The Best Pre-Workouts of 2022

man in gym mixing a pre workout


What to Eat Before a Workout | Nutrient Timing | Creatine Timing | Protein Timing | Best Pre-workout Supplements | Best Post-Workout Supplements | Best Creatine Supplements | Best Protein Powder Supplements | Best Peanut Butter | Best Greek Yogurt

As much as you may love to train, consistently completing your workouts day in and day out takes compelling dedication and motivation. At times when your motivation to train is low, pre-workouts may give you the kick in the pants you need to get the most out of a workout. Pre-workouts contain active ingredients designed to enhance various areas of your performance.

Specifically, taking pre-workouts regularly may lead to increased power output, improvements in lean body mass, as well as enhanced muscular endurance, though the data is mixed. While taking a pre-workout may be beneficial, not all of them are produced with the user's long-term health and safety in mind. Therefore, when shopping for a pre-workout, it's important to do your research to ensure supplement safety.

Here, the ACTIVE Reviews Team has taken care of the research portion for you to provide you with the best pre-workouts of 2022, to boost your workouts with safety in mind.

Why Trust Us?

The health and safety of ACTIVE.com's readers is of the utmost importance to us. To ensure your well-being when consuming supplements, we prioritize products that are independently tested by a third party. Additionally, we consulted with ACTIVE's Advisory Board, which includes nutritionists, competitive athletes, coaches, and certified trainers, to make certain that the products we feature are of the highest standards. The ACTIVE Reviews Team is passionate about bringing you products we trust and would personally use.

The Best Pre-Workouts - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall Pre-Workout -Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout

Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Type: Stimulant pre-workout
  • Serving size: 22.9g
  • Calories per serving: Minimal
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Caffeine per serving: 180mg

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In selecting the best overall pre-workout, we considered each product's active ingredients and doses, flavor options, and label transparency. Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout came out on top based on these factors. This pre-workout supplies effective doses of citrulline malate, beta-alanine, betaine, caffeine, L-theanine, and alpha-GPC.

While this pre-workout supplies a hefty 180-milligram dose of caffeine, it also comes in a stim-free version for those avoiding stimulants. This product includes no artificial ingredients, instead using only natural sweeteners and flavoring, and users rave about the twelve tasty flavors. Transparent Labs BULK does away with proprietary blends, using 100% transparent labeling that allows you to know exactly how much of each compound it contains.

What We Like

  • 12 appealing flavor options
  • Caffeinated and stim-free versions
  • Uses transparent labeling
  • No artificial ingredients

What We Don't Like

  • On the expensive side at over $1.50/serving
  • Formula does not include creatine

BUY: Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout

Best Personalized Pre-Workout - Gainful Pre-Workout

Gainful Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 2
  • Type: Stimulant or non-stimulant pre-workout
  • Serving size: 14g
  • Calories per serving: 5
  • Artificial sweeteners: None
  • Caffeine per serving: 150mg, or non-stim

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Ever feel like there's a leap of faith—and maybe some fear of the unknown—every time you try a new pre-workout? The customized supplement company Gainful wants to make that a thing of the past. After you take an in-depth quiz about your personal biology, lifestyle, experience level, and goals, their system generates pre-workout, protein, and hydration supplements based on your answers.

The pre-workout that results is very simple and straightforward, with science-backed dosages of four pretty much inarguable ingredients: L-citrulline, branched-chain amino acids, L-theanine, and beta-alanine. Optionally, you can add (or subtract) 3 grams of creatine monohydrate or 150 milligrams of natural caffeine, which is a nice "I can feel it but I’m not flying across the room" dose. Gainful's pre-workout comes in just two flavors, strawberry lemonade or watermelon.

What We Like

  • Science-backed formulation and dosages
  • 150mg of caffeine a good "middle of the road" dose
  • Can take in or out creatine or caffeine with a simple button

What We Don't Like

  • Only 2 flavors
  • Can’t dial up or down caffeine; it’s 150mg or nothing
  • Can only customized caffeine or creatine content

BUY: Gainful Pre-Workout

Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss - Jacked Factory Burn XT Fat Burner Pre-workout

Jacked Factory Burn XT Fat Burner Pre-workout

<3>SPECS
  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 1
  • Type: Fat burning pre-workout
  • Serving size: 3.7g
  • Calories per serving: None noted
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Caffeine per serving: 270 mg

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While diet and exercise will have the most impact on your weight-loss success, select supplements have also been shown to help boost fat loss. This product made the top of our list for a few reasons. First off, it contains ingredients such as acetyl L-carnitine, green tea leaf extract, Capsimax pepper extract, Bioperine black pepper extract, and caffeine that have been shown to potentially aid in weight loss. These ingredients work either by increasing how many calories your body burns, or increasing fat burning in our body's cells. Additionally, other than these active ingredients, the supplement doesn't contain any unnecessary fillers or proprietary blends.

