Finding the best pre-workout without creatine can be daunting with the sheer number of products on the shelves. Companies will often use creatine in pre-workouts because it is dirt cheap. Not because it has any benefit to you when working out.
So I’ve curated the best pre-workouts without creatine so you can stop your search and focus on training!
Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine
Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine & Caffeine
Best High-Stimulant Pre-Workout Without Creatine
Table of Contents
- Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine
- Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine And Caffeine
- Best High-Stimulant Pre-Workout Without Creatine
- Why Take A Pre-Workout Without Creatine?
- What Makes A Good Pre-Workout Without Creatine?
- Pre-Workout Without Creatine Frequently Asked Questions
Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine
Very rarely will you find a pre-workout supplement that is adequately dosed. I was surprised to learn this new pre-workout from Crazy Nutrition called Intensive Pre-Train does this. Here are the main ingredients, so you know what you're getting:
Citrulline Malate 2:1
Starting from the top, L-Citrulline is typically dosed between 3-6 g or sometimes less in most pre-workouts. Crazy Nutrition's Intensive Pre-Train is dosed at 7 g, potentially enough to gain acute benefits in lifting performance . So how does L-Citrulline work?
If you remember the NO Explode pre-workout supplement, the idea was to increase nitric oxide in the body, improving muscular endurance, fatigue resistance, and recovery after exercise by dilating the blood vessels to increase blood flow .
Further, nitric oxide may reduce the need for oxygen and ATP during exercise while improving the efficiency of the aerobic powerhouse to produce ATP. Supplement companies like NO Explode tried to enhance nitric oxide production by using L-Arginine as their main ingredient, which is converted into nitric oxide.
However, the evidence doesn't support the claim that L-Arginine increases nitric oxide activity due to poor absorption in the gut. This is why L-Citrulline is such a powerful ingredient. L-Citrulline is a precursor to L-Arginine and solves the absorption problem by converting it to L-Arginine in the kidneys. This elevates L-Arginine concentration, which converts to nitric oxide, giving the above benefits.
You might be wondering; the ingredients say Citrulline Malate 2:1, not L-Citrulline. Interestingly, Malate works synergistically with Citrulline and may increase ATP production and reduce lactic acid prolonging fatigue. Perfect for those looking to get those extra reps on the bench press.
In fact, taking 8 g of Citrulline Malate 60 minutes before exercise increases repetitions to failure in both the upper and lower body, reduces muscular soreness 24 and 48 hours after, and improves maximal grip strength .
For those interested in endurance, when supplementing with 6g of Citrulline Malate a day over seven days, the time to exhaustion increases during moderate-intensity cycling . Doses as low as 2.4g a day for seven days have improved time to completion and power output during 4km of cycling.
Additionally, feelings of muscle fatigue were improved after exercise compared to placebo . If you want to bump the 7 g dose to the 8 g dose as per the research, you can have your Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train pre-workout with a side of fresh watermelon or watermelon juice. It turns out; watermelon is a natural source of L-Citrulline with 0.7 to 3.6 mg per gram of fresh weight.
Next, we have Beta-Alanine. Taking Beta-Alanine with Citrulline Malate is like adding fuel to the fire. You know that tingling feeling you get after taking a pre-workout? That is the Beta-Alanine. Regarding the dose, when looking for an acute performance effect, 30 mg per kilogram of body weight 60 minutes before training is what to aim for.
This pre-workout is perfectly dosed for you if you are 84 kg or less. You'll still benefit from Beta-Alanine if you are heavier and take this pre-workout. But how does it work? Beta-alanine increases carnosine levels, which acts as a buffer removing hydrogen ions accumulated in the muscle as a by-product of high-intensity exercise.
These hydrogen ions are highly acidic, reducing the pH of the muscle (remember your pH scale? 1 is highly acidic, 7 is neutral, 14 is highly alkaline or basic). This reduction in pH negatively affects the muscles' ability to contract, causing fatigue.
By buffering these hydrogen ions, the pH of the muscle remains neutral for longer, increasing the time to fatigue. We see this in practice with research showing Beta-Alanine extending high-intensity exercise duration in the 1-4 minute range [4,5]. Meaning you can sustain exercise longer that is so intense you can only hold that intensity for 1-4 minutes.
This fatigue-reducing effect of Beta-Alanine combined with Citrulline Malate means you'll be able to grind out more reps at the end of your set. Resulting in more volume and greater tension leading to more significant muscle growth.
Betaine is an interesting pre-workout ingredient that has slowly made its way into the supplement market. The research behind this ingredient isn’t so strong. Still, it has been suggested that betaine may potentially increase the anabolic environment after exercise by reducing the involvement of the AMPK pathway .
Put very simply, think of the AMPK pathway as the endurance adaptation pathway. It turns off the muscle building pathway known as the mTOR pathway when switched on. Since betaine reduces the AMPK pathway, you may increase the duration of an anabolic environment.
A second study suggests that a sports drink plus betaine in a fasted state increased the number of reps performed on the bench press by 6.5%, reducing the increase in lactate (and, therefore, hydrogen ions) .
Both of these studies used two doses of 1.25 g, totaling 2.5 g. This is all we have currently with performance improvements, and the current research is not conclusive.
It seems the minimum effective dose starts at 1 g and ranges up to 6 g. Hence, the 1.8 g dose within the Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train is potentially enough to provide a benefit. Taurine and caffeine are next on the list, which you'll often find in energy drinks.
Why am I talking about these together? Because they have an interesting synergetic effect. Caffeine is a powerful supplement that improves power and sprint performance by 6.5% and increases the number of reps performed when lifting by 9.4% .
But it also has a positive effect on endurance performance with 2.22% improvements in time trial performance and 2.9% in power output compared to a placebo . The dose of caffeine ranges from 3-6 mg per kilogram of body weight with performance enhancements at all doses within this range.
That means, for a 100 kg person, you should take 300-600 mg. This is a massive dose of caffeine. It may seem that the Crazy Nutrition pre-workout is slightly underdosed in this category. But we can’t forget about taurine.
Turns out, taking taurine (dose anywhere between 71-3105 mg) reduces the need for high amounts of caffeine. Only 40-325 mg of caffeine is needed instead. A study found that performance increased with the increasing dose of taurine regardless of the caffeine dose .
These are what I would consider the main active ingredients of the Intensive Pre-Train pre-workout that meet the required dosing requirements. Considering how well it is formulated, it is priced very well. If you take a subscription plan, you save $8 on every order if you train up to 5 days per week.
That is $41.99 instead of $59.99 every month. Considering Jacked Factory pre-workout is $25 and severely underdosed makes Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train great.
They now have two flavors so you're not stuck with the same taste each month. Fruit punch and blue raspberry. Both flavors taste amazing so you can't go wrong with either of them!
Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine And Caffeine
REDCON1 Big Noise
The rise of pump pre-workouts has been immense. With gym fanatics wanting the pre-workout feeling at night without the stimulants so they can sleep, a new area of supplements was created.
REDCON1 Big Noise fits into that category with a no creatine or caffeine pre-workout designed to give you skin-splitting pumps. The main ingredient is betaine anhydrous, which dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow.
Further, betaine attenuates the signaling of the molecular endurance pathway, which means the muscle-building pathway can run at full steam ! You have a dose of 2.5 g, which is the same dose used within the scientific research.
One limitation of this pre-workout is the use of L-carnitine. This supplement has mixed results on athletes, and nothing is conclusive. However, we may see slightly less muscle damage and pain after intense eccentric exercise .
But this was with doses of 3 g per day, with REDCON1 Big Noise only having 500 mg. So you likely won’t see the same effects. When 2 g per day is ingested, it may improve aerobic performance .
While there is not enough evidence to say L-carnitine will lead to performance improvements, 500 mg is likely not enough to stimulate them.
Then we have the patented Citrapeak, a blend of fruit extracts supposedly acting as vasodilators. Scrolling through their website leads to only 5 references, with most studies in rodents.
