Today's Best Pre-Workouts Boost Short-Term Performance and Long-Term Gains.
Whether you are an athlete focusing on strength, size, endurance. Or anything in between, pre-workout supplements can help you get there.
Today's top pre-workout ingredients support muscle development and athletic advancement in many different ways, helping to:
- Fuel and charge-up muscles to boost strength, power and endurance
- Promote healthy blood flow for muscle pumps, oxygenation, detox and performance
- Buffer muscles to neutralize fatigue-inducing acids, increasing reps and extending time to failure
- Enhance body composition by burning fat and preserving muscle
- Give you a head start on muscle recovery, accelerating repair and muscle growth
- Sharpen alertness, focus and mental intensity for mind-over-matter athletic performance
- Improve hydration; because water loss during exercise significantly impairs performance
But the top ingredients can do even more. Beyond making you feel like you can crush the universe, they build up in the body to provide better athletic performance the longer you take.
The bottom line is that taking the right sport nutrients before training can maximize the return on your exercise investment.
There are dozens of performance-enhancing ingredients on the list to choose from.
Today's most effective pre-workout ingredients are:
- L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione - Research-backed 2X stack for enhancing nitric oxide and muscle circulation
- Creatine - Loads muscles with ATP energy for explosive power and strength
- Beta Alanine - Efficiently raises muscle levels of L-Carnosine, which buffers muscles to fight fatigue
- Maritime Pine Bark - Super-antioxidant complex and nitric oxide booster for muscle pumps and protection
- Salt - Offsets sodium loss via sweating and helps to maintain hydration
- Iron - Crucial mineral for athletes that is depleted by training, especially endurance exercise
- Caffeine - Legendary performance-enhancer for alertness and energy; new innovations make it better than ever before
- BCAA - Versatile athletic performance-enhancing benefits plus healthy and comfortable recovery
- Protein + Carbohydrate - Key sport nutrition ingredients that fuel performance and recovery, may be taken together before training
This guide gives details on these ingredients and direction on how to utilize them for maximum fitness gains.
Let's first discuss the best ingredients, followed by the specific supplement products and stacks that maximize their benefits.
The most effective sport nutrition ingredients to look for are:
L-Citrulline + L-Glutathione (Setria® Performance Blend)
Today's greatest sport nutrition supplements must include ingredients for boosting circulation.
This year, the circulation-boosting leader to look for is Setria® Performance Blend.
A unique combination of two ingredients (L-Citrulline and Glutathione), Setria® Performance Blend works synergistically to boost nitric oxide.1
For athletes, nitric oxide is an all-important performance-enhancer.
It signals for blood vessels to relax and widen (called vasodilation), which in turn optimizes circulation throughout the body – including to and from the muscles.
Robust blood circulation can help athletes in many ways:2
- Improved delivery of ergogenic nutrients to hard-working muscle tissues
- Clearance of waste products and fatigue-inducing lactic acid from muscles
- Enhanced muscle pump and muscle oxygenation for better athletic energy
- Overall better athletic performance across strength, endurance and everything in between, in both training and competition
Setria® Performance Blend is the best sport nutrient for circulation performance in athletes, shown in research to:
- Boost and sustain blood Nitric Oxide (NO) levels in the bloodstream for 2X as long as L-Arginine or L-Citrulline that are found in lesser supplements
- Improve muscle mass after 4 weeks and maintain muscle mass after 8 weeks (compared to plain citrulline and a placebo)3
- Help with overall muscle performance, growth and recovery4
- Support and sustain nitric oxide (NO) production post-workout5
Another advantage: The 2 ingredients that comprise Setria® Performance Blend -- Kyowa Quality® L-Citrulline + Setria® L-Glutathione -- each bring their own unique athletic performance benefits to the party:
- L-Citrulline (Kyowa Quality®): Helps athletes use BCAAs, supports muscle power and efficiency, helps clear ammonia from muscle and may reduce post-workout soreness6
- Setria® Glutathione: Clinically studied and patented form of glutathione. A master antioxidant that protects muscles during workouts and reinforces immune defenses against exercise-induced immunosuppression and nasty gym bugs7
Setria® Performance Blend is made by Kyowa Hakko Bio Co. Ltd., a Japanese company regarded as a world leader in nutraceutical development with an emphasis on biotechnology and fermentation. It is pure, vegetarian and allergen-free.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Maritime Pine Bark Extract is another natural nitric oxide booster, and one of the top ingredients overall. It works well with Setria® Performance Blend to boost circulation during exercise.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract also brings its own separate benefits that make it a great addition to sport nutrition formulas.
