GAIN MUSCLE

Pre Workouts: What Are The Safest Options?

by Nader Qudimat
Updated November 15, 2021

When it comes to supplements, there's only one known fact... 

You can't trust any company, or anyone for that matter.

You need to be skeptical.

You must ask questions. 

From ingredient labels, to companies and marketing, you can never let your guard down. 

Once you understand this then let's get started...

Pre workouts is one category that is consistently brought up in the news with plenty of controversy.  

I've personally spent more than 10 years researching and going through supplements like a mad scientist. 

This is where you'll learn about pre workouts and what ones are generally safe to take.

You'll learn what ingredients are scientifically proven, what to avoid and what are the safest options.

  • SAFEST OVERALL

    Bulk by Transparent Labs
    Low caffeine in effective formula
    Smooth long lasting focus
    No crash or artificial fillers / flavors
  • BEST FOR PERFORMANCE

    Pre Kaged by Kaged Muscle
    Loaded with ergogenic aids
    High energy with mental enhancers
    Enhances physical performance
    CHECK IT OUT

Why worry about pre workouts?

They are just supplements after all... right?

Supplements, especially pre workouts, have risks behind them. 

The reason why pre workouts are more picked on is because it contains stimulants.

Stimulants can easily be abused or misused.

Caffeine, which is what is in coffee, can be lethal when overdosed (usually this happens beyond 1 gram or more).

Safest Pre Workouts

WITHOUT TINGLES

Alani Nu Pre Workout

Ingredients: 

6g citrulline Malate, 1.6g Beta Alanine, 500mg Tyrosine, 200mg Caffeine, 200mg Theanine

When it comes to smooth energy and decent endurance, Alani Nu is a good pre workout. 

It has just the right amount of caffeine, paired evenly with theanine for non jittery, long lasting focus and energy. 

The tingling you may have experienced from pre workouts comes from beta alanine. 

When it's used at it's clinical dose of 3.2 grams, or more, tingles are probably going to be felt.

However Alani Nu only has 1.6g beta alanine. 

This makes a great choice for those who don't want the tingles.

Alani Nu doesn't contain anything other than 5 natural but performance enhancing ingredients.

Since it has 200mg caffeine, it likely won't give you any jitters and for most people, it should be more than enough to help you zip through your sets. 

Nice amount of caffeine
Theanine is dosed 1:1 to caffeine
Little to no beta alanine tingles
Beta alanine is underdosed 
CHECK IT OUT
LOADED PWO

Pre Kaged by Kaged Muscle

Ingredients: 

6.5g Citrulline, 3.5g BCAA, 3g Leucine, 2.5g BetaPower, 2g Taurine, 1g N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, 1.6g Beta Alanine, 1.5g Creatine HCl, 850mg Tyrosine, 500mg Coconut Water, 274mg Organic Caffeine

If 200mg of caffeine isn't enough for you then check out pre kaged. 

Pre Kaged contains 275mg organic caffeine, along with other ingredients like 6.5g L-Citrulline, a hydration matrix and more. 

This pre workout is an attractive one for those on a vegan diet, because the ingredients are vegan friendly. 

And the scoops are huge.

You'd think you're scooping out a protein powder because of the size of it. 

Every serving contains 28g, making it one of the biggest we've seen so far. 

With BCAA's, caffeine, taurine, tyrosine, carbs and vitamins, you'll have every advantage to perform at your best. 

Pre Kaged started off with only 1 or 2 flavors but now they have many. 

The flavor we recommend is Cherry Bomb or Apple Krisp. 

Decent amount of caffeine 
Enhances focus and energy 
Big servings of ingredients to support performance
None
CHECK IT OUT
BEST FOR GAINS

Bulk Pre Workout by Transparent Labs

Ingredients: 

6g Citrulline Malate, 4g Beta Alanine, 4g BCAA, 2.5g Betaine Anhydrous, 1.3g Taurine, 1g Tyrosine, 360mg Theanine, 300mg AlphaSize Alpha GPC, 180mg Caffeine, 50mg Theobromine, 30mg Infinergy DiCaffeine Malate, 25mg Astragin

With 210mg caffeine and 50mg theobromine, Bulk stands out by using a few different sources of stimulants.

There's 30mg coming from caffeine malate, a slow digesting caffeine source that will help prolong the energy.

And Bulk also contains Alpha GPC, a strong choline source for focus and mental energy. 

This is probably rare to see but there's 360mg theanine included, which is nearly double of what caffeine is dosed that. 

Caffeine combined with theanine results in some great synergy as theanine can help smooth out the energy and reduce jitters.

Also included are BCAA's, tyrosine and beta alanine. 

The tingles you will likely feel from the big 4g dose, which is normal and it will subside as you continue taking it.

Similar to creatine, beta alanine takes time to be saturated in your body. 

There are also vitamins to help with the basics. 

Use discount code FITFREK. 

