Make every second in the gym count with the best pre-workout supplements
While nothing replaces a healthy diet and plenty of sleep as the best fuel for exercise, pre-workout supplements can give you a little helping hand towards reaching your fitness goals. These can come in the form of a shot, tablet or powder to be added to a drink, and are taken around half an hour before your gym session or cardio workout.
Which supplement is best for you depends on what exactly you’re trying to achieve: some are tailored to fat loss, others boost muscle gains, while some are designed to help keep you going during the most gruelling endurance workouts. It’s important to know what a supplement contains before you try it, though, because some use ingredients that you may want to avoid, such as caffeine.
For everything you need to know about pre-workout supplements, including our pick of the best products you can currently buy, read on.
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How to choose the best pre-workout supplement for you
What’s in a pre-workout supplement?
Every pre-workout supplement is different, but they often include many of the same ingredients.
Caffeine appears in many products, for instance, thanks to its performance-enhancing properties, although it’s also possible to find supplements without it. Other common ingredients include creatine, which is thought to help build muscle and boost strength; beta-alanine, a non-essential amino acid; and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which aid muscle repair.
Respected brands should avoid nasties such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as artificial colours and sweeteners, but it’s good to check that these aren’t used before you buy.
What else should I look out for?
Make sure the brand you opt for doesn’t have vaguely named ingredients that hide the exact amount of what’s in the supplements. With these products, you don’t know if you’re taking too little or excessive amounts of a particular ingredient. Go for companies that are precise and scientific about exactly what’s in their supplements so you can be sure of what you’re taking.
Are pre-workout supplements safe?
If you’re new to pre-workout supplements, it’s important to start slowly. Begin with smaller servings to assess your tolerance before increasing, as per the instructions.
Reading labels and ingredients carefully is obviously the most important thing to do before buying a pre-workout supplement, and you should consult your doctor for advice before starting if you have any pre-existing conditions. It goes without saying that you should never use them as a replacement for a healthy, balanced diet.
The best pre-workout supplements you can buy in 2023
1. MyProtein The Pre-Workout: Best all-round pre-workout powder
Price when reviewed: £33 | Check price at MyProtein
We’ve long been fans of the different ranges from MyProtein, and The Pre-Workout is a good place to start if you’re new to pre-workout supplements. Coming in seven tasty flavours, including blue raspberry and lemon sherbet, the gluten-free powder is stuffed with an effective combination of ingredients to help you stay on top form in the gym and build muscle as you go.
It’s got 200mg of caffeine, which aids endurance and concentration, creatine to boost short, intense efforts and L-glutamine to help muscle repair. The Pre-Workout also contains black pepper extract and capsicum, along with a healthy dose of important vitamins such as B6.
2. Bulk Powders Complete Pre-Workout Advanced: Best for a carb-free boost
Price when reviewed: £35 for 500g | Check price at Bulk Powders
If you’ve tried the Complete Pre-Workout from Bulk Powders and want even more of a boost, the advanced version will be perfect for you. The gluten-free, vegetarian and non-GM powder is similar to the original product but is more concentrated to give you even more workout power.
Ingredients include beta-alanine, citrulline malate – which is used to boost endurance – and BCAAs, and there’s also a large caffeine hit to give you an extra push on those harder reps. You’ll also find vitamin B6 to help you stave off tiredness and fatigue, and L-Tyrosine to aid mental focus and concentration.
The powder is virtually carb-free for those who want to avoid carbohydrates and also tastes great – a big plus in a pre-workout supplement.
3. Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout Primer: Tastiest pre-workout
Price when reviewed: £57 (560g) | Check price at Amazon
Sports nutrition brand Kaged Muscle’s products are ideal for those who want to know exactly what they’re taking with precise amounts, and want to avoid nasties such as artificial flavours and colours. The brand has a wide range of pre-workout supplements depending on your goals, and the award-winning Pre-Workout Primer is one of its bestsellers.
Available in four flavours that are all delicious, Kaged Muscle claims that the Primer will help you make the most of your workout by maximising endurance, focus and strength. The energising mixture includes pure L-citrulline for increasing blood flow, along with caffeine and coconut water powder for boosting energy. There’s also vitamin B12 to aid metabolism and taurine to help endurance.
4. MyProtein The Pump: Best low-caffeine pre-workout powder
Price when reviewed: £35 for 320g | Check price at MyProtein
Caffeine is a common ingredient in pre-workout powders, and it’s great for providing a mental boost. However, not everyone wants to take a big hit of the stuff before a training session, perhaps because they’re exercising in the evening or they’re simply trying to avoid having too much caffeine in general. Having MyProtein’s THE Pump powder to hand means you can get the other benefits of a pre-workout supplement without too much caffeine, since none is added to the powder (though it still contains a small 7.5mg per serving).
The powder contains VASO6, an ingredient derived from green tea extract that contains catechins, which are said to help with weight loss, as well as beta-alanine and vitamin C. And if you’re at all worried you won’t get much of a boost for your workout without caffeine, one sip of the zingy orange mango or rainbow sherbet flavours will reassure you on that front.