Pre-workout supplements generally don't have the best reputation among the wellness community because they're known for being pumped full of all sorts of dodgy ingredients with who knows what kind of side effects.
We can all agree that downing a shaker full of synthetic flavors, colors, and stimulants probably isn't the best route to go if you're looking to maximize your health and performance, but if you can get your hands on one that's as clean and natural as can be, why would you pass that up?
When used properly, a vegan pre-workout can be a great addition to any fitness stack for people looking to propel their performance and results to the next level.
That's what we're here to talk about today.
Put all your concerns and bad energy around pre-workouts aside, and be open to the possibility of a new pre-workout that exceeds all of your expectations.
Meet Performance Lab Pre—the cleanest and most effective vegan pre-workout supplement on the market.
What Is A Pre-Workout?
At first glance, a pre-workout supplement seems pretty self-explanatory. That is until you really delve into the world of fitness supplements.
Basically, your body needs energy to train. And while food is a great starting point, sometimes it needs a little more. That's where a vegan pre-workout supplement comes into the picture.
Simply put, a pre-workout supplement is a blend of specific vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other ingredients that help to boost training performance. Some will add caffeine for energy, while others rely on more natural pre-workout nutrients to enhance energy.
Pre-workout supplements will also contain ingredients that help increase blood flow and push oxygen to your muscles to enable you to work harder for longer.
And some of the best vegan pre-workouts may also contain amino acids that increase muscle growth, reduce muscle soreness, and continue to facilitate muscle protein synthesis even after training has stopped.
But a generally accepted explanation of a pre-workout supplement is a group of ingredients designed to enhance athletic performance and augment long-term training adaptations 1.
When used correctly, a vegan pre-workout supplement stack can completely change how you train and maximize the results you see. So, let's dive into what you need to know about the best vegan pre-workout supplements.
Common Ingredients In Pre-Workouts
While each pre-workout formula is going to contain different ingredients in varying amounts, some ingredients you'll commonly see in vegan pre-workout supplements include 1-4:
- Caffeine: The jitters and nervousness you feel after taking a pre-workout is usually the result of caffeine, which functions as a potent central nervous system stimulator to give you an energy boost to improve performance during endurance, power, and resistance exercise, as well as enhance cognition. Most vegan pre-workout supplements will contain around 300mg of caffeine per serving.
- Beta-alanine: Beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine synthesis, which functions as an intramuscular buffer to reduce lactic acid buildup and prevent muscular fatigue.
- BCAAs: The branched-chain amino acids are three essential amino acids—valine, leucine, and isoleucine—that are used to boost rates of muscle protein synthesis, maximize muscle growth, minimize muscle protein breakdown, reduce exercise-induced muscle damage, and reduce muscle soreness while accelerating post-workout recovery.
- Creatine: Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that serves to increase intramuscular levels of phosphocreatine, which bolsters the availability of energy substrates to enhance physical performance and increase muscle growth and adaptations.
- Nitric oxide agents: Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator that enhances performance by increasing blood circulation to enhance the delivery of nutrients to working muscles. Natural ingredients like l-arginine and citrulline are commonly added to pre-workouts to boost nitric oxide levels and subsequent exercise performance.
- Betaine: Betaine (trimethylglycine) is a naturally-occurring derivative of the amino acid glycine, which has been shown to enhance exercise performance by increasing rates of creatine synthesis, elevating levels of blood nitric oxide, and promoting fluid homeostasis and thermal regulation.
The Benefits Of Pre-Workout Supplements
The benefits received from a pre-workout formula will largely depend on the specific ingredients. However, some of the most common effects are force production, muscular endurance, power, muscle growth, and recovery.
There's substantial evidence to support the beneficial role of plant-based pre-workout formulas in augmenting force production, both short-term and long-term.
While it may not directly affect force production, consuming a caffeine-containing pre-workout may help mitigate fatigue-related decrements in force production.
One specific study sought to investigate the effects of a caffeine-containing ready-to-drink pre-workout formula on the bench press and leg press 1RM and muscular endurance 5.
Participants performed bench press and leg press 1RM and muscular endurance testing (3 sets of 10 repetitions, last set until failure) to induce fatigue, followed by the consumption of a pre-workout supplement or a placebo.
The group consuming pre-workout did not experience a decline in post-supplementation leg press 1RM, and it also appeared to mitigate decrements in bench press 1RM.
More research is needed in this area, but based on available studies, it appears that consumption of pre-workout supplements may allow for greater retention of force production during and after exercise in both men and women.
If you're looking to train harder for longer, a good plant-based pre-workout may be key.
Several studies have looked at the effects of pre-workout supplements on muscular endurance. They have reported that those supplementing with them can complete more resistance exercise repetitions and extend the time to fatigue compared to those who do not consume pre-workouts.
However, it's important to note that these results largely depend on the supplement contents and dosing protocols.
Creatine, a common ingredient in many natural pre-workout supplements, may prolong work time and extend your time to fatigue.
One study found that men who consumed pre-workout after seven days of creatine loading could perform significantly more reps of back squats before hitting fatigue compared to those taking a placebo 6; this was done with five sets of 10 repetitions at 75% 1RM.
There have been many conflicting results in studies looking at the effects of pre-workout on muscular endurance, but results may predominantly depend on the composition of the formula itself.
But with that said, the inclusion of BCAAs in your natural pre-workout stack (or during your workout) may offer an added benefit towards boosting endurance and reducing fatigue.
Studies show that amino acids, specifically the branched-chain amino acids, may contribute to energy levels and production and reduce the accumulation of fatigue-inducing compounds that can put a screeching halt to your workout session.
One specific study found that the ingestion of BCAAs before training resulted in lower levels of serotonin, creatine kinase (CK), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) 7.
These substances are all released in the cascade of fatigue onset, suggesting that BCAA ingestion may help attenuate the release of fatigue substances during endurance exercise that may impair performance.
The mechanism behind their efficacy is in their ability to alter brain concentrations of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), which has been linked with central fatigue.
Here's how it works:
Exercise appears to increase the plasma ratio of free tryptophan to BCAAs. For tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, it requires transport proteins; these proteins are also responsible for transporting other amino acids across.
However, during exercise, tryptophan is preferentially taken up by the brain, which may increase the synthesis of 5-HT 8, as tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin.
Because larger essential amino acids like leucine, isoleucine, and valine use the same transport proteins as tryptophan to enter the brain (larger amino acids increase transport competition), increasing plasma concentrations of BCAAs may reduce tryptophan uptake and the subsequent synthesis of 5-HT, thereby delaying fatigue onset.
Regarding power production, evidence on the beneficial effects of pre-workout is largely mixed. Some studies suggest that consumption of a pre-workout formula may enhance anaerobic performance, while other studies suggest it has minimal impact on anaerobic running capacity 9, 10.
Lane and Byrd looked at the effects of pre-workout supplementation on power maintenance in lower body and upper body tasks 11.
They found that acute consumption of pre-workout in recreationally trained males increased peak velocity during bench press compared to a caffeine-matched placebo alone. But like we said, the evidence isn't conclusive across the board with pre-workouts.
Enhanced Muscle Growth and Better Recovery
Building muscle can be downright challenging for many of us, but certain supplements can boost that process—BCAAs and pre-workout being two.
Research has proven time and time again that having BCAAs as part of your workout stack can enhance muscle growth because of leucine. This essential amino acid plays a critical role in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) by inhibiting protein degradation.
It does this through a specific pathway called mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), although we don't need to get into the specifics about it here.
When you're supplementing with a pure BCAA powder, you're supplying your body with the maximum amount of leucine needed to build muscle.
However, it's important to keep in mind that MPS depends on the presence of all 20 amino acids, so hoping a BCAA supplement alone will do the trick isn't going to work.
But what BCAAs can also do is help attenuate muscle damage and speed up your recovery, which can get you back into the gym faster and stronger.
Resistance-based exercises cause microdamage in muscle fibers, which can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), reductions in strength and force production, as well as the increased efflux of intramuscular proteins into the blood.
