What To Look For In A Pre-Workout and What To Avoid

By Sam Davis, BHS, CPT, FNS

If you’ve never purchased a preworkout before, we understand that it can be overwhelming, and in an industry where you have influencers that push product just because they’re getting paid to do so, it’s easy to get scammed or pushed in the wrong direction. 

Here at 1and1, it’s really important we educate our readers so that you can make the best possible decision for your health. So below are the 5 things to look for in a good pre-workout and 5 things to avoid, and why.

5 Ingredients you DO want in your preworkout


Caffeine is an awesome natural stimulant that is derived from plants. You will usually see it in the form of coffee or green tea extract. Studies show that caffeine not only boosts energy, but it also helps you push more in the gym which in turn helps you burn calories. You don’t need more than 250mg per serving if you’re just starting out or sensitive to caffeine, but you can also work up to higher amounts for more energy. 


Branch Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs, are the essential amino acids used by the body to help with protein synthesis which helps reduce muscle break down and increase recovery. Supplementing with BCAAs may help this process, and get you back to the gym faster.


L-Citrulline is an amino acid that helps increase the level of nitric acid to promote vasodilation (increased blood flow to your muscles). By making sure this is an ingredient in your preworkout, you may be able to increase the “pump” to your muscles, increase your energy in the gym, and speed up recovery time. 


Beta-Alanine is an amino acid shown to increase strength, stamina, and blood flow to your muscles. Please note: this is the ingredient in pre-workouts that causes a slight tingling sensation. This is normal, but may be uncomfortable to some new users. 

Creatine HCL:

Creatine is usually sold as a monohydrate, which doesn’t absorb well and tends to make users hold onto a substantial amount of water weight. But Creatine HCL is pure, and more soluble in fluids (which means no bloat or water retention). It’s used for improving stamina and increasing muscle mass. Make sure it is dosed around 750mgs; anything less than that is underdosed. 

5 Ingredients you DON’T want

Proprietary Blends:

The key to finding a good pre-workout is finding a brand that isn’t scared to show you exactly what’s inside and how it’s dosed. When you see a proprietary blend, you don’t know what you’re putting into your body. This goes for any supplement. 

D-Aspartic Acid:

Supplementing with DAA was supposed to increase the luteinizing hormone, but studies show there is no benefit for this. What studies do show are the side effects: uneasiness, anxiety, and depression. 


1,3-DMAA is a heavy-duty stimulant that can be related to ephedrine, which used to be sold as a fat-loss ingredient before it was banned by the FDA over 10 years ago. It is very bad for your heart, as it pushes it into overdrive which, if you workout intensely, you won’t need. Many studies prove that it can send you into cardiac arrest. 

Creatine “Alternatives”:

Pure creatine tends to be pricey, so companies are starting to use creatine alternatives that are a bi-product, or substrate of creatine itself. In reality, these products don’t actually do anything but make you pee out creatinine. 

Artificial Food Coloring:

You’ll notice on the ingredient lists of many food products these days ‘red-40”, or “blue-2” which is your sign to put that item down. Synthetic food coloring is linked to cancer, ADHD, GI issues, asthma, and hypersensitivities. 

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