When you’re starting to think about pre workout supplements, the best UK solutions on offer are wide and varied. Regardless of whether you’re choosing the best pre workout in the UK, the best pre workout for energy, or simply a pre workout energy drink, we’re here to help you decide the top pre workout for your personal needs.
What is a pre-workout supplement?
A pre-workout supplement is a type of product that’s meant to be taken before you exercise. The primary function of any pre workout is to get your muscles revved up, your mind focused and awake, and have you more than ready to take on the workout of the day.
More than just something you take for energy, pre workouts also let you experience amazing improvements in aspects revolving fitness and strength training. Pre workouts are capable of boosting energy, dishing out massive muscle pumps, giving you a much-needed focus and alertness, and speeding up muscle recovery.
A typical pre workout is often consumed 30 minutes before the exercise begins. This is to let the body absorb and metabolize the ingredients properly, so by the time you start, your body is 100% up and ready.
Whether they’re necessary or not is dependent on you or your professional trainer, as well as the goals of the individual person. However, studies have long since supported their performance benefits so taking one or two cans just to try things out wouldn’t hurt.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements to buy in the UK
Best pre-workout overall: Blackwolf
The best overall pre workout supplement in the UK is Blackwolf. It has a transparent formula, the ingredients are in their premium forms, and the dosages are worth the rank of best pre workout supplement.
The notable ingredients are Citrulline malate, Beta Alanine, and Tyrosine; ingredients known to help with pumps, muscle recovery, and focus. They also round it really nice with BioPerine, the best ingredient for maximum ingredient absorption.
Best caffeine-free pre-workout: Nutrex Research Outlift
Nutrex Research Outlift is a hidden gem when it comes to supplements, and their Outlift Stim Free pre workout is certainly up there when it comes to “clean” energy.
The ingredient doses are superb and the formulation will help give you endurance and more lifting power without the need for artificial stimulants.
Best pre-workout for women: Powher
Powher has been rising as a supplement company in recent years, and their Powher Pre Workout is certainly the product behind this surge. The formula was designed by women for women, with the formula being free from artificial stimulants while also being a source of healthy antioxidants for overall wellness.
Best pre-workout for CrossFit athletes: NO-XPLODE
CrossFit requires a lot of energy and endurance, so the best pre workout supplement in the UK for them is BSN Nutrition N.O.-Xplode Pre Workout Powder NO-XPLODE.
NO-XPLODE has creatine, beta alanine, caffeine, and vitamin B complex, ingredients known to help your muscles keep up with extreme endurance training and stamina-draining workouts.
Best for pre-workout without creatine: MUTANT Madness
Creatine is one of the best pre workouts, but some people don’t like it. Maybe because they have their own creatine source, or they just don’t like some of its side effects. Regardless, there’s a supplement for everyone and for those who want something creatine-free, we recommend MUTANT Madness.
It has citrulline malate, beta alanine, and taurine in their best and most bioavailable forms. These three can mimic the benefits conferred by creatine minus adding creatine itself.
Best pre-workout for weight loss: Evlution Nutrition ENGN Shred
Some pre workouts work as fat burners too, and the best pre workout supplement for fat loss is Evlution Nutrition ENGN Shred. On top of some of the best pre workout ingredients, it also Cayenne, Caffeine, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which all ingredients that help boost fat burning.
It also contains Chromium picolinate, an ingredient known to help suppress appetite.
Best pre-workout for cardio: C4 Sport
C4 Sport is the best pre workout supplement in the UK for cardio and with good reason. It’s well rounded and the formula isn’t so “stuffed” that it will cause users to have bloating problems while running, swimming, or cycling.
The notable ingredient is micronized creatine monohydrate. This is your typical creatine except it’s in a “pre-ground” state, allowing the body to digest and metabolize it easily. This usually bypasses the bloating side effect associated with creatine consumption.
Best pre-workout for vegans: Vegavero
Vegans don’t have many to choose when it comes to pre workout supplements, but we have one that’s right up their alley in Vegavero.
As the name implies, Vegavero is a vegan-friendly pre workout supplement in the UK. The ingredients are standard for pre workout supplements, but what makes them different is how they source from plants and avoid any animal products.
