The Full Guide To Pre-Workouts

Everything you need to know about Pre-Workouts

Want to beast your next workout? Pre-Workouts give you the juice to power through your next brutal routine, push beyond your limits and ultimately - prime your body to perform at its highest level possible.

Unlike other supplements like whey proteins, Pre-Workouts come in innumerable forms, each with different recipes designed to optimise your workout experience. The guide below should give you an idea of what the main ingredients do, though in no means comprehensive and many brands use niche ingredients in an effort to give you the edge.


Before we jump into the nuances of pre-workouts themselves it’s important to stress you need to be fueling your body correctly prior to exercise to make serious gains. An in-depth discussion on nutrition goes beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll make a few points here:

  • Protein - Protein should be consumed regularly throughout the day, however some athletes believe that there is a benefit in pre-loading before exercise by taking 15-30g of whey protein immediately before your workout. We’d suggest consuming protein at least an hour before your workout to allow it to digest to enjoy any real effects.
  • High GI (Glycemic Index) Carbohydrates - Some people seem to see carbohydrates as the enemy. Put simply, carbohydrates are the most efficient and effective source of energy available to the body. High GI carbohydrates (or carbs with a High Glycemic Index) are rapidly converted into glucose enabling them to top up your muscles glycogen stores while you exercise allowing you can continue exercising harder, for longer.

Even if your goal is lose weight, a small amount of a high GI carbs will give you the energy to maximise your efforts. Thankfully they’re burned off quickly and easily during intense exercise so you don’t need to worry about those extra calories going straight onto you bum, chest or eyebrows...if that’s what you’re worried about.

  • Hydration - It may seem obvious, get hydrated before you exercise. Not only is it safer, but it allows your brain and body to perform at their best.

Key ingredients in Pre-Workouts

Because all pre-workouts vary in make-up, quality and chosen ingredients we can’t cover all of them here. Instead I’m going to cover the big ingredients you’re going to come across in most pre-workout stacks.


coffee beans

Possible the least exciting but certainly the most common ingredients in pre-workouts is Caffeine. Ahh, Delicious delicious caffeine.

Love it or hate it Caffeine is the world’s most popular drug and stimulant, and for good reason. Caffeine has been shown in numerous studies to curb the effects of fatigue and, when used during exercise caffeine can increase endurance and blunt our perception of tiredness. Perhaps just as importantly, it gives us the sensation of being ‘up’, stimulated and ready to smash your workout.

Caffeine effects each of us different ways. Don’t take too much if you aren’t aware of your tolerance - some people will find a single cup of coffee leaves them jittery and uncomfortable! Start with a dosage of around 100mg and work up as you see fit. There’s a whole lot of research that shows we rapidly build a tolerance to caffeine too. The more you take it the less effective it becomes.

A final note on caffeine - As a stimulant caffeine can have a dangerous effect on your heart if abused. Never take more than 600mg in a day (and we’d recommend limiting yourself to considerably less than that). 300-400mg is generally seen as safe for a healthy adult.


Creatine is an organic acid naturally produced within the body. It’s the main fuel our body requires to create ATP (or adenosine triphosphate), the energy source our muscles need during high intensity exercise like lifting or full pelt sprinting!

ATP becomes depleted extremely rapidly during intense exercise but by saturating our muscles with Creatine they’re able to quickly regenerate our ATP stores allowing your muscles to work harder, with some studies suggesting a 15-20% increase in power and short term-endurance.

Creatine isn’t an instantly effective supplement, and needs to be loaded into your muscles as they can only absorb so much at a time - typically we recommend doses of 3-5g per day which will saturate your muscles effectively in little more than a week.

Creatine doesn’t feature in all Pre-workouts, and it isn’t strictly necessary. It is a very well understood and very useful supplement though, and one you should consider if it suits your goals.

Learn more in our full guide to Creatine over here


Beta-Alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that has been shown to deliver dramatic improvements to muscular endurance and aerobic capacity while also being a useful tool in fat loss and in building lean muscle mass.

How does it work? When combined with Essential Amino acid Histidine, Beta-Alanine has the ability to increase the levels of carnosine within our muscle tissue. Importantly, we can’t digest carnosine in any meaningful way, which is why we require its precursor, Beta-Alanine.

Carnosine acts as protection against the buildup of Hydrogen ions that occur in our muscles as we breakdown glucose for energy during intense exercise. When we push our muscles hard this buildup of hydrogen ions becomes concentrated enough that it increases the acidity of our muscle tissue causing our limbs to feel heavy as they scream for oxygen! Carnosine acts a buffer, preventing this drop in intramuscular pH.

Consider it this way - Carnosine is chilling milk to that fiery habanero chilli pepper you just ate in an ill conceived bet. It’s a protective, cooling, soothing layer.

The end result? Increased muscular endurance and ability to withstand fatigue. You can push a few more reps or benefit from increased aerobic capacity.


Arginine in an amino that our body’s are capable of producing ourselves. However, when we provide extra Arginine than our body needs the excess is converted into another chemical - Nitric Oxide.

Nitric Oxide helps your arteries dilate in a process called: vasodilation. This expansion of your arteries allows for increased blood flow delivering oxygen more efficiently to your muscles resulting in much greater pump. Similarly, Nitric Oxide aids in the transport of nitric waste products like ammonia away from our muscles as a part of urea cycle, delaying the onset of muscular fatigue.

Problematically Arginine absorbs extremely poorly. For instance if you take 10mg of Arginine, only 3mg is likely to be used by the body. While normally this would be the end of the world, large doses of Arginine can be extremely uncomfortable on the stomach, which is why in most pre-workouts it been superseded by…

Citrulline Malate

For all intents and purposes, Citrulline Malate acts as a pre-curser to Arginine and is extremely useful as it both allows more Arginine to be formed in the body (and therefore converted in Nitric Oxide) without any of the stomach discomfort eating pure Arginine results in.

Citrulline itself is an amino acid, while Malate is an organic salt which primarily acts as a stabiliser though there is some research to suggest it can help the body recycle lactic acid for use as energy.


Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs are a group three essential amino acids associated with increased muscular gains and when used as a pre-workout: Increased endurance.

To learn more about BCAAs check out our guide HERE

BCAAs, unlike the proteins found in typical food or whey is absorbed extremely quickly into the bloodstream. This has three benefits - Firstly it provides your muscles with the fuel they require to engage in protein synthesis (rebuilding muscle tissue!), while allowing your body to use this easily available supply of proteins rather than breaking down muscle tissues as fuel, potentially causing muscle loss.

Secondly supplementing BCAAs can help combat fatigue - a trait which has been utilised by endurance athletes for years. During hard exercise our body creatine tryptophan, which is turn is converted into serotonin. While serotonin makes you feel warm, fuzzy and absolutely lovely it’s also used by the body as a trigger for fatigue, causing you to feel drowsy and impacting your performance. BCAAs can delay the uptake of tryptophan in the brain in turn delaying it’s conversion into serotonin. In real terms BCAA’s reduces the perception of perceived exertion, and staves off mental fatigue.

Lastly, BCAA’s help reduce post-workout soreness. While this might not make a big difference during your workout, it certainly makes life a touch easier the day after!


Considered by some to be a ‘nootropic’ - or a substance that that can be used to aid focus and concentration, Tyrosine is a essential Amino acid that gained traction both by athletes and students looking for that extra kick to get them through that dreaded dissertation.

Generally consumed in doses of between 500mg-1000mg, Tyrosine is used to produce neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline. During periods of stress (such as a tough workout!) your body’s supply of noradrenaline can become depleted. Supplementing with Tyrosine counteracts this effect reducing the negative impacts of fatigue upon your body.

Tyrosines ability to improve cognition is perhaps it’s greatest benefit however, as it it makes you feel energised and focused, especially when fatigued.

Tolerance to Tyrosine can build up fairly rapidly, after around 2-3 weeks of consistent use (at 1000mg) Tyrosine becomes less effective so it makes sense to cycle off Tyrosine to enjoy its effects thoroughly.


Another amino acid, Taurine is produced by the body in some capacity but can become depleted - especially by athletes who put their body’s through extensive training.

Taurine is involved in a number of roles in the body such as: maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance in your cells, forming bile salts (which play a key role in digestion) and

has been shown to offer a number of benefits for athletes!

A number of studies have shown cyclists and runners using Taurine are able to cover greater distances while suffering reduces fatigue. Similarly, Taurine has been shown to reduce muscle damage from weight lifting, resulting in less stress to the body and reduced soreness afterwards!

Like Tyrosine, Taurine has been shown to affect noradrenaline and appears to play a role in protecting your cells from damage during stress.

Stimulant Free Pre-workouts

Not all of are stimulant lovers, some of us even find them downright uncomfortable or just like to limit them to specific times like competitions or races, depending on your discipline. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck though. There are a number of caffeine/stimulant free pre-workouts available that contain many of the ingredients described in this article that will give you much of the same benefits.

Cycling Pre-Workouts

As we’ve touched upon elsewhere in this guide, many of the ingredients in our pre-workouts are strong, and we can build up a tolerance fairly quickly, thus reducing their effectiveness. In some cases, such as Creatine this causes our body’s Creatine transporters to down-regulate, meaning it doesn’t get transported to your muscles and gets wasted.

Most people will be aware of how their sensitivity to caffeine decline the more they use it, which is why some people are able to drink a huge venti of extremely strong coffee without being reduced to a jittering mess. The problem with coffee occurs if you keep on upping the amount you’re taking. In seriously large doses (above 400mg), caffeine can cause serious problems for your heart. While those issues might not appear instantaneously, long term they’re much more likely to if you keep on ramping up your caffeine intake.

We recommend to cycle your Pre-workouts every 6-8 weeks for around 1-2 weeks to allow your tolerance to decline. Cut down on the coffee in between too. When you get back on it, you’ll feel it full force.

The daily pickle struggle

Our Recommendations

Boditronics Red Mist V4

Ok, so the tub might not be the best looking, but then we hope you're not going to drink the tub. Red Mist V4 is the latest iteration of Boditronics workout stomping Red Mist Pre. It's hard-hitting without simply loading up on huge quantities of caffeine. It's a solid blend of Amino Acids vitamins and stimulants that help increase focus, reduce sensations of fatigue and give you a massive kick up backside. Available in 4 brand new flavours, it's one of our regular big sellers that most athletes will find to be the ideal balance as a pre-workout.

The Warrior Product Lft-Sht

Anyone who knows anything about Dan Singh of The Warrior Project will know he does nothing by half measures. Lft-Sht is pure rocket fuel.

Smash your workout? Done. Pick up a car? Easy. Punch a bear? Why the hell not? Lft-Sht combines POWERFUL stimulants with amino acids and fatigue inhibitors so you can push yourself to the extremes with insane levels focus. Make no mistake, Lft-Sht is powerful stuff. Seriously, if you're not a seasoned caffeine chugger