Top 5 Best Pre-Workouts In The UK (and What’s In Them)


I’ve used pre-workouts from time to time for their benefits on increasing energy, muscle mass, and reducing recovery time.

If you’re looking for a pre-workout, but feeling a bit overwhelmed with choices, I’ve put together the ones I originally shortlisted, explained their ingredients, and answered some questions.

Quality is important! So there’s also some info on which pre-workout supplements are banned in the UK, and why. You should always check ingredients, so I’ve broken some of them down to put them in context.

Best Pre-Workout Supplement in the UK

C4 Original Pre-Workout Powder
(Check Amazon’s Price)

C4’s Original Pre-Workout powder is my go-to pre-workout – it’s a decent price, does the job, and is consistent, which I regard as very important.

C4 comes in a variety of flavours, from Pink Lemonade to Icy Blue Razz. I prefer the Raspberry.

This particular pre-workout has a positive reputation in both the bodybuilding and weightlifting communities due to being a general use supplement no matter your particular exercise goals – it’s an all-rounder.

If you’ve never used a pre-workout before, it’s a good place to start.

The main active ingredients are Caffeine, Creatine, Arginine as AAKG and Beta-Alanine as well as vitamins B and C to support energy metabolism and collagen synthesis.

The Caffeine contained in this pre-workout is 150mg – which is the minimum effective dose, meaning that you can get that burst of energy to complete your workout but won’t be left on a caffeine high for the rest of the day or give you an energy crash after a few hours.

Another ingredient contained in this is N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, which works to increase your focus and stabilise your mood during your workout.

This pre-workout is also formulated to improve endurance due to the combination of Creatine and Beta-Alanine.

C4’s Powder is easy to take, just mix one scoop with around 200ml of water, 20-30 minutes before training and you’re good to go. I use slightly more water to ensure I’m well hydrated before exercising.

Pros:

  • Multiple flavours
  • Great all rounder, can be used by anyone no matter their goals
  • Effective ingredients
  • Added vitamins and minerals
  • Dissolves well
  • Easy to use
  • Comes with a scoop
  • Vegan

Cons:

  • Some may find the caffeine content too weak, in which case you could increase the dose slightly or use the Grenade, below.

Strongest Pre-Workout in the UK

Grenade 50 Calibre Blast
(Check Amazon’s Price)

If you need something stronger, this pre-workout by Grenade has a caffeine content of 100mg per 100ml which is certainly enough to give you an energy boost and smash any tiredness.

Full disclosure – this was too much caffeine for me. I liked it, had a great workout, but it took me ages to get to sleep that night.

Caffeine affects everyone differently so if you’re a low responder or like the kick, you’ll love this. If you don’t want ANY caffeine then there’s a caffeine -free recommendation below.

Along with Caffeine, this pre-workout contains Creatine and Beta-Alanine to improve your endurance as well as Citrulline Malate – a superior version of Arginine as it’s converted into Arginine when needed, better absorbed than Arginine and leads to more consistent levels of Arginine in the body.

Citrulline Malate may help to improve your power output, reduce fatigue and increase your endurance during exercise.

This pre-workout also contains MDS (Muscle Defence System) anti-catabolic support which is supposed to help avoid excess muscle breakdown during high-intensity strength workouts.

There are also claims that the ingredients can increase the levels of muscle-building hormones and increase blood flow to give you better muscle pumps but as I’m not using it regularly I couldn’t measure this.

There’s 4 flavours to choose from and each box has 50 servings. To take this pre-workout simply mix half a scoop of powder with 150ml-250ml of water and take before your workout.

Pros:

  • 4 flavours
  • High caffeine content
  • Effective ingredients
  • May help to avoid excess muscle breakdown
  • May increase the blood flow to the muscles and increase the levels of muscle building hormones
  • 50 servings per box

Cons:

  • The high caffeine content means that you can’t take this pre-workout any less than 6 hours before you intend to go to bed – so may not be suitable for those who like to workout in the evening

Best Caffeine Free Pre-Workout in the UK

Amplify Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout
(Check Amazon’s Price)

If, like me, you’re a high responder to caffeine, then don’t worry – there’s a caffeine-free pre-workout on the market too and it does the job just as well.

I tend to have a small amount of caffeine rather than none (see the first pre-workout on this list), but if you want zero, then this pre-workout by Amplify will give you an energy boost to make the most of your workouts without any Caffeine.

It contains Citrulline, as well as Taurine which is said to aid in hydration, increased blood flow and muscle function.

Amplify also contains Creatine HCl, which is a form of Creatine that dissolves a lot better than Creatine Monohydrate and is said not to increase water intention, which is a positive as it avoids any bloating you may have with a lower quality Creatine.

It also contains Grape Seed Extract which is a powerful antioxidant and is said to lower blood pressure.

There’s also Coconut Water Powder and Himalayan Pink Salt, which both can help with keeping you hydrated – this should give you better pumps and lower the risk of muscle cramps.

There are 3 flavours, as well as an unflavoured version and is easy to mix – just add 1-2 scoops of pre-workout into around 250ml of water, 30 minutes before exercising.

Pros:

  • Caffeine free
  • Effective ingredients
  • Contains Creatine HCl rather than Creatine Monohydrate
  • 3 flavours as well as an unflavoured version
  • Mixes well

Cons:

  • Some say that this does not boost their energy as they would like, but this may be because they are used to taking caffeine!

Best UK Pre-Workout Drink

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
(Check Amazon’s Price)

This gold standard pre-workout by Optimum Nutrition contains 175mg of Caffeine per serving which is on the lower end compared to some pre-workouts, meaning you shouldn’t get jittery and have an energy crash (depending on your Caffeine tolerance), but will still get that burst of energy.

It’s pretty low in sugar and also contains Acetyl-L-Carnitine HCl and N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine which work together and can improve alertness and blood flow to the muscles.

Beta-Alanine and L-Citrulline are said to help with improved endurance and blood flow, whilst the Creatine may help with your power output.

One of my favourite things about this particular pre-workout is the brand’s focus on immunity, with them saying that it’s an important aspect of recovery so they’ve added Ginseng Root Extract, which is said to support your immune system and improve immunity.

They’ve also added B Vitamins and Vitamin D  which may help to increase your energy levels and support hormone health.

As with the other pre-workouts, there’s a few flavours to choose from and 1 scoop of powder needs to be mixed with 350ml of cold water until it’s dissolved.

I regard this as the best drink as it’s an easy, fruit-flavoured pre-workout that mixes well without powdery dregs.

Pros:

  • Not too much Caffeine
  • May help improve endurance and blood flow as well as power output
  • Added Vitamins and Ginseng Root Extract
  • 4 flavours
  • Easily dissolved
  • Almost sugar free

Cons:

  • May contain allergens: Peanuts, Soy, Eggs, Milk and Gluten

Best Vegan Pre-Workout in the UK

RSP Vegan Amino Lean
(Check Amazon’s Price)

I ought to start by mentioning my ‘top’ pre-workout (C4, at the top of this list) is vegan, but this pre-workout by Amino Lean is vegan too, but it’s also made from all-natural ingredients such as fermented tea leaves, guarana, and matcha.

There’s also a blend of amino acids that may help to aid muscle repair and boost your performance. This can also help to manage a healthy weight with Green Tea and Coffee Extract, Carnitine, and CLA.

It also contains Taurine, Beta-Alanine, L-Citrulline which can help to improve endurance, blood flow and aid in hydration.

This one’s pretty good because besides using it as a pre-workout, it can also be used as a post-workout too. It can be taken at any time of the day, so your schedule isn’t dictated by your supplements.

It comes in 2 flavours, Cucumber Lemon and Acai and 2 scoops are mixed with 250ml of cold water.

Pros:

  • All natural and Vegan
  • Can be taken any time of the day
  • May help to repair muscles as well as boost performance and improve alertness
  • May help with weight management
  • 2 flavours
  • Sugar and Calorie free

Cons:

  • Small container – only 25 servings

Are Pre-Workout Supplements Worth It?

Pre-workouts are supplements can improve your alertness, energy and athletic performance during your workouts.

What you have to remember is that almost anything can be in a pre-workout, and quantities (and qualities!) of ingredients can vary massively depending on the brand of supplement.

It’s not so much that pre-workouts work, but the ingredients in them – if you know what to look for. These include:

Caffeine – one of the main active ingredients in most pre-workouts and is used to increase your energy beforehand, similar to having a cup of coffee in the morning to prepare you for your day. Studies have shown that caffeine does boost performance and endurance, but tends to work better for trained athletes (source: Healthline).

Nitric Oxide is a compound that is naturally found within your body that helps to relax your blood vessels and improve blood flow throughout.

Ingredients contained in pre-workouts, L-Arginine and L-Citrulline, are compounds that your body naturally converts into Nitric Oxide (source: Journal of Sports Medicine).

Taurine is an amino-acid found in the brain, muscles and organs and acts to regulate the transport of nutrients throughout the body. It’s also said that Taurine in pre-workouts can help to hydrate muscles (source: VeryWellFit).

Creatine plays a role in the production of energy and strength and is found naturally in the skeletal muscle.

Taking Creatine can improve recovery time and exercise performance as well as increasing muscle mass and strength, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

However, there may be potential downsides to taking pre-workouts such as an excess of caffeine, especially if you’re someone who drinks tea or coffee throughout the day too.

An excess of caffeine is linked to anxiety, insomnia, and increased blood pressure. Always try a small amount of pre-workout to see how you feel, before taking a full dose for the first time.

workout with weights

Which Pre-Workouts Are Banned In The UK?

If I keep going on about the quality of ingredients, it’s because there have been a few pre-workouts or ingredients that have been banned in the UK due to their side effects.

One of the most notable brands is Jack3D, which was banned in 2012 due to the stimulant DMAA (Dimethylamylamine) that may have potentially lethal side effects.

DMAA has been linked to headaches, vomiting, high blood pressure, stroke and even death. It was ruled by the UK’s MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) as unlicensed as well as all other products containing DMAA.

Ephedrine is used as a stimulant in some pre-workouts (and a nasal decongestant) and is legal as long as it’s under 180mg. It is illegal to sell or purchase Ephedrine in quantities over 180mg without a prescription in the UK.

Two other ingredients that are prohibited that may be contained in certain sports supplements are Ligandrol (LGD-4033) and Octodrine (1,5-dimethylhexylamine).

Ligandrol is marketed for increasing lean muscle mass, whereas Octodrine is a stimulant that is found in many pre-workouts for fat burning. If you see these on an ingredients list – don’t bother.

Always, always check ingredients and look for legit reviews when choosing a pre-workout supplement, even in the UK where we have pretty good regulation.

Everyone is different, and something that works for your mates may not necessarily work for you!

Remember to exercise safely and if you’re considering taking any kind of exercise supplement, do your research and talk to a licensed professional or health coach if you’re not sure.

Graham Hoyland

Author, mountaineer and sailor. My specialist knowledge is anything outdoors or mechanical, especially cars, boats or cameras (I'm a former BBC producer). I love DIY and messing around in scrapyards, too!

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