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You’re loving that keto life, except for one thing: Your favorite jolt juice is packed with carbs.
Good news! Pre-workouts have come a long way. You can have your keto and feel swole too.
Keep scrolling for more info on what a “pre-workout” is, how it can fit into a keto lifestyle, and the perks of taking a pre-workout, plus a roundup of the best keto pre-workout supplements and snacks of 2021.
Just want the fast list? Here you go:
Pre-workout supplements are created to pump up your next sweat sesh. Most formulas come as a powder to mix with water and chug 30 minutes before your workout.
Pre-workout formulas are standard for professional athletes, but they’ve also caught on in the mainstream.
Since they’re a dime a dozen on the market, it can be tough to figure out which ones are legit. It also takes time to find the one that’s best — and safest — for your goals.
The ketogenic diet calls for high fat, low carb eating to encourage your bod to use its fat stores for fuel. The basic keto eating breakdown is 55 to 60 percent fat, 30 to 35 percent protein, and 5 to 10 percent carbohydrates.
When your body doesn’t have carbs for energy, your liver steps in. It converts your fat into something called ketones, which can be burned for energy instead. Once your body starts this fat-torching process, it’s called “being in a state of ketosis.”
For folks on the keto diet, it’s important to choose a pre-workout that will *keep* their bodies in ketosis.
TBH, the answer varies wildly from product to product. You will see some common ingredients in both mainstream and keto-friendly pre-workouts.
- Beta-alanine. This nonessential amino acid boosts exercise performance by supporting your muscles’ pH balance.
- Taurine. Science says it may improve running performance.
- Citrulline. The vehicle to peak vascularity.
- Tyrosine. Say hey to adrenaline and dopamine — the “feel good” neurotransmitter!
Exactly what you think: Boost your energy to improve your performance.
From thiamine (B1) to cobalamin (B12), the B vitamins = brain and blood cell juice to help your body run on all cylinders.
Stevia. Saccharin. These guys make your jolt juice tasty.
Beta-whaaat? Keto pre-workout formulas differ from other formulas in two ways: They typically have no more than 1 carb per serving *and* they include beta-hydroxybutyrate.
Recent research suggests that pre-workout formulas with electrolytes and beta-hydroxybutyrate boost exercise performance by more than 10 percent for folks in ketosis.
Other common ingredients
Most pre-workout formulas include salts to replenish electrolytes lost to sweat, natural or artificial flavors, and sometimes a blend of herbs or vitamins.
Of course! Like most supplements, pre-workouts come with a side of research-backed results and personal claims.
Because of the caffeine content, most pre-workout supplements make your energy soar. And being wired AF increases your chances of going harder, faster, stronger.
The ingredients listed above — essential amino acids and performance-boosting beta-hydroxybutyrate — will also increase pump and help you smash your workout goals.
Well, there’s that whole “proprietary blend” thing. These blends are merely FDA-regulated, so there’s the potential for mystery types and amounts of ingredients.
Pre-workout supplements will never be as straightforward as a simple pre-workout egg, avocado, or other whole-food snack. And even when dosing on essential amino acids and vitamins, you run the risk of getting too much of a good thing.
Finally, there’s always a chance that your pre-workout won’t mix well with your other supplements or prescription meds. Err on the side of caution and talk to your doctor before taking a new pre-workout formula.
Maximizing your workout is all about preparation.
Timing is everything
Most pre-workout formulas are designed to be taken 20 to 30 minutes before exercising. This gives the ingredients time to take effect.
If you’re craving a caffeine jolt, timing gets a bit trickier, because caffeine takes effect 45 to 60 minutes after you consume it.
Your best bet? Chug that pre-workout drink 30 minutes before your warmup. The amino acids and vitamins will already be surging through your system, and the caffeine will kick in soon after.
When to switch up the intensity
You’ll typically choose a pre-workout supplement that has the right ingredients for your specific goals. Some ingredients give you major pump for lifting, while others boost your endurance.
Pick a pre-workout that fits your exercise style and goals.
