The best ingredients for a pre-workout

Last updated: March 6th, 2024

January 13th, 2022

If you are looking for the ideal pre-workout formula, you came to the right place. In this article, we explore the most relevant ingredients that your pre-workout should include to target power, focus and endurance.

Which ingredients shoul be included in a pre-workout formula

Many gym-goers seek pre-workout supplements to enhance performance, but choosing the right ingredients remains a challenge.

In this article, we explore a few effective ingredients to target the 3 main benefits a high-quality pre-workout should provide: power, focus and endurance.

What is a pre-workout?

These formulations are combinations of ingredients, designed to boost energy and performance. That’s why athletes from all disciplines typically consume them shortly before their workout or training.

The goal of consuming these formulas is to enhance acute exercise performance [1]. You can find pre-workouts in different forms, like drinks, gels or capsules, yet ready-to-drink powders are by far the most common format.

Essential aspects of a pre-workout

If you consider consuming a pre-workout to improve your performance, there are a few things to take into account before making a purchase.

Firstly, you want an effective product that delivers three main benefits: power, focus and endurance.

Secondly, choosing a product that provides rapid onset of these effects is important, ideally within 15-30 minutes of intake.

Lastly, it is best to select a formula that contains natural ingredients and avoid consuming high amounts of stimulants like caffeine.

In the next section, we look at the ingredients that you should look for in a pre-workout.

Ingredients for power

These ingredients  enhance muscular strength and power, optimizing performance during workouts [2].


Citrulline malate

This ingredient consists of citrulline, a non-essential amino acid, and malic acid, an intermediate in the citric acid cycle.

Citrulline malate may improve blood flow during exercise by augmenting nitric oxide (NO) levels, as citrulline is a NO precursor [3].

Currently, it is unclear whether the performance improvement is linked to this mechanism, but several studies support an improvement in peak power output after citrulline malate consumption [4,5].



Creatine is one of the most well-researched ingredients in sports nutrition. This ingredient increases intramuscular creatine levels. Short-term energy generation in muscle tissue comes virtually 100% from creatine – the phosphorylated isoform, Cr-P.

Daily intake of 3 g promotes anaerobic performance in the gold standard Wingate Test [6]. Furthermore, researchers found beneficial effects on exercise recovery with creatine intake, reducing exercise-induced muscle damage [7].

Ingredients for focus

These ingredients ensure that you can focus on your movements to execute them with high precision [2]. Focus is commonly referred to as the mind-muscle connection.



If you are looking for an alternative to caffeine to boost your focus, you might want to learn more about Brainberry®.
Brainberry® is a natural Aronia berry extract developed by BioActor to enhance cognitive performance. Research revealed that the consumption of Brainberry® increases focus, psychomotor speed and mental flexibility [8,9].

In particular, a study on 35 professional basketball players, showed important benefits after one week of supplementation. This study highlighted the ability of Brainberry® to significantly enhance cognitive performance and improve basketball-specific skills like shooting, rebounding and dribbling.

Cyanidin-3-O-Galactoside is the active ingredient in Brainberry® and plays an important role in improving brain health and cognitive functions.

Want to know more about Cy3Gal, and how it is involved in brain health? Read this article!



Caffeine is another ingredients that is well-researched in sports nutrition [2]. It is known for its ability to provide acute ergogenic effects.
A daily dose of 3 mg/kg bodyweight is linked to improvements in alertness, vigilance, mood and cognitive processes during exercise [10].

However, a comparison between non-caffeine and caffeine-containing pre-workout formulas concluded that the caffeine-containing pre-workout reduces calmness. If you are training in the evening, this might be a reason to pass on caffeine [11].

Ingredients for endurance

These ingredients are important to provide nutrients to feel energized until the end of your workout [2].



Beta-alanine is a carnosine precursor, a compound that buffers lactate build-up in the muscle tissue, prolonging the feeling of soreness.

It has been shown that 4-6 g of beta-alanine consumption per day for two weeks improves high-intensity exercise performance. Regular consumption maintains a certain level of intramuscular carnosine levels, as beta-alanine is the limiting factor in carnosine production [12].



Carbohydrates play a crucial role in providing sustained energy levels during prolonged exercises. However, the amount needed depends on the type of exercise [13]. For typical gym sessions lasting between 45 to 120 minutes, consuming a small amount of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates shortly before exercise can be beneficial.

For longer endurance activities, such as marathon training or extended cardio sessions, a larger intake of carbohydrates is necessary to optimize performance [14]. Slow-release carbohydrates could be a consideration for endurance athletes.

Citrus flavonoids – For power and endurance

If you want to take your pre-workout to the next level, an additional ingredient you may want to include in your pre-workout formula is citrus flavonoids (hesperidin).

WATTS’UP® is a natural Citrus sinensis extract researched and developed by BioActor. The recommended daily dose (clinical dose) for this ingredient is 400-500 mg.

Two randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials conducted by BioActor confirmed that WATTS’UP® can significantly improve peak force, endurance capacity and anaerobic power in trained subjects.

Further research revealed that WATTS’UP® works by stimulating nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in blood vessels, thus stimulating vasodilation and better blood flow. [15]

Moreover, it was demonstrated that WATTS’UP® boosts mitochondria efficiency and respiration capacity. This resulted in 33% higher ATP production – the fuel for our muscles [16].

Therefore, WATTS’UP® would be a great addition to any sports nutrition supplement.


In conclusion, pre-workouts are tailored combinations of ingredients aimed at enhancing energy and performance for athleses across various disciplines. Each ingredient serves a specific function, contributing to distinct aspects of sports performance.

Citrulline malate and creatine are dedicated to increase power, whereas Brainberry® and caffeine improve focus. Furthermore, beta-alanine and carbohydrates are valuable ingredients to enhance endurance performance.

Lastly, citrus flavonoids, such as WATTS’UP®, offer a promising dual benefit for any pre-workout formulation by boosting both power and endurance.

Discover YAMAMOTO’s Success Story

Learn how YAMAMOTO integrated WATTS’UP® into their products, driving remarkable success.