The Pre Workout S**t List

How do you tell a great pre workout supplement from a bad one?

Simple; you look for any of the ingredients below!

I’ve compiled the following “s**t list” to show the ingredients which should NOT be in your pre workout.

Unfortunately, there are many more poor pre’s than good ones.

But after this post, you’ll know how to spot them!

A lot of supplement manufacturers are either behind the times, or blindly unaware of what they’re doing, and continue to throw ineffective substances into formulas.


Well, these ingredients are often very cheap, and allow the company to make bold claims about fat loss, mental focus, and insane muscle pumps on the tub despite knowing that those benefits will never actually be seen by the user.

how to tell if a pre workout is good
Disclaimer: Jets, explosions, muscles, ‘hardcore’, and ‘extreme’ not included.


Here’s the thing…

I f**king hate taurine.

If you already follow my social pages, you know I’ve regularly pointed out why it should NOT be in your pre workout.

Unfortunately, taurine is the darling of the supplement industry.

We’d be hard-pressed to find a pre workout supplement or energy drink which doesn’t contain it, and that’s due to the fact it has been linked to increased mental focus, and better blood flow to working muscles. (1, 2)

But while it does have those benefits, we also have a couple of very big problems…

The first is the dose. We’d need around 2 grams of taurine to unlock its full training benefits, and there are very few products which go anywhere near this level.

The second issue is that it works as an antagonist of caffeine.

That’s right, taurine actually prevents caffeine from doing its job when taken at the same time!

This was demonstrated in a 2012 study from Tufts University, Medford, where researchers concluded that taurine “reversed the effects of caffeine on vigor.” (3)

It doubled down on earlier research which noted the antagonistic relationship between the two ingredients. (4)

Given the obvious performance benefits of caffeine, it makes sense to prioritize that over any minor improvements taurine may cause at their expense.

Well-known Pre Workouts Which Make This Big Mistake:

Pre Jym (Jym Supplement Science), Pre Kaged (Kaged Muscle), .50 Calibre (Grenade), Total War (RedCon1).

why is agmatine sulfate in pre workouts

Agmatine Sulfate

Agmatine sulfate is an ingredient which is on the rise in the supplement industry.

You’ll find it in many major pre workout formulas due to its links with nitric oxide.’s supplement store makes the following bold claims “Agmatine can promote greater nitric oxide production, enhance recovery speed, and even improve metabolic function!”

It sound like the next big thing, right?

Unfortunately, it’s total bulls**t.

best pre workout ingredients list

Not only is there zero scientific evidence to support any of the bold claims made above, but there’s actually research suggesting agmatine inhibits nitric oxide production! (5)

A study on the long-term benefits of agmatine, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food back in 2014, puts the final nail in the coffin. (6)

Dr. Gad Gillad, head researcher of this study, had this to say:

“That agmatine is touted for bodybuilding purposes is completely unsubstantiated and is backed by outright false claims.”

Popular pre workouts that make this big mistake:

ENGN (EVLution Nutrition), PRE (NutraBio),

best pre workout ingredients


Speaking of nitric oxide boosters, let’s go back to the original; arginine.

Arginine was all the rage in the early 2000’s, and found its way into every major pre workout supplement on the shelves of our local supplement stores (remember those?!).

The problem is many manufacturers still seem to think it’s the early 2000’s…

We discovered a long time ago that citrulline malate is a superior way to get the benefits of arginine supplementation, and any top quality pre workout won’t be wasting their time with anything other than CitMal.

pre workout with full dose of citrulline malate

Citrulline has been shown in clinical trials to yield a 50% greater absorption rate of arginine once broken down inside the body, making it a superior way to supplement with arginine than using arginine itself! (7)

However, old school still works its way into many formulas because it allows the manufacturer to make claims of “explosive pumps”, despite knowing the user won’t be getting them.

Popular pre workouts that make this big mistake:

C4 (Cellucor), N.O. Xplode (BSN), PMP (GAT), The Curse! (Cobra Labs), Shock Therapy (Universal Nutrition).

bcaas pre workout


Whoa! Steady on there, Russ!

Surely not BCAAs?!?!

Muscle building magazines have long billed them as the most important supplements on the market. The stuff you should “sip all day long for even more gainzzz!”

But here’s the thing:

Your pre workout supplement should NOT contain BCAAs.

But don’t take my word for it.

Let’s look at the results of a 2013 study published in Amino Acids, which found that taking BCAAs before exercise inhibited dopamine production by preventing tyrosine from reaching the brain, making the trainee feel “sluggish”, and in some cases leading to early CNS fatigue. (7)

It seems, much like the taurine-caffeine situation, it doesn’t matter what we think an ingredient is going to do if it clashes with others in the formula.

Not only that, but in the case of BCAAs there’s room for debate as to whether you need them at all…

Providing your diet is rich in protein, you’ll get by just fine without a dedicated BCAA supplement.

However, of the three BCAAs, I find it useful to have a dedicated leucine supplement to use in the post workout window, where it’s been shown useful for spiking m-Tor and kick-starting the muscle recovery process. (8)

Popular pre workouts that make this big mistake:

Pre Jym (Jym Supplement Science), .50 Calibre (Grenade), SuperPump MAX (Gaspari), Combat Pre Workout (MusclePharm).

is it cheaper to make your own pre workout

Finding The Right Pre Workout For You…

When you’re looking for a pre workout, you now have a “go to” list of things to watch out for.

If your pre workout raises a couple of these red flags, I’d keep looking.

This post will show you how to build your own pre workout if you’d like to go down the D.I.Y. route.

Or I recommend grabbing something like AML Pre Workout. I recently reviewed this pre and it successfully avoided all the issues above, making it the current “king” of the pre workout industry for athletes.


  1. Kim, S., et al. Taurine Induces Anti-Anxiety by Activating Strychnine-Sensitive Glycine Receptor in Vivo. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. (2009)
  2. Moloney M. A., et al. Two weeks taurine supplementation reverses endothelial dysfunction in young male type 1 diabetics. Diab Vasc Dis Res. (2010)
  3. Giles G. E., et al. Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. (2012)
  4. Peacock, A., et al. Energy drink ingredients. Contribution of caffeine and taurine to performance outcomes. Appetite. (2013)
  5. Piletz, J. E., et al. Agmatine: clinical applications after 100 years in translation. Drug Discov Today. (2013)
  6. Gilad, G. M., et al. Long-term (5 years), high daily dosage of dietary agmatine – evidence of safety: a case report. J Med Food. (2014)
  7. Choi, S., et al. Oral branched-chain amino acid supplements that reduce brain serotonin during exercise in rats also lower brain catecholamines. Amino Acids. (2013)
  8. Pasiakos, S. M., et al. Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. (2011)

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