8 Common Active Ingredients In Pre Workouts & What They Do? (2023)

Last Updated on June, 2023

A good pre-workout supplement will have a pretty significant impact on your training.

But each pre-workout formula is different, and hundreds of different products exist. So it’s pretty overwhelming to pick one that suits your fitness goals.

A good starting point is looking at the main ingredients in pre-workouts. Although the ingredient list varies, few ingredients are scientifically proven to provide benefits during exercise.

We will take you through the main pre-workout ingredients, and look at how each ingredient contributes to your performance.

So keep reading to discover the common pre-workout ingredients, and then you can choose the right supplement for your fitness goals.

What Exactly Does a Pre-Workout Supplement Do?

8 Common Active Ingredients In Pre Workouts & What They Do? (1)

Pre-workouts are supplements that you take before strenuous exercise. They boost your energy levels, keep you alert and reduce muscle fatigue.

These products come in various forms, such as pills, powders, and liquids.

Pre-workouts have both short-term and long-term benefits. Regular pre-workout intake will improve your overall performance and endurance. Also if you don’t consume the recommended amount of these ingredients, you’ll experience bad side effects.

8 Main Pre-Workout Ingredients

1. Caffeine

Caffeine is the ingredient associated with energy and focus. Therefore, it is a common ingredient in many pre-workout formulas. Caffeine acts as a stimulant to increase alertness and focus. Therefore, many products contain an equivalent amount of caffeine as in one to three cups of coffee. (1)

There are a few downsides to taking too much caffeine. A daily caffeine intake greater than 500 mg/day can have undesirable side effects. The most well-known side effect is poor sleep. High caffeine levels can also cause other issues like dehydration and gastrointestinal upset.

2. Creatine

8 Common Active Ingredients In Pre Workouts & What They Do? (2)

Creatine is a nitrogen-containing compound that is both consumed in the diet and manufactured in the body. Milk and meat are two food products with high creatine levels.

Creatine aids muscles in making ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP supplies energy for muscle contraction by generating a large amount of energy in short bursts. As a result, creatine improves overall athletic performance by boosting energy.

If you are looking for a significant muscle size and strength increase, creatine is an essential ingredient. Therefore, creatine is a must-have ingredient for those interested in bodybuilding and heavy weightlifting.

(Video) PRE-WORKOUT EXPLAINED! — What Is It & Should You Be Using Pre-Workout Supplements? | Doctor ER

However, creatine doesn’t give fast results. If you stick with the daily dosage of creatine, you’ll see results in about 30 days. So it’s essential to continue with a regular intake.

3. Branched Chain Amino Acids

Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are essential amino acids. Your body cannot synthesize BCAA, so you must consume plenty of food products with BCAA or opt for a dietary supplement with BCAA. BCAA are present in protein-rich food products like meat, fish, dairy, and legumes. (2)

There are 3 crucial BCAA. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These 3 amino acids are vital for muscle protein synthesis. In addition, these BCAA work together to reduce protein breakdown during a workout.

Leucine is a vital amino acid that stimulates muscle growth and recovery. Other benefits of BCAA include reduced fatigue and soreness.

Related article: BCAAs vs Pre-Workout

4. Beta-Alanine

8 Common Active Ingredients In Pre Workouts & What They Do? (3)

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid (an amino acid produced naturally in the body) and a vital ingredient in most pre-workout products.

Beta-alanine increases levels of muscle carnosine. Carnosine acts as a buffer and reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles during strenuous exercise. This, in turn, can reduce muscle cramping and delay fatigue.

The ultimate result is that you can work out for a longer time with minimal exhaustion.

The recommended daily dosage of beta-alanine is 1.5-5 g. Unfortunately, beta-alanine is also known for causing the infamous beta-alanine itch. Some people experience this harmless tingling sensation after taking supplements containing beta-alanine.

You can also consider the best pre workout supplements without beta alanine, if you don’t want to experience this infamous beta-alanine itch & harmless tingling sensation. And this guide shows the reasons why these supplements make you tingle and Itch.

5. Citrulline

Citrulline is another non-essential amino acid naturally occurring in foods like pumpkin and watermelon. However, unlike most other amino acids, citrulline is not a building block of protein.

Citrulline helps in nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator. This means it can dilate your blood vessels, thus increasing blood flow. Vasodilation improves blood circulation during exercise. Improved blood flow allows the muscles to gain extra nutrients and oxygen. This keeps your muscles active and helps you perform better without feeling exhausted.

Citrulline comes in two different forms: L citrulline and citrulline malate. L citrulline is citrulline in its natural form. Citrulline malate has malic acid added to it. Malic acid has benefits such as high energy production. Many studies have proven the benefits of citrulline for athletes.

