Fact or fiction. Myth or truth. Can all-natural pre-workouts actually work? There are a ton of pre-workout drinks, powders, and pills out there. But… let’s be honest for a second. Do they really have a significant benefit?
Sure, they may feel like they’re doing something. They might give you a buzz, maybe even make your face feel a little tingly. But is anything useful actually happening?
Alright. Time for some hard truths about pre-workouts.
What exactly counts as a ‘pre-workout’?
Listen to any bro-to-bro convo in the gym and you’ll hear ‘pre-workout’ thrown around. A lot. There’s the pre-workout meal (what they ate, when they ate it), and pre-workout drink (maybe an espresso or filter coffee). But what about a pre-workout supplement?
Pre-workout supps can be ready to drink products. Just grab and go. More typically, they’re a powder which you’ll wanna mix up with water and chug about 30 minutes before training starts.
So, sure, a coffee could count as a pre-workout. But a true pre-workout is a blend of synergistic ingredients which work on your energy levels, focus, and alertness to get your mind and muscles primed to smash the session.
5 Pre-workout ingredients that work
There are a lot of pre-workout formulas out there stuffed with useless crap that have no impact whatsoever (apart from on your bank balance). Some companies think they can just buzz you up on a ton of caffeine. Others think you won’t notice if they shove weird ingredients into a proprietary blend.
At CrazyBulk, we take our workouts seriously. We don’t want a massive buzz, and a comedown keeping us awake til 3am. So we’re super picky about the pre-workout products we choose to use.
Here are the pre-workout ingredients we look out for. We’re not saying anything else is useless, but… yeah, it probably is.
1 – Caffeine
The good stuff. We all know how it feels to have a shot of caffeine when the mind is tired and the body is done. Caffeine picks you up, gets you focused, and makes you feel like anything is possible. In a pre-workout formula, the caffeine should be well-dosed and easily absorbed. The results will be much more predictable than a cup of coffee.
2 – Creatine
Creatine won’t give you a buzz, but it’ll help your body get more from training. Creatine supports power output in bursts of intense exercise like lifting, sprints, HIIT etc. Plus it gives you a better pump and helps your body put on size and strength. Kinda needs to be in any decent pre-workout!
3 – Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) – ideally Clarinol®
CLA is a form of omega-6 fatty acid and it’s been shown to support fat loss and increase calorie burn – exactly what you want from a pre-workout. Look for Clarinol® CLA – it’s the most legit form and contains 80% of the active isomers in CLA.
4 – Beta Alanine
This non-essential amino acid should be in any good pre-workout. It can give you better workout capacity and training performance. FYI, it’s especially good when combined with citrulline malate (which would have been #6 on this list).
5 – Niacin
This vitamin does a good job of opening up the blood vessels, meaning you’ll get more oxygen flowing around the body and into your muscles. This has a ton of benefits, getting more nutrients to the working muscles, getting rid of waste, and giving you a sick pump!
How do pre-workouts work, anyway?
Really good pre-workouts are few and far between. That’s cos some of them give you an energy boost (but then leave you to crash). Some of them help you get a wicked pump. And some of them help you burn more calories and torch more fat. But few of them do it all.
When you do find one that does it all for you, hang on to that baby like it’s your soul mate! Take a look at the four pre-workouts and pre-WO/fat burner combos we recommend. (If you really wanna know which is ‘the one’ for us, it’s Battle Ready Fuel’s Pre-Workout. Hey, it’s designed by former SAS operatives. Those guys aren’t gonna waste their time on something that doesn’t deliver.
4 Pre-Workouts We Recommend
Alright, here’s what you wanna know. The CrazyBulk crew are only allowed to buy one pre-workout for the rest of their lives. They’re allowed to sample as many as they want before they choose.
What do they choose as their desert island product?
This natural energy booster gives you incredible focus and intensity for your workouts. It’s a top-level blend of natural ingredients to give you a mental and physical boost – plus actually protect your muscle. This is great news, especially if you like to train fasted or if you’re in a cutting phase. BRF is an amazing brand, started by Ollie Ollerton (you may have seen him on the TV show SAS: Who Dares Wins), and totally backed up by scientific studies and latest sports science research. This stuff is the real deal. Check out Battle Ready Fuel Pre-Workout here >
Battle Ready Fuel Pre-Workout would always be our first choice. But if we had to create a list of alternatives, there’s a few close-seconds we’d trust too:
We also love this clever combination product from BRF. This is the one we use when we’re dieting (you know, before a beach holiday or whatever). It’s a pre-workout – but it also works as a fat burner. Usually, you need to buy two products for the same effect, but the Battle Ready Fuel development guys have worked some magic here. This is a next-level blend of thermogenics which will boost energy and training focus, plus help you actually burn more calories from training. They say you can burn up to 278 extra calories a day with this stuff, thanks to the award-winning fat burner CapsimaxⓇ Plus Blend.
We also love Blackwolf Workout’s range. This is their pre-workout for men (and yes there should be a difference – check out their female product below). Track’s formula will narrow your focus, give you a feeling of more energy, and even help you workout for longer. It’s a kind of all-in-one pre-workout energy drink and multivit with BCAAs and whey protein isolate. (BTW, Battle Ready Fuel’s Pre-Workout also has whey isolate if that’s what you want). This is a well-rounded formula that works as an energy drink and immune support as well as a direct pre-WO.
Ladies, this is the one for you. The women at CrazyBulk HQ freaking love this stuff! TRAIL is a pre-workout formulated for women. It’ll give you an energy boost, helping you give more intensity to lifting, HIIT, or cardio. At its heart is Blackwolf Power Blend™, scientifically formulated to give you maximum energy boost. Like Track, it also contains whey protein isolate (nearly 20g) and a ton of vitamins and amino acids.
The #1 Pre-Workout
Like we said, Battle Ready Fuel’s Pre-Workout is used by former SAS operatives. It’s a pared-back formula which is lean (like the guys who designed it). Every ingredient here works. It’s all been chosen for a reason. Each ingredient has current up-to-date research backing it up. And it’s all well-dosed to give you the impact you want, with none of the annoying jitters or crashes. It’s got caffeine, beta alanine, and citrulline malate in a 2:1 ratio, creatine, amino acids, BCAAs, and whey isolate. Check out the full list of ingredients here – there’s nothing weird or alien.
This is our number one pre-workout product right now, and honestly, we don’t see that changing any time soon.
Taking Your Workouts To The Next Level
Ready to turn beast mode = ON? Here’s how to take a good pre-workout.
Have your regular pre-training meal or snack. Then about 30 minutes before your session starts, mix up your pre-workout (or grab the capsules if that’s how you do things). Take it with a decent amount of water. That’s it! It shouldn’t be more complicated than that.
You should expect to feel a physical difference within 20 minutes. You might get a flush to your skin (that would be the Niacin). You might also feel a kind of tingly feeling on the face or scalp (hello, Beta Alanine). And you should definitely feel more alert, focused, and excited to train!
A good pre-workout will last a couple hours, long enough to power a kickass training session and maybe some post-workout cardio. But it should gently wear off after that. A quality pre-workout should not impact your appetite, give you a crash, or leave you unable to sleep. Unless you take it at 9pm or something dumb (been there, done that, had the insomnia to prove it!)
Are you willing to put up with weak workouts?
Tired of sluggish, crappy workouts? Give yourself a kick up the ass with a legit pre-workout that’ll really make a difference.
Have you tried out any of these pre-workout formulas? How did it change your workouts? Let us know in the comments below.