Intense exercise generates unstable molecules called free radicals, potentially leading to a state called oxidative stress. Free radicals can damage cells, including within muscle tissues.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract supplies proanthocyanidins: A complex of versatile, bioavailable antioxidants that help to neutralize the muscle-damaging effects of exercise-induced free radicals.8
The proanthocyanidin antioxidants in Pine Bark are suggested to have additional versatile benefits for athletes, specifically, helping to:9
- Stimulate blood vessel linings (called endothelium) to release nitric oxide into the bloodstream
- Protect circulating nitric oxide, helping it to extend its circulation-boosting activity
- Natural soothing support for exercise-induced muscle and joint aches
- Support aspects of cardiovascular health including blood vessel integrity and heart health
Best Maritime Pine Bark Extract for Athletes: 95% Proanthocyanidins
Pine bark (and other herbs) can fluctuate in levels of active ingredients from batch to batch.
The best supplements compensate for fluctuations with “standardization”: A process that ensures that botanical ingredients deliver a consistent level of the herb’s active compounds.
The maximum standardization of Maritime Pine Bark Extract on the market today is 95% proanthocyanidin antioxidants. For peak ergogenic benefits, look for this strong potency.
An amino acid found naturally in muscle, creatine is among the best sport nutrition ingredients for promoting powerful mass and peak athletic performance.
Creatine is a must-have sport nutrient for anyone seeking strong performance and robust athletic development.
When muscles are properly loaded with creatine, they have crucial performance fuel that helps with ATP energy in fast-twitch muscle fibers. This translates to supercharged muscle strength and power during workouts.
- Creatine works by regenerating ATP, which is the molecule that generates all energy in the body.10
As you work out and expend energy, phosphate molecules from ATP pop off, and ATP is degraded to ADP – which is the equivalent of a dead battery.
Creatine, however, holds an extra phosphate molecule at the ready. Creatine donates its phosphate back to the spent ATP molecule, which quickly “recharges the battery” – restoring it back to ATP so it can "fire" and generate energy over and over again.
When you're hitting the wall during a workout, striving for just one more rep, millions of these rechargers fire and give you the energy to break through and continues.
That is, as long as your muscles are saturated with creatine.
High-energy exercises – including strength training and intense short-burst aerobic and interval training – deplete muscle reserves of creatine and ATP energy.
When you're fully stocked with energy-recharging creatine, your muscles can keep up with your intention to train like a madman.
Keeping creatine topped-off in muscle tissues helps to:11
- Energize Muscles. Creatine is concentrated in muscle, where it “sparks” energy molecules known as ATP to “charge up” muscle fibers for explosive lifts
- Build Strength. Research has suggested that creatine taken in conjunction with training appears to bring greater increases in muscle strength than training alone
- Accelerate Recovery. Creatine may activate muscle stem cells, accelerating muscle repair and recovery while stimulating new muscle growth
In a scientific review that evaluated the results of 22 different studies on men and women taking creatine, researchers found that creatine supplementation was associated with better gym performance and strength training results.
Specifically, researchers found creatine supplementation was associated with:12
- 8% increase in average muscle strength versus placebo
- 14% improvement in weightlifting performance, measured as maximum reps
- Up to a 43% improvement in bench press performance
Top athletic supplements will have creatine in their ingredients. Taking it before training is a logical approach that helps to top-off your levels and ensure energized training right before your workout.
Note: Creatine and Beta Alanine (up next) are sport supplement ingredients that work best when they are taken consistently, every day, over time. There is more on the best creatine + beta alanine loading practices at the bottom of this page.
Easy-on-the-stomach Creatine for pre-workout supplements: Creapure® pH10
Creapure® pH10 is a special 99.5% pure form of creatine monohydrate made to superior standards of quality.
Creapure® pH10 uses pH-balancing nutrition technology to enhance bioavailability while eliminating bloating and gastric distress that is sometimes associated with lesser creatine ingredients.
Creapure® pH10's stomach-friendly design is helpful when taken before training, because you don't want to have to run to the bathroom in the middle of your workout.
Beta Alanine is a key amino acid that boosts levels of carnosine: A molecule that is highly concentrated in muscle tissues, and universally present across all muscle fiber types.
