The 6 Most OVERRATED Pre-Workouts (Based on Testing)

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After testing 28 pre-workouts over the past two years, there are definitely products I would NOT recommend, despite these products getting a lot of media attention.  

You might be surprised to learn that many websites and fitness influencers that promote supplements have never actually used the products. 

Often, the “best overall” products they promote go to the highest bidder (i.e., whichever company is willing to pay the most to be in the #1 spot).  

Everything we do here at is based on real testing, and we don’t accept cash for product placement. 

As such, we’re not afraid of saying a product is overrated, which is exactly what the list of pre-workouts below covers.  

Prefer to watch? Check out our video of the 6 most overrated pre-workouts.

Key Criteria

So, what criteria did I use to determine whether a product is over-hyped? 

Enter, the four main ways I evaluated the pre-workouts on this list:

  • Unproven Ingredients: Does the product contain ingredients with no clinical human trials to support their claims? Some companies will advertise benefits for ingredients that have no quality research behind them. 
  • Ineffective Doses: Does the product actually contain the doses of ingredients that have been shown effective in clinical trials? Companies might add very small amounts of ingredients that they know people are looking for so that they can say their product has that ingredient. But in reality, it’s just a “dusting” of said ingredient.  
  • Price to Value: Is the cost of the product justified? If a product is inexpensive but provides zero benefit, your money is still wasted. Some companies might charge a premium price because of their brand popularity but fail to deliver the benefits to justify the cost.
  • Advertised Benefits: If the product claims it gives “muscle-tearing pumps”, does it actually give you good pumps?  If the product claims it gives you “consistent energy without a crash,” does it?  As I said, I’ve personally used each of these products for several weeks (sometimes months) to see if they deliver on their label claims. 

Overrated Pre-Workouts 

1. Naked Energy

Naked Energy


  • 200mg caffeine
  • Blend of beta-alanine, creatine, and arginine
  • Contains zero flavors or additives

Why It’s Overrated

  • All three ingredients (beta-alanine, citrulline, arginine) fall below clinical dose standards
  • Did not provide any significant performance benefit aside from a slight energy boost from caffeine

Redeeming Qualities

  • The energy you get is cheaper than a cup of coffee ($0.72-$0.81 per serving)
  • No artificial ingredients, food dyes, or preservatives

Our Thoughts

Naked Energy is an unflavored pre-workout powder made by Naked Nutrition. 

I appreciate a lot of what Naked Nutrition represents, like their commitment to using high-quality ingredients and avoiding using anything artificial in their products. I absolutely love their protein powder and mass gainer (both of which I’ve reviewed).  

Their pre-workout, however, honestly left a lot to desire. To date, it is the lowest-rated pre-workout supplement that our team has tested. 

They use high-quality, patented ingredients like CarnoSyn® beta-alanine and AjiPure® l-arginine, but the doses that they use in the product are very low and don’t provide any significant benefit. 

For example, Naked Energy contains 1g of creatine monohydrate, but a clinical dose of this ingredient is closer to 5g daily. 

The product is technically unflavored, but that does not mean it’s tasteless. Some of the ingredients used in Naked Energy are naturally bitter, and while I didn’t find the taste that bad, many reviewers online found the taste unbearable. 

If you can’t even stomach the taste of the product, and it prevents you from taking it, then you’re not getting any benefit whatsoever. 

Working to its benefit, Naked Energy is incredibly inexpensive, costing only $0.81 per serving. For individuals who are just looking for an energy boost, Naked Energy provides 200mg of caffeine and costs less than a cup of coffee, which offers the same. 

However, for anybody who wants to invest in a pre-workout that will increase strength, power, endurance, and/or muscle pump, Naked Energy fails to deliver. 

2. C4 Original

C4 Original


  • 150mg of caffeine
  • Contains beta-alanine, creatine, citrulline, and an energy blend
  • Available in 7 flavors, uses food dyes and artificial sweeteners

Why It’s Overrated

  • Zero ingredients meet clinical dose standards
  • Fails to provide any significant increases to strength, endurance, or muscle pump
  • Has a proprietary blend, making it difficult to know the exact doses of some ingredients

Redeeming Qualities

  • A good option for anybody who has never taken pre-workout before and wants to “test the waters”
  • The lower caffeine dose may be good for individuals who are more sensitive to caffeine side effects (jitters, nausea, etc.) 
  • Available for as low as $0.66 per serving

Our Thoughts

Cellucor C4 may be one of the most recognizable pre-workout brands available on the market today, even advertising itself as the #1 Global Pre-Workout Brand. 