Wanna support your pump during ketosis? Look for beta-hydroxybutyrate.
Need major jolt juice for HIIT? Go for the caffeine and B complex.
Hoping to beat your lifting record? Grab a pre-workout with creatine, athletes’ favorite ingredient for boosting strength and power.
It’s a big deal that pre-workouts aren’t FDA-approved. If yours is stuffed with pointless fillers, you’re wasting your cash at best. At worst, you could be harming your body instead of pumping it up for peak performance.
To be safe, professional or student athletes should get their pre-workout supplements approved by a coach or dietitian.
Not a pro? Ask your doc about any harmful interactions with your other supplements or prescription meds.
How we chose
Keeping safety in mind, we searched for pre-workouts that are rated highly for keto-friendly ingredients, workout impact, reliability, and taste (when applicable).
Full disclosure: We used Amazon’s bestseller list and highest-rated products as a guide.
Our search turned up 11 classic pre-workout powders. But we also found a killer variety of pre-workout nibbles to rev up your next sweat sesh.
11 best keto-friendly pre-workout supplements
These supplement and powder formulas are classic pre-workouts — but in keto form! Mix ’em up with water and chug about 30 minutes before your workout.
Perfect Keto Perform
Need an a.m. pick-me-up? This citrusy pre-workout offers up caffeine from green tea extract. It’s also dairy-free and gluten-free — ideal for touchy tummies.
If the tame packaging worries you, leave those fears behind: This pre-workout has powerhouse ingredients like beta-hydroxybutyrate and MCTs.
The refreshing flavor comes courtesy of stevia, meaning there’s less than 1 gram of carbs per serving. #winning
The amino acids! The vitamins! The steady supply of caffeine! TBH, Kino Octane is one of the most well-rounded ways to boost your energy, replenish electrolytes, and generally pump up your muscle capacity.
Peep these ingredients: 6,000 milligrams of L-citrulline, 300 micrograms of vitamin B7, 100 milligrams of thiamine (vitamin B1), and no sugar.
BPI Sports Ketogenic Pre-Workout Supplement
Say hey to one of the first pre-workout supplements designed specifically for keto folks!
With fatty MCTs for fuel, BHB salts to keep blood sugar in check, and all the beta-hydroxybutyrate keto gym rats know and love, this third-party-tested lemon ice shake-up delivers.
Have texture issues? Beware. Reviewers say this one gets hella clumpy.
Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout Powder
Want a true blue pre-workout? This one is America’s #1 selling pre-workout and swole idol Mat Fraser’s preferred formula. That’s why we also named it one of the best overall pre-workout supplements of 2021.
But wait — there’s more! It’s third-party tested. Clocking in with less than 1 gram of carbs, it’s also keto-friendly AF.
Three cheers for transparent products that work! 🙌
With its A+ ingredient rundown — no carbs, no caffeine, no sugar! — Keto Drive is damn tasty. Take your pick from two flavors: black cherry or matcha lemonade.
Packed with the usual arsenal of pre-workout supplements, Keto Drive is also formulated with a “patented beta-hydroxybutyrates (BHB)” blend, supporting a rapid rise to ketosis.
Sensitive stomach? Ease into this one — some reviewers say it gave them the runs and abdominal pain.
Not many pre-workout supplements are vegetarian or vegan. That’s because they’re packed with collagen or animal-based amino acids. So we were amped when we found Vega Sport, which is plant-based *and* gluten-free.
Crush on Keto
We’ve got another BHB in the house! Reviewers back up this cherry-flavored pre-workout’s claim: It supports pump so you can crush your next workout.
No carbs in sight, but Crush on Keto does include 2,000 milligrams of beta-alanine, 400 milligrams of L-taurine, a proprietary keto blend that includes L-arginine AKG and BHBs, and a whopping 250 milligrams of caffeine. So if caffeine hits you hard, start with half a scoop of this one.
Fans usually pair this pre-workout with the brand’s Burn on Keto supplements, but it’s always best to check with your doc before adding pills to your routine.
