The Highest Quality Next-Generation Pre-Workout Supplements

Rave takes a look at what it takes to be a high-end, next-generation pre-workout supplement.

Old school pre-workouts were basically just caffeine with a few other ineffective ingredients. Literally nothing more than coffee. They provided an energy boost and that’s about it.

Today’s highest quality next-generation pre-workouts do a lot more: they have ingredients to improve endurance, blood flow, reduce fatigue, increase strength and even boost your mood.

Our #1 Pick – The Next-Generation Pre-Workout We RAVE About

Shifted Maximum Preworkout
Best Overall
Shifted Maximum Pre-Workout

Before moving onto our rankings of the best quality pre-workout products on the market, let’s take a look at how we made our choices.

What Makes a Pre-Workout NextGen

A next-generation pre-workout needs to meet the following criteria. First of all, it needs to address all or most of the workout functions that a pre-workout is expected to address: energy, focus, pump, mood, endurance, strength and body composition.

Second, it should have at least five core independently functional ingredients. And third, it should be scientifically dosed… no cutting corners. To top it off, the serving size of each individual ingredient must be listed and can not be part of a “matrix” or “blend” or “complex.”

In order to meet these requirements, a high-end next generation pre-workout will often cost a little more. But we know that the hardcore among you don’t mind spending a little extra on your health.

The Pre-Workout Ingredients We Want To See

Everyone has their theories on the best pre-workout ingredients. We certainly have our favorites. At the top of the list we like to see 250-350mg of caffeine (energy, focus), 6-10g of L-Citrulline (pump and blood flow), 2-4g of Beta Alanine (endurance), 2-5g of Creatine (strength and composition), 50-300mg of sodium (for better muscular hydration).

Additionally, we like seeing extra creatively beneficial ingredients like 2-4g of nitrates like beet root extract (more pump and blood flow), 2-3g of Betaine Anhydrous (for strength and body composition), 1-3g of L-Tyrosine (mood), 200-600mg of Alpha GPC (focus), 1-3g of Taurine (endurance and force generation).

This is not a comprehensive list. For example, Alpha GPC is a choline support ingredient. Other choline support ingredients work well too and we support their inclusion if there is a scientific study backing up their use.

So without further ado, here are our favorite next generation pre-workout formulas. These are literally the highest quality pre-workout supplements on the market rigt now.

1. Shifted Maximum

Shifted Maximum takes pre-workout to a whole different level. We recently reviewed the product here and were blown away. It’s a game changer. In addition to having almost all the ingredients we like to see it also includes high-end, research supported ingredients like: ElevATP, CoQ10, zumXR delayed release caffeine, red spinach extract, L-theanine, and B vitamins.

In addition to its impressive list of 18+ ingredients it’s also well dosed in all major ingredients. We don’t see any corners cut and it shows. Beautiful packaging. Great branding. And the flavor is smooth and excellent.

We’d only make slight adjustments to improve this product: more electrolytes, bump up the Caffeine Anhydrous to 300 and the zumXR to 100mg for a whopping 400mg of immediate and longterm energy.

Here’s a breakdown of the functional ingredients in Shifted Maximum:

Instant EnergyCaffeine Anhydrous250mg
Delayed EnergyzumXR50mg
Alt Pump PathwayNitrates (Red Spinach and Beet Root)2g
EnduranceBeta Alanine2.5g
Alt Endurance PathwayTaurine3g
Strength & Body CompositionCreatine5g
Alt Strength & Body CompositionBetaine Anydrous2.5g
FocusAlpha GPC300mg
ATP SupportElevATP150mg
Mood BoostL-Tyrosine2g
Alt Mood BoostRhodiola Rosea100mg

Next Gen Pre-Workout Score:
98% (Shifted Maximum)

2. Gorilla Mode

Gorilla Mode is a pump focused pre-workout with good stimulant effect, cognitive enhancement and mood boosters. Because of the Glycerol powder it tends to clump a bit in the can, but serious people can get over this. It’s no big deal. Bottom line is that if you’re looking for maximally pumped muscles after a workout, you can’t beat Gorilla Mode.

They have a large number of flavor options and are increasingly known for their creative and interesting new flavors.

To improve this product, we suggest adding some electrolytes, an extended duration caffeine, choline support, ATP support and a more proven endurance pathway (Malic Acid is under studied and questionable… a much more proven ingredient is Beta Alanine).

Here’s a breakdown of the functional ingredients in Gorilla Mode:

Instant Energy Caffeine Anhydrous 350mg
Delayed Energy
Alt Pump PathwayGlycerol3000mg
EnduranceMalic Acid3000mg
Alt Endurance Pathway
Strength & Body CompositionCreatine Monohydrate5000mg
Alt Strength & Body CompositionBetaine Anhydrous2500mg
ATP Support
Mood BoostKanna500mg
Alt Mood BoostHuperzine A400mcg

Next Gen Pre-Workout Score:
95% (Gorilla Mode)

3. Pre-Kaged

Pre-Kaged is an amazing pre-workout that gives you a unique experience versus all other pre-workouts in the industry due to its ORAC blend and its unique caffeine source of organic green coffee (some of the EAAs included might impact the feel as well). Often times when using Kaged, we notice positive effects on mood and well being long after our workouts. This is probably because of the anti-oxidants in the ORAC and the natural coffee.

Pre-Kaged has a nice selection of flavors which all taste great. It’s inclusion of Beta-Alanine is on the low dose side which has the benefit of almost completely eliminating the “tingles” associated with Beta-Alanine, although it gets dangerously close to being ineffective.

Our suggestions for improvement are: more electrolytes, more Beta-Alanine, stick with the proven Creatine Monohydrate rather than a proprietary formulation, drop the EAAs like Leucine which are more well suited for a recovery product and finally, adding choline support.

Here’s a breakdown of the functional ingredients in Pre-Kaged:

Instant EnergyGreen Coffee Caffeine274mg
Delayed Energy
Alt Pump Pathway
EnduranceBeta Alanine1600mg
Alt Endurance PathwayTaurine2000mg
Strength & Body CompositionCreatine Hydrochloride1500mg
Alt Strength & Body CompositionBetaine Anydrous2500mg
ATP Support
Mood BoostORAC Blend100mg
Alt Mood Boost

Next Gen Pre-Workout Score:
92% (Kaged Pre-Kaged)

4. Legion Pulse

Legion Pulse wins for being the simplest Next-Gen pre-workout. Other than creatine, they get all the ingredients we really care about and they get them dosed very well.

You can tell that Legion sought to create an elegant pre-workout because things are well balanced: although the caffeine is on the high end at 350mg, it’s balanced by 350mg of Theanine. They’ve also added a generous amount of both of the most important electrolytes in sodium and potassium. We think many pre-workouts overlook the electrolytes and it is good to see this start to change.

What would we change about Legion Pulse? Ideally, we’d like creatine monohydrate added to preworkouts because polls have shown that for many people, their preworkout is their only or main supplement. Creatine is probably the most incrementally impactful supplement for athletes and lifters. Other than that, we’d like to see some creativity based on some newer ingredients like time released caffeine.

Here’s a breakdown of the functional ingredients in Legion Pulse:

Instant EnergyCaffeine Anhydrous350mg
Delayed Energy
Alt Pump Pathway
EnduranceBeta Alanine3600mg
Alt Endurance Pathway
Strength & Body CompositionBetaine Anydrous2500mg
Alt Strength & Body Composition
FocusAlpha GPC300mg
ATP Support
Mood BoostTheanine350mg
Alt Mood Boost
ElectrolytesSodium 230mg

Next Gen Pre-Workout Score:
85% (Legion Pulse)

5. C4 Ultimate

C4 Ultimate is the high end of the C4 line and while it tries to be next gen with some innovative ingredients, we feel that they skimped a little too much. Still, we like that they attempted to innovate with some novel ingredients and multiple NO pathways.

Where could C4 Ultimate improve? For starters, C4 only has 4g of L-Citrulline. We’d like to see 8g. We’re also disappointed by the lack of electrolytes. The inclusion of Creatine is nice but the patented forms don’t do much for us and it’s somewhat underdosed at 2g. 5g is the standard and some research is showing that up to 10g per day has performance benefit.

Here’s a breakdown of C4 Ultimate’s functional ingredients:

Instant EnergyCaffeine Anhydrous300mg
Delayed EnergyTheacrine62.5mg
Alt Pump PathwayNitrates1000mg
EnduranceBeta Alanine3200mg
Alt Endurance PathwayTaurine1000mg
Strength & Body CompositionCreatine2000mg
Alt Strength & Body Composition
FocusAlpha GPC200mg
ATP Support
Mood BoostTyrosine400mg
Alt Mood BoostHuperzine A50mcg

Next Gen Pre-Workout Score:
82% (C4 Ultimate)

That wraps up our ranking of the highest-quality pre-workouts on the market. We hope to make this list a lot longer over time as more and more next-generation pre-workout supplements with transparent ingredient labels come onto the market.

Additional Information About Pre-Workouts

Does more ingredients always mean a pre-workout is better?

No. We’ve seen more and more pre-workout supplements with conflicting (multiple stimulants like theobromine and caffeine) or redundant ingredients. More does not always mean better. All the ingredients should work well together.

What are the most important pre-workout ingredients?

Caffeine. Citrulline. Beta-alanine. Creatine (as monohydrate). Choline (usually as Alpha GPC). Electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium, etc).

Do you really think Creatine should be in a pre-workout

Yes. Yes, we do. While timing doesn’t matter on creatine, having it in your pre-workout helps you to stay consistent about keeping it in your system. There is no other natural supplement ingredient that packs as much long term, chronic power as creatine.

Don’t you need about 6g of Beta-Alanine per day to see the anti-fatigue effects?

Yes and no. Studies show that 4-6g may be the ideal among. However, that much at one time causes severe tingles and most people find it too unpleasant. Plus, it’s better to split up your beta-alanine doses across the day.

What is the difference between a chronic and acute pre-workout ingredient?

An acute ingredient (like caffeine or citrulline) has a very short active life inside your body before its effects dissipate. A chronic ingredient (like creatine or beta-alanine) builds up in your system over time and takes a while (days, weeks or months) to build up to saturation levels where you are receiving the maximum benefits.