Nutrition Supplements

The Best Pre-Workout Supplements of 2023

You’re here because you want to use the best pre-workout on the market.

In an earlier article I discussed the most important pre-workout ingredients from a functional and scientific standpoint. You should check that out to understand where I’m coming from.

What I’m going to do now is identify what I feel are the best multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements on the market. This is based on ingredient quality, performance enhancement and several other criteria that matter, like taste and overall experience.

The List

  1. Shifted
  2. Gorilla Mode
  3. Kaged
  4. Bucked Up
  5. Ghost
  6. Transparent Labs
  7. 4 Gauge

As a multi-ingredient supplement, a pre-workout drink is aiming to accomplish several benefits to help you get more out of your workout. Sure, you’ll hear plenty of people suggest that all you need for a pre-workout is some coffee (read: caffeine). And while caffeine is a super supplement on its own, there are reasons that multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements can be significantly better:

  • Improved blood flow
  • Improved hydration
  • Faster ATP recovery
  • Delayed fatigue
  • More muscular hydration
  • Improved mood
  • Improved focus

The bottom line is that a good pre-workout supplement will allow you to get more out of your workout than caffeine alone. This has been well studied and well documented via peer review by nutrition and exercise scientists.

The most well studied and proven pre-workout ingredients are: caffeine, creatine, citrulline and beta-alanine. With proper doseages, 80-90% of true performance gains will come from those 4 ingredients. They are non-negotiable for a good preworkout.

Unlike caffeine and citrulline which provide an acute benefit, ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine need to build up in your system over days and months and so you will not see their full results on day one.

With this brief introduction, I present to you what I consider the best multi-ingredient pre-workouts on the market.

1. Shifted Premium (& Maximum)

I like Shifted’s pre-workouts because they taste great, feel great and get all the details right. In my opinion, it is the best overall pre-workout on the market.

Click for more info about Shifted

Why? Because they cover all the bases. While it may not be the absolute top pre-workout for extreme bodybuilders, it is the best overall pre-workout for most people. It’s great for runners. CrossFitters. Jiu Jitsu. Cardio junkies. Power lifters. Etc.

Of all the pre-workouts I’ve tried this one just feels the best. Gives me the best mood. Best attitude. Best drive. Best focus. And all without the side effects of a lot of pre-workout products.

In addition to getting it right on the Caffeine, Citrulline and Beta Alanine, they also include nitrates which is especially helpful for endurance athletes. Look around and you’ll see that hardly any pre-workouts are including nitrates. It’s a big quality indicator. And for all that reasons it’s my top pici.

Caffeine300mgFocus, Energy, Drive
L-Citrulline8gBlood flow, Pump
Beta-alanine*2.5gEndurance, Anti-fatigue
Creatine*5gIncreased exercise capacity
Sodium40mgMuscle hydration

What I Love About Shifted Pre-Workouts

  • Perfect dose of L-Citrulline
  • Inclusion of nitrates for endurance
  • Electrolytes are included
  • Includes a dose of Creatine
  • Tempers caffeine with theanine
  • Several nootropic ingredients for improved mood
  • Beautiful packaging

What I’d Improve About Shifted

  • Sucralose as sweetener
  • Could use more flavors
  • Wish the tropical flavor came with Maximum and not just Premium

Shifted’s Pre-Workout Review Score

Functional ModalityFunctional Score
Pump / Blood Flow96
Endurance / Anti-Fatigue93
Focus 92
Strength & Body Composition95
Mood Enhancement93
Overall Score95

2. Gorilla Mode

Gorilla Mode is interesting because it has some lesser used ingredients like Glycerol powder, Kanna and N-Phenethyl Dimethylamine Citrate. It also takes the Malic Acid part of Citrulline Malate and considers it as a separate, functional ingredient. Overall, this is a highly-dosed pre-workout that I like to use from time to time because of its uniqueness and the overall skin stretching pump I get which is literally like no other.

Caffeine350mgFocus, Energy, Drive
L-Citrulline9gBlood flow, Pump
Beta-alanine*0Endurance, Anti-fatigue
Creatine*5gIncreased exercise capacity
Sodium0Muscle hydration

What I Love About Gorilla Mode

  • Massive dose of L-Citrulline
  • Gives me the best, fullest pump of all pre-workouts
  • Mood improvement ingredients like Kana are really nice
  • Includes a complete dose of Creatine
  • Strong, potent dose of caffeine
  • The focus on muscular hydration with several ingredients

What I’d Improve About Gorilla Mode

  • Add choline support
  • Reduce clumpiness of product
  • Flavor can be chalky (I’ve used mango peach)
  • Beta Alanine endurance ingredient versus Malic Acid
  • Would benefit from B vitamins and Taurine
  • Could use some electrolytes like sodium

Gorilla Mode’s Pre-Workout Review Score

Functional ModalityFunctional Score
Pump / Blood Flow95
Endurance / Anti-Fatigue80
Focus 84
Strength & Body Composition95
Mood Enhancement92
Overall Score93

3. Kaged Pre-Kaged

Kaged Pre-Kaged is an excellent multi-ingredient pre-workout. It hits most of the right notes. And it’s especially good if you like BCAAs in your preworkout and don’t want or need choline for its mental benefits. With key ingredients it covers all the bases:

Caffeine274mgFocus, Energy
L-Citrulline6.5gBlood flow, Pump
Beta-alanine*1.6gEndurance, Anti-fatigue
Creatine*1.5gIncreased exercise capacity
Sodium50mgMuscle hydration

What I Love About Kaged Pre-Kaged

  • Natural, organic source of caffeine
  • Includes some creatine, perhaps the most effective overall ingredient for increased performance
  • Includes an ORAC blend for anti-oxidant support (clean feel)
  • Minimal to non existent Beta-Alanine tingles
  • Gets *some* of all the key ingredients and functional modalities
  • Inclusion of B vitamins

What I’d Improve About Pre-Kaged

  • Creatine dose is on the low end
  • Creatine monohydrate is the more well studied form of creatine
  • Eliminate BCAA’s
  • Include more electrolytes
  • Beta-Alanine dose is on the low end
  • Include support for choline (improved mental focus)
  • Add additional mechanisms for improved blood flow (nitrates)

Kaged Pre-Kaged Review Score

Functional ModalityFunctional Score
Pump / Blood Flow92
Endurance / Anti-Fatigue91
Focus 84
Strength & Body Composition89
Mood Enhancement84
Overall Score91/100

4. Ghost Legend Pre-Workout

Ghost modifies their Legend pre-workout regularly and also does limited edition runs. So pinpointing an exact formula is hard. This analysis is done at the time of this writing using a formula acquired in September of 2021.

Caffeine202mgFocus, Energy, Drive
L-Citrulline4gBlood flow, Pump
Beta-alanine*2gEndurance, Anti-fatigue
Creatine*0Increased exercise capacity
Sodium0Muscle hydration

What I Love About Ghost

  • Inclusion of slow release caffeine to extend the focus and energy.
  • Inclusion of taurine and beta-alanine for endurance
  • Good effort at shaking things up in a sometimes stale industry
  • The use of rhodiola rosea for mood enhancement
  • Inclusion of a choline supplement for focus in Alpha GPC
  • Excellent flavors and unbeatable mixability

What I’d Improve About Ghost

  • Increase L-Citrulline dose to 6-8g
  • Remove the theobromine (stimulants don’t stack well)
  • The effectiveness and efficiency of agmatine sulfate is in question
  • Include creatine, the most effective strength & composition ingredient
  • Include L-Tyrosine for mental freshness
  • Include some sodium for basic muscle function and hydration

Ghost’s Preworkout Review Score

Functional ModalityFunctional Score
Pump / Blood Flow83
Endurance / Anti-Fatigue90
Focus 87
Strength & Body Composition60
Mood Enhancement91
Overall Score85

5. Bucked Up

Bucked Up has developed an excellent brand and maybe is the best tasting pre-workout on the market. My personal favorite flavor is Rocket Pop. Bucked Up will give you a nice caffeine kick plus a small sampling of several other ingredients although most of these are significantly under dosed.