This pre-workout would be a great option to take during a weight loss phase before hitting the weights, or hopping on your favorite cardio machine. Note: you may notice a slight tingle on your tongue when drinking this supplement due to the pepper extracts it contains.

What We Like

  • Reasonable price point
  • Science-backed ingredients
  • Transparent labeling
  • Compact serving size

What We Don't Like

  • Only available in 1 flavor currently
  • Slight tingling sensation due to pepper extracts

BUY: Jacked Factory Burn XT Fat Burner Pre-workout

Best Pre-Workout for Muscle Building - Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Pre-workout

Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Pre-workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Type: Stimulant pre-workout
  • Serving size: 31g
  • Calories per serving: 15
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Caffeine per serving: 274mg

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Building muscle is no small task. You have to consistently put in the work in the gym and stay on point with your nutrition to maximize muscle gains. But while diet and exercise are the key factors, supplementation can also help to a certain degree. Kaged Muscle's Pre-Kaged pre-workout includes scientifically-backed ingredients such as creatine, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, betaine, and BCAAs, all of which can aid in muscle building. In addition, Pre-Kaged contains additional leucine, a branched-chain amino acid that is responsible for initiating muscle protein synthesis.

With 274 milligrams of caffeine sourced from green coffee beans, this pre-workout is sure to provide you with a jolt of energy to fuel you through your workout. That said, if you are sensitive to caffeine this may not be the best option for you. All Kaged Muscle supplements use transparent labeling and are third-party tested by Informed Choice to ensure safety for athletes. Lastly, it's gluten-free and vegan-friendly for those with dietary restrictions.

What We Like

  • Includes desired ingredients for building muscle
  • Available in a number of appealing flavors
  • Third-party tested
  • Transparent labeling

What We Don't Like

  • Serving size is quite large
  • Rather expensive at $1.70/serving

BUY: Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Pre-workout

Best Pre-Workout for Runners - XWERKS Ignite Pre-Workout

XWERKS Ignite Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 2
  • Source/type: Stimulant pre-workout
  • Serving size: 1 scoop
  • Calories per serving: Minimal
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Caffeine per serving: 150mg

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Running is a sport of determination and mental fortitude. Though listening to music or a podcast with your favorite earbuds while on a run can be motivating, some people may be looking for an extra edge. While many traditional pre-workouts are geared toward muscle building, there are some that cater to the endurance side of the exercise spectrum. Among them, we found XWERKS Ignite Pre-Workout to be the best pre-workout option for runners.

While this product contains many of the ingredients you'd expect to find in a pre-workout, such as caffeine, L-citrulline malate, and beta-alanine, it also includes a few others that lend themselves particularly well to running endurance. These include rhodiola, a well-known nootropic herb that can provide resistance to stress, and DMAE, a compound that may improve focus during exercise. These ingredients could give runners the mental boost they need to complete a long run. In terms of caffeine content, this formula supplies 150 milligrams, which is just enough to boost your energy without the jittery side effects.

What We Like

  • Includes nootropic ingredients to reduce stress and enhance focus
  • 4 flavor options s
  • Free of artificial colors
  • Money back guarantee

What We Don't Like

  • Amount of caffeine may be too low for some people
  • Shipping is extra under $75

BUY: XWERKS Ignite Pre-Workout

Best Pre-Workout for Triathletes - Jacked Factory Stim Free Pump Surge Pre-Workout

Jacked Factory Stim Free Pump Surge Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Type: Stimulant-free pre-workout
  • Serving size: 12.5g (1 scoop)
  • Calories per serving: Minimal
  • Artificial sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium, sucralose
  • Caffeine per serving: None noted

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Triathlons are a particularly demanding endurance activity that combines running, cycling, and swimming into one competition. Triathlon participants must therefore train in three separate sports instead of just one. This kind of training requires outstanding mental focus and endurance to perform at your highest level. Our choice for the best pre-workout for triathletes is Jacked Factory Stim-Free Pump Surge Pre-Workout because it supplies a unique blend of brain-boosting ingredients to help you persevere through the most difficult triathlons.

