine (which is dosed at 4g per 23.44g scoop) is going to go way high for some annoying tingles. So use a food scale.
- High retail cost. To combat this, we’ve negotiated a better coupon than you’ll find anywhere on the Internet, to help with that cost.
Also note that since this is sweetened with just stevia, it’s not going to taste as good as the others. Many are totally enjoying that, though, because there’s a bit of an uprising against sucralose. No other stim-free powders that we know of are doing this, so if that’s what you want, jump on the Transparent Labs train today!
PreSeries STIM-FREE Prices and Links
Our PreSeries STIM-Free YouTube Review
iForce HemaVO2 MAX
The long-awaited follow-up to the industry-dominating HEMAVOL, HemaVO2 MAX changed things up by adding nitrates in the form of creatine nitrate, as well as a full dose of betaine at 2.5g for gains.
For the focus factors, it’s going to all come down to how much you like 1g of choline bitartrate – a far higher dose than is in most pre workout supplements (even the ones with stimulants), and that’s topped with another high dose in 200mg DMAE.
As huge choline fans, we love that dose, and are certain you’ll feel it in one scoop. The 1g of Agmatine will also add cognitive support too.
All in all, HemaVO2 Max was a great follow-up to its predecessor, as it’s well-balanced between muscle builders (betaine and creatine), pumps (citrulline, agmatine, HydroMax glycerol), and the aforementioned focus boosters (choline, DMAE).
We may go so far as to say that this formula is underrated. It’s just hard to follow the success of HEMAVOL, since it was so far ahead of its time, and nearly all other companies now all have a stim-free pre workout option.
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Stimulant-Free Pre Workout Powder DEALS
First off, you can check out our popular Supplement Deals page, but we unfortunately don’t usually see any epic deals on pre workout powders.
So with that said, here’s our list of best general values:
In late 2015, 360CUT announced 360PUMP, which is a pre workout additive that you add to your existing pre workout supplement, energy drink, or other flavored beverage.
It’s unflavored and color-free, which allows it to remain extremely low-cost. If you’re adding it to a pre workout, you probably only need one scoop, but can go with two scoops if you want to have a field day.
There are four ingredients in this simple formula:
- 1.5g HydroMax Glycerol
- 500mg Agmatine Sulfate
- 100mg L-Norvaline
- 125mg Vitamin C
This makes it the perfect addition to several of those cheap, high-energy pre workout supplements that sometimes only come with a dash of agmatine or citrulline.
The HydroMax brings the water and cell hydration pumps to your muscles, while the agmatine keeps nitric oxide around longer.
L-Norvaline indirectly boosts NO production by preventing the breakdown of arginine, and we like it here because it’s not included in most pre workouts, so you’ll get additional benefits with nearly anything you stack this with.
We’re very excited about the upcoming line-up at 360CUT, so sign up for their alerts below and stay tuned to what they’re up to:
Controlled Labs White Pipes
There’s a decent chance that this is going to be enough for you at one scoop:
- 3g Citrulline Malate
- 1g HydroMax Glycerol
- 1g Taurine
- 500mg Agmatine Sulfate
Each individual ingredient works best at two scoops, but together, one might just be enough. And in that case, you’re looking quite a bit of value considering what we’re seeing in the price comparisons below:
Controlled Labs White Pipes Price Links
- Click Here to go to the best deal (includes coupons)
MTS Nutrition Vasky
Much like 360 PUMP, Vasky is Marc Lobliner’s flavorless stimulant-free pre workout supplement that combines a large 3g of taurine with 2g HydroMax for the famed water muscle pumps.
On top of that is 1.5g of Nitrosigine arginine silicate, a nitric oxide booster that’s gaining more and more steam lately.
In terms of value, however, this is still on the pricey side, so you can either use a bit less or stick with 360PUMP up above.
Bulk Agmatine or Citrulline
Have you ever just taken 1-1.5g of agmatine sulfate? Sometimes, that’s all you need for a serious stim-free pump. The feeling we get from high-dose agmatine is that of the “skin-splitting” pumps that are so often advertised in pre workouts. Agmatine is a “sharper” pump for us, and works extremely well if we stretch our joints first.
It’s typically available for 50 cents per gram, so if you like the feeling of an agmatine pump, you can get a solid blast in for well under a dollar.
Citrulline, on the other hand, will induce a great nitric oxide pump. You can either go with 4-6g of citrulline malate (which tastes far better) or 2-3g of straight l-citrulline (which tastes quite bad).
Both of these, at full dose, will also leave you with roughly 50 cents per workout, and can be added into any flavored beverage, included a low cost energy pre workout off of our supplement deals page.
Since the taste isn’t always that great, you can stick with capsules too, but this is the powder section and powders are far better values.
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Stimulant-Free Pre Workout Pills
First, be warned: stimulant-free pre workout “nitric oxide pills” are where the most scamming is going on throughout the Internet.
Being the stubborn mules at PricePlow, we stay away from all of the money-grubbing scammers, and have four fantastic products from four highly-trusted brands.
Magnum Nutraceuticals Volume
Magnum Nutraceuticals, who has their LIMITLESS pre workout supplement on our stimulant-based top 10, also has a lesser-known nitric oxide pill known as VOLUME. Like all of their other products, this one is quite unique, and hits multiple pathways.
They use the more stable form of arginine, arginine pyroglutamate, and pair it with a solid dose of citrulline malate to enhance nitric oxide production and increase blood flow.
But then, in order to get the nitrate effect for monstrous vasodilation and endurance, they’ve added a large amount of beet root extract, which provides the nitrates. Normally we see about half this dose.
Then they top it off with 500mg worth of agmatine sulfate, which is decent on its own, but will keep the NO from arginine/citrulline around longer – so it’s best combined with those!
Supporting ingredients of french pine bark extract and L-norvaline round it out, where these ingredients support circulating blood flow and reduce arginase, so your arginine and nitric oxide levels stay high.
Knockout formula with literally EVERYTHING we love, and that’s why it’s tops here.
Cellucor NO3 Chrome
Cellucor takes a straight nitric oxide approach with their popular NO3 Chrome, and while it’s a bit more expensive per serving, it’s seriously one of their best products.
Another nitrate-based product, you get 1.25g of arginine nitrate in three capsules. This ingredient plays a double effect, as arginine helps lengthen the nitrate effect, and can potentially boost nitric oxide on its own as well.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s a 750mg proprietary blend of Nitrosigine arginine silicate, citrulline malate, and grape seed extract – all which further boost nitric oxide levels to induce a sick pump.
Over the years, the most hardcore users have slowly moved away from C4 Extreme, but they shouldn’t overlook NO3 Chrome – Cellucor has done well by keeping it strong and powerful.
MuscleTech Plasma Muscle
Now here’s an unexpected choice – Plasma Muscle is actually a muscle-builder, and is the third in the MuscleTech muscle-building trilogy (after Clear Muscle free-acid HMB and Phospha Muscle phosphatidic acid).
So why is it here?
- The pumps and strength happen to be awesome with this stuff. It might not be totally advertised as a “nitric oxide booster”, but the pumps are definitely there.
- It’s the choice if you’re cycling off stimulants and still want some “energy”. The Peak ATP ingredient is extremely underrated for this purpose!
With Plasma Muscle, we can seriously get a ton of energy out of just 75mg of caffeine – ⅓ our usual dose. In his review for PricePlow, Jay from Medical Muscle cycled off stimulants for the last two weeks and felt basically no drop-off.
So if you normally like stims, but want to take your month-long break now, this is definitely our choice.
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Our Top 10 Pre Workout Supplements List
PricePlow’s top ten pre workout supplement list is now split into two top tens:
- one for pre workouts with “exotic stimulants” (like DMAA, DMHA, and Eria Jarensis extract)
- one for pre workouts without next-level stimulants
What do I choose?
If you’re a beginner, a drug-tested athlete, are a conservative supplement user, or have a lower stimulant tolerance, choose the the without next-level stimulants. Note that these products still could have high caffeine doses or other banned substances, so check the labels!
If you’re an advanced supplement user, are not drug tested, and are looking for that next level, consider the pre workouts with “exotic stimulants”.
Top 10 Pre Workout Supplements with Exotic Stimulants
Welcome to the fun side! These supplements are not to be taken by drug-tested athletes or anyone with medical conditions.
10. Hi-Tech Pharma Off the Chain
Note: This product replaced Jack’d Up as the lighter DMAA-based pre workout on this list in April 2016.
This is a unique selection on this list because technically, it’s not a true “pre workout supplement” — it’s actually an “energy aminos” product — basically a BCAA supplement with some energy. And on paper, Jack’d Up is better.
But for whatever, reason, this stuff is hitting us better and simply has a more enjoyable feel.
The secret is that alongside its 100mg caffeine (standard for the energy-aminos category), it has 20mg DMAA — the perfect amount! If you’re a first-time DMAA user, this is easily our recommendation to help get your feet wet.
What it’s made us realize is that we don’t need a ton of the ingredient to get going – just enough to provide the extra energy, focus, endurance, and overall pop that it provides.
If it’s been a while since you’ve used DMAA, note that our #1 pre workout on this list, APS Mesomorph, has far more punch at 65mg DMAA.
We thank Hi-Tech for disclosing the doses so we know how much we can handle. Definitely worth signing up for price drop alerts:
Off The Chain: Deals and Links
Note: If you skipped right down to the top 10 list here without reading anything else, you should click here to read our latest and greatest updates on DMAA below. Short story is that Hi-Tech Pharma is suing the FDA to legally use this ingredient, stating that it was never legally banned.
In the meantime, they’re continuing to sell this and other DMAA supplements!
Our Off the Chain Review
9. InnovaPharm LIMITLESS
Need insane amounts of focus for a couple key workouts per week? Then you’ve found your product right here.
Let’s be real here – this pre workout is nearly cheating. The aptly-named LIMITLESS contains a nootropic known as phenylpiracetam, which isn’t necessarily a “supplement”, but it works like crazy.
Phenylpiracetam is a combination of PEA and piracetam, and it gives a solid motivating pop to the non-stimulating focus that you’d get from piracetam.
On top of that, you get a proprietary blend of N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine as well as some CDP-Choline, but the driving force stimulant is 2-Amino-6-Methylheptane, or DMHA.
For pumps, you get a solid dose of 4g citrulline malate combined with a gram of agmatine, so the product leans more towards focus, but isn’t completely empty on the pump side. There are no ergogenics like creatine or betaine.
The drawback: Adaptation to the Phenyl
The issue is that phenylpiracetam loses its effectiveness when used every day – most users gain tolerance to it quickly. So this is a great product to have around if you need to get out of a “focus funk” or use 1-2x/week, but it’s not going to be your day-in, day-out pre workout for months on end.
But if you’ve never tried phenylpiracetam, then hold on to your hat, because this is a fun one and it brings no anxiety or jitters.
8. Olympus Labs CONQU3R Unleashed
Olympus Labs is all about “turning men into Demigods”, and 2015 was definitely the year of the Demigod brand.
Late in 2015, they dropped their previous CONQU3R pre workout supplement, which we raved about here, and released CONQU3R Unleashed. It was a slightly risky move, since everyone loved the original CONQU3R’s effects.
Olympus Labs did not let us down!
This is about as perfectly-balanced of a pre workout as they come. Two scoops brings 300mg caffeine, but even at just one scoop, you’re in for a wild ride!
- 150mg caffeine per scoop / 300mg caffeine per serving
- Five patented ingredients
- Fully-dosed, well-balanced on all ends
- New ingredient: J. Regia Extract, which is similar to DMHA (we believe it’s standardized to 2-amino-5-methylheptane, as opposed to DMHA, which is 2-amino-6-methylheptane)
No shortage here! In two scoops (one serving), you’ll get all of:
- 4g citrulline (Nitric Oxide pumps)
- 2g HydroMax glycerol (Water / Hydration pumps)
- 1.5g Nitrosigine Arginine Silicate (Nitric Oxide)
- 1g Agmatine (Nitric oxide maintenance)
As you can see, there’s enough to easily stretch this bottle into 30 or even 40 workouts if you need a lower-stim dose.
Focus: Led by Alpha GPC and J. Regia
The focus is led by an unknown dose of alpha GPC, which is a high quality form of choline. It can be felt, just like in the past version of CONQU3R.
But more importantly, you’re going to get a small-but-smooth amount of J.Regia, which we believe is standardized for 2-amino-5-methylheptane, extremely similar to DMHA. We don’t know how much, but it adds a bit of extra kick and euphoria.
To top add to these and the caffeine, you also get some higenamine, which adds a bit more stimulation, and is one of our favorite “bonus” stimulants.
Creatinol-O-Phosphate and ElevATP: The Kickers
The biggest “risk” that Olympus Labs took with Conqu3r Unleashed here is a whopping 2g dose of Creatinol-O-Phosphate, or COP. There isn’t a ton of performance research done on it, but it’s becoming pretty evident to us that this is some kind of endurance and strength booster. Things just feel stronger with it.
However, that strength boost might be confounded by the fact that there’s ElevATP inside. Increased ATP levels have been shown to increase performance as well.
We’re not sure which ingredient is really doing that heavy lifting, but the stuff flat out works, and that’s what matters. If you liked the original CONQU3R, trust us when we say that you will not be disappointed in this new one. Plus… the flavors are way better!!
Conqu3r Unleashed Links and Deals
The Conqu3r Unleashed Review
7. Performax Labs HyperMax XT
Looking for an in-your-face, fast-acting energy supplement that will motivate you into a great mood? But still need it balanced with energy and pumps? Then HyperMax XT is for you.
Every use of HyperMax XT is just flat-out fun. The two-PEA ingredient blend hits heavy, fast, and hard — so much that we cannot recommend a full scoop to most people.
Two PEA blend hits quickly but doesn’t let up
The key is the Eria Jarensis extract, often standardized for N-Phenyldimethylamine. This was 2015’s popular non-DMAA stimulant, and we think Performax nailed the dose by front-loading it with some regular PEA so that you get two shots to the dome – once the standard PEA wears off, the eria and caffeine are ready to rock.
Every scoop has 325mg caffeine – but many of us can easily make 35-40 workouts out of this 25 serving tub.
What’s awesome is that the blend makes for incredible mood support too – so if you haven’t been feeling the flow lately, and need something to kick you in the head, HyperMax XT is here for you.
Pumps and endurance… if you can handle the stims!
Then there’s the pumps and endurance. To balance the energy out, you get a clinical 4g dose of L-Citrulline for the nitric oxide pumps. Beta alanine orotate provides a synergistic blend of beta alanine and orotic acid for endurance, and if you are able to full scoop this (which we normally aren’t), you’ll likely get some tingles.
If you need a “slow-rolling” pre workout, then check out the next one. But if you need a kick to the head right here and right now, it’s either HyperMax XT, SuperPump 250, or Mesomorph. Our review is below:
HyperMax XT Deals and Info Links
Note: In the widget above, the new formula we’re talking about is 25 servings — and we could easily get 35-40 workouts out of this tub!!
6. Inspired Nutraceuticals DVST8 (“White Cut” Version)
During the summer of 2016, Inspired Nutraceuticals was the first brand to mix clinical pump doses with the smooth energy of DMHA in DVST8!
Pronounced “Devastate”, this pre workout offers quite a contrast to HyperMax XT above. It’s got a less harsh hit of energy, thanks to DMHA being a bit smoother, and the three-caffeine blend that takes longer to absorb. It really depends on what effect you like, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s tough to beat this supplement in the 2016 batch.
In each scoop, you’re getting a total of 162.5mg caffeine, but it absorbs slower, so we found that 1.5-2 scoops is our sweet spot. That does put cost into concern, unfortunately, so consider that when checking prices below.
The caffeine breakdown
The math works out that you get 100mg straight caffeine anhydrous per serving, with 50mg dicaffeine malate (yields 37.5mg caffeine) plus 50mg caffeine citrate (yields 25mg caffeine). Since those two absorb slower than the straight caffeine anhydrous, so you have more of a slow-roller with this one.
As such, it takes some work to dial in the preferred dose, but once you get it down, look out!!
On to the pumps, ergogenics, and endurance
The pumps come from 4g of L-Citrulline per scoop – so if you got the cash and tolerance to two-scoop this, you’re going to get 2x the clinical dose for proven nitric oxide gains!
On the muscle-building side, you have 2g of betaine (functions similarly to creatine), which has clinical benefits at 2.5g – easy to get at 1.5 scoops of DVST8.
No artificial colors, ridiculous flavors
Then there’s the colors: there are none! It mixes clear/white, so don’t worry about any Blue #1 allergies or whatever nonsense fake colors may cause.
The taste is next-level too: our favorite is California Gold, but if you like a strong Blueberry flavor, then check out Pacific Crush! California Gold has a mango type of flavor, and Inspired Nutra did a fantastic job in covering up L-Citrulline, which is tough. This flavor is so good that you might need to grab their California Gold flavored BCAA too.
Welcome back to the Top 10 list, Inspired Nutraceuticals. Get ready to get devastated with this bad boy. The biggest issue? The price per workout:
DVST8 Best Deal and Price Comparisons
Our DVST8 White Cut Review
5. RedCon1 Total War
RedCon1 was easily the coolest and best-branded launch of 2016, and there’s no sign of stopping. Total War is the DMHA-based pre workout supplement from the Special Forces styled brand, and it’s got a great blend of stimulants and pump.
First, each scoop has 250mg caffeine – right up our alley.
Then, the one-two primary stim punch comes from 125mg N-Phenyl Dimethylamine (which is the PEA found in eria jarensis extract) alongside 100mg DMHA — this combo brings a quick mood-enhancing PEA punch plus the longer-lasting euphoric buzz of DMHA.
Then the supporting stimulants of Theobromine, Higenamine, and a dash of Rauwolscine come up and finish the job.
Well-Dosed Pumps in one scoop
6g of citrulline malate, 1g agmatine, and 1g taurine provide the pumps. With that taurine, you’ll want to drink enough water to get the water-based pump.
No artificial colors!
One that that we’re loving about the entire RedCon1 line is that there are no artificial colors, so you don’t have to worry about your teeth (and insides) turning colors. This has been a trend we’ve enjoyed.
