If you’re looking to gain lean muscle from your training, then a high quality pre workout supplement will help you to reach your goals faster (alongside a good diet of course!)Pre workout powders or drinks provide a swift energy boost to see you through a tough training session, as well as helping your muscles recover quickly afterwards.
But as with most nutrition products, the choice is overwhelming and ingredients can be confusing.
So, I’ve created a list of the 9 best pre workout supplements for muscle gain in the UK market (all reviewed and rated)
And I’ve also added a buyer’s guide underneath to explain a bit more about how they work, and what to look for (especially some of the complicated sounding ingredients).
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout Energy Drink Powder
Optimum Nutrition are a market leader in the supplement world, and I personally think that their products are always of a higher quality to other brands. Compared to others on the market, this ON pre workout drink is really clean, because there are no aggressive chemical stimulants in it, but it still provides a good energy boost and allows for quick muscle repair and reduced soreness.
It has a good blend of natural energy boosting and muscle repairing ingredients, plus it’s available in 5 really nice flavours.
- Tested for banned substances, so healthier and great for athletes.
- Uses caffeine, L-Carnitine and N-Acetyl-Tyrosine as the boosting agents. All natural!
- Includes creatine for additional performance boost.
Iron Labs Nutrition, AC8 Xtreme Pre-Workout Supplement
This Iron Labs pre workout is a supplement for those who want a real kick before training. Like the ON supplement before, it is boosted with creatine but also has additional stimulating ingredients like taurine. It can pack quite a punch if you’re new to taking pre workouts, so take them about half an hour before training to let it kick in. Available in 4 different flavours.
- Includes Creatine, Beta Alanine, Taurine and L-Glutamine per regular serving
- Good value – a lot of servings for the price
- BRC and GMP certified
Pre Workout Beast Hardcore pre-Workout Supplement
Beast Hardcore have produced an interesting pre-workout supplement here – in the regular serving size it isn’t as ‘punchy’ as a few of the others I’m reviewing, but then you can double the dose for a ‘high strength’ dose. This effectively halves the serving size, which makes it one of the more expensive pre workouts in the list. It contains the usual ingredients, but has extra kudos for being gluten free and vegan friendly.
- Gluten free and vegan friendly
- BRC and GMP certified
- Easily adjustable dosing
BSN Nutrition N.O.-Xplode Pre Workout Powder
N.O. Xplode is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements on the market and has been around for years. Where the caffeine dose isn’t massive here, the formula makes up for it with other stimulant ingredients such as beta-alanine, L-arginine and Betaine. What this means is that it’s enough to stimulate a workout, without making you lie awake for a long time afterwards. A word of warning though – some find the mixture to cause stomach issues, so if you’re sensitive to these, be aware! Available in 4 flavours.
- Fairly ‘modest’ portions of stimulants, keeping effects to the workout and nothing more
- Supported with Vit C, Magnesium and various B vitamins
C4 Original Pre Workout Powder | Sugar Free#
The C4 pre workout is widely known as one of the best tasting on the market. It contains roughly the same ingredients as the other pre-workouts on the market. Like the N.O. Xplode the caffeine content isn’t huge, but the inclusion of Arginine is a big boost. It helps to stimulate Nitric Oxide production in the body, which is a vasodilator, helping to get the blood pumping and oxygen delivered where it’s needed. Available in 8 flavours.
- Low caffeine, but has other stimulant ingredients contained
- GMP Certified
- Great flavours
Warrior – RAGE Pre Workout Powder
The Warrior RAGE pre workout is a high stimulant pre workout that is made with the hardcore lifters in mind. To be honest, there’s a lot of sacrifice when it comes to taste quality – it’s generally not regarded as a tasty product, but it packs a lot of stimulation into each dose. It has a high caffeine dose, a but additional amino acids are in low doses. It is also made cheaper by the reduction of creatine. It’s cheaper than most, but then you get what you pay for. Available in 5 flavours.
- High in stimulants, so very strong.
- Doesn’t taste great, but is cheaper than most competitors
- Low dose of performance boosting ingredients
Bsn Endorush Pre Workout Powder
The BSN Endo Rush may be the best overall pre-workout on the market. It balances quality ingredients with a realistic price point. The flavours (it’s available in 4) are all popular and the formula mixes well. In terms of ingredients, it has high doses of the stimulants and these are backed up with quality amino acids that support a workout.
- Great ingredient blend – quality ingredients and a good price
- Tastes good
- Nutritionally balanced
SCI-MX Nutrition X-Plode Pre-Workout Supplement Drink
Sci-MX Nutrition are a well-respected brand in the supplement world. This X-Plode pre workout is a good quality offering into the market. It’s an upper mid-priced pre workout and has plenty of good quality ingredients in, without being over-reliant on pure stimulation. It has a high level of amino acids and mixes well. The taste is down to personal preference – some love it, others not so much. Available in 3 flavours, with orange being the preferred choice.
