Detailed Guide to Pre-Workout Supplements

pre workout supplements

The other day at the gym, an old college acquaintance of mine boasted, "I don't need a pre-workout to motivate me to work hard in the gym," clearly not realizing I work for one of the top rated pre-workout companies in America.

The comment left me puzzled. "Is that really what some people think about pre-workouts," I thought to myself? 

Maybe in the old days of flavored caffeine drinks, but today's pre-workout offers so much more than a quick energy blast and massive crash... that is, if you know what to look for. 

Since it's debut back in 2015, Transparent Labs has stood as a leader in the pre-workout market, with it's clean, fully stacked and fully dosed, transparent formulas.

Within months, PreSeries BULK, and PreSeries LEAN received rave reviews online and sold out of 10,000 tubs.

Why so popular? It's NOT marketing hype of overpromised results. It's simple, science backed research and TRANSPARENT formulations.

Every product, every formula, every ingredient we ever use, is clearly listed on our website with supporting clinical evidence to back up every claim.


Transparency In Pre-Workout Formulations

Transparent Labs was built off the idea of transparency. We wanted to shatter the old way, the supplement status quo of over-hyped under dosed formulations. 

The FDA allows companies to hide behind what's called "proprietary formulas". They allow this so that companies can protect their formulas from copy cats. A good intentioned idea to protect business IP, but an idea that has given way to dishonest "snake oil" sales.

Under the guise of "proprietary formula" companies have hidden bad, underdosed, formulas, while touting the best and most trendy new ingredients.

The truth is, these micro nutrients and rare supplement extracts are expensive. There are studies to back most ingredients, but dosage matters.

Take citrulline malate for example. An amazing ingredient for the production of nitric oxide. Clinical dosage of citrulline malate is 4-8 grams per serving (4,000 mg - 8,000 mg). This means, in order to get the benefits of citrulline malate, you need to be in that dosage range. 

Check out the following two supplement facts panels. On top is one of the top selling and pioneering pre-workouts on the market... and also the shadiest (not gonna name names). 

two supplement facts panel

Below is a fully dosed and fully transparent, TL PreSeries BULK supplement facts panel. 

TL PreSeries BULK supplement facts panel

Not only do we disclose all our ingredients, we also provide 3rd party evidence that the ingredients we say are included actually are! Click here to see. Want evidence of purity (aka no contaminents), check out our Certificate of Analysis page here.  


Ingredients that make a good Pre-Workout?

best pre-workout ingredients

As stated earlier, good pre-workouts are not just about motivation and energy. They are about performance

Now how do we analyze performance? At Transparent Labs, we break it down into 3 categories based on the ingredients and their associated clinical testing.



1). Nitric Oxide and Strength

A nitric oxide boost is when the blood flow/volume increases as the muscles' need for oxygen and nutrients increases. This is often referred to as "pump" in the bodybuilding world. 

Feeding your muscles with more nutrients results in muscle growth - the main purpose of weight lifting. Not only that, but increasing blood vessel dilation and blood flow enables you to lift longer and harder, reduces lactic acid build up, and can increase glucose uptake into the muscles. 

A pre-workout without pump effects is lacking in one of the most important elements, and will result in a lesser performance at the gym. 

Best Ingredients for NO and Strength

Citrulline Malate

When it comes to boosting nitric oxide, citrulline malate reigns king. The clinically tested dosage of citrulline malate is often 4-6 grams of citrulline malate 2:1. There are other forms and ratios of citrulline, but the most studied and verified form that we have found is 2:1. Citrulline is converted into arginine within the body, and has been found to have better absorption and higher resulting plasma arginine levels as compared to L-arginine supplementation alone [1]. The resulting benefits from the nitric oxide boost have been shown to improved strength, aerobic performance, and muscular endurance. 


This is an often overlooked but powerful supplement for reducing arginase activity. Reducing arginase works to protect l-arginine (recently converted from citrulline), resulting in longer and stronger nitric oxide response.



Endurance does not only apply to running and aerobic activity. Muscular endurance and the delayed onset of fatigue are important features of great pre-workouts. The longer your muscles can work in a given sitting, the more weight you can lift, resulting in more muscle gained.  

Best Ingredients for ENDURANCE


As you work out, your amino acid serum levels are depleted, causing the release of neurotransmitters and the feeling of fatigue. Supplementing with BCAA's during or after a workout can help prevent serum decline (or replenish) for faster recovery and improved glucose uptake. Leucine, the 2 in the 2:1:1 ratio, is responsible for muscle protein synthesis, and has been shown to help with muscle growth. Isoluecine works to regulate and improve glucose updtake, which helps which helps feed the muscles. BCAA's are commonly used during fasted training to prevent muscle wasting. [2


 This is one of our favorite ingredients. The studies are phenomenal and conclusive. It is also really expensive, so beware of under dosing. Beta-alanine has been shown time and time again to improve muscular endurance, enabeling lifters to get 1-2 more reps consistently on each set [3]. This can amounts to a lot more weight lifted, and consequently, more muscle gained. Beta-alanine works to prevent pH drops in the body from either dietary changes or muscle fatigue (lactic acid).


Taurine alone wont offer too many athletic enhancements, however, supplementing beta-alanine without taurine can leave you taurine deficient. Taurine is being researched heavily for its anti-diabetic benefits. It boasts anti-oxidative benefits as well.


Probably the most under-hyped ingredient on our list, betaine has an impressive clinical track record. Studies have shown betaine's ability to increase oxygen utilization and improve workouts (i.e. benchpress) when compared to a placebo group [4]. Other studies showed the recovery time and fatigue levels decreased with betaine supplementation before or during workouts [5].


3). CLEAN ENERGY and Focus

I can't over emphasize this one enough. If you want a good, SUSTAINABLE experience, beware of overstuffed caffeine products. Products that use 300+ mg of caffeine per serving can jack up your adrenal system, leave you completely drained after it wears off, and push your reliance to unquenchable levels. If a pre-workout (any pre-workout) loses it's effectiveness, finding a new pre-workout with higher caffeine contents is NOT the answer.

Look for products that are well balanced with a 2:1 L-Theanine to caffeine ratio and more than just caffeine energy complex. 

Caffeine Anhydrous

Caffeine is the most common energy supplement in the world. Caffeine is a staple in all pre-workouts. And for good reason... It works. But it is also the easy supplement to abuse, build a tolerance too, and over-consume leaving you feeling gittery and depleted. If you are taking supplements, be sure watch your caffeine intake and maintain healthy dosages. The upper daily value limit for caffeine is around 500mg, but we (and most doctors) recommend staying below 200mg / day. If the effects start to wear off (this happens to the best of us), then cycle off. We have created our PreSeries STIM-FREE pre-workout specifically for this purpose. Caffeine has been shown time and time again to improve lifting and aerobic output in athletes [6].


L-Theanine is a wonder supplement that helps balance out the harsh effects of caffeine. Hate caffeine jitters? Try pairing your caffeine intake with a 1:2 (caffeine to l-theanine) ratio. Users report a more clear and focused energy, that leaves them feeling healthy rather than haggard at the end of the day. L-theanine is also commonly used to alleviate anxiety [7].

Synephrine & Hordenine

Synephrine, when paired with hordenine, do some pretty impressive things. For one, they have a unique ability to raise metabolic activity and calorie expenditure at a higher rate than either by themselves. They also provide a good clean boost of energy that, users report, leave little to no crash. This works by increased calorie expenditure rather than adrenal chemical changes. [8]

N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine

N-Actyl L-Tyrosine works to reduce stress and provide a focused balance to the other ingredients within most pre-workouts (such as caffeine). It is a powerful and effective nootropic and should be considered an essential addition to balance out any pre-workout.

If you couldn't tell by now, creating the most perfect and clean supplements on the market without any of the garbage fillers or harmful additives, is a passion of ours. We would love it if you click the image below to learn more about our products. 

Want to see how our pre-workouts stack up against the rest? Click here to find out which pre-workout is best for you.

 pre-series banner