Multiple sources of energy
No crash
Completely transparent label
Big 360mg dose of theanine may be too sedating for some
CHECK IT OUT
NATURAL

All Natural Pre Workout by NutraBio

Ingredients: 

6g Citrulline,  1g Agmatine, 750mg Nitrosigine, 3.5g L-Leucine, 3.2g Beta Alanine, 3g Creatine Monohydrate, 2.5g Betaine Anhydrous, 1.3 Malic Acid, 500mg Creatine Magnapower, 1.5g Tyrosine, 500mg Choline Bitartrate, 350mg Caffeine, 300mg Theanine, 100mcg Huperzine, 2g Taurine

When it comes to all natural pre workouts, it's hard to find them. 

NutraBio however has made this all natural pre workout with a strong formula.

It has the basic ergogenic aids, from citrulline, to beta alanine, betaine anhydrous, taurine and more.

This pre workout has the most caffeine out of everything listed here, with 350mg caffeine. 

It's dosed with 300mg theanine, to help smooth out the energy and helps reduce jitters. 

Although it's branded to be all natural, don't let that fool you because there's quite a few things going on in All Natural. 

There's 6g citrulline, 1g agmatine, and 750mg Nitrosigine. 

All of this will lead to some strong pumps along with long lasting nitric oxide effects. 

And for mental stimulation, All Natural contains 500mg choline bitartrate along with 100mcg huperzine. 

This will result in all day focus, as well as energy from the caffeine. 

Strong energy and focus with 350mg caffeine
Formula has synergistic effects
All natural
Caffeine may be too much for complete beginners
CHECK IT OUT
SMOOTH ENERGY

Pre Game by Cira Nutrition

Ingredients: 

6g Citrulline, 1.6g Beta Alanine, 1.25g Betaine Anhydrous, 500mg L-Tyrosine, 200mg Caffeine, 100mg L-Theanine, 50mg Theobromine, 25mg Astragin

If you're looking for a simple formula then Cira Nutrition has a great one here. 

With 200mg caffeine and 100mg theanine, it has just the right amount to get you in the zone. 

And it contains 6g pure citrulline. 

This dose of citrulline will help enhance performance, pumps and endurance. 

Perfect amount of stimulants for beginners
Contains ergogenic aids to enhance performance
Beginner friendly
Underdosed on some ergogenic aids 
CHECK IT OUT

Safe Pre Workouts Guide

When considering a pre workout, there's two things you should look at:

The company, and the ingredients.

Most pre workouts will try to go to above and beyond for energy and focus.

This means they mean they use more than just caffeine.

Often, this will involve exotic stimulants, like DMHA, DMAA, and more.

Caffeine on it's own can be risky when it's used excessively and beyond the safe amounts (more than 300-400mg).

The standard for caffeine seems to be anywhere between 300-400mg. However some pre workouts will have 600mg, with exotic stimulants on top of that.

In the wrong hands, this can be misused and abused, like using more than one serving or consuming other sources of caffeine.

This is why it's important to look at the ingredients.

And sometimes it's not enough to look at just the ingredients.

In the past, there have been controversial pre workouts that have used ingredients that are not disclosed on the label at all.

The most studied and proven stimulant by far is caffeine.

Most of these stimulants have never been approved by the FDA for human consumption, which is why some are concerned.

And some stimulants have been banned from sports federation, so consuming any of them can get you banned if you're competing in a drug tested sport.

Why Pre Workouts Can Be Risky

Like anything else, if it's overused and abused, there can be consequences.

With pre workouts, this can be dangerous.

Because typically a pre workout will contain 200-300mg, with some going as high as 650mg per serving, if one was to take double servings, or more, it can lead to adverse side effects.

And not to mention some pre workouts combine other stimulants.

You should always follow the instructions on a pre workout.

Ingredients that have potential risks:

Risky Stimulant #1: DMAA

DMAA is known as methylhexamine, geranium oil, or 1,3-dimethylamylamine, which is commonly used as a stimulant in pre workouts. This can be sold legally but it's banned for human consumption by the FDA. It's not permitted for use in competitive sports and it's not WADA compliant. Because of the loophole of it being sold legally but not for human consumption, it can be bought in bulk.

And because DMAA is not GRAS (generally recognized as safe), it can't be marketed and sold in pre workouts.

The reason why DMAA is risky is because it can cause vasoconstriction, leading to elevated blood pressure. This can make it hard to breath and can increase risk for heart attacks which is why it's not recognized as safe.

There isn't much research around DMAA and while there isn't concentrate evidence showing that it's dangerous, there seems to some agreement that it puts a strain on the respiratory system.

The conclusion that the U.S. Department of Defense came up with in their study is that DMAA isn't associated with adverse medical events but depending on the user's medical history, frequency of use, and other factors can contribute to risk for side effects (source).

And they also noted that DMAA seems to affect the cardiovascular function, just like any other sympathomimetic stimulant (source).

Risky Ingredient #2: DMHA

When DMAA was hard to find at one point, DMHA surfaced as a better alternative.

Companies advertised DMHA as a better and safer choice over DMAA.

This exotic stimulant comes from the plant Kigelia Africana and it was initially advertised and sold as a decongestant.

While DMHA isn't as strong on it's own, it's typically combined with caffeine and sometimes it's even combined with DMAA.

There's a few names for DMHA, including:

  • Octodrine
  • 2-amino-isoheptane
  • 2-amino-6-methylheptane
  • 1-5-Dimethylhexylamine

At the moment, DMHA is banned in Australia but it is still widely available and sold in the U.S.

Side effects of DMHA are similar to DMAA but is a little more milder in effects.

Risky Stimulant #3: Ephedrine

Ephedrine comes from Ephedra, which is also a plant called Ma Haung.

One of the active components in Ephedra is Ephedrine and it was introduced as a sympathomimetic drug.

But soon it was used in supplements and the FDA would soon ban ephedrine as it caused side effects.

While ephedrine works well for appetite reduction and focus, the side effects can be equally as strong. You can experience anything from anxiety to trouble sleeping.

Usually ephedrine is stacked with caffeine and aspirin, which is known as the ECA stack.

Risky Stimulant #4: DMBA

DMBA is another stimulant that's advertised to be a replacement for DMAA.

It's also known as 1,3 DMBA or 1,3-dimethylbutylamine, but because it's not WADA complaint, it's usually avoided to prevent issues in competitive sports.

While it's not meant for human consumption, you'll still find this stimulant in pre workouts and can be bought in bulk.

Yohimbine.

Yohimbine is a stimulant that can cause anxiety and jitters especially when it's combined with high amounts of caffeine.

While it's typically used for fat burning, it can cause more side effects than good effects for most people.

Here's a list of ingredients that has been published by the U.S. Department of Defense to be aware of:

Operation Supplement Safety List

Safest Ingredients

Now that we've gone over the sketchy and gray area ingredients, we'll now jump to the safest ingredients.

While these are generally considered to be safe, it's still possible to make it dangerous by taking a lethal dose.

What is considered to be a lethal dose depends on the ingredient, but with caffeine it gets dangerous once it's dosed at 2 grams or more.

Pre workouts usually stay under 400mg, but once it goes higher than that then side effects are more pronounced.

For any ingredient below, to be 100% safe you should ask your doctor for approval before using anything.

Generally if you have a history of heart issues then it's best to avoid stimulants like caffeine or ask your doctor for approval.

You'll find the recommended dosing in brackets.

For caffeine it's possible to benefit from smaller dosages than the recommended dosing.

Caffeine (150mg - 300mg)

Caffeine is almost always the main stimulant in pre workout.

It's no wonder it's popular because of the number of studies that show it can increase physical and mental performance.

There are a number of forms but as long as the ingredient says caffeine, it's ok to consume.

Creatine (5g)

Creatine works wonders for strength and energy but basically it can increase ATP production and help with muscle gains. If the form is creatine HCL then 1.5g is ok.

Beta Alanine (1.6g - 3.2g)

Whenever you feel tingles from a pre workout, this is what it's coming from. Generally, the more frequently you take beta alanine, the less likely you'll feel the tingles as your body becomes saturated with it.

Betaine (1.25g - 2.5g)

A great muscle volumizer and strength booster.

Tyrosine (500mg - 2g)

Helps increase dopamine production and works in synergy with caffeine.

Theanine (100mg - 500mg)

Reduces jitters and helps you establish a mind to muscle connection.

What Are The Safest Pre Workouts?

The list above is a great example of what a safe pre workout should look like.

Here's a summary of that list:

These pre workouts are the best choices when it comes to safety.

They contain ingredients that are generally considered to be safe.

But remember to check the instructions, never exceed recommended dosing and don't consume other sources of caffeine in the same day.

Any other pre workout with more ingredients than these should be researched before using to reduce risks.

FAQ's

Are Pre Workouts Safe?

Yes, generally they are.

But you should look at the label and make sure there isn't anything that you can have a negative reaction to.

With the list of safe ingredients listed above, you should use this information to look for a pre workouts that have these ingredients.

But even safe pre workouts can be dangerous if they are misused and abused.

And also there are strong pre workouts that are made with high amounts of stimulants which you should avoid if you're looking for a safe pre workout.

Of course you should not consume other sources of caffeine or stimulants on the same day as when you use a pre workout.

How to Ensure A Pre Workout Is Safe

The supplement industry is almost completely self regulated.

You need to do your own research.

This means looking up reviews from other people on social media, forums and sources that you can trust.

Most of the time it's easy to tell if a pre workout is safe by looking at the label and the dosages but sometimes there can be manufacturing errors or simply an ingredient that is generally recognized as not safe.

This is why it's advisable to look up reviews and look for a common theme that people liked or disliked about the pre workout.

With all of this in mind, you can also make your own pre workout using bulk ingredients.

Also try to avoid proprietary blends because you don't know how much of each ingredient you're getting.

There's no secret when it comes to dosing as dosages are proven by research and anecdotal reports. 

title

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by the iron and cold steel, Nader takes his knowledge and hulks it up into this site.

Having to be stuck as a 110lb skinny guy in the early days, he has had no choice but to keep improving himself until he cannot.

Click here to check out his 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

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