The 5 Best Vegan Pre Workout Supplements in 2020 [Buying Guide]

pre-workout supplement

Out of all the supplements in the market, pre-workout supplements are the ones with the most variety of ingredients and dosages, making it a tad more difficult for consumers to understand what’s legitimately effective.

In essence, a pre-workout supplement is supposed to provide you with improved athletic performance (in the form of energy), but it’s not a substitute for good sleep, nutrition, or hydration, so before putting all the eggs in one basket, you must grasp this fact.

That said, if you’re already implementing all of the aforementioned aspects for good health, then a pre-workout supplement will still provide you with a sweet edge.

Here are what I consider to be the 5 best vegan pre-workout supplements: 

5 Best Vegan Pre-Workout Supplements

Transparent Labs Preseries Bulk Pre Workout

This pre-workout supplement by Transparent Labs was not only designed to enhance your performance during workouts but also to help you bulk-up.

It contains 20 powerful and effective ingredients that are backed by scientific studies that have shown proof of results.

And like every Transparent Labs product, it contains NO colored dyes, unnecessary fillers, or additives, making it healthier than most supplements.

Pros
  • 20 premium-grade ingredients served in the right dosages for optimal results
  • ZERO colored dyes, fillers or additives
  • Available in six fruit flavors
  • Brand is transparent and reliable
  • Made in the USA

Cons
  • A bit pricey than most

Performance Lab Pre Sport

Fortified with a mix of unique ingredients like maritime pine bark extract and a performance blend comprised of Citruline and Glutathione, this pre-workout supplement offers you a stimulant-free formula with promising results.

In addition to the aforementioned ingredients, this formula also contains prebiotics, creatine, and beta-alanine, which have been linked to increased muscle growth and performance. 

Pros
  • Blend of unique ingredients that can enhance performance
  • Ingredients are paired with nutritional technology that provides faster absorption
  • Comes with prebiotic-infused capsules.

Cons
  • Serving size seems quite big
  • Pricey

Naked Energy Natural Pre Workout

An appealing feature of the brand Naked Nutrition is that they usually keep things simple when formulating their pure, transparent formulas.

This pre-workout supplement is made with 10 high-quality ingredients, it’s free from artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors, and is kind to anyone with dietary preferences.

Among the different ingredients, you’re able to find legitimate, science-backed ingredients specifically included to boost your performance in the gym.

Pros
  • Simple but effective ingredients that are rightly dosed (with the exception of Arginine)
  • Free from artificial sweeteners, colors, or additives
  • Priced similarly to the aforementioned supplements but comes with 20-30 more servings
  • Includes vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in an incomplete vegan diet

Cons
  • Arginine doesn’t seem to be an effective ingredient in regards to performance

Vegan Sport Sugar-Free Energizer

This pre-workout supplement by Vega has a completely different ingredient formula than the previous contestants.

Starting with the fact that uses completely natural and plant-based ingredients such as green tea extract, Eleuthero root, Rhodiola root, coffee berry extract, and so on.

In addition to that, it’s a completely sugar-free formula that comes with delicious flavors like strawberry lemonade and the very popular açai berry.

Pros
  • Unique and natural formula
  • Tasty flavors

Cons
  • Some of the core ingredients have limited research available

Ora Organic Pre-Workout Powder

Like the name suggests, this pre-workout supplement is an organic formula with over 25 ingredients with the goal of providing you with clean source of energy.

The product is vegan and USDA certified and uses ingredients like organic beet and pomegranate to confer it with delicious flavor.

Impressively, for a product with this many organic ingredients, it’s quite affordable at $34.99 for 20 servings, which is okay if you train 3-4 times a week.

Pros
  • Organic formula with three different blends that is effective according to reviews
  • Very affordable for an organic product
  • Probably the most clean supplement on this list

Cons
  • Certain ingredients don’t have a sufficient amount of evidence

What is a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Put simply, a pre-workout supplement is a multi-ingredient formula meant to boost your energy levels and enhance your physical performance during workouts.

It typically comes in a powdered substance that you mix with water and drink beforehand.

Unlike supplements like creatine where you find consistency in terms of the ingredients used, pre-workout supplements vary drastically by brand or manufacturer. You’re able to find ingredients such as taurine, amino acids, caffeine, creatine, vitamins, artificial ingredients — all in different proportions because it changes from brand to brand.

What are the Benefits of a Pre-Workout Supplement?

There isn’t a huge plethora of evidence pointing to the efficiency of pre-workout supplements, however, there are studies suggesting that some ingredients within most pre-workout formulas can indeed benefit your athletic performance.

Caffeine

Often used in pre-workout supplements, caffeine can increase your energy and focus.

