In a hurry? Check out our top choice:
Our Top Choice
Pump Surge is our number 1 choice because it contains ingredients for increased body composition, work capacity, power out, and blood flow.
- Improves mood and cognitive function
- No caffeine crash
- Great taste
Caffeine is in everything from your morning coffee to the chocolate bar that you pick up from the vending machine in the afternoon.
A large majority of pre-workout supplements include caffeine as one of their primary ingredients —it’s been shown to help improve alertness and focus, and even to help burn fat.
In a hurry? Here are our top 5 best caffeine-free pre-workouts:
|Pump Surge||Check on Amazon|
|Controlled Labs Purple Wraath||Check on Amazon|
|Core PUMP||Check on Amazon|
|EVOGEN EVP RASPBERRY||Check on Amazon|
Unfortunately, it works so well that the World Anti-Doping Agency actually banned caffeine for professional athletes from 1972 to 2004.
While it can be a great way to boost your workout, caffeine isn’t good for everyone, which is why so many caffeine-free pre-workouts have started hitting the market.
So what are the best caffeine-free pre-workouts on the market, and how can you choose the right one for you?
Lucky for you, we’ve reviewed a few of the options and have gathered the pros and cons of the best caffeine-free pre-workouts available right now. Hopefully, this will make your decision much, much easier.
Read Also: Best Creatine Free Pre Workout 2021 Review
What Are The Benefits of Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout?
Caffeine is included in a high percentage of pre-workouts, so why should you look for one without stimulants?
- No side effects — Caffeine has a variety of side effects, especially when you consider the relatively high dose that comes in a pre-workout supplement. Caffeine comes with side effects like insomnia, upset stomach, nervousness, and muscle tremors in high doses, all of which can be avoided by choosing a caffeine-free pre-workout.
- That crash — High doses of caffeine can get you going, but you’re looking forward to a crash when it wears off. What’s the point of your workout if you have to take a nap afterward?
- Tolerance — Like any other drug, you can build up a tolerance to caffeine, meaning you need more to get the same effect. Plus, if you eliminate caffeine from your diet cold-turkey, you could experience withdrawal symptoms.
By switching to the best caffeine-free pre-workout, you can get all the benefits of a pre-workout without the side effects associated with caffeine as a stimulant. These caffeine-free pre-workouts provide the same sort of boost that caffeine does in a less harsh form, relying on natural ingredients and vitamins to give you that boost of energy while you’re pumping iron.
Read Also: Xtend BCAA Review – A sports nutritionist’s perspective
Benefits of Going Caffeine-Free
When you use caffeine, you add external elements that have a singular purpose — to raise blood glucose levels. When that happens, you trigger a process called “gluconeogenesis,” which actually turns amino acids into carbohydrates. This means it takes away your workout fuel and expels it for quick energy.
Luckily, going caffeine-free is not only super easy, but there are plenty of advantages to going into your workout sans-caffeine:
- Allows amino acids to do their job: They remain amino acids when you don’t consume caffeine, which means they can be turned into muscle after a grueling workout.
- No post-workout crash: You slam some caffeine, chuck some weights around, then go eat some protein in the anabolic window. That’s great and all, but then it hits you all at once and you nap for three hours. What happened? Caffeine crash, that’s what. But without the caffeine, workouts can in fact energize you. It’s like natural caffeine, except its actually endorphins and some dopamine.
- No intra-workout jitters: If your body can’t process caffeine normally, you can get a little… twitchy… during your reps and sets. No one wants one set where they’re bouncing off the walls, followed promptly by a set where they can barely lift the same amount of weights. Jitters are no good, and a caffeine-free approach to your workouts rids yourself of these jitters.
- Efficient nutrient absorption: The foods that you do eat before and after your workout get absorbed more efficiently in your body without caffeine. By abstaining from your pre-workout jolt of caffeine, the other nutrients — including those important amino acids from protein — can get to where they need to go in your muscles and other organs quickly and effectively.
- Balanced hormones and blood sugar: To be honest, raising your blood sugar isn’t necessarily a great idea. Plus, without caffeine, your hormones can return to normal levels. This is terrific news for your natural testosterone production, which is key for a productive workout.
Caffeine-free offers a ton of benefits. So why is it that most pre-workouts are chock full of stimulants?
