You can boost your workouts with a high-quality vegan supplement drink -- giving yourself that extra energy boost while improving your athletic performance, focus, and results in general.
But please watch out for sneaky marketing tactics, gimmicks, and misleading claims. I checked every pre-workout on the market, and what surprised me was that several products labeled as vegetarian-friendly turned out to be non-vegan! It's a harsh world out there.
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. What?
Allow me to take your hand and guide you through the supplement jungle; this way, you can find the best plant-based pre-workout that will help you reach your fitness goals faster.
Anyways, here are my top recommendations for pre-workouts that are clearly labeled as being 100% vegan that will support any plant-eater with their workouts:
Our Top Vegan Pre-Workouts (October 2019 Updated)
Editor's Choice for WOMEN
#2 4 Gauge
Editor's Choice for MEN
#3 Performance Lab
#5 RARI Nutrition Infinity
#5 Genius Pre-Workout
1. Powher (Editor's Choice for Women)
If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients of pre-workout supplements, they all seem to have been designed for male bodybuilders who want to build muscle fast.
Not only are the doses very high, but the ingredients themselves will encourage mass gain. But what about women who just want some extra energy at the gym to work harder and lose more weight without increasing muscle size?
With Powher, you have the solution you’re looking for.
Made with ENXTRA, it provides a powerful alternative to caffeine so you avoid those jitters. However, you still want to avoid this stuff late in the evening to not disturb your sleep. OXYJUN is extracted from the Terminalia Arjuna tree and has been proven to increase VO2 max by 5%.
The flavor is also surprisingly refreshing, so no more pinching your nose to gulp it down.
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2. 4 Gauge (Editor's Choice for Men)
4 Gauge is a pre-workout supplement that makes it possible for you to train longer and harder than before.
It helps improve your body's endurance and focuses your mind so you can enjoy a satisfying workout with no crashes after.
Another great thing that I like about this pre-workout powder is that it doesn't try to hide behind so-called "proprietary blends." Instead, it proclaims what its ingredients are loud and proud, and they're all natural.
Because of that, I'm confident that this product can really deliver what it says, and that it's safe for people like us who love to hit the gym hard.
If you've always wanted to go the extra mile in the gym to achieve your fitness goals faster but are afraid that your body can't handle it, then I would recommend that you give this pre-workout a shot.
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3. Performance Lab Pre-Workout (Very Positive Reviews)
The next product that I found a lot of very positive reviews for is this one from Performance Lab. I’ve noticed a lot of people at the gym stacking some of the product range, especially the pre-workout and BCAA.
What I liked about it is the simple formula that has scientific backing. For example, it contains a good dose of creatine, which is known to improve energy delivery within muscle fibers.
But there is also L-citrulline, which helps to increase blood flow. This also is backed up by many online comments I read where people felt they were getting much better pumps.
Just keep in mind that it contains electrolytes in the form of sodium. If you take other electrolytes to help with hydration, then you may want to adjust your doses.
4. NITROSURGE (Good for Mental Focus)
NITROSURGE is a vegan-friendly pre-workout supplement with a blend of ingredients aiming to give you a surge of energy, focus, enhanced strength, and pumps.
At first glance, it might seem like this pre-workout is severely underdosed. While this is true, it can easily be fixed by simply doubling the serving and taking 2 scoops (at roughly the same cost as the other products).
This blend shares many similarities with the INFINITY pre-workout.
You've got trusty ol’ compounds such as citrulline malate, beta-alanine, betaine and caffeine that will give you good pumps, enhanced physical performance, and sharper focus.
What I like about this particular formula is the inclusion of L-theanine, which works brilliantly in taking the edge off caffeine and promotes improved cognition and attention.
You get 30 underdosed servings per container; my suggestion would be to double the serving size and yield 15 servings.
5. INFINITY 100% Natural Pre Workout (Most Budget Friendly)
INFINITY is a 100% vegan product composed out of several key ingredients that work together to help boost your power output, endurance, mental focus, and pumps (without any jitteriness or 'crash' after).
First of all, I have to praise this pre-workout for not hiding behind some proprietary blend, but instead presenting all the ingredients in the amounts used.
It's a no-frills PWO with all the proven performance-enhancing ingredients covered such as citrulline malate, beta alanine, in effective doses, with no added fluff or fillers.
As for the taste, well opinions seem to be split. Some people report amazing flavor and others say it's too sour (most likely due to the citrulline malate).
You can get either 15 or 30 servings per tub, depending on if you take 1 or 2 scoops, so it's quite cheap compared to other pre-workouts.
In summary, this clinically-dosed vegan pre-workout supplement is something to consider if you want something potent.
6. GENIUS Pre (No Caffeine Pre-Workout)
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 help enhance brain function and mental alertness (nootropics or smart drugs).
So we've got a couple of standard ingredients such as citrulline malate and beta alanine that will induce some good pumps and augment muscle endurance, Thrown also into the mix are effective nootropic ingredients such as the Alpha-GPC, rhodiola rosea, L-tyrosine and huperzia serrata that will significantly sharpen mental cognition, 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.
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!
7. Organic Muscle (Most Organic)
If you’re vegan and prefer organic supplements, then one of the better options out there is Organic Muscle. Made with all natural ingredients that are certified GMO free as well, you’ll be safe to stay within your animal-free lifestyle.
It does provide a good bit of extra energy, but a lot of that comes from the high caffeine content. While there’s nothing wrong with that as such, it’s just annoying that they hide behind a proprietary ingredient mix.
You simply cannot say for sure whether it’s just the ingredients that’s giving you a boost.
I have used it and did notice a performance boost, but given the price for the number of servings, there are better options available.
8. Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer (Best for Endurance)
The Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer features a blend of ingredients from plant-based and natural product with the promise of sustained energy, increased endurance, and mental focus.
In summary, the Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer is rather mediocre.
There are only a couple of ingredients with an 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.
You get a total of 30 servings which works out that are rather expensive. Some users report good results with their workouts using this supplement whereas some say they get no energy.
Ingredients per serving (1 scoop = 18 g)
What is a Pre-Workout Supplement?
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 pumps to give you that extra edge in the gym which includes better:
Be 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, we should point out that this category of supplements is not intended 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 reducing 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 biceps at unsuspecting colleagues).
Benefits of Using a Vegan Pre-Workout
1. Enhanced Motivation to Workout
Trying to brush these distractive thoughts aside, you reach for your pre-workout jar, put a heaping sized spoon into 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 ingredients. 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 that extremely focused and single-minded state.
3. Improved Physical Performance
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 the consumption of caffeine with its ability to kick lethargy's butt, but it has also been shown in studies actually to increase strength levels (1).
Potential Side Effects of Pre-Workouts
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.
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 or is sensitive to stimulants, it might be more difficult to fall 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.
Common Performance-Enhancing Ingredients
There are a couple of scientifically proven ingredients that you will find in many pre-workouts.
Here are some that are a great addition to any pre-workout shake (although this is not an extensive list by any means):
You know that feeling first thing in the morning when your brain is still fogged up, and you find it difficult to think of more than getting dressed and out the door to work.
Within just a few sips of coffee, that mental fog starts to lift because of one simple ingredient: caffeine.
The reason it works so well is that it blocks certain neurological receptors in your brain that would normally react to adenosine and result in a drowsy and sleepy feeling.
When it comes to your workouts, it will provide the mental clarity and confidence to get you through high-intensity sections, as well as a boost in physical performance. Just make sure you drink a bit more water, as caffeine has a dehydrating effect.
This amino acid occurs naturally in your body and turns into carnosine when you ingest it. Your body uses carnosine to protect itself from excess lactic acid which is produced during intense bouts of exercise (2).
Lactic acid is what produces that burning effect and causes your muscles to feel sore and tired.
So, when you take beta-alanine as a supplement, you help to boost the carnosine levels in your muscles, which helps to:
You might feel a tingling sensation in your hands (or other places) when you ingest beta-alanine, and this is a totally normal side effect called “paresthesia.” It actually helps you to know that you’ve taken the correct amount!
β-Alanine supplementation was effective at increasing power output when lifting loads equivalent to the individual’s maximal strength or when working at maximum power output”.
Bio Med Central
The more you can increase blood flow to your muscles the bigger the pumps will be and the better the results of your workout are.
For some bodybuilders, focusing on pumps is how they train their body to maximize muscle growth.
The great thing is that there are a few simple supplement ingredients that help to boost blood flow by promoting the levels of nitric oxide in your body.
This results in more dilated blood vessels and more blood and nutrients getting to your muscles.
Here are a few to look out for:
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.
This lack of effect can be explained due to poor intestinal absorption. But don't despair vegan pump-seekers! There might be a better option here.
L-arginine is converted in the body into a chemical called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow. L-arginine also stimulates the release of growth hormone, insulin, and other substances in the body.
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. Also, it does so a lot better than L-arginine, as citrulline malate is readily absorbed by the gut (7).
According to research, citrulline-related nitric oxide seems to boost muscle endurance, reduce muscle soreness, and increase aerobic performance. So, for the purposes of getting good pumps, citrulline malate is your best bet (8) (9) (10).
Supplementing L-citrulline also increases ornithine and arginine plasma content. This means L-citrulline supplementation improves the ammonia recycling process and nitric oxide metabolism
You see, beetroots contain large amounts of nitrates which in theory could help boost nitric oxide levels, increase blood flow, and thereby 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 beetroot juice. But personally, I'd recommend going for something more reliable, such as citrulline malate (11).
Vegan Pre-workout Buyer's Guide
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 to weed out the crappy ones and find the gems:
Our Recommended Vegan Pre-Workout Powder
All of these products have been great in their own unique ways, but if I had to nail it down to one, it would depend if you're a man or woman.
For women, I'd certainly recommend you choose Powher Pre-workout. A lot of ingredients in pre-workouts are typically geared towards men, so it might be overkill for women, but this isn't the case for Powher. It's got the right amount for everything.
For men, I'd recommend you go for 4 Gauge. Its natural ingredients deliver a clean surge of energy and intense focus that allows you to train longer and harder - and without energy crashes.
These are both perfect for anyone who wants to see faster results in the gym, perform better at their sport – or just feel better while exercising.
Our #1 Choice for Women
Our #1 Choice for Men
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