Ever feel like working out, but lack the energy? Sitting at home and thinking to yourself that you really ought to start training, but can’t get up? Well guess what; you are not the only one. Especially in times of a global pandemic, where many people are bound to their house and gyms are closed, the motivation and energy to start working out seem to lack severely. There might be something to help you get up and start pumping your muscles though. Enter – Pre-workout boosters. What are they, are they any good, and are they appropriate for you? We have tried and tested a lot of them and our aim is to help you decide with our little list of the 5 best pre-workout boosters for 2021.
What are pre-workout boosters?
Pre-workout boosters are one of the most sold fitness supplements, after protein and creatine supplements. They are one of the favourite dietary supplements among bodybuilders and strength athletes, alike. A pre-workout booster is designed to be taken before training and is stated to boost your focus, energy and strength, while reducing your feeling of fatigue or lack of motivation or focus to get moving. They also provide more muscle pump, or also known as improved blood-flow to the muscles. Some even say they will promote weight loss.
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or sports fanatic though, to use a pre-workout booster. Anybody who is lacking energy or focus can benefit from taking a dose. Consult the directions before getting on these to see if they are for you. If you are ever in doubt, consult your physician!
Not all pre-workout boosters are the same though and not every ingredient is proven to give you the results you desire. When looking at the product description, you might think you have some sort of magical powder that will help you become the Hulk, but obviously this is not the case. They can and will help you get your ass off the couch though and start working out, even if it’s at your own home. Want to know more and see what we think of pre-workout boosters? Read on.
Pre-workout booster ingredients, a closer look
Pre-workout boosters are made of a combination of ingredients that enhance your physical performance and boost your mental focus. According to the labels, they peak around 60 minutes after intake. In my experience, they are best taken 15-30 minutes before a workout. You will definitely feel it’s effect and know when to start training.
So what is actually in these pre-workout boosters? We can’t list the ingredients of every single one here, but we will do our best to create a comprehensive list of the general ingredients of such boosters.
Caffeine is one of the main ingredients of many boosters It increases focus, alertness and power and it might also affect your stamina. However it does not affect muscle growth or increase your strength by much.
Creatine is, like we mentioned before, one of the most used supplements in the world. It is also occurs naturally in the human body, especially in skeletal muscles. It is also one of the most researched compounds in many scientific journals and its effects and benefits are well documented. Creatine increases neuromuscular activity, which means an increase in perceived strength. It also increases the high energy phosphate metabolism, which helps you to train longer. Furthermore it stimulates recovery speed and allows you to train more often.
This all might sound great and it is, however, there are a few important side notes. First of all, your body needs to build up a threshold of creatine before you will notice the effects. This means you will have to take it daily for at least one week. Taking a single small shot every now and then will not help much. Furthermore, your body will get used to the effects and therefore reduce its effectiveness. This is the reason why many people cycle the use of creatine with periods of non-use to increase the inherent efficacy of the supplement.
Beta-Alanine has a slightly positive effect on your stamina. However, it appears that this effect is most profound for more lengthy exercises as it peaks at performances of 60-240 seconds. This makes it better for several forms of cardio, than for peak performance muscle-building exercises.
This supplement also requires a build-up of several weeks to achieve its’ optimal effect.
Taurine is another well know ingredient of many pre-workout boosters. It can also be found in many energy drinks. Taurine is a natural bio-active amino acidic and plays in important role in your central nervous system and the production of muscle tissue. Furthermore, taurine is said to have an energy-boosting effect, but this is not quite proven by science.
A well-known effect of a pre-workout booster is the tingling sensation it provides. This is a nice mental booster; it makes your mind more clear and focussed. This is caused by the beta-aline.
L-arginine and L-citrulline
Both L-arginine and L-citrulline are said to have an effect on your muscle pump, as they help enhance the blood flow to your muscles.
Furthermore, most pre-workout boosters contain several vitamins, BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acids) and a host of plant and root extracts.
Most brands tell you that their product is a special mix of (some of) the ingredients above, plus several other things. The effect is enhanced by the mix of the carefully selected ingredients.
The 5 best pre-workout boosters for 2021, our review
Due to the popularity of pre-workout boosters, a lot of supplement brands have one, or several of these boosters in their product range. There are so many on the market nowadays and each one is supposed to be even better than the other. Over the last years, we have tried a whole lot of them and came up with a list of some boosters, which we think you might like. This saves you money to try them yourselves and lets you start with the best one straight away.
Cellulor C4 Original Pre-workout Powder
C4 Original is a well-known and highly rated pre-workout booster. It has a great value for money, which makes it attractive to buy.
