Pre-Workout Ingredients Explained: The Good and Bad

What makes a great pre-workout?

The difference between an average and great pre-workout is the ingredients and dosages. 

It's important to know which ingredients work, and which ingredients you should avoid.

Benefits of using a quality pre-workout supplement:

  • Increased energy levels - be more motivated to smash your workout.
  • Strength boost - lift more weight and more reps.
  • Enhanced mental focus - be focused on your workout, spend less time on your phone.
  • Intense muscle pumps - feel great, look even better.

After you read this guide, you'll know exactly which ingredients are good and bad in a pre-workout - so you'll be sure to experience the full benefits.

Ultimately, you'll get the best value for your money, and most importantly, get results.

The Top 5 Ingredients in a Pre-Workout

When you're searching for a top quality pre-workout supplement, it's easy to get lost in the countless different products on the market.

However, you should know that there are specific ingredients that make up a top quality pre-workout.

Ultimately, a product's ingredients list determines it's overall effectiveness. 

We'll take you through our top 5 ingredients that you should look out for on your search for a quality pre-workout.

Take a look:




This is a great addition to any pre-workout. It's an amino acid that's extracted from watermelons that turns into L-Arginine in your kidneys after oral supplementation.

What does this do?

Answer: Increases your nitric oxide levels.

Nitric Oxide is important as it allows your blood vessels to widen.

This results in increased blood flow - meaning you'll experience intense muscle pumps in the gym.

Why not just take L-Arginine directly?

Answer: L-Arginine has a poor absorption rate -  so it's ineffective in actually raising your L-Arginine levels.

On the other hand, L-Citrulline has a great absorption rate. 

So it's more beneficial to supplement L-Citrulline to raise your nitric oxide levels - for great muscle pumps.

L-Citrulline is one of the best ingredients you can find in a pre-workout supplement.

But make sure that it comes in a dose between 6,000mg-8,000mg (this is L-Citrulline's optimal dose) - a dosage under this may be ineffective in delivering any benefits.


Things To Remember About L-Citrulline:

  • L-Citrulline ensures you have intense muscle pumps: It turns into L-Arginine in your kidneys -> L-Arginine raises your nitric oxide levels -> heightened nitric oxide levels means an increase in blood flow -> increased blood flow results in intense muscle pumps during your workout.
  • L-Citrulline has a better absorption rate than L-Arginine: L-Citrulline is more effective in raising your L-Arginine levels.
  • The optimal dosage of L-Citrulline is 5,000mg-8,000mg: You should look for a pre-workout that contains an optimal amount of L-Citrulline to experience its full benefits.




This is one of the safest ingredients out there and is used in countless products ranging from tea/coffee to chocolate. Caffeine is useful to have in a pre-workout as it's a powerful stimulant.

It gives you an energy boost during your training session in the gym. But that's not the only benefit you get from consuming caffeine.

You'll experience increased:

  • Physical strength
  • Endurance
  • Focus

Ultimately, Caffeine helps you perform at your peak in the gym and stay focused on your workout. Less time on your mobile phone, and more time spent on getting results.

The only point of concern for Caffeine is the dosage. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is set at 400mg - so be careful when choosing your pre-workout.

A Caffeine serving between 150-200mg is great - this leaves enough space for you to enjoy your morning coffee.


Things To Remember About Caffeine:

  • Boosts strength and endurance - Caffeine is a powerful stimulant with the perfect benefits to improve your workout in the gym.
  • Enhances mental focus - More time spent making muscle gains, less time spent on your phone between sets.
  • Look for a pre-workout containing 150-200mg of caffeine- This way, you can still enjoy coffee and tea throughout the day, as well as your pre-workout supplement.
  • The RDA for Caffeine is 400mg - This equals around 4 cups of coffee/15 cups of tea/6 cups of green tea.




This is a non-dietary amino acid that's found almost exclusively in Camellia Sinensis (a species of shrub that produces teas, such as green tea).

It's a very effective relaxing agent, and works extremely well when paired when Caffeine. Basically, when L-Theanine and Caffeine are consumed together, they work in synergy to form a 'smart caffeine'.

