Pre-workout supplements are my favourite products to talk about, mainly because they are the category that has the most effect on my favourite activity – lifting heavy AF weights.
In this article I’ll answer the following questions:
- What are the best pre-workout supplements available?
- Which of the top pre-workouts suit me as an individual?
- Where can I buy the most effective product?
- Are there any negative side effects of the most effective pre workouts?
- Do any of the best pre-workouts contain banned substances?
- Can I take any of the products you recommend?
A good pre-workout supplement is basically a legal performance enhancing drug. A well formulated and well dosed ‘pre’ can put you right in the zone.
Best Pre Workouts
There are people who say none of these things work, and that it’s all marketing BS. Sweeping statements are for idiots.
Those people don’t understand sports nutrition, and certainly haven’t bothered to research the science.
However, most pre-workouts are overhyped crapola. That’s just the nature of an unregulated industry such as sports supplementation.
If you know what to look for, though, you can spot the good ones just from scanning the label.
The great ones are almost enigmatic. You can’t judge them by their label alone. You have to use them to appreciate how good they really are.
They can look good on paper, but somehow – perhaps in the way the ingredients act synergistically – they can take your workout to another level when you actually use them.
I’ve tested so many I’ve lost count. To whittle them all down to a short list was no easy task, but I put my ruthless cap on and got to it.
The products discussed below are the current best of the best.
#1 – 4 Gauge – ROAR Ambition – For Men and Women & All Workouts
4 Gauge is a pre-workout supplement that both men and women can use.
It’s not riddled with stimulants and has a reasonable amount of caffeine in it.
The 4 Gauge formula provides:
- Excellent Muscle Pumps
- Dialled-In Focus and Mental Drive
- Boosted Energy Levels
- Increased Strength and Explosive Force
- Excellent Mood and Overall Mindset
- Key Hydration
- Enhanced Fat Burning and Glycogen Uptake
- Improved Blood Flow and Cell Volumization
While many other pre-workout products rely on jacking you up on caffeine and providing little other substance, 4 Gauge enhances physical and mental performance with a more extensively researched formula.
Not Your Average Pre-Workout
4 Gauge contains less common ingredients, such as Rhodiola Rosea, a potent adaptogen and anti-fatigue agent that helps you dial into your workout with laser beam focus and drive.
Theanine is also in the blend, improving the mental and physical boost that caffeine provides while offering a sort of energized calmness that can only really be understood once you’ve used it.
Another rare inclusion for a pre-workout is ALCAR – acetyl-l-carnitine.
Research shows this to be one of the best supplements for mobilizing fat during exercise, especially if you take it after your pre-workout meal.
ALCAR can help you burn fat and reserve glycogen for more intensive bouts of exercise. This, in-turn, reduces lactic acid build up and even the perception of effort, allowing you to dig deeper in the gym for better muscle and fitness gains.
There’s even a source of electrolytes in 4 Gauge, in the form of coconut water powder.
Hydration and proper muscle activation are key factors for a useful workout, but how many pre-workouts contain ingredients to optimize them? Answer: hardly any.
Those are just some of the reasons why 4 Gauge has risen to the top of the recommended pre-workout supplement list.
Aside from the formula and the excellent workouts I get from taking 4 Gauge, there are other benefits:
- The powder contains NO artificial sweeteners and still tastes better than the competition
- The formula contains no proprietary blends – everything is on the label for you to see
- There are special offers most of the time on the official website
- The manufacturer cuts down on expense by shipping directly to you, the customer
- Each shell (tub) of 4 Gauge is much more convenient to take in your gym bag
#2 – Wreckage – MusclePharm – For Alpha-GPC Lovers
MusclePharm products can be hit or miss in my humble opinion.
Their preworkout, Wreckage, however, is definitely a hit.
The formula is a combination of 3 major elements, or groupings of ingredients:
- Intense Pump and Nutrient Absorption
- Energy and Endurance
- Neuro Focus
Wreckage contains Vaso6, a branded extract of green tea catechins which increase vasodilaton.
Vasodilation is basically the widening of blood vessels in order to supply more oxygenated blood to the working muscles. It provides the muscle pump effect.
The formula also contains Alpha-GPC, a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and an ingredient which has been found to increase muscle contraction force as well as cognitive function.
Like 4 Gauge, this preworkout contains L-Theanine and Caffeine in combination which provides the core of the mental energy and positive mood boost.
MusclePharm have made some supplements of questionable worth in the past but Wreckage is one of the most highly rated pre-workout powders available.
They could work on the taste a little though!
#3 – Pro Pre – Optimum Nutrition – For Workouts Lasting around 45 Minutes
Pro Pre stands head and shoulders above the company’s first few attempts at a pre-workout powder.
The products that came before it contained insubstantial formulations which were weak both on paper and execution.
With Pro Pre, Optimum Nutrition compensated in a big way.
It contains two adaptogens in rhodiola and ashwagandha, together with l-theanine and l-tyrosine to make what is one of the most cognitive heavy blends on the market.
My only issue with Pro Pre is its inclusion of Leucine at 2 grams. Leucine has a number of benefits, including a reduction in muscle catabolism (breakdown).
Leucine also helps shuttle glucose into cells to increase energy, until it does a complete 180 and switches to mTOR signalling instead.
If that means nothing to you then in basic terms it can cause some fatigue to set in due to your body switching from energy mode to protein synthesis mode.
For me, this happens at about the 50 minute mark from when I take the pre-workout. This might not bother you much if your workout is a short one but it can be an annoyance if you’re hitting it hard.
I would say the inclusion of L-Tyrosine might counter that effect somewhat and so balance is restored a little.
Other than that, Pro Pre is a fantastic pre-workout, especially if your exercise duration is more on the short and sweet end of the spectrum.
Discussion of the Decision
I’ve tried all the pre-workout products on this list, and hundreds more.
For me, 4 Gauge has to be at the top because it will suit the majority of people better than anything else I have used.
I never liked relying solely on stimulants – especially caffeine – to get me through a workout and I prefer a modest dose of it.
The smaller dose allows me to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning without consuming too much over the course of the day.
You can’t really go wrong with any of the supplements above. I simply recommend 4 Gauge as #1 because it was the most effective during testing.
I’ve found that personal experience with a supplement trumps any other analysis, because at the end of the day, it’s actual effect is all that matters.
I should mention here that I used an entire tub of each product during testing. However, prior to that I used many others in order to whittle them down to the final few listed above.
An even larger group of them can be eliminated in the first phase of the review process by simply examining the labels.
All of this to say that I don’t arrive at the final decision lightly.
The best product for you might therefore not be on this page at all, but I’m willing to bet any of the above supplements would stand up to, or beat, anything else available.
Which Pre-Workout is Right for Me?
The nice thing about these products is that the most effective ones won’t differ too starkly from one another.
In other words, there are probably several that will suit you.
My years spent researching dietary supplements has taught me a great deal, but the best lesson of all was that real-world results are all that matter.
Something can look like pure ambrosia on the label, but if it doesn’t translate to gains at the end of the day, then what’s the point.
The current Number One for me is 4 Gauge, hence why it is at the top of my list. I’d recommend it to anyone – male or female – who’s looking for a solid performance (and results) enhancer.
Incidentally, 4 Gauge is the only 100% naturally flavoured pre-workout powder that tastes better than all of the artificially flavoured stuff!
Where Can I Buy The Most Effective Pre-Workout?
For 4 Gauge, you have to go to the official website. The manufacturer – ROAR Ambition – is doing what a lot of companies are doing now and removing middle-men costs.
They do this simply by shipping directly to you, the customer.
Therefore, there are no third parties or resellers between the manufacturer and the customer, each of which would normally hike up the price to make their own cut.
By doing it that way, they can supply you with deals such as the 4 for the price of 3 offer. They also ship to the US and UK for free on some purchases.
It also means that they can source the best quality ingredients to include in the formula whereas many manufacturers cut costs by scrimping on the very thing that make the pre-workout effective or not.
Are There Any Negative Side Effects of These Pre-Workouts?
Unless you have a specific allergy to one of the ingredients, there should be no negative side effects for the majority of users.
If you are taking prescription medication, then you should find out whether they might clash with any of the ingredients in the supplements.
Some people who are particularly sensitive to stimulants, including caffeine may not enjoy the full dose of a pre-workout powder straight away.
You can however take a half dose before working up to the full daily serving.
Do Any of the Best Pre-Workouts Contain Banned Substances?
None of the supplements I recommend contain banned substances. By ‘banned’ I’m talking in the context of both the law and competition sports.
Many of the so-called ‘hardcore’ or ‘intense’ pre-workout products on the market these days are labelled as such due to their inclusion of under-researched and/or misunderstood compounds.
The companies that manufacture the products in my list have displayed a thorough understanding of the ingredients they have included.
Can I Take Any of the Pre-Workouts Recommended Here?
Again, barring any health issues or medication clashes with specific ingredients, the products I recommend should be suitable for the vast majority of adults who workout.
If you feel inclined, you may want to try all of them in turn over the course of a few months. I would also be grateful of any feedback you might provide thereafter.
I believe I have one of the best noses in the business with respect to finding products that will work for people but your input is extremely valuable to me.
You are, after all, what drives me to do this work in the first place.