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We use “men’s” and “women’s” in this article to align with how products are sold on retail sites. But your gender identity may not align with how the products are marketed. Choose the product with the features that work best for you!
So you’re ready to take your sweat sessions to the next level with a pre-workout supplement. Sweet! The catch? There are about a million of these boosters on store shelves, and a lot of them have oddly aggressive packaging that might make you wonder if you’re even shopping for the right thing.
The truth is, women don’t necessarily need a specially branded pre-workout supplement. The best ones will work well for all bodies. (One less thing to think about when you shop — NICE.)
Here are the best 10 options to help you reach your fitness goals A-S-A-P.
The best pre-workout supplements for women
- Best pre-workout supplement for women overall: Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout
- Most affordable pre-workout supplement for women: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
- Best pre-workout supplement for strength training: Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Premium Pre-Workout
- Best personalized pre-workout supplement: Gainful Pre-Workout
- Best pre-workout supplement to aid in recovery: Vital Proteins Vital Performance Pre
- Best pre-workout supplement for running: LADDER Sport Pre-Workout Powder
- Best-tasting pre-workout supplement for women: Alani Nu Pre-Workout
- Best unflavored pre-workout supplement for women: Do Vitamins PurePump Pure Pre-Workout Formula
- Best caffeine-free pre-workout supplement for women: The Genius Brand Genius Pre
- Best high caffeine pre-workout for women: Bare Performance Nutrition Flight Pre-Workout
A well-chosen snack before exercising can def give you an edge in the performance dept, especially if you were hungry or dragging before getting going. Pre-workout supplements are kinda like that, but better (but you should DEFO still eat your snack too).
Usually sold as powdered drink mixes that can be added to water, they’re specially formulated with ingredients like caffeine, B vitamins, and amino acids to give you an energy boost and help you go longer and harder.
And before you ask: No, it’s not all a marketing ploy. Some research has found that pre-workouts can improve athletic performance.
On the other hand, not all experts agree that pre-workouts are necessary. And like any other dietary supplement, some pre-workouts could definitely contain sketchy ingredients or have misleading info on their labels. So it’s always really important to do your research before buying.
We spoke to Jenna Stangland, RDN, CSSD, the team dietitian for the Minnesota Timberwolves hockey team, about what to look for in a pre-workout (and we made sure to take a look at current research too).
Most studies on pre-workout supplements that include men and women show that both can benefit from these products. With that in mind, we sought out the best supps *period* — not necessarily the ones that claimed to be made just for women.
Here’s how we decided on these products.
Because pre-workout supplements aren’t closely regulated, we tried our best to stick with products that were verified by a third-party organization like NSF or Informed Choice. A seal of approval from one of these orgs means you can trust that the product contains what the label says, according to Stangland.
In the absence of these certifications, we looked for products that have undergone banned substance testing and are produced in current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) facilities — meaning they meet FDA standards.
“Beneficial ingredients in a pre-workout,” says Stangland, “are beta-alanine, taurine, caffeine, and nitric oxide agents like arginine and tyrosine.”
There are also a handful of other key ingredients featured in several of these pre-workouts, like creatine and L-carnitine.
Company and product vetting
All the products on this list are sugar-free or contain only negligible amounts of carbs, too, so they’re ideal for people on keto or other low carb diets.
They’ve also been put through a thorough vetting process that checks for unsupported health and disease claims, ingredient transparency, illegal ingredients, whether they include dosage information, FDA/FTC warning letters, and lawsuits involving the company’s products. Only products that passed vetting made this list.
So, what exactly do all these ingredients DO? Stangland (and science) has the receipts.
|Beta-alanine||“This nonessential amino acid increases carnosine in the muscles,” she says, “which acts as a pH buffer to help reduce lactic acid accumulation.” (Lactic acid causes the “burn” in your muscles during intense workouts.) |
“This results in a longer lasting workout by delaying muscle fatigue.” (FYI: Beta-alanine may give you a tingling or “pins and needles” feeling on your skin. It’s normal, but if it bothers you, you can avoid beta-alanine pre-workouts.)
