Athletes, bodybuilders, and everyday gym goers take their fitness routines seriously. They may have important goals, such as improving their performance, increasing their strength, boosting their endurance, and decreasing their weight or fat loss. Yet, all fitness enthusiasts recognize their workouts can be challenging at times. They may look into pre-workout supplements to enhance their energy and motivation, support their gym sessions, accelerate their recovery, and, ultimately, improve their progress.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s our Top 10. Click through or scroll down to learn why!

  1. Shifted Maximum
  2. Legion Pulse
  3. Ghost Legend
  4. Bucked Up
  5. EVL Nutrition ENGN
  6. BPN Flight
  7. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
  8. Redcon1 Total War
  9. Nitrosurge
  10. Cellucor C4

Pre-workout supplements, or pre-workouts, are dietary formulas designed primarily to improve fitness performance. The capsules, powders, or chewables contain multiple ingredients, each supporting a different result: energy, focus and mood, anti-fatigue, pump and blood flow, strength, electrolytes, and recovery. Each brand creates a unique athletic supplement formula, so consumers need to understand what the ingredients are, what they promote, and what their side effects could be. After all, athletes need a supplement to target their particular goals, integrate with their lifestyle, and complement their health and well-being. Learn about each common component below.

Most Important Pre-Workout Ingredients: Functions & Doses

IngredientFunctionsOptimal Dose
CaffeineEnergy & Focus275mg
L-CitrullinePump and Blood Flow Support8g
Beta-AlanineEndurance & Anti-Fatigue2.5g
Betaine anhydrousStrength Support & Power2.5g
CreatineStrength Support, Power, & Body Composition2.5g
TaurineEndurance & Increase Force Output1.5g
Alpha GPCMemory, Mood, Mental Performance, & Energy300mg
TyrosineEnergy, Focus, & Endurance1.5g
SodiumMuscular Hydration, Blood Volume150mg
PotassiumMuscular Contraction & Hydration80mg

Energy Ingredients

One of the main reasons fitness buffs look into pre-workout supplements is for immediately available energy. It can be challenging to gather the motivation to head to the gym day after day, get through a workout, or push circuits and repetitions to the limit. Pre-workouts can offer athletes a boost of energy for prolonged exercise. Multiple ingredients can support this goal in different ways.

Caffeine Anhydrous

Many athletic supplements contain caffeine anhydrous to boost energy. Coffee beans and leaves go through a dehydration process to remove any water content, resulting in concentrated caffeine powder. It is known for its convenience, as it is easier to consume the powder than to drink multiple brewed coffees. Once ingested, it stimulates the nervous system, potentially providing:

However, consumers must be aware of the potential risks of this ingredient. They can take note of the caffeine dosage, ensure it is appropriate for their body, and carefully measure their pre-workout supplements. It is easy to overdose on caffeine anhydrous, leading to dangerous or potentially fatal outcomes. Side effects may also include:

  • Digestive system distress
  • Increased anxiety or tension
  • Insomnia
  • Erratic heartbeats
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Dehydration

Dicaffeine Malate

Caffeine or caffeine anhydrous can deliver a quick increase in energy. Still, it comes with side effects that some athletes can avoid with Dicaffeine Malate. It combines caffeine and malic acid, a natural acid found in fruits and vegetables.

Dicaffeine Malate provides similar benefits to caffeine, including increased alertness, focus, energy, power, and strength. However, the inclusion of malic acid can hinder the ‘caffeine crash’ that comes along with caffeine anhydrous. Rather, athletes may experience sustained energy, preferable for long fitness sessions and endurance work. Keep in mind that due to the high caffeine content, this ingredient still carries the same risks and most of the potential side effects as caffeine.


L-Theanine is an amino acid found mainly in black and green tea, praised for its ability to help alertness, concentration, and energy while easing anxiety, stress, and insomnia symptoms. In some pre-workout supplements, L-Theanine and caffeine appear on the same list of ingredients. Theanine can work with caffeine to enhance positive mental and physical performance without inducing stress or raising blood pressure. L-Theanine is a natural way to boost energy and improve workouts for many athletes. Yet, for others, there may be some mild side effects such as drowsiness and headaches.


Theobromine is a natural compound found in chocolate and tea. It has a stimulant effect, similar to or better than caffeine for athletic performance. Rather than an immediate energy boost, it may increase energy gradually and sustain the level for longer. However, it does share similar side effects to caffeine, such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, and digestive issues.

