How to Pick a Pre-Workout

If you’ve ever shopped for supplements on Amazon, you know there are seemingly endless options to choose from. So how do you choose? Do you go for the brand name you’ve seen in Target, the brightest packaging, or do you choose your product based on the ingredients? Supplements do not require FDA approval, and while there are countless brands that adhere to FDA regulations, many take advantage of the low barrier to entry to pack their products with low quality ingredients and hide them behind proprietary blends. Particularly when shopping for pre-workout, it’s important to keep your eye on a few key ingredients. Keep reading to learn how to pick a pre-workout according to the Red Leaf team.

How much caffeine is in it?

The number one ingredient to keep your eye on in a pre-workout is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can enhance athletic performance when used in proper amounts, but it is also classified as a drug by the FDA and can have negative side effects. We’ve all experienced these side effects to a degree after a day with too much coffee, but when too much caffeine is paired with intense exercise, it can be quite dangerous. Experts recommend not exceeding 2 – 6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight one hour before exercise for optimal performance. For the average 150-pound person, that is equal to about 150 milligrams of caffeine. When you’re looking at a pre-workout label, however, you have to look at the amount of Caffeine Anhydrous, as well as the amount of “energy blend” in the product. Caffeine is the most popular stimulant used in pre-workouts for increased energy and performance, but it’s not the only one. When 150 milligrams of caffeine is paired with an additional 200 – 300 milligrams of stimulants, you can expect that head rush, heart-beating-out-of-your-chest feeling to follow. If you can’t see every ingredient listed in its specified amount, it’s safe to say that you can’t know for sure how much stimulant that special blend contains.

When choosing a pre-workout, look for a transparent label that clearly states the amount of caffeine and other stimulants in each serving. Consider trying a lower caffeine pre-workout to promote both performance benefits and balanced health. Red Leaf Pre-Workout contains only 40 milligrams of caffeine per serving, making it one of the lower caffeine pre-workout offerings on the market. It gives you a gentle, jitter-free energy boost to help you focus on the task at hand without making you crash. Especially if you’re someone who enjoys high intensity exercise, such as CrossFit, Orange Theory, running, F45 Training, or HIIT, a lower caffeine pre-workout is your best option.

Things to Avoid: pre-workout powders (or beverages) exceeding 150 mg caffeine anhydrous, and/or proprietary energy blends, especially blends that don’t list the amounts of individual ingredients.

Does it contain beta-alanine?

If you’ve ever tried a pre-workout and felt like your skin was crawling, you’re not alone! Most pre-workouts contain beta-alanine, an amino acid that improves muscle endurance during activity. Beta-alanine activates a natural histamine response in the body, which may cause itching and tingling in some people. It’s not an allergic reaction, and it diminishes with continued use, but some are more sensitive than others to its effects so it’s definitely something to look out for on the label. Studies show that especially in resistance training, those who take beta-alanine see marked improvements in their ability to lift heavier for longer. While it’s an effective ingredient in pre-workout, not everyone enjoys the itching feeling that accompanies it. That’s where reading the label becomes important. The average pre-workout contains between 1.5 and 3.0 grams per serving. Experts recommend 4 – 6 grams of beta-alanine per day split into multiple doses for optimal athletic performance, but for general exercisers, one dose of beta-alanine prior to training will still offer training benefits on a smaller scale.

If you’re not a big fan of the beta-alanine tingles, try finding a pre-workout powder that contains a lower amount of beta-alanine, such as Red Leaf Pre-Workout. With only 1.0 gram of beta-alanine per serving, it’s just enough to give your muscles that extra boost during training, without making you jittery and itchy throughout the entire workout. And, if you really hate the tingles, but still want an energy boost, try Red Leaf Immunity. With 80 milligrams of caffeine, electrolytes, and amino acids, it doesn’t contain beta-alanine. With Red Leaf Immunity, you can enjoy your workout sans creepy crawlies.

Cranberry Lime Immunity

Does it have any recovery ingredients?

Most people associate pre-workout only with energy, but recovery is just as important when it comes to your workout. When reading your pre-workout label, check to see if it contains ingredients like amino acids, especially the branched chain amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine, glutamine, and antioxidants. If the label shows primarily stimulants or blends with ingredients you don’t recognize, consider looking for a more balanced formula like Red Leaf Pre-Workout. With mild amounts of caffeine and beta-alanine, Red Leaf Pre-Workout’s formula includes ingredients like BCAA’s, glutamine, and antioxidants to promote muscle recovery before the workout is even over. Rather than shopping for separate recovery supplements when buying a pre-workout, look for a formula that has it all.


When shopping for the right pre-workout, it can be hard to choose between all the vibrant packages and confusing labels. Finding a brand that you can trust, with no proprietary blends and all ingredients listed clearly on the label, is a great place to start. At Red Leaf Nutrition, we believe that you deserve to know what you’re putting in your body, which is why we list every ingredient in its actual amount on the label of all our products. We also design each and every product with your balanced health in mind, so no one area of your wellness suffers. So the next time you’re shopping for pre-workout (or any supplement for that matter), do your research on the brand, keep an eye out for proprietary blends, and always, always, always read the label!