Both citrulline malate and L citrulline help with vasodilation. However, the added benefits of malic acid make citrulline malate a better option than L Citrulline in sports performance. A supplement with citrulline will increase endurance and help you do more reps. (3)

6. Taurine

8 Common Active Ingredients In Pre Workouts & What They Do? (4)
(Video) What to look out for in a pre workout

Taurine is another essential amino acid found in pre-workouts. This amino acid is present in our brains, heart, and muscles. Taurine naturally occurs in meat, fish, and dairy products.

Taurine maintains electrolyte balance and hydration level during workouts.(4)

A continuous supply of taurine reduces muscle soreness and improves endurance. Taurine also plays a role in thermoregulation during exercise.

Another benefit of taurine is that it acts as a cell volumeizer. This means that your muscles retain taurine. As a result, taurine reduces the risk of calcium deletion and cramping.

7. Vitamin B

Vitamin B is an integral component of many dietary supplements. Vitamin B is known by other names like niacin, Vitamin B or Vitamin B12.

Vitamin B plays a role in toning up your muscles and improving your metabolism. B vitamins enhance the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. (5)

The metabolic reactions produce energy and boost performance.

8. Electrolytes

The correct balance of electrolytes is vital to keep your body functioning correctly. The most common electrolytes are calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, and phosphate.

A hard workout session will make you sweat and lose a lot of electrolytes. Electrolytes play critical roles in the human body, such as maintaining pH balance and regulating muscle and nerve function.

Electrolyte imbalance has serious effects such as rapid heartbeat, fever, and drowsiness.

Pre-workout products prevent your electrolyte levels from falling too low. Maintaining the proper electrolyte balance helps you feel and perform better. (6)

Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Supplements


Better performance: Using a pre-workout product in its recommended dose will improve endurance and reduce fatigue. This will greatly impact your overall performance. Ingredients like beta-alanine, citrulline, and Vitamin B work together to bring out your best performance.

Improves alertness and focus: Stimulating ingredients like caffeine activates your nervous system and makes you more alert.

Helps in muscle development: Amino acids play a significant role in muscle growth. In fact, amino acids are essential for lean muscle growth. Pre-workout products also help you to recover from muscle soreness quickly.

(Video) 5 MOST POPULAR Pre Workout Ingredients (BEST Supplements To Use)


Tingles: Beta-alanine in pre-workout products is responsible for causing a side effect commonly known as pre-workout tingles. This is an unpleasant itchy sensation in the arms and feet. These tingles are harmless; nevertheless, it’s an annoying effect that may distract you from your workout.

Disruption of sleep: Caffeine is the world’s best-known stimulant. But for some people, the effects of caffeine may last longer than needed.

You could avoid taking supplements late in the day to prevent caffeine from messing up your sleep. Limiting your consumption of coffee and other caffeinated products like tea is also a good idea.


Are All Pre-Workout Ingredients Safe?

Yes, all ingredients are included in doses that are safe and beneficial. However, some people may be sensitive to common ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine. Always read the pre-workout ingredient lists and avoid products with ingredients you may be sensitive to.

(Video) Pre-Workout Supplements: How To PROPERLY Use It To Boost Performance (Avoid Side Effects!)

Are There Pre-Workout Supplements Without Caffeine?

Yes, there are many pre-workout supplements without caffeine. If you feel caffeine keeps you up at night, it is better to opt for a caffeine-free pre-workout.

How Long Does it Take for Pre-Workout Formulas to Work?

It takes about 30-45 minutes for a pre-workout supplement to kick in. However, this time may change based on the pre-workout formula and your metabolism. The effects of your pre-workout can last up to 2 hours.


Pre-workout products are an easy, healthy, and convenient way to boost your exercise performance. But as with everything else, keeping track of what you consume is crucial.

Caffeine, creatine, taurine, citrulline, BCAA, vitamin B, and electrolytes are main pre-workout ingredients that work together to make your workout more effective. Also, some brands contain additional ingredients for texture and flavor.

The best option is to stick with a product that contains the essential ingredients and a few additional ingredients as possible.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462044/
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324605
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/citrulline-supplements
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12355187/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17240780/
  6. https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/article/3085477/pre-workout-electrolyte-drinks-dont-improve-performance

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What is the most common ingredient in pre-workout? ›

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most common and more important ingredients in pre-workout, and you'll find it in almost all brands. Creatine monohydrate improves strength, helps build lean muscle and aids in recovery.

What are the most common stimulants in pre-workout? ›

The most popular pre-workout stimulants are caffeine, yohimbine, theobromine, and theacrine. Non-stimulant: Usually referred to as “non-stim,” this pre-workout only contains natural energy boosters that don't rely on the stimulants mentioned above.

What are the active ingredients in pre-workout? ›

Certain ingredients in pre-workout supplements, such as creatine, caffeine, beta-alanine, BCAAs, and nitric oxide precursors, have been shown to support athletic performance.

What ingredient in pre-workout helps pump? ›

Pump-focused pre-workout supplements contain a blend of ingredients meant to stimulate increased blood and oxygen flow to working muscles during exercise. The main ingredients to look for include L-citrulline, arginine, and betaine in research-backed doses of 6–8 grams, 3–6 grams, and 2.5 grams, respectively.

What ingredient in pre-workout causes a pump? ›

The component that is responsible for the widening of blood vessels is L-arginine, which produces nitric oxide that promotes vasodilation and muscle “pumps,” which is the increased muscle size during a workout from the dilation of blood vessels.

What drug is in C4 pre-workout? ›

C4 Original Pre Workout Powder
IngredientAmount per 6.5 g serving (1 scoop)
beta-alanine1,600 mg
creatine nitrate1,000 mg
arginine1,000 mg
caffeine150 mg
May 23, 2022

What does a high stimulant pre-workout do? ›

What Is A Stimulant Pre Workout? Stimulant pre-workouts will have varying doses of stimulants such as caffeine, di-caffeine malate, yohimbine, theobromine, theacrine/teacrine, etc... to increase energy levels, alertness, cognitive abilities, exercise performance, and stamina.

What are the active ingredients in C4? ›

C4 Sport Energy Blend: Taurine, Caffeine Anhydrous (135 mg), Pyridoxine HCl, Cyanocobalamin. Other Ingredients: Citric Acid, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Silicon Dioxide, Calcium Silicate, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, FD&C Red 40.

What does black pepper extract do in pre-workout? ›

BioPerine® or Black Pepper Extract is a common ingredient found in many pre-workouts due to its improved absorption rate and overall thermogenesis properties to help with energy and increased internal temperature. Increased metabolism rate has also been linked to BioPerine® to help regulate body weight.

What does beta-alanine do? ›

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is produced naturally in the body. Beta-alanine aids in the production of carnosine. That's a compound that plays a role in muscle endurance in high-intensity exercise.

What shouldn't be in pre-workout? ›

7 Pre-Workout Ingredients To Avoid
  • High Dose Caffeine. ...
  • Artificial Colors or Flavors. ...
  • Proprietary Blends. ...
  • Artificial Sweeteners. ...
  • Under-Dosed Ingredients. ...
  • Non-Science Backed Formulas. ...
  • Fillers And Unnecessary Pre-Workout Ingredients.
Oct 19, 2022

What ingredient in pre-workout makes you itch? ›

Simply put, ingesting beta-alanine triggers certain neurons responsible for initiating a tingling of the skin. This sensation is referred to as paresthesia. This is a common reaction to certain ingredients in pre-workouts and there is no need to be alarmed.

What's a natural pre-workout? ›

Natural Pre-Workouts

Coffee: A cup of black coffee (with or without sugar) before your workout is a great way to up your energy levels. Bananas: Rich in starchy carbohydrates, one banana will contain around 14g of sugar, made of glucose and fructose – two sugar types that are ideal for athletic performance.

Does salt give you a better pump? ›

A lot of strength and power is intracellular water retention and sodium will help you retain water better. Get better pumps! The same way that sodium helps you to contract your muscles, it'll also help to flood your muscles with more water, meaning you get much better pumps in the gym.

Why is C4 banned? ›

The drink that the students bought, a Creatine Nitrate product called C4 Extreme manufactured by the pro workout supplement company Cellucor, unknowingly contained Synephrine, a substance that is considered "performance enhancing" and is banned by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Does C4 affect sleep? ›

While C4 contains a reasonable amount of caffeine (150 mg), it could cause sleep problems if you take it too late at night.

Can C4 cause hair loss? ›

Well, Creatine doesn't actually attack your hair follicles directly, but it will increase the amount of testosterone in your bloodstream. As a result something called DHT will be produced which is proven to accelerate hair loss and baldness.

What are the two types of pre-workout? ›

Pre-workouts can be divided into two groups: those with stimulants, and those without. The stimulants pretty much always include caffeine, in widely varying doses, but may include other stimulants including yohimbine, theacrine (Teacrine as the most common), guarana, and many others.

Is bucked up safe? ›

Bucked Up pre-workouts should be safe for most individuals as long as you follow the label instructions when using this product. The supplement label suggests mixing one-scoop (one serving size) of powder with eight to 10 ounces of water and consuming 15 to 30 minutes before exercise.

How many types of pre-workout are there? ›

There are two categories of pre-workout: Products with stimulants and products without. Pre-workout like a lot like a strong cup of coffee because it has a similar effect as your morning brew; it takes about 30-45 minutes to feel it increase your energy and focus.