To make up for the lack of caffeine, this pre-workout supplies two high-octane nootropics to keep your head in the game. These include:

  • Alpha GPC: Compound used for cognitive enhancement that may increase power output in athletes
  • Huperzine-A: Cognitive enhancer that prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in muscle contraction

In addition to these cognitive-enhancing ingredients, this pre-workout also supplies L-citrulline and betaine, two compounds that may help increase blood flow to working muscles during triathlon training.

What We Like

  • May help boost cognitive performance and blood flow to muscles
  • 6 flavor options
  • Produced in a Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) facility
  • Money-back guarantee

What We Don't Like

  • Contains artificial flavors and sweeteners
  • Lacks several ingredients typically found in pre-workouts

BUY: Jacked Factory Stim Free Pump Surge Pre-Workout

Best Pre-Workout for Cyclists - Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged® Sport Pre-Workout

Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged® Sport Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Type: Energy and electrolyte blend
  • Serving size: 13.1g (1 scoop)
  • Calories per serving: 10
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Caffeine per serving: 188mg

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Cycling is a high-intensity sport that places significant energy and hydration demands on the body. Therefore, as most cyclists know, replenishing electrolytes and energy is vital to maintaining performance. Our selection for the best pre-workout for cyclists is Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged® Sport Pre-Workout, which provides a blend of energy ingredients and electrolytes to keep you fueled during even the hardest of spins.

To start, Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged® Sport contains 188 milligrams of caffeine to promote endurance and mental focus. On top of that, it contains an electrolyte blend of sodium and magnesium to aid in meeting your hydration needs while training. This Kaged Muscle formula also includes L-citrulline, betaine, and beta-alanine to support power output and blood flow to working muscles. And last but not least, this product is tested for banned substances by informed Choice to ensure safety for users.

What We Like

  • Contains essential electrolytes for hydration
  • Caffeine is naturally sourced
  • 5 appealing flavor options
  • Naturally flavored
  • Free shipping in the USA

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks potassium, another essential electrolyte for hydration
  • Contains artificial sweeteners

BUY: Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged® Sport Pre-Workout

Best Vegetarian Pre-Workout - Cira Pre-Game Pre-Workout

Cira Pre-Game Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Type: Stimulant pre-workout
  • Serving size: 13.5g
  • Calories per serving: None noted
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose, acesulfame potassium
  • Caffeine per serving: 200mg

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Traditionally, pre-workouts have contained several ingredients that were not necessarily vegetarian-friendly. That said, in recent years, with a surge in the number of people adhering to a vegetarian diet, many companies have modified their formulas to be plant-based. For the best vegetarian pre-workout currently available, Cira Pre-Game Pre-Workout is our top pick. This pre-workout contains a blend of nine effective ingredients and is made without sugar or carbs. The top ingredients include beta-alanine, L-citrulline, caffeine, L-theanine, and betaine.

Cira Pre-Game makes a great option for plant-based athletes looking for a quick energy boost to power them through a tough training session. With the added creatine and beta-alanine, this product can further support energy production. And not only is it plant-based, it's also soy- and gluten-free. Just one scoop mixed with 10-12 ounces of water 30-40 minutes before training is all you need to unlock the benefits of this unique pre-workout blend.

What We Like

  • Ingredients are 100% vegetarian
  • Contains tried-and-true pre-workout ingredients
  • Free of artificial coloring
  • Uses transparent labeling

What We Don't Like

  • Contains artificial sweeteners and flavoring
  • May be too much caffeine for those who are sensitive to stimulants

BUY: Cira Pre-Game Pre-Workout

Best Non-Stim Pre-Workout - Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

Transparent Labs Stim Free Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Source/type: Stim-free pre-workout
  • Serving size: 22.8g
  • Calories per serving: Minimal
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Caffeine per serving: None noted

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While many pre-workouts contain large amounts of caffeine, there are various stimulant-free versions on the market that are meant to enhance your workouts through other means. Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout is our top choice for the best non-stim pre-workout. When performing muscle-building exercises, the blood flow to your muscles plays an important role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis, and this pre-workout includes a number of ingredients (citrulline malate, beta-alanine, betaine, huperzine-a) that help to enhance your muscle fullness during workouts.