Carnosine is effective because it buffers muscles from fatigue-inducing lactic acid.
As a result, beta alanine helps you to exercise with more power for a longer time before “hitting the wall.”
Research has linked beta alanine supplementation to athletic performance enhancement including:13
- Significantly improved sprinting performance at the tail end of endurance exercise to exhaustion
- Increased repetitions in bench press and greater training volume in all resistance exercises
- Enhanced muscular endurance in resistance exercise in trained athletes
- Longer time performing at peak capacity cycling exercise until neuromuscular exhaustion
Research has also linked higher carnosine concentrations in fast-twitch muscle fibers with more muscle power during high-intensity exercise.14
Beta alanine one of the sport ingredients that works best when it is taken consistently over time, especially in weeks leading up to competitions or sessions where you need to perform your best.
Best beta alanine for pre-workout supplements: CarnoSyn®
CarnoSyn® is a bioengineered beta-alanine form that works to max-out muscle carnosine for superior athletic performance and growth. CarnoSyn® is instant-release to raise muscle carnosine quickly.
CarnoSyn® has been shown to boost working capacity of muscle, delay fatigue, and increase muscle strength and endurance.
For best results, beta alanine must be taken for a minimum of 4 weeks. It is sensible to include beta alanine in pre-workout ingredients to top-off muscle carnosine. It also helps establish a regular routine that augments every workout for the best long-range athletic benefits.
Water + Salt
Hydration and electrolyte balance are crucial for athletic performance and recovery.
But the harder you train, the more you sweat – losing fluids, sodium and electrolytes, and potentially leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance diminish athletic performance. And the more dehydrated you are, the greater your performance decrements will be.15
Salt helps maintain hydration by restoring electrolytes that are depleted by sweating. Salt also optimizes absorption of sports nutrition amino acids.
Best Salt to take pre-workout: Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan Pink Salt is a natural, unprocessed form that includes natural trace mineral and electrolyte ingredients that are especially beneficial to athletes: Potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Iron is crucial for oxygenating athletes’ blood and muscle tissues. But intense physical exertion reduces iron absorption while accelerating iron loss through sweat.16
Low iron diminishes red blood cells’ ability to transport oxygen, and is associated with reduced exercise capacity, fatigue and sub-par performance.
Healthy iron levels have been shown in clinical research to improve athletic performance via enhanced strength, endurance and maximal muscle power output.17
Best Iron supplement for athletes to take before exercise: NutriGenesis®
NutriGenesis® Iron is complexed with a matrix of absorption-enhancing cofactors – a key advantage for athletes who may have a harder time absorbing mineral ingredients.
Caffeine is one of the most popular ingredients that athletes take before working out to amp-up their performance.
Caffeine has been shown in clinical trials and research reviews to benefit athletic performance in a few ways, including:
Caffeine is valuable for athletes. But most sport nutrition supplements fail to use caffeine the right way.
Many sport supplements supply huge caffeine megadoses that are harsh and haphazard. They spike energy for training, but then lead to crashes, mood swings, jitters and other side effects.
Today's advanced sport nutrition products take a new approach that unleashes caffeine's true exercise-boosting potential.
Best caffeine for pre-workout: Performance-enhanced low-dose caffeine
Low-dose caffeine may work better than megadosing for athletes.
This is one reason why many athletes are now seeking out stim-free sport formulas. This approach enables the user to add as much caffeine or as little caffeine as desired, for superior performance results.
L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, can also help athletes to use caffeine more effectively.
L-Theanine + Caffeine is a popular stack for its ability to reduce caffeine side effects.
- Human clinical trials show L-Theanine + Caffeine (as 2:1 Suntheanine® L-Theanine to Natural Caffeine) are synergistic ingredients.
They appear to enhance stimulation for better performance, especially mentally, which is helpful for productive training sessions.
Researchers have attributed this performance-enhancing benefit to L-Theanine's ability to reduce caffeine side effects.20
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) – comprised of L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine – make up about one-third of the protein found in muscle.