4. Gaspari Nutrition SuperPump 250
SuperPump 250 is back, and it is most definitely better than ever! After Rich Gaspari and Jared Wheat teamed up to revamp Gaspari, it’s been lights out from the brand!
250mg caffeine, 70mg DMAA
This whopper of a pre workout is definitely not for rookies – 70mg DMAA is about near the max single dose we dare take, and it hits incredibly well. And just like the old days, SuperPump 250 brings the 250mg caffeine. For those who enjoy a bit more caffeine, this was by design – Gaspari’s new PlasmaJet tops it off with 50mg for the most insane stack ever.
New Silicate-Based Pump Ingredients
The pumps are intense with this one, with 3g L-Citrulline Silicate and 750mg Agmatine Silicate. When ingredients such as arginine are bound to silica, it increases the absorption and bioavailability over time — so it’s hoped that these do as well. We haven’t tested nitric oxide levels, but we definitely noticed great pumps.
The more water you add, the better as well, since there’s also taurine.
SuperPump vs. Mesomorph?
In our YouTube review below, we discuss our two favorite DMAA-based pre workouts — this and APS Mesomorph.
- There’s a dash more DMAA here, but a dash less caffeine.
- SuperPump 250 is beta alanine free, while Mesomorph has a bunch
- SuperPump 250 has less creatine, at 1.5g
Overall, with SuperPump 250, you get more pumps and DMAA, but less ergogenics and endurance from lower creatine and beta alanine. CJ decided that this is what he wanted, making SuperPump 250 his favorite, while Mike is sticking with Mesomorph up top.
Note: This comes in a DMAA and DMAA-Free version. Make sure you get the right one!!
SuperPump 250 Best Price Links and Info
Our SuperPump 250 Review
3. Sparta Nutrition KRAKEN
WOW. Just WOW. Normally we post a picture of the bottle first, but this time, you need to just look at the label first:
So here’s what you’re getting: an absolutely LOADED pre workout that has only 200mg caffeine yet higher doses of DMHA and Eria Jarensis extract than we’ve ever seen. The feeling is quite unreal – and nearly everyone gets an amazing mood boost from it.
If you’re the kind of person who likes these cool stims, but don’t want them with 300mg caffeine, this could be your product.
On the pump side of things, you’ll have a full 4g dose of L-Citrulline, the HydroMax + Taurine water pump combination (both dosed well!), a full gram of agmatine, and even L-Norvaline.
That is insane – yesterday’s pre workouts had maybe 1/5 the amount of pump as Kraken. Your arms will literally be ruined.
The flavors are also interesting, with Sour Gummy Bears and Sex on the Beach, but the high doses of Hydromax definitely have it a bit chalky, but it’s light and sweet.
Worthy of the #2 spot, but held back on value
So why isn’t this our #2 or #1 product? Cost. This is PricePlow, and while it’s providing better pumps and more ingredients than the next pre workout, it’s a bit pricey and not as amazing of a value – and it’s not a great “half-scooper” because then you’re down to 100mg caffeine.
End of story — if you like the 200mg caffeine idea and have budget, this is a must-try product in 2017. And if you don’t have the budget, then find a way to make room one month, you will NOT regret it!
2. Giant Sports Giant RIOT
Giant RIOT is quite easily the best bang-for-the-buck right now, especially after our coupons.
Giant Sports’ long anticipated fully-fledged pre workout here is a follow-up to their “energy drink” named Giant RUSH, which is based on the same stimulant blend.
But Giant RIOT has so much more. It’s dosed better, has more caffeine, brings pumps, and the workouts are simply stupid on it – without breaking the bank as much.
Is it the Bai Mudan White Tea?
The biggest difference with Giant Sports’ stimulants and all the others on this page is that it has this Bai Mudan white tea extract — we have no clue what it’s standardized for, but every single Giant Sports product we try with it is literally on the next level, and the Giant RIOT pre workout is no different.
On the pump side, you have the usual suspects of L-Citrulline, taurine, and agmatine. For whatever reason, the pumps hit harder than you’d expect. Drink plenty of water to get the taurine pump in and you’re golden.
At 300mg caffeine, you can full-scoop it for a full-go workout, but we’ve had no problem stepping the dose down and still getting energy and pumps, allowing you to get under $1.00/workout.
And if you’re a tingle-hater, you shouldn’t get them too bad with 1600mg beta alanine. The products above and below definitely have more.
Finally, we’d like to thank Bruce Kneller of Giant Sports for all of his help in researching this DMHA and showing that it’s found in nature. Simple truth is that without Bruce at Giant Sports, half of the products on this page wouldn’t even exist.
One last thing: Get the mango flavor! Watermelon didn’t work out as well for us.
Giant Riot Links and Deals
Mike and CJ’s Giant RIOT Review
Let’s be honest here: Mesomorph is here for one huge reason: it has 65mg DMAA per scoop (the max serving dose). If you know us, we’re still huge fans of DMAA (1,3 dimethylamylamine) when we need an occasional blast of true tunnel-vision focus.
We’re happy that they’ve allowed us to disclose this dose, as it makes us much more comfortable with the product – we prefer 25-50mg DMAA, so we’re going to be on ½ to ¾ scoop when the time arises.
This is the “GAME OVER” supplement
Mesomorph is so absolutely intense, quite frankly… it’s not even fair fight right now entering
20162017 (yes, this has stayed up top all year long).
We don’t recommend Mesomorph for total rookies or stim-sensitive individuals – you need to be ready for next-level stimulants and understand that this is not something to be toyed with. But when you think you’re ready, be prepared to have freakish workouts.
It’s tough to totally figure out what else is going on in Mesomorph, because there’s a lot of proprietary blending, but we now know there’s a full 3.2g dose of beta alanine and a decent dose of 2:1 Citrulline malate, as they lead two of the three ingredients in a large 6.5g prop blend. Those will go lower if you’re using only ¾ scoop or so like us, but let’s not lie… we’re not here for “skin-splitting vascularity and pumps” that are advertised… we’re here for the energy and focus!
Clinical doses of beta alanine and creatine!
Yet over time, we’ve learned that you do get a clinical 3.2g beta alanine dose with Mesomorph, as well as 3g creatine from the blend of creatines! That is, of course, at a full scoop.
If your tolerance is high enough, rumor has it that at that full scoop, this is “downright insane”, but we’re sticking to our plan and keeping it civil at ¾.
It’s really pretty simple. Anytime someone asks, “What’s the best pre workout on the market?”, the answer is always “It depends”…. as in, “It depends if you like DMAA. If you do, then it’s undoubtedly MESOMORPH.“
So if you like DMAA like we do, then this is THE pre workout to get you over the hump. Especially now that you know how much DMAA you’re getting, so you can dose it appropriately for your needs. Game over, folks.
Best Deal, Price Comparisons, and Alerts for APS Mesomorph
CJ and Amin’s Mesomorph Review
CJ and Amin loved this stuff – CJ is higher-energy, and went full scoop. After a few more workouts, Amin decided he liked 2/3 to 3/4 scoop range more, like we typically suggest:
Note: You can see the situation on DMAA below in our DMAA section. In short, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals is fighting for the right to make and sell DMAA, and they and their subsidiaries will continue selling it until the court case is over.
[This marks the end of the Best Pre Workouts *with* Exotic Stimulants Section. You can click the back button to go back, or keep reading to see the best pre workouts *without* exotic stims!]
Top 10 Pre Workout Supplements without Exotic Stimulants
Just because you don’t want the hardcore stuff doesn’t mean these products don’t bring it. The industry has seriously stepped it up lately, and we have all levels of caffeine doses inside.
Note: These products still might contain banned substances for drug-tested athletes. The banned lists are always changing, so if you’re tested, double-check your banned substance list against the label.
10. Jacked Factory ALTIUS
Popularly sold on Amazon, ALTIUS is simple in that it balances seriously effective doses of the following ingredients with 325mg caffeine:
- 8g 2:1 Citrulline Malate
- 3.2g beta alanine
- 3g creatine
- 2.5g betaine
- 150mg Alpha-GPC (focus)
You really don’t get much more “one-scoop” than that. This bad boy takes care of many of your needs in one fell swoop, and it works – clean and simply.
Additionally, it’s sweetened naturally with stevia, and uses beet root powder for color, so it sports natural ingredients as well. Don’t let that scare you, because the natural flavors work incredibly well and it’s not bitter like many other stevia-sweetened products.
The only place it’s slightly lacking is in the focus department, with just 150mg of alpha GPC, but as far as one-scoopers go for energy, pumps, and proven ergogenics, we downright love ALTIUS.
ALTIUS Deals and Links
9. NutraBio Fighter Fuel
Looking for a loaded supplement with low caffeine, as in 100mg?? Then you might as well make this your #1 supplement!
NutraBio is a company founded by Martial Arts and Karate Master Mark Glazier, who’s got more than his share of fight in him. With his experience in the ring and on the mats, Mark knows that some sports don’t need a ton of stimulants — the adrenaline takes care of that for you!
So he put together Fighter Fuel, which is the perfect pre workout supplement to those who are engaging in incredibly high-intensity training and don’t need the stims, but do need everything else that comes in a pre workout.
