Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout Review: What to Know Before You Buy
Medically Reviewed by Natalie Olsen, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP
Published on May 3, 2022
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is a supplement that contains multiple ingredients such as caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine to support workout performance, energy, and focus. However, some of these ingredients are underdosed.
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Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is a supplement designed to be taken 20–30 minutes before your workout.
It contains a variety of ingredients that have been shown to support exercise performance, energy, and focus.
Some of these ingredients include:
- Caffeine: A nervous system stimulant that delays fatigue and perception of pain. (1)
- Creatine: A compound that increases muscle size, strength, and power. (2)
- Beta-Alanine: An amino acid that combines with another amino acid to delay muscle fatigue. (3)
- N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine: A form of l-tyrosine that supports cognitive focus. (4)
- Citrus Bioflavonoids: Compounds found in citrus fruits that enhance oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles. (5)
Each serving also provides 63% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin D and more than 100% for several B vitamins.
Pre-Workout contains 30 servings per container and is available in a variety of flavors, including Watermelon, Blueberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, and Green Apple.
Each one-scoop serving provides about 10 grams of powder, which mixes easily with 6–8 fluid ounces of cold water.
The powder blends well with a stirring utensil — like a spoon — or can be mixed using a shaker cup.
With a shaker cup, it’s best to shake gently instead of vigorously to prevent the formation of foam, which makes drinking it more difficult.
Pre-Workout is third-party tested by Informed Choice, so you can be sure it contains the ingredients and amounts listed on the label without impurities.
Pre-Workout is a supplement designed to be taken within 20–30 minutes of your workout. It contains ingredients that have been shown to enhance workout performance, energy, and focus — like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine, among others.
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout claims to enhance performance, energy, and focus.
Although no study to date has examined these purported benefits, Pre-Workout contains ingredients that support these claims.
However, many of these ingredients are underdosed compared to what the evidence suggests is an effective dose.
So while you can still experience increased exercise performance, energy, and focus with Pre-Workout, a higher dose of these ingredients may yield better results.
Performance and Energy
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout may enhance several markers of exercise performance, including muscle strength, power, and endurance.
Creatine, beta-alanine, and caffeine are the primary ingredients that have been proven to enhance exercise performance.
Creatine works by increasing the available fuel in the muscle so you can lift heavier weights and perform a greater number of repetitions before tiring. (2)
The performance-enhancing effects of beta-alanine lie in its ability to increase muscle carnosine concentrations. (3)
Carnosine helps buffer the acids that form within muscle cells during intense exercise that contribute to fatigue, allowing you to exercise harder and longer before fatigue sets in.
Based on the doses Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout provides per serving, this can take up to four weeks of daily supplementation to fully experience creatine’s benefits and up to six weeks to experience beta-alanine’s benefits. (3, 2)
In either case, Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout contains 175 mg of caffeine — equivalent to a 12-ounce (360 mL) cup of coffee — per serving, which can be a sufficient amount to experience caffeine’s performance-enhancing effects. (6, 1)
Caffeine decreases pain and fatigue perception, allowing you to exercise harder and longer. (1)
You can become desensitized to caffeine’s performance benefits over time, so it’s best to cycle off caffeine every few weeks. (7)
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout also contains L-citrulline and citrus bioflavonoids.
These ingredients increase your body’s production of a molecule called nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels and allows more oxygen and nutrient delivery to your muscles.
However, like creatine and beta-alanine, Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout contains these ingredients in doses smaller than what research has demonstrated effective in offering performance-enhancing benefits. (8, 5, 9)
Energy and Focus
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout contains ingredients that can enhance energy and focus to help you get through your workouts.
The primary — and most beneficial — energy and focus ingredient in this supplement is the nervous system stimulant caffeine.
Indeed, an extra boost of energy is usually why people take Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout and other popular alternatives.
Other ingredients intended to increase energy and enhance focus in Pre-Workout include acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) and n-acetyl-L-tyrosine (NALT).
Enhanced focus can help you avoid distractions and make your workouts more productive.
ALC is a form of L-carnitine, which helps transform fats into energy. However, compared with L-carnitine, ALC is able to cross the bloodstream into the brain, where it may enhance cognition and focus.
However, the ability of ALC to improve cognition and enhance focus in healthy people remains largely unknown, especially during exercise. (10)
NALT is a form of tyrosine, an amino acid that helps make the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. (4)
These neurotransmitters play important roles in focus, learning, and memory.
By enhancing the production of these neurotransmitters, NALT is thought to improve focus and help you get more out of your workouts.
Support for Claimed Benefits
Pre-Workout claims to enhance performance, energy, and focus. While it contains ingredients that have been shown to support these claims — like creatine, beta-alanine, and caffeine — many of the ingredients are underdosed.
|Energy and focus||3/5|
Although no study to date has examined the safety of Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout, it contains ingredients that have a strong track record of safety.
As such, Pre-Workout is likely safe for most people. (13)
However, some users of multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements — not necessarily Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout — have reported skin reactions, heart abnormalities like an elevated heart rate, and nausea. (14)
Females are more likely to experience these side effects compared with males. (14)
The reported skin reaction is likely related to beta-alanine, which in high doses can cause paresthesia — a harmless sensation that causes a tingling-like feeling, usually to the face and hands.
However, Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout provides a dose of beta-alanine that is unlikely to cause paresthesia. (3)
The other side effects — especially heart abnormalities — are likely caused by stimulants like caffeine in high doses.