This pre-workout comes in an extensive array of tasty flavors, and as an added bonus, it's carb-free for those following a lower-carb or keto diet. If you're looking for better muscle pumps during strength workouts without the caffeine jolt, a stim-free product such as Transparent Labs is worth a try.

What We Like

  • Can enhance blood flow to muscles during workouts
  • Contains no stimulants
  • 10 appealing flavor options
  • Uses 100% transparent labeling

What We Don't Like

  • On the expensive side at over $1.50 per serving
  • Shipping is extra unless you spend over $149

BUY: Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

Best Budget Pre-Workout - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-workout

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 2
  • Type: Stimulant pre-workout
  • Serving size: 10g
  • Calories per serving: 10
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Caffeine per serving: 175mg

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There's no question that regularly buying nutrition supplements can really add up. Optimum Nutrition's Gold Standard pre-workout is a time-tested formula that includes science-backed ingredients such as creatine, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, and caffeine, and provides an exceptional value for the price. In the stimulant department, it includes 175 milligrams of caffeine, which is enough to support your energy levels without leaving you jittery. This pre-workout makes a good option for beginners or budget-minded individuals looking to still take a pre-workout without breaking the bank.

What We Like

  • Affordable pricing
  • Includes all common pre-workout ingredients
  • Comes in 4 flavors

What We Don't Like

  • Some active ingredients are underdosed
  • Contains artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners

BUY: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-workout

Best Tasting Pre-Workout - Bucked Up Woke AF High-Stim Pre-Workout

Bucked Up Woke AF High Stim Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Type: High stimulant pre-workout
  • Serving size: 10.68g
  • Calories per serving: None noted
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Caffeine per serving: 333mg

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Even though the flavoring of nutritional supplements has come a long way in recent years, some pre-workouts still fall short in the flavor department. Caffeine is a key ingredient in many pre-workouts, but due to its naturally bitter taste, it can take quite a bit of effort to mask its flavor. Bucked Up Woke AF High-Stim Pre-Workout really stood out as the leader among all the products we tested in the best-tasting pre-workout category. And it comes in six delicious flavors, so you're sure to find one that strikes your fancy.

While the supplement's flavoring is on point, that's not all it has going for it. Bucked Up Woke AF includes several active ingredients to boost performance, such as citrulline malate, beta-alanine, alpha GPC, deer antler velvet extract, and caffeine. Supplying a whopping 333 milligrams of caffeine per serving, this pre-workout is certainly not for the weak-hearted, so tread with caution if you try it. As an added bonus, this supplement is sugar-free, making it a keto-friendly option.

What We Like

  • Good selection of appealing flavors
  • Properly-dosed active ingredients
  • Naturally colored
  • Uses transparent labeling

What We Don't Like

  • May be too much caffeine for some users
  • Higher price point than some other pre-workouts

BUY: Bucked Up Woke AF High-Stim Pre-Workout

What to Consider When Shopping for Pre-Workout

Active Ingredients

One of the most important things to consider when shopping for a pre-workout is the active ingredients it contains. Based on your goals, you may prioritize certain active ingredients over others. Caffeine is the most popular active ingredient found in stimulant pre-workouts, while creatine is another common active ingredient found in pre-workouts generally. Creatine is a well-researched amino acid that's been shown to increase high-intensity exercise performance with daily supplementation of 3-5 grams. Other common ingredients you'll find in pre-workouts include branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), beta-alanine, and L-citrulline.

Proprietary Blends

Proprietary blends are mixtures of multiple ingredients. Amounts of each ingredient in a proprietary blend are typically not specified on the label, which makes it difficult to distinguish exactly how much of a given ingredient is in the pre-workout. Companies often use proprietary blends to hide the fact that they are underdosing a certain ingredient. In general, it's best to steer clear of proprietary blends and instead stick to brands that use transparent labeling.

Third-Party Testing

Third-party testing is when a supplement company sends a sample of its products to an outside lab to test the products for contaminants and banned substances. If a pre-workout is third-party verified, this means it's free of potentially harmful or illegal substances. Choosing a pre-workout that is third-party tested ensures a certain level of safety and is highly recommended when shopping for supplements. This is especially important for those competing in federations that test for banned substances.

Cost Per Serving

Pre-workouts range dramatically in price depending on the complexity of the active ingredients they contain. When shopping for a pre-workout, be sure to keep your desired budget in mind. You may calculate the cost per serving to get an idea of how different brands compare in terms of cost. We've done the legwork for you here by providing a price rating scale on all of the products we've reviewed.

Type of Sweetener

Sweeteners are added to pre-workouts to improve their flavor and mask the off-putting taste of some of the ingredients. Most often, companies use calorie-free sweeteners to add sweetness without additional calories. Many of these sweeteners come from artificial sources, so some people try to avoid them for various reasons. Companies have responded by using natural calorie-free sweeteners such as stevia leaf extract, monk fruit extract, and fermented sugar cane.

How We Rate Supplements

Price/Affordability:

Prices depend on a number of factors, and tend to fluctuate over time, so we’ve kept our affordability rating scale simple so you can easily see how products compare.

$ = under $1 per serving
$$ = $1-2 per serving
$$$ = over $2 per serving

Flavor Options:

When it comes to dietary supplements that you take frequently, or even daily, options are important. And while your protein powder or pre-workout doesn’t have to taste good to be effective, having several flavors to choose from can make it easier to stick with your fitness and health goals.

N/A = Unflavored
1 = 1-2 flavor options
2 = 3-4 flavor options
3 = 5 or more flavor options

FAQs about Pre-Workout

Who should take a pre-workout?

Pre-workouts are designed for healthy individuals looking for improvements in energy levels and exercise performance while training. Some people may find they have plenty of energy to train, therefore a non-stimulant pre-workout may be best for them. Others may not wish to take a pre-workout at all, which is totally fine because they certainly are not necessary to perform at a high level.

What does a pre-workout do?

In simple terms, taking a pre-workout will provide you with a boost of energy and prime your body for exercise. Depending on the active ingredients in the pre-workout, different brands may have differing effects. Most pre-workouts contain a good amount of caffeine or other stimulants to provide energy and stamina. That said, some other pre-workouts are caffeine-free and focus on increasing blood flow to the working muscles to enhance the benefits of exercise.

How much caffeine is in pre-workout supplements?

Generally speaking, caffeinated pre-workouts usually contain anywhere from 100-400 milligrams of caffeine. When starting out, we recommend trying one with a lower amount of caffeine until you become accustomed to its effects. Some brands make stimulant-free pre-workouts that contain no caffeine, although they usually contain other active ingredients as a means to enhance performance in other ways.

Is pre-workout bad for you?

When used sparingly as part of a well-designed training and nutrition plan, pre-workouts are generally not bad for you. It's when pre-workouts are abused that they may have harmful effects. Always use the pre-workout as instructed on the label. In addition, it greatly depends on the specific pre-workout you choose, as some have been found to have potentially harmful ingredients. We recommend choosing a pre-workout that is third-party certified to ensure it is free of contaminants and banned substances. Or alternatively consider using energy drinks.

When should I take pre-workout?

Most pre-workouts are designed to be taken 30-60 minutes before training for the best effect. Manufacturers will generally specify the mixing instructions on the label. Most pre-workouts require you to mix 1-2 scoops with 6-12 ounces of water, though instructions may be more specific based on your body size. If your pre-workout contains caffeine, it's important to be aware that it may affect your sleep, so taking it later in the day may not be the best idea for some people.

What to Eat Before a Workout | Nutrient Timing | Creatine Timing | Protein Timing | Best Pre-workout Supplements | Best Post-Workout Supplements | Best Creatine Supplements | Best Protein Powder Supplements | Best Peanut Butter | Best Greek Yogurt

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

About the Author

Daniel Preiato

Daniel Preiato is a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition and nutrition education. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and an avid strength athlete. He uses his background in clinical nutrition to dissect research and help individuals meet their health and fitness goals.

See More from Daniel

Daniel Preiato is a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition and nutrition education. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and an avid strength athlete. He uses his background in clinical nutrition to dissect research and help individuals meet their health and fitness goals.

See More from Daniel

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