Nootropic (Focus and Mood) Ingredients

Energy boosts are just one of the elements of cardio, strength training, and resistance work. Attention, mood, and motivation can also affect how workouts go and how long individuals stick to their fitness plans and goals. Some athletes look for nootropic ingredients or compounds that boost cognitive functioning.


Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, Alpha-GPC for short, is one of the most common nootropic ingredients in athletic supplements. It contains a rich amount of choline, naturally occurring in the brain, and some nutrient-dense foods. Alpha GPC can deliver choline directly to the brain, potentially offering:

  • Increased focus, clarity, and alertness
  • Positive outlook and mood
  • Enhanced learning capabilities
  • Better endurance
  • Boosted growth hormone production

Since chlorine naturally occurs in the body, many athletes consume Alpha-GPC without short-term side effects. However, excessive Alpha-GPC may lead to insomnia, headaches, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, confusion, and digestive system distress.


L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that the body naturally creates from another type of amino acid, phenylalanine. L-Tyrosine helps the brain produce neurotransmitters that enhance mood, alertness, attention, focus and lower stress. Since this is the case, many athletes supplement with L-Tyrosine to improve their cognitive functions during workouts or training sessions. Many fitness professionals add L-Tyrosine to their routines without noted side effects. However, in high doses, individuals may experience migraines, headaches, or digestive issues.


Theobromine may be a favorite amongst gymgoers for increased energy, but it may also offer another benefit. Combined with caffeine, it may boost mood and cognition. Caffeine and theobromine travel to the brain and bind to adenosine receptors, which are responsible for sleepiness and fatigue. As they stimulate these receptors, they can positively affect cognition. At higher doses, however, theobromine can produce negative mood effects.

Anti-Fatigue Ingredients

Many people who work out may be challenging their bodies in new or progressive ways. Naturally, this may cause muscles to fatigue during or between workouts. It can disrupt or reduce performance, endurance, and proper form. Many pre-workout supplements combat this issue with stimulants, such as caffeine. However, athletes may encounter less-than-desirable energy crashes. Instead, anti-fatigue ingredients may reduce weakness, support power and strength, and maintain energy levels for longer.


The body naturally produces Beta-Alanine, a component in Carnosine, the molecule beneficial for muscle strength and vigor. Many athletes choose to supplement with Beta Alanine to increase Carnosine. They may reap multiple benefits, such as:

  • Better performance during high-intensity cardio, strength training, or power sports
  • Improved time to exhaustion
  • Reduced muscle fatigue for strength and resistance training
  • Prolonged exercise and endurance capacities

One of the only documented side effects of excess Beta-Alanine is paraesthesia, or tingling, in the body. However, consumers can avoid this by verifying the dosage in their pre-workouts.

Malic Acid

Malic Acid is a type of acid found in certain fruits and vegetables. Many athletic supplements and sports drinks include malic acid as an anti-fatigue ingredient. Consumers may note benefits such as:

  • Sustained energy and endurance during high-intensity exercise
  • Decreased fatigue factors such as blood ammonia levels
  • Extended time to exhaustion
  • Enhanced performance
  • Quicker recovery

Since Malic Acid naturally occurs in foods, most athletes can safely consume it when mixed into a pre-workout formula. Some may experience negative side effects such as digestive issues or dehydration. 

Agmatine Sulfate

Agmatine Sulfate is a naturally occurring chemical produced from an amino acid, Arginine. Many nutrition and fitness enthusiasts commend Agmatine Sulfate for offering a variety of health benefits. Athletes, in particular, may see improvements in athletic performance, muscle power and endurance, and pain management. However, Excess agmatine sulfate may cause side effects such as increased appetite and digestive issues.

Pump and Blood Flow Ingredients

Individuals who are strength training or performing resistance work may wish to enhance their results, support muscle growth, and speed up recovery. Pump pre-workout supplements can assist with all of these elements. Specific ingredients focus on increasing blood flow to the muscles and improving vascularity. Increasing blood flow allows for efficient nutrient and oxygen delivery and waste removal. As a result, gym goers may benefit from better and faster muscle repair and development.

L-Citrulline Malate

L-Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid, leading to the creation of Nitric Oxide in the body. Nitric Oxide is essential for relaxing the arteries, expanding blood vessels and increasing blood flow. When combined with Malate, or malic acid, it is beneficial to sustained energy levels and longer-lasting pump results. When included in a pre-workout supplement containing other amino acids, most think of L-Citrulline as side-effect free. However, as a single amino acid supplement, Citrulline may cause metabolism problems and overworked kidneys.