With fully-disclosed labels down to the amount of sweetener and color, you know exactly what you’re getting with NutraBio.
Fighters need carbs
Anyone engaged in high-intensity activities such as boxing, grappling, kickboxing, etc knows how many calories you roll through. We don’t believe in the low-carb nonsense – at least not surrounding our workouts!
Respecting that, NutraBio has 18g of carbs from highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD, known as Cluster Dextrin), a premier carb that will knock the socks off of any “sports drink” you can buy at the store.
To help with endurance, you have plenty of citrulline malate, beta alanine, the BCAA leucine, and a great load of electrolytes and B-Vitamins.
The muscle-building prowess of creatine and betaine is inside, and finally, two additional focus boosters are added on top of the caffeine.
A Men and a Women’s Division!
To make things even better, you have two choices, and can choose the one that suits you best. Fighter Fuel Women contains 80mg caffeine, while the original Fighter Fuel has the “full” 100mg. Fighter Fuel Women is also a bit cheaper, since there’s a bit smaller of an ingredient load to it.
It almost seems unfair that this is ranked so “low”, but just wait til you see what’s in the #1 slot… Prices on the original and Women’s versions are below:
8. Myokem Nitramine
New on the market in early 2014 with some minor reformulations in late 2015, Myokem’s introductory supplement hit the industry and hit it hard.
This is the one for focus and clean energy
After the original Jack3d and Craze were taken from the market, there was a huge gap at the top of the energy/focus pre workout niche.
Nitramine fills that gap.
While everyone else has been loading up on the caffeine (with as much as 400+ mg per serving), Myokem did it different with an epic cognitive-enhancing blend, yet only has 175mg caffeine per scoop (updated from 150mg in late 2015, double-check your label).
But trust us, you do not need two scoops. One is absolutely perfect – it’s really a one scoop per serving product.
We’re thinking that the difference maker is the one-two punch of citicoline (the high-quality, more expensive form of choline), and Huperzine A, which is a ridiculously expensive cognitive booster, so it’s usually pixie dusted in other products. Not here!
There’s then a blend of 8 other stimulant-based ingredients, and although the dosage doesn’t seem monstrous, it hits you just right. You will feel everything.
In terms of the pumps, you’ll get 500mg of agmatine and 2g of betaine, which combine with the mind-muscle connection from the focus department to give you surprisingly solid pumps.
7. Muscle Elements PreCre (or PreCre XS)
If there was ever a product (and brand in general) that we could recommend to anyone, anytime, anywhere, it’s Muscle Elements’ PreCre.
Muscle Elements was new to the scene in 2014, but they’re not new to the industry. This team of veterans has spun off and created one of the best new product campaigns we’ve ever seen.
With open formulas, educational product labels, and unique ingredient combinations, “Me” is a company to look out for.
But how does PreCre perform? Unbelievably well. This is the pre workout for GAINS.
In our review below, Chris, Amin, and Mike all loved the stuff. Amin states that it’s the best product we’ve ever reviewed with him! After messing around with so many concentrates, it’s great to feel a nitric oxide pump backed up with a carb pump – something we’ve forgotten about too much over the years!
Put simply, this is one hell of a non-concentrated / carb-containing pre workout, and Muscle Elements did it in a way that’s great for the mass market – no dangerous overabundance of stimulants even necessary here!
A full 5g of creatine
This is the one product on this chart with a decent dosage of carbohydrates – 10g – and it has a legit 5g of creatine per serving, giving it its name. No more confusion as to whether or not you need more creatine post workout – this handles it all right here right now.
To top off the gains, you also get 1.5g betaine, which is yet another muscle builder that works like creatine. Finally, you also have the much underrated creatinol-o-phosphate, which some users report even deeper pumps from.
With a hefty scoop that contains all of this and 244mg caffeine, it’s a true one-scoop workout. 30 servings means 30 workouts! And if that’s not enough, then check out PreCre XS, which has 419mg caffeine!
PTS-Surge – Shuttle those carbs into the muscles
Where PreCre really differentiates is how it treats those 10 carbohydrates. Keystone ingredient, PTS-Surge (vitis vinifera) is a nutrient partitioner, which assists your body in shuttling the carbohydrates into your muscle tissue, not into your fat cells.
Prices for PreCre and PreCre XS are split into two different areas below:
PreCre Best Deals and Important Links
It works, and the pumps are incredible. Just see for yourself with the boys’ review below:
6. Cellucor C4 ULTIMATE
Cellucor has made it back to the Top 10! In late 2016, they launched Cellucor C4 Ultimate, which is indeed the most ultimate pre workout they’ve put together to date!
First things first: there’s 300mg caffeine per scoop, meaning *no more two-scooping your C4!*
On top of that, you have a full 3.2g beta alanine dose, so if you like the tingles to get you going, you should expect them here.
But that’s the easy part…
Pumps pumps pumps
With C4 Ultimate, we have literally six ingredients that can bring a pump, and they’re not lightly dosed either! It’s everything from nitric oxide boosting citrulline malate to creatine nitrate to betaine to nitrosigine to arginine AKG (which helps prevent nitrate tolerance). Very well formulated!!
The drawbacks? It’s expensive, and you’re still not getting a clinical dose of creatine or betaine – so you’ll want to add a bit more if you’re in building mode.
Hopefully PricePlow can help with the prices below over time:
C4 Ultimate Links and Deals
The PricePlow Crew’s C4 Ultimate Review
5. ATP Nutrition Perform Kinetics
Who? What? ATP Nutrition?
ATP Nutrition stands for Aspire Train Perform, and Kinetics is their pre workout supplement.
This newcomer came in a blaze with one of the best-feeling pre workouts we’ve ever had that doesn’t bring DMAA or DMHA.
The best way to try a real dose of Theacrine
How? It’s the monster 100mg dose of Theacrine, which is a stimulant related to caffeine but lasts a bit longer. It’s marketed by Compound Solutions under the name Teacrine.
100mg is a heavy (and expensive) dose, and it without a doubt is a very difficult flavor to mask. But these guys did it pretty well, and it’s worth trying. We’re finding that 50mg of this ingredient (the standard dose) is just not enough, so this is the best way to get a real feel for it.
ATP also uses a blend of 100mg straight caffeine with 150mg dicaffeine malate, so that you get a good long-lasting rush of it – not just a bunch of caffeine up front.
Outside of that, they’re doing a lot of the things we like – multiple pump ingredients (citrulline malate + HydroMax + agmatine + taurine), well-dosed focus boosters (300mg Alpha-GPC).
What you won’t find is beta alanine or creatine – none of that here – the goal of this supplement is to enhance this workout, not long-term boosts.
The unique stuff
Most pre workouts on this list don’t have Rhodiola Rosea, an incredible adaptogenic herb. If you like it, then you’ll like this pre workout, because there’s 200mg here. Creatinol-O-Phosphate at 2g may help with lactic acid buffering, and a clinical dose of 600mg N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) may assist with performance recovery to get you back to 100% quicker.
4. Northbound Nutrition Pinnacle
When we wrote about Northbound Nutrition’s Pinnacle, we asked if it was the pinnacle of pre workouts. If it’s not, it’s damn close!
First things first, there’s 325mg caffeine here from natural sources (green coffee beans). Many believe these hit a bit better with less crash than others.
Northbound Nutrition is a young brand we’ve taken a fancy to – they load the doses. We often joke on our YouTube channel when certain pre workouts tend to “disappear” from the gym because a couple trainers take a liking to them. That normally happens with DMAA-based products… but in this case, it happened with Pinnacle here too!
Mass clinical doses!
This pre workout is truly a one-scooper, with a 27.3g scoop consisting of 8g citrulline malate (pumps and endurance), 4g beta alanine (bigtime tingles), a clinical 3.2g creatine, and a clinical 2.5g betaine.
So all in one fell swoop, you have clinically-dosed nitric oxide boosters, endurance, and ergogenics. Great start!
To amplify the pumps, 200mg of both pine bark extract and grape seed extract are used, which are higher doses than we normally see (pine bark extract is awesome, but expensive).
For focus, a huge 1.5g of L-Tyrosine and 300mg Alpha GPC, which is getting closer to the point where Alpha GPC has made strength gains.
Natural Colors and Antioxidants included!
Finally, antioxidants are included from Spectra’s Total ORAC, and there’s a few carbs packed in from the natural colors of fruit juice powder and beet root, as well as rice concentrate for a more natural emulsifier.
Powerful pre workout – everyone’s loved this one!
3. Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged
Kris Gethin’s Kaged Muscle has been exploding on the scene, and for great reason – their products are fantastically formulated, are nearly all-natural, and are dosed to the gills!
Kaged Muscle picks up where JYM left off (and this isn’t surprising, given that it’s the same formulator who’s picked up a few new tricks along the way).
First things first — the 274mg of PurCaf organic coffee is 91% pure, so it provides ~250mg caffeine. Which leads us to the major point of this product:
Nearly all Natural Sources
When it comes to supplements, Kris Gethin likes to keep it as natural as possible. This monster of a tub brings 6.5g of fermented straight L-citrulline, fermented BCAAs, 250mg caffeine from 274mg PurCaf green coffee bean extract), and the same Spectra Total ORAC antioxidants.