C4 contains 150 mg caffeine per serving, as well as creatine, beta-alanine and several amino acids and vitamins.
What we like is the focus and energy boost this booster brings. It gives you the nice tingly feeling and clears your mind to start working out. It will definitely help you get off your chair and push you to your (home) gym. We did however not experience significant strength gains, we weren’t able to lift any more than usual, yet we felt like hitting the gym hard. Honestly, we are down to earth enough that we don’t expect this from any legally acquired booster.
The effects start already after 15 minutes and last notably for about 45-60 minutes. This means you won’t have the rush effect during the whole training, but it gets you started well enough.
We did not notice some sort of drop-off in energy after the effects faded, which can occur with some pre-workout boosters.
All in all a very nice booster and well recommended.
JNX The Curse! Pre-workout Supplement
The Curse by Cobra Labs is very popular in the USA and not without reason. It promises an awesome boost and lets you “unleash hell at the gym”. Furthermore it is one of the cheapest pre-workout boosters around (from a respectable brand) and comes in a lot of delicious flavours.
This booster contains caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, olive leaf extract and some more ingredients.
We bought the fruit punch and green apple ones to test for ourselves. The taste is very sweet, but actually very nice. After around 20-25 minutes the tingling sensation kicks in and the energy rush and focus start to burn in your head. There is no doubt that it will unleash a great energy rush that helps you hit the gym hard. It also feels like this gives you a bit more pump, but honestly that can also be an effect of the rush. The rush lasts about an hour. Nonetheless, we like this one a lot! And The Curse offers 50 doses for the same price as 30 with other brands.
Even after over a month, this boost still had a great effect and we didn’t notice a reduced effectiveness in our bodies.
The one downside for us is the fact that there seems to be a bit of a dip after the workout. As we don’t have this with the other boosters, we assume it’s the after effect of this specific product.
BSN N.O. Xplode Pre-workout Supplement
BSN is a top brand when it comes to fitness supplements. It has a wide range of great products and N.O. Xplode is no exception. Like The Curse, this is a highly popular pre-workout booster in Northern America.
N.O. Xplode contains a long list of ingredients, like caffeine, vitamins, taurine and some more exotic things like black pepper and Indian gooseberry.
We tried the Fruit Punch flavour, which tastes decent. The rush of energy and focus is decent too, although slightly less than the previously mentioned boosters. As this product is pretty expensive, it kind of make it a bit disappointing. We did get a feeling of a slightly better muscle pump. The effect starts around 15 minutes and lasts a bit longer than the other boosters we’ve tried. We could not feel a negative dip in energy level after the rush, which is positive as well.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-workout
Optimum Nutrition is famous for their whey products, which are among the best you can buy. So we had high expectations for this booster.
Gold Standard Pre-workout contains a lot of vitamins, amino acids and a pretty high dose of caffeine and creatine. So on paper it looks good too.
The taste – we tried fruit punch – was not the best in the list. Also the boost was lower when compared to the other pre-workout supplements in our list. This was my personal experience. I’ve shared it with a friend of mine, who tried it himself. He noted a decent boost. So it is possible the lower effect is just for me, but I do want to be honest here.
The boost kicks in after around 25 minutes and lasts for 45 minutes or so. We didn’t notice a real dip in energy level after the training but did find some form of habituation after several weeks, where the boost became less effective and we had to increase the dosage taken.
MusclePharm Assault Pre-Workout Powder
Another big brand in the fitness supplements, so we had high hopes for the pre-workout booster by MusclePharm. Assault Energy and Endurance is the slogan of this popular booster. It contains a blend of creatine, beta-alanine, taurine, caffeine and vitamin C, amongst others. The dosage of caffeine per scoop is high compared to the other boosters in our review and should thus offer a great boost.
We picked up the Fruit Punch and Green Apple (these flavours seem to be all time favourites for all boosters) and gave it a go.
This is a great product, which offers a very nice boost. After 15 minutes or so, you will feel the boost kicking in and starting to do its magic. You will definitely feel a good focus and energy and the need to start working out. The boost lasts for around and hour. We did not notice and increase in strength, but like we said, this is really not possible anyways.
Even after 6 weeks of usage, Assault Pre-Workout Powder gave us a great rush and shows no sign of habituation. We didn’t encounter any dip in overall energy level after the training either, which makes this one of our favourites in this list.