Best pre-workout for Olympic lifters: ON Gold Standard
When it comes to lifting, what you want is maximum pump action, and you can’t go wrong with ON Gold Standard Pre Workout. The formula is filled with ingredients meant to give your muscles the boost they need to power through your max reps and get more sets in.
Best pre-workout for strength trainers: Cobra Labs THE CURSE
Strength training is all about repetition and going as heavy as possible for a lot of reps. You need a pre workout supplement that boosts endurance and power, and for that we recommend Cobra Labs’ THE CURSE.
THE CURSE is a simple yet efficient formula for those who want endurance and power the moment they take it. It contains beta alanine, creatine, citrulline, and enough caffeine to last you one good workout session.
Best pre-workout for running: Blackwolf
Blackwolf is especially good for runners due to its premium formula that also massively supports muscle hydration. The secret ingredient this time is taurine as it helps improve cell hydration which can then improve pump as well as reduce the risk of cramps.
It’s also available in range of flavours making it appeal to all tastes: Green Apple, Blue Raspberry and Fruit Punch.
Types of Pre Workout Supplements
Pre workouts come in all shapes and sizes, but the best pre workouts in the UK come in mainly three forms:
Powdered Pre Workout Supplements
Powdered pre workouts are the most common and standard pre workout form. These pre workouts come in all sorts of bottles and cans. However, they’re all mixed and consumed the same way: by adding water and drinking it all up in one sitting.
Most pre workout powders come in many, many flavours, but the most common flavours are vanilla, chocolate, bubble gum, and berries. You would also find the flavours to be too strong, and with good reason. Mixing and drinking pre workout ingredients (that are mainly extracts and synthetics) won’t be kind to your palate. Some companies do offer “no flavour” products, but the customer often adds their flavoured beverage of choice to make the pre workout easier to swallow.
The best perk of pre workout powders is their dosage flexibility. With a powder format, you can fit in as many ingredients as you like and still have functional doses.
The worst drawback of pre workout powders is their taste as well as accurate serving size. Let’s face it: The stuff they put in supplements don’t really taste great. Because of the taste of common pre workout supplement ingredients, companies are forced to mix in a lot of nasty stuff to make the powder taste, smell, and look good as a shake and dry mix. The fact that many pre workout supplements are in powder form also means you’re not sure about getting what the nutrition label states you’re getting in one or two scoops.
Ready to drink
Ready to Drink or RTD pre workouts are the ones you often see advertised as “energy drinks.” These are mainly caffeinated drinks like Red Bull, but the more complex pre workout drinks can be considered as “pre-mixed” pre workout powders like GFuel. Some RTD pre workouts also come in “gels” that you squeeze into your mouth, but these are rare and aren’t really popular in the fitness world. They act more like snacks that help keep the calories in check in-between meals.
The most amazing thing about beverage pre workouts is how they don’t really feel like you’re taking something dangerous or controversial. Not to mention that most of them have a really good taste, quench thirst, and mimic the carbonation of sodas.They also mix the ease of use of powders (just open a can or bottle and drink!) and portability of pills and capsules. They’re also really portable and the bottles can look pretty to look at.
The only drawback about them is how they often taste bad if not consumed cold and how companies often add a lot of weird, non pre-workout stuff (like sugars and other additives) just to make it look and taste good.
Pills, Tablets, and Capsules
Pre workouts do come in pills, they’re really rare to a point where we’re not sure if supplement companies still make them. They work similar to pre workouts in how they’re taken before exercising, but the main difference is how they usually work faster due to the concentration of ingredients per pill.
Pre workout powders often contain buffers that help with the mixing or shaking (and taste) while pills and capsules bypass that. The problem is, you often have to swallow as much as 8 capsules (or more!) per serving, and not everyone is fond of swallowing that many capsules before a workout. Not to mention the possible gut-related side effects of taking multiple high-concentration capsules in one sitting such as bloating or excess gas.
The best thing about pills, capsules, and tablets is their portability as well as the simplicity of their use. Most companies don’t really add any other stuff other than some colourants, so you’re sure to only ingest what’s on the label. It’s also accurate in terms of dosing, because you can’t mess up if it’s all measured for you.
