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7 Best Pre-Workouts in 2020

Posted on February 16, 2020

7 Best Pre-Workouts in 2020Dividerimage

A quality pre-workout can be the difference between a training session that’s about as fun as dragging your knuckles over concrete, and a breezy session that’s both efficient and effective.


Pre-workouts can be a nice reward—in advance—for taking time out of your schedule to meet one of your basic physical needs, and to perhaps chase down a performance or body composition goal.


This pre-workout list has been constructed to take the pain and misery out of scrutinizing each product label.  And this can be a tricky affair when you’re dealing with hundreds of ingredients and more published research than anyone has time to read.


It’s worth mentioning that all of the recommended pre-workouts are creatine-free, except for Rhino Black Label, as many formulators are leaving this nutrient out these days. This is simply due to a market trend that has likely been consumer driven.


Fortunately, recent research indicates that to attain the most benefit from regular creatine supplementation, it is best taken post-workout anyway. Given that micronized creatine monohydrate powder is relatively inexpensive, adding some to a protein shake or glass of water along with a meal after exercise is a good way to go.




A question that constantly arises in the minds of consumers: are pre-workout necessary? But what does necessary really mean?


It’s like asking, “do we need protein powder?” And unless your protein malnourished, which is extraordinarily rare in developed nations, you certainly don’t need it, I.e., you can survive without it.


But perhaps a better question is: will I benefit from a protein powder? And quite often the answer to that question is yes. There are countless benefits for optimal health, prevention of age-related sarcopenia, improving recovery and body composition and enhancing overall nutritional status at any age.


Pre-workout are certainly not necessary, in that you can exercise, eat well and follow a healthy lifestyle and make great progress, whether it’s performance or body composition or health goals you are working towards.


A more pertinent question might be, do pre-workouts offer scientifically proven benefits?


And that’s a question worth considering. In the end, it all depends on the product and the type of exercise you do. Some of the ingredients in pre-workouts can offer great benefits, as long as they’re included at a therapeutic dose, I.e., there’s enough in there to actually match the clinical trials and get the job done.


Beta Alanine for very low repetition training, like power lifting and strongman, with large rest periods, may not do a heck of a lot. While creatine for marathon runners is typically regarded as not necessary—however, new research indicates that creatine may assist with hyperhydration, thus protecting against heat-induced dehydration, with clinical trials yet to dig deeper.


Welcome to the wonderful, and sometimes baffling, world of sports nutrition and the best 7 pre-workout supplements in 2020!


Best Pump Pre-Workout

Rhino Black Series Pre-Workout


Few pre-workouts offer the comprehensive nitric oxide support of Rhino Pre-Workout. This product packs a clinical 6 gram dose of Citrulline Malate 2:1, 1 gram of Agmatine Sulfate, 750mg of Arginine Inositol Silicate as well as 200mg of Beta Vulgaris (beetroot).


Musclesport-Rhino-Black-Series-Preworkout.jpgCitrulline Malate is able to drive up blood arginine levels quite well, which is due to the fact that it is not broken down in the liver (or is minimally), in contract to  arginine, which is broken down during first-pass metabolism.


Research indicates a 6 to 8 gram dosage for optimal benefits, which have been shown to support VO2, bench press and leg press volume, and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness 1,2,3,4.

Inositol Stabilized Arginine Silicate (ASI/Nitrosigine®) enhances blood arginine for up to six hours after supplementation, albeit at a dosage of 1,500mg as per the clinical trials. Though Rhino only includes 750mg, realistically this should be all you need, given that a clinical citrulline dose is included.


Ultimately, ASI and Citrulline Malate both serve the same master: nitric oxide synthase. Technically, full clinical dosages of each nutrient shouldn’t be necessary, though citrulline is dosed at a therapeutic level.


Though much of the published research on Agmatine Sulfate is for the management of depression, anxiety, nerve pain and possibly even PTSD, this amino acid is believed to enhance endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity as well 5. This, theoretically, would lead to enhanced NO production. However, more research into this action is required.


On top of this, beta vulgaris is included to provide natural nitrites, which serve as precursors to an alternative pathway of nitric oxide synthesis. As you can probably see, this product certainly does focus on blood-to-muscle circulation and pumps, making it a perfect fit for best pump enhancer.


So when you’re ready to hobble from the gym, feeling like it’s time to upgrade your shirt size, you might just be ready for Rhino Black Series Pre-Workout.


Best Hardcore Pre-Workout

Faction Labs Disorder


Though disorderly conduct is frowned upon by many, there’s nothing wrong with training so hard that on-lookers think you have a dumbell-infatuation disorder. And if that’s where you want your training to head, then this product packs plenty of motivation to get you there.


