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There are a lot of times when we as men will be a bit boastful and refuse help from anyone or anything—unless that’s a scoop of the best pre-workout to help get us through leg day. The problem, however, is that there are so many options to pick from—the global pre-workout industry was valued at more than $15 billion in 20211.   

So while it might be hard for some to pick out the best pre-workout for men, that’s not the case for us. As a morning gym-goer, I’ve tried my fair share of pre-workouts to increase energy and help me complete my workout, and as a certified nutrition coach, I know how to tell the good ones from the junk brands.

In this piece, we’ll run down our picks for the best pre-workout for men and have Laila Ouldibbat, a New York City-based registered dietitian who’s pursuing a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, explains the benefits of each one. 

In addition to being regular gym-goers who know the ins and outs of barbells and mass gainers, the Garage Gym Reviews team is stacked with nutritional experts, certified personal trainers, USA Weightlifting coaches, and competitive triathletes. We used more than four dozen pre-workouts during our regular training sessions to judge them based on these five factors:

  • Formulation: Does it have research-backed ingredients?
  • Dosages: Is there enough of the important ingredients in each pre-workout?
  • Price per serving: How much does each scoop cost?
  • Effects: Did it work for our testers and customer reviewers?
  • Third-party testing: Has it been checked for banned substances and harmful toxins?

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider. GGR also recommends choosing a product that has been third-party tested for quality.

The 12 Best Pre-Workouts For Men 

Best Pre-Workout for Men Overall: Transparent Labs BULK

Good for: Men who want a pre-workout trusted by an expert weightlifting coach

Best Overall

Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout

Product Highlights

  • Formulated to help support muscle gain 
  • 20 grams of research-based active ingredients per serving 
  • 8 flavor variations are available
 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Transparent ingredient list
  • No artificial sweetener or color
  • Moderate dose of caffeine
  • 8 flavor options
  • 60-day money-back assurance

Cons

  • No creatine
  • Some users report it tastes bad

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs’ BULK supplement is attractive to those whose primary focus is split between potential muscle gain and a pre-workout pump. While the taste is questionable, the product works well for most users.

Transparent Labs BULK is meant for people who are looking to increase their muscle mass, though people often get their supplements from this company due to its promise to use natural ingredients and provide transparent labeling at all times.

Some gym-goers be thrown off by the lower caffeine levels, but registered dietitian Laila Ouldibbat says that’s actually a good thing for individuals looking to get in as many reps as possible. “Moderate doses have been found to ‘significantly increase repetitions to failure and readiness to invest effort in athletes,’’’ she says, pointing to a pair2 of studies3

Those increased reps and effort can help build muscle gain, which is exactly the goal of those looking to BULK (puns are always intended around here). There is no creatine in this product, but I personally didn’t miss it. There’s also 4 grams of BCAAs, which have the potential to support muscle growth (the jury is still out, according to research).

RELATED: Best Creatine

The 4 grams of beta-alanine is more than the daily recommended dose, and though that amount can help boost muscular endurance and reduce muscle soreness, it can lead to a notable skin-tingling sensation for those who haven’t taken much of the amino acid in the past. 

As someone who’s taken his fair share of beta-alanine in the past, I feel like most trained individuals will be just fine taking this pre-workout, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. I almost always go with blue raspberry when ordering pre-workouts, and this one gets a 5 out of 5 from me. It tastes exactly like one of those gas station slushees.

Read more about my experience with this pre-workout in our Transparent Labs BULK review.

Price per serving$1.66
Key ingredientsCitrulline-malate, beta-alanine, caffeine
Flavors Watermelon, Sour Grape, Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Punch, Lemon Lime

Best-Tasting Pre-Workout for Men: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

Good for: People who want a good-tasting pre-workout supplement

Best Tasting

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Pre-Workout Powder

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Vegan pre-workout 
  • 180 mg of caffeine per scoop 
  • Manufactured in USA in cGMP certified facility

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Available in multiple sizes: 30 or 60 servings
  • Subscribe and save 15%
  • Available in 11 flavors
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • Manufactured in USA in cGMP certified facility
  • Vegan
  • Affordable at under $1 per serving (1 scoop serving)

Cons

  • Mixed reviews on taste
  • Mixed reviews on effectiveness
  • Contains sucralose

Bottom Line

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Pre-Workout is a generally positively reviewed pre-workout with 180 milligrams of caffeine and a large variety of flavor options.

Most people chug their pre-workouts, but GGR Head of Content and weightlifting instructor Kate Meier says she likes to savor the taste of Jacked Factory Nitrosurge’s strawberry margarita flavor. “It is wildly delicious,” Kate says in our Nitrosurge pre-workout review. “Like, I’d drink this by the side of a pool over ice. Drink it all day.” Kate has tried dozens of pre-workouts, and Nitrosurge is one of the few that earned a 5 out of 5 on taste.

On top of that, Jacked Factory Nitrosurg comes out to just under $1 per scoop if you only use one scoop per session (it’s even less than that if you put it on a monthly subscription). 