Strength Support & Body Composition Ingredients

A noble goal for many gym goers is an ideal body composition. They may wish to build muscle and lose fat to achieve the best ratio. Athletes may look for muscle-building supplements to help them achieve their goals quicker and easier. Some pre-workouts include these ingredients in their unique formulas.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine may be one of the most popular strength support and body composition ingredients. It naturally occurs in muscles, improving performance and increasing muscle mass. When athletes consume creatine, they may see enhanced benefits. The bodybuilding and strength training industry praises Creatine Monohydrate as the best compound form. It can provide advantages such as:

  • Increased muscle performance for high-intensity strength and resistance training
  • More fat-free mass (muscle mass)
  • Reduced muscle cramps and muscle fatigue

Side effects may include weight gain, digestive distress, high blood pressure, nausea, and dizziness. Excess creatine can lead to adverse consequences such as reduced natural creatine production, liver damage, and kidney damage.

Betaine Anhydrous

Betaine is a natural chemical produced in the body and in certain nutritious foods. Many bodybuilders and strength trainers use Betaine Anhydrous supplements for:

  • Increased training volume
  • Improved body composition
  • Boosted power (not strength)
  • Decreased fat mass and body fat percentage

Negative effects of Betaine Anhydrous may include mild digestive issues, nausea, and increased cholesterol.

Agmatine Sulfate

Agmatine Sulfate, a natural chemical produced from Arginine, offers anti-fatigue benefits and can also increase Nitric Oxide, boost blood flow, and increase muscle power and endurance. Consumers must watch for potential side effects such as increased appetite, weight gain, and digestive problems.

Electrolytes Ingredients

Athletes may appreciate electrolytes in their pre-workouts. Electrolytes are minerals that deliver electrical charges to cells throughout the body. When people workout, they can lose a significant amount of water and electrolytes. If unreplenished, they can suffer from hindered athletic performance, fatigue, and dehydration. Pre-workout and post-workout supplements containing electrolyte ingredients can help prevent these dangerous conditions.


Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes for athletes. It is an essential mineral to ensure proper hydration, fluid balance, and nutrient delivery and absorption. When training, individuals lose a significant amount of fluids and sodium through sweat. Since this is the case, athletes should replenish their sodium loss. It reduces their risks of adverse consequences related to dehydration. It also increases athletic performance and improves alertness and energy levels. However, consumers should be careful to monitor salt intake. Excess sodium can lead to excessively reactive reflexes and loss of muscle control. It can also increase the risk of seizures and coma.


Similar to Sodium, Potassium is another essential electrolyte for those who are working out or training. Sweating causes potassium loss, which is why it may be an important pre-workout or post-workout supplement. While low potassium levels can have severe consequences, excellent potassium levels help maintain proper cell fluid levels, muscle and nerve functions, and heart rate. Consumers should verify the dosage of potassium in their pre-workouts as excessive potassium can lead to muscle weakness, tingling, nausea, erratic heartbeats, and death.

Recovery Support Ingredients

Recovery can be painful for many athletes, especially if their workouts are intense or challenging. They may also experience long recovery periods hindering or delaying subsequent training. Fortunately, some athletic supplements contain ingredients supporting muscle recovery.


Taurine is a naturally-occurring chemical in human and animal tissues. When taken as a dietary supplement, it may offer significant advantages for recovery. In particular, it may reduce muscle damage, decrease oxidative stress, and accelerate muscle repair. Consumers should be careful with taurine, especially with other ingredients such as caffeine.

Deer Antler Velvet Extract

Deer velvet is a substance that grows on deer antlers. Many people use the powder or extract for medicine or in health supplements to support various conditions. For gym goers, it may increase strength and endurance for some muscular groups and reduce recovery time. There are no conclusive studies on the side effects of consuming deer velvet. However, professional athletes and competitors should pay attention to the brand, source, and other substances for their supplements. Some products may contain IGF-1, a prohibited substance that can show up on tests.


AstraGin is a plant-derived supplement consisting of Panax Notoginseng (Ginseng) and Astragalus Membranaceus (Astragalus). Athletes can consume this unique combination to improve their gut health and increase nutrient absorption. Once they have healed and improved their digestive tract, their body can adequately deliver and absorb nutrients. Consumers may see improvements in athletic performance, lean muscle development and strength, power, training volume, and body composition.