It is important to be mindful of the total intake of caffeine and other ingredients in a day to ensure levels are not exceeding recommended doses.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day.(15)
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout provides almost half of the recommended max daily dose of caffeine.
However, if you’re sensitive to its effects, starting with half a serving and limiting caffeine from other sources during the day may be best to assess your tolerance level.
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout also contains artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and colors.
The type of these artificial ingredients varies by flavor but includes sucralose and acesulfame potassium as sweeteners, and Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Yellow 5 as color additives.
Although these ingredients are recognized as safe by the FDA, they remain controversial and may be linked to health issues — including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hyperactivity, and cancer. (16, 17, 18)
In addition, some people may be more sensitive to these ingredients than others.
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout is likely safe for most people. However, multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements have been associated with side effects like skin reactions, heart abnormalities, and nausea, especially in females. Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout also contains artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors, which is something to keep in mind.
Pre-Workout is widely available in stores and online.
Popular online retailers include Amazon.com, Bodybuilding.com, and GNC.com.
You can also purchase it directly from the manufacturer Optimum Nutrition at optimumnutrition.com.
Pre-Workout is only available in a 30-serving tub and varies in cost from $30 to $35 ($1.00 to $1.17 per serving) — depending on where you purchase and any promotions offered by the retailer.
Purchasing Pre-Workout directly from the Optimum Nutrition website guarantees you a 30-day return policy if you’re unsatisfied and use less than 25% of the product.
Optimum Nutrition also provides contact information if you have specific answers about Pre-Workout or their other products.
You can purchase Pre-Workout from a variety of online and in-store retailers. Pre-Workout contains 30 servings per tub and costs $30–$35 ($1.00–$1.17 per serving).
Pre-workout products are one of the most popular supplement categories.
Most pre-workout products contain a stimulant like caffeine and include ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine.
Many products also contain ingredients intended to increase nitric oxide production — like L-citrulline, L-arginine, and betaine.
Here’s a look at how Pre-Workout compares to other popular brands, including another one from Optimum Nutrition called Pre Advanced.
Pre Advanced contains the same ingredients as Pre-Workout, but in effective doses.
|Product||Key Ingredients||Servings||Price (per serving)|
|Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout||
Creatine Monohydrate: 3 g
Beta-Alanine: 1.5 g
L-Citrulline: 750 mg
Caffeine: 175 mg
($1.17 per serving)
|Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced||
Creatine Monohydrate: 5 g
Beta-Alanine: 3.2 g
L-Citrulline: 6 g
Caffeine: 300 mg
($1.80 per serving)
Creatine Nitrate: 1 g
Beta-Alanine: 1.6 g
Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate: 1 g
Caffeine: 150 mg
($1.00 per serving)
|Alani Nu Pre-Workout||
Beta-Alanine: 1.6 g
L-Citrulline: 6 g
L-Tyrosine: 500 mg
Caffeine: 200 mg
($1.33 per serving)
Beta-Alanine: 3.6 g
L-Citrulline: 8 g
Betaine: 2.5 g
Caffeine: 350 mg
($1.66 per serving)
Prices were pulled from Amazon for consistency.
Comparatively, Pre-Workout offers a moderate dose of caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine for a good price point. However, other products, including Optimum Nutrition’s Pre Advanced, offer these ingredients in more effective doses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you take two scoops of Pre-Workout?
The label advises taking one scoop or less to assess your tolerance and not to exceed two scoops per day.
How much caffeine is in Pre-Workout?
Pre-Workout provides 175 mg of caffeine per serving — equivalent to 12 ounces (360 mL) of coffee.
Is there a scoop in Pre-Workout?
Pre-Workout provides one 10-gram scoop.
How many calories are in Pre-Workout?
Pre-Workout provides 10 calories per serving.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is a popular supplement that is designed to be taken before your workout to enhance exercise performance, energy, and focus.
Most of the ingredients in Pre-Workout have evidence to support their use for these purported benefits, but because they are underdosed, you won’t experience their full potential.
You can experience a greater effect taking two scoops but remember to start with one scoop or less to assess your tolerance first.
Alternatively, you can also try the more adequately dosed Pre Advanced pre-workout from Optimum Nutrition.
In either case, Pre-Workout is likely safe for most people and still offers a good price point for what it provides compared with other popular alternatives.
At WellnessVerge, we only use primary references for our articles, including peer reviewed medical journals or well-respected academic institutions.
- International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance - PMC:
- International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine - PMC:
- International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine - PMC:
- Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands--A review - PubMed:
- Citrus Flavonoid Supplementation Improves Exercise Performance in Trained Athletes - PMC:
- Coffee, brewed - FoodData Central:
- Time course of tolerance to the performance benefits of caffeine - PMC:
- Acute Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on High-Intensity Strength and Power Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis - PubMed:
- The effect of citrus flavonoid extract supplementation on anaerobic capacity in moderately trained athletes: a randomized controlled trial - PMC:
- L‐carnitine for cognitive enhancement in people without cognitive impairment - PMC:
- Tyrosine Ingestion and Its Effects on Cognitive and Physical Performance in the Heat - PubMed:
- Tyrosine for Mitigating Stress and Enhancing Performance in Healthy Adult Humans, a Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Literature - PubMed:
- Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review - PubMed:
- Common Habits, Adverse Events, and Opinions Regarding Pre-Workout Supplement Use Among Regular Consumers - PMC:
- Caffeine | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:
- Biological Effects of Food Coloring in In Vivo and In Vitro Model Systems - PMC:
- Food Dyes A Rainbow of Risks - CSPI:
- Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost? - Harvard Health: