Pre-workout supplements aren’t just for guys.
For women who are serious about getting toned, improving their fitness, or cutting fat while maintaining lean mass, a pre-workout supplement is almost necessary.
However, you can’t always settle for the same pre-workout supplement as men, since women have a different hormonal profile than men, and thus need a pre-workout supplement that’s tuned to their biochemistry.
We’ve reviewed the best pre-workout supplements for women and ranked the top ten. If you want to tune up your workout, check our our rankings.
1. Naked Energy Pure Pre-Workout Formula
Its plain packaging and simple design formula make it clear: this is the go-to pre-workout supplement for women who want to keep things simple.
It has a few key vitamins and minerals: folate, vitamin C, and calcium, plus beta-alanine, creatine, and L-arginine, which work to improve your explosive power, muscular strength, and anaerobic energy.
Well-suited for high intensity workouts, long cardio, and weight lifting sessions, this supplement is an all-around winner.
2. RedLeaf Pre-Workout Energizer
RedLeaf is a strong candidate for the best pre-workout supplement that focuses on burning fat.
With a combination of green tea extract (one of the most proven fat burners out there), raspberry ketone, a small dose of caffeine (40 mg to be exact), it’s highly effective at turning up your body’s ability to burn fat.
Add to that the amino acids included and you’ve got a winning formula for fitness and weight loss.
3. FitMiss Ignite
FitMiss Ignite is a great choice for a pre-workout boost if your routine involves high-intensity intervals or high-rep weight lifting.
This pre-workout supplement is based around a blend of beta alanine, carnitine, and beetroot extract to boost your anaerobic energy output while keeping the calories to a minimum.
It has some caffeine to charge up your energy levels, as well as amino acids to facilitate muscle repair and fat loss.
4. Lotus Pre-Workout
Lotus Pre-Workout stands out as the best pre-workout supplement that focuses on hydration.
With a combination of himalayan pink sea salt, coconut water powder, and glycerol to provide electrolytes and increase water retention, this is an excellent option if you’re going to be workout out in the heat or doing hot yoga.
It’s very specialized on the hydration front, so that means it’s not the best choice if you’ll be lifting or doing a short anaerobic workout.
5. Cellucor Super HD
Cellucor Super HD is a high-powered pre-workout formula whose focus is clearly burning off fat by up-regulating your body’s metabolism and its ability to oxidize fat during exercise.
It provides a high dose of caffeine, B vitamins, and herbal extracts like yohimbe and capsaicin, which all target fat metabolism.
It may not perform as well if your goal is high intensity interval training, since it lacks some of the anaerobic boosters of other supplements, but if the strong kick of caffeine is okay, it will work well for burning fat.
6. Organic Muscle Organic Pre-Workout
Despite the name, Organic Muscle Organic Pre-Workout isn’t so focused on people looking to pack on muscle. Its formula is instead centered around antioxidants and natural metabolism boosters.
The antioxidants include beetroot, pomegranate, and goji berry, while the matcha, acai, and cranberry are some of the major components of the metabolic boost.
The lack of amino acids and performance boosters makes this supplement less suited for high intensity workouts, but great for long sessions of cardio.
7. Keto Series Keto Pre-Workout
While the ketogenic diet doesn’t appeal to everyone, those who do try it need to make special adjustments to all parts of their diet, and that includes any pre-workout supplements that they take.
Keto Series Keto Pre-Workout is designed with this in mind; it provides the electrolytes you’d expect from a typical sports drink, but with monk fruit extract as a non-caloric sweetener and beta-hydroxybutyrates as ketogenic “boosters” to give your body extra ketones to burn directly for fuel during exercise.
The 150 mg of caffeine per serving will also boost your body’s fat oxidation, enabling you to work out at a higher intensity.
8. Raw Synergies ThermoPre
ThermoPre is designed for a strong fat burning and energy boosting effect, but with 250 mg of caffeine per serving, plus other energizers like yerba mate and theacrine, it might be too much for many women to handle without getting jitters or irritability.
Unless you are working out in the morning and want a huge boost to your fat metabolism, there are better pre-workout options for women.
9. RSP Amino Lean
Amino Lean from RSP has a wide range of ingredients, but unlike many of its competitors, it doesn’t seem to put them together towards a focused purpose.
The presence of artificial flavors and coloring agents will be a big turn-off for many women, and the difficulty of determining exactly how much of each ingredient is included in the proprietary blends is not an attractive feature either.
FitGirls is a new product, but it disappoints with a real lack of innovation in its ingredients More or less, it’ a hodgepodge of popular herbal supplements combined with a pretty standard vitamin and mineral blend.
Since most of its ingredients are hidden in a “proprietary mix,” there’s no telling if you are getting what you are paying for with regards to the quality of the ingredients.
Part Two: Benefits and side effects of pre-workout supplements for women
Achieving your workout goals gets a lot easier when you choose the right pre-workout supplement.
For women who want to accomplish more at the gym (or, for that matter, on the roads, in the yoga studio, etc.), a pre-workout supplement can keep you hydrated, increase the amount of fat you burn, improve your anaerobic power, or help you recover faster from heavy lifting sessions.
