Analyzing the 10 Common Pre-Workout Ingredients: Do They Work?

A pre-workout supplement, often referred to as a “pre-workout”, is a supplement that is taken prior to working out. It is typically a powder that is formulated to boost your workout performance. Therefore, if you’re interested in improving your athletic performance in the gym or on the field, you may want to consider a pre-workout supplement.

There are lots of different ingredients that are found in pre-workouts and lots of exaggerated performance claims. In this article, we’re going to look at the science behind the top 10 most common pre-workout ingredients. Each of these ingredients is backed by science to improve your overall athletic performance.

10 Most Common Pre-Workout Ingredients

Below, we’re going to explore the 10 most common pre-workout ingredients. We’ll explain what they are and what they do. Hopefully, this will help you gain a better understanding of these popular supplements.

L-theanine and Caffeine

The first ingredient we’ll explore is L-theanine and caffeine.

L-theanine is an amino acid. It’s found in teas, such as black tea and green tea. It is also commonly found in mushrooms. There are actually two versions of theanine: D-theanine and L-theanine. The most common form is L-theanine and has been shown to improve mental functioning and stress.

However, make sure that you don’t confuse L-theanine with threonine, which is another amino acid. They are not the same.

Many times, people take L-theanine alone because it is effective nootropic. However, when combined with caffeine, you get a synergized result, including increased awareness, focus, and energy. Your stress levels will be reduced, and your mental endurance will be much stronger.

When paired with caffeine, L-theanine reduces the side effects associated with taking caffeine.

Why is L-theanine and caffeine a top pre-workout ingredient?

The combination of these two ingredients is known as “smart caffeine.” Caffeine alone will increase blood pressure, heart rate, and energy levels. However, when combined with L-theanine, these stimulatory effects are used in a manner that is much more productive.

Research indicates that L-theanine encourages an increase in calmness, productivity, and focus.

When should you take it?

Ideally, the best time to use a supplement containing these ingredients is about 30 minutes prior to when you need the effects to kick in.


BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are made up of 3 of the 9 essential amino acids: isoleucine, valine, and leucine. When consumed, the body metabolizes them, converting them into an energy source for muscles. These three amino acids are found naturally in meat and dairy products. There have been several studies indicating the benefits of BCAAs on recovery following workouts.

Function of BCAAs

By consuming BCAAs, you’re preventing muscle soreness and stinging, as well as muscle wasting. You improve your stamina and energy levels. Additionally, glycogen loss during workout is slowed down.

Why are BCAAs a top pre-workout ingredient?

There are lots of benefits of consuming BCAAs prior to working out. This is due to the fact that they are a fast acting source of fuel. Additionally, BCAAs prevent muscle protein breakdown between workouts.

When should you take it?

Ideally, BCAAs should be consumed approximately 15 minutes prior to working out.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is a chemical that is naturally produced by your body. It is made up of three amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine. The most popular supplement form of creatine is creatine monohydrate – which is made up of creatine molecules with water molecules attached. This is why it is called “monohydrate”.

Function of Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is a source of fuel for your workouts. Additionally, it pulls water into your muscle cells, making them more hydrated, making them appear fuller and bigger.

For athletes who use creatine monohydrate or a pre-workout containing creatine monohydrate, there is less dehydration, injuries, heat illness, muscle cramps, and muscle tightness.

Why is creatine monohydrate a top pre-workout ingredient?

It’s important to note that micronized creatine monohydrate is one of the most important ingredients you’ll find in your pre-workout. It’s also one of the most common- you will find it in a lot of the different formulas on the market. Also, even though there are lots of different types of creatine on the market today, creatine monohydrate is superior in a variety of ways.

When should you take it?

The great thing about creatine monohydrate is that it doesn’t really matter when you take it. Many people actually spread out the dosage throughout the day- typically 5 milligrams at a time.


L-Citrulline is the fourth ingredient on our list. It is an amino acid that is naturally found in the body. The Latin word for L-citrulline is “watermelon”.

The primary function of this ingredient is to produce nitric oxide, which is a chemical that causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow. This is an important amino acid because your body can convert it to another amino acid: L-arginine.

It’s one of the building blocks of nitric oxide.

Function of L-Citrulline

When you consume L-citrulline, you’ll find that your blood flow during workouts is improved, making it easier for oxygen and other nutrients to get into your muscles. This will mean you can work out longer and harder. In addition to improved blood flow and improved oxygen and nutrient levels in the muscles, L-citrulline increases energy levels. In order to get the most benefit from L-citrulline, you need to consume it approximately 30 minutes prior to working out.


While many people seem to dismiss it, taurine- the fifth ingredient on our list- should not be ignored as a critical ingredient for pre-workout supplements. This ingredient works with caffeine and is considered a potential brain booster. It has been proven to reduce the effects of oxidative stress and brain cell inflammation. Another reason it’s important for pre-workouts is because it improves blood flow and facilitates the delivery of vital nutrition through the body to repair muscles.

Why is taurine a top pre-workout ingredient?

Studies show that taurine improves human endurance. The primary reason it’s a top pre-workout ingredient is because it is safe and is also naturally created in the body. You can find it in a variety of foods, including beef, seafood, and poultry.

When should you take it?

Experts say that taurine is effective as a pre-workout ingredient. It should be taken approximately 1 hour prior to working out. You can also take it three times daily, following meals. This will keep the level of taurine in your body at a steady level.


Beta-alanine is another amino acid, but it is non-essential. It is popular as a standalone supplement among fitness enthusiasts because it improves athletic performance and also provides benefits that support overall health.

