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The Main Types of Optimal Pre-workout Supplements

Pre Workout Supplements

In order to see maximum results from the gym, you need to put in maximum effort and pre workout supplements can help. You simply can’t hit the weights on a regular basis and float your way around the weights, all the while expecting to build muscle.

You need focus, drive, determination, and enough tenacity to push yourself to the limit and reach new heights. That’s where a good pre workout supplement comes into play. The right product can give you energy and strength over and beyond what you’d see without it. 

This said, not all pre workout supplements are created equally. It’s important to take some time to think about what you hope to achieve from using one so that you can best match up the right product to your goals. 

Here are the main types of good pre workout supplements. 

Energy Boosters 

Energy boosters are pre-workout supplements that are designed to help optimize energy so you can work harder while in the gym. Usually these will rely on caffeine as the primary ingredient, however in other cases, they will use non-stimulant energy enhancers such as vitamin B121, CoQ102, and herbs such as Rhodiola Rosea3

If you are someone who’s sensitive to caffeine, then you’ll specifically want to look for a non-stimulant energy booster so that you aren’t left with unwanted side effects. 

The other nice thing about using a non-stimulant energy booster is that it can be taken any time during the day. If you have a late-night workout on tap, you don’t want to flood your system with 300+ mg of caffeine or you’ll be passing up your recovery sleep that night. 

With a stimulant free pre workout, you can work hard then rest easy. 

Nitric Oxide Boosters (Pump Products) 

Another type of pre workout supplement is a nitric oxide (NO) enhancer. These increase the total amount of nitric oxide in the body, which then causes vasodilation of the blood vessels. 

When the blood vessels are dilated, this allows for more oxygen, blood and nutrients to move into the muscle cells where it’s needed during intense exercise.

The end result is better muscular endurance, less byproduct build up (such as that burning sensation you get from lactic acid!), and improved speed of recovery after your workout is over.

If your muscles are already being flooded with nutrients during the workout session, this means they can begin recovering as soon as that session stops. 

Nitric oxide boosters are an excellent choice for anyone who is doing higher rep training and looking to squeeze out those final reps. With a N.O. product in your bloodstream, you’ll be able to push it that extra mile, continuing on when you otherwise would have quit. 

Over time, this can result in better overall lean muscle mass gains and performance improvements. 

The most common ingredients you’ll find in N.O. boosters are L-Arginine, Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate, (AAKG)4, L-Citrulline, and L-Norvaline. 

Some products will use more than one in their formula while others will rely on just a single compound to get the job done.

Endurance Enhancers 

Endurance enhancing ingredients are another thing you can expect to see in pre workout supplements. These are unique products in that they will improve your body’s ability to tolerate additional workloads and work excellent for both aerobic and anaerobic activities. 

Some of the ingredients noted above double as endurance enhancers such as caffeine for example, which can dramatically increase your total time to exhaustion during exercise.

Other good endurance enhancing ingredients include creatine monohydrate5, which saturates the body’s stores of creatine phosphate, a precursor to the high energy molecule ATP that fuels each and every intense muscle contraction, along with beta-alanine, which helps to buffer hydrogen ion build-up in the body. You might also see caffeine and BCAA’s, which provide a source of available muscular energy during exercise in these products.

Any or all of these will have notable improvements in helping you go harder for longer so it’s not uncommon to see them in combination in pre workout supplements. 

Fat Burners 

Fat burners also make their way onto pre workout supplement shelves because in addition to helping you burn fat, they typically boost your energy and increase exercise performance.

Fat burner supplements have the main aim of increasing metabolic output while suppressing appetite and they do this primarily by stimulating the CNS. The more CNS activation you have, the faster you’ll be burning energy every minute of the day.

Inside these supplements you’ll typically find ingredients such as caffeine, green tea extract, bitter orange, and synephrine. Bitter orange and synephrine are two of the most powerful fat burning ingredients and follow in line with ephedra, which is the most powerful fat burner and is found in Lipodrene by Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals

If you have the goal of fat loss in combination with improved exercise performance, opting for a fat burner as your pre workout supplement is a great move. Note though that you typically will not pair together a fat burner and a pre workout supplement as this may cause you to double up on many ingredients and take unsafe dosages. 

Combination Products 

Finally, the last type of supplement you may look into using is a combination product, which contains a number of the ingredients listed above. This allows it to achieve multiple effects all at the same time, essentially making them all the more powerful.

This is most commonly what you’ll find on supplement shelves and they can help you get the most for your money.

Do take note though: if you are going to stack together a combination product with a stand-alone product, such as creatine for example, make sure that you are still within reasonably safe limits. 

Often times the creatine content of a pre workout supplement will not be as high as what most people would take it if they were just using creatine alone, so for this reason, they choose to use both. 

Also keep in mind as you shop for these supplements that some may have counteracting ingredients when you start mixing products.

For instance, if you take a product with a high dose of caffeine and then also supplement with a pre workout that is focused largely around L-Citrulline, you may be actually working against yourself. 

In order for L-Citrulline to produce the best pumps possible, it’s important that you are adequately hydrated. But yet, caffeine has dehydrating effects on the body. Pairing these together in moderate dosages shouldn’t cause too much of an issue, but larger doses would and could render one supplement virtually useless. 

Choosing the best pre workout supplement can feel overwhelming, but once you try a few and see for yourself how you respond to the various ingredients found in these products, you’ll quickly come to learn your favorites and be able to make wise purchasing decisions.

Take a look at our Top 10 Pre-Workouts.


  1. van der Beek, Eric J. “Vitamin supplementation and physical exercise performance.” Journal of sports sciences 9.S1 (1991): 77-89.
  2. Cooke, Matthew, et al. “Effects of acute and 14-day coenzyme Q10 supplementation on exercise performance in both trained and untrained individuals.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 5.1 (2008): 8.
  3. Cooke, Matthew, et al. “Effects of acute and 14-day coenzyme Q10 supplementation on exercise performance in both trained and untrained individuals.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 5.1 (2008): 8.
  4. Little, Jonathan P., et al. “Creatine, arginine α-ketoglutarate, amino acids, and medium-chain triglycerides and endurance and performance.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 18.5 (2008): 493-508.
  5. Engelhardt, Martin, et al. “Creatine supplementation in endurance sports.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 30.7 (1998): 1123-1129.
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