With a whopping 450mg of caffeine per serve, Faction Labs DIsorder is not for the faint of heart—literally. In fact, if you aren’t experienced with strong pre-workouts, this is definitely not the product for you. And believe me, this is not the time to tell yourself to harden up and take a full serve anyway!


Half a scoop of Disorder Pre-Workout is still on par with most regular products. So, if after some consideration, you’re going to give this one a go, hold onto your socks and get a solid post-workout meal ready, because you’ll be hungry.


With a clinical 6 gram dose of citrulline malate per serve, along with 3.2 grams of beta-alanine, you’ll be pumped and even ready to tackle some higher repetitions with less lactate burn to impede performance.


Faction Labs Disorder Pre-Workout also contains nootropics as well, such as L-Theanine, Mucuna pruriens, Alpha GPC and Acetyl L-Tyrosine. These specialized brain-enhancing nutrients support focus, concentration and even memory and learning ability.


And when you’re training like an absolute champion, it can’t hurt.


This is definitely a remarkable all-rounder, offering not just high caffeine anhydrous content, but a range of nootropics, nitric oxide boosters, lactate buffers, antioxidants and even thermogenics.


Best Budget Pre-Workout

Musashi Pre-Workout


If you’re a little strapped for cash, or simply don’t train that often, you might be after a budget pre-workout that can deliver some energy and not break the bank balance.


Musashi-Pre-Workout-grape.jpgMusashi Pre-Workout fits this category quite nicely indeed. This product offers 250mg of caffeine, derived from Coffea Arabica Seed Extract. This is enough stimulant for anyone but the most hardcore pre-workout users.


On top of this, Musashi have included 2 grams of citrulline, as well as some Arginine AKG and Ornithine Monohydrate, to support Nitric Oxide. And though these dosages are below a clinical level, they still provide some support for the synthesis of this natural gas.


This product also contains Creatine Monohydrate, Beta Alanine and BCAAs, at 1.2, 1.2 and 1.0 gram per serve, respectively. The flavours are nicely balanced and include Lemon Lime, Grape and Tropical Punch.


This is still a refreshing pre-workout product that will deliver energy, motivation and natural support for strength and stamina.


Musashi are a well renowned sports nutrition company, sponsoring a broad range of Australian athletes, such as UFC Middleweight Champion Rob Whittaker, MMA specialist Carlos Ulberg and WAKA Gold Medalist (MMA) Jesse Wenzlick, with sports teams including the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm.


Best Organic Pre-Workout

Amazonia Raw Workout


Okay, so there isn’t a lot of competition when it comes to Organic Pre-Workouts on the Australian market. But this certainly doesn’t detract from the awesome job Amazonia have done in formulating a product that doesn’t just have your training goals in mind, but your health interests as well.


With a first ingredient of “Super Fruit and Vegetable Blend”, you know that you’re not taking a dive into a chemical soup. This product contains primarily certified organic ingredients and is based on whole foods, sea minerals and herbal extracts.


Beetroot powder is a smart choice for inclusion in this pre-workout, providing nitrites to support nitric oxide production. This supports natural circulation to working muscles and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients.


Amazonia Raw Workout is loaded with natural antioxidants, found in Goji berries, Acai Berry and Elderberry extracts and more. This makes it a fantastic fit for aerobic or endurance exercise, which tend to generate more free-radicals.


However, if you’re into lifting weights, fear not. On top of the natural nitrites from beetroot, Raw Workout offers Siberian Ginseng and caffeine containing Yerba Mate to get you ready for action.


This product also features herbal nootropics, such as Ginkgo, natural electrolytes and a sprouted and fermented pea protein as a natural source of amino acids, making this a well thought-out product in service to your optimal health and training needs.


Best Lifting Pre-Workout

(For Strength, Power and Volume)

Staunch Original


There are no shortage of ingredients to add to a pre-workout formulation these days. But the trick is to find ingredients that have a solid evidence base, a clinical dosage that is practical and that don’t taste like dirt.


Staunch-Pre-Original.jpgThe additions to Staunch Pre Original tick all of these boxes, containing 2 grams of Betaine Anhydrous per serve, also known as Trimethylglycine. This glycine molecule with three methyl groups attached has some real benefits associated with it use, typically at 2.5 grams per day.


Betaine has been shown to increase bench press and squat work capacity, muscular force, body composition and arm size. In addition, increases in Growth Hormone, IGF-1 and AKT muscle signaling proteins, along with decreased cortisol can be expected 6,7,8,9.


Just these benefits alone would make a flavoured and sweetened product, containing only caffeine and betaine a solid investment. However, Staunch Original Pre doesn’t stop there.


