7 Best Pre-Workouts for Beginners (2023) Reviewed and Compared

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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.

Why Beginners Should Often Use Different Pre-Workouts

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:

  • Safe and healthy (many aren’t, and they didn’t make our list)
  • Tastes good and mixes easily
  • 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.

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.

1) Pre-Kaged Sport

pre-kaged sport pre workout

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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 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.

Note, if you prefer no caffeine at all, you can check out our list of the best non-stim pre-workouts, which includes a non-stim version of Pre-Kaged.

Flavors available:

Fruit Punch

Mango Lime

Glacier Grape


2) Vedge Nutrition Pre-Workout

Vedge Pre-Workout

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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. From Alpha-GPC to l-theanine, 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.


Peach Mango


Patriot Pop

3) Essential Amino Energy

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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 blueberry mojito.

4) Dr. Jekyll Signature

dr jekyll pre workout

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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.


Blueberry Lemonade

5) Optimum Nutrition Gold-Standard Pre-Workout

gold standard pre workout

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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.


Fruit Punch

Blueberry Lemonade

Green Apple


6) Sierra Fit Pre-Workout

Sierra Fit Pre workout powder

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Sierra Fit Pre-Workout contains a nice blend of caffeine (135mg), ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine, and electrolytes.

Again, it’s a solid pre-workout that’s a good choice for beginners because it’s not too complex. It’s also the cheapest on our list, so it’s good if you’re on a tight budget.


Blue Raspberry

Fruit Punch



7) Cellucor C4 Sport

C4 Sport

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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 better choice for most beginners.

Their flavors are also delicious.


Fruit Punch

Blue Raspberry


How We Ranked

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. 

High-Quality Ingredients and Effective Doses

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.

Keeping the Beginner in Mind

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.

Are There Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements?

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

Do Pre-Workouts Support Weight Loss?

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.

What Are Overrated Yet Common Pre-Workout Ingredients?

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.

What Are The Benefits of Citrulline? Should Beginners Stress Over The Dose?

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 be linking to healthy blood pressure.

For more on citrulline, check out our article on the best citrulline supplements.

What Should Beginners Take Post-Workout?

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.

For some of our favorite options, check out our article on the best post-workout supplements and the best plant-based protein powders.

You can also grab a protein bar. For options, check out this article on the best gluten-free protein bars.

Do These Pre-Workouts Support Athletic Performance?

Yes. In fact. Some of these are made for athletes, like Pre-Kaged Sport.

What Should Beginners Look For in a Pre-Workout Formula?

To rehash…

  • Safe, tested products
  • Boost in energy levels
  • A few quality ingredients to reduce muscle fatigue or support performance
  • Tastes amazing
About the Author

David is a writer and strength coach and co-owner of Roman Fitness Systems. In addition to helping run RFS, he's also the head editor for, the official website of the Strength and Conditioning Association of Professional Hockey. You can also check out his Instagram, he's pretty easy on the eyes.

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