Our Top Picks for the Best Stimulant-Free Pre-Workout Supplements
Finding the best stimulant-free pre-workout supplement may sound peculiar at first. Isn’t it the very purpose of a pre-workout to give users sudden bursts of energy? That is why caffeine or other known powerful stimulants have become a linchpin in most of the original formulations for said product.
In fact, totally removing them from various mixtures was almost unthinkable before. The idea of a stimulant-free pre-workout seems to be as oxymoronic as a sugar-free sweetener, a meatless meatloaf or a flourless cake.
A regular yet moderate caffeine consumption causes no harm to most people. In fact, natural sources of said substance such as coffee and green tea actually provide various health benefits. The problem with some pre-workout supplements is that they contain enough stimulant per serving that can rival even the most controversial energy drinks in the market.
What makes it worse is that a lot of those analeptics like ephedrine, DMAA, DMBA, and yohimbine can be potentially harmful, especially in large doses. Each can cause some serious side effects including heart arrhythmia, cerebral hemorrhage, anxiety, and in various cases, even death.
To make up for the exclusion of the aforesaid stimulants in the formulation, product developers and manufacturers came up with alternative ingredients that are relatively safer and more organic.
In other words, they decided to employ amino acids that can stimulate the release of both glucagon and insulin that causes improvement in blood circulation and muscle strength. As a result, stimulant-free pre-workout supplements may and should contain one or even all of the following components:
- Creatine - this naturally occurring nitrogenous peptide built from two essential amino acids, namely arginine and glycine, is known for its muscle building properties. It is because its main function is causing the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a substance that provides the energy needed for muscle contraction. Ever since scientists found a way to synthesize creatine and making it available in concentrated powder form, it became one of the best selling bodybuilding supplements of all time.
- L-Citrulline - a nonessential amino acid used by your kidney to synthesize l-arginine and nitric oxide(NO), which your body needs to maintain heart and blood vessels well-being. It is also known to have a vasodilation effect that increases blood flow rate, thereby delivering more protein and other nutrients to your skeletal muscles and organs. In effect, it also increases your muscle pumps during a workout, allowing you to train longer and harder and increasing your potential for optimum muscle growth. It is also known to improve sexual function and cure mild erectile dysfunction (ED).
- BCAA or Branched-Chain Amino Acids - comprised of three of the nine essential amino acids, namely leucine, isoleucine, and valine, it is the triumvirate for building and maintaining muscle mass. BCAA mainly fuels and fires up your skeletal muscles and improves its function, strength, and stamina, allowing your body to take on heavier weights and stronger forces of resistance, thus increasing your threshold for muscle growth and fat reduction. This is sufficiently backed by extensive and long-term studies on bodybuilders who supplement with BCAA and those who don’t.
- Beta Alanine - supplementation of this nonessential amino acid was found to significantly increase the production of intramuscular carnosine, which counteracts the buildup of hydronium ions that cause muscle fatigue and failure. It means beta alanine can help improve one’s athletic performance and the potential for muscle growth. One minor downside of beta-alanine supplementation is that it may cause a weird tingling sensation in the face, extremities, chest, and stomach to some people, or a reaction called paresthesia. But it usually goes away after a few minutes of physical training. In fact, some treat it like an indicator that their pre-workout has already kicked in, thus signaling them to begin their workout.
Based then on the inclusion of one or all of the above-mentioned components and other criteria such as consumers’ satisfaction index, market performance, and overall formulation, we made our top picks for the best stimulant-free pre-workout supplements. Please check out our list:
#1. Vintage Blast - Two Stage Pre-workout Supplement
The product claims to be the first two-stage pre-workout supplement. It promises to give you bursts of energy from the start to the end stage of your training.
It is manufactured and distributed by a reputable US-based company, Old School Labs, with at least four decades of experience in the sports nutrition industry. This product also went through a quality assurance testing procedure conducted by an unbiased third party laboratory.
- It contains ample amounts of L-Citrulline (5g), Beta Alanine (1g) and creatine-producing L-arginine (1g). These 3 substances plus trace amounts of L-carnitine tartrate and caffeine anhydrous comprised their so-called first stage formula, which is intended to increase muscle pumps and endurance.