Our top 5 best pre-workout boosters for 2021
After doing the testing, this is our top 5 list to get you going:
- MusclePharm Assault Pre-Workout Powder
- Cellulor C4 Original Pre-workout Powder
- JNX The Curse! Pre-workout Supplement
- BSN N.O. Xplode Pre-workout Supplement
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-workout
Important note on pre-workout boosters
Everybody is unique and each body reacts differently to any kind of supplement. Some people swear by one product, while others wouldn’t recommend it. This also applies for pre-workout boosters. Some people might experience completely different reactions than we did, so please do keep this in mind. We can assure you that the products we mentioned are great in their own way and really do work.
We bought several flavours of the pre-workout boosters in this review and tested them all for 4-6 weeks. This way we knew exactly what the effects were and how these effects would develop over time. Was there any habituation? Did the boost become lower over time? What about the intensity level?
How to use pre-workout boosters
Pre-workout boosters are best taken around 2 hours after a meal. Try to avoid taking one directly after a meal, or taking one on an empty stomach.
Taking a booster on a full stomach will reduce its effectiveness, but also leave you feeling bloated and burping.
Taking it on an empty stomach is not a great idea either as training on an empty stomach will leave you powerless and hungry, instead of eager and full of pump.
All pre-workout boosters come in powder form. They are easy to use as you just need to add some water and shake before consumption. Usually one or two scoops of the powder will give you the best boost. Add 250 ml water or so and shake it every now and then between sips. This will make sure that you take all the powder in. Some of its ingredients are hard to dissolve and thus sink to the bottom. This is mostly the creatine, but it would be a waste to leave it there and it is quite disgusting to have your last sip with a mouth full of undissolved powder. Consult the directions on the label for clear instructions!
Do you need a pre-workout booster?
Whether you need a pre-workout booster is ultimately up to you. We feel that any of the boosters in this review will help you get motivated to workout. They all enhance your focus, mental status and energy. They will also give you the need to start training, which is particularly nice when you are sitting at home and find it difficult to get off the couch.
As an alternative, you might try to make yourself a strong cup of coffee before your training. Many bodybuilders take a double espresso or even a triple. Combine this with a banana and you have a cheap and healthy alternative. We have tried this before but never had the same focus as given by a pre-workout booster. Like we mentioned earlier, this can vary for each person, so you might even get better results by drinking some super strong coffee.
Regular energy drinks are a no-no for us. Not do they not give any rush or energy, they are just super unhealthy. It is best to stay away from sugar laded gimmicks that not only rot your teeth but give you the feeling of gut-rot. Not so pleasant!
We do like pre-workout supplements, but it is important to note that when you are always tired and never have the energy to work out, something might be suboptimal in your life. They are not always the best go-to product when you are lacking energy altogether. We strongly suggest to not automatically resorting to supplements before looking at your lifestyle and make improvements there first. Consult your physician for sound medical advice and never risk your health if you are not sure!
Are pre-workout boosters safe?
Another important thing to look at is the safety of per workout boosters. Pre-workout supplements you can buy at your favourite shop are generally safe. They aren’t 100% risk free though. There are several things to consider.
Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols
Yes, we are not a fan of artificial sweeteners and sugar and most pre-workout boosters contain them. They add calories and sugar alcohol can cause bloating or gas production in your body. Some people have a hard time consuming these ingredients and it is therefore recommended to try a small dosage of a booster first, before committing to a couple of scoops.
The major boosting ingredient of a pre-workout booster is caffeine. Caffeine is not a bad thing, but some people experience negative side effects of high dosages. A double espresso contains more caffeine than most boosters, but still it is important to see what your own body can handle and what makes you feel good.
In the past, there were pre-workout boosters and other fitness supplements that contained prohibited substances. We are talking about substances that gave users an edge in competitions, but were illegal and possibly dangerous. These times are now behind is, but it is always better to be on the safe side and buy only tested and certified products by organisations like the NSF and USP.
Who can use a pre-workout supplement?
Although most people can safely take a pre-workout booster, they are not for everybody. Pregnant women should definitely consult their physician before using any pre-workout booster or supplement for that matter. Although many should be safe during pregnancy, some ingredients might better be avoided.
If you have any questions about using one of the boosters mentioned in our review, please feel free to contact us and we will help you to the best of our abilities.
Pre-workout boosters are primarily used to enhance your physical performance focus and energy. There are many great claims about their effectiveness, but they aren’t all supported by science.
We have tested 5 popular pre-workout supplements and found good results. Whether they are purely placebo or mental is up for debate. These products are sure to boost your ability to get to the (home) gym and start training.
At Parallelo Health we first and foremost believe in a healthy lifestyle. Although many supplements can help you, it is most important to make sure you have a healthy and balanced diet, sleep well, drink sufficient and try to reduce stress as much as possible in your life.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us via the contact page. You can also find us on Facebook.
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