Ergogenic aids are substances or devices used to improve athletic performance by improving the production of energy in the body. These substances can be nutritional or non-nutritional and can exhibit physiological or psychological effects. Pre-workout supplements are considered to be ergogenic aids which claim to provide an energy source, enhance metabolism for body composition changes and provide components for optimum performance.
Many pre-workout supplements contain artificial colors, unhealthy levels of caffeine, and needless chemical ingredients to make them sound impressive. Many also contain toxic artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin. An all-natural pre-workout supplement that doesn’t include these harmful ingredients could be a suitable ergogenic aid which provides a much-needed boost of energy and get you amped before a workout.
I believe that certain nutritional ergogenic aids, such as pre-workout supplements, can have a positive impact on performance. But this impact is highly variable from person to person. The benefit they provide is not only dependent on the sensitivity of the individual but also dependent on the chemical makeup of the ingredients and how often they are used.
As always, athletes should consult their doctor before trying out any supplement or over-the-counter drug and never rely on a pre-workout supplement as their only source of energy. A pre-workout supplement should also never be used as a solution to fatigue which results from lack of sleep, severe calorie restriction, sickness or over-training.
Like all other types of supplements, all-natural pre-workout supplements work most effectively when they are used in addition to a real food diet with an adequate amount of calories to support the athlete’s optimum performance needs.
Also Read: Daily Calorie Needs for Athletes
Before diving into my list of all-natural pre-workout supplements, I would encourage you to tune into how your body responds to specific ingredients in any supplement. Many pre-workout supplements contain ingredients that some athletes are more sensitive to than others. In large enough doses, these ingredients can be detrimental to performance rather than enhance it.
For example, a large enough dose of arginine (a nature-based amino acid) can cause flare ups of cold sores and fever blisters in individuals with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV1). Too much biphosphate can cause severe gastrointestinal distress. And excess caffeine can lead to ulcers, dehydration and/or insomnia.
Ok, now that we got that out of the way here is my list of 6 all-natural pre-workout supplements (aka nutritional ergogenic aids). I have personally tried all of these and share with you the reasons for why they are on this list. You also might be interested in pairing these supplements with a pre-workout snack made from whole food ingredients. You can find a list of those in this blog post.
This supplement from Legion comes in a variety of flavors, some of which contain 350mg of caffeine. My favorite is the pink lemonade flavor without caffeine-free fruit punch. I enjoy this one for the taste, and because it contains natural sweeteners and natural colors.
$1.90 per serving
This pre-workout powder is sweetened with coconut sugar and all-natural flavors. All ingredients are organic and I feel really good about putting this one into my body. It’s a pretty light taste which I like and it really works to get me energized before a workout. I also love that they include several adaptogenic ingredients to boost focus and endurance.
$1.75 per serving
This is one of the first all-natural pre-workout supplements I ever tried and is still one of my favorites. I love that every single ingredient is recognizable rather than throwing in some proprietary blend of something with a weird name. While the ingredients are top-notch and the energizing effects are noticeable (likely from the 200mg of caffeine), I also find that it doesn’t stay dissolved in water very long and it has a bit of a chalky taste. That said, it’s not all that hard to shake it up right before I take a swig and I still enjoy the taste.
$1.22 per serving
What I love about this one is that it doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of ingredients, and the ingredients that are in it are all-natural and high-quality. I love the taste of the Blackberry Cherry flavor and that it only has 85mg of caffeine. With high-quality ingredients, and at only 72 cents per serving (for the 40 serving container), this is the best bang for your buck on this list.
$0.72 per serving
You can’t go wrong with an energizing pre-workout that also contains amino acids and electrolytes. On the list of ingredients are tart cherry, coconut water powder, and branch chain amino acids. The orange tangerine and lemonade flavors are delicious.
$1.44 per serving
Here’s another great pre-workout supplement that also contains adaptogenic ingredients such as cordyceps mushrooms, ashwagandha, and maca root. I also love that it contains anti-oxidants from beet root, acai, and pomegranate. The apple ginger flavor is interesting but I really like it. Plus, I really like the energizing effects from the natural sources of caffeine.
$1.99 per serving