It’s all a matter of choosing the right supplement for your workout needs.
Broadly speaking, a pre-workout supplement for women is going to be targeted at (at least) one of a few primary benefits: improving hydration, boosting fat oxidation, increasing performance during high-intensity exercise, and improving recovery after resistance training sessions (i.e. weight lifting).
Hydration is a critical need if you’ll be doing long cardio sessions, taking a sauna, doing hot yoga, or anything else that will produce a lot of sweating.
Research published in 2001 in the journal Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology indicates that even mild dehydration–a loss of a few percentage points of your body weight in water–can result in a substantial decrement in performance, as well as an impairment in your ability to tolerate heat (1).
This could cause problems if you are out for a long run in the summer or in the middle of a 90-minute hot yoga class. There’s a lot more to hydration than just drinking water. A pre-workout supplement can use one of several tricks to help increase your hydration levels and improve your performance in situations where you’ll be sweating a lot.
The first among these is the inclusion of a wide range of electrolytes. Most people know that sweat is salty, but that salt isn’t just comprised of sodium–there are several other electrolytes, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium, that are contained in sweat, at varying levels.
This was reported in detail in a 1997 scientific study in the Journal of Applied Physiology (2). While sodium is indeed the most common electrolyte in sweat, it’s necessary to replace the others, too.
A good pre-workout supplement for women will include not just sodium, but magnesium, calcium and potassium as well.
Another tool in the arsenal of a pre-workout is the use of glycerol powder to boost water retention. This is a biochemical trick that’s been known to elite exercise physiologists since at least the 1990s, but has only recently become popular among pre-workout supplements for women.
One study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, demonstrated that a glycerol supplement improved cycling performance in a simulated time trial (3).
In the experiment described in that paper, cyclists were able to ride faster with a “hyper-hydration” protocol that involved glycerol, compared to drinking just water alone.
When it comes to fat oxidation, a good pre-workout supplement provides many of the same benefits as a fat burner. The key ingredients for this kind of pre-workout supplements are herbal extracts like green coffee bean and green tea extract, which are both potent fat oxidizers.
Each of these seems to combine well with caffeine in moderate amounts, as they seem to interact synergistically. This was the conclusion of an article published in the International Journal of Obesity–the active compounds in green tea combine with the effects of caffeine to produce better increases in fat metabolism compared to either compound alone (4).
These pre-workout supplements tend to combine well with cardio, as long sessions of aerobic exercise increase fat metabolism as well.
For high-intensity interval training and high-rep weight lifting sessions, you need something a little different.
These training methods are based more around your anaerobic power output, and because of that, the kind of supplement ingredients you want to look for are things like beta alanine, carnitine, and beet root extract.
These have a strong influence on your body’s ability to produce a lot of energy in a short period of time. Supplementing with beta alanine and carnitine, for example, has been shown to improve performance in high-intensity sprints and repeated-sprint tests, indicating they are valuable supplements for events like Crossfit and HIIT training (5).
Beetroot juice is well-suited for continuous high-intensity training, since it boosts your ability to utilize oxygen in your muscles, according to a 2012 scientific article (6).
For strength gains, you’ll want to seek out a pre-workout supplement that includes amino acids (particularly branched-chain amino acids) and creatine, especially if you are looking for absolute gains in strength.
Amino acids, and BCAAs in particular, help with muscle recovery after intense strength training bouts. A research paper published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that a BCAA supplement could help athletes who are pushing themselves right to the limits of recovery, preventing overtraining and improving recovery during training (7).
Creatine is well-suited for gaining muscle mass, but it isn’t necessary if your goals are just to get more toned.
Almost all quality pre-workout supplements for women will be well-tolerated. The only category of ingredients that can cause side effects are those designed to increase fat metabolism, and the biggest culprit among these is also one of the most ubiquitous in everyday life–caffeine.
Women seem to be especially susceptible to the negative effects of caffeine, partially because they just tend to be smaller and thus affected more by a given dose of caffeine, but also because of hormonal influences.
Caffeine lasts a lot longer in the bloodstream of women who take contraceptives, which means that taking a pre-workout supplement with caffeine in it in the afternoon could keep you up late into the night (8).
If you get jittery, irritable, or restless later in the day, check the caffeine content of your pre-workout supplement.
Other fat burners can cause similar problems, but high quality pre-workout supplements for women tend to only use safe, proven fat-burners like green tea extract, which has an excellent safety profile.
Getting the most out of your workout is something that the right pre-workout supplement can help you achieve, assuming you choose the right one.
Keep in mind the fact that many pre-workout supplements are geared towards different activities and different goals, so think about both when you choose one.
The right pre-workout supplement for a woman who wants to make it through an entire hot yoga class without taking a break may not be the right pre-workout supplement for a woman who wants to step up her performance in Crossfit. The same is true for someone who wants to lose weight doing cardio.
The good news is that there are pre-workout formulations for all of these goals and more.