Read Also: Best Creatine Supplement for Women (2021 Review)
The Downsides of Stimulants
Most pre-workouts get you super wired and pumped up for crazy workout time. You can even tell from the product names. But this is awful for your systems, not to mention it doesn’t help as much as you think.
Here are some disadvantages to taking stimulant pre-workout:
Lack of Quality Sleep
Do you know what’s more vital than working out? Recovery. If you don’t recover correctly, you’ll be in a world of hurt. And that begins and ends with sleep. Without quality sleep, your workouts will suffer and you’ll put yourself at risk for injury in the weight room.
By consuming copious amounts of caffeine, especially in pre-workout, you’re setting yourself up for recovery failure. If you work out in the afternoon and you’re pumping around 300mg of caffeine into your body, that caffeine will stay in your system well past bedtime. That leads to a tougher time getting to sleep and, therefore, reduces your sleep quality.
The main issue with caffeine is that if you use it consistently for a few weeks, you’re apt to build an addiction to the stuff. This is a huge problem because you gain a dependency and can’t function normally without caffeine. You don’t want to deal with this, so avoiding a caffeinated pre-workout is the best choice.
Dangerous in Large Doses
Usually, the caffeine content in a pre-workout isn’t anything to be scared of. However, if you take a double or — heaven forbid — triple dose, it starts to get scary. What happens is something called vasoconstriction, in which your blood vessels tighten and your blood pressure spikes. If you already have high blood pressure, this can lead to heart conditions or stroke.
You don’t want to die due to your caffeine pre-workout. You don’t even want high blood pressure from it. So avoid it at all costs.
Once you get on the juice, it’s tough to rid yourself of it. You enter withdrawal, which involves feeling fatigued, groggy, and weak. It’s better to never get addicted to caffeine pre-workout because it takes a few days (maybe weeks) of withdrawal, which isn’t worth the loss of energy and ability.
So going caffeine-free is obviously the way to go for a workout. But how should you select your caffeine-free pre-workout?
What Ingredients Should You Look For In A Pre-Workout?
If you eliminate stimulants like caffeine from your pre-workout supplement, what’s left? Look for these ingredients when you’re choosing a caffeine-free pre-workout:
- Creatine – this common workout supplement shows up in products designed for both pre and post-workout, and is the most heavily studied supplement on the market today. It is most commonly used for building muscle and strength training because it increases strength and assists with muscle growth. It also works really well as an ingredient in a caffeine free pre workout because one study has shown that taking it with caffeine can actually negate its muscle growth benefits. It isn’t a good choice for exercises that require high amounts of endurance, like long distance running.
- Citrulline – the opposite of Creatine, this amino acid is used as a supplement because it enables the body to produce more nitric oxide. This helps to dilate the blood vessels, improving circulation and increasing blood flow to the muscles being used during your workout. This is a great supplement option for runners and cyclists who need high endurance, but can also be beneficial for weightlifters and strength trainers as well.
- B Vitamins – have you ever had anyone recommend taking a couple of B12 vitamins when you’re feeling sluggish? B vitamins have been shown to promote higher energy levels, making them a great addition to the best caffeine free pre-workouts — you get that energy boost without any of the stimulants.
- Taurine – if you’ve ever had an energy drink, you’re probably familiar with Taurine. It’s primarily marketed as an endurance booster, making it a beneficial addition to your pre-workout.
- Beta-Alanine – this is an amino acid that your body produces naturally, which encourages your body to produce more carnosine. This molecule is stored in the muscles and helps to reduce muscle fatigue.
- Betatine – this is normally found in beets and other similar vegetables. When included in a pre-workout, it can help boost endurance and increase overall strength. It is a fairly new ingredient in the pre-workout world, however, so scientists aren’t entirely sure why this ingredient works the way it does yet
- Choline and Cholinergic Compounds – These nutrients are actually the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Finding a caffeine-free pre-workout with cholinergic compounds will give your body the materials to make acetylcholine, a major factor in overall mental health. Not only will you get the energy for a physical pump, but your brain gets a boost as well.
- Vitamins and Minerals – Might as well get the most bang for your buck. Getting vitamins like a B-complex, C, D, and all the other letters are helpful for keeping your body in tip-top shape. And more of these minerals don’t hurt. True, you get most of them through your diet, but why can’t your pre-workout help out too?
- Piperine – This is an extract pulled from black pepper and is found in plenty of supplements, especially pre-workout. The reason being is it increases the absorption of other chemicals and ingredients within the supplement. It’s essentially a booster for the main components, increasing the effectiveness of things like taurine, citrulline, and creatine. In short, even more energy.
- Theobromine – This is a stimulant that isn’t caffeine, kind of like taurine. It does have a much milder effect due to the dose found in supplements, but it’s a good compliment to taurine or whatever the main stimulant is in the pre-workout.
You’ll probably see other ingredients in your pre-workout like flavors and sweeteners, but those aren’t primary ingredients so we’re going to skip those.
Keep in mind that the best caffeine free pre-workout for you might contain all of these ingredients or just a few of them. Find the combination of ingredients that works best for you, even if that takes a bit of trial and error.
Also, avoid companies that use proprietary blends wherever possible — there’s no way of really knowing how much of each ingredient is in these blends, so the pre-workout might not be as beneficial as you want.
Ingredients to Avoid
- Caffeine – No duh. Caffeine, as we have described above, leads to dependency and crashes that are best to be avoided. Be careful; look for caffeine hiding in products that are a bit dodgy with their verbiage. They like to claim things are “all-natural” or “caffeine-free” and can still put trace amounts of caffeine in the formula. To avoid this, read the nutrition label carefully.
- Synephrine – Despite claims that it’s a potent fat burner, synephrine is a banned substance for most athletic competition. Also, it has a shortage of research behind it, not to mention the fact that it could cause horrible health issues. The risk is definitely NOT worth the reward when it comes to this ingredient.
- Yohimbe – In some camps, Yohimbe bark extract is considered a solid way to burn fat. However, this supplement also has questionable effectiveness. On top of that, it could have unknown, sometimes sporadic side effects depending on your biology.
- DMAA – 1.3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) is an amphetamine derivative that’s been deemed illegal to include in sports products and dietary supplements. It can give you shortness of breath and a tightening chest, which are precursors to heart attacks. If you have high blood pressure, you especially need to steer clear of this stuff. (Again, DMAA is illegal, so everyone should avoid it.)
- “Proprietary Blends” – These are mixtures that are speculative at best. This is where supplement companies hide those trace amounts of caffeine, as well as whatever snake oil they want to sneak in. If you find a pre-workout that has a proprietary blend and doesn’t go into detail, put it back on the shelf. If they spell out the ingredients, they probably have something on this list (or something you should never ingest anyways).
When Is The Best Time to Take Caffeine Free Pre-Workouts?
The best time to take your caffeine-free pre-workout will depend on the exact formulation of the product you choose. But in general, if you’re taking a supplement that contains ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine as we mentioned above, you’re going to want to take your supplement between 15 and 30 minutes before you hit the gym.
Nitric oxide boosters like citrulline might take a bit longer to hit your system and can be taken 60 minutes before your workout.
You can down a pre-workout right before you pick up those dumbbells, but it’s not going to be as effective as it could be if you took it well before your workout. If you’re not sure, make sure you read the dosage recommendations on the bottle before you mix up your first batch.
Top Stimulant Free Pre-Workout Supplements
Now, to the part you’ve all been waiting for — here, we’ve gathered detailed reviews on the five products that we listed at the beginning of the article. Who will win the crown for the best caffeine-free pre-workout?
Pump Surge Caffeine Free Pre Workout
Pump Surge is a new pre-workout from the guys over at Jacked Factory, which is becoming a big player in the workout supplements space. Let’s dive into what they have to offer you.
This particular pre-workout is built around 5 grams of L-citrulline. According to Examine.com, 3 grams a day would suffice (not to be confused L-citrulline malate which should be dosed at 6-8 grams).
Other Ingredients Included:
Betaine Anhydrous 2.5g – A study showed that 2.5 grams of betaine anhydrous can increase body composition, work capacity, and power.
Taurine 2g – An amino acid that studies show will increase blood flow, but not as much on anaerobic capacity. You can see a list of studies here
Alpha GPC 150mg – Studies show that Alpha GPC can increase cognitive improvement in Alzheimer’s dementia. Now, does that translate over to people who don’t have Alzheimer’s? Examine also has other notable studies that prove the effectiveness of Alpha GPC, making it a solid addition to the ingredients list.
Huperzine A 50mcg – This is becoming a more common ingredient in supplements to aid in focus. Huperzine-A is a compound extracted from the herbs of the Huperziceae family. It increases acetylcholine, which aids neurotransmitters that are involved in muscle contractions.
AstraGin® 25 mg – AstraGin® is a 100 percent natural compound composed of highly purified saponins isolated from the Astragalus membranaceus and Panax notoginseng plants, which are shown to help with absorption. In short, it’s a specialized iteration of piperine. According to the AstraGin website, it is recommended at 50mg a day.
This supplement only comes in one flavor (cherry limeade). One reviewer online mentioned it tasted more like cherry than limeade.
This supplement only comes in one flavors (cherry limeade), one reviewer online mentioned it tasted more cherry then limeade comparing to fruit punch flavor that you commonly see in other pre workouts.
- Great taste — mixes well, no clumps or grainy texture.
- Improves mood and cognitive function.
- No caffeine crash — no stimulants equals no crash after your workout.
- A few of the ingredients could be dosed a bit higher, but overall a good combo.
Controlled Labs Purple Wraath
If you can get past the odd spelling of the word, Wraath is one of the best caffeine-free pre-workouts on the market. This supplement relies on BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) to provide pre-workout energy and post-workout results.
Their complex includes citrulline, which we mentioned earlier as a nitric oxide booster, as well as a variety of other amino acids known for their workout benefits. It is, as its label suggests, one of the complete BCAA products on the market, making it perfect for use as a pre-workout or during a fasted workout to reduce body fat.
- Complete BCAA Product — utilizes the best amino acids to provide pre-workout enhancement.
- Stimulant Free — No caffeine and no other stimulants, perfect for anyone who is stimulant sensitive.
- Multiple Flavors — available in three flavors — grape, cotton candy, purple lemonade.
- Artificial flavors/sweetener — artificial ingredients could affect the taste.
- Better after prolonged use; this product doesn’t provide immediate effects, creating better results after use.
Better after prolonged use — this product doesn’t provide immediate effects, creating better results after use.
PUMP by Core is designed to not only provide a great pump but to help you stay hydrated during your workout.
This Citrulline-based supplement is made with surprisingly few ingredients, but still provides the same sort of pump as many of the other caffeine pre-workouts on the market.
The big difference with this product is that it also contains a proprietary blend known as HydroMax, which contains glycerol. This helps to prevent dehydration and to hyper-hydrate the cells, improving blood flow during your workout. However, make sure to look deeper into the specifics of the proprietary blend; as we mentioned above, they could be hiding unwanted ingredients.
- Helps fight dehydration — keeps you hydrated throughout your workout.
- Tastes good — both flavors (Pineapple Strawberry and Sour Candy Apple) taste great.
- Improves Endurance — helps to improve endurance by lowering your heart rate.
- Clumps — can clump up and may not mix well.
EVOGEN EVP Raspberry Lemonade
Evogen EVP is one of the only stimulant-free pre-workouts that is used by professional competitors around the globe. Containing both creatine and Citrulline, this supplement is one of the most well-balanced caffeine-free supplements on the market today.
In addition to this, EVP contains high levels of half a dozen B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium to boost your system while it boosts your workout.
If you’re looking for something to help you push a little further when you’re working out without loading yourself up with caffeine and other stimulants, EVP is probably the best product for you.
- Balanced Product — perfect for any type of workout, for anyone who’s looking for a good pump.
- Tastes great — only comes in one flavor but tastes amazing.
- Reduces soreness — the amino acids in the product help to reduce soreness after a hard workout.
- Artificial sweeteners —The product contains many artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.
- Expensive — one of the more expensive pre-workouts on the market.
Best-Tasting Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout
You want your pre-workout drink to taste somewhat palatable before gaining some serious muscle in the gym. Thankfully, caffeine-free pre-workout supplements don’t have to taste like dirt.
The best-tasting supplement would have to be Transparent Labs PreSeries Stim-Free Pre-Workout. This supplement has six different flavors — blue raspberry, orange, strawberry lemonade, green apple, tropical punch, sour grape — and all of them are delicious. It’s chock-full of citrulline malate, BCAAs, beta-alanine, taurine, and creatine HCI. These are all ingredients you want to see in a caffeine-free pre-workout. Plus, it has BioPerine, a.k.a. black pepper extract, which enhances all of those active ingredients.