On the surface, C4 Original looks like a well-rounded pre-workout, and they use some high-quality patented ingredients which is usually an extra level of quality assurance. 

No matter how high quality the ingredients are though, the doses used in the C4 Original formula fall well below the doses that have been proven effective in research. 

For example, one scoop of C4 Original contains 12.5mg of TeaCrine®. The clinical dose of TeaCrine® is listed as 125-275mg, meaning C4 contains only 4 to 10% of what is required to be effective.

Each of the other ingredients (Beta-alanine, Creatine HCl, Arginine, and Tyrosine) have the same issue, falling well below the doses known to be effective. 

While I specifically reviewed and tested the C4 Original formula, the same issues outlined above are apparent in some of their other formulas, including C4 Sport and C4 Ripped.

For individuals who just want a small energy boost before their workout, C4 offers a good-tasting, inexpensive option. 

For anybody looking for a noticeable increase in strength, power, endurance, or mental focus, C4 Original is going to fall short.

One pre-workout I think Cellucor does well is their C4 Ultimate formula, which meets clinical dose standards for many of its strength and pump-enhancing ingredients. However, it comes in at $2.30 per serving, which is well above the cost of other similar dosed pre-workouts, like Transparent Labs Bulk at $1.66 per serving.

3. Alani Nu Pre-Workout

Alani nu pre-workout


  • 200mg caffeine
  • Simple formula five total ingredients
  • Many unique flavors to pick from

Why It’s Overrated

  • No noticeable benefit outside of increasing energy
  • The cost per serving is too high for the small ingredient list

Redeeming Qualities

  • The higher dose of theanine helps prevent a post-workout crash
  • Good taste
  • Great mixability (due to the small scoop size)

Our Thoughts

Alani Nu Pre-Workout does technically contain clinical doses for some of its ingredients, like citrulline (6g) and theanine (200mg). Each scoop has 1.6g of beta-alanine, which is not enough for a loading phase, but would be enough to maintain beta-alanine saturation in the body if you’ve already been taking beta-alanine consistently for several months. 

Despite these moderate doses of ingredients, Alani Nu Pre-Workout was one of the lowest-rated pre-workouts that I tested. Here’s why:

I felt the overall energy boost to be moderate at best, and I experienced virtually no increases in strength or pump. 

Another factor that drove the overall Alani Nu rating down is its value. It costs around $1.33 per serving. This is below the average cost of pre-workout ($1.61 per serving), but with relatively low doses and only five total ingredients, the overall value for Alani Nu isn’t good. 

Alani Nu remains very popular because of the brand’s admittedly great social media presence.  

It’s worth noting that despite my negative experience, one of our YouTube subscribers said: 

“I really like the taste a lot and it gives me a good boost for my 5am workouts”.  

Alani Nu is definitely better than Naked Energy and C4 Original, but it’s still overrated for what it is (in my opinion).

4. Ryse Loaded Pre

Ryse Loaded Pre


  • High caffeine content (390g)
  • Underdosed in nearly all ingredients
  • Has citrulline and beta-alanine to boost athletic performance, otherwise the formula is all stimulants and mental focus-enhancing ingredients

Why It’s Overrated

  • Failed to deliver any noticeable benefits aside from energy (like strength or pump)
  • Overpriced for the benefits it provides

Redeeming Qualities

  • Very unique flavor collaborations like Bazooka ® Grape and Cherry Ring Pop ® 
  • No significant crash despite the high dose of stimulants

Our Thoughts

Like Alani Nu, Ryse has a very strong social media presence. 

When I tested Ryse Loaded Pre, I didn’t necessarily hate the experience, but it wasn’t memorable either. 

There’s no denying that Ryse Loaded Pre delivers a great energy boost. It has 390mg of caffeine from several sources, and some added nootropics. This blend provides long-lasting energy and good mental focus. 

What stood out for me was the fact that listed boldly on the Ryse Loaded Pre Label “Pump, Energy, Strength” as the advanced benefits of this pre-workout. 

After testing, Ryse Loaded Pre failed to deliver on the pump and strength promises. 

Ryse Loaded Pre contains 4g of citrulline per scoop. This falls short of the clinical dose, which is between 6g and 8g. Almost every other major pre-workout brand with a high stimulant formula (300mg of caffeine or higher) uses the full clinical dose of citrulline. 

Aside from beta-alanine, dosed at 3.5g, every other ingredient in the Ryse Loaded Pre formula fails to meet clinical dose standards. 