They use the same natural betaine that has studies on it – BetaPower – and the hydration blend of taurine and coconut water powder keeps it natural too. The beet root extract also brings a realistic color.
In terms of flavoring and sweetening, Pre-Kaged uses mostly stevia, so that the sucralose stays as low as possible. Rumor has it that they’re trying to get rid of that sucralose so it’s 100% natural, so stay tuned to that!
Unlike some of the pre workouts above and below, the beta alanine is reasonably dosed at 1.6g, so you don’t tingle your ears off. The biggest drawback to us is the 1.5g of Patented Creatine HCl, which falls short of the 3g clinical dose.
The focus combination uses both N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine and L-Tyrosine, so those who argue about which one they like best can just all be happy here.
If you haven’t tried a supplement with PurCaf caffeine, it’s time to give it a shot. It genuinely feels better than straight caffeine anhydrous. At about 91% caffeine from green coffee beans, this makes for a 250mg caffeine dose.
2. Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK
Transparent Labs is taking the industry by storm, and it all started with their hit open-formula pre workout supplement, PreSeries Bulk!
BULK provides a massive open label that’s unique in that it has twice as much L-theanine than caffeine – 360mg vs. 180mg. This creates a very smooth and “confident” effect during your workout, and is fantastic for those of you who don’t want 300mg caffeine but do want absurd amounts of pump and focus ingredients.
No artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors!
One thing we’re loving about Transparent Labs is their commitment to natural sweeteners and no artificial coloring. This is where the trend’s been moving, but many larger/slower companies can’t afford to take the risk in removing their dyes and sucralose — but Transparent Labs can.
Admittedly, the stevia-based PreSeries BULK is less tasty, but for those of you who are sick of ingesting unknown amounts of sucralose, this is the product for you.
Customize your strength with Transparent Labs STIM-FREE
Transparent Labs also has a stimulant-free pre workout, STIM-FREE, which is also free of artificial colors/sweeteners. This allows for some cool customization.
PreSeries BULK Prices and Links
CJ and Amin reviewed it on our YouTube channel, and were floored by the amount of strength this stuff has:
Let’s say it’s late at night and you only want say 90mg caffeine just to get the engine started, but not keep you up all night.
In that case, use half a serving of PreSeries Bulk alongside half a serving of STIM-FREE and you’ll have full-strength focus and pumps, but only half-strength on the caffeine! We’ve done this multiple times and it works better than you’d expect!
The biggest issue with these products is that there’s a hefty price tag associated with them. Thankfully, PricePlow has negotiated the Internet’s best coupon with Transparent Labs so that we make less money and you save more!
…and finally, for the one you’ve been waiting for:
1. NutraBio PRE-Extreme
Also important for a #1 pre — the ergogenics are fully loaded – 3g worth of creatine and 2.5g worth of betaine!
Note on the carbs: Pre EXTREME contains 15g carbs, but if you don’t want the carbs, go with NutraBio PRE (without the Extreme). It’s carb-free… but that will lower pumps too. See the link below for more info.
NutraBio PRE and PRE Extreme Prices and Links
PricePlow’s PRE Extreme Review
[This marks the end of the Top 10 Pre Workout Supplement Section. You can click the back button to go back, or keep reading to learn about ingredients!]
Lifetime Achievement Award: Jack3d (and now Jack’d Up)
We have three words for you:
We love Jack3d. There, we said it.
Often imitated, never duplicated.
You either love it or you hate it. It all depends on how you respond to DMAA, or 1,3 Dimethylamylamine HCl, which is a mild stimulant that gives you a seriously potent “mind-muscle” connection and some ridiculous endurance and breathing support.
Isn’t It Banned? No!
As explained in the DMAA section of this page, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals is fighting for the right to use DMAA in supplements, suing the FDA in the process.
Until that is decided, Hi-Tech Pharma will continue to sell it in supplements such as Jack’d Up, their most-worthy “Jack3d clone”.
Some people loathe Jack3d, and may completely discredit this entire post. We don’t care. If you understand the risks, we support your right to use DMAA if you want to.
Anyway, this is THE supplement that changed the industry and started the whole concentrate phenomenon, getting us away from all that magnesium and cheap filler nonsense.
We’ll also admit that we don’t use Jack3d or Jack’d Up for long periods of time, nor do we EVER mix either one with any other stimulants. Always follow the warning labels. Get a doctor’s approval, do NOT take if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, and never mix with prescription drugs — That’s how you get into trouble.
So, for us healthy folk looking for the zone… the “it”… Jack3d and now Jack’d Up remain on a throne of their own.
Jack’d Up Deals, Alerts, and Coupons
This marks the end of the our Top 10 Pre Workouts list. See the customized guide section for a list of recommendations for your needs, not ours!
SO many good ones missed. What do you think deserves to be here?
Any dark horses that we’ll all know about at the beginning of 2017 that we missed here?
Common Pre Workout Ingredients
Next to creatine, there isn’t a more common, or proven, ingredient that caffeine. It’s far and away the most frequently used stimulant in a pre workout. It’s that little compound that puts some extra pep in your step and gives you the energy you need to get in the gym and get the job done!
Aside from energy, caffeine helps to improve mood, focus, endurance, power, and overall athletic performance.[1,2,3,4] After these intense workouts, you’ll undoubtedly be sore. Fortunately, caffeine also helps speed recovery by delaying the onset of muscle soreness.
More is not always better when it comes to caffeine. Once the dose starts to exceed 400mg, the performance enhancing qualities are negated and can actually have a negative impact on performance.[5,6]
Our personal dose:
We typically like to see caffeine in the 225-250mg range and if possible, have a combination of caffeine anhydrous and dicaffeine malate (Infinergy). This provides the best of both worlds as you get an immediate surge of energy from the anhydrous and then a longer, smoother, sustained released of energy throughout your workout without any crash. Note that this is personal preference.
It’s often suggested that you take a break from caffeine after eight weeks of use. This will help in terms of “feeling” it when you’re using it for workout purposes. However, long-term coffee-drinkers do happen to live longer, so there may be a connection between daily caffeine use and health.
Do you feel that tingling sensation all over? No, that’s not your Spidey-sense warning you about the Green Goblin, it’s the paresthesia you’re feeling from Beta Alanine (BA). Over the last 10+ years, this ingredient has become synonymous with pre workouts as creatine and caffeine.
What’s it do?
Beta alanine binds to histidine in the muscle cells to form carnosine. This helps buffer the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles helping to offset the “burn” that you feel when doing high volume training or endurance type events.
Beta alanine has proven particularly effective for athletes across a wide range of sports including boxing, rowing, football, sprinting, powerlifting, and swimming.
Similar to creatine, BA boosts your power output, strength, muscular growth, but most importantly, BA vastly improves your endurance and stamina through the lactic acid buffering we previously mentioned.[32,33,34]
3.2g per day or more.
Again, just like creatine, BA doesn’t need to be dosed pre workout to be effective, so long as you get a total of 3.2g/day. To avoid those “tingles” it’s advised split the dosages. Therefore, we’d like to see at least 1.6-2g of beta alanine as part of the formula if it’s going to be included. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Point being, if you’re an athlete, you should be getting in at least 3.2g of beta alanine per day – preferably in split doses at different points in the day – or else you’re selling your muscular endurance short for no good reason.
L-Citrulline / Citrulline Malate
Citrulline has become one of the more popular ingredients in pre workout over the past year. While most of its fame comes as a superior arginine/nitric oxide (NO) booster, that only scratches the surface of its benefits.
Aside from contributing to some serious pumps, citrulline reduces fatigue and soreness while enhancing your training capacity.[8,9] This will allow you to exercise for longer bouts with greater intensity before fatigue sets in leading to more gains.
Take note that when we are just after pumps, we opt for pure L-Citrulline. However, when we want to boost athletic endurance, we’re going to veer more towards Citrulline Malate for the additional fatigue-fighting benefits malic acid has to offer.
On top of that, the primary reason you frequently see citrulline malate instead of L-citrulline is because L-Citrulline tastes quite bad, and is difficult to flavor over.
The clinical doses for boosting nitric oxide: – 6g or more for citrulline malate – 3g or more for l-citrulline
However, to start “feeling it”, you can probably get away with half of those doses, but the doses above are where it really starts getting interesting.
Agmatine sulfate is another favorite nitric oxide booster we like to see included in pre workouts. It’s a derivative of the amino acid Arginine, and has been dubbed by some as a “super arginine.” Opposed to citrulline which directly boosts NO levels, Agmatine actually prevents the body from breaking it down.
Agmatine actually functions as a neuromodulator/neurotransmitter in the body. As such, it possess a number of other benefits including improving focus and cognition. Additionally, agmatine can improve insulin control and alleviate symptoms of pain, allowing you to exercise with greater intensity before giving into any sort of muscle ache or pain.
500mg is where most pre workouts start. But where it really gets interesting is at 1000mg, and 1500mg gets pretty crazy (and doesn’t really need anything else stacked with it at that dose, in our opinions).
When in doubt, men should start at 500mg and try 1000mg after assessing.