When taken in supplement form, BCAAs are rapidly absorbed into muscle tissues, where they provide a range of athletic performance-enhancing benefits:21
- Helping to refuel muscle for robust energy metabolism;
- Improving endurance by blunting fatigue-inducing neurotransmitters;
- Improving uptake of of amino acids into muscles;
- Promoting muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and growth hormone;
- Protecting muscle tissues and soothing soreness after training
Researchers have also suggested that BCAA intake before squat exercise decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle fatigue after training.22
BCAA's performance-enhancing potential has been attributed to its ability to fight fatigue, protect against muscle damage, and enhance energy metabolism.23
Most effective BCAA for pre-workout: NutriGenesis® and Ajipure®
NutriGenesis® and Ajinomoto® are the two BCAA ingredients with the greatest bioavailability. That means they can reach your bloodstream readily and unleash the greatest ergogenic benefits.
NutriGenesis® is lab-grown BCAAs complexed with absorption-enhancing natural cofactors including probiotics, fiber, enzymes and antioxidants.
Ajipure® BCAAs are produced from non-GMO, gluten-free vegetable-derived carbohydrates using patented, eco-friendly Ferment-A-Pure technology.
In combination, Ajinomoto® + NutriGenesis® BCAAs are a powerful combination athletic performance.
Protein + Carbohydrate
Protein and carbohydrate are 2 of the most important sports nutrition ingredients that you can take.
Experts are somewhat conflicted on the best timing for taking protein and carbohydrate in order to achieve the best performance and muscle-boosting ergogenic benefits.
However, the consensus seems to be that protein and carbohydrate are best taken in proximity to exercise: Before, during, or after your workout.24
It is also worth noting that they have synergy and appear to help each other to work better.25
Protein and carbohydrate may be taken before training, if that is your personal preference. If so, it is important to take the best available forms of these ingredients to unlock the greatest benefits.
Best Protein and Carbohydrate to take pre-workout: Oryzatein® and KarboLyn®
When it comes to taking protein and carbohydrate together before training, specifically, there are a couple of challenges to overcome:
- You need the nutrients to get into your bloodstream relatively quickly.
- You also need forms of these sport nutrients that are very easy on the stomach.
Otherwise, taking them before working out can lead to bloating or gastric distress that can really limit your performance during your session.
The two top brands of protein and carbohydrate that overcome these concerns are:
- Oryzatein®: Clean, vegan, easy-on-the-stomach rice protein powder that works as well as whey for building muscle
- KarboLyn®: Bioengineered carbohydrate that fuels muscles fast like a simple carb, but sustains up to 2 hours like a complex carb
Together they are the 2 best forms of protein and carbohydrate that you can take before working out.
This is because they are both very effective, but also super-clean and easy on the stomach – so you can get all of their performance-and enhancing benefits without having your workout interrupted by gastric distress.
Today's Top Pre-Workout Supplement:
Performance Lab® SPORT Pre
Most of the above top-rated ingredients are found in Performance Lab® SPORT Pre.
Each serving supplies:
- Setria® Performance Blend [L-Citrulline (Kyowa Quality®), L-Glutathione (Setria®)], 2200 mg
- Creapure® pH10 (contains 94% Creatine Monohydrate [83% Creatine]), 1250 mg
- CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine 800 mg
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pinus pinaster) (95% proanthocyanidins) 100 mg
- Himalayan Pink Salt 350 mg
- NutriGenesis® Iron+ 2.5 mg
SPORT Pre benefits include:
- Raises nitric oxide (NO) to support muscle blood flow and oxygenation
- Sustains NO activity to extend muscle benefits for strength and recovery
- Enhances anaerobic and aerobic exercise by sparking muscle-charging ATP energy
- Improves endurance by buffering and hydrating hard-working muscles
- Loads muscle with creatine + beta alanine over 28 days (when combined with Post and Maintain)
SPORT Pre is also designed for healthy long-range use. Features:
- Vegan-friendly, prebiotic-infused NutriCaps® from pullulan (fermented tapioca)
- Clean label: No additives except for natural Nuflow® Rice to help with flow during encapsulation
- Innovative sports-drink-in-a-capsule design rehydrates body when taken with water
- Safe, effective sport nutrition support for muscle development and muscle health
- Stimulant-free; stacks optimally with Performance Lab® Stim for those who prefer caffeine Performance Lab®
Take Performance Lab® SPORT Pre and get all of this year's best pre-training ingredients in one clean, effective formula that is easy to take and so effective.
Performance Lab® SPORT Pre is the top pre-workout for women, men, all age groups and all skill levels. It's the most sophisticated training stack ever developed.
