If you work out at all, whether you are a competitive athlete or you just want to keep yourself in shape, and you’ve been in the gym, you’ve no doubt heard people talking about pre-workout supplements. You’re intrigued. You’ve heard that these are supplements that can improve your athletic performance in a variety of ways and help you push past your limits- both physical and mental. You’ve even heard there are additional health benefits when you use a pre-workout.
However, you are cautious and don’t want to make a decision until you’ve done all the research. That is where we come in. In this article, we will outline for you exactly what a pre-workout is and who should be using it. We will also explore more about what you should look for in a pre-workout as well as the things that need to be avoided. Finally, we’ll review the top 5 best pre-workouts for men on the market today and then close by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about pre-workouts. We hope that we can give you the confidence you need to choose a pre-workout to add to your daily workout routine.
What Exactly is a Pre-Workout and Who Should Use Them?
A pre-workout supplement, called a “pre-workout” for short by many people in the fitness world, is a dietary/fitness supplement that promises to do the following:
- Increase energy
- Decrease fatigue
- Improve overall athletic performance
In most cases, they come in powder form, which you would combine with water or your favorite pre-workout beverage. On the other hand, some are capsules. A lot of people find the capsules to be more convenient. However, they do take longer to take effect since they have to break down in your digestive system.
When you start looking at pre-workouts to find the best one, you’ll find lots of options. In fact, in the world of workout supplements, pre-workouts seem to have the most variations. However, most of them do basically stick to some combo of the following ingredients:
- Amino Acids
Just like with any other supplement, it’s important to exercise caution when using a pre-workout. They are regulated as food, not drugs, by the FDA. This means that there are gaps in the regulations and the companies don’t have to be completely honest in their labeling. Of course, one thing is for certain, the supplements we’ve included in our list below are from reputable companies with clinically proven formulas.
Above, we mentioned just a few of the common ingredients in pre-workouts. When put together, they have been proven to improve athletic performance in a variety of ways- both in the short-term, that is your current workout, and they build up in your system to support improvement of your performance in the long-term as well. For example, caffeine gives you the energy boost you need right now, while the beta-alanine and creatine build up in your system to improve your workout over the next few weeks and even months.
So, who should be using a pre-workout? If you are interested in improving the quality and intensity of your workouts, you should definitely consider adding a pre-workout supplement to your daily routine. A pre-workout is formulated to help improve your workout and overall athletic performance. If your goal is to maintain your weight and keep yourself in decent shape, you don’t necessarily need to worry about using one.
Choosing the Best Pre-Workout for Your Needs
As we mentioned, there are lots of options on the market, which can make it complicated to find the best one. That being said, there are a few things that you should be looking for and expect in a quality supplement and there are some things that should be avoided. Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of these.
Things to Look for/Expect in a Quality Pre-Workout
Before we look at what to expect in a quality pre-workout, it’s important for you to know that research is limited at this time regarding the overall effectiveness of pre-workouts. However, research does indicate that there are certain ingredients that could benefit athletic performance. These are ingredients you should expect to find in a good quality pre-workout. We’ll explore these below:
Nitric Oxide Precursors
Nitric oxide is a chemical that is naturally produced by your body. The purpose of this compound is to relax blood vessels, which improves blood flow. Many of the pre-workout supplements on the market include ingredients that the body can use to facilitate the production of nitric oxide. This includes ingredients such as: beetroot juice, L-arginine, and L-citrulline. According to research, nitric oxide precursors allow more oxygen and nutrients to be taken to your muscles, which is believed to improve athletic performance.
It’s important to note that L-citrulline does directly improve workout performance. However, L-arginine is actually broken down in your system before it can get to your bloodstream. Therefore, though it does improve the production of nitric oxide, it does not directly improve your workout performance. Of course, it’s important to note that most of the research regarding the production of nitric oxide involves young men. At this time, it’s unclear whether or not the results are applicable to other populations.
Pre-workouts typically contain some kind of stimulant to increase energy levels and improve focus. In most cases, this stimulant is caffeine because research shows that it improves mental alertness, memory, and workout performance. There is some indication that it may also help with reducing body fat, which supports weight loss efforts.
Creatine is naturally produced in your body and is also found naturally in sources such as red meat, poultry, and seafood. However, the dietary sources have such small amounts, it’s mostly lost during the cooking process. Your body can’t keep up with natural production, which is why supplementation is necessary. You can find creatine in pre-workouts, but it can also be found as a standalone supplement.
Creatine is stored as phosphocreatine in your skeletal muscles. It is converted into ATP, which helps with energy and strength when you are working out, and recovery following your workout.
Beta-alanine is often included as part of pre-workout formulations. This is an amino acid that prevents the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. The lactic acid is what causes fatigue and burning/soreness in your muscles. When you block the build-up of lactic acid, you can work out harder and longer.
Research has proven the effectiveness of beta-alanine time and time again. However, there is a common side effect that many people have reported: a tingling sensation all over the body. The tingling is harmless- but some people find it quite unpleasant and some even find it intolerable. On the other hand, other people barely seem to notice. If it’s too much for you, find a product with a lower amount or just lower your dosage until you can tolerate side effects.
BCAAs, that is branched-chain amino acids, are included in pre-workouts because they increase muscle growth and decrease soreness. This is a combination of three amino acids, isoleucine, valine, and leucine. It’s important to note that BCAAs are also found naturally in dietary sources of protein- so chances are, you may be getting all the BCAAs you need through your diet.
Things to Avoid in a Quality Pre-Workout
As a general rule, pre-workouts are safe. However, that is not to say that they are without risk. When you are looking for a quality pre-workout, there are a few things that you need to avoid. In fact, these things indicate that the product may not be good quality after all. Here are the things you want to avoid when you are shopping for a pre-workout.
Artificial Sweeteners &/Or Sugar Alcohols
You will quickly discover that many of the pre-workouts on the market contain artificial sweeteners and/or sugar alcohols. The main reason these ingredients are included is to improve flavor without adding extra calories. This is very important if you are trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, many people have issues digesting these things and end up with gastrointestinal distress/discomfort.
Some of the most common issues people experience if they consume too much sugar alcohol are: gas, bloating, and diarrhea. These are all disruptive to your workout session. There are some that report the same side effects from certain artificial sweeteners, but at this time, there is nothing to confirm this claim.
There are lots of options on the market, so if you want to completely avoid products with these ingredients, you can. On the other hand, if you want to see if you can tolerate artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohol, try a small amount to see what happens.
We’ve mentioned caffeine as being one of the stimulants that are used to provide users with an energy boost. That being said, consuming too much caffeine can cause some unfortunate side effects: increased blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety/jitters, and more. For most of the supplements on the market, the amount of caffeine in a single serving is the same as 1 to 2 cups of coffee. However, chances are your pre-workout is not your only source of caffeine- to it can be easy to end up consuming too much.
Not Third-Party Tested
Finally, you need to avoid pre-workouts that have not been third-party tested. This is because in the United States, supplements are regulated as foods, not drugs by the Food and Drug Administration. The gaps in regulations between the two make it easy for manufacturers to not be 100% honest in their labeling.
If you end up with a low quality supplement, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of some ingredients or even consuming ingredients that have been banned. If you want to make sure that you’re safe, be sure to choose products that have been third-party tested by either NSF International or U.S. Pharmacopeia.
Top 5 Best Pre-Workout for Men Reviews
You may find yourself overwhelmed when you start looking for the best pre-workout for you. Have no fear- that is what we’re here for. We’ve explained some things you need to know about pre-workouts. Now, we’re going to take a look at what we feel are the top 5 best pre-workouts for men in the industry today.
XWERKS is one of the most well-known and respected brands in the dietary/fitness supplement industry. They are known for bringing products to the market that contain clinically proven ingredients. Many people refer to this as the Tom Brady of pre-workouts because it’s a product you can count on to take your training to the next level and give you real, measurable results.
The combination of ingredients in this product will improve stamina and energy- which means you can engage in a more intense workout that lasts longer than your typical one. XWERKS prides themselves in not using “proprietary blends.” This means that each and every ingredient, along with how much of each, is clearly listed on the label.
According to the website, Ignite is formulated to ensure that users experience long-lasting, steady, and refreshing energy. You don’t have to worry about being flooded with caffeine for a momentary burst of energy. Plus, you won’t crash when it starts wearing off like you do with many of the other pre-workouts. Plus, some of the ingredients offer nootropic benefits.
Ingredients in XWERKS Ignite include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Vitamin B6 & B12
- Rhodiola rosea
There are other effective ingredients included in the formula as well. When you take this supplement, you can be sure that you will have the energy you need to level up your workout and the nootropics will help with your focus. The endurance blend helps you increase reps, work longer, and recover faster.
XWERKS is available in 4 yummy flavors:
- Green apple
- Blue raspberry
Alani Nu Pre-Workout
Alani Nu is fairly new to the industry. This company was founded in 2018 and is made in the USA. Their products are popular and well-rated and they offer a lot more flavors than many of the other brands on the market. Some of their flavors are pretty unique too, and include things like:
- Hawaiian shaved ice
- Carnival candy grape
- Ping guava
- Galaxy lemonade
- Cosmic stardust
- Island crush
- Arctic white
- Rainbow candy
- Aloha pineapple
Alani Nu Pre-workout contains ingredients such as:
When it comes to effectiveness, Alani Nu is comparable to other supplements on the market. If you want more flavor options- and more interesting flavors- this is the ideal option for you.
Pre Lab Pro Pre-Workout
You will find that Pre Lab Pro contains ingredients that you won’t find in other pre-workouts, including those that support homeostasis and provide a nootropic effect. This product is only available in one flavor: a delicious natural berry. When you use Pre Lab Pro, your workout is supported and improved in a variety of ways. According to the website, Pre Lab Pro increases endurance, speed, strength, and stamina. In addition, those who are recovering or participating in cardio or anabolic training can benefit from using Pre Lab Pro Pre-workout.
Due to the ingredients and dosages, Pre Lab Pro is a favorite among many fitness enthusiasts. The ingredients are certified and they are available in decent doses. Some of the key ingredients in this product are:
- Beetroot powder
- Setria performance blend
NSP Nutrition Energize Pre-Workout
NSP Nutrition Energize Pre-Workout has some interesting flavors, including:
- Grape blast
- Lemonade fresh
- Tropical sunrise
When you take this pre-workout prior to working you, you eliminate brain fog. This means that you can activate muscle gains by increasing work capacity and achieving bigger muscle pumps. Energize is one of the more budget-friendly options on the market and contains ingredients such as:
The last, but certainly not least, pre-workout on our list of the top 5 best pre-workout for men is 4 Gauge. This pre-workout provides users with extreme performance- but without jitters. The package is what makes this one stand out from the crowd: it looks like a shotgun shell. The manufacturer claims that this product will make you look and feel bigger. Plus, you get focused and energetic without the crash that often follows with many of the other supplements.
There is zero artificial sweeteners in this pre-workout and there’s only 5 calories per serving. Therefore, you can be sure that it will not derail your weight loss goals. It is a 4-in-1 product that improves energy, muscle pumps, strength, and focus. The following ingredients can be found in 4 Gauge:
- Rhodiola rosea
There are also some other certified ingredients included in this formula.
As you can see, each of these 5 pre-workouts can benefit your workout in a variety of ways. You can’t go wrong by choosing one of these.
FAQs for Best Pre-Workout for Men
You may be thinking that you’re almost ready to pick out a pre-workout to use - but you still have a few questions. That is to be expected, especially in the health and fitness industry. It’s important to make sure you have all your questions answered so that you can make the best possible choice.
What is a pre-workout supplement?
A pre-workout supplement, or “pre-workout” for short, is a dietary/fitness supplement formulated to improve your athletic performance. They are formulated in such a way that your current workout, as well as your long-term performance are affected. This is achieved by combining a variety of ingredients. Most of these supplements are powders that you combine with water or your favorite beverage and drink prior to working out. Some of them are capsules, which some people find easier and more convenient to use.
Is it possible to find a good natural pre-workout?
If you’d prefer a pre-workout that is natural, you’ll want to find a product that contains ingredients such as amino acids, BCAAs, caffeine, and green tea extract. These are natural ingredients that can increase focus and energy- which improves workout sessions. Of course, some of the effective ingredients, such as beta-alanine are not available in high amounts from natural sources. Therefore, it is synthesized in a lab. That being said, while there are benefits of using an all-natural pre-workout and it is possible to find one, the best results are achieved from using a pre-workout with refined ingredients.
Are pre-workouts really safe?
The truth is, the safety depends on the ingredients that are in it. The biggest issue is the stimulants. In most cases, the stimulant included is caffeine. On the other hand, some products include bitter orange peel or synephrine. These ingredients are not safe at all. Caffeine can be perfectly safe, as long as there’s not a lot in it. Of course, ideally you should be using a stim-free option to avoid consuming too much caffeine. Of course, some people do have a high tolerance and need a bit more.
Is a pre-workout needed by everyone?
No, not everyone will need a pre-workout. If your only goal is to get in shape, you can just keep doing what you’re doing- but it may take longer. On the other hand, if you want to shatter your records and push further past your limits than you thought possible, a pre-workout is an excellent idea. Also, on those days following an all-nighter, when you know you should workout but don’t want to get out of bed- a pre-workout can motivate you to do just that.
What does a pre-workout do?
A pre-workout supplement re-routes biological pathways involved with mental and physical performance. For example, the caffeine loosens up your nervous system, allowing you to push harder at a much higher intensity. You will also find that some ingredients increase fat oxidation, which increases endurance. Of course, some ingredients, such as BCAAs don’t have a direct effect on your performance- but do keep you from being sore afterward.
Is there a difference between a pre-workout and post-workout?
There are some commonalities between a pre-workout and post-workout. However, as indicated by the name, one is taken before (pre) and one is taken after (post) your workout session. A pre-workout ensures you have what you need to power through even the most intense workout. On the other hand, a post-workout helps with recovery.
How long will a pre-workout last?
Most of the pre-workouts on the market claim to last 2 to 3 hours. It’s really hard to get much more specific than that because the timelines vary from one ingredient to the next. For example, the window of efficacy associated with caffeine is clear- you’ll want to take it 15 to 45 minutes prior to your workout. On average, the effects last up to 5 hours. On the other hand, the BCAAs absorb quicker, so you should make sure your workout is over before they are processed. A reputable company knows this and follows these guidelines when creating their formulas.
What causes the tingling associated with some pre-workouts?
Some users report feeling a tingling sensation after consuming their pre-workout. If this happens, chances are it contains lots of beta-alanine or niacin. Both are associated with tingling as a side effect. This can be uncomfortable- but it’s not going to hurt you. If you are experiencing tingling, read the label to learn what is causing it. Then, you can adjust your dosage. You want to consume less than 800 milligrams of beta-alanine and less than 30 milligrams of niacin per day.
How to Spot a Fake Pre-Workout
As we’ve mentioned, there are lots of options when it comes to pre-workouts. You will find some of them to be wonderful and others are low quality and even fake, in some cases. The low quality, fake ones are often high in sugar and caffeine and have very few- if any- of the clinically proven effective ingredients.
When checking labels, beware of “proprietary blends”. These allow the manufacturer to hide what they do or do not include in their ingredients. Most of the time, the active ingredients in these formulas are much lower than required to provide effectiveness.
Therefore, when you choose a pre-workout, be sure that the company is reputable. You can’t go wrong by choosing one from our list above. These all contain effective dosages of high quality ingredients.
If you do any working out at all, you’ve probably heard of pre-workouts. These dietary/fitness supplements are formulated to improve workouts. This will, in turn, improve your overall health and well-being. They can help you push past your limits and achieve great things in your fitness routine. You will have more energy and stamina than you ever have before, and you will find that you are burning fat and building muscle faster than you thought possible.