Caffeine200mgFocus, Energy, Drive
L-Citrulline4gBlood flow, Pump
Beta-alanine*2gEndurance, Anti-fatigue
Creatine*0Increased exercise capacity
Sodium39mgMuscle hydration

What I Love About Bucked Up

  • Small but efficient scoop
  • Excellent flavors
  • Inclusion of B12
  • Inclusion of Alpha GPC for focus
  • Use of Beta-Alanine for endurance and ant-fatigue

What I’d Improve About Bucked Up

  • Increase amount of L-Citrulline to 6-8g
  • Additional pathways for nitric oxide support (nitrates)
  • Add creatine for strength and composition support
  • Consider adding Betaine for strength and power
  • Increase taurine to a more effective dose
  • I’d prefer 250-300mg for caffeine, preferably with a slow release

Bucked Up’s Preworkout Review Score

Functional ModalityFunctional Score
Pump / Blood Flow80
Endurance / Anti-Fatigue85
Focus 87
Strength & Body Composition60
Mood Enhancement60
Overall Score84*

*Bucked Up will give you a basic boost for working out and it tastes great. It’s very good at what it tries to do and that’s what carries it to fourth place. However, as a modern day pre-workout it is lacking for several functional modalities.

6. Transparent Labs Bulk

Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-Workout tries to stay focused on the science. And while they do a good job in many respects, and hit a lot of the right notes, they miss the boat on flavor and enjoyability. In particular, I’d consider this a pre-workout only for the hardcore who can handle the heavy Beta-Alanine dose (massive tingles!) and unpleasant Stevia flavor. But functionally, this is right up there with Kaged.

Caffeine210mgFocus, Energy, Drive
L-Citrulline4gBlood flow, Pump
Beta-alanine*4gEndurance, Anti-fatigue
Creatine*0Increased exercise capacity
Sodium150mgMuscle hydration

What I Love About Bulk

  • Hard core endurance with big Beta-Alanine dose
  • Theanine, L-Tyrosine, and Alpha GPC give you a smooth focus
  • Use of Infinergy aka Dicaffeine malate for extended energy
  • Inclusion of several B vitamins
  • Good doses of electrolytes sodium and potassium
  • Use of Betaine Anhydrous for strength improvement
  • Natural sweeteners

What I’d Improve About Bulk

  • Drop the Theobromine (stimulants don’t stack well)
  • Increase L-Citrulline dose to 6-8g range
  • Not a fan of BCAAs in the pre-workout. Better as EAAs and post
  • Beta Alanine tingles are overwhelming and distracting
  • Taste is on the low-end and an overall detraction from the preworkout experience
  • I prefer caffeine in the 250-300mg range

Transparent Labs Preworkout Review Score

Functional ModalityFunctional Score
Pump / Blood Flow80
Endurance / Anti-Fatigue94
Focus 91
Strength & Body Composition80
Mood Enhancement80
Overall Score84*

*If you don’t care about the taste, you like BCAA’s in your pre, and you don’t need creatine, and endurance is your #1 factor for a preworkout, then Transparent Labs score would be much higher. If you want minimal fatigue and pain, this is the preworkout to try.

7. 4 Gauge Pre-Workout

I really like the ingredients in 4 Gauge, however several of them are under dosed and one of them is sub-optimal. To get what I want out of 4 Gauge I need to basically double the dose. Still, they do a good job of getting at the core of what a pre-workout should look like based on today’s science.

Caffeine150mgFocus, Energy, Drive
L-Citrulline4gBlood flow, Pump
Beta-alanine*0gEndurance, Anti-fatigue
Creatine*1gIncreased exercise capacity
Sodium20mgMuscle hydration

What I Love About 4 Gauge

  • Rhodiola rosea keeps you in a positive mood
  • Theanine smooths out your energy and keeps you calm
  • Creatine helps you build strength
  • Beet root is a nitrate and additional pathway for your pump
  • Simple, effective set of ingredients.

What I’d Improve 4 Gauge

  • At 150mg, I need to double the dose to feel full performance effect
  • Need additional creatine supplementation for full effect
  • Needs more sodium. 80-150mg is ideal.
  • Should include Beta-Alanine. Uses less studied Carnitine.
  • Should include more support for mental focus via choline and tyrosine

4 Gauge Preworkout Review Score

Functional ModalityFunctional Score
Pump / Blood Flow87
Endurance / Anti-Fatigue84
Focus 78
Strength & Body Composition82
Mood Enhancement91
Overall Score82/100

*Creatine and Beta-Alanine are both chronic ingredients that need to build up in your system and should be taken daily. I recommend 5g of Creatine and 3-6g daily of Beta-Alanine. Unless you love tingles, it’s recommended to spread your Beta-Alanine doses apart throughout the day as 1-2g per serving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *