5 Best Vegan Pre-Workout Supplements (September 2018)

best vegan pre-workout

A good vegan pre-workout supplement can take your workouts to the next level:

It will give you that instant boost of energy and improves athletic performance, power output and mental focus.

Pretty awesome stuff.

However between deceitful marketing, snake oil and overhyped products finding a good 100% vegan PWO is not easy.

So in today's post I will help you out here in the supplement jungle - so that you can find the best plant-based pre-workout that will help you reach your fitness goals faster. 

Let's do it.

PRODUCT

OUR RATING

PRICE

rari nutrition 100% infinity

INFINITY 100% Natural Pre Workout (review)

10/10
Overall Score
genius preworkout

GENIUS All Natural Nootropic Pre-Workout

(review)

9/10
Overall Score
Nitro Surge Pre workout

​NITROSURGE Pre Workout Supplement

(review)

8.5/10
Overall Score
usda certified organic preworkout

USDA Certified Organic Pre Workout Supplement

(review)

7.5/10
Overall Score
​Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer

​Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer

(review)

7/10
Overall Score

What is a Pre-Workout Supplement?

usda certified organic preworkout

If you're not familiar with how a pre-workout supplement works I'll quickly run through the basics.

As the term pre-workout implies - these supplements are meant to be taken before your workout.

Typically these supplements contain a blend of different ingredients that will provide a boost of energy, strength, stamina and pump to give to you that extra edge in the gym:

Better mind-to-muscle connection, an extra rep or two, a couple more pounds on your previous max weight, sharpened focus and an overall more awesome workout experience.

​Now what this category of supplements is not intended for is to be used as a substitute for your morning coffee.

Drinking PWO in the morning and all throughout the day is going to desensitize you to the ingredients, thus reduce the beneficial effects that you want to reserve for the gym. 

Bad idea.

And you're not really going to benefit greatly from the pump-inducing effect sitting at your desk job (except for flexing your bicep at unsuspecting colleagues). 

Benefits of Using a Vegan Pre-Workout

1. Enhanced Motivation to Workout

Say you just got back from a tiresome day of work.

It's cold and rainy outside and nothing would be better than to lay down for a nap or watch Netflix.

Trying to brush aside these distractive thoughts aside you reach for your pre-workout jar, get a heaping sized spoon in to a glass of water and down it.

After a couple of minutes you feel the energy starting to rush through your body... and the gym suddenly feels like a much better option than staying at home.

​It'd be great​ with an iron will at all times that forced you to the gym, but that's simply not the case 100% of the time. ​ For those days where one isn't 'feeling it' a solid pre-workout formula can be really helpful ​for that jolt of motivation.

2. Superior Workout Experience 

If you've ever consumed a potent PWO prior to working out you know exactly what I'm talking about.

When entering that highly focused mental state where nothing else matters except for crushing the weights and getting those reps in... it's simply nothing short of amazing. 

There's something special about the feeling you get during a proper workout fueled with the right blend of ingredient.

It might sound a bit counterintuitive​ but in a way it's strangely meditative. ​Drinking a pre-workout can actually help you unwind from the stresses and commitments of everyday life by allowing you to enter tha​t extremely focused and single-minded state.

3. Improved Physical Performance

weight lifting

Yet these supplements aren't made with the sole intention of making you feel good (though it is a nice side-effect indeed).

A properly formulated vegan PWO will include ingredients that are scientifically proven to augment athletic performance:

This includes increased strength output, work capacity, stamina, energy and pumps.

​As an example caffeine is one very popular ingredient ​commonly used in pre-workouts.

​Most people associate consumption of caffeine​ with​ it's ability to kick lethargy's butt, ​but less known is that it has also been shown in studies to actually increase strength levels.

Double win!

Common Performance-Enhancing Ingredients

There are a couple of scientifically proven ingredients that you will find in many pre-workouts. 

​Here are a couple that ​make for a great addition to any pre-workout (though by no means is this an exhaustive list):

Caffeine

coffee

We love coffee, there's no doubt about that.

So why is this such a popular beverage?

Well... for one thing it's delicious black liquid gold.

