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#1  Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout

  • Key ingredients: creatine monohydrate, vitamins B1, B6, B12, niacin and pantothenic acid.
  • Amount of caffeine: 159mg per 10g serving (recommended serving: 11g)
  • Calories: zero
  • Flavours: Kiwi, Apple, Watermelon, Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch

Claiming to support energy, power, and performance, the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout is the OG pre-workout supplement and easily still one of the best money can buy. 

Why? Not only is it effective, it uses high-quality ingredients like creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, and, of course, performance-enhancing caffeine. I made the mistake of trying this before an evening gym class and then couldn’t get to sleep for hours.

I tried the blue raspberry flavour – which I found both sweet and refreshing, although quite sharp (read: it’s easier to shot), and liked that the dose of beta-alanine, the ingredient in pre-workout known for giving you a tingling sensation, is quite low at 1.5g. So much so, I didn’t feel any tingling with this product. 

Overall, it’s a go-to choice for both those new to training and for anyone just looking for extra dose stamina to help them get through tough training sessions.

#2 Cellucor C4 Sport Pre-Workout

  • Key ingredients: creatine monohydrate, Arginine AKG, beta-alanine, caffeine and taurine
  • Amount of caffeine: 150mg per 10g serving (recommended serving: 9g)
  • Calories: 5.5kcal per 10g serving
  • Flavours: Blue raspberry or Fruit punch

C4 is one of the most well-known pre-workouts on the market. And for good reason. 

Developed by Cellucor, an American sports nutrition and workout supplements company, there are a few different types of C4 pre-workout – including C4 Original, C4 Ripped and C4 Sport. The original C4 pre-workout is a great entry-level pre-workout for most people looking for a bit of an energy boost in the gym. 

I tried the sport version – which, actually contains a little less caffeine – and has the ‘certified for sport’ badge, so great for athletes wishing to compete. I liked that the lower dose of caffeine still gave me explosive energy but without the jitters. 

#3 Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Build

  • Key ingredients: citrulline malate 2:1, beta-alanine, caffeine, vitamin C, taurine, iron
  • Amount of caffeine: 100mg per 10g serving (recommended serving: 20g)
  • Flavours: fruit punch, blue raspberry, green apple.

This is the most expensive pre-workout on this list and is aimed really at very serious gym goers (we’re talking Cross Fit athletes and bodybuilders). Featuring 13 ingredients – including a whole host of vitamins, citrulline malate, 3.5g of beta-alanine, taurine and caffeine (although, not in the green apple flavour) – Crazy Nutrition’s Intensive Pre Train also includes the adaptogen Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha isn’t usually found in pre-workout but is associated with supporting resilience to stress, both physiological and psychological, so that feels like a nice little extra. 

Taste-wise, this pre-workout definitely has a bit of a fizz to it and mixes pretty well. The only thing that marks this one down is the price.

#4 Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

  • Caffeine: 180mg
  • Key Ingredients: 3g of l-citrulline, 1.6g of beta-alanine, 1.25g of betaine anhydrous, 1g of creatine hcl, 180mg caffeine, 90mg l-theanine, 75mg l-elevATP, 25mg AstraGin 
  • Flavors: Fruit Punch, Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Arctic White

With any supplement, it helps greatly if you can stomach the taste. The last thing you need is your stomach turning in the middle of a set of squats (been there, done that). Thankful, Jacked Factory Nitrosurge comes in 16 flavors, all of which are objectively delicious and pretty unique. Our testers unanimously gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 for taste.

Kate Meier, BarBend editorial member and competitive weightlifter, says Nitrosurge is her go-to pre-workout because the Strawberry Margarita flavor “is like heaven on earth.”

If it weren’t for the caffeine, I’d probably just drink this all day long,” she said. 

The formula itself varies; Jacked Factory has one- and two-scoop information on its label. Overall, the key players are all here: caffeine, beta-alanine, betaine anhydrous, l-theanine, and l-citrulline.  

Kate rated Nitrosurge a 5 out of 5 for its overall effects, but has a word of warning:

I only use one scoop each time I work out, which has 180 milligrams of caffeine but is lighter on ingredients like beta-alanine and betaine,” she said. “There is a two-scoop dosage on the can, but that is too much caffeine for me. One scoop is just right!”

#5 Genius Pre Workout

  • Caffeine: N/A
  • Key Ingredients: 6g l-citrulline malate, 2g CarnoSyn beta-alanine, 1g l-tyrosine, 1g l-arginine, 1g taurine, 2g betaine anhydrous
  • Flavors: Sour Apple, Blue Raspberry, Grape Limeade, Sour Cherry
  • Third-Party Testing: Third-Party Lab Tested

You don’t need to be bouncing off the walls to have an effective workout. Plenty of gymgoers prefer one of the best non-stimulant pre-workouts that won’t cause unwanted jitters or a crash. Our tester loved Genius Pre because he said it provided some good focus for his workouts.

I felt relaxed and ready instead of being overstimulated,” one of our testers noted, giving its overall effects a solid 4 out of 5. “Also, because the dose of beta-alanine is smaller than what you’d fine in many other pre-workouts, you don’t really get those tingles.”

In lieu of stimulants, the formulation of this non-stim pre-workout combines high-quality sports performance ingredients with antioxidant-rich natural additions. These worked well together to give our testers good pumps during their workouts. The blood flow ingredients took a bit longer to feel, so you might want to take this earlier before hitting the gym than other stimulant-based pre-workouts.

“With no caffeine in this supplement, you can control how much you take in before a workout,” says Justine Hays, R.D. “This makes it a nice option for people who are caffeine sensitive.”

One big hitter in this formula is 6 grams of citrulline malate, which promotes nitric oxide production for improved endurance and better pumps. Having more blood flowing to your muscles may also aid in recovery and delay fatigue by buffering local lactic acid buildup more efficiently.

Genius Pre earned a 5 out of 5 for both taste and solubility from our product testers. “The Blue Raspberry flavor is just like a slushie I remember having as a kid,” he said.

Where Genius Pre falls short is that it isn’t third-party tested. However, the brand does claim that it is free of artificial flavors and banned substances.

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