By far one of the most popular stimulants, caffeine is capable of improving mental alertness, memory, exercise, and your ability to lose fat. [1, 2]

However, it doesn’t come without its side effects. (More on this below)

Creatine

Creatine, which is also sold as a standalone supplement, is a chemical compound naturally produced by the human body. It’s primarily stored in the muscles, where it’s used in the production of energy and strength. [3]

Pre-workout formulas often contain creatine because by storing more of this compound in your muscles can lead to benefits such as improved recovery time and exercise performance, as well as increased muscle growth.

Creatine, on its own, is very popular among bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other high-performance athletes in power-based sports.

Nitric Oxide Precursors

Nitric Oxide is a compound produced by the body to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.

However, to incite the production of nitric oxide, manufacturers have included ingredients such as L-arginine, L-citrulline, as well as sources of dietary nitrates like beetroot juice in pre-workout supplements. [5]

Some studies suggest that supplementing such compounds can boost oxygen and nutrient transportation in the blood vessels, thus improving your physical performance.

However, the studies have only been done on younger men, so it’s not certain whether or not these results translate well for other groups.

Taurine

Taurine is typically found in animal foods such as meat, fish, and dairy.

However, taurine is also often added to soda, energy drinks, and supplements, yet the form of taurine you’ll find in these is not derived from animals. It’s made synthetically in a lab.

It’s believed that taurine can provide the human body with different benefits, including protection against diabetes via blood sugar control, the risk reduction of cardiovascular disease, and more relevant to this article — a boost in exercise performance.

In studies done on humans, taurine has been shown to remove waste products that lead to fatigue and cause muscle burn. It also protected the body from oxidative stress and cell damage. [6, 7, 8]

Additionally, it increases your body’s ability to burn fat. [9]

BCAA’s

Like creatine, BCAA’s are sold as a standalone supplement, and they’re composed of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

And there are five proven benefits associated with these three amino acids:

  • Increased muscle growth
  • Reduction in muscle soreness
  • Reduction in exercise fatigue
  • Prevention of muscle wasting
  • And it may improve health in people with liver disease.

According to researchers, leucine is responsible for activating pathways in the body that stimulate muscle protein synthesis [10, 11], but at the same time, the results BCAA’s provide in terms of muscle growth are superior when they’re taken in conjunction with other essential amino acids.

Protein powders are considered effective due to their complete amino acid profile. [12, 13]

If you’re interested in reading more on BCAA’s, feel free to read this article.

Testosterone Supporters

Testosterone is a hormone that is produced primarily in the testicles for men and the ovaries and adrenal glands for women. It plays an important role in several key aspects of your body:

  • Muscle mass and bones
  • Sex drive
  • Mood and quality of life
  • Verbal memory and thinking ability
  • Among other aspects.

By increasing or maintaining healthy testosterone levels, you can guarantee many different benefits, including a healthier heart, more muscle (less fat), stronger bones, better memory, and intensified libido, as well as improved mood.

For that reason, certain manufacturers have decided to include testosterone supporters.

In other words, you’ll find a blend of ingredients/nutrients such as vitamin D3, boron, and zinc, which have been found to support or increase testosterone levels.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that reduces the acidity in your muscles during exercise, which may result in longer endurance both in cardio-focused workouts and strength training.

As a consequence, it may have a positive impact on your muscle growth as well.

In fact, dosed at 4-6 grams per day, it’s shown to increase exercise performance and reduce fatigue in high-intensity exercises lasting between 1 and 4 minutes. [15, 16]

Citrulline

Citrulline is an amino acid produced naturally in the body but you can also find it in foods.

Taking it from foods guarantees a higher supply of citrulline in the body, or in other words, you’ll have more citrulline content than the average person. What does this do?

Well, one of the benefits is that it may help your blood vessels widen, so it can potentially improve blood pressure and blood flow to the tissues.

More importantly, studies suggest that citrulline can improve exercise performance, mainly because of its ability to improve blood flow.

How to Find a Great Vegan Pre-Workout Supplement

To be able to find the right pre-workout supplement, sometimes you must be able to test different products until you find the right one. That, however, is quite the expense.

Once you learn about the different ingredients, and what role each one is meant to play inside a given formula, you get a pretty good idea of which supplements are worth it.

Below you’ll find what is most important when looking for a vegan pre-workout supplement:

Value

Most pre-workout supplements cost between 80c and $1 per serving.

Above that, and you’re looking at a pricey supplement whose price must be justified by the unique stack of ingredients. If you find that it has the same ingredients as one situated at a lower price point, you shouldn’t even think about it.

Is the price of the supplement worth it, based on the ingredients it contains?

A brand shouldn’t inflate their prices based on the simple fact they’re popular, that’s why I haven’t included supplements with a poor pre-workout formula and an unreasonable price.

Transparency

There are a lot of supplements (not just pre-workout formulas) that use what’s called proprietary blends: you know the ingredients but don’t know the amounts.

If you decide to conduct research and find out that a certain ingredient is only effective at certain amounts, then it’s impossible to know whether or not a product with a proprietary blend is effective, and that just shows a complete lack of transparency.

For that reason, we have only included transparent blends that have no issues with showing exactly what they’ve used in the process.

Dosage

On a similar note, while you may find supplements that use “research-backed” ingredients, there are often brands that don’t use the right dosages, stripping these ingredients of their effectiveness.

For example, citrulline must be 5 grams or more, otherwise, it won’t bear any effect. There are certain ingredients where it’s hard to find the right dosage (tyrosine, for example), but it’s possible to make an educated assumption of the correct amount.

Needless to say, a good vegan pre-workout supplements uses the right ingredients and dosages.

Testing

Some companies will employ a third-party to conduct independent testing, namely companies such as NSF, Informed Choice, or Informed-Sport. These companies will not only test products to see if there are any banned substances, but also the facilities in which the products are made.

You may not be an athlete, but athletes will usually only use products from companies that conduct third-party testing since questionable supplements are likely to contain properties or substances that may lead the athlete to test positive.

Should You Take A Pre-Workout Supplement?

While it’s not reported by everyone, some people do experience side effects from taking pre-workout supplements. This is obviously related to some of the individual ingredients that partake in the formula, namely, caffeine, creatine, magnesium, and so on.

Here are 5 side effects to pre-workout supplements:

May Make You Feel Jittery

Caffeine is one of the primary ingredients in pre-workout supplements.

It’s a stimulant that has shown to increase muscle strength, as well as energy output during exercise by mitigating some of the fatigue. [17, 18, 19]

However, when consumed in excess, caffeine may have side effects. These include insomnia, nausea,  increased heart rate, drowsiness, headaches, anxiety, and jitteriness. [20

Many pre-workout supplements contain high amounts of caffeine, for example, the pre-workout supplement by Naked Nutrition contains 200mg of caffeine in one serving. In comparison, a small cup of coffee contains 95g, which is double the amount.

This is important because not everyone can tolerate caffeine in the same way.

Might Increase Water Retention

Creatine is associated with many benefits, including the increase in exercise performance, as well as the increase in lean body mass after a workout.

And while you can find it in supplements like pre-workouts or protein powders, creatine is also available on its own, which is how most weightlifters take it.

However, there are also some side effects associated with taking creatine, and even though they’re considered mild, they include water retention, bloating weight gain, and digestive issues.

May Cause Digestive Upsets

Besides creatine, there are also other ingredients in pre-workout formulas that may cause users to have a digestive upset. These ingredients are sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, and caffeine.

When you consume more than a certain amount, some people will likely feel the aforementioned side effect. For example, sodium bicarbonate may cause some problems when consumed at 91–227 mg per pound of body weight (200–500 mg per kg). [21]

That said, I haven’t found many pre-workout supplements with such amount.

Magnesium, however, may actually have laxative effects, and taking too much (especially in the form of magnesium citrate) may lead to diarrhea. [19] The same goes for caffeine.

You May Feel Headaches

Citrulline is an ingredient that is present in most pre-workout supplements, however, it’s only effective when it’s dosed at 6-8 grams.

This amino acid essentially boosts nitric oxide levels in your blood. [22]

Basically, it’s meant to increase the blood flow to your muscles, so that users can experience more muscle-building benefits during exercise.

Still, an increase in blood flow also affects your brain, so it may lead some people to experience headaches caused by the blood pressure change in your brain’s small blood vessels. [23]

May Cause Some Tingling

Other ingredients like beta-alanine or vitamin B3, which are also present in a great number of pre-workout supplements, are also associated with mild side effects.

Beta-alanine can cause paresthesia, which is a tingling sensation on your hands and feet. And niacin, in high doses of 500mg or more, may trigger a blood rush to the surface of your skin, leaving you with noticeable red patches.

However, none of the downsides seems to be overly dangerous, even though they might feel uncomfortable.

Bottom Line

If you take workouts seriously and want a way to improve your results, pre-workout supplements are believed to boost endurance and overall effectiveness.

Based on aspects such as price, taste, ingredients, transparency, as well as dosages, I’ve selected 6 vegan pre-workout supplements I believe to have the highest quality in the market.

Everyone has a different idea of what makes up an effective supplement, but it really comes down to the ingredients and their respective dosages. Additionally, I seek a supplement that doesn’t contain as many fillers or additives, to preserve long-term health.

If you were seeking great pre-workout supplements, I hope this small guide has helped you find one that is effective, as well as in perfect alignment with your vegan diet.

Thank you very much for reading.

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About the Author: Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than three years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!