Pre-Workout Ingredients: 10 Common Ones & What They Do

pre-workout ingredients

A pre-workout is the supplement you take, usually a powdered drink that is meant to boost your workout performance when you consume it before working out.

If you are someone looking to take your performance at the gym or at home to the next level, you will know everything has to work together to get you looking and performing at your ultimate best.

And there are endless options when it comes to the best ingredients for your pre-workout supplement.

There are heaps of exaggerated market-related performance claims out there.

We are going to dive into the science behind our top 10 – the most needed ingredients for your pre-workout products.

The evidence-based benefits of these common pre-workout ingredients are going to amplify your performance all the way!

10 Common Ingredients In Pre-Workout Supplements

1) L-Citrulline

 The Latin term for L-Citrulline is ‘watermelon.’ L-Citrulline is an amino acid found in the body.

Its main function in the body is to produce a chemical called nitric oxide.

This helps your blood vessels to expand. It’s a very important amino acid because the body can change it into another amino acid called L-arginine.

It’s the building block of nitric oxide production.

What it Does

You will notice your blood flow improving during workouts.

That makes it easier for oxygen and other nutrients to get to your muscles.

In other words, you will experience extreme pumps and be able to work out longer. 

Citrulline offers powerful health benefits such as increased blood flow and energy as well as increased oxygen into the muscles.

To get the best out of Citrulline, take about 30 minutes before you work out.

2) Beta-Alanine

Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid. It is a very popular supplement amongst fitness and athlete enthusiasts. That’s because it enhances performance as well as benefits your overall health.

What it Does

It helps you to train longer and harder because muscle fatigue is delayed. It also reduces lactic acid building up in the muscles.

This is because it increases muscle carnosine levels.

One study on participants who took Beta-Alanine showed increases in bench press volume and also less fatigue.

Since Beta-Alanine supplements increase carnosine levels, they help the muscles reduce their acid levels during exercise. This lessens overall fatigue.

Take Beta-Alanine about 30-45 minutes before starting your workout.

This allows it to enter your system and produce the desired effects.

The effects should last for about an hour-and-a-half and 2 hours after taking it, but it will depend on your activity levels.

3) Betaine Anhydrous

Betaine anhydrous is a molecule that is derived from beetroot. It is one of the popular pre-workout supplements.

It occurs naturally in the body and can be found in foods like spinach, beets, seafood, wine, and cereals. 

What it Does 

Betaine supplements are often used for reducing blood homocysteine levels. It is known to improve athletic performance.

It helps to metabolize a chemical in the body called homocysteine.

Homocysteine helps the blood, eyes, bones, muscles, heart, brain, and nerves to function normally.

Why is it a top ingredient?

  • It attracts water into the muscle cells
  • Better power output
  • Improved muscle endurance
  • Better body composition
  • More bench press repetitions and force

Research shows that you lose a lot of betaine in sweating during workouts. So it makes sense to refuel after a hectic workout session.

4) Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) 

BCAAs are the essential amino acids called leucine, valine, and isoleucine.

These are metabolized by the body and converted into sources of muscle energy.

These three amino acids or proteins can be found in dairy and meat.

Several studies have shown the benefits of branched-chain amino acids, BCAAs on recovery after exercise.

What It Does

Taking Branched Chanin amino acids, BCAAs, you are effectively preventing muscle stinging and soreness, as well as muscle wasting.

Your energy levels are increased and your stamina improved.

The depletion of muscle glycogen during exercise is slowed down as well [5].

Why is it a top ingredient?

There are incredible benefits to taking BCAAs before a workout.

This is because they provide the body with a fast-acting fuel source. BCAAs help to prevent muscle protein breakdown during workouts.

When should it be taken?

The best time is to take BCAA’s before your workout, about 15 minutes pre-workout.

5) L-Theanine + Caffeine

L-Theanine is an amino acid and is found in mushrooms and teas such as green tea and black tea.

There are two forms; D-Theanine and L-Theanine of which L-Theanine is the more common one. Usually, L-Theanine is used to improve mental function and stress.

Just don’t confuse L-Theanine with threonine which is also an amino acid – they aren’t the sam

Many people take L-Theanine on its own. Then, it’s an effective nootropic.

But when it is combined with caffeine, as a supplement; you get a more synergized outcome. You will experience heightened energy, awareness, and focus.

Stress will be reduced and your mental endurance will be stronger.

When L-Theanine is paired with caffeine, it helps to lessen the side effects of taking caffeine.

Why is it a top pre-workout ingredient?

The combination of L-Theanine and caffeine is often referred to as smart caffeine.

While caffeine raises energy levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, L-Theanine helps to use these stimulatory effects in a productive manner.

Studies show that L-Theanine supports increased productivity, focus, and calmness.

When should it be taken?

The best and easiest ways are to take the capsule when you want to experience the effects; that would be about half an hour before. 

6) CDP-Choline and Alpha-GPC

Choline comes in three forms – CDP-choline, choline bitartrate, and alpha-GPC.

Now you can understand why CDP-choline and Alpha-GPC are often bought together.

Alpha-GPC and CDP-choline are highly bioavailable sources of choline, compared to choline bitartrate.

Choline bitartrate is the commercial source of the choline nutrient. CDP-Choline and Alpha-GPC cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver usable choline to the brain.