Further, research has yet to be done with Citrapeak and any physical activity. So linking this ingredient to better performance is extrapolating mechanistic data rather than measuring the effect.
But one ingredient I do like is L-theanine. L-theanine is the classic focus drug in the nootropics family. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety, which can be helpful after a long work day . Outside of the ingredients, it's a great-tasting pre-workout.
The taste is stronger than any pre-workout I’ve had so you will need to mix it with more water than usual. The price is typical of a pre-workout at $42.99 for 30 servings.
Best High-Stimulant Pre-Workout Without Creatine
REDCON1 Total War
REDCON1 Total War is for the stim heads who love taking boatloads of caffeine before working out. It has many of the same ingredients as Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train, like citrulline malate and beta-alanine, but with a much heavier caffeine dose.
You have 250 mg of pure caffeine anhydrous + 100 mg of di-caffeine malate. As di-caffeine malate is 75% caffeine, you can add another 75 mg bringing the total to a whopping 315 mg of caffeine per serving.
They added various fruit extracts (REDCON1 seems to love fruit extracts. Maybe for the flavor?), which don't have any proven performance benefits. An interesting ingredient they did add is Agmatine sulfate.
It is derived from L-arginine, but if you recall earlier in this article, I explained how L-arginine is an inferior vasodilation ingredient. However, other benefits may be reducing pain perception. But this is only seen in animal studies and is a very weak pain killer .
Regardless of the reasons for adding this ingredient, it's more of a filler than a performance enhancer. But with such a high dose of caffeine, you'll be alert and full of energy, even if a few ingredients aren't for performance purposes. The price is typical at $42.99 for 30 servings.
Why Take A Pre-Workout Without Creatine?
In my opinion, you should always choose a pre-workout with creatine. Creatine is only effective when taking 3-5 g daily. It is highly unlikely you're taking pre-workout every day, meaning you'd need to fill the gaps anyway with pure creatine monohydrate.
Secondly, having creatine in a pre-workout means other ingredients must be underdosed to keep the serving size reasonable and cost-effective. Or more effective ingredients may be left out entirely because 3 g of a serving is taken.
Thirdly, creatine has no acute performance-enhancing benefits. So, it serves no purpose to take creatine directly before a workout. In fact, taking creatine after exercise may be better for building muscle .
Creatine's effects are only realized with chronic use. Therefore, it makes sense to buy pure creatine to take daily. Further, purchasing creatine is much cheaper than taking it through a pre-workout supplement.
What Makes A Good Pre-Workout Without Creatine?
Ingredients Are Dosed Properly
Most pre-workouts are strong coffees as the other ingredients aren’t dosed to have an effect. So you may as well take a caffeine pill and save your money. But when you find a well-dosed pre-workout, like Crazy Nutrition, you may see benefits from other ingredients around endurance.
Check the nutrition label and make sure the ingredients are dosed effectively. If the company uses proprietary blends, it doesn't mean they are protecting their formula from competitors. It means they are duping you, the consumer, by hiding how much of each ingredient they added.
A typical caffeine dose in a pre-workout is 200 mg, regardless of whether it has caffeine. Your response to caffeine may differ so you may require more or less. There are some pre-workouts with lower caffeine doses if you are sensitive.
If you're a stim junkie, the market is catering toward ridiculously high caffeine doses, which I wouldn't recommend, but they are available.
Pre-Workout Without Creatine Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Get Pre-Workout Without Creatine?
You can get pre-workout without creatine, as evident by the products on this list. Make sure to search the ingredients label before purchasing your next pre-workout. Sometimes it can be hidden behind a proprietary blend.
Is Pre-Workout Better With Or Without Creatine?
Pre-workout is better without creatine. Creatine has no acute performance-enhancing effects and needs to be taken chronically to see performance benefits. Adding it means another ingredient had to be removed or underdosed.
I always recommend finding a pre-workout without creatine. It's so cheap that you're better off buying the raw ingredient to take every day. Further, having creatine in your pre-workout lowers the quality since other ingredients must be removed or reduced. My choice is the Crazy Nutrition Pre-Train for a pre-workout with creatine.
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