Secondly coffee contains a lot of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant that is the world's most widely consumed physoactive drug.

Upon ingesting this stimulant you feel more awake, alert and get a substantial boost ​to energy levels.

Caffeine works by blocking the action of adenosine on its receptor and consequently prevents drowsiness caused by the adenosine molecule.

And due to it's potent stimulant properties it just makes a lot of sense that this should be included in a pre-workout. 

​But th​ere's more to caffeine besides getting you buzzed.

​​Caffeine, ​especially when consumed in an anhydrous form ​powder, has been found to have ergogenic properties - meaning it enhances physical performance.​

It helps increase maximum strength compared with placebo and has a thermogenic effect that increases energy expenditure (which means fat loss becomes easier). 

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that upon ingestion is turned into carnosine. 

Carnosine acts as an acid buffer in the body and as such can help offer protection from exercise-induced lactic acid production.

So when you supplement with beta-alanine, intramuscular carnosine levels rise. This offers several significant benefits such as:

​When you take ​beta-alanine ​you might experience a tingly or itching sensation in your hands or elsewhere in your body - this is called paresthesia and is a completely harmless side effect (in fact it's a good sign that the dose is correct.)​

Pump-Inducing Ingredients

A good pre-workout supplement should not only increase power output, energy levels and get you fired up and ready...

...another key element is that it should promote enhanced blood flow in order to create glorious muscle pumps.

Getting good pumps isn't only important for looking bigger in the gym mirror and inflating your own ego.

In fact, research suggests that the traditional 'bro-science' advice of getting huge pumps may increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis ​due to the cellular swelling.

The most common way to achieve this effect is with compounds that boost the production of nitric oxide - a potent vasodilator (meaning widening of the blood vessels).

More nitric oxide in your blood stream results in a greater blood flow that encourages muscle pumps and vascularity, while at the same time promoting more efficient nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles. 

There are a couple of different compounds that can help with this:

L-Arginine

L-Arginine (or AAKG, agmatine and other brand names) acts as a precursor to nitric oxide.

And in theory it should help with enhancing levels of nitric oxide, leading to better pumps.

However while this might sound plausible in theory, preliminary results from studies do not show consistent enhanced exercise performance or increased nitric oxide production.

This lack of effect can be explained due to poor intenstinal absorption.

But don't despair vegan pump-seekers as there might be a better option here.

Citrulline malate

Citrulline malate is a compound consisting of citrulline, a non-essential amino acid. 

This compound stimulates endogenous production of arginine, and in turn nitric oxide, consequently bringing enhanced pumps and improved nutrient delivery properties.

And it does so a lot better than L-arginine as citrulline malate is readily absorbed by the gut.

The nitric oxide production encouraged by citrulline has been shown to boost muscle enduranceminimize muscle soreness, and enhance aerobic performance.

​So for the purposes of gettin good pumps, citrulline malate is your best bet.

Beet Root

beetroot on a wooden plank

'Wait, did you say beet roots?'

Yes indeed I did.

You see beet roots contain large amounts of nitrates which in theory could help boost nitric oxide levels, increase blood flow and thusly create muscle pumps.

This is why it's not that uncommon to find beet or beet extract in natural and organic vegan PWOs. 

Now we don't actually have a ton of studies available examining how effective beets are at ​achieving these effects.

There might be a slight benefit for cardiorespiratory endurance by drinking beet root juice. But personally I'd recommend going for something more reliable, such as citrulline malatate.


Potential Side Effects of Pre-Workouts

injured teddy bear

Taking too much of any stimulant based pre-workout can cause negative effects such as making you jittery, irritable or anxious. 

Basically it's the same as when you drink too many cups of coffee in a row (which I do all the time, when will I ever learn?)

So definitely make sure to stick with the recommended dosage...

... and don't fall into the trap thinking that more is better.

For someone that metabolizes caffeine slowly/sensitive to stimulants it might be harder falling asleep later.

In this case try and time the intake so it's the furthest away from bedtime and perhaps half the dosage/serving so that you can also enjoy your beauty sleep later.

​Or simply choose a pre-workout without stimulants. ​Yes there are such things and they can work rather well. ​​​

Factors That Determine Quality of a PWO

Let's establish a set of criteria that a high-quality vegan pre-workout has to meet for us to consider it.

This way it's easier weeding out the crappy ones and finding the gems:

  • Obviously it should be 100% cruelty-free which means no gelatin or any other animal-derived ingredient allowed (you'd be surprised just how many seemingly innocent things that aren't vegan)
  • Clean ingredient list with no artificial sweeteners, flavoring, food dyes, or unnecessary fillers.
  • Should ideally include a good mix of ingredients that supply clean energy, enhance physical performance and something that gives us a nice pump as well. Cause' pumps are life.
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    Any ingredient should be present in an efficacious dose so that it actually has any effect. For instance 10 mg of caffeine isn't going to do much at all... but jack up the dosage to 200 mg and ​you'll definitely feel ​a kick of energy.
  • Should NOT include research chemicals or any dubious ingredients. Some years ago a PWO called Craze was found to to contain an illegal amphetamine-derivative called DMAA. ​Getting a buzz from caffeine is fine, getting wired on hard drugs on the other hand...
  • Should dissolve well in liquid and preferably should also taste good (or at the least not have a distinct puke flavor)

What is The Best Vegan Pre-Workouts?

To answer this question I checked every pre-workout on the market to see which meets these criteria above.

What surprised me was that several products labeled as vegetarian-friendly turned out to be non-vegan.

One supplement company got back to me and said that one ingredient in the PWO , that was labeled as vegetarian by the way, was derived from goose feathers. 

WTF?

Anyways, here are 5 options for pre-workouts that are clearly labeled as being 100% vegan that​ will support any plant-eater with their workouts:

(For anyone that wants ​more information about specific ingredients I've added ​links where you can find out more!)

INFINITY 100% Natural Pre Workout Powder

rari nutrition 100% infinity

INFINITY is a 100% vegan product composed out of several key ingredients that work together to boost your power output and endurance, mental focus and pumps (without any jitteriness or 'crash' after). 

The effectiveness of a pre-workout blend is determined by it's content, so let's examine the ingredient list and see if it lives up to the claims:

Ingredients per serving (2 scoops = 14.4 g)

  • L-Citrulline Malate (6 g): ​​Boosts nitric oxide production which leads to enhanced blood flow to the muscles = awesome muscle pumps, reduced fatigue and improved endurance.
  • Beta Alanine (3.2 g): ​Shown to increase carnosine levels​ which buffers lactic acid and augments muscle endurance and lean mass gain. ​
  • Agmatine Sulfate (1.5 g): Another booster of nitric oxide levels. While it doesn't have the same evidence backing it up as citrulline malate, it certainly won't hurt.
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (440 mg): ​A naturally occuring amino acid and precursor to dopamine that can reduce stress during exercise and also help improve cognition.
  • Caffeine Anhydrous (350 mg): Caffeine is a proven workhorse when it comes to increasing mental focus, amplifying energy levels and boosting strength performance. One serving of this PWO gives you 350 mg which equals about 2 large cups of coffee!
  • Black Pepper Extract (5 mg): ​Improves absorption of ​the ingredients.
  • Vitamin B Complex - Folic Acid (500 mg), Niacin (20 mg), Vitamin B5 (5 mg), Vitamin B2 (1.4 mg), Vitamin B6 (1.2 mg), Vitamin B1 (1 mg), Vitamin B12 (2.4 mcg): The B vitamins serve many different crucial functions in the body - the effect which may directly benefit your workout is that it helps support cellular energy production. 

First of all I have to praise this pre-workout for not hiding behind some bullshit proprietary blend, but instead presenting all the ingredients in the amounts used.

You know exactly what you're buying, and what you're putting in your body. 

​And that is where this product shine.

It's ​a no-frills PWO with all the ​proven performance-enhancing ingredients ​covered such as ​citrulline malate, beta alanine and caffeine in ​effective doses​, with no added fluff or fillers.

​Might help explain​ the consistently great reviews by users that report increased strength and endurance, amplified clean energy and focus without any nasty energy dip afterwards.

As for the taste... well opinions seem to be split. Some report amazing flavor and others say it's too sour (most likely due to the citrulline malate). 

