Pre Workout Supplements – Reviews, What is Pre Workout, Side Effects & More

Pre workout supplements increase strength
Creatine, a common ingredient in Pre Workout Supplements, has been clinically proven to increase strength, power, and endurance.

What is Pre Workout

Pre workout is a classification of supplements ingested prior to exercising to help increase energy, focus and duration of physical activity. By working to fight off fatigue, pre workout is used by recreational and professional athletes to get the most potential out of their performance. [1]

Designed to help boost energy, alertness and endurance, pre workout supplements work to stimulate the user mentally and physically. [1][2][16] With a wide spectrum of pre workout supplements available, consulting our credible reviews, uncovering common ingredients and how they work will help you take an educated approach to your workout routine.

Pre Workout Supplements

With a wide spectrum of pre workout supplements available, consulting our credible reviews, uncovering common ingredients and how they work will help you take an educated approach to your workout routine.

What to eat before a workout

It’s important to properly fuel your body before beginning physical activity to help sustain energy, combat fatigue and increase the duration and intensity of your workouts. [3] Consuming carbohydrate rich foods before a workout will promote adequate blood glucose levels and energy for your body to function at optimal levels. Adding protein to your pre workout snack can help you feel satisfied for longer. Eating a snack or meal 1-4 hours before performing physical activity will help the body feel satisfied and reduce the risk of cramping or an upset stomach. [3]

Pro Tip: Stick to well-known foods that are easy to digest. Food that’s spicy, high in fibre or high in fat may cause additional bloating, uncomfortableness or cramps.

Good choices for pre workout snacks or meals include:

  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter or low fat cheese [3]
  • Fruit such as: bananas, apples, oranges combined with a serving of yogurt [3]
  • Smoothie made with fruit and skim or low-fat milk [3]
  • Oatmeal [3]
  • Trail mix, nuts or seeds [3]

Pre Workout Side Effects

Consuming pre workout supplements before physical exercise has demonstrated positive side effects such as increasing power output, duration and delaying fatigue in clinic studies. [1][2]

In a randomized, double-blind study, researchers investigated the effects of using pre workout powder before resistance exercises. The male subjects were randomly administered the pre-workout or placebo and asked to perform six sets of squats with a maximum of 10 repetitions at 75% of their one repetition maximum (1RM). [1]

Pre workout supplements improve performance
When compared in a clinical trial, pre workout supplements helped athletes complete more squat repetitions than the placebo group.

The results indicated that the consumption of pre workout energy powder ten minutes before resistance exercises enhanced both the total number of repetitions performed and the average power output for each repetition. [1] Multiple studies note that the addition of healthy pre workout can increase lean body mass, VO-2max and total volume of exercise when combined with resistance training exercises. [1] [16] Further, in blood samples taken immediately after exertion from subjects who had taken a pre workout supplement, an increase of growth hormone and insulin concentrations was observed. [2]

Stimulating elements such as caffeine or creatine are commonly found in pre workout formulas and increase perceived alertness and focus. These ingredients may affect users to varying degrees and result in headaches or feeling jittery, similar to consuming coffee. Additionally, they may interfere with sleeping patterns if pre workout supplements are taken later in the evening. Lack of water in combination with pre workout supplements may result in dehydration or stomach cramps. [14] [15]

Common Ingredients & Mechanism of Action

Caffeine is the most commonly found ingredient in pre workout energy drinks. As a stimulant, caffeine helps to act as an ergogenic aid, increasing focus and alertness. [1] It’s been suggested that caffeine’s ability to increase the metabolism by enhancing fat oxidization, (burning fat) may spare glycogen content in the muscles, increasing endurance. [1][4] Optimal doses of caffeine are 100-200mg, approximately 1-2 cups of coffee. [5]

Beta-alanine is a popular ingredient included in pre workout powder to aid performance. As a precursor for carnosine, it acts as an intracellular pH buffer during high intensity activity, assisting to remove metabolic byproducts from lactate metabolism. By maintaining pH levels, carnosine helps to delay muscle acidosis, or muscle fatigue during high intensity exercise. [8] Ultimately, increased buffering capacity can provide an additional 60 seconds or more of performance. [7]

