Pre-workouts supplements are able to increase strength, endurance, energy, fat burning, and focus, this helps to achieve optimal results from exercising. Due to this, pre-workout supplements are becoming increasingly popular. This is not surprising, since almost everybody wants to get optimal results from exercising. In this article we will try to describe how pre-workouts increase performance, what kind of pre-workouts there are and which pre-workout you should choose.

Functions of pre-workout

Pre-workout supplements often contain a variety of ingredients, in order to enhance athletic performance. This increase in athletic performance is possible since pre-workout products often increase strength, endurance, energy, fat burning, and focus during exercise [1]. However, the exact function of a pre-workout product largely depends on the ingredients it contains. Therefore, attention should be paid to the ingredients of a product. It has been scientifically proven that ingredients such as: beta-alanine, caffeine, and creatine improve exercise performance in several different ways. However, the effectiveness also depends on the amount of each ingredient. Therefore, it is also important to check if the product contains the most important ingredients in the right amounts.

Which pre-workout should I use ?

The first pre-workout products appeared in 1982, since then they have grown immensely in popularity. Due to the popularity there are now many pre-workout products available in a variety of forms. Most pre-workouts come in powder form, but you can also find them as capsules, tablets and other forms. Which pre-workout you use, should depend on the ingredients and your preferences. It may not be suprising that the product you choose should contain the most important scientifically proven ingredients in the right amounts.

Furthermore, some people prefer certain ingredients while others may want to avoid them. A good example of this is caffeine. Caffeine is one of the strongest ingredients in most pre-workout products, and many people prefer a product which contains caffeine. However, people who have a caffeine intolerance or train late at night may prefer a product without caffeine. So, as mentioned before, your choice of pre-workout should depend on the ingredients and your preferences regarding ingredients.

The most important ingredients:

When you are looking at a pre-workout, it recommended to check if certain ingredients are present. However, you should also check the amount of each ingredient present. Many pre-workout products don’t contain the optimal amount of an ingredient since many manufacturers want to lower ingredient costs and increase profit. In order to help you select the best pre-workout product, we are quickly describing the most important ingredients.

  • Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients in pre-workout products. Nowadays, caffeine is a main ingredient in ~85% of all pre-workout products. This is not suprising since it has been proven that caffeine increases or improves metabolism, alertness, mental concentration, and energy [2][3][4][5]. There are also pre-workout products which are stimulant-free in order to provide a product for people who don’t want to consume stimulants like caffeine.

Based on current knowledge, a pre-workout with 150-300mg caffeine is recommended for most people. Based on body weight, it is recommended to use 3–5mg caffeine per kg of body weight (1.4–2.3 mg per lb of body weight). Some people may use pre-workout products which offer a higher amount of caffeine. However, it is important that you don’t use more than 400mg since this may decrease performance, and increase anxiety and cortisol. When you are looking at the ingredient label of a pre-workout product, it is also important to realize that caffeine can be added under different names and types.

  • Creatine

Creatine is one of the most used and recognized supplements. This is not surprising since creatine is often considered to be one of the most important supplements if you want to increase strength, muscle mass or exercise performance [6][7][8]. An intake of ~3-5g creatine monohydrate, the most basic form, is often recommended when using creatine [9]. When you use creatine, it should be consumed every day in order to achieve optimal results. It can be consumed before or after a training, but you may also take a dosage both before and after exercising (2 x 2.5g). On rest days, it doesn’t matter when you take creatine.

Pre-workout supplements are an easy way to consume creatine before exercising. However, you may also need to use a creatine supplement on rest days since using pre-workout on rest days is not recommended. Due to this, you may also choose a pre-workout which doesn’t contain creatine. In this case, you can use a creatine supplement to make sure you consume enough creatine for optimal results. If you choose a pre-workout which contains creatine, it is important to check how much creatine each serving contains. Furthermore, it is important to realize that there are more types of creatine than just creatine monohydrate. The recommended amount may differ per type of creatine, so you may need to study a different type of creatine.

  • Beta alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps fight muscle fatigue. Due to its ability to improve exercise performance, beta-alanine is quickly gaining popularity [10]. In order to improve exercise performance, it is recommended to use 3-6 grams beta-alanine per day [11]. Beta-alanine should be consumed consistently every day for optimal results. On training days, it is advised to consume it throughout the day or before a training. On rest days it can be taken in the morning or throughout the day. However, the time that you use beta-alanine is less important than making sure you consume enough beta-alanine daily. Pre-workout supplements are an easy way to consume beta-alanine on training days. However, you may also need to use a beta-alanine supplement on rest days since using pre-workout on rest days is not recommended. When you start using beta-alanine it is important to realize that it may give you a short tingling sensation on your skin [11]. Luckily, beta-alanine is completely safe and the tingling effect is only temporary. After using beta-alanine for a few days, you won’t notice the tingling effect anymore.

  • Citrulline (Malate)

Citrulline is an amino acid that increases performances and is naturally produced in the body. However, consuming more citrulline by supplements is helpful to further increase performance [12]. L-Citrulline and Citrulline Malate are able to increase blood flow to body tissues and muscles [13]. This ensures a larger pump in the muscles and improved performance. It is important to recognize that there is a difference between L-Citrulline and Citrulline Malate. Citrulline Malate has an addition of malic acid, this may seem like a minor addition, but this may have a significant impact on performance. If you still want to consume L-Citrulline we recommend to take 2.5-6 grams per day. For Citrulline Malate we recommend to consume 6-8 grams ~30 minutes before a training [14].

  • Other ingredients

The most important ingredients have just been described. However, there are many other ingredients which may improve performance and results. Stimulants such as DMHA and AMP Citrate are becoming very popular due to their ability to increase energy and performance. Other ingredients such as: Betaine, Vitamins, Taurine, Agmatine and Arginine, can also be used as pre-workout ingredients and all have certain benefits. If you want to know more about the ingredients, we recommend to read our other articles about these ingredients.

Who should use pre-workout supplements ?

Pre-workout products are not only suitable for people who go to the gym. These supplements can also be used by people practicing other sports in order to improve results and performance. Research has shown that these products also improve performance in other sports. So, if you want to increase energy, endurance, motivation and performance, than a pre-workout might be useful for you.

How should I use a pre-workout supplement ?

Most pre-workout supplements come in powder form, and should be mixed with a drink. Due to the added flavoring, most products can be mixed with water. Usually, these drinks are taken 15-30 minutes before a training. However, we recommend to read each product’s ‘Suggested Use’ for specific directions. We also recommend to read the ingredient list and check if the product does not contain any weird or unwanted ingredients.

Combining pre-workout with other supplements

If your pre-workout is missing a desired ingredient, you can often combine it without any problems. For example, you might combine your normal pre-workout with DMHA in order to get a stronger effect. However, it is important to check if the products you would like to combine, can be combined without any problems.


Pre-workout products are considered to be safe. However, you should stick to the recommended use of the product. Due to the large amount of caffein in most products, we also suggest avoiding these products if you have high blood pressure or heart problems.

More information

Do you want more information about pre-workout or do you want to know more about the ingredients? Then click on one of the categories below to find out more!


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  2. Spriet, L. L., MacLean, D. A., Dyck, D. J., Hultman, E., Cederblad, G., & Graham, T. E. (1992). Caffeine ingestion and muscle metabolism during prolonged exercise in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism262(6), E891-E898.
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  7. Lanhers, C., Pereira, B., Naughton, G., Trousselard, M., Lesage, F. X., & Dutheil, F. (2017). Creatine supplementation and upper limb strength performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine47(1), 163-173.
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  9. Wang, C. C., Fang, C. C., Lee, Y. H., Yang, M. T., & Chan, K. H. (2018). Effects of 4-week creatine supplementation combined with complex training on muscle damage and sport performance. Nutrients10(11), 1640.
  10. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids43(1), 25-37.
  11. Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Stout, J. R., Hoffman, J. R., Wilborn, C. D., Sale, C., … & Campbell, B. (2015). International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition12(1), 1-14.
  12. Pérez-Guisado, J., & Jakeman, P. M. (2010). Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1215-1222.
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