Unfortunately, there are a lot of low grade pre-workout supplements for crossfit athletes on the market.
They mostly revolve around either underdosed or unproven ingredients or they sneak ingredients in a “proprietary blend” so they can hide just how underdosed they actually are.
And some are packed full of crazy amounts of stimulants to try and fool you into thinking you are getting something other than the equivalent of a pot of coffee.
Many pre-workout supplements also have ingredients that are banned for use in multiple sports such as Bitter Orange which is very similar to the FDA banned Ephedra.
Caffeine or No Caffeine?
Personally, I do not believe caffeine has any business being in a pre-workout unless it’s combined with L-Theanine. Why?
Because caffeine is a “vasoconstrictor” which means it may restrict blood flow. A great pre-workout should be increasing blood flow not restricting it.
In addition to that, if you really want caffeine and I recognize some of you do; buying caffeine capsules is dirt cheap and you can regulate the dosage that works best for you. Why would you take a 250mg dose when you only want 150mg or vice versa?
Lastly, in order to help reduce the jitters and crash that comes along with caffeine, you need to have a high dose of L-Theanine in the pre-workout mix. Very few companies include it!
How Was My Research Conducted?
I have tried and researched dozens of pre-workout supplements, read through and dissected hundreds of human case studies and in the end I was terribly disappointed at the lack of high quality drinks available.
However, there are 4 pre-workout supplements which stand tall above the rest.
- UNCAGED – Alpha Wolf Nutrition
- CelluVOL – MPA
- Pulse Stim-Free – Legion Athletics
- Vasky – MTS Nutrition
I’m going to break down the pro’s and con’s of all 4 and you can decide for yourself which will work best for you.
The 4 Best Stim-Free Crossfit Pre-Workout Supplements
1. Uncaged by Alpha Wolf Nutrition
Cost: 54.95 (30 Servings – $1.83 per serving)
- Dextrose – 12g
- L-Citrulline DL Malate (2:1) – 8g
- Creatine HCL – 3g
- GlycerSize Glycerol Powder 65% – 2g
- Nitrosigine Arginine – 1.5g
- Potassium (from Arginine Silicate Inositol) – 60mg
UNCAGED is the most synergistically driven pre-workout formula on the market. Designed to address several crucial areas of training including:
- Nitric Oxide
- Blood Flow
How is it synergistic you ask?
For example did you know that when creatine is combined with glycerol such as GlycerSize it has been shown in a human case study to be upwards of 50% more effective?
Another example is that when dextrose is combined with creatine it has been shown to increase muscle glycogen resynthesis by upwards of 82%. This powerful combination was also shown in a human case study to build as much muscle as protein supplementation!
While most good supplement companies (the ones that are not underdosing you) are focusing on providing solid ingredients, it’s like they are picking their personal favorite “one off” ingredients and combining them instead of focusing on how they can make each of their ingredients stronger and more effective with the right combinations.
UNCAGED is also all natural with no artificial ingredients, no fillers and no artificial coloring which makes it a great option for crossfit athletes, bodybuilders and weekend warriors alike.
It’s hard to pick anything apart on this formula. All the ingredients work well together, compliment each other and the dosing is at clinical levels.
One potential drawback is for the people who like Beta-Alanine. Studies on Beta-Alanine are mixed with about half of human case studies showing mild enhancement in athletic performance and half showing no benefit.
To date, researchers are unsure why there appears to be a small benefit in some studies and none in others. It’s clear there is no major scientifically proven benefit to Beta-Alanine but it’s become somewhat of a staple in many pre-workouts and some people really like it, however, I attribute most of this to the “tingles”.
Beta-Alanine tends to cause a weird, tingling sensation on the back of the neck and some people like this sensation as it “feels” as though something is happening. Scientist are unsure exactly why this tingling sensation occurs but they are confident it is completely harmless.
Some people such as myself find the sensation weird and uncomfortable but it’s really just personal preference.
Where to Buy
If you buy directly from Alpha Wolf Nutrition you can get 10% off with discount code: itestosterone
Get it direct at Alpha Wolf Nutrition
2. CelluVOL by MPA
CelluVol is a very high cost pre-workout for crossfit athletes but there is a reason for that, it’s very good!
Cost $59.95 (30 Servings – $1.99 per serving)
- Sodium (as Himalayan Pink Salt) – 125mg
- Potassium (from Arginine Silicate Inositol) – 75mg [I believe this is mislabeled and should actually be 60mg]
- L-Citrulline (Kyowa Quality) – 7g
- HydroMax Glycerol Powder 65% – 5g
- Nitrosigine – 1.5g
- AlphaSize Alpha GPC – 600mg
- ElevATP – 300mg
Let’s start with the 5g of HydroMax Glycerol Powder 65% in CelluVol. That is an absolutely fantastic dose! L-Citrulline at 7g again is a fantastic dose. Nitrosigine at 1.5g is clinically proven to be effective.
Alpha GPC 600mg is another powerful dose and is a highly effective supplement for improving both power and mental focus. This is an expensive ingredient (I know because I put 300mg of it in the multi I helped develop Next Level Superfoods Multivitamin) and it’s very impressive they put it in their pre-workout.
ElevATP 300mg – I would have prefered creatine over ElevATP due to the fact it it combines so well with glycerol for an extremely powerful punch. In addition to increasing ATP, creatine also has several other athletic benefits it provides.
With that said, ElevATP has performed very well in clinical research for increasing ATP levels and 300mg is a strong dosage.
All ingredients in CelluVol are VERY well dosed.
Sodium – I’m listing this one first because it “may” not be a con for you. Having the sodium in CelluVol can certainly help you increase pump so this could be a pro for you.
The problem is that most people in the modern world get WAY too much sodium on a daily basis as it is which has all sorts of negative health consequences. High sodium levels increasing your risk of stroke, heart issues, kidney problems and more.
If you are 100% sure you don’t consume sodium then this isn’t something you need to worry about and can enjoy the extra pump it gives you.
Personally, I think salt is so cheap to buy, if it’s something you really want to add, it’s plenty easy to throw in a pinch yourself and that way you can avoid it on days you know your sodium intake is high and those days happen to all of us no matter how salt conscious we are.
Pure L-Citrulline instead of Malate (2:1) – 7g of pure L-Citrulline is pretty rockstar status so this is a minor con considering the heavy dosage.
However, I do believe it would have been more effective with 8g of L-Citrulline Malate (2:1) as it is simply more proven for athletes due to the extra energy it provides.
CelluVol does have artificial flavors as well as a color dye, neither of which I believe should be in any supplement you take. Ever.
Where to Buy
The easiest place to get CelluVol is on Amazon
3. Pulse Stim-Free by Legion Athletics
Pulse by Legion Athletics is a really solid pre-workout option for those crossfitters who want Beta-Alanine.
Cost $40 (21 Servings – $1.90 per serving)
- Calcium – 236mg
- Sodium – 110mg
- Potassium – 270mg
- L-Citrulline DL Malate (2:1) – 8g
- Beta-Alanine – 3.6g
- Betaine Anhydrous – 2.5g
- AlphaSize Alpha GPC – 300mg
8g of L-Citrulline DL Malate is a powerful nitric oxide and blood flow booster and 300mg of Alpha GPC while not as highly dosed as what’s in CelluVol is still very strong.
The 270mg of potassium in Pulse is A LOT and it’s impressive. Most people do not get near enough potassium in their diet and I love this high dose of it.
Calcium 236mg – Taking calcium pre-workout can help decrease exercise induced bone density loss. If you are older, this may be especially important to you.
Beta-Alanine 3.6g – I’m not a fan of Beta-Alanine and the human case studies show it provides a mild athletic benefit at best. With that said I’m including it in the pro section for Pulse because 3.6g is a respectable clinical dose some people really do like it and the tingle sensation which comes along with it.
No artificial colors or flavors in the stim-free flavor options I checked when writing this article.
Sodium – See what I wrote above for CelluVol on why sodium may be a bad thing and it’s easy enough to add in a pinch yourself if you really want to supplement with it for muscle pump.
Betaine Anhydrous – An active compound of beetroot, Betaine Anhydrous may play a part in many health benefits of the plant but human case studies have failed to show hardly any benefit for athletes.
Some of the athletic benefits it has shown in some studies was subsequently failed to be replicated in others.
I’m a huge fan of beetroot and actually put a very high dose of it in Next Level Superfoods Multivitamin from Alpha Wolf Nutrition.
In fact, beetroot as a whole, has been proven in several human case studies to improve athletic performance so I wish Pulse would have just used a whole plant extract.
I personally believe, based on the evidence at hand, putting Betaine Anhydrous in Pulse added to the price tag without providing much, if any benefit though.
Where to Buy
You can get it with free 2 day shipping from Amazon – Make sure you select the stim-free option.
4. Vasky by MTS Nutrition (Budget Friendly Option)
High quality pre-workouts are expensive to make and of course relatively expensive to buy. I absolutely believe they are worth the money as the strength, size and power increases can be incredible.
However, not everyone can afford $49+ a month for the benefits they provide so I wanted to make sure I found a budget friendly pre-workout to add to this list.
It was extremely tough to find one as even finding great higher cost pre-workout supplements is almost impossible but I was thrilled when I discovered Vasky from MTS Nutrition.
Cost $20.99 (30 Servings – .70 cents per serving)
2g of Hydromax Glycerol 65% and 1.5g of Nitrosigine are solely why Vasky made this list. Those are great dosages of 2 of the most impressive pre-workout ingredients available to date and the inclusion of potassium and calcium are solid benefits as well.
Vasky’s unflavored option has no color dyes or artificial flavors.
At $20.99 for 30 servings it’s hard to put a con here in relation to cost vs effectiveness.
Taurine 3g – Taurine is immensely popular due to being a main ingredient in so many energy drinks but the facts are the only proven benefit in trained athletes is in decreasing time trials in runners.
Taurine has shown no major benefits in human case studies for bodybuilders, weight lifters, or any kind of athlete other than endurance based.
The 3g in Vasky is a very solid clinical dose so on that level it’s impressive. I do wish, however, they would have included l-citrulline malate (2:1) instead since a product named Vasky is clearly supposed to be about muscle pump.
At such a low cost, I feel they could have charged a few dollars more and really improved the overall formula substantially.
All 3 options above are FAR more powerful pre-workout supplements to choose from but again, if cost is your main factor, I don’t think you are going to find a better option under $40 per month.
Where to Buy
As with most supplements nowadays, Amazon