Creatine is a chemical synthesized from the amino acids glycine, methionine and arginine. [2] It has been shown in clinical trials to be effective in improving strength, endurance and power performance in short durations of anaerobic exercises. [2] In a double blind study, researchers found that adding a daily supplementation of creatine in combination with strength training, amplified both the myonuclei concentrations and satellite cells present in skeletal muscle fibers. This increase allows for amplified muscle fiber growth [11]

In addition to these ingredients, varying amounts of vitamins, taurine, branched chain amino acids and glucuronolactone are often present in pre workout supplements. [2]

Dosage Formats – Drinks, Pills, Powders & Shakes

Pre workout supplements come in a variety of forms including powder, capsules, gels and pre-mixed drinks to suit your individual needs.

Incorporating a pre workout drink before exercising is a convenient way to get your energy on the go. To make a pre workout shake, combine the recommended amount of supplement powder or pre workout protein with water and mix well.

To achieve a more nutrient-dense meal, combine pre workout powder with fruits and skim or low-fat milk to create an energizing pre workout smoothie.

Some consumers find mixing a pre workout concoction to be a hassle. Pre workout pills offer a quick and convenient way to boost energy and increase your performance, without the fuss of powders or shakes.

Natural Pre Workouts

While pre workout supplements come in a variety of forms and flavours, if you have any existing intolerances or dietary requirements, creating a homemade pre workout may be the right choice for you.

For a natural and caffeine free pre workout, coconut water, fruits juiced at home and wheatgrass have all been utilized to increase energy. While advocates report experiencing health benefits from these natural beverages, there is currently no significant research that supports they contribute to an increase in performance or endurance. [10] Performance supplements that contain large amounts of beet root and pomegranate extracts – rich in the antioxidant punicalagin – have been shown to improve blood flow in skeletal muscles. [12] [13]

Athletes looking for an all natural pre workout or a pre workout without creatine can opt for a homemade pre workout smoothie to help sustain energy throughout workout routines. For added energy, substitute caffeine or protein powder by adding a splash of coffee or natural nut butter.

GNC Pre Workout – and other retailers

Pre workout supplements can easily be purchased online or in store at any supplement retailer. For those looking for a cheap pre workout, there are a variety of affordable pre workout pills and powders to amplify your energy. Taking advantage of trial supplement offers may also be an effective way to help decide which pre workout fits your needs.

The top sellers of GNC pre workout include: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout™, Evlution Nutrition® EVL™ ENGN® PRE-WORKOUT+ ENGINE® and Pro Supps™ MR HYDE™. [9] For more information on which pre workouts deliver the biggest energy boost – read our latest Buying Guide.

Pre Workout for Women – Do They Exist?

Despite the increasing popularity of pre workout supplements, few clinical trials currently examine the specific effects of pre workout supplements for women. However, in a study published in 2015 researchers investigated the safety of consuming a pre workout drink for women on a daily basis for a 28-day period. [17]

The results concluded that the daily supplementation of pre workout for women did not appear to cause any adverse side effects, concerning changes in chemistry or resting vital signs. But recommended that further research be done to assess the efficacy and safety of these products in regards to sex-specific requirements and female baseline. [17]

Pre workout products targeted specifically for women can often be recognized by their pink or feminine labeling. Although such products claim to be more effective for woman’s needs, these claims are purely marketing and are not currently backed by scientific research. Pre workout supplements can work effectively for both males and females, including all of the previously mentioned products. We suggest consulting the product ingredients first to find out which supplement is right for your body.


It’s important to note that in the U.S. and Canada, dietary supplements are regulated differently than food and drugs. Both authorities maintain an active list of safe and approved ingredients for companies to incorporate into their supplements.

In 2013, The FDA announced a public warning to consumers to avoid all products containing dimethylamylamine (DMAA), an illegal stimulant, after several reports of severe adverse reactions. Although the voluntary reports do not act as proof the product caused the reaction, the ingredient was found in two pre-workout supplements. Since the announcement, the FDA has worked to dispose of and stop the production or distribution of any supplements containing DMAA. [18]

While clinical research has documented the positive effects of pre workout supplements on healthy adult males and females, the works consulted have not researched the effects of these supplements on special populations. Teens, pregnant women, elderly or athletes with chronic conditions should always consult with their physician before starting any supplement or fitness routines.

Pre Workout Reviews

Click here for the most comprehensive pre workout supplement reviews.


  1. Gonzalez, A. M., Walsh, A. L., Ratamess, N. A., Kang, J., & Hoofman, J.R. (2011). Effect of a pre-workout energy supplement on acute multi-joint resistance exercise. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 10, 261-266.
  2. Hoffman, J. R., Ratamess, N. A., Ross, R., Shanklin, M., Kang, J., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2008). Effect of a Pre-Exercise Energy Supplement on the Acute Hormonal Response to Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(3), 874-882. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31816d5db6
  3. Spriet, L.L. (1995) Caffeine and performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition 5, S84-S99.
  4. Spradley, B. D., Crowley, K. R., Tai, C., Kendall, K. L., Fukuda, D. H., Esposito, E. N., … Moon, J. R. (2012). Ingesting a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, B-vitamins, amino acids, creatine, and beta-alanine before exercise delays fatigue while improving reaction time and muscular endurance. Nutrition & Metabolism, 9(1), 28. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-28
  5. Volek, J.S. (n.d.). What’s in your pre-workout formula? Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  6. Glenn, J. M., Gray, M., Stewart Jr, R. W., Moyen, N. E., Kavouras, S. A., Dibrezzo, R., & Stone, M. S. (2016). Effects of 28-day beta-alanine supplementation on isokinetic exercise performance and body composition in female masters athletes. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), 30(1), 200-207.
  7. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C. & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta- analysis. Amino Acids, 43(1), 25-37.
  8. GNC (n.d.) Pre-workout-top sellers. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  9. Bauer, B. A. (2016, July 6). Should I add wheatgrass to my smoothies for better health? Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  10. Olsen, S., Aagaard, P., Kadi, F., Tufekovic, G., Verney, J., Olesen, J. L., … Kjaer, M. (2006). Creatine supplementation augments the increase in satellite cell and myonuclei number in human skeletal muscle induced by strength training. The Journal of Physiology, 573(2), 525-534. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2006.107359
  11. Lowery, R. P., Joy, J. M., Dudeck, J. E., Oliveira de Souza, E., McCleary, S. A., Wells, S., … Wilson, J. M. (2013). Effects of 8 weeks of Xpand® 2X pre workout supplementation on skeletal muscle hypertrophy, lean body mass, and strength in resistance trained males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 44. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-44
  12. Denigris, F., Williamsignaro, S., Sica, V., Lerman, L., Darmiento, F., Byrns, R. & Sumi, D. (2007). Effects of a Pomegranate Fruit Extract rich in punicalagin on oxidation-sensitive genes and eNOS activity at sites of perturbed shear stress and atherogenesis. Cardiovascular Research, 73(2), 414-423. doi:10.1016/j.cardiores.2006.08.021
  13. Poortmans, J.R., Francaux, M. (2000). Adverse effects of creatine supplementation: fact or fiction? Sports Medicine, 30(3), 155-170.
  14. Bizzarini E. & De Angelis, L. (2004). Is the use of oral creatine supplementation safe? [Abstract]. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 44 (4), 411–6.
  15. Smith, A. E., Fukuda, D. H., Kendall, K. L., & Stout, J. R. (2010). The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance. Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, 710-20.
  16. Vogel, R. M., Joy, J. M., Falcone, P. H., Mosman, M. M., Kim, M. P., & Moon, J. R. (2015). Safety of a dose-escalated pre-workout supplement in recreationally active females. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 12. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0074-y
  17. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2013, April 11). Stimulant Potentially Dangerous to Health, FDA Warns: Consumer Update. Retrieved 9 August 2016.