Those creative geniuses in the marketing departments of dietary supplement companies are at it again. They’ve created another new category, the Thermogenic Pre-Workout.
Pre-workout products and fat burners are two of the largest categories in sports nutrition. So, it seems a match made in heaven, combine the benefits of a pre-workout supplement with thermogenic ingredients, and capture both markets!
To quote one of the biggest brands in the business, “When you want to burn fat, the ideal pre-workout should be a combination of energy boosters and thermogenic ingredients.”
In this article, we examine the role of pre-workouts and that of thermogenic ingredients. We will visit the science of losing weight while working out versus burning fat after your workout. That discussion will lead us to a review of metabolism and its components, and – of course – our picks for the best thermogenic pre-workout.
We introduce this “Best of” article with the most profound words in weight management, “Exercise and calorie intake control are recognized as the primary mechanisms for addressing body weight.” Supplementation, pre-workouts, or thermogenic products can definitely be helpful aids in your weight-loss journey, but they are secondary. So, let’s dive into the world of thermogenic pre-workouts. We’ll discuss what they are, how they work, what benefits they can provide, and what the best options are. If you’d rather get right to our top picks, feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this guide.
Ready to find out what the best thermogenic pre-workouts are? Let’s get started!
What the Experts are Saying About Thermogenic Pre-Workouts
Search any industry report for sales or consumption trends on sports nutrition products, and you will find a Pre-Workout category and a Diet Pill, Thermogenic, or Fat Burner category. However, what you will not find is a Thermogenic Pre-Workout category. So, we turned to the industry experts to better understand what comprises this segment.
Our Bodybuilding.com “Thermogenic Pre-Workout” query returned a laundry list of pre-workout products sprinkled with just a few that included “Ripped” or “Burn” in the product name.
The Vitamin Shoppe
The same exercise at Vitamin Shoppe resulted in several products they considered “Thermogenic Pre-Workout” products, the most comprehensive sub-category of the big three retailers.
GNC is an 800-pound gorilla in the sports nutrition space, but has listed only four products in response to our search. Two of the four were obviously not thermogenic pre-workout products. One was a far cry from a pre-workout, and the fourth was their private label product, positioned as a thermogenic pre-workout – talk about conflict.
After defining pre-workout and thermogenic products, we will provide a chart indicating the active ingredients in each product we discovered on the big three’s sites.
Pre-Workout Products: Their Role and Essential Ingredients
A genuine pre-workout product is more than a stimulant that gets you amped up. Pre-and post-workout are the two most crucial times for supplementation if you seek real results. For those concerned with building stamina, strength, and muscle; versus high stims to get you through a workout, there are essential nutrients at the appropriate dosages required:
- BCAAs: Five – six grams, in the correct 2:1:1 ratio (Leucine, Iso-Leucine, Valine) will allow you to train longer, with greater intensity.
- Creatine: Either monohydrate (3-5 grams) or HCL (1.5-2 grams) before and after your workout are optimum.
- Beta-Alanine: Two grams of this amino acid will help to buffer lactic acid.
- Citrulline Malate (Arginine): Citrulline helps boost nitric oxide when taken pre-workout at a six-gram dosage.
- Caffeine: For energy – but more than just a stimulant, caffeine also improves exercise performance. 200-300 mg is a typical dosage.
- L-Glutamine: Works well both pre-and post-workout, promotes recovery, gut health, and alleviates muscle soreness – 10 grams pre-and-post.
- Betaine: Included in many premium pre-workouts for stamina and endurance. 1.5 grams
Many pre-workout products will include different variations on these ingredients, a mental focus component, and Bio-Perrine to aid absorption and uptake. We strongly encourage you to seek products that list each ingredient and its dosage separately on the ingredient panel so that you know the component and its potency. In other words, avoid proprietary blends in your supplements.