The worst thing about this format is the dosage for each ingredient. There’s only so much you can fit inside a capsule that most companies end up asking users to swallow 4 to 8 at a time to compensate. Some people also don’t like the image they impart when they are popping pills in public.
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be keeping our focus on powdered pre workouts. They are more common and the best pre workout supplements in the UK are powdered.
Popular pre workout ingredients
There are probably so many pre workout formulas used by the best pre workout supplements, it wouldn’t be wrong to say companies are now just copying each other off at this point and just relabelling. However, most if not all companies formulate based on one or all three basic functions of a pre workout: Pumps, Endurance and Energy, and Focus.
Below are some of the most popular ingredients under each category.
When you talk about pumps, you’re referring to the body’s ability to produce nitric oxide. Normally, nitric oxide is used to help with blood circulation as well as promote better vein diameter. When it comes to the best pre workout supplements, companies use ingredients that enables the body to produce more nitric oxide. This translates to a better nutrient delivery system to muscle tissue.
The best pre workout supplements in the UK use Citrulline Malate.
When it comes to nitric oxide, you can’t go wrong with citrulline malate. It’s a combination of citrulline – a precursor to nitric oxide production – and malic acid for efficient delivery. Citrulline alone doesn’t get absorbed as well as citrulline malate. Dosage-wise, you’d want this in at least two grams in a blend, four grams minimum as a standalone.
Other notable picks are arginine, agmatine sulfate, and norvaline.
Endurance and Energy
The first pre workout supplements started with ingredients meant to boost energy and endurance, allowing you to do more work than usual.
Caffeine spearheads this category.
With a lot of people drinking coffee like it’s just another form of water, it wasn’t long before companies began isolating caffeine powder and sell it to an already caffeine-tolerant market.
What’s the right caffeine dosage?
For a lot of the ingredients in this guide, more usually means better. In the case of stimulants like caffeine, you have to be careful about how much you take. A cup of brewed coffee is around 90-100 mg caffeine, so if a pre workout supplement contains 300 mg caffeine, you’re taking in three cups worth.
The recommended range varies, but it’s best to play between 150 mg to 250 mg, or just a little over two cups. Most find this dosage range to be ideal for most fitness enthusiasts. If you go overboard, and you’re not used to the caffeine load, you might experience jitters, nausea, and the crash – a condition where you suddenly find yourself out of energy and want to just lie down and sleep.
Another note about caffeine is, you don’t want too much of this in your pre workout supplement. Why? Too much caffeine often means the company is short-selling the consumer when it comes to formula quality.
Caffeine is really cheap, so if half your formula is caffeine or caffeine-related, then you might as well buy them online or just brew yourself a cup or two.
Beta Alanine is another ingredient thought to be a staple in the pre workout supplement industry. It’s capable of delaying fatigue by allowing the body to produce more carnosine.
Carnosine acts like a buffer against blood lactate, an acid the body secretes to act as a “limiter” on muscle use. Basically, the body secretes lactic acid to tell you to “stop” overworking your muscles. This is usually fine, but when you’re working out, you don’t want to get tired too fast especially if you know you can still train. Carnosine reduces the effects of lactic acid, allowing you to train more and longer.
Not just for fatigue, Beta alanine also helps with muscle recovery and is a great post-workout ingredient. This is why beta alanine is considered one of the best pre workout supplement ingredients.
It’s one real side effect is paraesthesia, a condition where you feel itchy under your skin in some parts of the body. This happens because the molecules produced by beta alanine are larger than blood cells and they often “touch” your nerve endings, making you want to scratch them.
Dosage-wise, you want beta alanine at around 1.5 grams and up.
Last, but not least is Creatine.
Creatine is one of the most studied ingredients in the world, with over 200 scientific papers covering its benefits, usage, and applicable dosages. It’s a great pre workout because it’s capable of boosting performance and endurance. It also works both ways, helping with muscle recovery and even promoting lean mass.
Dosage with creatine is tricky. Depending on your goals and blend synergy, two grams is good or too small. Standalone creatine supplements often promote creatine loading which includes dosages of 5 grams and up.
Often the most underappreciated ingredients of pre workout supplements are those intended for mental prowess. This blend often contains herbs meant to help with stress, reduce anxiety, and help you have laser focus. This means you will have nothing to think about, but the squats you’re about to crush and not the attractive people inside the gym or the gym owner’s weird playlist.
Herbs like rhodiola rosea and ashwagandha are included for their adaptogenic properties. They help you feel calm and less stressed despite the literal weight under pressure. Choline ingredients – especially Citicoline and Alpha GPC – are also popular for their brain health and function optimization. N-acetyl L-Tyrosine is also a contender thanks to its mood and focus boosting properties.
For dosage, focus ingredients don’t often get more than a few hundred milligrams total. Since they’re just accessory ingredients most of the time, the good range is anywhere from 200 mg to 500 mg.
One notable focus and mood boosting ingredient is theanine. Theanine is what you can call the antithesis to caffeine. If caffeine puts you at risk for jitters and crashing, theanine helps mitigate or outright nullify them. This often works if theanine is the same dosage as caffeine.
What are the benefits of taking a pre-workout?
There are three key benefits to taking the best pre workout supplements.
You feel stronger
Perhaps the most important function of a pre workout is how it helps your muscles be more ready to take on the workout of the day. Pre workouts pretty much “supercharge” your muscles to let them know they’re about to do something difficult, but fun.
Pre workouts can help you lift heavier and longer, and the best pre workout supplements in the UK offer this as the primary perk.
You are more focused
There are a lot of things that can distract you inside the gym. Whether it’s someone attractive using the squat rack or some newbie who looks like they’re about to hurt themselves with poor form, distractions can and will deter you from focusing on yourself and your workout.
Pre workouts can contain ingredients that boost focus. Allowing your mind to tune out the noise and be more aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish will let you perform better.
Focus ingredients in the best pre workout supplements often also provide anti-stress benefits. Working out is stressful and having a 200 kg piece of iron over your head is at the very least worrisome. Stress can make you quit early or lose confidence, and taking pre workouts with focus ingredients can help you with this.
You speed up recovery
One of the most overlooked benefits of taking pre workouts is how they affect post-exercise recovery. It’s true that the best supplements to take after exercise are actual post-workouts, but you’d be glad to know that some pre workouts work two ways.
Creatine and beta alanine are two of the most prominent ingredients in the best pre workout supplements. They provide performance and fatigue benefits, but they also help reduce injury and boost muscle recovery.
The better your muscles are at recovering, the faster you get to pack lean mass. The faster you get lean, the more confident you will feel.
What are the downsides of taking pre-workout supplements?
As much as there are a lot of benefits to taking pre workout supplements, there are also some really noteworthy drawbacks.
Stimulant side effects
Perhaps 9 out of 10 pre workouts in the market have a stimulant or two in their formulas. After all, the basic function of pre workouts is to energise you, so it makes sense to add ingredients that stimulate the senses especially caffeine. However, there is such a thing as too much stimulant use, and the side effects can be really ugly. The side effects of taking excessive stimulants can range from heart palpitations, excessive sweating, jitters, and crashing to stomach upsets, heart burn, and vomiting out of nausea. Know your tolerance and stop taking any pre workout once you feel something is wrong.
You can become dependent
Taking the best pre workout supplements in the UK can feel really good. Like, super, duper good. The problem is, it may get to a point where you no longer function normally without taking a pre workout swig first thing in the morning or some time in the afternoon, and this can mean you have a dependency. This is why some people cycle their pre workout supplements, to not have their bodies totally used to taking something before a heavy workout.
Not all pre workouts are high quality
The best pre workout supplements all pass through rigorous quality testing. However, there are a lot more pre workout supplements that don’t, but still sold as if they were. They can be safe, but the problem with having no quality checkers means you run the risk of taking something that isn’t supposed to be there which may harm your body immediately or with continuous use. If not health, quality checks also guarantee the right amount of dosage and ingredients per serving.
Best pre workout supplements to buy
- Nutrex Research Outlift – Best for caffeine-free
- Powher – Best for women
- BSN Nutrition N.O.-Xplode – Best for CrossFit
- MUTANT Madness – Best for creatine-free
- ENGN Shred – Best for weight loss
- C4 Sport – Best for cardio
- Vegavero – Best for vegans
- ON Gold Standard – Best for olympic lifters
- Cobra Labs The Curse! – Best for strength training
- Blackwolf – Best for running
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