As is the case with most budget-friendly products, Nitrosurge doesn’t provide quite as much oomph as the other pre-workouts on this list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. 

jacked factory nitrosurge

It’s a great choice for those looking for a low-caffeine workout—it contains 180 milligrams of caffeine, which is roughly two 8-ounce cups of coffee. Another key ingredient is L-Theanine, which when combined with caffeine can help increase reaction time and energy4.

Pre-workout beginners should also consider Nitrosurge, according to our expert product testers who used one and two scoops before heavy weightlifting sessions. They said they got a little boost, though not as much as from other pre-workout powders.

It also has 1.6 grams of beta-alanine, which registered dietitian Laila Ouldibbat says can help mitigate muscular fatigue and increase endurance. 

Related: Best Greens Powder

Price per serving$0.99 
Key ingredients Caffeine, beta-alanine, L-Citrulline, Betaine Anhydrous
Flavors Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, Pineapple, Watermelon, Arctic White, Fruit Punch, Grape, Cotton Candy, Sour Peach Rings, Blueberry Lemonade, Black Cherry

Best Natural Pre-Workout for Men: Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout

Good for: Anyone who values natural products 

Best Natural

Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 100% nature-based
  • Free from added sugar, food dyes, and other chemicals
  • Full refund if not satisfied
  • Can get with or without caffeine
  • 15 flavors available

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • All natural ingredients
  • Free from dye and chemicals
  • Naturally sweetened
  • Intended to avoid the dreaded crash
  • Full refund if not satisfied
  • Can get with or without caffeine
  • 15 flavors available

Cons

  • Natural sweeteners make for a different taste—it may not be your cup of tea
  • Only 21 servings per tub

Bottom Line

Formulated with all-natural ingredients, each of which are present at a high level, Pulse is a fan-favorite. If you’re trying to avoid artificial flavors and chemicals, this may be a good choice.

Not only does Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout have 100-percent natural ingredients— with no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or food dyes—but all of its ingredients are present in research-backed doses to maximize energy production and strength levels.

We should warn that each two-scoop serving comes with 350 milligrams of caffeine, which might be a lot for some people, but you can easily just take one scoop. Unfortunately, that does mean you won’t get the clinical dose of ingredients like citrulline and beta-alanine, but you’re still getting a good amount of each with a half-serving. 

There are also 350 milligrams of the amino acid L-theanine, which can help boost mental awareness and counteract some of the negative side effects of caffeine.  

Legion-Pulse

Citrulline is an ingredient that’s been linked to increases in high-intensity performance, and Legion puts 8 grams in each full serving, which is the amount that most researchers use in studies. 

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that has been found to support an increase muscular endurance and decrease fatigue in high-performance athletes, but it does create a skin-tingling sensation known as paresthesia (it essentially feels like you’re very itchy, though that feeling subsides after taking beta-alanine for a while). 

Legion has a bitter taste that may take some getting used to, but the high caffeine content doesn’t seem to have any negative side effects. Pulse might be an acquired taste, but I will say, I got this down before a strength training workout and felt all the positive effects. Read more in our Legion Pulse review.

Price per serving$1.71
Key ingredientsCitrulline malate, beta-alanine, caffeine
FlavorsFruit Punch, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Tropical Punch

Best Budget Pre-Workout for Men: Nutricost Pre-X

Good for: Those who want a cost-effective pre-workout that still delivers increased energy

Best Budget

Nutricost Pre-X Pre-Workout

Product Highlights

  • Pre-workout formula with B vitamins
  • 300 mg of caffeine per serving
  • About $1 per serving
  • Third-party tested
  • 5 flavor options

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Contains B vitamins
  • Gluten-free and non-GMO
  • Affordable price per serving

Cons

  • Not enough research to support the ingredients that claim to support cognitive function
  • Caffeine content may be too much for some folks

Bottom Line

Nutricost Pre-X is an affordable pre-workout at about $1 per serving. There are five flavors to choose from, each with a light and refreshing taste. Each serving contains 300 milligrams of caffeine, which is equivalent to about 3 cups of coffee.

At just over $1 per serving (and under $1 if you put it on a monthly subscription), Nutricost Pre-X is the most affordable pre-workout that still delivers clinically-recommended doses of ingredients proven to increase strength, energy, and focus. “I like that this product features a combination of nitric oxide boosters, ergogenic aids, and cognitive enhancers,” says registered dietitian Perry Nix.

In addition to containing all the classic pre-workout ingredients, Nutricost has Alpha-GPC, which, according to Nix, is considered a nootropic “due to its ability to enhance cognitive function, potentially improving memory, and learning abilities.”

We had two competitive weightlifters try Pre-X, and both said it was one of the best pre-workouts they’ve used. “Many pre-workouts make me feel worse — like they can make me nauseous or even uneasy because of all the ingredients,” says Jacob Penner, a Level 2 weightlifting coach and president of the USAW Weightlifting State Organization for North & South Carolina. “I don’t feel like that at all with this. I’m not irritable.”

