Over the last few years the pre workout energy drink market has exploded. There are hundreds if not thousands of products to choose from. So how do you know which one is the best for you to accomplish your goals?
In this article we’re going to explore in depth the different factors that make a great pre workout. I’ll also show you some example products that contain high quality ingredients for the best cost. After reading this article you should feel comfortable in being able to choose the right pre workout energy drink based on the quality of the ingredients as well as the cost.
As a side note I’ll be talking about pre workout energy drinks that contain stimulants. If you are sensitive to stimulants and are looking for stim free energy drinks this article can still be useful for you. All of the other factors that make up a good pre workout still apply just without the added kick of caffeine.
What Makes A Great Pre Workout Energy Drink?
Considering we’re talking about pre workout energy drinks I think this one is a no brainer. Stimulants like caffeine and di-caffeine malate are what you’re looking for here. The amount of caffeine that you want will depend on how sensitive you are to stimulants. For reference a standard 8oz cup of coffee contains approximately 70mg – 100mg of caffeine. A lot of the newer pre workouts contain this at a minimum and sometimes much more. So be sure to check the nutrition label to see how much the pre workout contains before purchasing.
A great pre workout supplement will give you a lot of focus in the gym. Being able to focus really helps you power through your workout without distractions leading to a better quality workout. Ingredients that you’ll be looking for here are Tyrosine, Caffeine, Taurine, Theanine, and Acetyl L-Carnitine. The pre workout doesn’t have to contain all of these ingredients but it should contain at least two.
Being able to train for longer periods of time will help you maximize your gains. When choosing a pre workout be sure to look out for endurance ingredients like Caffeine, L-Citrulline, and Beta Alanine.
Being able to lift more weight with proper form will ultimately lead to bigger and stronger muscles. Ingredients that will help increase strength are Caffeine, Creatine, and Beta Alanine.
There really is no better feeling in the gym than achieving a great pump. You’ll notice a lot of pre workout energy drinks make claims about their products being able to produce skin tearing pumps. Ingredients that will increase your pumps and vascularity are the ones that will raise nitric oxide levels also known as NO2 boosters. Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring gas in the body that helps increase blood flow.
Some common iIngredients that are backed by scientific evidence that will raise your nitric oxide levels are L-Citrulline, L-Arginine, and beetroot juice.
Let’s be real. If you’re going to be drinking pre workout energy drinks often you’ll want to make sure it’s one that you can enjoy. With advances in food technology and flavoring systems there are a lot of great tasting pre workouts without the added calories or sugar. Taste is a very subjective thing so you’ll have to do some experimenting to find the right one for you.
A lot of these supplement companies use the same manufactures behind the scenes to create their products. That means that the ingredients in brand a are the same exact quality as brand b. The only difference between the two is how much they charge you based on a lot of other factors like their operating costs and brand image they’re trying to create. So don’t be afraid to find pre workouts that are more cost effective. If it’s a reputable brand then the odds are they’re using decent ingredients.
Quality Pre Workout Energy Drink Ingredients
1. Caffeine (Energy)
Effective Dose: 100+mg
Caffeine is one of the most popular stimulants on the market and may improve mental alertness, memory, exercise performance, and fat burning. Caffeine doses vary greatly between products so be sure to find one that you think you’ll be able to tolerate. For reference a standard 8oz cup of coffee contains approximately 70mg – 100mg of caffeine.
2. Di-caffeine Malate (Energy)
Effective Dose: 50+mg
Di-caffeine malate is a form of caffeine fused with malic acid to form an ionic bond at a ratio of about 75:25. It is used in pre-workout supplements to provide a sustained release of caffeine and deliver a lasting level of energy. The malic acid present in this compound helps to prevent digestive stress often caused by natural caffeine and caffeine anhydrous.
3. Tyrosine (Focus)
Effective Dose: 500-2000mg
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that is used to produce noradrenaline and dopamine; it appears to reduce stress during exposure to acute stressors (which tend to deplete noradrenaline) and may help to prevent stress-induced memory deficits.
4. Taurine (Focus)
Effective Dose: 500mg-2,000mg
Taurine has important functions in the heart and brain, including supporting nerve growth. It might improve heart failure because it seems to lower blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is often too active in people with high blood pressure and CHF.
5. Theanine (Focus)
Effective Dose: 100-200mg (Best taken with caffeine)
L-theanine is an amino acid and may affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. These include serotonin and dopamine, which influence mood, sleep, and emotion, and cortisol, which helps the body deal with stress. Research suggests that L-theanine might provide a range of health benefits, which may include improved mental focus and better sleep quality.
6. Acetyl L-Carnitine (Focus)
Effective Dose: 500-2,000mg
L-Carnitine may modestly reduce fatigue in elderly people with low muscular endurance but its effects on athletes during physical activity aren’t well-supported. L-Carnitine may slightly limit muscle damage during resistance exercise. Minor beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin sensitivity have been noted in people with diabetes and healthy people alike, but much more research is needed to confirm this.
7. L-Citrulline (Endurance, Pump)
Effective Dose: 6g+
L-Citrulline is one of the three dietary amino acids in the urea cycle, alongside L-arginine and L-Ornithine. Taking L-Citrulline increases plasma levels of ornithine and arginine and improves the ammonia recycling process and nitric oxide metabolism Limited research suggests that it results in reduced fatigue and improved endurance for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
8. Beta Alanine (Endurance, Strength)
Effective Dose: 3g+
Beta-alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine. Beta-alanine has been shown to enhance muscular endurance. Many people report being able to perform one or two additional reps in the gym when training in sets of 8–15 repetitions. Beta-alanine supplementation can also improve moderate- to high-intensity cardiovascular exercise performance, like rowing or sprinting.
9. Creatine (Strength)
Effective Dose: 5g+
Creatine is among the most well-researched and effective supplements. It can help with exercise performance by rapidly producing energy during intense activity. Creatine may also provide cognitive benefits but more research is needed in that area. The primary benefit of creatine is an improvement in strength and power output during resistance exercise.
10. L-arginine (Pump)
Effective Dose: 3g-6g
L-Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid found in the diet. It is a dietary supplement used mostly by athletic people because it is the amino acid that directly produces nitric oxide via the nitric oxide synthase enzymes.L-arginine is a popular supplement for athletes as it is touted to increase nitric oxide activity in the body.
11. Beetroot Juice / Extract (Pump)
Effective Dose: (Juice: 70-140ml, Extract: 500mg )
Drinking beet juice raises nitric oxide levels in your body. Research shows nitric oxide can increase blood flow, improve lung function and strengthen muscle contraction.
This combination has stimulated athletes to supplement with beet juice for improved cardiorespiratory endurance and performance.
3 Quality Pre Workout Energy Drinks
1. Redcon1 Total War
Average Cost: $30 for 30 servings
Redcon1 Total War has an impressive list of ingredients and contains 30 servings per container. You can usually get a monthly supply for approximately $30 which comes out to about a dollar a day. This makes it one of the most cost effective pre workouts on the market. Check out this article for an in depth review on Redcon1 Total War.
- Caffeine Anhydrous: 250mg
- Di-Caffeine Malate: 100mg
- Citrulline Malate: 6g
- Beta Alanine: 3.2g
2. Cellucor C4 Ultimate Pre Workout
Average Cost: $25 for 20 servings
Cellucor is a trusted brand that has been involved in the fitness industry for over a decade. They created one of the original pre workouts called Cellucor C4 and it’s still one of the best selling pre workouts today. As research and technologies in fitness and supplementation advance, Cellucor stays up to date with the most recent and cutting edge trends. C4 Ultimate is one of their more recent formulas and boasts an impressive list of ingredients. It’s always a best seller on Amazon.
- Caffeine: 300mg
- Citrulline Malate: 6g
- Beta Alanine: 3.2g
- Micronized Creatine Monohydrate: 3g
3. Pre JYM Pre Workout
Average Cost: $39 for 30 servings
Pre JYM Pre Workout was created by bodybuilding and fitness legend Jim Stoppani. Jim Stoppani has been educating people on everything fitness for over a decade now. He is highly regarded in the industry. It’s no mistake that his pre workout has made this list. Pre JYM is one of the more expensive pre workout supplements on the market but just take a look at the list of ingredients and you’ll understand why. You might want to try to find a discount code or wait for this one to go on sale before trying.
- Caffeine Anhydrous: 300mg
- Citrulline Malate: 6g
- Beta Alanine: 2g
- Beet Extract: 500mg
- Creatine HCL: 2g
Thanks to the pre workout supplement boom there are more products than ever to help you increase your performance and maximize your gains in the gym. The problem is trying to find the best one to meet your needs. When trying to find the perfect pre workout you want to consider things like energy, focus, pump, strength, endurance, taste, and cost.
Before buying anything it’s always a good idea to read the nutrition label and see exactly what you’re getting. Try to avoid products that say things like “proprietary blend” because usually it’s just a clever way of marketing a lot of under dosed ingredients. Make sure that the pre workout you choose contains the minimum effective dose of each ingredient. Just because a pre workout contains 100 ingredients doesn’t mean there’s enough of each to be effective. If you use the tips outlined in this article you are on your way to making a well informed decision on choosing the right pre workout for you. Best of luck to you on making some serious gains this year and the years to come!