Stupid Simple MCT2GO
As the name suggests, this is as basic as a pre-workout gets. It has no sugar, no carbs, and no caffeine, so you might be wondering what *is* in these little packets of pre-workout.
One hundred percent pure MCT oil powder. That’s it.
Reviewers say the MCTs will get you focused AF… and science says MCTs help folks reach peak performance in the gym.
Electrolyte Recovery Plus
Though electrolytes are marketed for post-workout hydration replenishment, pumping your body with minerals pre-workout also revs up your energy and stamina and, ultimately, your pump.
Since it’s basically a hydration jolt, Electrolyte Recovery Plus wins the award for “Most Tame Pre-Workout.” But don’t let the power of electrolytes fool you!
As one reviewer puts it, “I just feel absolutely amazing. I feel so much stronger.” Easing into pre-workout formulas? Give this a whirl!
Old School Labs Real Keto
With zero carbs or calories, Old School Labs Real Keto is the real deal. The caffeine and mushroom adaptogens are just the cherry on top.
Fans rave about this pre-workout’s ability to accelerate workout intensity without sacrificing keto compliance.
Looking for a crash-free formula? Give this a whirl and let us know what you think!
Mixed up in an FDA-regulated facility (*swoon*), Keto Rise’s organic caffeine formula could turn any night owl into an early riser.
Refreshing OJ flavor? Check. Vitamins A, C, D, and K to kick off your day? Check. Salts for optimum hydrate? Of course.
This supplement is also loaded with L-carnitine, which is known for improving workout recovery and fat-burning capabilities.
10 keto pre-workout snack bars
Need a break from the chugging? Load up on these keto-friendly bars for an occasional pre-workout snack instead.
Perfect Keto Bars
With whole-food ingredients and 10 grams of protein per serving, Perfect Keto Bars live up to their name. The jolt of pure, fatty energy just might be worth the chunk of change.
What Stoka Bars lack in caffeine or amino acids, they make up for in delicious protein and fatty fuel. And we dare you not to love the ketolicious sweetness of the PB&J flavor!
Just the Cheese Bar
Remember that time we swooned over these keto grilled cheese bars? Yep, still loving them. These low carb, high protein, gluten-free, sugar-free snacks are a tasty way to kick-start your weekend workout.
Think! Keto Protein Bars
These keto-certified bars are a delicious, hunger-busting pre-workout snack. What’s not to love? Well… the carbs, TBH. At 4 net carbs per bar, these make a great *occasional* energizing treat.
Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars
Free of potentially tummy-troubling wheat and whey, these protein bars still pack an energizing punch. The workout-fueling MCT oil is just the bow on top.
Dang Keto Bar
Some keto bars are notorious for causing digestive issues — but not Dang Keto Bars. Reviewers invariably rave about the flavor, the satisfying texture, and the crunchy nuts and seeds embedded in the bars. Make these your go-to pre-workout snack if you have a sweet tooth!
No Cow Protein Bar
Most keto pre-workout snacks include animal products like collagen or whey. Not so with No Cow Protein Bars. These’ll punch up your workouts whether you’re a keto vegan or you simply need a break from the heavy meat and dairy noshes.
Here’s another plant-based option for your keto snack drawer! IQ Bars also have MCTs and lion’s mane (a mushroom adaptogen) to support an intense, focused workout.
Keto Bars, Mint Chocolate
There’s something extra zingy about mint chocolate before a workout. It’s great for banishing keto breath, for starters. It’s also jam-packed with fat to fuel your reps.
Jimmy! Protein Bar
When you’re in ketosis, your body needs fat to fuel your workouts. These bars include 15 grams of fatty goodness from coconut oil, almonds, and macadamia nuts. They’re also loaded with chewy fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly.
8 great keto pre-workout snacks
Most pre-workout products are formulated with an energizing, muscle-pumping concentration of vitamins and amino acids. But let’s not forget that #wholesome, back-to-basics foods can boost your energy and support recovery too.
Superfat Keto Nut Butter
Fat = fuel. (But if you’re eating keto, you already know that!)
These low carb, no-sugar, kosher pouches of fatty fuel are almost as good as jolt juice. Pour it on your salad, on your cheese (fat on fat, right?!), or straight into your mouth.
Good Culture Cottage Cheese
TBH, fatty, creamy cottage cheese is like the OG keto snack. The pure fat will fuel your workout, and the total lack of sugar will keep you in ketosis paradise.
People’s Choice Jerky
Yep, this garlic-ginger goodness has a couple of carbs. Don’t @ us.
The truth is, on days when you’re dragging and you’ve scraped the bottom of your regular pre-workout, it’s OK to reach for a high protein, nitrate-free jolt of energy.
More jerky?! Yep, and this one’s sugar-free. Kalahari Biltong is a keto fave because it’s packed with pre-workout protein without any of the additives.
Check these six ingredients: beef, vinegar, salt, coriander, pepper, and chili powder. #PeakTransparency
KetoBrownie Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Nut Butter
Fat bombs, how we love thee. Sprinkle on a little salt (electrolytes!), and we’re in keto heaven.
But seriously, a bite of this nut butter includes protein, coconut oil MCTs, and just 1 gram of sugar. It’s not an everyday pre-workout, but it’s a fun one to add to the rotation.
Revol Snax Coconut Bites
Getting yourself to the gym is 90 percent mental, 10 percent actual motion. Revol Snax proves you can satisfy your cravings *and* get amped for HIIT with a fatty, low carb pre-workout coconut bite.
As one reviewer said, “Anyone on keto knows it’s hard to find a sweet snack that tastes good with low carbs. It’s like a unicorn!”
Whisps Cheese Crisps
Morning lifter? These make a hunger-busting post-workout snack too.
As with the other nibbles in this category, we’d hardly call this your daily pre-workout product. But Whisps Cheese Crisps are surprisingly filling, fatty, and low in carbs. We’d say it’s a win for simplicity and transparency (like, they’re *just* cheese).
HighKey Brownie Bites
Erm, pre-workout brownies? Yep. Hear us out.
If you’re an evening gym-goer, chances are you need a pick-me-up between your work and your workout. Does it do much more than give you a jolt of fat and happiness? Negative. But sometimes you just need to treat yo’self.
Supplements, bars, and fat bombs have their place, but the foundation of a killer set of reps is good nutrition. Keto puts the kibosh on carb-loading, so figuring out a variety of pre-workout snacks and meals can be a little tricky.
Building a meal from the keto basics — high fat, moderate protein, and few to no carbs — will get you in the zone for a run or HIIT class. Here are some ideas for supplement-free pre-workout noshing.
If you’re an early bird at the gym…
- Opt for a deliciously messy, meaty breakfast sandwich that swaps in two sausage rounds for the classic English muffin.
- Try an egg omelet stuffed with veggies, avocado, and a protein like crumbled sausage or diced chicken.
- Whip up some cauliflower hash browns with a side of roasted veggies. Savory perfection!
If you’re a lunch break gym-goer…
Meal-prepping your keto lunches is key to sticking to the meal plan! Some of our faves:
If you’re a p.m. powerhouse lifter…
Pro tip: Whip up a few keto-friendly dinners on Sunday so you can heat them up between the office and your spin class. Or keep a list of easy keto dinners you can make in 30 minutes flat (yes, really).
Pre-workout products make a lot of claims, from boundless energy and muscle recovery to better gains and mental focus. A quick study of the ingredient list will give you a good idea of whether those claims are science-based or hype.
Keto pre-workouts are designed to give you maximum performance boost with minimal carbs. It’s all about working out while staying in ketosis.
Remember, the point of any pre-workout is to improve your performance. So if your keto pre-workout gives you a headache, the jitters, or diarrhea, stop taking it! There are many pre-workout formulas on the market, and it might take some trial and error to figure out what works for you.
In a pinch, let food by thy
medicine pre-workout. From keto-friendly nibbles to fat- and protein-heavy meals, there are food-based ways to boost your gains.