Jacob, however, notes the effects might depend on your caffeine tolerance. A level scoop contains 300 milligrams of caffeine, which didn’t do much for him, but a scoop and a half did the trick. “With this, I felt motivated and focused to finish my workout, but I wasn’t stimulated very much,” he says, giving it a 5 out of 5 for overall effects.

“I’d use it again and keep using it,” he adds. “This feels like a clean product without anything stupid in it, so it’s not causing negative side effects.”

If you’re also an athlete who’s worried about what they put in their body, breathe easy. Nutricost products are third-party tested for banned and harmful substances.

Last, but certainly not least, Jacob rated the blue raspberry flavor a 5 out of 5. “I have always liked the Nutricost pre-workout for the taste, they do a really good job,” he says. (There’s also watermelon, fruit punch, grape, and peach mango).

Price per serving$1.09 (87 cents when put on a subscription)
Key ingredientsCaffeine, L-Citrulline, Alpha-GPC, Taurine
FlavorsBlue Raspberry, Watermelon, Fruit Punch, Grape, Peach Mango

Best Pre-Workout for Men Without Artificial Sweetener: Onnit Alpha Brain

Good for: People who are focused on gaining muscle in the gym and want to avoid artificial sweeteners

Best Without Artificial Sweetener

Onnit Alpha BRAIN Pre-Workout

Product Highlights

  • 200 mg of caffeine
  • Includes beta alanine and L-citrulline
  • Priced around $3/serving; subscribe-and-save option available
  • 2 flavors currently available

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 200 mg of caffeine
  • Tiger's Blood flavor tastes great
  • Includes 225 mg of ashwagandha extract
  • Contains beta alanine and L-citrulline
  • Subscribe-and-save option is available

Cons

  • Only 2 flavors available, and Yuzu Peach isn't popular among our product testers
  • $3/serving is expensive
  • Key ingredients like citrulline and beta-alanine are under-dosed

Bottom Line

Onnit's Alpha BRAIN Pre-Workout is a unique blend of ingredients that our testers enjoyed for workouts where they wanted to be focused and energized. It only comes in two flavors; the Tiger's Blood flavor is our preferred choice.

Onnit Alpha Brain pre-workout uses stevia to sweeten their pre-workout. Although stevia doesn’t always agree with people, it’s a natural product so it’s a good choice for those who want to avoid any artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.

Jacob Penner—a USA Weightlifting Level-2 Coach and owner of North Carolina-based Endless Strength Weightlifting—had three of his teammates try Alpha Brain pre-workout and they all reached the same conclusion: “This brings great focus and clarity to your workout.”

That’s not too surprising, since Alpha Brain has 200 milligrams of caffeine per scoop. You probably already know caffeine can boost energy, which is why you probably drink it, but it can also increase our mental alertness—which is what Jacob and his team felt. Unlike some strong pre-workouts, this one was a little more forgiving.

“It’s not overly stimulating; it’s more of just feeling very present and ready to do the work,” Jacob says. The pre-workout supplement contains Dynamine, which is a substance that can prolong caffeine’s effects. For that reason, Jacob and Onnit recommend not eating any other foods or beverages that contain more than 50 milligrams of caffeine to avoid staying up late at night or potential heart issues.

Man Opening Alpha Brain Pre Workout

What about the pumps, you ask? “Two of our testers said they got a good pump from this pre-workout,” Jacob continues. This surprised us a little bit since it only has 2.4 grams of L-Citrulline, the substance that promotes blood flow to the muscles, which can result in increased vascularity. The recommended L-Citrulline dose is closer to 6 grams.

Check out our full Onnit Alpha Brain pre-workout review for more information.

Price per servingAround $3
Key ingredientsCitrulline, beta-alanine, creatine, caffeine
Flavors Grape, Fruit Punch, Pink Lemonade, Berry Blast, Krisp Apple, Orange Crush, Cherry Bomb

Best Pre-Workout for Men Without Caffeine: 1st Phorm Endura-Formance

Good for: Men who prefer a pre-workout without any caffeine

Best Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout for Men

1st Phorm Endura-Formance

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Combines creatine and beta-alanine 
  • Enhances strength, power, and endurance
  • Increases muscle hydration 
  • Promotes oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles
  • Available in four flavors

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Added creatine
  • Reportedly effective
  • No caffeine
  • No jitters or post-workout crash
  • Includes PeakO2 adaptogen blend

Cons

  • Taste is not for everyone
  • Sucralose included

Bottom Line

Endura-Formance is formulated with all the key ingredients one would look for in a pre-workout drink. While the taste is not for everyone, most users experienced improved performance at the gym.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you can pick up a stimulant-free pre-workout that will still provide the best pre-workout ingredients without the jitters and crash. 

RELATED: Creatine vs Pre-Workout

1st Phorm Endura-Formance is one of our favorite stim-free pre-workouts (both for men and women) because it combines creatine and beta-alanine, both of which can help promote power and stamina in your workout, plus other ingredients like betaine anhydrous, Peak O2 mushroom blend and S7 antioxidant blend. The latter combo is said to maximize oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles and fight fatigue. The formula also contains ample sodium and potassium, perfect for those who sweat a lot or are participating in endurance sports. 

1st phorm endura-formance pre-workout

Former GGR senior staff writer, CPT, and endurance athlete Amanda Capritto is a huge fan of Endura-Formance, rating it a 4.5 out of 5 for taste. “I ordered Berry Lemonade and it’s easily one of the best-tasting supplements I’ve tried,” she explains. 

Although this formula only earned a 3.75 out of 5 for formulation by our testing rubric, Amanda touts the unique ingredients—Peak O2 blend and the S7 compound—as something noteworthy. 

“I don’t know if it’s placebo from knowing what’s in the powder or if it’s actually working, but I definitely feel like this helps with my triathlon training sessions,” she says. Read our 1st Phorm Endura-Formance review for more about our experience.

Price per serving$1.50
Key ingredientsCreatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, betaine anhydrous, L-tyrosine, Peak O2 blend, S7 compound
Flavors Black Cherry, Berry Lemonade, Grape, Orange

Best Pre-Workout for Men for Weight Loss: Transparent Labs LEAN

Good for: Those on a cut, or people who are trying to lose body fat 

Best for Weight Loss

Transparent Labs LEAN Pre-Workout

GGR Score: 4.25 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Formulated for those looking to lose weight but maintain muscle mass
  • 14 grams of evidence-based ingredients
  • Naturally flavored and sweetened with Stevia
  • Available in 9 different flavors
  • Backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Includes vitamins/micronutrients to support thyroid production
  • High levels of citrulline to increase oxygen delivery to muscles
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • No artificial colors
  • 60-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Bitter and unpleasant taste for some consumers
  • Several reports of receiving wrong item

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs’ LEAN pre-workout supplement promises to deliver better endurance, power, alertness, and focus. The fat loss component is less of a guarantee with few reports of an actual change in body composition.

It should be noted that no supplement, regardless of its marketing claims, is going to be the magic key for weight loss. That said, LEAN has some ingredients that, coupled with a good training plan and diet, could help support your weight loss journey. 

Most notably, this pre-workout formula contains research-backed doses of iodine and zinc to assist thyroid function, which plays a huge role in regulating your metabolism. There’s also selenium to support hormone metabolism and antioxidant function. 

Scooping TL Lean into bottle

The 180 milligrams of caffeine might seem low—it’s about a cup and a half of coffee—but Laila points out that Transparent Labs adds a compound called Infinergy that helps prolong caffeine’s performance-enhancing side effects (increased energy and stamina). In other words, the caffeine will stay in your system longer and you won’t experience a crash. 

She also says the lower caffeine content won’t interfere with your body’s internal thermometer, or thermoregulation, like some people see with higher doses (this is why some people might feel a bit cold if they drink too much coffee). 

RELATED: Best Pre-Workout for Weight Loss

There are also 6 grams of citrulline malate, which can support reduced muscle fatigue and improve training performance. 

I personally found Transparent Labs’ flavors to be just fine, but they were a bit flat. I did enjoy the increased energy boost without the crash. You can find out more in our Transparent Labs LEAN review.

Price per serving$1.66
Key ingredientsCitrulline-malate, beta-alanine, caffeine
FlavorsWatermelon, Sour Grape, Green Apple, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Punch, Lemon Lime, Sour Peach

Best Pre-Workout for Men Energy Drink: C4 Energy Drink

Good for: Anyone who prefers their pre-workout drink in cans 

On the Go

C4 Energy Drink

GGR Score: 3.75 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 200 mg of caffeine
  • Carbonated and uncarbonated options
  • No sugar, carbs, or calories
  • Includes beta alanine and citrulline
  • Comes in 8 flavors

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 200 mg of caffeine
  • Zero calories
  • Carbonated and uncarbonated options
  • No sugar
  • Comes in 8 flavors that are generally well-liked
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Dosages of beta alanine and citrulline not readily available
  • While affordable, it's more expensive than C4's powder pre-workout

Bottom Line

C4 Energy is a well-known pre-workout drink with 200 mg of caffeine as well as ingredients like beta alanine and citrulline. We love the flavors and the price point of this classic drink.

For those who don’t want to bother with a shaker bottle, C4 Energy Drink comes in cans so you can just grab it and chug for your energy boost. 

The convenience isn’t the only reason to consider this energy drink. It contains 200 milligrams of caffeine per can, which is similar to what you’d find in most pre-workout powders. We like that it includes beta-alanine and citrulline, two ingredients known to help with strength gains, but C4 doesn’t say how much of either is in each can. It’s still better than other energy drinks that just give you caffeine and nothing else.

C4 Man Drinking

Another huge plus is it comes in 8 flavors, including a pink Starburst (the best kind) flavor and a Skittles flavor. You can also get it carbonated or non-carbonated.

