What is the Best Pre-Workout Without Creatine?
Many workout supplements enhance the quality of your workout by using creatine and other stimulants. If you're one of the unlucky few who can't take creatine, or simply prefer not to, finding a pre-workout supplement is a lot harder.
That's why this article is dedicated to finding the best pre workout without creatine to help you meet your fitness goals.
What's Wrong with Creatine?
Creatine produces great results such as increasing your strength and speeding up the rate of muscle growth. An overview by the American College of Sports Medicine found that people who took oral creatine supplements showed "small but significant" increases in athletic performance (source).
The problem is that a small percentage of the population can't take creatine. Due mainly to genetics, some people's bodies don't absorb creatine into their muscle cells properly.
Creatine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body (source). One reason you might not experience a boost from taking creatine supplements is if your body already has a large store of it.
In a few cases, you might be able to change the type of creatine you use and see results. Switching from a monohydrate creatine source to HCL or di-ester creatine has been useful for some individuals.
Studies also show that creatine isn't universally effective. It enhances performance in some physical activities and not others. For example, creatine doesn't help with activities that require endurance, like running. Instead, it works best for short-duration exercises (source).
A final drawback of creatine is how it reacts with other substances. Doctors recommend against taking creatine with any medications or herbal supplements (source). In particular, you should avoid taking ephedra with creatine.
Taking high doses of caffeine with creatine is also unhealthy and can even be toxic (source). Research on athletes taking creatine found that also consuming caffeine caused upset stomachs in some people.
Are Supplements without Creatine Less Effective?
The short answer is no.
The best pre workout without creatine should include different nutrients or stimulants to produce the same boost you'd get from creatine. Pre-workout supplements without creatine use different sources of energy, like caffeine, amino acids, beta-alanine. Other supplements like L-arginine and L-citrulline may be present to increase blood flow to the muscles and remove waste products to decrease fatigue.
The only thing you might miss out on by not taking creatine is the long-term cumulative effect (source). Sports scientists haven't been able to replicate this yet.
What Should You Look for in a Creatine-Free Pre-Workout?
This one comes down to personal preference. Caffeine is a stimulant and can provide a significant boost. As an ergogenic aid, it improves your performance and gives you energy. Research shows that caffeine can get you to voluntarily put in more effort, even when you're sleep-deprived (source). It also reduces fatigue, but you already knew that a cup of coffee could do that.
However, some people like to avoid it. Caffeine is one of the ingredients in a supplement that can make it addictive. It gives a short-term energy boost but isn't as useful when it comes to endurance-based activities like running.
L-tyrosine and choline bitartrate are energy boosting alternatives to caffeine.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs, like leucine, isoleucine and valine, regulate the metabolism of proteins.Typically the recommended ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine is 2:1:1. This closely mirrors the natural structure of muscles.
However, if you only get one BCAA in your pre-workout, look for leucine. Leucine has the most scientific evidence to back up its powers, which include protein synthesis, muscle growth, and reduced soreness (source).
Beta-Alanine's primary function is to increase muscular endurance. It works as a buffer for hydrogen ions. This buffer then protects against changes in your blood pH to maintain the same level of acidity.
The reason this is important is that increased acidity from carbon dioxide and lactic acid causes your muscles to tire faster (source). Beta-Alanine prevents muscle fatigue, while also helping you build up your strength.
Scientists who studied the use of beta-alanine with high-intensity interval training found that this amino acid improved performance and the percentage of lean body mass in participants (source).
Optimum Nutrition's Amino Energy is my top choice for a creatine-free workout supplement. It's available for a great price and doesn't have any major cons. Caffeine, beta-alanine, and BCAAs are present in high but not overwhelming amounts.
Other supplements on this list have less variety and users have complained about taste or effects that were too strong. For a balanced, reliable pre-workout supplement, try Amino Energy.