What It Does

An important study was concluded on the effects of choline on mood and cognitive performance.

It was found that higher doses of choline lead to improvements in verbal and visual memory, attention span, verbal learning, and executive function.

Choline is noted to be excellent for dementia, Alzheimer’s, and brain health. Choline improves metabolism and athletic performance.

Why is it a good ingredient? 

For nootropic purposes, choline is a superb pre-workout ingredient as it increases focus. Unfortunately, choline is often missing today in the modern diet as well.

In fact, it is advised to take a choline supplement even if you aren’t a gym-goer.

When should it be taken? 

It is suggested to be taken first thing in the morning. Then you can take another 400 mg dose about 30 minutes before your workout. 

7) Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine consists of three different amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine.

Creatine monohydrate is the most popular form of creatine supplement.

What Creatine monohydrate really is, is creatine with a molecule of water attached to it.

That’s why it has that name – monohydrate.

 What it Does

Creatine is a fuel sore of energy when doing workouts.

It also draws water into the muscle cells and makes them more hydrated. The action of drawing water into the muscle cells makes them fuller, or bigger.

There are fewer incidents of muscle cramping, less dehydration and heat illness, muscle tightness, and injuries compared to athletes who didn’t supplement their pre-workout formula with creatine.

Why is it one of the best pre-workout ingredients?

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most common and more important ingredients in pre-workout.

You will find it in many pre-workout formulas.

One exercise physiologist and researcher, Nickolas Coker, says with “exotic new forms of creatine notwithstanding, good old creatine monohydrate seems to win out time and time again.” 

When should it be taken?

 Take it just before you exercise or shortly after your workout or at a time when it isn’t close to your workout. Or you can split the daily dose and take it all through the day.

8) Acetyl L-Carnitine

Acetyl L-Carnitine is also known as levocarnitine. Acetyl L-Carnitine is a more powerful form of L-carnitine.

It is responsible for transporting fatty acids into mitochondria – to be used as energy.

People get it from their diet or take it in supplements.

What it Does

Acetyl L-Carnitine reduces symptoms of oxidative stress and muscle damage after resistance training. It helps with other functions of the body too, such as maintaining brain function.

It has a secondary function of helping to remove waste products from the cells to stop them from accumulating and causing problems. 

It has added benefits in improving heart health, cancer treatment weakness, and fatigue, liver or kidney disease.

Why is it a top pre-workout ingredient?

When athletes supplement with L-Carnitine, they notice a boost in their performance.

Better muscle growth is experienced, and they get back into the gym more easily after tough workouts.

L-Carnitine is known to boost cognition and brain function, plus is of benefit for Alzheimer’s disease, male infertility, depression, sciatica, and more.

When should it be taken?

It gets absorbed quickly into the body, particularly when it’s in liquid form. Take it in the morning or prior to your workouts.

9) Taurine

Taurine should not be overlooked as a vital pre-workout ingredient. It is a very potential brain booster, working with caffeine.

 It helps to reduce brain cell inflammation as well as oxidative stress.

So vital for pre-workouts, it improves blood flow and helps to deliver muscle repairing nutrition through the body.

Why is it a top workout ingredient? 

Taurine has been shown to improve human endurance performance.

The reason is that it is a top ingredient as it is safe as it is also created naturally in the body.

It is found in a lot of protein foods, such as poultry, seafood, and beef.

When should it be taken?

Taurine is an effective pre-workout ingredient. Take it about an hour before your workout. Generally, take a dose three times in the day after your meals. That will keep your levels topped up.

10) B Vitamins

 If you do happen to notice that vitamin B12, niacin, and the other B-vitamins are on the ingredients list of your pre-workout formula, then you know you have the right pre-workout formula and that it is holistic.

What it Does 

The B vitamins are huge energy boosters.

They are necessary to build up long-term and ongoing energy and metabolism.

They tone your muscles and really fuel your workouts. They also help to regulate your cholesterol production.

Why are they a top workout ingredient?

Research has shown that vitamin B-6 plays an imperative role in the metabolic pathways required for exercise.

Vitamin B-12 assists with DNA synthesis.

This is so important for the formation of red blood cells.

When should it be taken?

The best time to take vitamin B is when you wake up.

Take your vitamin B supplement with food to help with absorption. It is said that when you take vitamin B in the afternoon, it can affect your sleep.


Years back when you wanted to boost your energy levels, you would be recommended to eat bananas, drink plenty of water, and eat a healthy diet.

That still stands today, but you could boost your workouts and your energy levels so much easier today.

Pre-workout formulas with the right science-backed ingredients will do the job for you, and better.

After all, pre-workout supplements are designed to provide you with all the energy and health you need to maintain your high-intensity workouts for longer.

We have put together the top ten scientifically proven ingredients that will do the job of strengthening your muscles, increasing blood flow, and helping to reduce fat.

Do remember, though, that not all pre-workout formulas are created equally.

Each one uses different ingredients which are intended to focus on certain fitness goals.

The ones we have included will suit your training goals, and help you to accomplish all your goals in the gym and even your other activities.

If you’re looking for more energy, improved motivation, longer-lasting pumps, and stronger all around, we’ve got you 100% covered.