I’ve tried C4 Energy Drink and, to be honest, I get it more for convenience than the taste. They use artificial flavors and preservatives in the product and it’s very noticeable when you taste it. However, check out our C4 energy drink review for more details about this product.

Price per serving$2.33 per can (12 cans per order) 
Key ingredientsCaffeine, citrulline, beta-alanine
Flavors 10+

Best Pre-Workout for Men for Focus: Best for Focus: Pre JYM Pre-Workout

Good for: Those who are looking for that ‘locked-in’ feeling when training

Best for Focus

JYM Supplement Science Pre JYM Pre-Workout

GGR Score: 4.25 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • A pre-workout powder powerhouse
  • Packed with lab- and gym-tested ingredients
  • 9 different flavors to pick from
  • Boosts strength, energy, endurance, mindset, and muscle growth
  • 14 active ingredients and a nutritional supplement
  • Higher potency with 26-gram scoops
  • Award-winning brand and pre-workout supplement

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Helps boost your energy for any workout
  • Supports mental focus with caffeine, alpha-GPC, and huperzine A
  • Includes amino acids to promote muscular strength and endurance
  • Great for men and women

Cons

  • Do not take up to 6 hours before bed
  • Some reviewers don’t love the flavors
  • Reviewer complaints about high sucralose and sugar levels
  • Shares equipment that handles eggs, milk, soy, tree nuts, and wheat
  • Not third-party tested

Bottom Line

Fuel your body with a delicious pre-workout supplement with nutrients and 14 active ingredients for an energy-boosting workout.

If you’ve heard of Jim Stoppani, you shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that his Pre JYM Pre-Workout was our top choice for the best pre-workout for focus. In addition to the 300 milligrams of cognitive-boosting caffeine, the expert exercise physiologist includes Huperzine A, a cognitive enhancer linked with improved memory and mental function6, and Taurine, an amino acid that can also act as a neurotransmitter, according to studies7.

Our expert product testers certainly felt the effects. “It’s almost like putting horse blinders on your head that only allow you to focus on the weights,” says Anthony O’Reilly, GGR performance editor and product tester.

jym-supplement-stack

Jacob Penner, a USA Weightlifting Level 2 coach who has tried more than 50 pre-workouts, had a similar experience. ““I’ve taken this at least half a dozen times, and I always felt really clear and super stimulated for my workouts,” Jacob says.

We’re also big fans of the 2 grams of creatine, and the 6 grams of citrulline malate.

I want to drink this while on a beach but without the caffeine—it’s that good. Read more in our JYM pre-workout review.

Price per serving$1.23
Key ingredientsCitrulline, creatine, caffeine, Huperzine A, Taurine
Flavors Rainbow Sherbert, Tangerine, Grape Candy, Pink Lemonade, Pineapple Strawberry, Black Cherry, Strawberry Kiwi, Orange Mango, Raspberry Lemonade

Best Pre-Workout for Men for Beginners: Genius PRE

Good for: Beginners who have never taken pre-workout before 

Best for Beginners

The Genius Brand Genius Pre

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Caffeine-free nootropics-based pre-workout 
  • Doubles as a productivity booster 
  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Subscribe and save 20%
  • 30-day satisfaction guarantee (from the ship date)
  • Available in 4 flavors

Cons

  • Only available in 20 serving containers
  • No 3rd-party certifications
  • May cause skin tingling

Bottom Line

The Genius Brand Genius Pre is a stimulant-free, nootropic-based pre-workout designed to help improve your focus and performance in the gym. It has very positive reviews, although customers do wish they could buy containers with more than 20 servings so they didn’t have to purchase as often.

In terms of the best pre-workout for beginners, you generally want to start with something that isn’t over-stimulating. Genius PRE is a great introduction to anyone who’s never taken this supplement before. It doesn’t have any caffeine, so you won’t get an insane and potentially unmanageable energy boost. Instead gives you that “pump” feeling that many enjoy when using pre-workout.

“This is stim-free, so it doesn’t get you all jacked up. I felt almost euphoric taking this, actually. It gave me a very calm focus,” says Jacob Penner, USA Weightlifting L-2 coach. Jacob has tested more than 50 pre-workouts, and rated this one a 4 out of 5 for its overall workout experience.

Genius Pre Workout 7

Jacob dinged Genius PRE a point for its overall effects simply because it doesn’t give you a shot of energy (which can be good for a beginner), and because the pump didn’t last very long.

“I did a workout with a lot of upper back work, and my shoulders were so pumped up from it,” he says. “The pump was really good, but it didn’t last long. Pretty much by the time I was done lifting, the pump was fading.”

RELATED: Best Protein Shakes

Where Genius PRE shines is in its formulation, which has pre-workout staples like betain anhydrous, l-citrulline mallate, and carnosyn. It also has nootropics like choline, which could explain why Jacob felt increased focus after taking it.

The price is about $1.90 per serving, which is on the expensive end. That could be due in part that this pre-workout is third-party tested. That’s an important factor (and one we pay attention to during our product review) because third-party certification means we can trust the label of the pre-workout.

Jacob says the taste of the Blue Raspberry is “one of the best I’ve ever had,” giving it a perfect 5 out of 5.

For more, check out our Genius Pre-Workout review.

Price per serving$1.90
Key ingredientsL-citrulline malate, carnosyn, betain anhydrous, l-tyrosine, l-arginine, and taurine
Flavors Blue Raspberry, Grape Limeade, Sour Cherry

Best High-Stim Pre-Workout for Men: El Jefe

Good for: Those who prefer a high-stimulant pre-workout

Best Non-Stim Pre-Workout

El Jefe Pre-Workout

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • All-in-one high stim pre-workout 
  • Combines stim and pump ingredients 
  • Available in 4 flavors

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Flexible dosing: Can take 1 or 2 scoops
  • Combines stimulants and pump ingredients
  • Save when buying multiple

Cons

  • Contains sucralose
  • Limited reviews
  • Not third-party tested

Bottom Line

El Jefe Pre-Workout is a high stimulant pre-workout with limited but positive customer reviews for providing energy, focus, pump, and tasting good.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of high-stim pre-workouts you could’ve picked but our choice goes to El Jefe for two reasons, with the biggest being that they specify how much caffeine is in their pre-workout—300 milligrams, plus an additional 100 milligrams of a slower-releasing form of caffeine called di-caffeine malate (which stays in your system longer than regular caffeine).

The other is that it was one of the few high-stim pre-workouts we tried that we actually felt good on while taking, as opposed to the many that made us too sick to even train.

El Jefe Pre-Workout

“It kicked in almost right away,” says Mike Raedy, a competitive weightlifter and jiu-jitsu athlete. “I didn’t feel like my skin was crawling but still had that energy. The biggest thing was the focus. This is one of the best feelings of being ‘locked in’ compared to others I’ve tried, and I’ve used 20-30 different pre-workouts.”

Caffeine, however, is the only stimulant clearly labeled on this pre-workout. We’d go into the many other stimulants found on the supplement facts label, but El Jefe uses a proprietary blend so it’s tough for us to decipher if any of them are present in research-backed amounts. It also doesn’t seem to be third-party tested, so we wouldn’t advise this for any athletes who have to undergo drug testing.

Mike says the Orange creamsicle flavor tastes like an orange Smarty. “Not too sweet,” he says. Check out our El Jefe pre-workout review for more information about this product.

Price per serving$1.37
Key ingredients Citrulline malate, beta-alanine, caffeine, di-caffeine malate, Taurine, Black Pepper Extract
FlavorsTigers Blood, Sour Gummy Bear, Orange Creamsicle, Peach Rings

Best Stim-Free Pre-Workout for Men: Transparent Labs Stim-Free

Good for: Those who don’t want any stimulants in their pre-workout powder

Best Non-Stim Pre-Workout

Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

GGR Score: 4.25 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Stim-free pre-workout
  • No caffeine
  • 7 flavors available
  • Easily mix with water
  • Good for people who work out at night
  • Won't give you the jitters or tingling sensations

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Free of artificial colors, sweeteners, and other additives
  • Non-stim (no caffeine)
  • Won't give you the jitters
  • Designed to increase nitric oxide uptake in the muscle cells
  • Can subscribe and save

Cons

  • Those who want caffeine should look elsewhere
  • Doesn't contain creatine or BCAAs

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout is an uncaffeinated pre-workout powder that will not give you the jitters or tingling commonly associated with pre-workout supplements. This pre-workout contains a blend of citrulline malate, beta-alanine, L-tyrosine, taurine, and elevATP, a compound claimed to increase ATP activity in muscle cells.

Transparent Labs Stim-free pre-workout is a non-stim version of their BULK and LEAN pre-workouts that you can use during later training sessions. It contains 6 grams of muscle-stimulating citrulline malate as the caffeine versions to support blood flow and nutrient delivery.

The addition of Huperzine A and L-Tyrosine helps with mental focus, a job usually done by caffeine. You also get sodium and potassium to help with hydration and may even help you get a pump, according to some studies9.

An image of Transparent Labs Stim-Free pre-workout

Anthony O’Reilly, GGR’s performance editor, has tried most of Transparent Labs’ pre-workouts and says the stim-free version is on par with the rest of them. Amanda Capritto, GGR staff writer and product tester, said she felt the beta-alanine tingles were stronger than with other pre-workouts she’s taken, but nothing that’s going to turn her off from taking this in the future.

All of our product testers agreed the taste was good and not overly sweet, though some noted a “chemical” aftertaste and that their shaker bottle was a bit foamy when using this powder. Read more in our Transparent Labs stim-free pre-workout review.