Take SPORT Pre 30 minutes before exercise to achieve peak strength, endurance and athleticism.
And remember, SPORT Pre is not available at Amazon, GNC. Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens or other outlets. You can only buy it right here.
Best Caffeine to Take Before Exercise:
Performance Lab® Stim
Maybe you don't want creatine in your pre-workout, but you still want to supercharge your athletic performance. Performance Lab® Stim might be perfect for you.
Caffeine is a great athletic performance enhancer to take prior to working out. And Performance Lab® Stim revolutionizes caffeine to make it work even better.
Research has shown that caffeine taken by athletes prior to working out can produce significant improvements across:
- High-intensity exercise, including sprinting
- Maximum muscle strength, force and endurance
- Extending time to exhaustion in athletics
- Reduce perceptions of fatigue
Basic stimulant supplements’ caffeine megadoses lead to short-term jitters and long-range exhaustion. They also often include synthetic colors, preservatives and flavors.
Performance Lab® Stim is smarter and cleaner. With Natural Caffeine 50 mg + Suntheanine® 100 mg, it delivers greater dosing precision, fewer side effects and superior performance-tuned stimulation.
Stim’s ultramodern design also restores caffeine-depleted brain chemicals with Ajipure® L-Tyrosine + NutriGenesis® B-Complex – supporting recovery from stim-driven work, athletics, fat burning and more.
Delivered in vegan-friendly NutriCaps®, Performance Lab® Stim is the cleanest caffeine ever developed, and the only Performance Lab® formula with caffeine by design.
Best Pre-Workout Drink:
Protein + carbohydrate is a legendary sport nutrition stack that can be taken before training.
Performance Lab® SPORT Protein + Carb
Together, protein and carbohydrate enhance muscle protein synthesis, restore muscle glycogen for energy and more.
Flavor-matched with organic cocoa, vanilla bean, cinnamon, yacon root, monk fruit and stevia, SPORT Protein + SPORT Carb mix together into a delicious, convenient and highly effective 2-in-1 muscle drink.
- SPORT Protein is clean organic rice protein that works as well as whey protein powder
- SPORT Carb is a 2-in-1 complex/simple carb innovation that absorbs faster and lasts longer
Together, these 2 advanced ingredients make it easy and convenient for you to get protein + carbohydrate sport nutrition synergy.
Best Pre- and Post-Workout Combo Stack
SPORT Pre + Post + Maintain
Sport nutrients creatine and beta alanine deliver the greatest athletic performance benefits when they are loaded into muscle every day, consistently over time.
Performance Lab® SPORT Pre + Post + Maintain are designed to be taken together for creatine + beta alanine bodybuilding muscle-loading practices (and more).
Performance Lab® SPORT Pre + Post + Maintain supply:
- SPORT Pre - 800 mg of Carnosyn® Beta Alanine, 1250 mg of Creapure® pH10 Creatine
- SPORT Post - 1200 mg of SR Carnosyn® Beta Alanine, 1750 mg of Creapure® pH10 Creatine
- SPORT Maintain - 1600 mg of SR Carnosyn® Beta Alanine, 3000 mg of Creapure® pH10 Creatine
Together, this trio of supplements form an easy, convenient solution for getting the consistent daily beta alanine + creatine intake shown to produce the best muscle benefits in research.
Top BCAA Supplement for Pre-Workout
Performance Lab® SPORT BCAA
Low-quality BCAA supplements will only include one inferior form of branched-chain amino acids.
SPORT BCAA instead supplies the two top forms on the market: Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine as NutriGenesis® and Ajinomoto®.
Presented in a muscle-calibrated 2:1:1 ratio, these highly absorbable and bioavailable forms simply work better.
Take Performance Lab® SPORT BCAA for muscle benefits that promote superior performance in your training session.
Performance Lab® SPORT Pre is designed to optimize all fitness and training regimens by enhancing muscle power, increasing blood flow to muscles and extending physical endurance.
With additional support for growth hormone and body hydration, Performance Lab® SPORT Pre helps to maintain exercise intensity while priming muscles for healthy growth and fast recovery.
Combining SPORT Pre with the other Performance Lab® supplements discussed in this article can max-out the performance-enhancing potential of sport nutrition.
And, because it's Performance Lab®, you know that every product is clean-label, formulated with ultramodern ingredients and strategies. Designed to fit together seamlessly for the ultimate human performance results.