ActiGin is a plant-derived supplement made of Panax Notoginseng (Ginseng) and Rosa Roxburghii (Chestnut Rose). These traditional Chinese medicine ingredients may improve blood flow and energy levels while reducing inflammation and muscle pain or soreness. Particularly, ActiGin may hasten recovery time, reducing muscle damage, oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle pain.

Pre-Workout SupplementCaffeineL-CitrullineBeta-Alanine
Shifted Maximum300mg8g2.5g
Legion Pulse350mg8g3.6g
GHOST LEGEND® pre-workout250mg4g3.2g
BUCKED UP200mg4g2g
EVL Nutrition ENGN250mg01.6g
Bare Performance Nutrition Flight300mg2g3.2g
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout175mg750 micro.1.5g
Redcon1 – Total War320mg03.2g
Jacked Factory Nitrosurge180mg3g1.6g
Cellucor – C4 Original150mg.7g1.6g

The Top 10 Best Pre-Workouts

For our ranking of the 10 best pre-workouts, Brainz started with a field of 24 products. Each product was sampled, used prior to a workout, and evaluated according to its ingredients, taste, and results.

Find Your Function: How to Pick the Best Pre Workout Supplement

What do we mean by function? One way to score the best pre-workout is to look at the specific ingredients as well as the dosages within each serving. What are you looking for? Strength? Focus? Energy? Rating a product based on its function for you will be more helpful than just picking a product based on a cool label.

The top 10 are presented according to a score we determined based on the optimal dosing of key ingredients:

  • Caffeine – 20 points
  • L-Citrulline – 20 points
  • Beta-Alanine – 20 points
  • Betaine Anhydrous – 10 points
  • Creatine – 10 points
  • Sodium – 5 points
  • Potassium – 5 points
  • Taurine – 5 points
  • Alpha GPC or Tyrosine – 5 points

To learn more about Brainz’ approach to ingredients, see our 22 Common Pre-Workout Ingredients & Their Performance Benefits.

1. Shifted Maximum Formula Pre-Workout

Functional Score: 96

Shifted Maximum Pre-Workout is our top choice for pre-workouts, and for good reason. Developed by Dr. Adam M. Gonzalez, a professor at Hofstra University with expertise in nutrition science and exercise physiology, you really can tell that it was crafted with care.

Judging our entries according to their dosing, Shifted climbs to the peak with optimal doses of proven ingredients like Beta-Alanine, Creatine, and L-Citrulline. There’s a hefty dose of caffeine, with 150mg of L-Theanine to balance the jitters, to give athletes a lasting, sustained energy boost.

Every aspect of Shifted’s Maximum Pre-Workout points to their careful consideration and attention to sports nutrition needs. Shifted also gives users excellent nootropics for focus and mental clarity, a must to avoid injury in high-intensity workouts. 

On top of its optimal ingredients, Shifted actually tastes great. In our full-length review, we complain that Maximum only comes in one flavor, but it’s a good one, without the bitter or unnatural aftertaste of a lot of pre-workouts. 

Overall, we can’t say enough about Shifted. It’s pretty much the ideal pre-workout formula, created by athletes with the real needs of athletes in mind.

Click here to read our full-length review of Shifted!

EnergyCaffeine 300mg
L-theanine 150mg
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)Alpha GPC 300mg 
L-Tyrosine 2g
L-Theanine 150mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 1600mg
Taurine 3g
Beet Root Extract 1g
Pump and Blood Flow L-Citrulline 8g
Strength Support & Body CompositionCreatine Monohydrate 5g
Betaine Anhydrous 2.5g
Red Spinach Leaf Extract 1g
AstraGin 25mg
ElectrolytesSodium 40mg
Potassium 248mg

2. Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Functional Score: 86

Legion Pulse is another product that is clearly designed for serious athletes, with ingredients that have shown their value in optimal doses. Obviously, in a pre-workout supplement energy is crucial, and Pulse includes a powerful 350mg of caffeine balanced with 350mg of L-Theanine, so your boost lasts without causing anxiety or jitters. 

Pulse also goes all out on nootropics, with 300mg of Alpha-GPC. Not only can you expect focus and clarity, but with 3.6g of Beta-Alanine, you’ll get that tingle that tells you you can hold out through the toughest workout. Optimal doses of L-Citrulline Malate, Betaine anhydrous, and electrolytes are going to help you get the most out of your workout. 

