Stim free pre workouts just don’t get the love and attention as the caffeine infused stimulant based pre workouts.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a stimulant fiend. I mean, who doesn’t love going to the gym or out for a run jacked up on stims and feeling like you could tear someone’s arms off?
While stimulant based pre workouts are all fun and games until you totally rage on someone, stim free pre workouts do have their place when trying to improve strength, endurance, focus, and the almighty PUMP.
Additionally, they are pretty darn beneficial when you workout at night and you want to do things like SLEEP…which I hear is pretty important for your GAINZS!
Plus, and this may come as a shocker, sometimes you may want to cycle off stimulant based pre workouts to help you reset your tolerance to some of the ingredients found in them.
In this article we will discuss:
What may be an obvious answer might not be so obvious at all. Most people think stim free pre workouts only exclude caffeine. While this is sometimes the case it’s not always true.
Without a doubt when it comes to stimulants in pre-workouts…caffeine is the numero uno ingredient that comes to mind.
However, there are other ingredients that are classified as stimulants that you want to watch out for. These include:
That list right there is enough to wake a zombie from the dead! Especially when some supplement companies go overboard with them. By themselves and in the right amounts, these stimulants can provide some serious benefits without giving you the jitters or anxiousness of a cat around water.
But back on point and to answer the question. The difference between stim free and stim workouts is the former contains ZERO stimulants.
I bet you thought we already answered this question above. NO SIREEBOB!
Again, this is a no brainer until you dig a little deeper into the question. Obviously stimulant free pre's won’t have stimulants. Outside of that the two types of pre workouts usually are different by the benefits they offer.
Stimulant based pre workouts can offer the same benefits as a stim free one but they also can:
That’s like asking if bananas are better than apples (bananas are better of course). That’s because each is formulated for a specific purpose. So, depending on your goals you may choose a stim free over a stim based pre workout.
Also, sometimes you want some zip without the zing. Stimulant free pre workouts come in handy there.
They are also the pre workout of choice for those who workout at night so they can do things like sleep…which is probably more important than anything else when it comes to recovery and improving athletic performance.
There are also some individuals who are super sensitive to caffeine and either makes then over the top bonkers or super sleepy. Let’s take a moment to feel sorry for those people because I don’t know how one could live without caffeine……………If you’re thinking in your head right now, “That’s Me!,” than a stim free pre workout is right up your alley.
In sum, both stimulant free and stimulant pre workouts both have a place in a training regimen depending on individual goals and personal characteristics.
As curly in the 3 stooges use to say “certainly.” In fact, I think it’s a brilliant idea to cycle off stims from time to time. Especially when you develop a tolerance to them.
What’s more, stim free pre workouts will often contain ingredients that need to be loaded/taken everyday to keep them saturated in the body and to continue to provide benefits. Classic examples are creatine and beta-alanine.
If you want to cycle off a stim based pre workout try going 5-10 days without it while taking the stim free pre workout. After that time period gradually reintroduce the stimulant based pre by taking ½ scoop for 3-4 days before moving onto a full scoop (or two).
I often struggle with these first two as the provide not acute benefit. So should they really be in a pre workout? I say yes as it is a lot easier and cheaper than buying each ingredient separately.
While this list isn’t all inclusive it does cover the most common and effective ingredients included in stim free pre workouts meant for the gym/strength.
As with the stim pre workout ingredient list, this one isn’t all inclusive either but it should help make it easier for you to identify a good stim free endurance based pre workout.
In no particular order here are the best stim free pre workouts for the gym. After extensive research and testing by myself, these are the ones I recommend:
The reason these are the best are due to them including research backed EFFECTIVE ingredients and in clinical doses that have been demonstrated to increase performance, enhances strength, and build muscle mass
Time to get a little biased here but at least hear me out. The best stim free pre workout for endurance is:
Nothing else really comes close and hence why this is a short list. This product has many of the ingredients listed above, in effective dosages, and tastes absolutely amazing. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself here.
Just to show a little love to other supp companies, you could also try a stand alone beet root powder or try to make your own stim free pre workout but both of them will probably taste terrible and be bloody expensive to make.
Timing is really the same as stimulant based pre workouts. Consume 30-60 minutes before exercise so all ingredients reach peak levels in the blood before you go and crush it in the gym or on the track.
Outside of creatine and beta-alanine which need to be loaded, not long at all. Most stim free pre workouts provide some nice acute benefits the minute you start your workout.
Generally speaking, yes! If nothing else I can say with confidence they are usually more safe than stim based pre workouts that could have some nasty side effects like:
For full transparency though, these side effects usually only happen when too much of a stimulant is added to a product or when they are combined together.
I’m sure there are many but the one that pops in my head is a specialty ingredient known as TeaCrine, made by Compound Solutions.
This ingredient delivers energy, mental clarity, and improved motivation and mood by working in a similar fashion to caffeine without being a stimulant. That means no jitters or crash!
Impressively, this ingredient has substantial research behind it demonstrating improved performance when consumed at 200mg daily.
Wrapping things up. Both stim free and stimulant based pre workouts have their advantages and disadvantages. My recommendation is to cycle both of them.
For example, I’ll take a stim workout for 4 weeks straight followed by a stim free pre workout for 2 weeks.
Try the ones I recommend in the article and see what works best for you!
Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California. Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.