A pre-workout supplement can go both ways. Some will give you the cleanest and strongest workout you’ve ever had, while others will completely sideswipe you and give you jittery energy that leaves your workout in the weeds.
If you’re into pre-workout, chances are you’ve had both, but at the end of the day, we’re all out there looking for the best and most effective way to fine-tune energy, focus, drive, and intensity to give us the ultimate performance in and out of the gym.
But of all the supplements, the best pre-workout supplements generally have the biggest range of ingredients, dosages, and effects, so finding one that fits your individual training needs can be a huge challenge.
Besides caffeine, you also have to determine what other ingredients you need in a pre for endurance, power output, focus, fat loss, muscle growth, and blood flow. It’s like a puzzle where you need to find all the perfectly fitting pieces.
To save you the headache and the effort, we’ve done the work for you and found the best pre-workout supplement for 2021 that's low caffeine and will kick your workout performance to an entirely new level.
Whether you’re looking for strength, speed, power, endurance, or anything else, Pre Lab Pro® has got you covered.
The Best Low-Caffeine Pre-Workout Supplements
Pre Lab Pro® is the world’s smartest, cleanest, and most powerful low-caffeine pre-workout supplement. It delivers bigger and better results than any other pre-workout supplement and is designed to push your body to its limits using a combination of 5 natural ingredients.
With 2x muscle-pumping nitric oxide (NO) turbocharge plus afterburn, Pre Lab Pro® supports all-around athletics for your best and strongest performance yet to help you go longer, finish stronger, and get a head start on muscle recovery.
With the addition of moderate-dose smart caffeine 80mg, hydrating factors, and restorative essentials, Pre Lab Pro® will elevate your workout and power you through even the most intense training sessions with calmness, clarity, and ease.
What you’re getting in every serving of the best pre-workout:
- 1500mg RedNite® Beetroot Powder supports healthier and improved neuromuscular performance, less fatigue, better muscle energy, healthy cardiovascular performance, and sharper cognitive function
- 2200mg Setria® Performance Blend delivers a powerful and sustained nitric oxide boost for more strength, power, speed, and endurance
- 80mg Natural caffeine supplies low-dose caffeine for smarter stimulation stacked with boosters and balancers for maximum benefit and minimal side effects
- 400mg Ajipure® L-Tyrosine supports brain chemicals that drive athletic intensity and mental recovery, all while sharpening focus under stress and replenishing neurotransmitters depleted by stimulants and intense training
- 160mg Suntheanine® provides relaxed alertness, stable mood, and cognitive clarity, plus it enhances the effects of caffeine to promote calmer, cleaner stimulation
Here’s why you need it:
- Enhanced athletic, nootropic, and thermogenic performance
- Moderate-dose caffeine plus synergistic L-Theanine and nootropics for jitter-free energy, focus, alertness, and motivation
- Breakthrough 2X nitric oxide (NO) turbocharge + afterburn blood flow surge for strength, power, endurance, intensity, and mental clarity
- Supports hydration, electrolytes, stress resistance, and balance for better performance, accelerated recovery, and overall health
- Helps reduce jitters, crashes, and other negative effects of caffeine overstimulation
- Replenishes caffeine-depleted brain chemicals for daily use with less burnout
- Promotes balanced physiological responses to caffeine-induced stress
- Supports a healthier recovery and faster bounce-back after training
- Promotes stronger homeostasis for healthy inner balance to help you train like a beast, then function as a human the rest of your day and sleep deeply at night for maximum muscle & fitness gains.
When we think about caffeine, the first place most people’s mind goes is coffee, and while coffee is the most widely consumed caffeinated beverage, it’s not the only one. We also have things like energy drinks, tea, energy shots, and, of course, pre-workout supplements.
But what all these have in common is the mechanism in which caffeine works on the body to elicit its potent stimulatory effects.
If you’ve ever gone a bit heavy on caffeine before, you know darn well that the effects can kick in pretty quick. Upon consumption, caffeine is absorbed directly from the gut into the bloodstream with plasma levels peaking usually between 30 and 90 minutes 1.
The reason caffeine elicits such powerful stimulatory effects is its primary mode of action - the central nervous system (CNS), where it upregulates activity to increase alertness and boost cognitive function.
However, we add caffeine to a pre-workout powder because it reduces fatigue through its effect on adenosine receptors. Caffeine is what we call an adenosine antagonist—a substance that can bind to cell membrane receptors for adenosine and block their action 2.
And because adenosine is responsible for inducing drowsiness, blocking adenosine from binding to its receptors and replacing it with a compound that stimulates the nervous system results in more energy, better focus, enhanced alertness, and overall better performance.
So, through this antagonistic role, caffeine can influence various brain functions, including sleep, cognition, learning, and memory, and modify brain functions to potentially prevent the development of certain chronic cognitive diseases 3.
But we also want to touch on the CNS-stimulating role of caffeine.
While acting as an adenosine antagonist does play a part, some research suggests that caffeine may trigger the release of certain catecholamines, namely epinephrine, to improve exercise performance by inducing secondary metabolic changes 2, 4.
But unlike super high-dose caffeinated pre-workout supplements that generally supply more than 150mg of caffeine per serving and may give you an intense energy buzz, moderate or low caffeine consumption can have much more profound impacts on your workout and other exercises.
Low caffeine supplements have been shown to improve 5:
- Concentration and focus
- Cognitive function
- Reaction time
- Perceptions of fatigue
That’s in addition to improvements in team and power-based sports, supporting sustained maximal endurance, resistance, and time-trial performance, and slowing onset of fatigue and exhaustion.
Basically, it’s a win-win situation for anyone taking low caffeine pre-workout supplements.
The Benefits Of Caffeine For Your Workout
While several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the ergogenic effects of caffeine on workout performance, inhibiting adenosine's negative impact on neurotransmission, arousal, and pain perception appear to be the main mechanisms behind caffeine's ability to boost performance in endurance- and power-based exercises.
Caffeine’s effect on energy is primarily due to its ability to stimulate the nervous system and act as an adenosine antagonist.
Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, specifically the A1 and A2A subtypes, and competitively antagonizes their action, resulting in an increased release of dopamine, noradrenaline, and glutamate 6, 7.
A1 receptors are found in almost all areas of the brain, with the highest concentrations in the cerebral and cerebellar cortices, the hippocampus, and the thalamic nuclei, which is why caffeine elicits such powerful effects on cognitive function and energy levels. There's also a metabolite of caffeine, methylxanthine, which acts on arousal, vigilance, and fatigue 8.
Better Focus and Drive
As with caffeine and energy, the mechanism for increasing focus and drive is similar.
Because caffeine has such a powerful influence on the function and activity of the central nervous system, it can boost the brain's production of dopamine, which plays a major role in regulating the ability to focus and maintain concentration.
More specifically, caffeine can enhance dopamine signaling in the brain through its action on antagonizing adenosine A2A receptors (A2AR) 9.
Studies suggest that with low-to-moderate doses of caffeine, 0.5-4mg/kg, caffeine consistently increases alertness, vigilance, attention, and reaction time, thereby improving your workout and overall performance 10.
This is an oldie but a goodie where caffeine is concerned, and while the results aren’t consistent through studies, there is evidence to suggest that caffeine induces a thermogenic effect that can crank up fat burning. And for stim-free pre-workout supplements, the effect just isn't the same.
There is some research stating that caffeine may spare stored glycogen utilization during moderate-intensity exercise by stimulating lipolysis. While human studies aren’t wholly conclusive, one study looked at the effects of caffeine on fat burning in both rats and humans 11.
Researchers administered rats 6mg/kg of caffeine 1 hour before exercise and humans 5 mg of caffeine /kg also 1 hour before the exercise.
Exercise consisted of a 20m/minute run for rats and a cycle ergometer at 60% of VO2max for 45 minutes, and then the exercise intensity was increased to 80% of their VO2max until exhaustion for humans.
Results showed that blood-free fatty acid (FFA) levels in both rats and athletes were increased after caffeine ingestion during exercise, suggesting that increased FFA and glycerol concentrations meant reduced glycogen utilization during exercise and improvements in endurance capacity.
In addition to that, caffeine consumption significantly increased endurance time to exhaustion, which may be the result of spared glycogen and increased lipolysis from adipose tissues and fat oxidation during exercise.
Caffeine isn’t going to be as powerful as something like BioPerine or other inherent fat-burning lipolytic compounds, but it may give your metabolism the little kick it needs to ramp up fat oxidation and energy in the process.
The Downsides Of High-Caffeine Pre-Workout
High-stimulant pre-workout supplements often do the complete opposite of what you want. Large doses of caffeine can actually weaken your performance by constricting blood vessels, overstimulating the brain and body, and leaving you depleted of critical nutrients necessary for proper organ function. You’ll feel exhausted, unfocused, and jittery during and after your workout.
And on top of that, we also have the issue of reliance, or what we call habituation. If you’ve ever dove into a new pre-workout with a whopping 300 mg of caffeine or more per serving and after a week found it’s not working, that’s your body adapting to a certain level of caffeine intake and becoming habituated.
What’s really interesting about habitual caffeine intake is that studies find that in rats treated with high-dose caffeine (10mg/kg/day), there was an increase in the number of binding sites for adenosine in the brain cortex after just two weeks 12.
This suggests that a high daily intake of caffeine would result in increased numbers of newly created adenosine receptors, thus reducing some of the blocking-action of caffeine on the adenosine receptors and as a result, reducing its ergogenic effects during exercise (i.e. habituation).
That’s the reason why chronic caffeine consumption requires more and more caffeine to elicit the same effect. In this case, too much caffeine isn't always better.
The other thing you want to be mindful of with high caffeine intake is that it interferes with the synthesis and release of certain neurotransmitters. When adenosine receptors are blocked, the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate—the brain’s home-grown stimulants—are unregulated and free to do their job, which is why you feel so good not long after downing a venti americano or a double scoop of pre-workout 13.
So realistically, caffeine isn’t what’s stimulating you; caffeine is really just allowing your natural brain stimulants to continue partying on. But as we know from what we just discussed about tolerance, eventually your brain needs more and more caffeine to achieve the same effect from these excitatory chemicals.
That’s why Pre Lab Pro® natural caffeine is precisely calibrated at 80 mg per serving. It’s an ideal well-dosed serving to boost performance without sending your body and brain into overdrive.
The Benefits Of Low-Caffeine Pre-Workout Supplement
When it comes to training, most people will opt for higher doses of caffeine because more stimulation means better focus and better pumps, right? But as it turns out, more isn’t always better where caffeine is concerned. Research suggests that lower doses of caffeine may actually elicit more favorable effects for performance compared to mega-doses.
High doses of caffeine—we’re talking up to 13 mg of caffeine/kg—have been used for ages to elicit ergogenic effects in athletes, but more recently there’s been an increased focus on the use of more low-moderate (3-6 mg/kg) caffeine for boosting athletic performance and research agrees 14.
Apart from the list of side effects that come with chronic high caffeine ingestion—tolerance, anxiety, jitters, nervousness, adrenal burnout, etc.—studies show that higher doses of caffeine (>/= 9 mg/kg) don’t actually provide any further performance enhancement.
But what’s interesting is that low doses of caffeine (1–3 mg/kg of body mass) don’t cause any of the physiological response in the body that high doses do (RER, blood lactate levels, glucose) but still deliver ergogenic effects like improved vigilance, alertness, mood, and cognitive processes during and after exercise 3, 15.
So, why risk the side effects and long-term health impacts if you don’t have to?
Pre Lab Pro®’s moderate dosing and stacking strategies unlock all the ergogenic benefits caffeine has to offer with none of the side effects:
- Attention + mental focus
- Energy + intensity
- Muscle strength + pump
- Muscle growth + endurance
- Fat burning (and maybe weight loss)
- Glycogen sparing
- Pleasure + sensory
Basically, it's the most innovative and best pre-workout without caffeine in excessive doses.
And if that wasn’t enough, Pre Lab Pro® makes all of these caffeine benefits even better with complementary pre-workout ingredients, including Suntheanine® L-Theanine, Ajipure® L-Tyrosine, and NutriGenesis® B-Vitamins.
Long story short, opting for low-caffeine pre-workout supplements seems like the smarter and safer option for giving your performance a boost in and out of the gym.
And for us, there’s only one choice—Pre Lab Pro®. It’s the best low-caffeine pre-workout on the market serving up a cleaner and smarter scoop designed to give you all the punch that traditional pre-workouts have to offer (and so much more) with none of the nasty side effects. How could you go wrong with that?
- ER Goldstein, T Ziegenfuss, D Kalman, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7(1):5.
- TE Graham. Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med. 2001;31(11):785-807.
- DL Costill, GP Dalsky, WJ Fink. Effects of caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports. 1978;10(3):155-158.
- DE Anderson, MS Hickey. Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994;26(4):453-458.
- B Lara, C Ruiz-Moreno, JJ Salinero, J Del Coso. Time course of tolerance to the performance benefits of caffeine. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0210275.
- S Ferré, BB Fredholm, M Morelli, P Popoli, K Fuxe. Adenosine-dopamine receptor-receptor interactions as an integrative mechanism in the basal ganglia. Trends Neurosci. 1997;20(10):482-487.
- P Smits, P Boekema, R De Abreu, T Thien, A van 't Laar. Evidence for an antagonism between caffeine and adenosine in the human cardiovascular system. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 1987;10(2):136-143.
- A Nehlig, JL: Daval, G Debry. Caffeine and the central nervous system: mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic and psychostimulant effects. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1992;17(2):139-170.
- ND Volkow, GJ Wang, J Logan, et al. Caffeine increases striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in the human brain. Transl Psychiatry. 2015;5(4):e549.
- TM McLellan, JA Caldwell, HR Lieberman. A review of caffeine's effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016;71:294-312.
- S Ryu, SK Choi, SS Joung, et al. Caffeine as a lipolytic food component increases endurance performance in rats and athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2001;47(2):139-146.
- BB Fredholm. Are the actions of methylxanthines due to antagonism of adenosine. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1980;1:129–32.
- JO Owolabi, SY Olatunji, AJ Olanrewaju. Caffeine and Cannabis Effects on Vital Neurotransmitters and Enzymes in the Brain Tissue of Juvenile Experimental Rats. Ann Neurosci. 2017;24(2):65-73.
- ER Goldstein, T Ziegenfuss, D Kalman, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7(1):5.
- LL Spriet. Exercise and sport performance with low doses of caffeine. Sports Med. 2014;44 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S175-S184.