Protein and amino acid supplements may be an effective intervention strategy for enhancing muscle recovery because they may reduce protein degradation and/or muscle enzyme release, decrease skeletal muscle damage, reduce muscle soreness, mitigate central fatigue, and accelerate muscle recovery post-exercise 12.
Multiple studies find BCAA supplements can reduce post-workout muscle soreness by reducing levels of creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)—both markers of muscle damage.
By attenuating CK efflux, reducing residual muscle soreness, and improving recovery of muscle function 13, you can avoid that period of soreness and get back to your training program quicker.
The Do's And Don'ts Of Pre-Workouts
As we said before, there's a lot of negativity surrounding pre-workouts in the wellness community, but if you talk to any athlete or bodybuilder, you're likely to get a different opinion.
Let's explore the ins and outs of pre-workouts and discuss what you should avoid in a pre-workout and what you should look for in the best vegan pre-workout supplement.
Beware of these…
- Artificial colors and flavors—There's a substantial amount of evidence to support the harmful effects of artificial colors and flavors, so why would you want to consume them? The three most widely used color culprits are Yellow #5, Yellow #6, and Red #40, which contain compounds like benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl that have been linked to health conditions such as cancer. Supplement companies also love to fill up their products with fillers and additives to bulk them up and lower costs for consumers. Many of these ingredients are cheap, useless, and provide minimal, if any, benefit towards your long-term goals and performance.
- Artificial sweeteners—Pre-workout supplements are notorious for using synthetics, including artificial sweeteners. While in small quantities they may not be harmful, taken regularly, they can cause issues with blood sugar regulation 14. Regular consumption of artificial sweeteners results in insulin secretion from the pancreas, which is mistaken for glucose (they're both sweet). Chronically high insulin levels in the blood eventually lead to decreased insulin receptor activity and sensitivity and the development of insulin resistance. If it says sugar-free, put it back.
- Excessive stimulants—Any pre-workout supplement's goal is to get your mind and body pumped up for your workout and increase energy and focus. However, the problem with most pre-workouts you'll find on the market is they're loaded with stimulants that can ultimately leave your workouts in the weeds; they contain excessively high levels of caffeine that give you a potent energy boost and improve mental focus, but the levels of caffeine can have a not-so-pleasant effect on some people. The metabolization of caffeine can affect people differently; some people metabolize caffeine faster than others, whereas for some people, it can remain in their system for upwards of 10 hours. So, when you're taking a dose of 300mg+ of caffeine, the effects are far harder-hitting than a moderate dose of 100-200mg and can often cause serious jitters in the meantime and a brutal energy crash afterward.
What To Look For In The Best Vegan Pre-Workout
- Clean ingredients—Long story short, you want vegan-friendly ingredients in your pre-workout stack that are going to get the job done. If your formula is packed with ingredients you can't pronounce, it's probably not going to be effective. Look for ones that contain few ingredients, but ingredients that will actually work.
- No synthetics or artificials—There are far too many concerns when it comes to artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and synthetic nutrients. Not only do they cause long-term health issues, but they're not actually working to help you towards your goals. The best vegan pre-workout supplements are pure and free of synthetics. It's a Performance Lab guarantee that none of our products contain anything artificial or synthetic; we use NutriGenesis technology—a patented process of vitamin, mineral, and amino acid growth mirrors nutrient genesis in nature to make sure everything you're getting is easily recognized, absorbed, and utilized by the body, along with natural colors and flavors.
- Optimized amounts—Products labeled with a proprietary blend of ingredients are something to avoid if you're looking for an effective pre-workout. Because manufacturers aren't required to disclose ingredient amounts, you're probably not getting nearly as much as you think. Look for supplements that are upfront about their dosing and contain research-based ratios for optimal results.
Your Perfect Pre-Workout Stack
Depending on the effects and results you're looking for, a sole pre-workout supplement may not be enough.
That's where stacking comes in handy, giving you the perfect customized supplement program to help you build muscle, boost energy levels, improve mental focus, and meet your training needs—with no adverse side effects.
Here's what we suggest:
Performance Lab Pre + Performance Lab Caffeine+
It can't get any better than this, and here's why.