Nitrate supplements have taken the industry by storm the past few years as more and more research has been published. There are quite a few human studies showing beneficial effects on athletic performance with nitrate supplementation.
Nitrate molecules are typically “packaged” with another beneficial compound so they’ll have a synergistic effect. For instance, here are the following common nitrate molecules:
- Arginine Nitrate
- Creatine Nitrate
- Betaine Nitrate
- Glutamine Nitrate
- Potassium Nitrate
Nitrates first and foremost help improve vasodilation[14,15] which improve blood flow and give some very strong pumps. Nitrates also increase nitric oxide levels which reduces blood pressure and protect against endothelial dysfunction.
Lastly, nitrates improve your exercise performance by decreasing the oxygen cost and increasing your energy efficiency during workouts.[18,19]
Beet Root Extract
Beet root extract also provides nitrates, but the labels unfortunately don’t really tell us how much there is. Raw beet roots yield anywhere from 600mg-1800mg nitrate per kilogram of root,[123,124] so you have to hope it’s extracted well to feel it.
Timing and drawbacks
There is one drawback to nitrate use though, they take far longer to get working in your system. So, if you’re planning to use them pre workout, plan on taking them at least 45-60 minutes before your workout otherwise you won’t see their effects until long after you’ve completed your last set.
One successful strategy to take them directly pre workout is to use agmatine and/or citrulline alongside the nitrate. This gives you a three-headed attack, as the first two take effect quicker, and then the nitrate activates to power you through the tail end of your workout (and keep you pumped well after it’s over so you continue looking swole!)
It depends on the compound. A quality pump can be felt with as little as 300mg potassium nitrate, but doses as high as 1250mg – 2000mg arginine nitrate (Cellucor’s NO3 Chrome or PES High Volume) can be downright explosive.
It’s important to never mix nitrate-based supplements unless suggested by a single manufacturer’s stack, and definitely to never mix them with erectile dysfunction drugs. The drop in blood pressure can be dramatic and dangerous.
HydroMax™ / Glycerol
Glycerol has long been used in pre workouts as a way to improve hydration and provide “water-based” pumps.
Typically, glycerol monostearate (GMS) was the chosen form. Now while not bad, it only contains at most 25% glycerol, with the remainder being composed of saturated fat from stearic acid.
HydroMax™ turned up the volume and has become the superior choice when looking to use glycerol in pre workouts. This patented ingredient is highly concentrated form of powdered glycerol and silica that contains 65% glycerol by volume. This increases its potency and function resulting in exceptional hydration and superior pumps compared to traditional GMS.
Glycerol acts as a sponge in the body helping to draw water into the muscles. This can lead to a state of “hyperhydration” enabling an athlete’s muscles to absorb and retain more water.[22,23] Endurance athletes stand to benefits from this increase most as it will help sustain them during their multi-hour competitions.
Bodybuilders also stand to benefit from the extra hydration as it will give the muscles a fuller and more pronounced look when on stage due to the extra water being stored in the muscle cells.
The major thing to remember here is that when you take glycerol / HydroMax pre workout, you need to drink plenty of water for it to take effect.
Nitrosigine® / Arginine Silicate
Nitrosigine® (Inositol-stabilized Arginine Silicate) is a combination of arginine, inositol, and potassium silicate. This rather unique form of arginine combines the cardiac-improving benefits of both arginine and silicate in an inositol-stabilized form. This results in higher bioavailability of both arginine and silicate which makes for a potent Nitric Oxide and silicon booster ideal for bodybuilders, athletes, and everyone in between.
Clinical research shows Nitrosigine® relaxes blood vessels (vasodilation), which improves blood flow, 500% more effectively than supplementing with Arginine HCI! Additionally, Nitrosigine® boosted plasma arginine levels within 30 minutes after ingestion and sustained these increases up to 3 hours post-ingestion.
When it comes to proven, effective ingredients in supplements, creatine is always at the top of the list. Volumes of research have been conducted on this organic acid and its beneficial effects on strength, power, lean mass gains, and cellular hydration.[24,25,26,27]
Creatine doesn’t just help you get bigger and badder though. It also helps improve your endurance by helping delay the onset of fatigue. Plus, creatine allows you to train more consistently and frequently as it reduces soreness and markers of skeletal muscle damage brought on by intense workouts.[29,30]
It doesn’t matter what age. It doesn’t matter what sex. It doesn’t matter what sport. Creatine works, it works in the long-term, and it is safe. It’s undisputed at this point, so we typically just recommend you get it in.
Now, creatine doesn’t have to be dosed pre workout to be effective, but if it’s going to be included we expect to see the proven efficacious dose of 3-5g. “Do it right or don’t do it at all”. Otherwise, pixie-dusted creatine in pre workouts causes too much label confusion, and beginners may not be getting the simple and inexpensive 3-5g dose (yet think that they are).
No other ingredient gained popularity more over the last year and half than betaine, a.k.a. trimethylglycine. There’s been a significant amount of clinical data supporting this ingredient’s usefulness in terms of enhancing your workout performance. Specifically, betaine can increase your lean muscle mass, strength, power, and endurance.[35,36,37]
That’s not all though, there’s some preliminary research indicating betaine works synergistically with creatine to support its synthesis in the body and enhance the body’s own natural production of ATP.[38,39]
Better energy production leads to better performance during your workouts which ultimately produces MORE GAINS, which is what we’re all after anyway.
To reap the benefits of betaine supplementation the research shows you need about 2.5g per day. Again this doesn’t have to be dosed pre workout, but based off our own experience we can definitely tell a difference in our workouts when dosing the full 2.5g pre workout.
Yes, the much beleaguered and maligned macronutrient IS an ergogenic (performance-enhancing) ingredient you want in a pre workout. While many eschew it in fear that “carbs make them fat,” it’s been shown time and again the carbohydrates before a workout improve your performance, not detract from it.[40,41]
Additionally, if you’re working out twice a day or have multiple competitions separated by only a few hours, carbs before and after your workout will help replenish glycogen stores and speed recovery,[42,43] allowing you to get back on the field or in the gym quicker and continue to dominate the competition.
Basically if you want to last through a long workout or need to be prepared for a second workout in a day, you definitely need to have some source of carbs included in your pre workout supplement.
This is up to you and your diet. We believe carbs are best taken surrounding your workout. Even if you’re a low-carber, pre/intra/post workout time is the best time to get them in.
Currently, we’re using 30-40g carbs pre workout. The bad news is that this means we have to add additional carbs to everything on this list, even Muscle Elements’ PreCre (which has 10g). The good news is that we can sometimes use candy for these purposes!
Other Stimulant Ingredients
That’s right,DMAA supplements are still around! Not only that, but there’s a few pre workouts that you should certainly check out if you miss the original Jack3d from circa 2010.
The current legal state of DMAA: Still Pending
The short story is that Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals is suing the FDA over their right to use DMAA, the FDA resisted, but a federal judge is making it go to court. The FDA sent warning letters to various manufacturers stating that DMAA was not natural nor was it DSHEA compliant. Hi-Tech argues that it is naturally occurring in geranium plants,[78,79,80] and claims that the FDA’s warning letters do not constitute “final agency action”.
So until the court case is over, Hi-Tech Pharma and their subsidiaries are producing DMAA supplements, and they’re growing in popularity each day. Two such supplements that get a lot of attention on this page are Hi-Tech Jack’d Up and APS Mesomorph.
As to whether you’ll want to try DMAA, it’s really up to you. There is plenty of research showing its safety with healthy individuals using reasonable doses,[82,83,84,85,86,87,88] and many (if not all) accidents that occurred with it was due to misuse and not following the label. This was certainly the case in the Department of Defense’s findings when they investigated DMAA.
On the other hand, 75mg DMAA has been shown to increase blood pressure, so it’s definitely not for anyone who has any type of cardiovascular condition or has not received approval from their physician. This is also why we don’t ever use that high of a dose. For instance, 25mg DMAA provides some excellent cognitive benefits, but research shows that “a single 25 mg dose of DMAA does not meaningfully impact resting heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature.”
Make an informed choice
Our personal stance is that if you’re medically cleared, you should do with your body as you choose, so long as you do the research. We’re huge fans of 25-50mg DMAA, but never mix these pre workouts with other stimulants under any condition whatsoever. In our humble opinions, when mixed with about 200mg caffeine, the energy, focus, and endurance from 25-50mg DMAA is nearly unparalleled.
[This marks the end of the 1,3 section. You can click the back button to go back to your last option.]
Also known as bitter orange, Citrus Aurantium or the trademarked form AdvantraZ®, synephrine is an alkaloid the possesses stimulative properties (similar to, but weaker than ephedrine) and is wildly popular in fat burners for its ability to induce lipolysis and suppress appetite.[45,46]
Helping reduce the sludge around your midsection is great and all, but we’re concerned about its benefits in regards to your workouts. Luckily, synephrine also possesses some additional benefits aside from aiding weight loss.
Synephrine acts as a CNS stimulant helping to give you the energy to crush a workout. More importantly though, it’ll help you last longer during your workout as it reduces the onset of fatigue and decreases the rate of perceived exertion.
25mg is typically a safe spot, with ~50mg being more common. We don’t like to go above 75mg.
Yohimbe / Yohimbine
Seen in many different forms and standardizations, nearly all “Y” products come from one of two sources: the Pausinystalia yohimbe tree or the Rauwolfia Serpentina plant. Similar to Synephrine, Yohimbe extracts are alkaloids commonly found in thermogenic fat burners due to their ability to curb hunger cravings and inhibit fat storage. The appetite suppression effects are especially useful when taken on an empty stomach.
When taken pre workout though, yohimbe helps to improve cognition, focus, and energy levels.[49,50,51] The only concern or question surrounding yohimbe in products is that the extract are highly variable in quality.
It’s these lesser quality extracts that often cause adverse reactions for some individuals, and has led to their avoidance of certain pre workouts that contain yohimbe. If you can find a product that lists the standardization and you’re comfortable with the brand, then you should be fine.
The drawbacks: Anxiety
The biggest issue with yohimbe / yohimbine is that too much of it can cause anxiety, especially in yohimbe-sensitive users.
At some point, you’ll start to discover whether or not you like yohimbe pre workout. Yohimbine is the compound extracted out of yohimbe, and with direct yohimbine HCl, you should know exactly what you’re getting.
Most everyone seems to be able to handle 1.5mg of yohimbine HCl. After that, it’s really a personal thing. Yohimbe extract not standardized for yohimbine is too variable, and too tough to give a dosing recommendation.
Our preference is actually a bit different than most — it’s seasonal. When the weather is cold, yohimbe is a welcomed addition to our pre workouts (but still in relatively small doses). But when it gets hot outside and in the gym, the yohimbe becomes too much, and we prefer it out.
In 2016, the trend seems to be against having yohimbe / yohimbine / rauwolscine in pre workouts.
When looking for alternatives to ephedrine (which is now banned by the FDA), companies scoured through the literature to find something that could still give a decent kick but not send you over the top. Higenamine, a.k.a. norcoclaurine, was the result all the digging!
It’s a beta adrenergic agonist often considered to be a “weaker ephedrine.” When used by itself, Higenamine has a mild stimulatory effect on the body. However, it’s often paired with caffeine and other stimulants which increases its potency.
When supplementing with it, we’ve had good experiences using up to 50mg of Higenamine, but anything in the 25-50mg range should add a little something “extra” to your workout energy.
This is considered an alternative to synephrine with slightly less side effects. We don’t really see the need to have both higenamine and synephrine in a product – choose one if you want to get the beta-2 adrenergic reaction going.
Think of theobromine as caffeine’s little brother. Derived from the cocoa plant, theobromine gives that “feel-good” sensation when eating big amounts of dark chocolate. In addition to giving you a pleasant mood boost, theobromine also exerts stimulatory effects similar to caffeine, but smoother and longer lasting.
Theobromine is all well and good on its own, but it really shines when used alongside caffeine. It helps to smooth out the harsh kick some users experiences when using higher doses of caffeine in pre workouts and offset any “crash” that may ensue in the hours after your workout.
At the end of the day, this doesn’t really seem to be a difference-maker in any supplement, but is fine to see.
One of the ingredients garnering serious success in pre workouts is dicaffeine malate. Here, we have a combination of caffeine and malic acid that offers all the same ergogenic benefits that caffeine has plus the buffering qualities often attributed to malate.
More and more pre workouts hitting the market are using a combination of pure caffeine anhydrous and dicaffeine malate, and we couldn’t be happier. The combination of these two ingredients has become one of our favorite stim combinations due to its ability to provide a quick surge of energy to get you going, but keeps that smooth energy hanging around throughout the workout and long after.
Another great thing about dicaffeine malate is that there is absolutely no crash when using it, just a long, smooth ride down that keeps you feeling upbeat and never exhausted as you’ve no doubt experienced when loading up on too much anhydrous.
The product most well-known for dicaffeine malate is Infinergy, by Creative Compounds.
PEA, often displayed as Phenethylamine, operates as a neuromodulator in the central nervous system. It’s naturally-occurring, but more frequently supplemented for therapeutic mood-boosting benefits (it boosts the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine levels).
The only drawback to PEA is that its effects last for about five minutes, as it’s quickly broken down by your MAO enzymes.[56,57] One trick is to mix the PEA molecules with natural MAO inhibitors like hordenine.
But often, that wasn’t enough, so this led to the hunt for a better, longer lasting PEA derivative that could still boost mood and help with energy levels. The result is the new Eria Jarenesis extract that’s shown up in a few new pre workouts in 2015, and several of the ones listed on this page from 2016.
Acacia rigidula extract often supplies a vast number of PEA alkaloids. While these are more common in fat burners (the ones from Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals are quite intense and enjoyable for stimulant-lovers), they’re a bit less common in pre workout supplements. iForce Nutrition has some extremely good ones, though.
Various PEA molecules differ too much to make a recommendation. In addition, what they’re stacked with makes a huge difference. 150mg is a typical starting point.
To date, not much research has been done on PEA in terms of improving exercise performance, but the increase in catecholamines should give you an extra hit of motivation to get in the gym (before the other stims kick in) and crush your workouts once they do.
Do not take PEA molecules if you’re on prescription drugs such as MAO inhibitors. As always, see your doctor before taking any new supplement.
NMT is a lesser known stimulant that’s not widely used by most companies manufacturing pre workouts. Basically, NMT is a beta-2 adrenergic agonist that ignites the “flight or fight” response. This helps the body utilize fatty acids for energy and increases adrenaline production.
Research has even shown that NMT is roughly 1/140th as potent as adrenaline. Furthermore, NMT also acts as a weaker alpha-2 adrenergic agonist which prevents the breakdown of adrenergic, dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmitters. Having more of these neurotransmitters available leads to more energy and improved mood during your workout.
Lastly, NMT stimulates the release of insulin in the body and can help further reduce blood glucose levels. This benefits the bodybuilder who likes to spike insulin levels in an attempt to drive nutrients into the muscles at the most opportune times.
Hordenine is another compound found in Citrus Aurantium, a.k.a. Bitter Orange, where you’ll also find other adrenergic amines like tyramine and synephrine. Similar to its Bitter Orange brethren, hordenine functions a beta-2 adrenergic agonist, boosting production of adrenaline and noradrenaline in the body. Users will experience an elevated heart rate and breathing rate which increases metabolic output, and thus greater fat-burning.
Additionally, hordenine also operates as a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor. Basically, this ensures that noradrenaline stays in your system longer leading to prolonged feeling of focus, attentiveness and overall energy.[61,62]
As mentioned above, you’ll often see this stacked with PEA molecules. Again, you do not want to mix this combination if you’re already on prescription drugs such as MAO inhibitors.
Also known as alpha-yohimbine, rauwolscine is very similar to yohimbine and exerts all the same effects as Y, but without many of the nasty side effects typically attributed to the former.
Rauwolscine acts as an antagonist on the alpha-2 adrenoceptors in the body, the ones responsible for holding onto that “stubborn fat” that never seems to go away no matter how much you diet or exercise. Blocking these receptors allows more noradrenaline to be released leading to improved fat oxidation and “burning fat for fuel.”
Alpha-Y also acts as a strong CNS stimulant leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and focus.[72,73] Improved energy and focus are a great combination, but there’s more still, as rauwolscine also reduces anxiety and cortisol levels.
Basically, you have an ingredient that gets you amped up for your workouts without making your feel over stimulated or edgy, which we’ll take any day in a pre workout!
Structurally similar to caffeine, theacrine also acts as a powerful CNS stimulant in the body. As many of the other compounds on this list, theacrine is a naturally occurring alkaloid compound found most often in the Chinese tea known as Kucha.
Much like dicaffeine malate, theacrine is experiencing a surge in popularity among newer pre workouts. The biggest upside to theacrine is that it gives lots of energy with no tolerance build up like you’ve no doubt experienced with caffeine. This gives you lots of energy that’s smooth and long lasting without needing to continually up the dosage like you will with caffeine.
Finally, theacrine also greatly improves your mood due its actions on the dopamine and adenosine receptors in the body. This increases the levels of dopamine and other feel good neurotransmitters in the body helping mellow you out and reduce any stress or anxiety you may be feeling.
But is it legit in actual reviews?
Unfortunately, despite the science sounding good, we’re not having a ton of “effect” from theacrine-containing supplements. Nothing bad… just nothing really noticeable. To lengthen our caffeine effects, dicaffeine malate seems to be working better for us.
Cognitive Focus-Enhancers / Nootropics
Choline is perhaps the most well-known of the cognitive boosters often found in pre workouts. This compound found in most frequently found in eggs and forms the basis of the “learning transmitter” acetylcholine. It’s also a great ingredient for improving cognition and focus during your workouts, or any other time really.
Citicoline and Alpha-GPC are best
Now, there’s not just one type of choline companies use when adding it to their pre workout formulas, that’d be too simple. The best, and most expensive form is CDP-Choline, a.k.a. citicoline.
The reason it’s the best is that it easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and has the highest bioavailability compared to other forms of choline supplements. 250mg of citicoline should be a great amount to give you the desired cognitive boost you’re seeking and help foster a strong “mind-muscle connection” during your working sets.