Legion Pulse also tastes good, though there’s a bit of that stevia bitterness in the aftertaste. Long story short, serious athletes who want a pre-workout that will get them through some hard lifting will find a lot to like in Legion Pulse.

See our complete review of Legion Pulse here!

EnergyCaffeine anhydrous 350mg
L-Theanine 350mg
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)Alpha-GPC 300mg
L-Theanine 350mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 3.6g
Pump and Blood Flow L-Citrulline Malate 8g
Strength Support & Body CompositionBetaine Anhydrous 2.5g 
ElectrolytesSodium 110mg
Potassium 290mg
ExtrasCalcium 65mg

3. Ghost Legend Pre-Workout

Functional Score: 68

Ghost Legend is one of the most recognizable products in the sports nutrition industry, thanks to their colorful, engaging design, but they’re also hands-down one of the best. 

Legend Pre-Workout goes a little easier on the caffeine than other pre-workouts, at 250mg, but makes up for that lower energy level with excellent dosage of nootropics and beta-alanine. With Alpha-GPC (300 mg), L-Tyrosine (1000 mg), and Theobromine (100 mg), Legend is great for focus and mental clarity. 3200mg of Beta-Alanine will also hold fatigue back through a hard session. 

Pump and blood flow get support from L-Citrulline (4000mg) and Nitrosigine ® (1500mg), with AstraGin added to increase absorption. Legend also goes above and beyond with three anti-inflammatory recovery ingredients: Taurine (1000 mg), Senactiv (50 mg), and Rauwolfia extract (1.5 mg). 

Last, but not least, Ghost Legend tastes great – not just great for a pre-workout, but an actual taste treat – probably the best flavor of all our top 10.

Click to see our full-length review of Ghost Legend Pre-Workout!

EnergyCaffeine 250mg
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)Alpha-GPC 300mg
L-Tyrosine 1000mg
Theobromine 100mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 3200mg
Pump and Blood Flow L-Citrulline 4000mg
Nitrosigine ® 1500mg
Strength Support & Body CompositionAstraGin 50mg
ExtrasTaurine 1000mg
Senactiv 50mg 
Rauwolfia extract 1.5mg

4. Bucked-Up Pre-Workout

Functional Score: 67

Bucked Up shows up on a lot of best-of rankings for pre-workouts, and for sure, they’re doing a lot of things right. They’re a recognizable brand with compelling marketing and some stylishly-designed products. 

It’s worth noting that Bucked Up goes a little lighter on the caffeine than other pre-workouts, with just 200mg. For some users, that might be preferable, especially those who don’t take well to caffeine. 200mg can give you some energy without anxiety and jitters.

Bucked Up has all the right ingredients, including Alpha-GPC, Beta-Alanine, and Citrulline Malate, but most of them are a little underdosed. Of course, Bucked Up’s claim to fame is their deer antler velvet extract, the ingredient that put them on the map and gave them their name. Of course, deer antler velvet extract hasn’t really been proven. 

As far as taste goes, Bucked Up offers 20 flavors, so you can choose your preference, but the extremely sweet sucralose does cause a bit of an aftertaste.

Click here to check out our full review of Bucked Up!

EnergyCaffeine Anhydrous 200mg
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)AlphaSize Alpha-GPC 200mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 2000mg
Taurine 100mg
Pump and Blood Flow Citrulline Malate 6000mg
Strength Support & Body CompositionDeer Antler Velvet Extract 50mg 
ElectrolytesSodium 39mg

5. EVLution Nutrition ENGN

Functional Score: 65

EVLution Nutrion’s ENGN Pre-Workout is a solid product for the all-around athlete and gym-goer who wants a lot of intensity. ENGN’s job is pretty clear from the get-go, with two different caffeine types: Caffeine anhydrous (225mg) and VitaShure caffeine (125mg). 

That’s a lot of caffeine for a lot of energy, but it’s also balanced with one of the most nootropic-rich formulas we’ve seen. ENGN includes L-Tyrosine, L-Theonine, Choline, and Choline Bitartrate for focus and mental acuity. However, by our standards, they’re all a little underdosed. 

ENGN goes hard on anti-fatigue and strength support too, with beta-alanine, Betaine anhydrous, Creatine Monohydrate, and Agmatine sulfate 250 mg. There’s no electrolytes or pump-specific ingredients, though, to our disappointment. 

