Often I hear the advice that beginners shouldn’t take pre-workouts, that instead, they should focus on the basics of sound training, nutrition, and habit-building.
However, I think this misses out on a crucial piece of the argument.
Anything that moves beginners towards mastering these basics, especially if it’s a simple intervention, is worth it.
For example, buying a pre-workout all but guarantees you’ll go to the gym for as long as the bottle lasts.
Regardless of the quality of the pre-workout, the act of taking it will ensure you’re going to the gym that day. In the early stages of building a workout habit, showing up to the gym is the most important part.
Thanks to a psychological phenomenon called the sunk cost fallacy, once we invest in something, we can’t let it go to waste. Often this is problematic, but in this case, buying a pre-workout will make sure we take the pre-workout, which will make sure we show up to the gym.
It’s a hack for creating a consistent gym routine.
Here are our picks for the best pre-workout supplements for beginners. Every single product on our list is cGMP (good manufacturing practices) certified. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be on our list. Where companies go beyond this, we have noted it.
*Note: We do have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you purchase from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info in an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
Best Pre Workout for Vegan Beginners: Vedge Nutrition Pre workout
Best Pre Workout for Beginners on a Budget: Sierra Fit Pre-Workout
Best Pre Workout for Beginners Without Caffeine: Morphogen Nutrition Volugen Pre-Workout
Best Pre Workout for Beginners for Weight Loss: Kaged Clean Burn Powder
Best Healthy Pre Workout for Beginners: Troov Energy
Best Cardio Pre Workout for Beginners: Pre-Kaged Sport
Best Tasting Pre Workout for Beginners: Morphogen Nutrition Volugen Pre-Workout
Troov is a pre-workout unlike any other, with a few unique benefits that make it particularly great for beginners.
First of all, while traditional pre-workouts have lots of caffeine, often synthetically derived, Troov has 125mg of caffeine naturally occurring from its green tea base. That’s as much caffeine as a typical cup of coffee. Since it comes from green tea, it’s slow-release caffeine and gives you sustained energy.
Troov uses 100% natural ingredients, like plant-based l-citrulline, fermented beetroot, and MACA root. It’s sweetened with all-natural Stevia (no artificial sweeteners) and provides a light refreshing sweetness, not a candy-like sweetness you’ll find in many others. All three flavors are delicious and smooth.
The rest of the products on our list are typical powder mix pre-workouts. Troov comes ready to drink, in cases of 12. So if you don’t want to break out the shaker bottle and want something you can easily throw in your gym bag, Troov is a great choice.
The guys are Troov are also giving RFS readers a 20% discount with the code “ROMAN20.” If you’re hesitant about pre-workouts and want something clean, natural, and energizing without the crash, then Troov is for you.
Blackberry Lime Tea
Strawberry Watermelon Tea
Cranberry Guava Tea
If you’re looking for a health-conscious, rigorously tested, and effective product, look no further than Pre-Kaged Sport.
Their product uses only the highest quality ingredients, like PurCaf® caffeine from plant-based sources instead of sketchy caffeine sources. They use plant-based, fermented l-citrulline and l-tyrosine, again, of the highest quality, unlike most other pre-workouts out on the market.
It is NSF-informed sport certified, so if you’re competing in athletics, you can rest knowing you’re getting a safe, quality product.
In addition to caffeine, it has BetaPower® betaine anhydrous to support peak power output, Carnosyn® beta-alanine to fight fatigue, and taurine to support endurance.
It also has electrolytes like magnesium to keep you hydrated and coconut water powder. This is a nice addition for beginners, because you may not be used to sweating so much. Pre-Kaged Sport can help keep your hydration levels up and your energy and performance up with it.
The difference between this and the original Pre-Kaged is it has much less caffeine, with 188mg (for context, a cup of coffee has about 125mg). It also has lower amounts of some ingredients, like l-citrulline, which supports muscle pumps but which beginners shouldn’t worry about it.
Because they take some stuff out, the cost is lower, making this one of the best values on the market.