Per tub you get either 15 or 30 servings depending on if you ​take 1 or 2 scoops so it's quite cheap compared to other pre-workouts.

​In summary, this no-frills, clinically dosed vegan pre-workout ​is for you if you want something powerful ​with a lot of bang for your buck ​(which is why it's also my top pick).

PROS

  • 100% vegan
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    Features potent ingredients such as Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, Caffeine, L-Tyrosine in large doses
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    Made in the USA in a GMP certified facility - ensuring high quality and purity
  • Non-GMO ingredients and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives used

CONS

  • ​Large amount of caffeine ​might be too much if you're sensitive to stimulants

GENIUS All Natural Nootropic Pre-Workout

genius preworkout

Genius has designed a rather unique vegan PWO formula here:

It's a 2-in-1 nootropic pre-workout supplement that will provide you with the usual performance-enhancing effects - along with ingredients that enhance brain function and mental alertness (nootropics or smart drugs).

This mix definitely sounds intriguing... there’s a lot going on in the ingredients list so let's break it down:

Ingredients per serving (2 scoops = 16.9 g)

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    L-Citrulline Malate (6 g): ​ Elevates levels of nitric oxide which leads to enhanced blood flow to the muscles = awesome muscle pumps, reduced fatigue and improved endurance.
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    Beta-Alanine (2 g): ​Shown to increase carnosine levels​ which buffers lactic acid and augments muscle endurance and lean mass gain. ​
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    Betaine (2 g): A component of beet root that has been linked with an increase in power output, endurance and workout volume (​although these possible benefits are quite small and ​​somewhat unreliable in studies)
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    L-Tyrosine (1 g): Naturally occuring amino acid and precursor to dopamin that reduces stress during exercise.
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    L-Arginine (1 g): ​​In theory should boost nitric oxide levels and muscle pumps but ​this effect has been found to be unreliable upon oral consumption.
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    Taurine (1 g): ​Amino acid distributed all throughout the body and ​also found in energy drinks such as Red Bull where it helps take the edge of stimulants.
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    Alpha-GPC (600 mg): Found in small amounts in foods, this powerful nootropic ingredient delivers choline to the brain ​which supports healthy cell membranes and boosts cognitive abilities. ​Moreover it may enhance power output in the dose used in this formula, as well as spike acute growth hormone secretion. 
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    HICA or α-hydroxyisocaproic acid (500 mg): ​Might possess anabolic properties but current evidence is weak (​with only one study on this compound).
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    elevATP (150 mg): ​​Proprietary blend made from ancient peat and apple extract. ​ Seems to boost ATP levels​, the main energy source for cell activity, which in turn helps athletic performance and muscle gain. *​While results seem promising the company that developed this compound, FutureCeuticals, has also funded ALL the studies which might influence results. 
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    Rhodiola Rosea (100 mg): Natural herb that helps reduce fatigue associated with exercise, improves cognitive function and reduces stress.
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    Theobromine (30 mg): Compound found in cocoa beans (and dark chocolate) suggested to have ​similiar effects as caffeine on alertness... however evidence indicates it probably has no such effect.
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    AstraGin (25 mg): Included to enhance absorption of the ingredients. 
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    Huperzia Serrata (10 mg): A.k.a toothed clubmoss this plant contains the bioactive component huperzine-A - a brain boos​ter that ​​prevents breakdown of the neurotransimtter acetylcholine.

Phew.

​Still hanging in there?

​So ​w​e've got a couple of standard ingredients such as citrulline malate and beta alanine ​that will ​induce some good pumps and augment muscle endurance...

... and thrown into the mix​ are ​highly effective nootropic ingredients such as the Alpha-GPC, rhodiola rosea, L-tyrosine and huperzia serrata that will significantly sharpen cognition, mental alertness and focus.

Now for the most distinguishing feature (or lack of feature): there's no caffeine.

As a result it won't give you the same adrenal rush as other pre-workouts... but it also makes it suitable for individuals that can't tolerate stimulants or if you want to use it during evenings.

​Despite the lack of caffeine, users report amazing focus and drive from using this pre-workout (likely due to the array of nootropics included). 

One container provides 20 servings and is on the pricier side, but if you’re looking for a powerful stimulant-free,​ pre-workout with some serious benefits for your brain function this might be for you!

PROS

  • 100% vegan
  • Features ​citrulline malate and beta alanine that will induce powerful pumps and ​augment muscle endurance
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    Provides an array of nootropics that will boost brain function
  • Third-party tested and made in a cGMP facility
  • Contains no fillers, dyes or unnecessary additives
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    No proprietary blend

CONS

  • On the expensive side
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    If you enjoy the rush of caffeine this might not be for you

NITROSURGE Pre Workout Supplement

Nitro Surge Pre workout

NITROSURGE is a vegan-friendly pre-workout supplement with a blend of ingredients with the goal of giving you a surge of energy, focus, enhanced strength and pumps.

So what are the compounds that deliver all of these effects?

Ingredients per serving (1 scoops = 8 g) 

  • L-Citrulline Malate (2 g): ​Increases the production of nitric oxide which leads to an enhanced blood flow to the muscles = awesome muscle pumps, reduced fatigue and improved endurance.
  • Beta-Alanine (1.6 g): Increases carnosine levels which augments work capacity and lean mass gain.
  • Betaine (1.25 g): ​Compounds linked with an increase in power output, endurance and workout volume (​although these possible benefits are quite small and ​​somewhat unreliable in studies)
  • Caffeine Anhydrous (180 mg): Caffeine is great for sharpening your focus, combatting fatigue and enhancing strength levels. 
  • L-Theanine (90 mg)An amino acid found in green tea with relaxing ​properties and also has a synergistic effect with caffeine in promoting cognition and attention.
  • Hordenine (25 mg): Currently there's not a ton of research on hordenine, it's theorized that it can improve mental focus due to it's association with noradrenaline.
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    Black Pepper Extract (2.5 mg): ​Improves absorption and consequently enhances the effects of the nutrients. 

At a first glance it might seem like this pre-workout is severely underdosed...

...while this is true it's easily be fixed by simply doubling the serving and taking 2 scoops (at roughly the same cost as the other products). 

This blend share many similarities with the INFINITY pre-workout.

You've got ol' trusty compounds such as citrulline malate, beta-alanine, betaine and caffeine that will give you good pumps, enhanced physical performance and ​a sharp focus.

What I like about this particular formula is the inclusion of L-theanine, whick works ​brilliantly in taking the edge of caffeine and promotes improved cognition and attention.

Per container you get 30 underdosed servings, my suggestion would be to double the serving size which would yield 15 servings.

PROS

  • 100% vegan
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    Features potent ingredients such as citrulline malate, beta-alanine caffeine, L-Theanine in large doses (if you double the serving)
  • Manufactured in the USA in a cGMP certified facility

CONS

  • 1 serving does not provide enough of the ingredients
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    Contains some artifical flavors

USDA Certified Organic Pre Workout Supplement

usda certified organic preworkout

The USDA Certified Organic pre-workout promises to enhance your focus, energy and pumps with ingredients derived exclusively from organic sources.

The question here is: can you produce an effective vegan pre-workout solely from plants, herbs and superfood?

Well let's take a good look at the ingredient list and see if we can find any effective compounds:

Ingredients per serving (1 scoops = 8 g) 

  • Vascularity & Pump Blend (2786 mg): Organic beet root, organic pomegranate, organic goji berry, organic acai, organic blueberry.
  • Energy, Focus, & Stamina (2042 mg): Organic maca root, organic coconut water, organic ginseng, organic eleuthero root, organic green coffee bean extract, organic yerba mate, organic coryceps, organic rhodiloa rosea.
  • Metabolic Boost (473 mg): Organic matcha green tea, organic green tea, organic goji berry, organic cranberry, organic blueberry, organic strawberry, organic raspberry.
  • Natural Flavoring (360 mg): Organic passionfruit flavor, organic guava flavor.

That's a lot of organic for you. 

Straight away there's one huge flaw in the design of this pre-workout... the proprietary blends.

Basically we have no idea how much of each ingredient this supplement contains, thus it's pretty much impossible determining it's true ​​efficacy.