Function of Beta-alanine

Research shows that beta-alanine increases the intensity and length of your workouts because it delays muscle fatigue. It also reduces the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles by increasing muscle carnosine levels.

In one study, participants who were given beta-alanine experienced increases in bench presses and reduced fatigue.

As mentioned, since beta-alanine increases carnosine levels in your muscles, it means the acid levels are reduced during workouts. This reduces overall fatigue. In order to get into your system and produce the effects you want, you should take approximately 30 to 45 minutes prior to working out. Effects should last for about 1.5 to 2 hours following consuming it- but has a lot to do with your activity level.

Acetyl L-Carnitine

Acetyl L-carnitine is a more powerful form of L-carnitine and is also referred to as Levocarnitine. It transports fatty acids to mitochondria to be used as a source of energy. It is most often obtained through diet and/or supplementation.

Function of Acetyl L-Carnitine

According to research, acetyl L-carnitine is responsible for reducing signs of oxidative stress and muscle damage following resistance training. It has also been proven to facilitate other functions of the body as well, such as maintenance of brain functioning. It also has a secondary function of facilitating the removal of waste products from your cells to prevent accumulation- which leads to issues down the road.

Some of the additional benefits include improving kidney disease, liver disease, fatigue/weakness due to cancer treatments, and improved heart health.

Why is acetyl L-carnitine a top pre-workout ingredient?

When an athlete supplements with L-carnitine, their performance is boosted. They experience greater muscle growth and faster recovery- which means they are able to get back to the gym quickly following intense workouts.

Research has shown that L-carnitine boosts brain functioning and overall cognition. It has also been shown to benefit patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, sciatica, male infertility, depression, and several other conditions.

When should you take it?

Acetyl L-carnitine absorbs into your system quickly- especially in liquid form. Therefore, you should take it first thing in the morning or just before your workouts.

Betaine Anhydrous

Betaine anhydrous is number 8 on our list of top 10 pre-workout ingredients. It is a molecule that comes from beetroot and is quite commonly found in pre-workouts. This ingredient is also naturally found in the body as well as foods including cereals, beets, spinach, seafood, and wine.

Function of Betaine Anhydrous

Often, betaine anhydrous is used to reduce homocysteine levels I the blood and has been proven to improve athletic performance. It metabolizes homocysteine which works with the blood, bones, brain, heart, muscles, and eyes to work normally.

Why is betaine anhydrous a top pre-workout ingredient?

There are several reasons why betaine anhydrous is a top pre-workout ingredient. They are as follows:

  • Pulls water into cells
  • Facilitates improved power
  • Improves muscle endurance
  • Creates better body composition
  • Increases bench reps and force

According to research, a lot of betaine anhydrous is lost when you sweat. Therefore, it just makes sense to refuel your reserves following an intense workout session.

Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline

You will find choline in three different forms:

  • Choline bitartrate
  • CDP-choline
  • Alpha-GCP

This should explain why you often see Alpha-GPC and CDP-choline together. Compared to choline bitartrate, both CDP-choline and Alpha-GPC are bioavailable sources of choline. Alpha-GPC and CDP-choline pass through the blood/brain barrier, bringing choline to the brain.

Function of Alpha-GPC and CDP-choline

Researchers conducted a very important study on how choline affected cognitive performance and overall mood. It was discovered that high doses of choline resulted in improvements in executive functioning, verbal/visual memory, verbal learning, and attention span. Choline improves athletic performance and metabolism and is an excellent treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Its also been shown to improve overall brain health.

Why is Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline considered top pre-workout ingredients?

For the purposes of nootropics, choline is amazing because it has been proven to improve focus. Unfortunately, this one is lacking in the modern diet, and it’s recommended that you take a supplement containing it even if you are not an avid workout enthusiast.

When should you take it?

You should take a choline supplement first thing in the morning. Then, approximately 30 minutes prior to working out, you should take a 400 milligram dose.


When you are looking over the ingredients in your pre-workout and find Niacin, Vitamin B12 and other B-vitamins, you can be sure that you’ve selected the right one and that it’s holistic.

Function of B-Vitamins

B-vitamins are major energy boosters and are necessary for improving metabolism and building up both short-term and long-term energy. These vitamins also regulate cholesterol and help tone muscles, which fuels your workouts.

Why are B-vitamins a top pre-workout ingredient?

According to research, Vitamin B-6 plays a critical role in metabolic pathways needed for exercise. Vitamin B-12 facilitates the synthesis of DNA, which is critical for the formation of red blood cells.

When should you take it?

Ideally, you should take your B-vitamins when you wake up. In order to make it easier for the body to absorb, it should be taken with food. There are some who believe taking a B-vitamin supplement in the evening will have an effect on your sleep.


In the past, it was believed that if you wanted to increase energy levels, you should make sure you are eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and eating bananas. Of course, this is still somewhat true today- but it’s a lot easier to boost your energy levels and workout performance with a pre-workout supplement. A pre-workout formula that has the right ingredients will do the job for you.

This is because pre-workout supplements are formulated to provide your body with everything it needs to increase energy and overall health to maintain your HIIT workouts for longer. In this article, we’ve explained the top 10 most common pre-workout ingredients. These have been scientifically proven to strengthen muscles, increase blood flow, and reduce fat.

However, it is important to remember that you must read the labels to make sure you’re getting a quality supplement. Not all pre-workouts are the same. Different companies use different combinations of ingredients to focus on specific goals. If you need help selecting a product, learn more about the best pre workout supplements here.



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