See the full spectrum of quality ingredients in Pre-Kaged Sport here. Also, the flavors are insanely good.
For all of these reasons, that’s why Pre-Kaged Sport is our #1 pre-workout pick for beginners.
Next is a one-of-a-kind product from the science whizzes over at Morphogen Nutrition.
This formula stands out because it’s a non-stimulant formula that will still support your performance.
As a beginner you may want the benefits of a pre-workout, without any caffeine at all. This is what makes this a great option, but it doesn’t stop there.
The base of this formula is 6 grams of l-citrulline. Common dosing is between 3-6g of l-citrulline, so this is one the higher end. When it comes to pump, it doesn’t stop there. Volugen includes patented ingredients like VitaCholine®, NO3-T Nitrates®, and GlycerSize®.
You won’t see any other collection of pump ingredients like this, and you will feel it in your workouts. If you’re doing higher-rep, muscle-building-centric workouts, this is your top choice.
Volugen also includes impressive ingredients for overall exercise performance like betaine anhydrous. Check out the label for yourself. It’s filled with proven ingredients and free of fillers.
The flavors are also on point and unique. You can choose between…
Personally, my favorite is the strawberry kiwi. I’d go as far to say that Volugen is my favorite-tasting pre-workout on this list.
While Vedge’s pre-workout is not strictly for beginners, it does common with a few advantages that may make it a great option. Each scoop has only 100mg of caffeine, which is a bit less than a typical cup of coffee. From an energy levels standpoint, it’s right where you’ll feel the boost without being overstimulating.
They have the classic ingredients like beta-alanine, citrulline, and betaine anhydrous. Where they stand out are the ingredients included for dialed-in focus. With the addition of Alpha-GPC, this is a pre-workout and a brain supplement all in one. That means if you struggle with staying focused in the gym, this is the product for you.
Vedge is a 100% vegan company, founded and run by vegan athletes.
Also, their flavors are all delicious.
If you’re a beginner looking to shed some pounds while also enhancing your workout performance, say hello to Kaged Clean Burn Powder. This pre-workout supplement is specifically designed to help you achieve your weight loss goals while also improving your workout experience.
Ready to elevate your fitness routine while also focusing on fat loss? Get your Kaged Clean Burn Powder here.
If you’re a beginner looking to lose weight while building muscle, our 6th ranked pre-workout, Transparent Labs BULK Pre Workout Supplement, is your go-to option.
Transparent Labs lives up to its name by being completely transparent about their ingredient list. They are committed to using 100% authentic ingredients and full-disclosure product labels. This level of transparency is not always guaranteed in the supplement industry and is a testament to the company’s commitment to quality.
On top of this, Transparent Labs prides themselves on creating all of their products without artificial coloring or sweeteners, making it the ideal pre workout for someone who wants to ensure their supplements contain clean ingredients.
With 8,000mg of citrulline malate, 4,000mg of beta-alanine, and 2,500mg of betaine anhydrous, this product contains exactly what you need and nothing you don’t. These perforamce-enhancing ingredients will give you the focus and endurance you’re looking for during your workouts, so that you leave the gym feeling accomplished.
8 different unique flavors, including piña colada and black cherry.
Ready to take your workouts to the next level? Get your Transparent Labs BULK Pre Workout Supplement here.
I love the simplicity of this product. Its main ingredients are caffeine (all from natural sources) and 5 grams of essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
Each serving has just 100mg of caffeine, a little bit less than a cup of coffee, making it perfect if you like an energy boost but don’t want to be awake until next Tuesday.
It lacks a lot of the pump and muscle-supporting ingredients of other products, but for beginners these are negligible.
I also love that amino energy comes in 13 flavors.
Literally everything you could ever want. Even juicy strawberry blast.
ProSupps has done a fantastic job branding this product, because the name tells you what you need to know. Dr. Jekyll, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll is the well-put-together doctor version of himself.
That’s a lot like this supplement. It contains no caffeine, but it still has other ingredients to support your workout, like beta-alanine, arginine, and creatine.
It’s also banned-substance tested, so athletes have nothing to worry about. Overall it’s a good option if you prefer to go without the caffeine.
This is another quality banned-substance tested product. It contains 175mg of caffeine, 3 grams of creatine monohydrate and a normal 1.5g dose of beta-alanine.
It’s a simple, quality pre-workout from a proven company. For a beginner, it’s a solid place to start.
Sierra Fit Pre-Workout is a great pre-workout that contains a nice blend of caffeine (135mg), ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine, and electrolytes.
It’s a solid choice for beginners because it’s not too complex and is also the cheapest on our list. This is a great option if you want intense workouts, but you’re balling on a budget.
C4 is just about ubiquitous with pre-workout. It’s also ubiquitous with the type of pre-workout that might cause problems from too many stimulants.
However, over the years, Cellucor has refined their formulations, and now provides various simple and effective pre-workouts.
This product is NSF-approved for sport, and contains slightly less caffeine (135mg) than the original formation, making it a good pre-workout for most beginners.
Their flavors are also delicious.
A bunch of factors went into our ranking
Every product on our list is GMP-certified and banned-substance-tested. If you’re an NCAA athlete you have nothing to worry about with these products.
Adjacent to this, we put products higher up on our list if they had no proprietary blends. Proprietary blends are when products disguise the doses of ingredients under a “blend.” We prefer full transparency, and you have that with our top picks.
Obviously, we looked for high-quality formulas. This often means using patented forms of ingredients instead of generic forms, and proper doses of ingredients. It also means choosing l-citrulline over citrulline malate. Citrulline malate is less expensive and only contains half of the citrulline.
Lots of pre-workouts out there have great ingredients. However, for beginners, you don’t need every single nootropic ingredient like l-theanine, huperzine, or Alpha-GPC, even though these are effective ingredients for improving focus. That said, there’s nothing wrong with this, and Vedge Pre-Workout includes two of the three, so it’s a good option if you need more focus.
By leaving out lots of ingredients that beginners don’t need, products can cost less. All of these products are competitively priced.
Below I’ve listed a few ingredients that are often found in high quality pre-workout supplements. This is not an all encompassing list, although the ingredients included are some of the essentials.
L-Citrulline: This amino acid is known to increase blood flow and reduce muscle fatigue. A dosage of 4-6g grams before your workout can offer optimal benefits.
Beta-Alanine: This ingredient helps buffer acid in muscles, improving performance in the 60–240-second range. The recommended dosage is around 2-5 grams.
Caffeine: A well-known stimulant that can boost energy and focus. The optimal dosage can vary by individual but a dose equivalent to one cup of coffee (~ 150 mg of caffeine) is usually enough.
Creatine: Known for increasing power output, strength, and lean mass, Creatine is a must-have for anyone looking to improve their physical performance. A standard dosage is 5 grams per day.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids): While BCAAs are often touted for reduced muscle soreness, they’re actually unnecessary if you’re consuming an adequate amount of protein. While BCAAs in your pre workout won’t hurt you, they aren’t an essential ingredient in a high quality pre workout for a beginner.
High doses of caffeine: While caffeine is a popular ingredient in many pre-workout supplements due to its ability to boost energy and focus, excessive amounts can be counterproductive and even harmful. High doses of caffeine—exceeding 400 mg—can lead to jitteriness, increased heart rate, and elevated blood pressure, all of which are not conducive to a focused and effective workout. Additionally, too much caffeine can interfere with sleep quality, which is crucial for muscle recovery and overall well-being.
Proprietary blends: These can be a red flag for those looking to understand exactly what they’re putting into their bodies. These blends list multiple ingredients under a single combined dosage, without disclosing the specific amount of each individual ingredient. This lack of transparency makes it impossible to know if the product contains optimal dosages of key ingredients. For example, a blend might include effective substances like L-Citrulline or Beta-Alanine, but in quantities too small to provide any real benefits. This not only hampers your ability to make an informed decision but also raises questions about the product’s efficacy and value for money. Therefore, it’s advisable to opt for pre-workouts that provide a full disclosure of ingredient dosages.
