Does Pre-Workout Work? The Truth Behind Pre-Workout Supplements

Opening your bottle of pre-workout just to find an empty container without any magical gains can be devastating, and downright disappointing. So what do you do? You spring into action, whip out your phone, and ask Siri where the nearest GNC or Vitamin Shoppe is, so you can get your hands on more jacked juice. I mean, what would you do without it? You do it, so you can get a quick rush of energy, have more motivation, and power your body to build bigger gains. But do you really know what’s in your pre-workout? And does your pre-workout really work to help you meet your fitness goals, or is it just a placebo effect?

The problem is that leading manufacturers under-dose and sprinkle the clinically proven ingredients that you actually need to get stronger, fight fatigue, and hammer out more reps by using proprietary blends, or what I call “mystery mix” of ingredients without any indication of how much of each ingredient your product has. So if you don’t know what’s in your pre-workout supplement and supplement manufacturers are under-dosing vital ingredients, does pre-workout work? It’s time to ditch your pre-workout supplements and here’s why.  

In this article, you’re going to learn about

  1. The Problem With Pre-Workout Supplements
  2. Does Pre-Workouts Work?
  3. What Does Pre-Workout Do?
  4. What Ingredients and Doses You Need To Improve Performance 
  5. Do You Need A Pre-Workout?

Does Pre-Workout Actually Work?

There are three major problems with pre-workout products

  1. Underdosing

  2. Proprietary Blends

  3. Non-Evidence-Based Ingredients

Most pre-workout products are underdosed and contain only a fraction of the scientifically proven ingredients to help you meet your fitness goals and improve your performance. Leading manufacturers use what’s called proprietary blends, so they don’t have to tell you what’s in their product. What's a proprietary blend? Proprietary blends are a mix of ‘stuff’, often labeled with a fancy name, like muscle pump matrix, explode compound, or energy boost blend that only lists the total amount of ingredients, not each individual ingredient. Why do they do this? To reduce costs and make more money. Premium ingredients call for premium prices, and you buy it anyway, so who cares right? They sprinkle the ingredients you actually need to improve your performance and add cheap fillers like artificial colors, sugar, caffeine, and other additives to give you a quick boost of energy with no real results while they make more money, while you just get caffeine high and are filled with broken promises.

Pre-workouts are made to give you a spike in energy, not to make you a better athlete or improve your performance

Additionally, tons of supplement manufacturers use hype ingredients with no scientific backing or evidence-based outcomes. They do this because it's enticing, and lures you in because of the all-new proven ingredients! The fact of the matter is, the more simple the product with fewer ingredients, the better it usually is. 

What Does Pre-Workout Do?

The truth is that pre-workout is no better than an energy drink. Most pre-workout contains such a small amount of the clinically proven ingredients you need, it really makes no difference in your athletic performance at all. Research suggests that you need at least three times the amount of the proven ingredients in pre-workout, for it to actually help with strength, endurance, and recovery.

So next time you go to Costco and buy a couple of tubs of C4 because you think it’s a great deal, think again; you’re actually just throwing your money down the drain and filling your body with a bunch of artificial ingredient and caffeine. So, does pre-workout work? According to the claims, of ‘getting jacked, strength gains, and better recovery’, most likely not.

Supplement Manufacturers Add Ingredients With No Scientific Backing

Would you take prescription medication if there were no scientific studies that proved they were going to help you? Probably not. The same goes for your supplements. The problem is that unlike pharmaceuticals, the supplement industry is not regulated by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA) Pharmaceutical drug manufacturers are put under rigorous research standards, to evaluate and prove the safety and efficacy of their products. Supplements, which are taken much like pharmaceutical drugs are not placed under these rigorous standards. Therefore, the responsibility of using something that is safe and efficacious is not up to the regulating body or the FDA, but it falls upon you the consumer. So instead of taking product claims for face value it’s important to research the supplements you’re going to take. The majority of pre-workout supplements will use ingredients you’ve never heard of and that have no clinical research to prove that they even work. Just because your pre-workout says you’re going to get results and build more muscle mass, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. How did it work out last month when you spent $50 at GNC? 

What you put in your body matters and it’s important to use products that contain proven ingredients at the right clinical dose to get the results you’re looking for. 

RELATED ARTICLE What Is A Proprietary Blend: 5 Reasons You Should Avoid Them At All Costs 

The Psychological Effect Of Pre-Workout

What’s perhaps even worse than under-dosing ingredients and using ingredients with no scientific backing, is the fact that you become dependent upon pre-workout, to get you through your lifts. It doesn’t matter if it makes you cringe, or want to vomit, you’ll find a way to get your pre-workout down before your workout. You come to believe that your workout or WOD won’t be as good without it.

If Pre-Workout Doesn’t Help With Performance, What Does Pre-Workout Do?

Pre-workout is made to give you an extra boost of energy, focus, and motivation before your workout. The problem is that most pre-workout is loaded with caffeine, stimulants, and artificial ingredients. A scoop of conventional pre-workout on average contains three times the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (150-300mg).

According to a study found in the International Society Of Sports Nutrition “Manufacturers of pre-workout often combine caffeine with other select ingredients in an attempt to produce a synergistic effect. The combination of multiple ingredients such as caffeine, creatine, amino acids, taurine, and glucuronolactone has been shown to delay fatigue and improve the overall quality of resistance training sessions [R].

Unfortunately, in many commercially available sports nutrition dietary supplements, the ingredient dosages are understudied in terms of their combinations and under-dosed in terms of their quantity [R]"

What Are The Best Pre-Workout Ingredients? 

1. Beta-Alanine (Carnosyn) - not generic

Does Preworkout Work? - Swolverine

Beta-Alanine specifically Carnosyn, is backed by more than 55 clinical studies, and is the only supplement that has achieved NDI status with the FDA. Beta-Alanine is a beta-amino acid that helps fight muscle fatigue, by acting as a lactic acid buffer. Lactic acid produces a burning sensation and causes increased fatigue, resulting in a loss of power and eventually fatigued muscles. Research suggests that in order to improve endurance capacity by delaying muscle fatigue, you need a dose of 4-6g of beta-alanine daily to improve athletic performance [R]. Which you will rarely find in a pre-workout supplement. 

In a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial, conducted by Ghent University in Belgium, eighteen elite rowers were administered 5g of Beta-alanine or a placebo per day for 7 weeks. The study found that muscle carnosine levels increased 45.3% within the Beta-Alanine group and rowing times were 4.3 seconds faster than the placebo group [R].

RELATED ARTICLE: Beta-Alanine: The Best Supplement For Increasing Muscle Endurance

What Is The Recommended Clinical Dose Of Carnosyn Beta-Alanine?

So how much Beta-Alanine do you need to improve performance? Study subjects showed an improvement with 3.2-6.4g per day for 4-8 weeks. Most leading manufacturers will only add 1-2g per serving, or put them into a blend with a fancy name, so you don’t really know how much it really has at all. 

Swolverine’s Beta-Alanine contains 5g per serving, so you get the full clinical dose to improve your performance and fight muscle fatigue. 

RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Beta-Alanine (100 Servings, Unflavored)

2. Citrulline Malate - not L-Citrulline

Does Preworkout Work? - Swolverine

One of the best active ingredients and supplements made to improve your performance is Citrulline Malate. Citrulline Malate is a synergistic compound containing L-Citrulline a nonessential amino acid and malic acid. These ingredients work together to efficiently and effectively promote the production of nitric oxide, which supports greater endurance, muscle force, power, and helps fight muscle fatigue.

RELATED ARTICLE: 3 Clinically Proven Benefits Of How Citrulline Malate Can Improve Your Training

In a study, published in the Journal Of Strength and Conditioning Research, at the University of Córdoba, Spain 41 male participants performed two consecutive flat barbell bench-training sessions for a total of sixteen sets. 8g of Citrulline Malate were administered during one of the first two sets and placebo was administered for the third. The subjects' resistance was tested using the repetitions to fatigue test at 80% of their predetermined one rep max in the 8 sets of bench presses during the training session. The number of reps showed a significant increase from placebo treatment to treatment with Citrulline Malate from the third set achieving 52.92% more repetitions. The study also showed a 40% reduction in muscle soreness at 24 hours and 48 hours with a response rate greater than 90% with Citrulline Malate supplementation [R].

What Is The Recommended Clinical Dose Of Citrulline Malate?

Research suggests that you need between 5-6 grams of Citrulline Malate to help increase strength, power, and fight muscle fatigue.

Swolverine’s Citrulline Malate contains 100 unflavored servings, at 5g per serving, to help you build strength, recover faster, and enhance your endurance.

RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Citrulline Malate (100 Servings, Unflavored)

3. L-Glutamine

Does Preworkout Work? - Swolverine

Unfortunately, L-Glutamine is a severely underrated pre-workout ingredient, and you won't find it many if any pre-workout supplements as it's mostly marketed as a post-workout product. L-Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid, which helps reduce muscle breakdown and exercise-induced muscle soreness. L-Glutamine helps direct the body when and where to use nitrogen atoms, so you can rebuild and repair muscle tissue. During intense training periods, your body will actually use and deplete all of its glutamine stores, which inhibits its function and decreases strength, stamina, and lengthens the recovery period. By supplementing with L-Glutamine, you’ll help your body rebuild lean muscle mass and recover faster. Faster recovery means more training sessions and improved performance.

What Is The Recommended Clinical Dose Of L-Glutamine?

Studies on the effective dose of L-Glutamine have varied widely. However, it’s best to use a conservative clinically effective dose of L-Glutamine at 5-10g per day to help relieve exercise-induced muscle soreness and improve recovery times. Most pre-workout don’t have L-Glutamine, but it does have L-Glutamine in a blend; it will contain a very small dose, which won’t be effective to help with recovery.

Swolverine’s L-Glutamine contains 100 unflavored servings, at 5g per serving; to help you recover faster and reduce exercise induced muscle soreness.

RELATED ARTICLE L-Glutamine: The Best Supplement For Post-Workout Muscle Recovery And Soreness

RECOMMENDED PRODUCT L-Glutamine (100 Servings, Unflavored)

4. Kre-Alkalyn (Creatine)

Does Preworkout Work? - Swolverine

Kre-Alkalyn is rarely used as a pre-workout ingredient, for a few legitimate reasons. Kre-Alkalyn is an extremely expensive pre-workout ingredient. Clinical studies also show that Kre-Alkalyn is superior to its extremely cheap counterpart creatine monohydrate.

Kre-Alkalyn is a pH corrected form of creatine. Kre-Alkalyn has proven to be one of the most effective sports supplements shown to enhance exercise performance, promote muscle strength, and increase lean muscle mass. Studies have consistently indicated that Kre-alkalyn supplementation increases muscle creatine and phosphocreatine levels approximately 15-40%, which enhances anaerobic training capacity and increases training volume [R].

Most pre-workouts, however, contain creatine monohydrate, which is a much cheaper ingredient than kre-alkalyn, due to the superiority of kre-alkalyn vs creatine monohydrate

  • Creatine Monohydrate can cause gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, stomach aches or cramping from converting creatine into creatinine (a toxic by-product of creatine conversion) 
  • Creatine Monohydrate requires a loading phase of 4-5 doses (typically 5 grams per dose) per day for up to 5 days and once a day thereafter.
  • Creatine Monohydrate requires cycles, specifically 1 week of loading, 5 weeks of 4-5 weeks of maintenance, and 1-2 weeks off. 

Kre-Alkalyn was created to address the negative side effects with ordinary creatine monohydrate; the inability to deliver concentrated amounts of creatine without toxic conversion to creatinine.

Benefits Of Kre-Alkalyn Vs. Creatine Monohydrate

  • Kre-Alkalyn is not degraded to creatinine which subsequently leads to greater bioavailability (Meaning your body uses it more efficiently, and that you don’t have to load it, or cycle it)
  • Since Kre-Alkalyn is pH corrected, 3 grams of Kre-Alkalyn is equivalent to about 10–15 grams of ordinary Creatine Monohydrate
  • Kre-Alkalyn solves for side effects such as bloating and cramping. 

RELATED ARTICLE The Best Form Of Creatine: Kre-Alkalyn Vs Creatine Monohydrate

Kre-Alkalyn is a more advanced type of creatine than traditional creatine monohydrate. However, despite the negative side effects associated with Creatine Monohydrate, almost all pre-workout supplements will use it, because it’s extremely cheap.

What Is The Recommended Clinical Dose Of Kre-Alkalyn?

Swolverine’s Kre-Alkalyn Creatine, contains a full 3g clinically effective dose, to help you improve power and performance.

RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Kre-Alkalyn (100 Servings, Unflavored) 

Do You Need A Pre-Workout?

The simple answer is no. Instead of relying on a ‘quick fix’ of energy, eat a nutritious diet full of nutrient-rich foods, drink plenty of water, and focus on your training. If you’re serious about improving your athletic performance, then be responsible and do the research to find products that are transparent, clinically dosed, and made with proven ingredients. Otherwise, you’re just throwing your money away and filling your body full of ingredients with no evidence to prove they even work.

Should I Stop Taking Pre-Workout?

What you put in your body matters. Every single month you throw away money in hopes that buying pre-workout is going to make you stronger, faster, and healthier, when in fact it’s just a bunch of B.S. Most pre-workout supplements under-dose and only sprinkle the most important ingredients you need to effectively progress.

Does Pre-Workout Work: Takeaway

If you’re looking for a quick fix and boost of energy, then yes, pre-workout supplements work in that regard. But, do pre-workout supplements work to help you increase strength, improve endurance, and optimize recovery most do not.

If you actually want to increase your athletic performance, then you need the full clinical dose of each ingredient not just a sprinkle like most pre-workouts provide. What’s inside your supplements is important. Do your research and only trust brands that are transparent and don’t hide behind proprietary blends, use clinical doses, and provide proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes.

Ready To Take Your Workout To The Next Level?

Swolverine's Mango Lemonade Pre-Workout is a proprietary blend-free and clinically-dosed pre-workout formula, that combines high-quality sports nutrition, and potent antioxidant-rich superfoods. This natural pre-workout powder is made with proven ingredients, Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, L-Carnitine, and nutrient-dense superfoods such as Pomegranate, Betaine Anhydrous, Coconut Water, and Ginseng. Swolverine’s Pre-workout is proven to help you train harder and maximize your performance. 

We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.  


Trexler, Eric T. et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Beta-Alanine.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition12 (2015): 30. PMC. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.

Baguet A, Bourgois J, Vanhee L, Achten E, Derave W. Important role of muscle carnosine in rowing performance. J Appl Physiol. 2010;109(4):1096-101.

Pérez-guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(5):1215-22.

A. Afforous, K. Vodenicharova Clinical Trial Comparing Kre-alkalyn To Creatine Monohydrate 12 (2006) Dr. I.S. Greenberg Medical Center, Sofia, Bulgaria

Ratamess NA, Hoffman JR, Ross R, Shanklin M, Faigenbaum AD, Kang J. Effects of an amino acid/creatine/energy supplement on performance and the acute hormonal response to resistance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007;17:608–23.

Martinez, Nic et al. “The Effect of Acute Pre-Workout Supplementation on Power and Strength Performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition13 (2016): 29. PMC. Web. 2 Oct. 2018.   


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