What’s more, it’s flavored with stevia, a natural sweetener, which helps you avoid synthetic garbage and artificial sweeteners. There really isn’t anything bad about this supplement; if you have the budget for it, we suggest opting for Transparent Labs PreSeries Stim-Free for your pre-workout needs.
Low-Caffeine Pre-Workout Supplements
Let’s be honest: Finding a pre-workout that’s completely stimulant-free is a hard ask sometimes. You can always go for a supplement that’s really low in caffeine, which will help you avoid those nasty side effects. Here are a few options:
ProSupps Jekyll NitroX
With only 100mg of caffeine, this supplement gives you less than half of a regular dose. What it does have in ample amounts, though, are beta-alanine, citrulline and creatine, which is exactly what we want.
To add to this, ProSupps gives you a mental boost with cholinergic compounds, such as choline bitartrate. It also has theacrine, which comes from Chinese tea plants and aids in mental performance.
While there is some caffeine and the citrulline amount is a little on the low side, this is a very effective pre-workout that gets the job done without getting you too jittery.
Cellucor C4 Original
A tried and true brand and supplement, Cellucor C4 Original packs 150mg of caffeine into each dose, which is a little higher than ProSupps but it still considered minimal. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, don’t take this one.
For everyone else, this formula includes the classic beta-alanine and creatine, which will give you enough giddyup to crush your workout.
The downside to C4 is that it doesn’t provide any mental stimulation. The mood-adjusting compounds found in the ingredients list doesn’t do enough to make it worthwhile. We believe that C4 started strong in the pre-workout supplement race, but has since lagged behind due to lack of innovation.
Is caffeine-free pre-workout bad for you?
Not normally. In terms of building muscle mass, pre-workout in general can help you with a boost of energy to lift heavier loads for a longer time under tension. This is a good thing. Remove the caffeine from that pre-workout, and it leaves you with a healthy version of that energy.
There are caveats, of course. You should take a pre-workout that is 100 percent clear of all harmful ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners, illegal substances, and sketchy proprietary blends.
Do stimulant-free pre-workouts work?
Yes, they do. There are plenty of non-caffeine stimulants out there — citrulline, taurine, beta-alanine — that you can get a jolt of energy and mental acuity without the dangerous crash of caffeine.
Is caffeine-free pre-workout healthier?
It depends on how your body processes caffeine. In general, yes, avoiding overconsumption of caffeine is always ideal, making caffeine-free pre-workout “healthier.” The healthiest form of pre-workout is one that includes all-natural ingredients only, at effective doses. Whether that means to you that it has small amounts of caffeine or not is up to your biology.
Is caffeine-free pre-workout bad for your kidneys?
The biggest harm to your kidneys is caffeine, so caffeine-free supplements shouldn’t dehydrate you as badly. However, creatine does pull water from your blood and stores it in your muscles, taking away water to be used within your kidneys. Adequate hydration is key for your kidneys to function properly.
A way to curtail this is to mix the pre-workout in *drumroll, please* water. You should also drink water throughout the day and your workout to combat this type of dehydration. Your kidneys should be a-ok if you continue to hydrate.
Can you take caffeine-free pre-workout every day?
You theoretically can, but it’s ill-advised. Too much of a good thing turns bad real fast. Even though it doesn’t have caffeine, copious amounts of creatine and citrulline aren’t worth it for your body. Our recommendation: Only consume it when you need a pick-me-up or before hard workouts.
Why choose caffeine-free pre-workout?
Refer to the above sections regarding the adverse effects of caffeine — as well as the benefits of going caffeine-free for your pre-workout supplement — to find the answer.
Wrapping It Up
So, which is the best caffeine-free pre-workout supplement? Hands down, it has to be CORE by Pump. This pre-workout isn’t loaded down with a ton of artificial flavors or colors and contains HydroMax to help keep you hydrated throughout your entire workout. It’s a good product for anyone of any fitness level looking for a useful pre-workout, but it’s also ideal for anyone who can’t have caffeine or is sensitive to stimulants. When you pair that with the two unique flavors and the endurance bonuses that it offers, CORE is easily the best caffeine-free pre-workout on the market.
Make your own decision and try a caffeine-free pre-workout for yourself. You’ll definitely notice the difference.