I Took Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout (My 2024 Review)

January 10, 2024

Optimum Nutrition is most well-known for its Gold Standard Whey Protein. They carry this quality into their other supplements, such as their Gold Standard Pre-Workout.

It's one of the more cost-effective pre-workouts, and that is where Optimum Nutrition positions itself against other supplement giants. But is it any good? Or are there better alternatives to give your workout a boost?


  • Elevated Strength and Power Output: Caffeine is the main working ingredient in a pre-workout, giving you performance-enhancing benefits of increased strength. At 175 mg, most individuals will benefit.
  • Tastes Amazing: Most pre-workouts taste great in the modern billion-dollar supplement industry. Optimum Nutrition is no different. I love their blue raspberry.
  • Cost Effective: At $1/serving, it’s one of the most budget friendly pre-workouts available.


  • Artificial Flavors and Sweeteners: Many modern pre-workouts are flavored with natural sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia. I personally don't mind artificial sweeteners, but this may be a con for some lifters.
  • Dosage of Ingredients: Other ingredients in this formula are overwhelmingly underdosed to the point I don't believe you'll have any further benefits.





Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Who Is Optimum Nutrition?

Optimum Nutrition is established as a premier brand within the industry. Commonly known as ON, they have been setting the gold standard for nutritional supplements for over three decades.

I've discovered that a cornerstone of Optimum Nutrition's success is their rigorous attention to detail. Their supplements are manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities where they adhere to stringent policies.

ON's own production facilities are GMP compliant, a clear indicator that they're serious about maintaining standards that are just as high as their proteins.

Every product is banned substance tested, and they have come out on top of every third-party test proving what is on the label is in the supplement.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout Review

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Ingredients



Creatine Monohydrate

3 g

Panax Ginseng

25 mg


1.5 g


750 mg


375 mg


250 mg


175 mg

Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex

100 mg

Creatine Monohydrate (3 g)

Creatine is an ingredient I don’t believe should be in a pre-workout as it does not deliver immediate performance improvements. But it does bring long-term benefits.

This implies you don't need to supplement with creatine on days when you use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout. When you aren't working out, you can take 3-5 g of creatine on its own.

How long should you use creatine? To sustain creatine muscle saturation, the suggested dose ranges between 3 and 5 g per day, and it can take up to 28 days to fully saturate the muscle [1].

You can use a loading approach of 20 g per day for 6 days, but I believe it's unnecessary, and you're better off creating the habit of taking it regularly.

But how effective is creatine, and why is it used in pre-workout supplements?

Long-term creatine supplementation paired with weight lifting results in an 8% increase in strength and a 14% increase in the number of reps performed at a given load compared to placebo [2].

Furthermore, you may maintain higher intensities for longer periods, as seen by increased anaerobic power during a 30-second maximal cycling sprint [3].

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, "Exercise performance involving short bursts of extremely powerful activity can be enhanced, particularly during repeated bouts, by creatine supplementation [4]."

What is the mechanism of action of creatine? Creatine is an amino acid that is stored in the muscle.

That is why it is important to saturate the muscle with creatine. To form phosphocreatine (PCr), these creatine molecules bond with inorganic phosphate.

PCr is a rapid source of energy for the muscles because it does not require multiple metabolic steps to be produced.

Your muscles contract using adenosine triphosphate (ATP), but when ATP is used, it loses a phosphate and becomes ADP.

PCr increases high-intensity performance by swiftly converting ADP to ATP for immediate energy.

Furthermore, PCr consumes hydrogen ions, potentially postponing exhaustion [4].

However, whether acidification of the muscle is the major cause of muscular exhaustion is debatable because many of the studies were conducted in vitro under extremely cold conditions.

Finally, creatine can improve the ability to restore glycogen for energy, making it a powerful performance element [5].

Panax Ginseng (25 mg)

There are two types of Panax ginseng: white ginseng and red ginseng. It has vasorelaxant and mildly hypotensive effects on the body's nitric oxide production [6].

It boosts antioxidant enzyme activity and may protect rats from aging-related oxidative damage [7].

Ginseng has demonstrated promise in memory enhancement, notably in age-related cognitive decline, strengthening mental and physical resilience, lowering fatigue, and supporting the body in stress adaptation [8].

Taking 200 mg extract or 0.5 to 2 g dry root is recommended daily. It is not recommended for people with acute asthma or hypertension since high doses can cause overstimulation and raise blood pressure.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard has a dose of 25 mg, which is likely too small to provide performance-enhancing benefits.

Beta-Alanine (1.5 g)

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout

The next active ingredient is beta-alanine, dosed at 1.5 g per serving.

Acute performance effects are visible at doses of 30 mg per kilogram of body weight 60 minutes before activity, making this Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout underdosed for most people.

Beta-alanine extends the time you can exercise vigorously for 1-4 minutes [9][10].

For example, if you ran an 800m race, you would be able to sustain a higher intensity throughout the race, improving your 800m performance.

How does it achieve this? Beta-alanine increases carnosine levels. Due to strenuous activity, carnosine either buffers or removes hydrogen ions that accumulate in the muscle.

The muscle's hydrogen ions produce an acidic environment. An acidic muscular environment causes fatigue, reducing the muscle's ability to contract.

By buffering or removing these hydrogen ions, the pH of the muscle remains neutral for a longer amount of time, hence extending fatigue duration.

Citrulline Malate and Beta-Alanine, when combined, will allow you to accomplish many more reps in the gym, resulting in improved muscle growth.

A recent systematic research of beta-alanine supplementation in combat sports discovered that athletes enhanced their strength, power, overall work capacity, perception of physical effort recovery, lean mass, and fat mass [11].

Aim for 179 g over 3 - 10 weeks to observe endurance improvement [12].

L-Citrulline (750 mg)

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout provides 750 mg of L-Citrulline, insufficient to improve lifting performance [13]. But how exactly does L-Citrulline work?

The goal of the NO Explode pre-workout, as you may recall, was to increase nitric oxide in the body, thereby improving muscular endurance, fatigue resistance, and post-exercise recovery by dilatation of blood vessels to increase blood flow [13].

Furthermore, nitric oxide may reduce the need for oxygen and ATP during exercise while increasing the ability of the aerobic powerhouse to produce ATP.

NO Explode aimed to increase nitric oxide production by using L-Arginine, which is converted into nitric oxide, as the primary ingredient.

However, due to low absorption in the stomach, there is no evidence that L-Arginine increases nitric oxide activity.

That is why L-citrulline is such a powerful supplement ingredient.

Nitric Oxide

L-citrulline is a precursor to L-arginine, and by converting it to L-arginine, it overcomes the kidney absorption difficulty.

This raises the concentration of L-Arginine, which converts to nitric oxide and gives the above benefits.

Taking 8 g of Citrulline 60 minutes before exercise improves upper and lower body repetitions to failure, reduces muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours later, and improves maximal grip strength [13].

Taking 6g of Citrulline daily for seven days accelerates the time to fatigue during moderate-intensity cycling for those interested in endurance [14].

Doses as low as 2.4g per day for seven days improved time to fatigue and power output when cycling four kilometers.

Furthermore, compared to a placebo, sensations of muscle fatigue improved after exercise [15].

Pair your Gold Standard Pre-Workout with fresh watermelon or juice to boost the 750 mg dose even more. Watermelon is a natural source of L-Citrulline, with 0.7 to 3.6 milligrams per gram of fresh weight.

L-Carnitine (375 mg)

L-carnitine isn't a pre-workout ingredient, as it provides no acute performance-enhancing benefits.

Reviews of multiple trials indicate that L-carnitine can lead to a modest reduction in BMI, particularly in individuals with obesity, especially when combined with a low-calorie diet, exercise, and weight loss drugs [16].

It also appears to reduce body weight significantly, with the most significant effects observed in overweight and obese participants undergoing lifestyle changes.

However, its impact on waist circumference and body fat percentage is less clear, showing a non-significant or varied effect.

Importantly, L-carnitine supplementation has been shown to improve lipid profiles, notably lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol [17].

However, these effects are seen with doses greater than 2000 mg daily.

L-Tyrosine (250 mg)

L-tyrosine is another important element in improving cognitive function. This amino acid has been shown to improve cognitive flexibility, lowering the cost of switching tasks [18].

L-tyrosine is especially helpful in stressful conditions or when cognitive demands are high, boosting cognitive performance when it is most needed [19].

However, the doses used in the research to demonstrate cognitive gains start at 2 g on the low end. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout only contains 250 mg, which is likely insufficient to have an effect.

Caffeine (175 mg)

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that boosts strength and sprint performance by 6.5% and the number of reps performed when lifting by 9.4% [20].

Compared to a placebo, it improves endurance performance by 2.22% in time trials and 2.9% in power output [21].

Caffeine doses range between 3-6 mg per kilogram of body weight, with all doses in this range increasing performance.

Some people, however, respond well to lower caffeine doses, less than 3 mg/kg body mass (about 200 mg or lower), which Gold Standard Pre-Workout includes [22][23].

Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex (100 mg)

There is little evidence to suggest that the citrus bioflavonoid complex has any energy or focus benefits in humans.

Gold Standard Pre-Workout Features

Optimum Nutrition Pre Workout Ingredients

Taste & Mixability

I've experimented with many pre-workout supplements, and I can attest that taste and mixability are secondary factors to ingredients in a pre-workout.

But with this billion-dollar industry growing, every company has nailed taste with their pre-workouts. No one will continue buying the product if you don't have the taste.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout tastes amazing. They nailed their blue raspberry flavor, which is my favorite.

It mixes well with no clumps or excess sediment at the bottom of the shaker.

Third-Party Testing

Third-party testing signals trust and assurance in an industry bloated with claims and counterclaims. It ensures your supplement doesn’t have banned substances.

If you’re a competitive athlete subject to random drug tests, this is vital for all the supplements you take.

Contaminated supplements can end your career if you return a positive drug test, so the informed sport tick means you're safe.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Price

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout retails for $29.99, depending on the various sales. There are 30 servings, making this $1/serving, which is one of the cheapest pre-workouts available.

Who Is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout For?

Optimum Nutrition Pre Workout


Competitive athletes must look for the informed sport tick on their supplements. Contaminated supplements can end your career if you pop positive for a random drug test.

A banned substance tested means it's specifically analyzed for substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Association.

While Certificates of Analysis show it's free from heavy metals and other impurities, they don't test for banned substances. Hence, the informed sport tick is your insurance to return clean drug tests.

Everyday Gym Enthusiasts

This supplement could also be for you if you're someone who hits the gym regularly to stay fit or build muscle. It tastes great, so it can be part of your pre-gym routine. It's cheap and provides the basics of caffeine before you work out.

If you’re not fussed about potential benefits from other ingredients and just need to feel awake, energized, and alert, then this pre-workout is for you.

My Experience With Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Based on my experience taking this pre-workout and the available science on the ingredient dosages, this is more of a powdered energy drink than a dedicated pre-workout.

That's not to say it doesn't enhance performance. Caffeine is the primary driver of performance benefits in all pre-workouts.

However, there are potential benefits to the other ingredients in this pre-workout if they are dosed adequately. Unfortunately, they are not.

I've found similar effects to having an energy drink before training, which I often do, and it works perfectly fine.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Alternatives

Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-Workout

Transparent Labs Bulk Pre Workout

Transparent Labs Bulk stands apart from other pre-workouts due to its effective dose of ingredients based on scientific research.

The pre-workout contains performance-enhancing and nootropic substances that promote muscle endurance, fatigue resistance, and increased cognitive function. It also comes in various flavors and has been checked for banned compounds.

Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-Workout contains Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, Betaine Anhydrous, Taurine, L-Tyrosine, Alpha-GPC, Organic Caffeine, L-Theanine, Theobromine, Panax Ginseng, Bioperine, and Boron.

These ingredients were carefully chosen for their effects on improving workout performance, ranging from increasing nitric oxide generation for better blood flow to boosting energy levels and cognitive abilities.

My full breakdown can be found in my Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-Workout review.

Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train

Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train

Although many other pre-workouts don't have well-dosed ingredients, Crazy Nutrition's Intensive Pre-Train does and doesn't use proprietary blends.

The main ones are Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, Betaine Anhydrous, Taurine, Caffeine, and Ashwagandha, and scientific studies show that the right doses are used.

The flavors are nicely balanced, and they mix well even without a blender. The pre-workout is reasonably priced, especially with a subscription, and it comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Drawbacks include a small selection of flavors and a small amount of servings in each bottle, which might not be enough for people who work out more than five times a week.

My Crazy Nutrition Pre-Workout review contains an in-depth breakdown.

Shifted Maximum Pre-Workout

Shifted Maximum Formula Pre Workout

The Shifted Maximum Pre-Workout supplement distinguishes itself with a large 30g serving size.

This size allows for effective dosing of multiple performance-enhancing ingredients.

Created by Shifted, a new company launched in 2022, their products are formulated by Dr. Adam Gonzalez, an expert in Exercise Physiology.

The key ingredients of Shifted Maximum Pre-Workout include L-Citrulline, Creatine Monohydrate, Taurine, Beta-Alanine, Betaine Anhydrous, L-Tyrosine, Red Spinach Leaf Extract, Beetroot Extract, Alpha-GPC, a Caffeine Blend, L-Theanine, ElevATP, and Rhodiola Rosea.

These ingredients are chosen for their individual and synergistic benefits to enhance workout performance, including muscle endurance, strength, and cognitive function.

The product is available in different flavors and is designed for easy mixing without clumping.

However, it is noted that the high caffeine content may not be suitable for caffeine-sensitive individuals, and the cost per serving is higher compared to other pre-workouts, justified by the comprehensive and high-quality formulation.

Shifted also offers a Premium Pre-Workout option with slightly lower dosages of key ingredients, which may appeal to those sensitive to high caffeine levels.

You can read my in-depth breakdown in my Shifted Maximum Pre-Workout review.

Frequently Asked Gold Standard Pre-Workout Questions

How long does Optimum Nutrition pre-workout take to kick in?

Optimum Nutrition pre-workout typically takes effect within 20 to 30 minutes of ingestion.

To ensure it's active during your workout, it's recommended to take a maximum of 30 minutes before starting your exercise routine.

Does Optimum pre-workout have creatine?

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout contains creatine monohydrate.

It's formulated to enhance energy, focus, and performance, particularly when combined with consistent resistance training and taken over time. It also includes caffeine and beta-alanine to support alertness and endurance.


After putting Optimum Nutrition's Gold Standard Pre-Workout to the test, I can say it makes an excellent caffeine option. It's closer to an energy drink than a fully-fledged pre-workout, as many ingredients are underdosed.

However, if you're looking for a minimal pre-workout that's third-party tested on a budget, give Gold Standard Pre-Workout a try.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout


  1. Hultman, E., Soderlund, K., Timmons, J. A., Cederblad, G., & Greenhaff, P. L. (1996). Muscle creatine loading in men. Journal of applied physiology, 81(1), 232-237.
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  3. Mielgo-Ayuso, J., Calleja-Gonzalez, J., Marqués-Jiménez, D., Caballero-García, A., Córdova, A., & Fernández-Lázaro, D. (2019). Effects of creatine supplementation on athletic performance in soccer players: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 11(4), 757.
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About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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