Price per serving$1.67
Key ingredients Citrulline malate, beta-alanine, BCAA 2:1:1, BetaPure™ betaine anhydrous, taurine, L-tyrosine, choline bitartrate
FlavorsCherry Limeade, Sour Grape, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Orange, Peach Mango, Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Punch

How We Picked and Tested the Best Pre-Workout for Men 

With literally hundreds of pre-workouts on the market, narrowing our list for the best pre-workout supplements for men proved to be an exhausting task. Here are a few of the criteria we used to make our decision. 

  • Ingredients: We wanted to make sure key compounds like caffeine, creatine, citrulline, beta-alanine, and others were present in research-backed amounts, and if one of those were missing, we checked to see if other compounds were present to help with things like strength or mental awareness. 
  • Flavors: Were there a variety of flavors to pick from and did they taste good? 
  • Cost: What was the price per serving? 
  • Mixability: Did the pre-workout mix well when shaken with water in a shaker bottle? 

Pre-Workout Ingredients 

Laila shared her thoughts on a number of ingredients commonly found in pre-workouts, and her take on their benefits. 

  • L-citrulline malate: Citrulline malate, according to this study10, can help increase blood flow and boost nitric oxide levels, which can alleviate muscle soreness and delay fatigue. The study also found it increased athletic performance and stamina.
  • Beta-alanine: A study11 found that beta-alanine can enhance athletic performance by blocking lactic acid build-up in the muscles by increasing the amount of carnosine. 
  • Creatine monohydrate: There are hundreds of scientific studies proving creatine’s benefits for power, strength, and endurance. This particular study12 showed that creatine monohydrate increased bodybuilders’ fat-free mass by an average of 2 kilograms in eight weeks.
  • Betaine anhydrous: Betanine anhydrous, according to this clinical trial,13 can support protein synthesis and lead to greater strength and muscle gains.
pre-workout supplements stacked in a gym
  • L-arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate: This non-essential amino acid can help boost nitric oxide production and lead to increased strength and power output, according to this study14.
  • Caffeine anhydrous: A dehydrated form of caffeine that makes you more alert and can help increase your power and cardiovascular endurance. One study15 found that it led to better performance during resistance training when taken just before hitting the gym.
  • Taurine: Taurine supplementation, according to this study,16 can help decrease fatigue and recovery time, and increase muscle contraction.
  • L-tyrosine: This compound has been linked to17 improved mood and motivation, improved endurance, and more alertness.
  • Dynamine: Similar to caffeine, Dynamine can increase alertness and energy levels and also increases the amount of oxygen delivered to your muscles. 
  • Coconut water powder: Coconut water is filled with electrolytes, which can ensure you stay hydrated during high-intensity workouts.
  • Bioperine: Bioperine has been shown to18 have anti-inflammatory effects, and some studies19 show that it can increase other minerals’ bioavailability.  
  • DMAE and Huperzine: DMAE can help increase the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which increases focus and alertness, while huperzine delays the breakdown of it.

Benefits of Pre-Workout

If you’re wondering if taking pre-workout powder is right for you, here are some of the benefits to taking a scoop before your next training session. 

Increased Energy

While caffeine isn’t the only compound present in pre-workouts, it is one of the most notorious. The increased energy not only helps you get through your workout, but it’s also been linked to increased muscle strength and stamina, and compounds like citrulline are used to support increased blood flow to muscles for improved performance and endurance. 

Increased Muscle Strength

Pre-workouts often contain ingredients shown to support increased muscle strength and performance, like creatine and beta-alanine, and additionally can help with recovery.  

man-performing-barbell-back-squat

Improved Cognition

Caffeine, in addition to things like nootropics, can help with what’s known as the mind-muscle connection, or the brain’s ability to be aware of the stimulus being placed on the muscles being trained. They can also make you more alert and in tune with your body, which can reduce the risk of injury during training. 

What to Look for in a Pre-Workout for Men

Not sure which of our pre-workout products is best for you? Here’s how to narrow it down. 

Scan for Important Active Ingredients 

Effective pre-workouts can contain citrulline and beta-alanine, as well as caffeine and creatine, which have all been shown to support increased performance. 

Stay Clear of Proprietary Blends

Some companies use proprietary blends to disguise how much of a certain ingredient is present in their supplement, which most of the time means they’re underdosing things like beta-alanine or creatine. 

Athlete? Check Twice 

Some ingredients used in pre-workouts may be banned by certain sports federations or committees due to their performance-enhancing effects. Some companies offer third-party testing to ensure their dietary supplements are clear of banned substances, though that’s not always the case. Look for the Informed Choice, NSF, or BSCG logos on the container to ensure you’re in the clear.

Best Pre-Workout for Men FAQs

What is considered the best pre-workout? 