- Besides being formulated as a pre-workout supplement, it also contains a mixture that makes up a testosterone booster tonic. This is what they refer to as the Stage 2 Group and it is composed of D-Aspartic Acid (2g), N-Acetyl-L Tyrosine (250mg) and Microencapsulated Caffeine (100mg).
- It also contains a cocktail of multivitamins and minerals that include Vit. C, Niacin, Vit. B12, Vit. B6, Vit. B5, Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium.
- All ingredients and their corresponding volume per serving are clearly indicated and not hidden in the guise of a proprietary blend.
- The product is well-reviewed and given top rank rating by both consumers and critics
- It mixes well with water and tastes good.
- The manufacturer offers a money back guarantee” if the product proved to be ineffective.
- It doesn’t contain BCAA, which prompts some bodybuilders to stack for building serious muscle mass and causing significant fat loss.
- It contains caffeine, albeit in almost negligible amount and in slow release form. The probable worst effect on you is that you may need to cut on your daily coffee intake into one to two cups max.
- It is a bit pricey compared to other products in its class.
#2. BSN N.O. Xplode Pre-workout Supplement
The ultimate pioneer in pre-workout supplement products, N.O. Xplode has helped alter the landscape of sports nutrition industry at one point.
Manufactured in an FDA and cGMP certified US-based facility, this product maintained a strong position after being in the market for almost a decade-and-a-half, and after going through several reformulations since it was first released. It also hasn’t faltered in its promise to provide explosive strength, focus, and endurance during a workout.
- More than half of the weight of its more than 18 grams of powder per scoop serving is made up of 5 performance enhancing blends. The most abundant of which is the Myogenic Matrix that accounts for 5.5 grams of the total serving volume.
- It consists mostly of creatine (monohydrate, anhydrous & peptide), but it also contains other muscle building and energizing ingredients such as whey protein isolate, taurine, and Panax Ginseng extract, among others.
- It also contains beta alanine mixed with other substances to create a blend that will make up almost 3g of the total serving.
- It also has L-citrulline mixed in a blend that is purposed to increase blood flow and NO production. This blend also contains Hawthorne, Danshen root, and grape skin extracts.
- This product is also loaded with vitamins and minerals such as B-Complex Vitamins, pantothenic acid, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, which are all needed for your total well-being.
- This product also scores well in customers’ satisfaction index as well as critics’ reviews in terms of providing extra energy and stamina and enlarging muscle pumps.
- It is available in different flavors such as blue raspberry, watermelon, fruit punch, grapes, and green apple. The general consensus of users is that most of these flavors taste great.
- Most ingredients are listed under proprietary blends with their individual amount or value left unspecified.
- It actually contains stimulant in the form of DMAE bitartrate. Overloading may cause difficulty in sleeping.
- It’s a bit pricey but many thought it’s worth every penny.
- It may have diminished effects after using it for quite some time so it is better to cycle it every 3 to 4 months with another product. You may also opt to take a break from using a supplement for a month before restarting the cycle.
#3. GAT Nitraflex Hyperemia and Testosterone Enhancing Powder
This product’s main thrust is increasing the user’s blood flow and testosterone level for larger muscle pumps and explosive energy to lift heavier weights than your usual limit. Manufactured and distributed by GAT Sport, a US-based company known to sponsor UFC fighters, professional bodybuilders and other athletes.
Nitraflex was clearly designed for hardcore bodybuilders and powerlifters as one of its advertised promises is increasing your bench pressing capacity by 5-10 lbs after a couple of weeks of use.
- It contains more than 7 grams per serving of a mixture of substances that include the vital amino acids that we earlier discussed such as L-citrulline, L-arginine, and beta alanine.
- A patented clinically-tested testosterone boosting complex was also included in the formula. It apparently causes an unmistakable burst of energy, muscle pumps, and alertness. It likewise enhances physical and mental motivation and prime you for high-intensity workouts.
- It contains active ingredients that stimulate “mind-muscle contraction” such as N-acetyl-L Tyrosine, and Theanine.
- It consistently rates well in consumers’ satisfaction index.
- It is available in various pleasant flavors that easily mix well with water.
- It has a fast-acting effect.
- Reasonably priced.
- The explosive energy effect seems to fade out too quickly, making it ideal for a 30-45 minute high-intensity workout session only.
- Almost all listed ingredients are tucked in one proprietary blend and with their respective dosing remains undisclosed. It leaves users in the dark whether they are getting enough, too much, or too little of each ingredient.
- Powder tends to clump when left for several minutes and must be re-shaken from time to time.
#4. Cellucor C4 Pre-Workout
This product is a part of a series of branded sports nutrition that includes C4 Ripped, C4 Zero, C4 Neuro and C4 Mass. Produced and distributed by Nutrabolt, one of the major industry players on an international scale, and headquartered in Texas, USA.
Cellucor C4 Pre-workout was formulated to support one’s workout from start to finish with elevated energy level, enhanced focus, and improved blood circulation.
- Each serving contains 1.6g of beta alanine, and a gram each of creatine nitrate and arginine AKG. It is bolstered by a proprietary blend comprised of N-acetyl-L Tyrosine, caffeine anhydrous, velvet bean extract, and tetramethyl-uric acid.
- Energy surge can really be felt after less than half an hour after taking this supplement.
- It also contains Vit. C, B-Complex and Calcium for stronger bones and resistance to various common illnesses brought by viruses and bacteria.
- Available in 3 great tasting flavors, namely cherry limeade, fruit punch and icy blue razz.
- It consistently receives good ratings from consumers’ and critics’ review.
- Reasonably priced.
- Serious bodybuilders find it underdosed and must be stacked with other supplements.
- May increase the frequency of your toilet trips.
- May cause tingling sensation through the combination of beta alanine and caffeine. Oh yes, it contains caffeine to give you heightened mental focus and exuberance, but the amount is far from being harmful in any way.
#5. Nitrosurge Pre-Workout Supplement
Among this product’s touted effects include “endless energy”, “muscle growth”, “ powerful pumps”, and “laser focus”. Produced in a cGMP and NSF certified US facility, Nitrosurge Pre-Workout is quality assured to be safe and can live up to its vaunted promises.
This includes helping users torch away stored body fats, dilating blood vessels and increasing NO production to aid in enlarging muscle pumps and increasing one’s strength and endurance in the face of intensive training.
- Pretty straight up in listing their ingredients that include 2g of L-citrulline and 1.6 grams of beta alanine per one scoop serving. The perceived benefits of these substances have been amply discussed above.
- It contains L-theanine that works well with the moderate dose of caffeine to achieve the “laser focus” promise and keep you motivated and vigorous throughout your workout.
- It contains beta anhydrous that helps l-citrulline in increasing blood flow and in metabolizing homocysteine, a chemical that is essential for maintaining healthy bones, blood, eyes, heart, and nerves.
- It contains black pepper extract that maximizes the muscles’ ability to absorb amino acids.
- Many people attest to its effectiveness as a pre-workout supplement.
- It tastes pleasant enough for most palates.
- It is one of the lowest priced products in its class, plus the supplier offers a “money-back guarantee” policy.
- It seems to be underdosed when it comes to the good stuff. In fact, you need to double dose to get the recommended amount of l-citrulline and beta alanine, which could be confusing to some people as the product’s serving suggestion is pegged at one scoop.
- Some say that betaine can make your sweat and breath smells somewhat fishy.
- It is available in one flavor only, cherry limeade.
Our Final Verdict:
If we will choose among the five products featured here on which one is the best stimulant-free pre-workout supplement, our money goes to Vintage Blast. It may be a bit pricey but it clearly contains the most generous servings of 3 of the 4 substances that we mentioned above. It is also the most transparent in listing the actual composition of their finished products.
We are not, however, endorsing any product. It is all up to you to follow your own preference.However, we strongly advise you to consult your physician or your fitness instructor before trying any kind of sports supplements. Thanks for reading!