- Good quality ingredients
- Mixes very well
- Boosts performance
Extreme Pre Workout Powder
The Extreme pre-workout powder is the cheapest of the supplements reviewed here, but it certainly isn’t the worst. It has an interesting ingredient mix and doesn’t seem to over-rely on cheaper ingredients in the recipe. There is a concern that there’s no creatine in the recipe, but at such a cheap price point that can be forgiven. The Extreme pre-workout is available in 1 flavour, Blue Raspberry. It tastes pretty good though!
- Cheap price point
- Doesn’t rely on poor ingredients
- No creatine
What is a pre workout supplement?
A pre workout supplement is a blend of ingredients designed to give the user an energy boost, and allow them to recover quicker from workouts. They typically contain a mixture of stimulants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The aim is for the supplement to help you train harder and longer, then allow muscles to recover afterwards. Pre workouts are one of the most popular supplements on the market and widely used by amateurs and pros alike.
What are the benefits of using a pre workout supplement?
Taking a pre workout supplement will provide trainers with the following benefits
- Increased energy to allow you to workout at higher intensities and for longer then usual
- Improved focus and concentration to keep you on track and minimise distractions
- Better blood flow to muscles to allow oxygen and protein to reach them quickly
- Improved strength endurance due to muscles being able to repair quicker within sessions
- Faster muscle recovery post workout for reduced soreness and quicker growth
What ingredients can be found in pre workout supplements?
Most pre-workouts are a blend of similar ingredients, just with different quantities. Cheaper supplements may remove or use less of the more expensive ingredients to keep the costs down.
Here are the core ingredients you will find in them…
Caffeine is probably the most famous and widely used stimulant of all. It’s designed to increase alertness and focus by stimulating the nervous system and increasing alertness, concentration and energy.
Creatine is one of the most researched supplements of all. It is a naturally present chemical compound in the body that gym users supplement with, because it improves strength, endurance, cognition and muscle mass.
This stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids – the building blocks of proteins. In this context BCAA’s are used to help post-workout muscle recovery by re-building torn muscles (making them great for bulking) – and also as chemical elements to help other performance-boosting processes, such as improving nitric oxide production.
Taurine is a naturally occurring compound in the body that has roles within the muscular system. It helps to improve muscular system capability and also helps to calm the effect of stimulants in a pre-workout, preventing the user from experiencing negative effects of large doses of stimulants.
Citrulline is an amino acid that helps to produce nitric oxide. It’s also linked to vasodilation, which reduces blood pressure and improves circulation, which enables oxygen deliver to the muscles to occur effectively. It doesn’t help to grow muscle, but evidence suggests it slows the breakdown of muscle tissue. There are no known side effects to citrulline.
Beta-Alanine is another amino acid that occurs naturally in the body. In supplements it is said to improve exercise performance and mental focus. It can produce a tingling sensation in some people when taken in doses above what is recommended on packaging.
In a pre-workout supplement, Betaine helps to keep the fluid in muscle cells, providing a ‘pump’ feeling where the muscles are bigger and fuller than normal. Side effects can include nausea and an upset stomach if taken to excess.
Sugar provides energy and improves taste. In many cases, pre-workout supplements will keep sugar content low and replace it with sweeteners.
When should I take my pre workout supplement?
This depends on the brand, but most will suggest around 30 minutes before training to allow the ingredients to be digested and enter the bloodstream. If you are caffeine sensitive, bear in mind the effect might be long-lasting, so try not to take it close to bed time unless you fancy being awake all night!
How long do pre workouts last for?
This depends on the quantity of the ingredients and how sensitive you are to them. Typically, the effects last for an hour or two, which is long enough for you to train with them. If you are especially sensitive though, the effects can go on for longer. The best answer is to experiment and find out how you react personally – being cautious and staring small of course.
Side effects to look out for when using a pre workout supplement
There are a few different side effects that can be attributed to your pre-workout supplements. Here’s a list of the more common ones and advice on reducing them…
- A tingling sensation – caused by the Beta-Alanine. Nothing to worry about.
- Higher heart rate – linked to caffeine. Reduce dose in future!
- Trouble sleeping – again this is linked to the stimulants. Take the supplement earlier in the day or go for a lower caffeine one.
- Digestive trouble – this is down to a number of things. Reduce dose to prevent it in future.
- Weight gain – this is down to the water retention in the muscles, it’s not fat gain. Reduce dose or take one with less creatine and it should go.
Finding the best pre workout supplement for muscle gain – conclusion
When it comes to finding the best pre-workout for muscle gain, you should look at the level of the amino acids. Typically cheaper pre workouts will contain a lot of stimulants and not much in the way of amino acids. You may have to spend a little more for the amino acid heavy supplements, but the results are worth it. The good news is that even the most expensive pre-workout supplements aren’t very costly, so it’s a good investment overall!
One final thing – to get the most from your pre-workout, only take it when you need it. You can get a dose-response effect from them, where the more you take them, the less effective they are because you get used to the ingredients. Keep it for days when you need the extra boost and it’ll work out far more useful for you in the long run.