With hundreds of pre-workouts on the market, it’s hard to pick the absolute best, but we have our personal favorites: 

Best Pre-Workout for Men Overall: Transparent Labs BULK
Best-Tasting Pre-Workout for Men: Jacked Factory Nitrosurge
Best Natural Pre-Workout for Men: Legion Pulse
Best Budget Pre-Workout for Men: Nutricost Pre-X
Best Pre-Workout for Men Without Artificial Sweetener: Onnit Alpha Brain
Best Pre-Workout for Men Without Caffeine: 1st Phorm Endura-Formance
Best Pre-Workout for Men for Weight Loss: Transparent Labs Lean
Best Pre-Workout Energy Drink for Men: C4 Energy Drink
Best Pre-Workout for Men for Focus: Pre JYM Pre-Workout
Best Pre-Workout for Men for Beginners: Genius PRE
Best High-Stim Pre-Workout for Men: El Jefe Pre-Workout
Best Stim-Free Pre-Workout for Men: Transparent Labs Stim-Free

What is the healthiest pre-workout brand? 

It depends on what your definition of “healthiest” is. Our pick for the best natural pre-workout for men is Legion Athletics Pulse Pre-Workout, but if you’re looking for something without caffeine, we recommend Genius Pre.

Is pre-workout OK to take every day? 

That depends. If you’re taking a pre-workout that has no caffeine, it’s likely OK to take every day. If, however, you’re taking one with caffeine, you’ll just have to make sure you don’t overdose on caffeine throughout the day (that includes however many cups of coffee you have in addition to your pre-workout) or develop a tolerance. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends most adults keep their caffeine consumption to 400 milligrams per day. If you are taking a stimulant-containing pre-workout, it’s recommended that you cycle off of it for six to eight weeks every few months to give your body a break.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References 

  1. SkyQuest Technology Consulting Pvt. Ltd. (2022, June 7). Global pre-workout supplements market size to reach USD 28.68 billion by 2028 with growing fitness enthusiasts and gym-goers – skyquest technology. GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved December 7, 2022
  2. Duncan MJ, Smith M, Cook K, James RS. The acute effect of a caffeine-containing energy drink on mood state, readiness to invest effort, and resistance exercise to failure. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(10):2858-2865. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318241e124
  3. Meeusen R, Roelands B, Spriet LL. Caffeine, exercise and the brain. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2013;76:1-12. doi:10.1159/000350223
  4. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):193-8. doi: 10.1179/147683008X301513. PMID: 18681988.
  5. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.
  6. Wang BS, Wang H, Wei ZH, Song YY, Zhang L, Chen HZ. Efficacy and safety of natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitor huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: an updated meta-analysis. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2009 Apr;116(4):457-65. doi: 10.1007/s00702-009-0189-x. Epub 2009 Feb 17. PMID: 19221692.
  7. Ripps H, Shen W. Review: taurine: a “very essential” amino acid. Mol Vis. 2012;18:2673-86. Epub 2012 Nov 12. PMID: 23170060; PMCID: PMC3501277.
  8. Sleivert G, Burke V, Palmer C, Walmsley A, Gerrard D, Haines S, Littlejohn R. The effects of deer antler velvet extract or powder supplementation on aerobic power, erythropoiesis, and muscular strength and endurance characteristics. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Sep;13(3):251-65. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.13.3.251. PMID: 14669926.
  9. Nielsen OB, Clausen T. The Na+/K(+)-pump protects muscle excitability and contractility during exercise. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2000 Oct;28(4):159-64. PMID: 11064849.
  10. Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0. PMID: 20386132.
  11. Hobson RM, Harris RC, Martin D, Smith P, Macklin B, Gualano B, Sale C. Effect of beta-alanine, with and without sodium bicarbonate, on 2000-m rowing performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013 Oct;23(5):480-7. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.23.5.480. Epub 2013 Mar 26. PMID: 23535873.
  12. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.
  13. Trepanowski JF, Farney TM, McCarthy CG, Schilling BK, Craig SA, Bloomer RJ. The effects of chronic betaine supplementation on exercise performance, skeletal muscle oxygen saturation and associated biochemical parameters in resistance trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):3461-71. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318217d48d. PMID: 22080324.
  14. Yavuz HU, Turnagol H, Demirel AH. Pre-exercise arginine supplementation increases time to exhaustion in elite male wrestlers. Biol Sport. 2014 Aug;31(3):187-91. doi: 10.5604/20831862.1111436. Epub 2014 Jul 15. PMID: 25177096; PMCID: PMC4135062.
  15. Richardson DL, Clarke ND. Effect of Coffee and Caffeine Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Oct;30(10):2892-900. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001382. PMID: 26890974.
  16. Balshaw TG, Bampouras TM, Barry TJ, Sparks SA. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners. Amino Acids. 2013 Feb;44(2):555-61. doi: 10.1007/s00726-012-1372-1. Epub 2012 Aug 2. PMID: 22855206.
  17. Young SN. L-tyrosine to alleviate the effects of stress? J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 May;32(3):224. PMID: 17476368; PMCID: PMC1863555.
  18. Derosa G, Maffioli P, Sahebkar A. Piperine and Its Role in Chronic Diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;928:173-184. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_8. PMID: 27671817.
  19. Research highlights. BioPerine®. (2021, September 11). Retrieved December 7, 2023

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