A lot of pre-workouts are loaded with ingredients that will only make a difference to a seasoned trainee. If you’re just starting out, trust me, worrying about the difference between 3g of citrulline and 6g of citrulline is a complete waste of time for you.
Instead, prioritize the following criteria when looking for a pre-workout:
1) Safe and healthy (many aren’t, and they didn’t make our list)
2) Tastes good and mixes easily
3) Gives you a nice boost of energy to hit the gym
This also means you won’t need pre-workouts with energy-drink quantities of caffeine. A moderate amount close to that of a cup of coffee will suffice.
With pre-workout supplements, the biggest side effect to be aware of depends on the caffeine content. Excessive caffeine, or if you’re sensitive to caffeine, can lead to jitters, a nasty crash, and even anxiety.
That’s why, on our list for beginners, we’ve chosen products with a low to moderate amount of caffeine. If you want a caffeine-free option, check out our list of the best stim-free pre-workouts.
The other common side effect are the “tingles.” This is a harmless side effect that comes as a result of the beta-alanine in most pre-workouts. Beta-alanine is one of the few ingredients with solid research to show it supports exercise performance. For more on beta-alanine, you can check out our guide on beta-alanine supplementation.
Directly, no. And as a beginner, I recommend staying away from “fat burner” supplements that have tons of stimulants and other ingredients.
But indirectly, yes. Pre-workouts help you get to the gym. Consistently training along with a healthy diet in a caloric deficit will support weight loss.
However, a pre-workout is just a piece of that puzzle.
I will give the same answer to the question “do pre-workouts support muscle gain?” Directly, no. Indirectly, as part of a muscle-building training program and quality diet with ample protein, yes.
The most far and away overrated ingredients for pre-workouts, especially for beginners are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These are three specific essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
You’ll see BCAAs in lots of pre-workout powders, with marketing touting its potential to support muscle growth. First, the research on BCAAs has consistently shown negligible benefits for muscle growth. While there are situations where supplementing with BCAAs can be useful for reducing muscle protein breakdown, for beginners, this is nothing to worry about.
In fact, even for more advanced trainees and bodybuilding, branched-chain amino acids belong in the “overrated” camp.
For more on BCAAs, you can check out this article on the best vegan BCAA supplements.
Citrulline is one of the most effective pre-workout ingredients. By stimulating nitric oxide synthesis, l-citrulline improves blood flow. This, in turn, leads to better muscle pumps, a better mind-muscle connection (key for beginners), and even enhanced recovery. It can help you bang out a few extra reps.
Increased nitric oxide has also been linking to healthy blood pressure.
For more on citrulline, check out our article on the best citrulline supplements.
Within a few hours of training, try to get in a high-protein meal with complex carbohydrates. A simple option post-workout is to grab a protein powder shake.
You can also grab a protein bar. For options, check out this article on the best gluten-free protein bars.
Yes. In fact. Some of these are made for athletes, like Pre-Kaged Sport.
Pre-workout timing is not an exact science, but as a rule of thumb, about 20-30 minutes before you start your workout is a good start.
This gives the ingredients a chance to start doing their magic as you get into the thick of your training.
But here’s a key point for beginners, don’t feel the need to precisely clock this. We’re all a little different. Some folks might feel the kick from their pre-workout right at the 20-minute mark. For others, it might take 45 minutes.
The other reality is that it doesn’t really matter that much when it hits you. If you forget to drink it before and don’t start sipping it until the onset of your workout, that’s okay too.
Feel free to experiment with what works for you and your routine. Remember, a pre-workout is just a tool to enhance your training, not a make-or-break factor in your fitness journey. It should help you get the most out of your workout, not cause unnecessary stress over timing.
Safe, tested products
Boost in energy levels
A few quality ingredients to reduce muscle fatigue or support performance