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When it comes to working out, it can be difficult to know where to start. Not only are we constantly inundated with countless images and media emphasizing the “ideal” body type, but there are a seemingly endless amount of products and supplements that are pitched to consumers with the goal of achieving a “fit body.”
One of those products is pre-workout, coveted by many people who exercise regularly as a way to help “push” through a workout and remain focused when they may otherwise be feeling unmotivated or lethargic. It’s almost like having some coffee before tackling a big assignment; the best pre-workout helps your body prepare for the task ahead, ensuring that it’s ready to do it well.
Sounds great, right? It can be, but it’s important to use it mindfully. There’s plenty of anecdotal and science-based evidence that proves that there are benefits to using pre-workout, but it’s important to remember that supplements are not a one-size fits all solution; what works for a fitness influencer you follow on Instagram may not be right for you. It’s important to not only carefully assess your pre-workout options, but to really understand the effect it has on your body.
How Does Pre-Workout Work?
Pre-workout is a supplement, meaning that it helps to enhance your performance; just like your body can’t run solely on coffee, it can’t sustain itself on just pre-workout. Make sure you’re keeping your body properly fueled; that means drinking the appropriate amount of water and eating regularly, to ensure you’re not only getting the desired effect but keeping your body healthy and being safe. These are all contributing factors to how your body can ultimately perform during a workout; pre-workout can’t shoulder the burden alone.
Whether taken in the form of a powder mixed in your drink, a shake or even a meal, fitness experts recommend taking your pre-workout about 30 minutes or so before you plan on exercising. This gives it enough time to start working when you need it to.
Once ingested, your blood sugar levels will increase which will in turn provide your body with that much-needed energy boost. If you’re new to using a pre-workout, you may want to ease into it; try taking half the recommended dose to get started, and gradually work to taking the full amount.
You may notice some unintended side effects from taking pre-workout, such as feeling overstimulated or having interrupted sleep. If these issues persist, you may want to adjust your frequency and dosage, or stop using it altogether. Keep in mind that we are also not licensed medical professionals, so it’s best to consult with a doctor if you’re unsure of whether a pre-workout is right for you.
Pre-Workout Buying Guide
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when shopping for the best pre-workout online.
Ingredients: Make sure to read the label when assessing if a pre-workout supplement is right for you; everyone is different, so while recommendations are nice, you need to make sure that it’s right for you and your body. First things first, look at the amount of caffeine as different pre-workouts have different amounts of caffeine in them. The recommended daily amount of caffeine is 400 milligrams, which equates to about four cups (or eight ounces) of coffee. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to feelings of anxiety, as well as developing insomnia and high blood pressure.
Pre-workouts that contain cathinones like M1 and MDVP should be avoided entirely; think of these as cousins to the amphetamine drug family, which you do not want to get acquainted with as they produce similar to effects to ecstasy. Instead, look for pre-workouts that have branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), taurine, B-vitamins, all of which are beneficial to your body and aid it in having an efficient workout.
Price: The world of fitness can get expensive, especially when you venture into supplements. Unfortunately, brands have recognized how much some people are willing to pay to get in shape. When it comes to pre-workout, you don’t need to break your wallet to find the one for you. There are many affordable options that will give you the boost you’re looking for.
1. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy Powder
Described as “pre-workout for people who don’t like pre-workout,” this powder only has 100 milligrams of natural caffeine, in addition to helpful amino acids that provide the boost of energy you need, while also replenishing your electrolytes. Simply mix at least two scoops (but no more than six) with at least 10 ounces of water before you plan on training. Available in a variety of delicious flavors, from Pineapple Twist to Strawberry Burst.
2. Cellucor C4 Sport Pre-Workout Powder
Whether you’re a pro or you simply enjoy working out, Cellucor’s pre-workout is designed to not only put some pep in your step, but help you build lean muscle mass and increase your strength. One scoop and six to eight ounces of water is all it takes. But don’t just take our word for it, this supplement is certified by the NSF and is highly recommended, with endorsements from the United States National Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), as well as the National Hockey League, the Canadian Football League and the Major Baseball League; over 10,000 five star reviews is nothing to sneeze at either.
3. NITROSURGE Pre-Workout Supplement
This powerhouse pre-workout powder contains zero artificial fillers or food dyes, and is instead crafted with cGMP-certified ingredients, boosting your blood-flow and nitric oxide (NO) levels to fuel your body and maximize your performance.
4. Redcon1 Total War Pre-Workout
Total War’s award winning pre-workout powder promises to hit you as hard as the first time you used it, every time. You’ll notice an increase in your focus, energy and performance, results that are guaranteed or your money back; if you’re not impressed, you’re entitled to a full refund, though we have a feeling you won’t need to worry about that.