Now there is some natural caffeine present from the green tea, yerba mate and green coffee bean extract which ​is good for enhancing mental alertness (they claim it's 125 mg per serving).

Also the beet root provides nitrates which may help nitric oxide production and increase blood flow to muscles (once again there's no way of telling if it's enough to produce any effects).

Now I will admit it's pretty good if you view it as a superfood supplement as it ​contains an assortment of plants and herbs with many health-beneficial and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Yet it might be that they managed to nail the formulation here. Somehow.

Users report that it provides them with sustained energy and focus for workouts without any jitters or crash afterwards.

We can't really say why that is (except for the 125 mg caffeine or perhaps placebo), but something in this formula seems to be working.

One container provides 20 servings and is on the pricier side, but if you’re looking for an all natural and completely organic vegan pre-workout this might be for you!

PROS

  • 100% vegan.
  • USDA certified product made exclusively out of natural superfoods and herbs. 
  • According to users provides clean energy without jittiriness or causing a crash afterwards
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     125 mg caffeine per serving
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    Contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

CONS

  • Doesn't present the ingredients in the amounts used but instead as proprietary blends
  • Most likely not as effective as a traditional pre-workout
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    Expensive

Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer

​Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer

The Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer features a blend of ingredients from 100% plant-based and natural product with the promise of sustained energy, increased endurance, and mental focus.

As always to make a fair judgement of a supplement, let's dive into the ingredient list.

Ingredients per serving (1 scoops = 18 g) 

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    Brown rice syrup & coconut palm pectar (~13 g): Not quite sure how I feel about these two ingredients. Essentially all they've done is to add sugar - which is great if you in fact need simple carbs before the workout but I feel like that shouldn't be the purpose of a pre-workout supplement.
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    Coconut Oil Powder (1 g): Provides 1 gram of fat in the form of medium chain triglycerides which'll give you 9 calories to burn. Not too impressed.
  • Yerba Mate Leaf Extract (167 mg): Now things are looking better. Yerba mate is a natural source of caffeine that'll enhance mental focus and increase athletic performance. Also offers anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
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    Devil's Claw Root Extract (150 mg): A tuber vegetable with some preliminary evidence suggesting it can help combat lower back pain and arthritis. Not quite sure what it is doing in this pre-workout...
  • Green Tea Leaf Extract (100 mg): More natural caffeine which is great together with the amino acid L-theanine for less jittery energy.
  • Rhodiola (100 mg): Herb that reduces fatigue symptoms in stressful situations and can also boost cognition.
  • Ginseng Extract (100 mg): Traditionally used in herbal medicine to help enhance physical capacity and is also a mood enhancer.
  • Tumeric Root Extract & Ginger Root Extract (73 mg): Both are anti-inflammatory foods with many health benefits. 

In summary, the Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer is rather... mediocre. 

There are only a couple of ingredients with any immediate effect on performance such as the yerba mate, green tea extract and rhodiola.

I suppose it's a good option if you need a pre-workout with a bit of caffeine along with simple carbs as there is both brown rice syrup and organic palm nectar included.

Per container you get a total of 30 servings and it's also rather expensive. Some users report good results with their workouts using this supplement whereas some say they get no energy. 

PROS

  • 100% vegan.
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    Contains some natural caffeine
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    No artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners.

CONS

  • Contains a bunch of sugar
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    Doesn't feature many effective ingredients
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    Expensive

In Conclusion: The Best Vegan Pre-Workout Powder

OUR TOP PICK

If I had to choose between the products here, my top pick would have to be the INFINITY 100% Natural Pre Workout Powder:

This formula features proven ingredients such as caffeine, citrulline malate and beta-alanine in large doses; a potent combo that works together to provide you with an intense focus, enhanced performance and energy as well as glorious pumps. 

Coincidentally it's also one of the cheapest vegan pre-workouts, which is great so you can budget for more sweet potatoes and lentils.

I hope this was informative and that you are better equipped to find a good vegan pre-workout!

Please feel free to share it with any plant-eating lifter that would enjoy awesome pumps and focus in the gym. 

5 Best Vegan Pre-Workout Supplements 

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