Each serve contains 6 grams of citrulline malate, along with Arginine AKG, L-Norvaline and Agmatine Sulfate, for some solid Nitric Oxide support. So you can expect some pumps and improved training volume.


If that doesn’t make this product already sound more exciting than playing football in a hurricane, 1.6 grams of beta alanine is included to support those higher repetition sets. This is a precursor for Carnosine, which buffers muscle lactate and hydrogen ions.


Staunch Original Pre contains 180mg of caffeine per serve, along with 180mg of a green tea amino acid called L-theanine to smooth out the energy rush.


If moving some serious weight around in the gym is your goal, this pre-workout is an absolute goer.



Best Fat-Burning Pre-Workout

Optimum Nutrition Burn Complex


It’s easy to be cynical when considering a flavoured powder as an approach to managing weight loss or keeping lean. Certainly, nutritional and herbal formulations are no substitute for a quality diet, exercise program and lifestyle.


However, this doesn’t mean that all thermogenic product are without merit. In fact, some stand head and shoulders above the rest, offering an ingredient range that’s been carefully selected for safety and an evidence-backed benefit.


Look no further than the caffeine-containing Optimum Nutrition Burn Complex. This is as good as it gets for a product that will get your energy levels cranking and motivation peaking, whilst naturally supporting the metabolism.


ON Burn Complex contains 1.5 grams of Acetyl L-Carnitine per 5 gram scoop, a nootropic peptide that enhances mitochondrial activity and beta oxidation of fats. This is at the lower end of the therapeutic dosage range of 1.5-4 grams per day.


On top of this, Guarana and Green Tea Leaf are included, offering a range of benefits, such as regulation of fat-burning genes and enhancing energy expenditure, respectively 10,11.


And then there’s cayenne! This is a surprisingly helpful ingredient for weight loss. Epidemiological research as well as placebo controlled clinical trials are all pointing in the direction of this food enhancing weight loss and helping to reduce weight gain once a fat-loss program has been completed 12,13,14.


With 250mg of caffeine per serve, as well as the green tea amino acid L-theanine to help keep you cool, calm and collected, this is a product that certainly deserves the word burn in its title.


Best Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout

Staunch Zero Stim


Staunch have made it twice into the Sporty’s Health top 7 Pre-Workouts in 2020, which puts them into a new category of awesomeness. Calum Von Moger can certainly do no wrong when it comes to motivating his research and development team to produce the very best products.


Staunch-Pre-Zero-Stim-Powder.jpgStaunch Zero Stim, as the name suggests, does not contain any caffeine or stimulants of any kind. This can be a blessing for many, particularly if their sleep is not on point or they train late in the afternoon, evening or night.


Firstly, Inositol-Stabilised Arginine Silicate (IAS) is included at 750mg per serve, which is a relatively new take on Arginine and Arginine HCL. Not only does IAS deliver some pretty cool nootropic benefits, such as enhancing performance on cognitive tests, processing speed and executive functioning, but  also boosts pre-workout energy levels and post-workout pumps 15,16.


And to enhance that pump even further, Staunch Pre Zero Stim offers 6 grams of citrulline malate, Agmatine Sulfate and Norvaline. Don’t wear a shirt to the gym that’s too nice in case you stretch it right out!


Betaine is included to enhance training volume and performance, as well as Carnitine to drive up natural energy levels through enhanced mitochondrial activity.


This really is a Zero Stim product that can energise you, without stimulation, making it the best caffeine and stimulant free product on the market today. This is one worth checking out for sure.


Final Verdict

There are quite a few products that don’t neatly fit into any of the aforementioned categories. This certainly does not detract from their worthiness.


The Power Switch Pre-Workout from Switch Nutrition is one such product. Though it’s not organic, it is all-natural, containing only natural sweeteners and flavours, as well as a range of quality ingredients that includes tea leaf extracted caffeine.


This is definitely a product worth checking out, with five refreshing flavours that will make your taste buds come alive.


But for many, pre-workouts are about more than just the effectiveness of every individual ingredient. They can be simply good fun too.


Let’s face it, there are typically a range of awesome flavours to enjoy as well as stimulants to sweep the cobwebs from your brain and get you ready for some solid exercise. On top of this, there are quite often nootropics, which help to improve mood, motivation and focus for training.


Though this article covers only 7 products, all pre-workouts have their strengths and weaknesses. So it’s worth considering what you want from a pre-workout. And if you have clear understanding of your performance, body composition and health goals, this should be a piece of (high-protein) cake.



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  4. Agarwal U et al. Supplemental citrulline is more efficient than arginine in increasing systemic arginine availability in mice. The Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Vol 147;4 p.596-602
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