|Taurine||Stangland explains that taurine, a naturally occurring amino acid, is helpful because it increases fat burn and reduces the stress on your body caused by intense exercise. This helps you work out longer and harder before you start feeling fatigued.|
|Caffeine||Caffeine “acts as a stimulant to increase mental alertness,” says Stangland. You’ll see it in various forms on a supplement label, including caffeine anydrous, green tea extract, or coffee bean extract, she notes.|
|Nitric oxide or beet root extract||Nitric oxide “is beneficial for blood flow by supporting blood vessel dilation and increasing oxygen to working muscles,” says Stangland, adding that beet root offers similar effects thanks to its natural nitrate content.|
|Arginine and citrulline||“Like nitrates,” Stangland explains, “arginine has been shown to promote blood flow.” But she adds that it’s also critical for the stress response and wound healing. Bonus points! Citrulline, an arginine precursor, offers similar effects.|
|Tyrosine||Tyrosine “is the amino acid the body uses to make various hormones like dopamine and adrenaline,” Stangland explains. “It promotes cognitive function, alertness, and memory — and we need that physical and mental boost when we are stepping up our competitive game!”|
|Creatine||Wildly popular as a stand-alone supplement, creatine is also featured in many pre-workouts because it helps improve high intensity exercise performance. It may even help with post-exercise recovery.|
|Vitamin C||This essential vitamin may be beneficial for exercise recovery and injury prevention because of its role in collagen synthesis (collagen is the supportive matrix found in skin, joints, and muscle tissues).|
|Vitamin B12||There’s some evidence that this vitamin may help improve energy and boost endurance in people have a vitamin B12 deficiency.|
|L-carnitine||L-carnitine helps transport fat into the mitochondria (the “powerhouse of the cell,” as you may remember from middle school bio) so it can be used as energy — which is why it’s a common ingredient in pre-workouts.|
|Branched-chain amino acids||The BCAAs — leucine, isoleucine, and valine — may help boost muscle growth and prevent soreness and muscle damage, but findings are mixed.|
- $ = under $1.00 per serving
- $$ = $1.00–$1.50 per serving
- $$$ = $1.51–$2.00 per serving
- $$$$ = over $2.00 per serving
Get ready to no longer sit staring at your screen, confused by the vast array of pre-workout options. (Ooh, think of all the time you’ll save.)
Best overall pre-workout supplement for women
Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: 1.6 grams (g) beta-alanine, 1 g creatine, 1 g arginine, 150 milligrams (mg) caffeine, 250 mg vitamin C, 35 micrograms (mcg) vitamin B12
- Sweetener: sucralose
- Flavors: Cherry Limeade, Fruit Punch, Icy Blue Razz, Orange Burst, Pink Lemonade, Strawberry Margarita, Watermelon
- Certifications: NSF for Sport
Sprints or triple-unders are never actually, uh, easy. But you should be able to go a little longer without feeling the burn thanks to C4’s proprietary form of beta-alanine, an amino acid that supports endurance and helps keep fatigue at bay.
The brand says its Explosive Energy Blend could help prolong your caffeine tolerance, so you won’t feel like you need to keep upping your dose to get the same jolt.
Reviewers are big fans of this formula and brand but say the product has an annoying tendency to clump up. However, it also clocks in as one of the least expensive reputable formulations available.
Best budget pre-workout supplement for women
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: 1.5 g beta-alanine, 250 mg tyrosine, 175 mg caffeine, 3 g creatine
- Sweetener: sucralose
- Flavors: Blueberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Green Apple, Watermelon
- Certifications: banned substance testing, cGMP
Nearly 30,000 Amazon reviews and an average 4.5/5-star rating say it all. This stuff will give you the boost you need, for real, at a price that’s sustainable for regular use.
The manufacturer says this product has a specially designed matrix to boost muscle function, performance, energy, and focus, giving you max support for explosive moves and helping you push yourself longer.
Reviewers say it may be a little too high in caffeine for pre-workout newbies (it contains about 2 cups of coffee worth of caffeine), but otherwise it’s got rave reviews.
Best pre-workout supplement for strength training
Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged Premium Pre-Workout
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: 1.6 g beta-alanine, 1.5 g creatine, 274 mg caffeine, 6.5 g citrulline, 6.5 g BCAAs
- Sweetener: stevia, sucralose
- Flavors: Berry Blast, Fruit Punch, Grape, Krisp Apple, Orange Krush, Pink Lemonade
- Certifications: Informed Sport
OK, so the name kinda sounds like an early-2000s metal band. But don’t let that deter you. Pre-Kaged serves up loads of L-citrulline, a natural vasodilator (an ingredient that increases blood flow) to keep your muscles supplied with oxygen so you can pump longer and harder.
It also contains a patented blend of creatine and BCAAs that’s designed to fuel muscles.
Reviewers rave about the energy it provides, BUT it’s important to note that it has nearly 300 mg of caffeine — equivalent to 3 cups of coffee.
Best personalized pre-workout supplement for women
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: caffeine, beta-alanine (amounts vary)
- Sweetener: stevia, monk fruit
- Flavors: Sour Watermelon
- Certifications: cGMP
Gainful is a personalized sport nutrition service that provides custom blends of protein powder, fiber, creatine, and pre-workouts to help meet your needs. In addition, the brand provides subscribers one-on-one time with a dietitian who can answer all your burning questions about sports nutrition to help you fuel up wisely.
Although your pre-workout may differ from someone else’s based on your needs, it will be made with key ingredients identified by Stangland, such as caffeine and beta-alanine.
Reviewers are impressed with both the products and the service provided by Gainful, but this one’s definitely on the pricey side for a pre-workout.
Best pre-workout supplement for recovery
Vital Proteins Vital Performance Pre
- Price: $$$$
- Key ingredients: 140 mg caffeine, 1.5 g arginine
- Sweetener: monk fruit
- Flavors: Watermelon Blueberry
- Certifications: NSF for Sport, Informed Sport
Having to deal with a pre-workout supplement and a post-workout supplement is kind of a lot. This option covers both, thanks to the addition of collagen peptides to keep your joints feeling good. This supp also provides 6 g of complete protein (which, while not a lot, is more than most) that could help support muscle growth.
There’s also citrulline and arginine to enhance blood flow and creatine so you can push harder during your sweat session. And let’s not forget the ancient peat and apple polyphenols — the brand says these can support increased power output.
Although reviewers say it does the job, they’re not impressed with the taste OR the texture — some say it doesn’t blend well even after vigorous mixing.
Best pre-workout supplement for running
LADDER Sport Pre-Workout Powder
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: 200 mg caffeine, 1.6 g beta-alanine
- Sweetener: stevia, small amount of sugar
- Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Fruit
- Certifications: NSF for Sport
You’ll get focus without the jitters thanks to a balanced blend of caffeine and theanine, plus a blood flow and endurance boost from citrulline, all in a 100 percent vegan blend that’s free of artificial colors and flavors.
For runners, this product contains a small bit of real sugar for some quick energy and calories — but it’s not a substantial amount by any means, so don’t forget your pre-run snack too.
LADDER nixes the artificial sweeteners and flavors, relying on stevia and that bit of sugar for sweetness.
Most reviews are highly positive, but one reviewer says something in the blend made him itch, and another reports having an allergic reaction to this pre-workout.
Best-tasting pre-workout supplement for women
Alani Nu Pre-Workout
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: 1.6 g beta-alanine, 500 mg tyrosine, 200 mg caffeine, 6 citrulline
- Sweetener: sucralose
- Flavors: Arctic White, Breezeberry, Carnival Candy Grape, Citrus Dew, Galaxy Lemonade, Island Crush, Mimosa, Rainbow Candy
- Certifications: banned substance tested, cGMP
Caffeine? Check. Tyrosine? Check. Citrulline? Check. This pre-workout covers all the bases for extra energy and boosted blood flow.
But the primo flavors are the real selling point (think Hawaiian Shave Ice, Mimosa, Pink Guava, and Aloha Pineapple). They taste refreshing and natural — and they actually are, since the powders are free of artificial flavors.
Unfortunately, some reviewers report that the pre-workout is prone to clumping and that a lot of the flavors taste similar. (P.S. It’s also got a decent bit of caffeine, so be aware of that!)
Best unflavored pre-workout supplement for women
Do Vitamins PurePump Pure Pre-Workout Formula
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: 2 g beta-alanine, 500 mg arginine, 200 mg caffeine, 50 mcg vitamin B12, 2 g citrulline, 1 g creatine, 500 mg carnitine, 1 g BCAAs
- Sweetener: none for Unflavored, organic cane sugar for Lemon flavor
- Flavors: Unflavored, Lemon
- Certifications: Banned Substance Control Group certified
Sometimes you don’t wanna deal with sweet, over-the-top flavors, and that’s OK. This flavorless powder, which you can stir into a smoothie or a glass of milk totally unnoticed, is there for you.
It’s also one of the few options that’s both vegan and keto while being totally free of added sugars, sweeteners, and fillers. It’s pure energy and muscle food, baby. (Note: The lemon flavor contains a teensy bit of real sugar, but it’s still keto-friendly.)
Reviewers LOVE this product, and we noticed that it had more across-the-board favorable reviews than any other pre-workout we looked into. Slayin’ it, Do Vitamins!
Best caffeine-free pre-workout supplement for women
The Genius Brand Genius Pre
- Price: $$$$
- Key ingredients: 2 g beta-alanine, 1 g tyrosine, 1 g arginine, 1 g taurine, 6 g citrulline
- Sweetener: stevia
- Flavors: Grape Limeade, Sour Apple
- Certifications: cGMP, banned substance tested, third party tested (lab not disclosed)
Want a boost without a side of caffeine? Instead of stimulants, this formula uses a blend of nootropics (brain juice, essentially). The brand says the product will give you laser-sharp focus and boost blood flow to support your muscles without making you feel like you’re gonna bust out of your skin.
Reviewers love it, too, and say that — even without the caffeine — you can really feel a difference when taking it.
Best high caffeine pre-workout supplement for women
Bare Performance Nutrition Flight Pre-Workout
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: 500 mg vitamin C, 3.2 g beta-alanine, 2 g citrulline, 1.5 g tyrosine, 1 g taurine, 300 mg caffeine
- Sweetener: sucralose
- Flavors: Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Sour Watermelon, Strawberry Kiwi, Pink Lemonade
- Certifications: Informed Sport
If you’re looking for something that’s the exact opposite of caffeine-free (wow, do we feel you there), this is the one. This powder pretty much has it all: powerhouse beta-alanine to support your muscles during your workout, caffeine to give you a smooth energy boost, and citrulline to help promote blood flow.
But what stood out to us most were the EXCELLENT reviews — more than 3,000 reviews from satisfied buyers who rave about how much of a boost this pre-workout provides.
A common thread among reviews is that it provides TONS of energy (it’s got more than 3 cups of coffee worth of caffeine, after all) that’s not accompanied by that yucky “drank too much coffee” feeling.
Scoop one serving (usually it’s 1 scoop, but check the label to see exactly what a serving is) into the amount of water recommended on the label (typically 8 ounces). Stir it up well and drink your pre-workout roughly 30 minutes before working out. This will give it plenty of time to kick in and get your engine revving.
Depending on which brand you choose, the directions may be slightly different, but most pre-workouts are taken this way.
Who should use a pre-workout supplement?
“A pre-workout is not for everyone,” explains Stangland. She says they’re best for “individuals looking to increase their competitive edge, hit new fitness goals, and improve stamina.”
She also says a pre-workout may be beneficial for you if you find that you’re getting tired or fatigued more quickly during training or if you’re training for a new event.
On the other hand, for pure strength gain rather than athletic performance, she recommends “a singular creatine supplement before your workout, branched-chain amino acids (like leucine) during your workout, and a high protein food source after your workout.”
For endurance exercise (like long runs or bike rides), it’s also really important to fuel up with some carbs. They provide calories and energy you’ll need that pre-workouts just don’t have.
Are there any ingredients to avoid?
Here’s what Stangland says you should be cautious about, although there’s no need to outright avoid any of these ingredients:
- Caffeine. “Be mindful of the quantity of caffeine in pre-workouts,” she says, explaining that you shouldn’t have more than 400 mg of caffeine daily. Be sure to check the caff content before you knock back a pre-workout — especially if you’re already a well-caffeinated individual.
- Sugar alcohols. These help improve the taste of pre-workouts without adding extra carbs, says Stangland, but large amounts come at a price: bloating and diarrhea 💩💩💩. Look for supplements without sugar alcohols if possible, but otherwise just be mindful of the dose.
- Proprietary blends. “This is something a company does to group together ingredients and only list a total amount instead of the quantity of each ingredient,” explains Stangland. While it’s not a total deal-breaker, she says it’s not ideal because you have no idea how much of each ingredient in the blend you’re actually getting.
Different people may respond differently to sugar alcohols and caffeine. While some people can drink coffee all day and sleep like a rock (*hand slowly creeps up*), others can’t drink caffeine past noon. Likewise, some people may tolerate sugar alcohols better than others. YMMV!
What other factors should you consider to be prepared for workouts?
“Make a priority of having a solid nutrition plan and eating schedule to get the most benefit out of the food you are putting in your body,” explains Stangland. “THEN add in the necessary supplements that make the most sense for you and your individual health and performance goals.”
She adds, “A board certified sports dietitian (RDN, CSSD) can be an excellent resource in helping you identify what your body needs to perform at its highest level.”
Wanna up your game, run faster, or perform better? You should think about adding a pre-workout to your routine. These supplements can help boost your blood flow and oxygen delivery, improving your endurance to electrify your workouts. They might make it a little bit easier to hit those goals.
Look for one that contains evidence-based ingredients and preferably one that has been certified by NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice.
Our process and why you should trust us
This article was written in part by a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). We also consulted with a second RDN to get tips for choosing the best pre-workout supplements for women. We used those tips to pick the products above.
Before writing about those products, we put them all through a thorough vetting process that checks for unsupported health claims (like “This pre-workout improves muscle gains by 200 percent!”), shady business practices, and lawsuits concerning a company’s products. We also checked that the main ingredients in each product are evidence-based and actually do what the company says they do.
After wrapping up our recommendations and tips, we sent this entire article to a third RDN (in this case, Alissa Palladino, MS, RDN, LD, CPT, Nutrition, Personal Training) for review.
So basically, you can feel good knowing that we put in WORK to get you these recommendations.