If we can’t have CDP-Choline, we opt for Alpha-GPC, which also crosses the blood-brain barrier in good amounts. Aside from improving mood and focus, Alpha-GPC also increases power output, endurance and post workout Growth Hormone (GH) levels.[65,66,67]
Choline Bitartrate is less expensive
Lastly, we have Choline Bitartrate which is less bioavailable, and cheaper, compared to the other forms of choline supplements already mentioned. While still effective, you just need more of it to see the same benefits as with a smaller amount of CDP-Choline or Alpha-GPC.
Choline citrate is cheap, less effective, and tastes miserably sour, so we avoid it when possible.
250mg is most common, but 500mg is where things get interesting.
L-Tyrosine / N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
Almost as popular as choline is for aiding focus is the amino acid L-Tyrosine or the acetylated variation N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT). Tyrosine is an amino acid used by the body in the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline. Higher levels of these molecules help alleviate stress and anxiety that you may feel from the course of everyday life.
More important in terms of workout performance, tyrosine improves your cognition and focus keeping you “in the zone” while grinding through endless sets of squats, deadlifts, and presses.[92,93]
Both forms are effective, but NALT is better absorbed by the body and typically more effective, thus you’ll need a lower dose to see that same benefit you will with a higher dose of regular L-Tyrosine.
750mg is where we start noticing effects. Anything over 1g starts to enter “awesome territory”.
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
ALCAR works in conjunction with Choline work together to create our favorite “learning neurotransmitter” Acetylcholine. The acetyl group of ALCAR is severed from the carnitine salt, transferred to Acetyl-COA, then finally joined to Choline (via Choline Acetyltransferase) to produce more acetylcholine.
As you’re probably aware, we’re HUGE fans of ALCAR here on PricePlow, particularly in pre workouts for its strong focus-enhancing effects. That’s not all though, ALCAR also functions as a mild stimulant and when paired with caffeine helps with “fatty acid dumping” whereby the body excretes fatty acids when cells are in “fat burning” mode.
A good dose to look for is anything in the 500-1000mg range, but we’ve seen incredible endurance athletic results going as high as 1500mg pre workout on occasion.
DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol or dimethylethanolamine) is a precursor to choline and shown some promise to enhance cognitive function. DMAE works by building preventing the accumulation of the “age pigment” in the brain that can lead to cognitive decline.
As a precursor to choline, DMAE can also boosts the production of acetylcholine in the body which should help to improve focus during your workout and memory formation.
However, we’ve never felt much from this ingredient when it’s been included in any pre workouts we’ve tried. Maybe there just hasn’t been enough of it in any pre workout to really “notice” its effects.
We’ve written extensively about noopept, a powerful nootropic also known as N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine. Noopept is a proline-containing dipeptide that is an amino acid analogue originally created as an analog to another well known nootropic, piracetam.
Noopept is really one of the most potent and effective “smart drugs” you can have in a pre workout. It’s benefits are wide ranging and numerous spanning from improved memory and learning[100,101] to increased acetylcholine production to anxiety reduction.
One thing to watch out for in particular with this nootropic is that it can often lead to headaches as a result of choline-depletion. To help offset this, it’s best to often pair Noopept with a Choline product to avoid any sort of headache or “brain fog” that may set in when taking standard doses of Noopept.
We suggest starting with 10mg, combined with about 250mg choline. 20mg is often the best sweet spot, and some expert userse go with 30mg (we’ve not yet gone that high though).
Several pre workouts contain 20mg in a full dose.
Again, read our entire noopept article linked above if you’re interested in the research behind this extremely useful nootropic.
Picamilon / Pikatropin
Picamilon is the combination of GABA and niacin. Little research exists on the ingredient itself, but both parent compounds have volumes of research expounding their benefits.
GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is the “downer” neurotransmitter in the body that helps suppress or “depress” activity in the central nervous system. However, since supplemental GABA can’t readily cross the blood-brain barrier, it must be paired with another compound like niacin to improve bioavailability and facilitate the transition.
Niacin is an essential B-Vitamin that when supplemented can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In a workout context, niacin can actually improve Nitric Oxide production through improved vasodilation and blood flow.
Since picamilon is derived from GABA it can improve cognition, focus, mood, and help individuals reduce stress.
You’ll often see this in high-stimulant pre workouts to help take the “edge” off of the stim effect – and it works incredibly well for those purposes.
Vinpocetine is an alkaloid compound found in the Periwinkle plant that holds promise as a neuroprotectant ingredient. It’s generally considered a de facto nootropic due to its ability to improve both short and long-term memory, as well as increase alertness.
Vinpocetine owes its cognitive-enhancing effects to its ability to enhance blood flow to the brain.[106,107,108,109] It’s even been described as “Viagra for the brain” in one study.
Increased blood flow not only improves focus and awareness, but with it more nutrients which can enhance reaction speed.
You’ll sometimes see this as referred to as “toothed clubmoss extract” or Chinese Club moss on various products, but it’s the same thing. Huperzine A is a great nootropic compound that prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain, thereby indirectly increasing levels of this rather potent neurotransmitter.
That’s not all though, huperzine acts as a neuroprotective compound in the brain against glutamine, a.k.a. “the neuron death molecule” and it can possibly help generate new brain cells (making it neurogenerative).
50mcg is the most common dose, as it’s an extremely expensive ingredient. However, once you start getting into 100-200mcg doses, things get a lot more interesting. Side effects can start occurring at higher doses though, so it’s one of those ingredients that not everyone ends up loving. Most people do, though.
Bacopa monnieri is an Ayurvedic herb traditionally used for enhancing cognitive function and longevity. In Hindu medicine, it’s referred to as Brahmi, and used to treat a number of conditions ranging from depression to insomnia to schizophrenia.
Numerous studies demonstrate that Bacopa Monnieri improves memory and attention.[113,114,115] It’s been suggested that Bacopa works synergistically with caffeine to control spikes in dopamine levels, but this has yet to be verified through research in humans or animals.
A supplement that successfully uses a great amount of bacopa is Magnum Nutraceuticals’ LIMITLESS.
Adaptogens are “regulators” – they help bring things up that have been down, and help bring down things that have been too high up. The best of the bunch nearly seem magical, and they’re great to take when trying to get over stimulants during a stim-break.
Rhodiola Rosea is a rather unique plant that grows in Sweden and Russia. It has a long history as an adaptogen, helping the body deal with physical and emotional stressors.
Adaptogens like Rhodiola “Increase the availability of energy during the day, reduce stressed feelings, increase endurance, and increase mental alertness.” Furthermore, rhodiola stimulates the neurotransmitter systems for norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and short-term acetylcholine production thereby enhancing cognitive functioning and memory storage.
Put simply, rhodiola is our favorite herb, and is great to take (especially alongside ashwagandha below) when you’re a bit down. However, we never really notice it pre workout when stacked with a ton of stimulants. Some users do, others don’t.
Regardless, we downright love this stuff on a slow, dumpy day.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is another popular Ayurvedic herb that’s also known as “Smell of Horse.” Much like Rhodiola rosea, it’s a powerful adaptogen frequently used to reduce anxiety and stress.
Aside from mellowing you out, Ashwagandha has been shown to increase VO2 max in cyclists. This leads to increased aerobic capacity, thus allowing you to exercise at a greater intensity for a longer amount of time.
One last tidbit about Ashwagandha is that it can lower cortisol levels in the body. As you’re well aware, cortisol is a notoriously catabolic hormone that can drain your gains like nothing else. Having some Ashwagandha in a pre workout will help keep cortisol levels in check allowing for greater anabolism to occur in the post workout window.
You’ll also notice certain Ashwagandha extracts, such as KSM-66, in natural testosterone boosters and fat burners. It’s quite an overall beneficial compound, especially when well-extracted.
Popular from the original Jack3d (where it was originally labeled as “Schizandrol A”), Schisandra chinensis has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine for treating an assortment of respiratory illnesses. But more pertinent to this list is its role as an adaptogen in the body.
Schisandra has more offer though than just lowering stress levels. It also acts as a vasodilator in the body, leading to increased blood flow and nutrient transport to your skeletal muscles.
Greater vasodilation and blood flow yield more nitric oxide availability in the body helping set the stage for better pumps and improved oxygen transport to your muscles. Furthermore, the improved blood flow will also help remove any accumulated metabolic waste products in the muscles which could hamper endurance and cause premature fatigue.
Basically, very few pre workouts include this ingredient, but we wish more did!
What about L-arginine?
L-arginine shows mixed success in increasing nitric oxide levels, and is the pump supplement ingredient of the past decade. Most common was l-arginine alpha ketoglutarate, or AAKG.
However, it’s been replaced by L-citrulline because L-citrulline simply works better: L-citrulline gets converted into L-arginine, but at a better time… whereas L-arginine supplemented itself gets broken down too quickly.
In addition, to get real-deal NO-boosting effects, the dose has to be quite high, which may lead to gastrointestinal distress – something L-citrulline nearly never causes.
At this point, we’re still fans of L-arginine, but it’s a bit overrated. If you see it as a supporting ingredient, then that’s fine… but if it’s the NO booster in a supplement, you should pass.
Arginine nitrate, on the other hand… is quite possibly our favorite ingredient on this entire page. That’s the best of both worlds.
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