Thermogenic Products: Their Role and Essential Ingredients
Thermogenic supplements are designed to boost your metabolism, increase your caloric expenditure, release fat from fat cells, and burn fat. Clinical studies support the thermogenic ingredients listed below as effective in weight management to some degree. Synephrine, a non-stimulating thermogenic, is even shown to increase your resting metabolism – more on the significance of that in just a bit.
- Green Tea Extract/EGCG
- Bitter Orange/Synephrine
Sports nutrition manufacturers will often combine several of the above ingredients in one supplement, suggesting better weight loss effects, although all-too-often in a proprietary thermogenic blend.
Boosting your Metabolism with Thermogenic Pre-Workouts
The concept of the above ingredients is to boost your metabolism through the process of thermogenesis, generating more heat, and raising your body temperature. Thus, the idea of the thermogenic pre-workout is to provide significant stimulation and burn more fat while working out through increased body heat. As you’ll see in our ingredient analysis, many brands also contain a focus or mental clarity component.
Experts contend the problem with this thinking is that you burn far more fat after your workout and during the remainder of the day than you do during your training. They propose a thermogenic is more essential to boost your metabolism throughout the day.
Your metabolism consists of several phases:
- BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – the energy (calories) required for your basic functions as determined by your age, weight, and sex. Important note: more muscle equals a higher BMR energy expenditure. Your BMR accounts for 65% – 70% of your Total Energy Expenditure (TEE).
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – The digestive and absorption process of eating food consumes about 10% of your calories.
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – Your normal physical activity during the day requires about 10% – 20% of TEE.
- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – Specific exercises, working out, equates to only about 5%-10% of TEE.
As you can see, your potential to impact your metabolism while exercising represents a relatively small percentage of your total metabolism. Far better to have your thermogenic impacting your BMR, or resting metabolic rate, as synephrine has been shown to do in clinical trials.
One of the most significant benefits of exercise, especially intense exercise, is burning additional carbohydrates while working out. The more carbohydrates you burn during exercise, the more fat you burn after.
Analyzing Thermogenic Pre-Workout Products
Our intent is not to denigrate the importance of thermogenic ingredients/products. As we previously mentioned, the efficacy of each of the ingredients listed is supported by clinical trials. We are simply grappling with the concept of thermogenic pre-workouts, given the role of a traditional pre-workout product. To illustrate, please see the chart below indicating the essential pre-workout components found in those products identified by Bodybuilding, GNC, and Vitamin Shoppe as thermogenic pre-workouts:
The most crucial ingredients in an effective pre-workout product are seldom, if ever, found in the above; BCAAs, Creatine, and Betaine. To be fair, BCAAs and creatine are probably not optimal for weight loss. Another concern with these products was the number of proprietary formulations for the energy, focus, and thermogenic blends.
When to Take your Thermogenic Pre-Workout
If your primary fitness goals are to work out intensely and shed excess body fat, then, by all means, try one of the above products. In addition to taking the product 30 minutes before working out, several manufacturers recommend taking your thermogenic on non-workout days early in the a.m. to support fat-burning throughout the day. Given the stimulants in these products, we suggest you not take them within five hours of going to bed.
Are Thermogenic Pre-Workouts Safe?
Most people tolerate thermogenic products reasonably well. However, combining products or exceeding the recommended dosages can be risky due to the stimulating effects. Commonly cited issues are nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and headache. For those with hypertension, we recommend abstaining, as over-stimulating can increase blood pressure.
Thermogenic abuse can lead to more severe health complications. Consult with your medical professional before adding a thermogenic pre-workout to your supplement regimen.
Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout
Although we prefer the combination of a true pre-workout designed to boost stamina, energy, strength gains, and focus, paired with a thermogenic product to increase fat burning throughout the day, these are, in our opinion, the best of the thermogenic pre-workout products.
MuscleTech Vapor 5X Ripped, from Iovate
Lovate and MuscleTech have been stalwarts in the sports nutrition industry for more than twenty years. Their Hydroxycut line (Hydroxycut Platinum, Hydroxycut Black, Hydroxycut Gummies) is the number one selling brand in weight loss, so they know a thing or two about thermogenic products.
We love their Vapor X5 Pre-Workout formula, one of the most comprehensive on the market. Their Ripped Vapor X5 is a new hybrid, explosive pre-workout product for energy, focus, intensity, and weight loss. Although the product features several blends and matrixes, each ingredient and dosage are listed separately to meet our transparency requirement.
The product includes L-Citrulline for a nitric oxide boost and Beta-Alanine to buffer against lactic acid on the pre-workout front. The weight loss and energy matrixes have effective ingredients at the appropriate dosages, and the Neurosensory blend contains choline and l-theanine.
A thirty-serving container is priced at $31.99 on the company website with a limited-time price cut to $19.99. At $.67 per serving, we think the Ripped version may be worth a test run.GET THE BEST PRICE ON MUSCLETECH VAPOR 5X RIPPED
Cellucor C4 Ripped
Another leader in the sports nutrition industry is Cellucor. After Ultimate Orange, Cellucor’s C4 was one of the first pre-workout products on the market. Today the line includes the original powders and ready-to-drink varieties in Original, Ripped, Extreme, and Ultimate formulas. Cellucor is a marketing machine as even C4 Ripped is segmented and comes in a Ripped, Sport, and Ultimate Shred version. The company positions Ripped as “a pre-workout supplement that combines the explosive energy of C4 with ingredients specific to fat loss.”
The C4 Ripped formula, unfortunately, uses proprietary blends for the weight loss and energy components, masking the dosages of many of our favored ingredients. Fortunately, the more pre-workout-focused ingredients, Beta-Alanine and Arginine, are listed separately with dosages indicated. C4 even markets an NSF Safe for Sport variety, although it doesn’t appear every product in the line is certified.
The product is available everywhere, in brick and mortar and at online retailers. Amazon retails a thirty-serving tub at $31.91, the exact cost as the subscription price on the Cellucor website.GET THE BEST PRICE ON CELLUCOR C4 RIPPED
GNC Hyper Ripped
This thermogenic pre-workout comes from popular supplement company, GNC. GNC has produced quite the wide variety of supplements, including GNC Probiotic Complex, Nugenix GH-Boost, Pro Performance Bulk 1340, and – of course – GNC Hyper Ripped. In this new and evolving segment, even the product names are changing. For example, GNC is apparently in the midst of a re-brand as some articles refer to Hyper Shred while others call it AMP Hyper-Ripped.
The GNC product was the only thermogenic pre-workout that included BCAAs, at an appropriate dosage and in the correct 2:1:1 ratio. Although they do use blends in their formulation, they list each ingredient and its dosage. True to GNC’s own-brand strategy, they employ three patented and trademarked ingredients. The marketing is spot on for a thermogenic pre-workout; intense energy, targets the metabolism, protects lean muscle, and supports recovery! Genius.
At $49.99 for a twenty-four serving container, even with a Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off, this is the most expensive option in our recommendations. The days of private label offerings being inferior products at reduced prices are quite obviously no longer in vogue at GNC.GET THE BEST PRICE ON GNC HYPER RIPPED
In Summary: Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout
If fat loss is your overriding concern, a thermogenic pre-workout may help by providing the energy required for an intense workout, increasing your metabolism, and suppressing your appetite. However, this does not address increasing lean muscle, another strategy to improve metabolism.
When looking for your best thermo pre-workout or combination of pre-workout and thermogenic, we suggest you seek products from a reputable company that manufacturers its products in a cGMP facility, has independent third-party quality and purity tests, and provides transparency in its packaging.
- What the Experts are Saying About Thermogenic Pre-Workouts
- Pre-Workout Products: Their Role and Essential Ingredients
- Thermogenic Products: Their Role and Essential Ingredients
- Boosting your Metabolism with Thermogenic Pre-Workouts
- Analyzing Thermogenic Pre-Workout Products
- When to Take your Thermogenic Pre-Workout
- Are Thermogenic Pre-Workouts Safe?
- Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout
- In Summary: Best Thermogenic Pre-Workout