Performance Lab Pre
Performance Lab Pre is a powerful stim-free muscle primer designed to power you through all of your high-intensity workouts. It's intelligently stacked to boost and sustain nitric oxide (NO) levels for twice as long and nourish your muscles to protect against the buildup of lactic acid that can end sessions early.
Pre is an innovative blend of natural ingredients: Setria® Performance Blend (Setria® Glutathione + L-Citrulline), Creapure® pH10, CarnoSyn®, Maritime Pine Bark, and NutriGenesis® Iron designed to enhance strength, intensity, and endurance, boost energy levels, and increase mental focus without caffeine overload or typical side effects of other pre-workout supplements.
Performance Lab Caffeine+
If you're looking for an energy boost before your workout, Performance Lab Caffeine+ is what you need.
Since Pre is a completely stim-free formula, Caffeine+ offers all the benefits of a stimulant pre-workout formula, with none of the adverse side effects typical of many pre-workout supplements.
With this formula, you're guaranteed ultramodern stimulation for more precision and better performance. It's smarter, cleaner, and more effective than any other natural stimulant on the market.
Combining natural Caffeine 50 mg + Suntheanine® 100 mg per serving, Caffeine+ delivers greater dosing precision, fewer side effects, and superior performance-tuned stimulation.
The ultramodern design of Caffeine+ also helps restore caffeine-depleted brain chemicals with natural ingredients like Ajipure® L-Tyrosine + NutriGenesis® B-complex to support healthy recovery from all caffeine-driven activities.
It's probably not news when we tell you that investing in a good plant-based pre-workout stack is totally worth it. If you've been struggling with getting the results you want, it may just be what your body needs to maximize its potential.
And while there are a lot of supplements available on the market, they all come with their pros and cons. Formulas packed with stimulants and synthetics may give you a quick ROI, but long-term, they won't really help your health and your performance.
Performance Lab Pre and Caffeine+ offer one of the best combinations you can get for a pre-workout stack. They deliver everything you need to maximize building muscle, increase energy, shed fat, and accelerate recovery.
But what they don't have is all the nasties that come along with most fitness supplements and instead are giving you a super clean, super-effective product that gets athletes the results they're looking for.
It's what we all dream of, and we've made it a reality.
- PS Harty, HA Zabriskie, JL Erickson, PE Molling, CM Kersick, AR Jagim. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2018 Aug; 15(41).
- R Cooper, F Naclerio, J Allgrove, A Jimenez. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9(1): 33.
- RM Hobson, B Saunders, G Ball, RC Harris, C Sale. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012; 43(1): 25-37.
- RR Wolfe. Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Aug; 14: 30.
- PB Collins, CP Earnest, RL Dalton, RJ Sowinski, TJ Grubic, CJ Favot, AM Coletta, C Rasmussen, M Greenwood, RB Kreider. Short-erm effects of a ready-to-drink pre-workout beverage on exercise performance and recovery. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):823.
- JR Hoffman, NA Ratamess, R Ross, M Shanklin, J Kang, AD Faigenbaum. Effect of a pre-exercise energy supplement on the acute hormonal response to resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(3):874-882.
- DH Kim, SH Kim, WS Jeong, HY Lee. Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2013;17(4):169-180.
- E Blomstrand. A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J Nutr. 2006;136(2):544S-547S.
- N Martinez, B Campbell, M Franek, L Buchanan, R Colquhoun. The effect of acute pre-workout supplementation on power and strength performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:29.
- BD Spradley, KR Crowley, CY Tai, KL Kendall, DH Fukuda, EN Esposito, SE Moon, JR Moon. 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. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012;9:28.
- M Lane, M Byrd. Effects of pre-workout supplements on power maintenance in lower body and upper body tasks. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2018;3(1):11.
- TA VanDusseldorp, KA Escobar, KE Johnson, et al. Effect of Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation on Recovery Following Acute Eccentric Exercise. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1389. 13 G Howatson, M Hoad, S Goodall, J Tallent, PG Bell, DN French. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9:20.
- K Mathur, RK Agrawal, S Nagpure, D Deshpande. Effect of artificial sweeteners on insulin resistance among type-2 diabetes mellitus patients. J Family Med Prim Care. 2020;9(1):69-71.