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.
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:
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.
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.
It also has electrolytes like magnesium and coconut water powder to keep you hydrated. 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.