This results in heightened Caffeine benefits:

  • Improved strength
  • Endurance
  • Focus

All these benefits without increased of side effects (eg.  jitters and energy crashes). Ultimately, the difference between an average and top quality product is what's inside them.

The L-Theanine and Caffeine combo is definitely only found in the best pre-workouts supplements.


Things To Remember About L-Theanine:

  • Forms a 'smart caffeine' when consumed with Caffeine - You'll get enhanced benefits of Caffeine without the risk of side effects like jitters and energy crashes.




Creatine is a molecule that's found in meats, eggs, and fish. But it's difficult to consume enough through your diet to experience any benefits.

How does it work?

Answer: By rapidly producing energy called ATP - meaning your body will release energy during periods of stress (like when your lifting weights in the gym).

This results in you experiencing enhanced strength and endurance during your workouts. Creatine Monohydrate has been supplemented for a very long time - it's one of the best tried-and-trusted ingredients out there.

However, it can come with risks of side effects such as stomach cramping and diarrhea when taken in large doses. This is why it's important to check the doses of ingredients

Look for a serving of around 1,000mg - this will keep you on the safe side and away from any potential side effects.


Things To Remember About Creatine Monohydrate:

  • Enhances strength - Lift heavier weights in the gym and make faster progress on your physique.
  • Boosts endurance - Push out those extra few reps at the end of your sets.
  • It's tried and tested - Creatine Monohydrate has been around for ages and is very safe and effective.





Beetroot is a plant that contains a high amount of nitrates, which helps boost your nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is important as it helps improve blood flow in your veins (vasodilation).

What does this do?

Answer: You'll experience intense muscle pumps while lifting weights in the gym.


Things To Remember About Beetroot Extract 

  • Promotes intense muscle pumps - Not only does this make you feel amazing in the gym, it helps deliver amino acids and nutrients to our muscles, encouraging muscle growth.



Now you know the best ingredients, you need to know which can cause side effects. Why?

It's important to know which ingredients are harmful to stay safe. It's arguably just as important as knowing which ingredients are the best.

We'll take you through ingredients that can cause side effects, but are used still in pre-workouts.

Take a look:

 DMAE Bitartrate

This is a choline molecule that's believed to improve your memory and reaction time.

However, while there hasn't been many studies conducted on this ingredient, DMAE has been shown to be teratogenic (meaning it can cause defects in unborn infants).

Not only that, supplement companies still include DMAE in supplements. Companies claim that it boosts your mental function - but there's no evidence of DMAE delivering this benefit.

We've even seen DMAE in pre-workouts marketed specifically at women, which is very concerning. Remember - DMAE can cause defects in unborn infants.

We strongly recommend staying away from products containing this ingredient.


Why You Should Avoid DMAE Bitartrate:

  • DMAE can cause defects in unborn infants (it's teratogenic) - This is a serious side effect, and DMAE isn't worth taking the risk on.
  • No studies have proven that it works - There's no evidence to prove that it provides any benefits at all.

 Synephrine (Bitter Orange Peel)

More commonly known as Bitter Orange Peel, this is a molecule that delivers very similar effects as Ephredrine.

This is a problem - Ephedrine was banned by the FDA for the second time (where it's been banned in the US ever since) due to it's dangerous side effects.

Ephedrine caused side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Fainting

However, Ephedrine was an effective fat loss ingredient (Ephedrine promotes fat loss by encouraging your body to burn more body fat as a fuel source), as well as stimulant.

For this reason, supplement companies began looking for an alternative. This is when Bitter Orange Peel began being used in pre-workout products.


Bitter Orange Peel has similar properties - it's believed to be the perfect Ephedrine replacement. But don't be fooled - Synpherine's just as dangerous as Ephedrine.

It comes with the same risks, so avoid this ingredient to stay safe. Although it can be used as a stimulant, the most effective and safe stimulant is Caffeine.


