Suffice to say, if you are reading this, you are serious about your training. Whether you are a novice lifter or experienced bodybuilder, you may be new to the phenomenon that is pre-workout supplements. Research has proven that pre-workouts deliver numerous benefits. And the ever-growing popularity means there are dozens of competing products, each with their own proprietary blend. We’re here to take the guesswork out for you and reveal our picks for the best pre-workout supplement on the market in 2017.
If you would rather skip the details and get to the bottom line, our recommendation for the #1 pre-workout in 2017 is C4 Extreme by Cellucor. C4 combines a highly effective and transparent formula that delivers energy, strength, pump, and endurance. There’s a reason why trainers, bodybuilders, and elite athletes use this stuff, and we’re certain you’ll see what the fuss is about too.
Continue reading below to see the rest of our picks.
RANK #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 Cellucor C4
Universal Animal Pump
BSN NO Xplode 2.0
Key Ingredients Arginine BCAAs Beta-Alanine Caffeine Creatine Ratings Taste 9/10 n/a 7/10 8.5/10 8.5/10 Mixability 9/10 n/a 8/10 9/10 8/10 Results 9.5/10 9.5/10 9/10 9/10 9/10 Value 8.5/10 8.5/10 9/10 9.5/10 8.5/10 Overall Rating 9.5/10 9.5/10 9/10 9/10 8.5/10
Why Use a Pre-Workout Supplement?
- Strength Boost: allows you to maximize your reps and break through plateaus in your workout
- Decreased Muscle Breakdown: BCAAs provide body with amino acids and reduce muscle tissue breakdown
- Increased Muscle Pump: ingredients such as arginine enhance nitric oxide production for greater vascularity
- Improved Focus and Energy: allows you to workout harder and with more intensity
- Greater Endurance: ingredients like beta-alanine and creatine increase endurance needed for grueling workout sessions
How to Choose the Best Pre-Workout Supplement
When it comes to choosing the best PWO for you, the first question should be: what’s your goal? This is because each ingredient serves a different purpose and can help you improve in specific areas you want to focus on. With that in mind, use this guide as a mental checklist when comparing different pre-workouts.
1. What Are the Key Ingredients to Look For?
Strength & Power Boosters
- What it is: compound involved in production of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
- How it helps: improve power and performance to maximize weights and reps during workouts; enhances recovery
- What it is: conditional amino acid that is derived from cysteine and found naturally in eggs, milk, fish, meat, and seafood
- How it helps: essential to muscle contraction to maximize performance, strength, and overall efficiency
- What it is: amino acid that acts as a precursor for synthesis of nitric oxide (NO)
- How it helps: increased blood flow leads to more oxygen to your muscles, which means better delivery of nutrients and less fatigue during workouts; promotes release of growth hormone; enhances recovery
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
- What it is: consists of 3 branched amino acides: leucine, isoleucine, and valine
- How it helps: increase protein synthesis; keeps testosterone levels and insulin levels up post-workout; reduce muscle tissue breakdown for a faster post-workout recovery
- What it is: liquid byproduct of cheese
- How it helps: increase protein synthesis during workout; reduce muscle tissue breakdown
- What it is: amino acid critical to protein synthesis and immune system health
- How it helps: minimize muscle breakdown during intense training; keeps up leucine levels, which is critical to protein synthesis
- What it is: naturally-occuring, non-proteinogenic amino acid that is component of histidine dipeptides carnosine, anserine, and balenine; commonly found in protein-rich foods
- How it helps: increases muscular endurance and strength; increases anaerobic and aerobic endurance; helps reduce fatigue levels
- What it is: combination of amino acid Citrulline and organic salt Mallate that affects NO production
- How it helps: enhances muscular endurance; reduces fatigue by increasing blood flow to muscles; increases pump
Energy & Focus Boosters
- What it is: crystalline compound that acts as stimulant for central nervous system
- How it helps: increases wakefulness, focus; increases energy levels and reduces physical fatigue
- What it is: amino acid that acts as precursor for many hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and dopamine
- How it helps: increases concentration and focus when the body is under stress
2. How Effective Is It?
What others say
When it comes down to it, you may be splitting hairs when deciding between the excellent pre-workout supplements on this list. One of the best, if not the best, ways to break a tie is to find out what others are saying about the product. We’ve summarized the general consensus of many lifters and trainers with varied backgrounds and experience levels, but it is always a good idea to read about what other users have individually experienced.
What your body says
If there is one word of caution when comparing pre-workouts, it is that “YMMV” (your mileage may vary). What gives one person a great pump and massive energy boost may not necessarily prove to be true for you. Don’t assume that one product is the absolute best because someone else says it is (except us…we kid, sorta). Try it out for yourself and see how you feel using it.
3. How Much Does It Cost?
If you have narrowed down your list to a couple pre-workouts, then the deciding factor may come down to the value you are getting. Just remember to figure out the best price by looking at the cost per serving.
Best Pre-Workout Supplement – Our Top 5
#1. Cellucor C4 Extreme
Cellucor C4 is a proven commodity in the pre-workout industry. It delivers a robust and clean energy boost that will undoubtedly help you achieve more explosive workouts and greater pumps, even compared to other leading pre-workout supplements. C4 contains a highly effective Creatine Nitrate compound which optimizes absorption time for superior energy before, during, and after your workout.
Unlike many of the other pre-workout supplements on the market today, C4 has been extremely consistent and transparent with their formula. And it doesn’t hurt that it tastes great too! As a product that countless weight trainers and bodybuilders swear by, we highly recommend C4 as the #1 pre-workout supplement on the market today.
Here is our detailed review on Cellucor C4.
#2. Universal Nutrition Animal Pump
Animal Pump by Universal Nutrition is different from other pre-workout supplements in that it comes in pill form instead of your typical powder mix. But, man oh man, do those “packs” deliver a punch. Animal Pump is built around multiple creatines, a NO Blast Complex, an Energy Rush Complex, an Antioxidant Complex, and a Pump Transport Complex. The result is a pre-workout that consistently delivers increased focus and energy, massive pumps, and strength gains.
We recommend you take Animal Pump about 30-45 minutes before your workout for maximum effect. And when it kicks in, get ready to hit the weights hard. This is a go-to pre-workout of ours, and it checks in at #2 on our list.
#3. BSN N.O. Xplode 2.0
BSN N.O. Xplode 2.0 is an updated version of BSN’s infamous N.O. Explode. As one of the oldest but most reliable guys on the block, it checks in at #3 on our list. N.O. Xplode 2.0 is sure to give you an explosive pump and noticeable increases in energy, strength, and endurance.
It is high in caffeine, so work your way up to the full dosage if you are sensitive to caffeine. Bottom line, if you need a potent pre-workout that gives you the push you need to get going and keep going, Xplode 2.0 is a great addition to your workout regimen.
#4. Betancourt Nutrition Bullnox Androrush
Bullnox Androrush by Betancourt Nutrition is a potent pre-workout. This stuff is like Popeye’s spinach…you take it and you are ready…and I mean ready to roll. This is a no BS pre-workout that is going to turn some heads in the gym.
It is packed with creatines, beta alanine, taurine, caffeine, and other ingredients to boost strength and muscular endurance without post-workout crash or jitters. As an added bonus, it is extremely good value relative to other comparable pre-workouts. If you want to get in the zone and go hard, this is one of the most effective products on the market today.
#5. MusclePharm Assault
Rounding out our top 5 is Assault by MusclePharm. Assault has all the key ingredients we look for in a top-of-the-line pre-workout: creatine, beta-alanine, BCAA’s, arginine, and several vitamins. It is also one of the best tasting pre-workouts out there.
We have found the energy boost from Assault to be very clean and consistent. Assault is a very reasonably priced, high-quality pre-workout that will help you train with intensity and break through plateaus.
Click here for a more in-depth review of Muscle Pharm Assault.
- There is no substitute for hard work. PWOs are no exception.
- When selecting a PWO consider: (1) key ingredients, (2) effectiveness, and (3) cost.
- C4 is our pick for the top pre-workout on the market in 2017.
- Make sure to check out our top pre-workouts for women list.
- Smith et al., The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2010), 7:10, http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1550-2783-7-10.pdf.
- “beta-Alanine.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 12 Feb. 2014 at 07:27.. Web. 12 Feb. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta-Alanine>
Now It’s Your Turn: What pre-workouts have you tried out? Which ones have worked the best for you? Would you recommend any one in particular?