We also have to mention the experience of drinking ENGN. Be prepared. The Blue Raz is neon blue and tastes like a Saturday morning breakfast cereal from the 1980s, so if that’s your jam, go for it. Even if it’s not, ENGN is still a solid energy and focus booster.

Follow this link for our full review of EVLution ENGN Pre-Workout!

EnergyCaffeine Anhydrous 225mg
VitaShure Caffeine 125mg
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)L-Tyrosine 250mg
L-Theonine 50mg 
Choline 200mg
Choline Bitartrate 500mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 1600mg
Pump and Blood Flow None
Strength Support & Body CompositionBetaine anhydrous 1000mg
Creatine Monohydrate 2000mg
Agmatine sulfate 250mg
ExtrasNiacin 35mg
Vitamin B6 2mg
Folic Acid 800mcg
Vitamin B12 25mcg

6. Bare Performance Nutrition Flight

Functional Score: 64

Bare Performance Nutrition Flight Pre-Workout formula puts BPN’s motto – “One More Go” – to the test. It’s a well-balanced formula, starting with a big, bold dose of 300mg of caffeine anhydrous and an added 34mg of Dicaffeine Malate. That additional malic acid spreads out and extends the effects of caffeine, helping athletes go a little farther. 

Flight also puts a lot of attention on nootropics, with both N-Acetyle L-Tyrosine and Huperzia Serrata (club moss) extract. The choice of acetylated tyrosine is a smart one; it’s more water-soluble and easier for the body to access. 

We’re a bit disappointed with the low dose of L-Citrulline for blood flow support, but there are optimal doses of beta-alanine and Betaine anhydrous for anti-fatigue and strength support. 

We found the taste light and crisp, more like a Crystal Lite than other pre-workout supplements. It didn’t mix up all that well, though, and needed to be shaken up between sips to stay in solution. 

All things considered, we were happy with BPN Flight, but it has some shortcomings we couldn’t ignore.

Click here for our full review of BPN Flight!

EnergyCaffeine anhydrous 300mg
Dicaffeine Malate 34mg
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine 1.5g
Huperzia Serrata extract 5mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 3.2g
Pump and Blood Flow L-Citrulline 2g
Strength Support & Body CompositionBetaine anhydrous 2.5g
ElectrolytesSodium 95mg 
ExtrasBioperine™ (black pepper) 5mg
Taurine 1g

7. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Functional Score: 61.5

Optimum Nutrition is one of the best-known names in sports nutrition, founded back in 1986. Their Gold Standard Pre-Workout offers a good all-around supplement. While most pre-workouts jack up the caffeine to the limits of safety, Gold Standard is a more manageable 175mg. 

Fortunately, Gold Standard also includes two nootropics, both in their acetylated forms for easier absorption. L-Carnatine and L-Tyrosine are both known for focus and cognition, and Gold Standard offers a solid dosage of both. 

Beta-alanine and L-Citrulline are included for anti-fatigue and blood flow support, but both are underdosed, a fact we find a little disappointing. A hefty dose of creatine provides strength support.  

When it comes to flavor, Gold Standard was a little overly sweet to our taste, with a strong aftertaste of sucralose. It’s one of those things users have to decide for themselves, though. 

To sum up, Optimum Nutrition makes a solid product with their Gold Standard Pre-Workout, but low dosage in some key areas keeps it from the top of the list.

See our full review of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard!

EnergyCaffeine 175mg
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)N-Acetyle L-Tyrosine 250mg
Acetyl-L- Carnitine 375mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 1.5g
Pump and Blood Flow Micronized L-Citrulline 750mg
Strength Support & Body CompositionAstraGin 25mg
Creatine Monohydrate 3g
ElectrolytesSodium 20mg
ExtrasVitamin D 12.5mcg
Niacin 20mg
Vitamin B6 2mg 
Folate 240mcg
Vitamin B12 10mcg
Pathothenic Acid 10mg
Calcium 50mg 
Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex 100mg

8. REDCON1 Total War Pre-Workout

Functional Score: 57

REDCON1 is a fast-growing brand with a loyal base and a patriotic marketing plan, founded by a veteran with military personnel and veterans in mind. 

True to their style, REDCON1’s Total War Pre-Workout looks to be designed for hard-core athletes who want to explode into action. Between caffeine anhydrous and caffeine malate, Total War offers over 300mg of caffeine to boost energy. 

