The best pre-workout aims to provide a wide range of athletic and health benefits in a single product without trying to do everything. The market is overflowing with options to take your pre-workout to the next level, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
The most significant determinant in assessing how effective a pre-workout will be is to know what you want to accomplish.
Pre-workout ingredients can provide energy, focus, enhanced strength, pump, endurance, and muscle recovery. Some people want caffeine in their pre-workout, while others only want a stimulant-free product.
If you’re tired of suffering through workouts that end in minimal gains and muscle fatigue, you might want to rush out and buy the first supplement you see. Before you take that leap, check out what the experts say about the best natural ingredients in a safe and effective pre-workout.
8 Natural Ingredients for Pre-Workout Success
Below are eight of the most important ingredients addressing common pre-workout goals so you can choose the best ingredients to meet those goals. We have not included any stimulants since your preference can sway you toward or away from them.
#1 Creatine Monohydrate: Enhances Strength Training
Creatine helps convert food into energy and is formed from amino acids. It is popular among athletes since it may enhance muscle mass and boost strength and energy. Creatine’s potential benefits depend on various factors such as age, diet, physical activity, and fitness or athletic ability.
Creatine is used to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and minimize muscle recovery time during training. During short, high-intensity training sessions like sprinting or weightlifting, Creatine helps provide bursts of energy and speed.
Creatine is a natural substance produced by the body. You can also get it from meat, fish, and other protein-rich foods. Results from scientific studies on Creatine are mixed – some research supports improved athletic benefits while others show Creatine may not provide benefits to everyone.
#2 Beta-Alanine: Supports Muscle Endurance
Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that is critical for muscle strength and power. It aids in producing carnosine, a compound with antioxidant properties that supports muscle endurance in high-intensity exercise.
In older adults, Beta-Alanine may delay muscle tiredness, improving your ability to exercise. Combined with Betaine, it offers improved muscle hydration and helps buffer lactic acid so you can train harder for longer.
Beta-Alanine is made by the body and does not need to be consumed in food, though supplementation can help improve athletic and physical performance. More research is required to confirm how much Beta-Alanine affects performance.
#3 L-Citrulline: Improves Blood Flow
L-Citrulline (Citrulline or Citrulline Malate) is a non-essential amino acid, since your body produces it naturally in the liver and intestines. It can also be found in some foods.
Rather than building proteins, like other amino acids, Citrulline helps your body expel harmful substances and improve vasodilation. Vasodilation refers to the widening of blood vessels.
Citrulline helps increase nitric oxide production, which helps your arteries relax and work more efficiently. Increased nitric oxide promotes improved blood circulation, allowing oxygen and nutrients to flow more easily throughout your body. Improved blood flow to your muscle tissue helps you build lean muscle mass quicker with reduced risk of injury.
Optimal doses of Citrulline have not been identified, so setting a standard daily dose is challenging. You should not supplement with Citrulline if you are taking prescription medications such as nitrates for heart disease or pills for erectile issues.
#4 Magnesium: Bolsters Heart Health
Magnesium is an essential mineral for optimal body function. It helps support normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels while minimizing inflammation. Magnesium deficiency has been linked with more serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Magnesium varies by age group. Men between 19 and 30 years have an RDA of 400 mg per day, while men over 31 should consume around 420 mg of Magnesium daily.
Depending on your diet, you may meet daily Magnesium intake goals just by eating balanced meals. If this is the case, you do not need to use Magnesium supplements and should choose a pre-workout without it. Exceeding the upper intake level (UL) for Magnesium can be toxic.
#5 Potassium: Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Potassium is a crucial mineral for the optimal function of the heart, kidneys, and other organs. Recent studies have shown that maintaining normal Potassium levels may reduce the risk of hardening of the arteries and, by extension, minimize other serious heart-related conditions.
When Potassium levels are low, you may experience changes in heart rhythm or muscle cramping. Low Potassium is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and digestive disorders. Athletes who exercise in high-temperature climates and sweat excessively are likelier to experience Potassium deficiencies.
The Adequate Intake (AI) for Potassium for men over 19 is 3,400 mg per day. An adequate intake level is established when there isn’t enough scientific evidence to develop a Recommended Daily Allowance. There is no standard upper intake limit for Potassium, though extremely high doses of Potassium can be dangerous.
#6 L-Arginine: Increases Blood Flow
L-Arginine (Arginine) is an amino acid and one of the building blocks of protein. Arginine promotes improved athletic performance by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle fatigue. As Arginine boosts nitric oxide production and relaxes blood vessels, it may provide additional cardiovascular and erectile benefits.
Increased blood circulation improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles. L-Arginine also increases the removal rate of waste products, helping reduce muscle fatigue during workouts.
Arginine may provide relief for some from inflammation and migraines. L-Arginine is made in the body but can also be found in protein-rich foods, such as poultry, meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and legumes (beans).
#7 Calcium: Promotes Bone Health and Muscle Function
Calcium is a mineral most well-known for its crucial role in bone health, though it also helps support muscle function and maintain heart rhythm. In addition to reducing the development of osteoporosis, Calcium is often used to control high levels of Phosphorus, Potassium, and Magnesium in your body.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Calcium is highest for children between 9 and 18 (1,300 mg per day). The RDA for men between 19 and 70 is 1,000 mg per day. Individuals who are lactose intolerant or vegan may not get enough Calcium in their diet, so supplements are an excellent way to ensure you get enough daily.
Calcium supplements are absorbed best when taken with food. For your body to use Calcium properly, it’s essential to get enough Vitamin D and Magnesium.
#8 Beetroot: Maximizes Pump
Beets and beet juice are excellent food sources of nitrate. Nitrates are compounds made up of nitrogen and oxygen. When we eat nitrates, our body converts them to nitric oxide, improving circulation and helping regulate blood pressure.
Several studies have shown that beet juice may enhance performance and endurance in aerobic activities. One recent study found that active adult men increased their muscle power output after receiving nitrates from beet juice.
Consuming nitrates in the form of beetroot may also improve cardiorespiratory performance among amateur athletes. Professional athletes may not experience as many benefits as recreationally active guys.
Betaine is an amino acid found in many foods, including beets, that effectively enhances muscle strength and power, resulting in a more efficient workout. As a standalone supplement, people should only use Betaine under medical supervision.
How and When to Take Pre-Workout Supplements
Knowing when and how to take pre-workout supplements is essential to experience optimal benefits. Pre-workout supplements can contain various ingredients – some are supported by scientific research, but all work to help you get the most out of your workout.
Since every pre-workout formula is different, always read the instructions on the bottle to know how and when to take a supplement. Generally, ingredients that produce energizing effects should be consumed early in the day. But when in doubt, consult the manufacturer’s label.
Certain ingredients included on our list of best pre-workout ingredients may inhibit the absorption of others. The goal is not to find a supplement that contains every recommended component on our list but to create a pre-workout that boosts power, strength, and performance. It’s vital to check that the formulas you are considering do not use ingredients that counteract the effects of each other.
Fuel Your Workouts With the Best Pre-Workout
Pre-workout supplements are formulated with natural ingredients that help stimulate energy and focus, increase endurance and strength, reduce body fat, or boost muscle growth. Each pre-workout uses a different mix of effective natural components to help you achieve your fitness goals.
If you can’t find a pre-workout that suits your needs, you can create your own by buying the individual ingredients and throwing them into your protein shake. Take care to check Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) or Adequate Intake (AI) and upper intake limits (UL) for ingredients to ensure you stay within safe doses.
Whether you buy a pre-workout supplement or make a homemade pre-workout, some or all of these ingredients should be in the mix.