Why You Should Avoid Bitter Orange Peel: 

  • It's can cause nausea, high blood pressure, and fainting - Bitter Orange Peel is equally as dangerous as Ephedrine (which is banned in the US).
  • Caffeine is a more effective stimulant in pre-workout supplements - Caffeine is much safer.


This ingredient is a stimulant that has can provide quick spikes of energy that works similar to Ephedrine (which has been banned in the US), Adrenaline, and Caffeine.

However, DMAA is unsafe when consumed.

It's shown to cause side effects such as:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

DMAA could also ruin a competitive athletes career - it will show up as Amphetamines (a banned drug in competitive sports) in urine tests.

These side effects should be enough to keep you away from this ingredients.

Only consume products that contain ingredients that are 100% and side effects free to stay safe.


Why You Should Avoid DMAA: 

  • It causes side effects like rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure - It's not worth risking these side effects by consuming DMAA, which can lead to more severe conditions.
  • You'll fail a drug test after taking DMAA - This ingredient shows up as Amphetamines in your urine, meaning it can be very risky for competitive athletes to consume.


This is a molecule that works by reducing lactic acid in your muscles, meaning it improves physical endurance. However, it can cause paresthesia (a tingling on the skin of your face, chest, hands, and extremities) in doses over 0.8-1g.

Although paresthesia isn't life threatening, it'll ruin your workout in the gym - this means time wasted when you could be making muscle gains and losing body fat.

The standard dose of Beta-Alanine is between 2g-5g in supplements, meaning you're likely to experience paresthesia. Creatine Monohydrate delivers the same benefit (enhanced endurance) without the risk of side effects in pre-workouts.

We recommend staying away from products containing Beta-Alanine to avoid experiencing paresthesia.


Why You Should Avoid Beta-Alanine: 

  • It can cause paresthesia in doses over 0.8g-1g - This is a tingling on the skin of your face, chest, hands, and other extremities. It's not life threatening, but it's uncomfortable enough to ruin your workout in the gym.



As well as the harmful ingredients listed above, there are other things that you need to be aware of, when choosing a pre-workout supplement.

There's a number of gimmicks that supplement companies use to try and cut costs and maximise their profits.

Meaning you'll be wasting your hard earned cash if you become a victim of their gimmicks.

But don't worry - we've got you covered below.

Here's the last thing to be on the lookout for when choosing a pre-workout supplement:

Proprietary Blends warning-sign

This is definitely one of the biggest gimmicks in the supplements industry.

What's a proprietary blend?

Answer: A mixture of numerous ingredients that are shown to you as one overall quantity.proprietary-blend

Why's this bad?

Answer: You'll never know the exact amount of each individual ingredient inside these blends.

This is a problem - if you're sensitive to a specific ingredient inside, you risk experiencing unwanted side effects when taking a product containing a proprietary blend.

Proprietary blends are also given fancy names (eg. Sustained Perfomance Blend with Ballistic Energy Matrix) - to make you believe a product is better than it really is.

But don't be fooled. Proprietary blends are usually filled with cheaper, ineffective ingredients, with a minimal amount of beneficial ingredients. Ultimately, this means the overall product containing the blend will be ineffective.

Bottom Line

You should know the exact amount of each individual ingredient that you're putting into your body to stay safe and make sure you're getting an effective product.

We strongly recommend that you avoid proprietary blends.

Instead, choose products that are completely transparent and let you know exactly what's inside in their exact amounts - so you get the best value for your cash.

Why You Should Avoid Proprietary Blends: 

  • You don't know what you're getting - Proprietary Blends don't show you the exact amount of each individual ingredient contained. You should know exactly what you're putting into your body to stay safe.
  • They put you at risk of side effects - You risk experiencing side effects as there could be large doses of certain nutrients (eg. Beta Alanine causes paresthesia in doses over 0.8g-1g).
  • Not good value for money - Companies use them to cut costs and fool you into believing their products are more effective than they really are.
Check Out The Best Pre-Workouts This Year!

Here's the best natural pre-workouts on the market for:

  • Energy Boosts 
  • Enhanced Strength & Endurance 
  • Increased Focus
  • Skin-Splitting Muscle Pumps

Show Me The Full List!