At $1.33 per serving, Ryse Loaded Pre isn’t necessarily expensive, but I believe it is still overpriced for its benefits. 

As one of the most prominent social media pre-workout supplements, Ryse Loaded Pre simply fell flat.

5. Optimum Nutrition Pre

Optimum Nutrition Pre


  • 175mg of caffeine
  • One of few pre-workouts with creatine monohydrate (3g per serving)

Why It’s Overrated

  • Its benefits across every category (energy, pump, strength) were mediocre at best
  • Does not meet clinical doses for almost all of its ingredients
  • Contains lots of additives like gums and artificial food dyes

Redeeming Qualities

  • Informed Choice Certified = good for tested athletes
  • Inexpensive at $1.10 per serving

Our Thoughts

Optimum Nutrition is one of the most widely recognized sport supplement brands worldwide due in part to their global distribution set up. This has allowed them to be recognized on every continent. 

One thing that stood out to me while I was testing this product was the high number of additives in their formula. 

It’s common for companies to use a variety of flavors/sweeteners, gums, or colors to enhance their products but ON Gold Standard Pre contained 12 additional ingredients not related to performance. 

When I look at the ingredient list, Gold Standard Pre only contained eight pre-workout enhancing ingredients, fewer ingredients than the additives in their product.  

In fact, when I added up the performance-enhancing ingredients found in Gold Standard Pre plus the vitamins and minerals, there were only around 4g of active ingredients in the 10g scoop. 

There is more citrulline in Alani Nu Pre-Workout than active ingredients in the entire Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout. 

The low-dosed formula and high number of additives made this product an all-around miss for me, especially if you are looking for a significant boost to athletic performance. 

I maintain that for somebody new to pre-workout or is a drug-tested athlete, this is a suitable option for increasing energy. 

It’s worth noting while I didn’t love Optimum Nutrition pre-workout, their whey protein, on the other hand, is great (click to read my review).  

6. Mr Hyde

Mr Hyde Pre Workout


  • 196mg of caffeine from 2 different sources
  • A blend of mental focus ingredients as well as creatine, citrulline, and beta-alanine
  • Different formulas are available in different countries, so online info may not be accurate for you

Why It’s Overrated

  • All ingredients fall well below clinical standards, as much as 10x below what is required

Redeeming Qualities

  • Good energy boost
  • Inexpensive

Our Thoughts

Mr Hyde talks a pretty big game, advertising itself for energy, focus, and pumps. They also use many patented or trademarked ingredients, typically regarded as higher quality and have higher quality research studies proving their effectiveness. 

These ingredients may be high quality, but they are only effective if you’re getting enough of them. Mr Hyde does not contain a single ingredient that is clinically dosed. 

Some ingredients, like creatine and beta-alanine, come close to being clinically dosed. Others, like Nitrosigine ®, TeaCrine ®, and Choline fall as much as ten times below the clinical dose. 

This makes the product look good on the surface because they can advertise that they contain these exciting or well-researched ingredients. The truth, however, is that these ingredients aren’t in a high enough concentration to provide any real benefit. 

The highest redeeming quality of Mr Hyde is that its cost pretty well matches the ingredient doses. Depending on which size you buy, Mr Hyde is available for as little as $0.53 per scoop, making it among the most affordable options for anybody looking for a moderate energy boost before workouts. 

1 Pre-Workout Worth Mentioning (That Is NOT Overrated)

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Don’t be discouraged by the list above because there are still EXCELLENT pre-workout products to pick from.  If you’re looking for a quick pick, here’s one worth mentioning: 

Transparent Labs Bulk

Transparent Labs Bulk has remained at the top spot for pre-workouts even after thoroughly testing more than 28 different brands. 

Transparent Labs provides high-quality, clinically dosed ingredients that support all aspects of athletic performance like pump, strength, endurance, energy, and mental focus. 

Transparent Labs contains 21 grams of active ingredients per scoop. The other products mentioned above have 10g – 16g scoop sizes with as little as 4g of active ingredients.  

Pair this with the fact that Transparent Labs does not use any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and does all of this at only $1.66 per serving makes Transparent Labs Bulk an absolute steal.

BECAUSE YOU ASKED: Are These Products Overrated?

Many of our audience on YouTube have asked whether certain pre-workout brands are overrated.  So, I thought I’d address some of the most popular comments below. 

Important: If the verdict is “yes, it’s overrated,” just know that they still have some redeeming qualities that keep them off the main list above.

Is Total War Overrated? 