What is stim vs non-stim? ›

The main difference between a 'stim' and 'non-stim' pre-workout is caffeine. A 'stim' pre-workout will contain caffeine which has been used widely in supplements to increase alertness and endurance. A non-stim preworkout is a similar supplement but does not contain caffeine or stimulants.

What pre-workout gives you a lot of energy? ›

Caffeine is the most popular and well-studied ingredient in pre-workout supplements. It has been shown to improve performance, focus, and energy levels. Caffeine doses of around 200 mg are most effective for improving performance. Creatine is another popular ingredient in pre-workout supplements.

How long does a pre-workout high last? ›

"It really depends on the ingredients and the length of the workout, but on average, the effects of a pre-workout last between 30 minutes to 2.5 hours," from the time it kicks in, says Gans. The goal is to time your consumption of the supplement so that its effects will reach their peak during your workout.

Does C4 have testosterone? ›

Does C4 Pre-Workout have testosterone? C4 Pre-Workout does not contain testosterone. One of Cellucor's other pre-workout products, C4 Sport, contains testosterone-boosting ingredients.

Does C4 use creatine? ›

C4 Sport Pre Workout Powder - Pre Workout Energy with 3g Creatine Monohydrate + 135mg Caffeine and Beta-Alanine Performance Blend - NSF Certified for Sport | 25 Servings.

Is C4 the same as creatine? ›

The difference in C4? Most studies use creatine monohydrate, an inexpensive, widely available supplement with a load of research to support its use. Cellucor uses creatine nitrate in C4, a form of creatine with the added benefit of nitrate content [nitrates are in beets!].

What is the main ingredient in C4 pre-workout? ›

C4 Sport Performance Blend: Carnosyn Beta-Alanine, L-Arginine, Con-Cret Creatine HCl, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Chloride, Dipotassium Phosphate, C4 Sport Energy Blend: Taurine, Caffeine Anhydrous (135 mg), Pyridoxine HCl, Cyanocobalamin.

What ingredient should you avoid in pre-workout? ›

7 Pre-Workout Ingredients To Avoid
  • High Dose Caffeine. ...
  • Artificial Colors or Flavors. ...
  • Proprietary Blends. ...
  • Artificial Sweeteners. ...
  • Under-Dosed Ingredients. ...
  • Non-Science Backed Formulas. ...
  • Fillers And Unnecessary Pre-Workout Ingredients.
Oct 19, 2022

Is caffeine the main ingredient in pre-workout? ›

The main ingredient in most pre-workout products is caffeine, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. “Caffeine can be great in the appropriate amount,” Patton says. “It stimulates the body's central nervous system, improves reaction time and can reduce fatigue.”

What does C4 stand for? ›

C4 stands for Composition 4, which is part of Composition C. This consists of U.S. explosives made up of mostly RDX. With this type of explosive, a plastic binder material is combined with explosive chemicals. On top of RDX, C4 is made up of motor oil.

What is the active ingredient in C4 explosive? ›

Composition C4 is a plastic explosive substance used in military combat units for demolition. The active component of composition C4 is hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine, also known as RDX (Royal Demolition Explosive).

What ingredient in C4 gives you energy? ›

C4 Pre-Workout is a workout supplement line from Cellucor that people may take before exercise to help increase energy, alertness, and strength. They contain caffeine and creatine, which may help increase the effectiveness of a workout.

What is illegal in pre-workout? ›

The culprit is usually, but not always, DMAA or DMHA. When the FDA finds out that a pre-workout contains these banned stimulants, it usually doesn't take too long for that product to be discontinued. The funny thing is that you can still buy DMAA and DMHA online.

What ingredients in pre-workout cause anxiety? ›

You'll find caffeine in most pre-workout supplements, but this stimulant can cause jitteriness, anxiety, and an increased heart rate. If you experience side effects, try a smaller dose to see how your body reacts.

What exactly does creatine do? ›

Creatine is a natural source of energy that helps your skeletal muscles flex (contract). It helps create a steady supply of energy in your muscles so they can keep working, especially while you're exercising.

Should you take creatine? ›

Creatine is one of the cheapest, most effective, and safest supplements you can take. It supports quality of life in older adults, brain health, and exercise performance. Vegetarians — who may not obtain enough creatine from their diet — and older adults may find supplementing particularly useful.


1. Pre-Workout: Do You REALLY Need It & What Does It Actually Do? | Myprotein
2. Pre-Workout Must Have Ingredients
(Jim Stoppani, PhD)
3. Top 4: Pre Workout Ingredients
(Lift - Run - Stretch)
4. What They Don't Tell You About Preworkouts
5. How To Make Your Own Pre-Workout Supplements (For Cheap & Best Ingredients) - Science & Evidence
(Citizen Athletics)
6. YOUR PUMP PRODUCT EXPLAINED | Are you really getting enough pump? | Fouad Abiad
(Fouad Abiad Media)


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