5 Best Pre-Workouts with Creatine, According to a Dietitian
We include links to products that we think our readers will find useful. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Learn about our process.
Pre-workouts are popular sports nutrition supplements intended to boost energy, enhance focus, and delay fatigue.
They commonly contain stimulants like caffeine and ingredients to improve blood flow to the muscles like citrulline and arginine.
Some pre-workouts also contain creatine, perhaps the most effective supplement for increasing muscle size and strength.
Creatine has no acute or immediate effects but it offers these benefits when it’s taken consistently for several days to weeks — depending on the dosing strategy.
So, for people who struggle to remember to take creatine consistently or prefer purchasing fewer supplements, choosing a pre-workout that contains creatine is a great choice.
However, not all creatine-containing pre-workouts contain an effective dose. Instead, they usually include only a small amount so they can boast a longer ingredient list to make their product seem superior to their competition.
Here are the five best pre-workouts with at least 3 grams of creatine — the minimum effective dose for most people.
A quick look at the best pre-workouts with creatine
- Best overall: Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout
- Best for muscle gain: MuscleTech Vapor X5
- Best for men: Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced
- Best for women: Performance Inspired Pre-Workout
- Best for pumps: Nutrex Outlift
How I chose these pre-workouts
- Third-party testing: When possible, I aim to include products that are third-party tested to ensure quality, purity, and potency.
- Company reputation: I include products from reputable brands that have existed for at least five years.
- Creatine content: Each product contains at least 3 grams of creatine monohydrate, the minimum effective maintenance dose for most people. Creatine monohydrate is the best form of creatine.
- Customer reviews: I aim to try the products before recommending them but with the multiple flavors this isn’t always possible, so I turn to customer reviews to ensure positive feedback about the quality and taste.
A note about price
Each product is assigned a dollar sign ranging from one to three ($ to $$$). One dollar sign indicates the product is more affordable compared with the others, whereas three indicates a higher price range.
Generally, the weight gainers we selected range from $25–$50 or $0.85–$2.00 per serving, but the price may vary depending on the product flavor, container size, and where you live or shop.
- $ = under $1.00 per serving
- $$ = $1.00–$1.50 per serving
- $$$ = over $1.50 per serving
My picks for the best pre-workouts with creatine
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout takes the best overall title because it can meet most people’s needs for a pre-workout.
It contains a moderate dose of caffeine for a pre-workout product at 175 mg per serving, the equivalence of a 12-ounce (360 mL) cup of coffee (1).
Along with 3 grams of creatine, this product contains 1.5 grams of beta-alanine, an ingredient that allows you to exercise harder and longer before fatigue sets in (2).
Beta-alanine is similar to creatine in that it’s only effective after you have supplemented it consistently for weeks.
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout also contains ingredients intended to enhance focus — including acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) and n-acetyl-L-tyrosine (NALT) — so you can get more out of your workouts.
However, the evidence to support these ingredients for these benefits in humans remains mixed (3, 4).
For improved blood flow to the muscles, Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout contains a small amount of L-citrulline.
Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout is third-party tested by Informed Choice.
Best for muscle gain
MuscleTech Vapor X5
Building muscle requires that you gradually increase the weight, the number of repetitions, or training frequency over time through what’s known as progressive overload (5).
While unnecessary for building muscle, pre-workouts like MuscleTech Vapor X5 contain ingredients that can give you an edge, assuming you have your nutrition and sleep in order.
Per two scoops, MuscleTech Vapor X5 contains effective doses of creatine, beta-alanine, and betaine, a compound naturally found in beets and other foods like spinach that has been shown to increase muscle strength and power (6).
MuscleTech Vapor X5 contains the most caffeine on this list at 380 mg per two scoops, equivalent to about four 8-ounce (240 mL) cups of coffee (1).
It also contains yohimbe extract, which has strong stimulating effects.
However, MuscleTech Vapor X5 contains L-theanine, which can mellow out caffeine’s effects and reduce caffeine-induced anxiety (7).
You can cut the doses of these stimulants in half by taking one scoop.
MuscleTech adheres to good manufacturing practices as required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it is unclear if they are third-party tested.
Best for men
Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced
Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced contains similar ingredients to Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout but in larger doses.
This makes it a good option for men who — compared with women — benefit from larger doses of creatine.
Due to differences in testosterone concentrations, men generally have more muscle mass compared with females.
Creatine is primarily stored in skeletal muscles and therefore men require more creatine than women to maintain optimal stores (8).
To this point, Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced provides two more grams (5 grams) than the lower-dosed standard formula.
The Pre Advanced formula also provides more caffeine, beta-alanine, and L-citrulline.
Compared with 175 mg of caffeine and 1.5 grams of beta-alanine in the standard formula, Pre Advanced provides 300 mg of caffeine and 3.2 grams of beta-alanine per serving.
Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced also provides an effective 6-gram dose of L-citrulline compared with 750 mg in the standard formula (9, 10).
Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced is third-party tested by Informed Choice.
Best for women
Performance Inspired Pre-Workout
While pre-workouts aren’t necessarily gender-specific, Performance Inspired Pre-Workout is a good choice for women looking for improved focus and stamina.
Each serving provides 3 grams of creatine and the same 175-mg dose of caffeine as Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout.
Performance Inspired Pre-Workout provides several ingredients to enhance endurance and focus, including choline, NALT, and beta-alanine.
It also contains ingredients like grape seed extract, citrulline malate, and arginine, which boost nitric oxide levels to increase blood and nutrient delivery to the muscles.
Performance Inspired is third-party tested by Informed Sport.
Best for pumps
Muscle pumps are a phenomenon brought on by an increase in blood flow to the muscles during weightlifting that temporarily increases muscle size and vascularity.
Nitric oxide is the major driver of muscle pumps because it relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen and increase blood flow.
Citrulline is one of the best ingredients for increasing nitric oxide levels and enhancing blood flow (9, 10).
That said, providing 8 grams of citrulline malate, Nutrex Outlift is one of the best products for chasing a pump.
Nutrex Outlift is also stacked with an effective dose of beta-alanine and provides 3 grams of creatine monohydrate in the form of Creapure, a pure and high-quality form of creatine.
For recovery, Outlift provides 6 grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Like MuscleTechVapor X5, Outlift provides a large dose of caffeine at 350 mg per serving, so it may not be the best choice if you are sensitive to caffeine’s effects or if you work out in the evenings.
Nutrex Outlift is third-party tested by Informed Choice.
A comparison of the best pre-workouts with creatine
Here’s a quick look at how my top picks for pre-workouts with creatine compare:
|Pre-Workout||Price||Best for||Caffeine Per Serving||Third-Party Tested|
|Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout||$$||Everyone||175 mg||Yes|
|MuscleTech Vapor X5||$||Building muscle||380 mg (two scoops)||Unknown|
|Optimum Nutrition Pre Advanced||$$$||Men||300 mg||Yes|
|Performance Inspired Pre-Workout||$$||Women||175 mg||Yes|
|Nutrex Outlift||$$$||Pumps||350 mg||Yes|
Frequently asked questions
Few studies have directly examined the safety of pre-workout products.
However, most products contain ingredients that have a strong safety profile and are therefore likely safe for most people (11).
Still, some users may experience mild side effects such as skin reactions, insomnia, and nausea (12).
Many of these side effects are related to stimulants like caffeine.
Pre-workouts are generally intended for those 18 years or older, but they may be used safely by teens if they contain small to moderate amounts of caffeine.
Creatine is safe for teens (13).
Pre-workouts are generally intended to be taken with water about 30-60 minutes before your workout, the time it takes to experience caffeine’s effects (14).
If you’re new to using pre-workouts, it’s a good idea to start with a half serving to assess your tolerance before trying the full dose.
Creatine can make you retain fluid and gain weight.
However, this fluid retention is temporary and the long-term increases in body weight from creatine supplementation come from gains in muscle mass — not fluid — when combined with good nutrition and a progressive training program (15).
Although creatine is only found in animal products, most forms of supplemental creatine are produced from non-animal ingredients and do not contain any animal by-products making them vegan-friendly (16).
But if you want to be sure that the creatine monohydrate you’re buying is vegan-friendly, look for products that contain Creapure
Creapure is the brand name for pure creatine monohydrate that is manufactured in Germany using no materials of animal origin.
Though keep in mind that pre-workouts may contain other ingredients that are not vegan-friendly.
Creatine is believed to increase levels of its byproduct, creatinine. Creatinine is a common marker of kidney damage when elevated. However, supplementing with creatinine has no effect on creatinine levels. Even then, creatinine alone is a poor indicator of kidney function since it’s influenced by many other factors (17).
The bottom line
Choosing a pre-workout with creatine can be a convenient way to supplement creatine without having to buy it separately.
Pre-workouts with creatine can also be useful if you frequently forget to take creatine.
However, many of these products do not contain creatine in an effective 3-5 gram dose.
Still, there are several high-quality pre-workouts like the ones on this list that provide an effective dose of creatine.