Total War pre-workout

The verdict: Not Overrated!

I was pleasantly surprised by Redcon1 Total War, since it’s a very hyped-up and popular product online. 

Total War provided really good energy with noticeable benefits to both pump and strength. It tastes great, mixes well, and comes at a good value ($1.43 per serving). 

However, I noticed a pretty significant post-workout crash, especially compared to other products I have tested. 

Is Woke AF Overrated?

Woke AF

The verdict: Not Overrated!

When this product arrived for me to test, I didn’t want to buy into the hype. I thought the marketing was unique and clever, and they were compensating for a poor product with over-the-top marketing. 

However, over time, this pre-workout actually made it into my regular repertoire and is one that I fell in love with. 

The blend of stimulants and nootropics is unique and provided a mood-boosting, euphoric experience. It made me really excited to work out and often resulted in me adding exercises or sets to my workout because I didn’t want to stop even when my workout was done. 

Though not the best product I have tried for enhancing pump, I felt like I could work out forever with this pre-workout and didn’t experience a crash. 

Note: This is the high-stim formula with 333 mg of caffeine per scoop. 

Is Bucked Up Overrated?

Bucked Up

The verdict: Not Overrated!

Bucked Up is the lower-dosed, lower-stimulant version of Woke AF mentioned above. While most of its ingredients don’t meet clinical dose standards, I still felt an incredibly uplifting and euphoric energy from this pre-workout. 

Bucked Up is available in more than 20 different flavor varieties (which is A LOT), and while they use artificial flavoring, they’ve opted for more natural coloring agents like beetroot powder and blue spirulina. 

Bucked Up costs $1.66 per serving, which is a bit high for a product without many clinically dosed ingredients, but honestly, I felt like the cost was justified simply for the mood and motivation boost it provided. 

Is Gorilla Mode Overrated?

Gorilla Mode

The verdict: Overrated

Gorilla Mode was a love/hate product for me. I loved the benefits, but I hated the cost. 

I definitely noticed significant increases in strength, energy, and pump with this product. 

But, to get clinical doses of its ingredients, a two-scoop serving is required, skyrocketing the cost per serving to $2.50. This high price, plus the fact that I experienced negative digestive symptoms about 75% of the time I took this product, make Gorilla Mode a product I won’t be re-buying. 

Is Ghost Legend Overrated?

Ghost Legend

The verdict: Overrated 

Ghost is a brand I consider to be on par with Ryse and Alani Nu for their strong social media presence. People come to my supplement store asking for Ghost Legend by name despite having yet to use a pre-workout product. “I saw it on TikTok” is something I hear all too often. 

Overall, this pre-workout falls in the middle of the pack for me. I am not racing to rebuy it, but if it falls in my hands, I won’t turn it away either. 

Ghost Legend contains clinical doses for most of its ingredients and is a good, well-rounded formula to support strength, pump, energy, and endurance. 

The most memorable thing from my time testing Ghost Legend was the intense beta-alanine tingles. The itchiness was and remains the most intense beta-alanine tingling that I have ever experienced from a pre-workout. 

If you love that sensation, this might be a pro for you, but I would pass on it if you don’t like the tingles. 

Our Testing Methodology Explained

Our testing team personally tests every product we write about.  When it comes to pre-workouts, I’ve tested them under a variety of situations. I tested them at different times for different workout types (e.g., resistance training, cardio, HIIT) and various workout lengths. 

About My Recommendation

I have been a supplement store manager for more than a decade, which has given me a lot of insight into industry trends and which ingredients or products are actually effective. I have been using pre-workout supplements for even longer and have tried more than 50 different products over the years.

Other Pre-Workout Resources

About The Author

Jennifer Vibert

Jennifer Vibert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Nutrition Coach, and supplement store manager. She has a Bachelor of Kinesiology with a major in Fitness and Lifestyle and a minor in Psychology from the University of Regina. She is a Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition, with a passion for helping clients learn the fundamentals of nutrition and supplementation in order to build healthy, sustainable habits.

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On Staff at, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.

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I’ve Tested 28+ Pre-Workouts, Here’s My #1 Pick


  • Proven Doses: Ingredients Dosed To Clinical Standards
  • Great Value: 17% Cheaper Than Other Similar Formulas
  • Well-Rounded: Excellent for Pump, Energy, & Strength


  • Proven Doses: Ingredients Dosed To Clinical Standards
  • Great Value: 17% Cheaper Than Other Simliar Formulas
  • Well-Rounded: Excellent for Pump, Energy, & Strength

Read my review