Total War also takes anti-fatigue seriously, with four ingredients dedicated to keeping users in the game: Beta-Alanine, Agmatine sulfate, Bioperine™ (black pepper extract), and Taurine. They also include 45mg of Green Tea Extract and 150mg of Juniper Berry Extract for recovery. 

Where we feel like Total War falls short, though, is in nootropics and strength support. Only one underdosed nootropic – 50mg of theobromine – and no strength support ingredients mean users are going to need more products on top of Total War. 

We also weren’t big fans of the flavor. Total War came on very sweet, then had an exceptionally bitter aftertaste. If you’re looking for energy and don’t care about taste, suck it down and start lifting.

Check out our full review of Total War!

EnergyCaffeine Anhydrous 250mg
Caffeine Malate 100mg (70mg caffeine)
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)Theobromine 50mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 3.2g
Agmatine sulfate 1g
Bioperine™ (black pepper) — 10mg
Taurine 1g
Pump and Blood Flow Citrulline Malate 6g
Strength Support & Body CompositionNone
ElectrolytesSodium 330mg
ExtrasGreen Tea Extract 45mg
Juniper Berry Extract 150mg

9. Jacked Factory – Nitrosurge Pre-Workout

Functional Score: 56

Jacked Factory’s Nitrosurge Pre-Workout formula sticks to the Jacked philosophy – it’s a stripped-down, all-business supplement with no artificial colors or fillers. 

A full 2-scoop serving of Nitrosurge lives up to its name, with 360mg of caffeine for an enormous energy boost. But they also include 180mg of L-Theanine and 100mg of theobromine, nootropics that help smooth out the jitters and help the caffeine do its work. Nootropics also provide mental clarity and focus, ideal for a hard workout. 

Nitrosurge also includes 3.2g of beta-alanine, enough to give you a tingling feeling and hold off fatigue for a long, intense workout. 

Unfortunately, we did feel a bit let down by Nitrosurge’s strength support, pump, and electrolytes. Blood flow and strength ingredients (L-Citrulline and Betaine anhydrous) are underdosed, and there are no electrolytes at all. We also found the taste a little unpleasant. Using both Acesulfame potassium and sucralose for sweetness, there’s a strong aftertaste. 

Nitrosurge is a sound product, but we’d like to see it a little more well-rounded.

See our full review of Nitrosurge here!

EnergyCaffeine Anhydrous 360mg 
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)L-Theanine 180mg
Theobromine 100mg
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 3.2g 
Pump and Blood Flow L-Citrulline 6g
Strength Support & Body CompositionBetaine anhydrous 1.25g
ExtrasAstraGin 25mg

10. Cellucor C4 Pre-Workout Drink Supplement

Functional Score: 50

Cellucor C4 Pre-Workout is definitely setting up some expectations with its name and packaging (which continues the explosive theme). 

We do have some issues with their Explosive Energy Blend, though. Namely, they don’t actually give us a breakdown of the ingredients. The Explosive Energy Blend includes 150mg of caffeine anhydrous, but as for the other 275mg, they’re split between indeterminate amounts of N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Velvet Bean extract, and TeaCrine Theacrine. At Brainz, we like to know exactly what we’re getting, and C4 is a little too vague on this point. 

However, we do like the inclusion of a lower dose of beta-alanine (ideal for users who don’t like the skin-crawling effect of high doses) and creatine. While many athletes will supplement creatine on their own, it’s helpful to include an initial dose in the pre-workout. 

Plus, we have to give props to the flavor. The Blue Raz was actually quite enjoyable, without the bitter or chemical aftertaste of too many pre-workouts. Good job, Cellucor!

Read our full review of Cellucor C4 here!

EnergyExplosive Energy Blend (425mg)
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
Caffeine Anhydrous 150mg
Velvet Bean extract
TeaCrine Theacrine
Nootropic (Focus and Mood)N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
Velvet Bean extract
TeaCrine Theacrine
Anti-FatigueBeta-Alanine 1.6g
Pump and Blood Flow Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate 1g
Strength Support & Body CompositionCreatine Nitrate (NO3-T®) 1g
ExtrasVitamin C 250mg
Niacin 30mg
Vitamin B6 500mcg
Folate 417mcg
Vitamin B12 35mcg

External References For This Article:

Internal References For This Article:

Related Brainz Content: