Optimum Nutrition has a long history of manufacturing high-quality sports nutrition products. While many of the brands on the pre-workout supplement market today have only been in business for a few years—maybe a decade at most—ON has a reputation dating back more than 30 years.
The company’s contribution to the pre-workout market is its Gold Standard line of supplements, which includes the original Gold Standard Pre-Workout and the Gold Standard Pre Advanced.
Are Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Pre-Workout powders right for you?
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement—Key Takeaways
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout’s formula has all of the most important ingredients we’re looking for in a pre-workout supplement. It even includes creatine, a component that many pre-workout supplement manufacturers sell separately.
- The price point for the original Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement is 15% to 20% below the average cost per dose for pre-workout powders, making the product a great value. However, you’ll pay twice as much for the premium Gold Standard Pre Advanced, which contains much stronger doses of key ingredients.
- Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard line of pre-workout products includes both its core Gold Standard Pre-Workout powder and its premium (and more expensive) Gold Standard Pre Advanced formula. The two strength levels make the Gold Standard line more versatile, with options for both fitness enthusiasts who need only a minor boost and those looking for a more intense experience.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Review Score:
39.5 / 50
Does Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard rank as one of the best pre workouts on the market?
While it certainly has its strengths, there are also clear weaknesses. So let’s explain how we arrived at this score.
With more limited flavor options compared to some of the other brands and a share of users who find the taste merely acceptable, Optimum Nutrition’s pre-workout supplements aren’t always considered among the tastiest on the market. Still, plenty of regular Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout users actually enjoy the tastes of the brand’s most popular flavors, such as Fruit Punch and Strawberry Mango Daiquiri.
The original Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement by Optimum Nutrition is a good value with an affordable, below-average cost-per-dose, although it’s not the best price on the market. However, the premium Pre Advanced supplement that packs a bigger punch is among the highest-priced products we have found.
Strength of formula: 7.5/10
Truth be told, Optimal Nutrition’s regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout powder contains lower dosages of the essential ingredients we look for in these supplements than we would like. The Gold Standard Pre Advanced supplement, on the other hand, checks off all of the boxes with its stronger doses of each major ingredient.
Quality of ingredients: 9/10
Both formulations of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout supplements include all of the essential ingredients plus creatine monohydrate, the best form of creatine out there. We like that the product uses pure L-citrulline instead of citrulline malate and that its caffeine is derived from natural sources.
Most users find these popular pre-workout supplements effective, although for hardcore fitness enthusiasts and those with a high caffeine tolerance, the original formulation may not be strong enough. On the plus side, users report fewer side effects, especially “jitters” and feeling “wired,” when using the original Gold Standard Pre-Workout formulation due to the lower dosage of caffeine.
What Are the Benefits of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement?
Optimum Nutrition’s regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout keeps its marketing message simple. The manufacturer promises improvements in energy, performance, and endurance no matter what form of physical activity keeps you moving. The brand skips the hyperbole—language like “insane,” “epic,” “legendary,” and “unstoppable”—found in the descriptions of so many other pre-workout products on the market.
The Pre Advanced version of the supplement promises “intense” boosts in energy, performance, and endurance. This product aims to accomplish these goals with a “dialed up” formulation that builds upon the solid foundation of the regular pre-workout powder.
Does It Actually Work?
Both the original Gold Standard Pre-Workout and the Gold Standard Pre Advanced supplement have excellent customer ratings and reviews. Although both products are well-received, the original formulation is more popular, garnering upwards of 34,000 positive reviews on Amazon.
Fans of Optimal Nutrition’s Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement have called it a “game changer” that boosted everything from their energy and motivation to their muscle mass and even their confidence. The core formula encompasses all of the ingredients we consider “must-haves” in a pre-workout powder but in modest doses that make the supplement suitable for users who are new to taking pre-workout supplements. Many reviewers who aren’t pre-workout supplement newbies have noted that they experienced fewer jitters, crashes, and other side effects using Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard pre-workout supplements compared to other pre-workout powders.
Still, no one product can please everyone, especially because every individual’s body is unique. Among users who found that the regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout fell short of their needs or expectations, most seem to already have a high tolerance for caffeine. Users who felt that the dosage wasn’t strong enough for them would likely benefit from taking the premium Gold Standard Pre Advanced formulation instead. In fact, fans of the Pre Advanced supplement praised the “consistent” and “balanced” boost they got from the product and described the extra intensity as “miles more effective” than the original formulation.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Formulation
It’s the formulation that makes each pre-workout supplement unique and able to (hopefully) deliver the promised results. The formulation includes not only the types of ingredients that make up the supplement but also their quality, sources, strengths, and dosages.
What’s in a Pre-Workout Supplement?
In every pre-workout supplement we try, we like to see what we think of as the three most essential ingredients:
Pre-workout supplements are, first and foremost, energy supplements. The ingredient that bears the greatest responsibility for boosting physical energy and mental alertness is caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant. The caffeine found in a pre-workout supplement can take many forms, but we particularly like to see caffeine derived from natural sources, which include coffee, tea, and cacao plants.
Our preferred range of caffeine for a pre-workout supplement is 200 to 400 mg per dose. That’s considerably more than—between two and five times—the 80 to 100 mg of caffeine present in the average cup of coffee, according to the Food & Drug Administration. Generally, even healthy adults shouldn’t exceed 400 mg of caffeine a day.
A high dose of caffeine can increase the risk of side effects like heart racing or jitters. For some people, taking a lot of caffeine at once can be dangerous.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that the human liver produces naturally. Low amounts of this amino acid are also found in meat. However, taking a pre-workout supplement that includes beta-alanine can help your body improve exercise performance and decrease the perception of fatigue. Beta-alanine accomplishes these results by helping your body produce higher concentrations of carnosine, a “buffer” molecule that helps resist muscle fatigue.
It’s beta-alanine that gives users the “tingling” sensation often associated with pre-workout supplements. Generally, this tingling is a harmless side effect, and many regular pre-workout users report enjoying the effect as an indication that their pre-workout supplement is working. Some users find the tingling that results from beta-alanine consumption uncomfortable and may be better off choosing a product with a lower dose of beta-alanine.
Generally, we prefer pre-workout supplements with 2 to 5 g of beta-alanine.
Better blood flow allows for better exercise performance. The amino acid L-citrulline helps the body produce nitric acid to dilate, or widen, the blood vessels.
Ideally, we like to see between 6 to 8 g of pure L-citrulline in a pre-workout powder.
Other Preferred Ingredients in Pre-Workout Powders
The active ingredients that give a pre-workout powder its oomph don’t end with caffeine, beta-alanine, and L-citrulline. The list of potential amino acids, plant extracts, vitamins, minerals, compounds, and other substances that may be used to boost exercise performance is almost limitless, and it’s only growing longer as research advances.
The two categories of additional ingredients we most like to see in pre-workout powders are:
- Creatine: An amino acid that provides multiple benefits to fitness enthusiasts, including boosting gains in both size and strength of muscles, decreasing feelings of fatigue, and improving post-workout recovery
- Dietary nitric oxide boosters: Dietary extracts, like beet root and red spinach leaf, that have been proven through research studies to be effective nitric oxide boosters and that increase blood flow and keep fatigue at bay
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Ingredients
Optimum Nutrition makes two Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement products. The basic—and considerably cheaper—formulation is meant to boost energy and performance, while the Gold Standard Pre Advanced formulation packs a much stronger punch for a more “intense” energy boost plus improved endurance.
Gold Standard Pre-Workout Formulation
Other than the vitamins—Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, niacin (Vitamin B3), folate (Vitamin B9), and thiamin (Vitamin B1)—and the minerals calcium and sodium, Optimum Nutrition separates the ingredients in its pre-workout supplement into three categories.
The ingredients that make up the Gold Standard Pre-Workout’s Muscle Matrix include:
- Creatine monohydrate: 3 g. Creatine monohydrate is the superior form of creatine.
- AstraGin: 25 mg. AstraGin is a branded supplement consisting of Astragalus membranaceus root extract and Panax notoginseng root extract that helps users absorb nutrients and improve strength, exercise performance, and body composition.
The ingredients found in the product’s Performance Composite include:
- Beta-alanine: 1.5 g
- Micronized L-citrulline: 750 mg
In the Energy & Focus Complex, ingredients include:
- Caffeine: 175 mg, derived from natural sources
- Acetyl-L Carnitine Hydrochloride: 375 mg. This amino acid plays a role in building muscle, burning fat, boosting energy, and improving focus.
- N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine: 250 mg. This amino acid is intended to improve your mental capabilities, including your focus and alertness.
- Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex: 100 mg. These plant pigments act as antioxidants and, according to research published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, can increase power to improve exercise performance.
Overall, we love that the formulation includes a clinical dose of creatine, patented AstraGin, and amino acids that can boost users’ physical and mental performance. The strength of dosages of the most essential ingredients falls a bit short of what we would like to see, especially the L-citrulline.
Gold Standard Pre Advanced Formulation
Surprisingly, the Pre Advanced pre-workout supplement doesn’t follow the same labeling categorization as the basic Gold Standard Pre-Workout. It does, however, contain powerful doses of the ingredients we most like to see, including:
- 300 mg of caffeine derived from natural sources
- 3.2 g of beta-alanine
- 6 g of micronized L-citrulline
- 5 g of creatine monohydrate
- 1.2 g of creatine nitrate
- 650 mg of an electrolyte blend to help you stay hydrated through the toughest workouts
This formulation brings together the most effective and widely studied ingredients in strengths that meet our preferred dosages. Formulation-wise, Gold Standard Pre Advanced is a powerhouse pre-workout supplement, but are the gains this premium version offers over the regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout worth the much higher cost?
What Ingredients Are Missing From Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Ingredients?
No single pre-workout supplement can contain every possible performance-boosting ingredient. That said, there are no glaring omissions in the formulation of the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout or Gold Standard Pre Advanced supplement.
With caffeine, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, and creatine included in both formulas, these products check all the boxes and overachieve with patented extracts like AstraGin and extra amino acids. Although other brands may offer more bells and whistles, Optimal Nutrition has the strong core formulation we like to see in any pre-workout supplement.
Who’s It For?
While some pre-workout powders are designed especially for bodybuilders, endurance athletes, strength trainers, or aerobic exercise enthusiasts, the balanced Gold Standard Pre-Workout formula from Optimum Nutrition is a versatile option that promotes better performance in all kinds of physical activity.
Who Should Use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement?
The versatility of this formulation makes it suitable for both men and women and for a wide range of fitness goals. Although creatine contributes to muscle growth, the product isn’t exclusively for those looking to bulk up. Enhanced muscle growth can promote better body composition overall, which is beneficial even if you want to lose weight. We would especially recommend this product to beginners because it contains all of our favorite ingredients in moderate dosages.
We recommend that more serious athletes and exercise buffs consider the Pre Advanced formulation, especially if trying the original Gold Standard Pre-Workout powder doesn’t provide the desired boost. That said, it’s not a bad idea to start with the original formula, even if you’re a hardcore fitness enthusiast. Different bodies work differently, and plenty of established athletes and gymgoers find that the simpler and more affordable formulation of the original Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement gives them exactly what they need.
Who Shouldn’t Use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement?
The only people who should steer clear of the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout are those for whom taking a caffeine-based pre-workout powder is not recommended for medical reasons.
Caffeine is a stimulant, and some people have a naturally low tolerance for caffeine or a medical condition that may be affected by caffeine intake. Additionally, these and all pre-workout powders are generally intended only for healthy adults (age 18 and older).
You should always consult a doctor before starting a new supplement like a pre-workout supplement—especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have been diagnosed with any medical condition, or are taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medication.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Flavor Review: How Does It Taste?
Taste isn’t the reason you’re drinking a pre-workout supplement, but you want the flavor to be at least tolerable—ideally, even enjoyable. While opinions on the taste of Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement flavors are mixed, plenty of users report enjoying the taste, even going so far as to call it “amazing,” “incredible,” and “just like” the real foods that inspire the flavors.
The Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement by Optimum Nutrition is available in four flavors:
- Blueberry Lemonade
- Fruit Punch
- Green Apple
According to customer reviews, the best flavor of the basic Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement appears to be Fruit Punch.
Optimum Nutrition’s premium pre-workout product, Gold Standard Pre Advanced, offers the following flavor options:
- Berry Blast
- Raspberry Lime Mojito
- Strawberry Mango Daiquiri
Users tend to prefer the Strawberry Mango Daiquiri flavor of the Gold Standard Pre Advanced supplement, although you will find fans of each of the three flavors. Overall, users of the Pre Advanced formulation tended to notice more of a “chemical” taste or aftertaste compared to users of the regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout powder.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Price and Buying Options
The manufacturer’s price for a one-time purchase of 30 servings of the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement is $32.99. For the premium version of the product, Gold Standard Pre Advanced, the price climbs to $43.99 for a smaller container of just 20 doses.
Buying through Amazon offers a slight discount. Amazon purchasers pay $31.34 for the regular pre-workout formula and $41.69 for the Gold Standard Pre Advanced product. Through the Subscribe & Save program, Amazon customers may be able to save up to 10%.
Supplement companies make more money from repeat purchasers, so it’s in their best interests to give buyers incentives to make their brand of pre-workout powder part of a regular fitness routine. Brands like Alani Nu, REDCON1, and Insane Labz do this by offering subscriber discounts, sometimes as deep as 30% or even 45%. Other brands, like GHOST and Jacked Factory, offer loyalty programs through which repeat buyers can accumulate points and redeem them for products.
In lieu of a subscription discount or rewards program, Optimum Nutrition— like competitor ProSupps—offers bulk pricing discounts. The amount of discount you receive depends on how much you spend, which is particularly good news for customers who may prefer to experiment with a few different products rather than stock up on pre-workout powder or lock themselves into a subscription.
The best way to compare the cost of pre-workout supplements on an apples-to-apples basis is to look at the cost per dose, not the cost per container, since the number of servings in a package may vary.
For Optimum Nutrition, manufacturer pricing works out to a cost per dose of $1.10 for the regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplement. The Gold Standard Pre Advanced supplement costs $2.20 per dose—but you wouldn’t realize you were paying double the cost of the regular formula if you only looked at the cost per container rather than the cost per dose. Buying through Amazon will drop the cost per dose to around $1.05 for the regular pre-workout supplement and $2.09 for the Pre Advanced supplement, not including any Subscribe & Save discounts.
Even without factoring in any bulk purchase or subscription discounts, the cost per dose of Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Pre-Workout powder is below the average cost per dose on the pre-workout supplement market. Compared to the $1.33 average per-dose cost of pre-workout supplements, you’ll pay 15% to 20% less by choosing this brand. However, the cost per dose of the Pre Advanced supplement is one of the highest per-dose prices on the market.
*Prices listed above are accurate as of November 2022.
What Are the Side Effects of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement?
Like medications, supplements can cause side effects. The side effects that may result from taking Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplements are the same as those associated with other pre-workout powders and generally include:
- Skin tingling, which in some users can feel “itchy” or uncomfortable
- Shakiness, jitters, or feeling “wired”
- Stomach issues, including upset stomach and diarrhea
- Heart racing
Users of the regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout formulation, in particular, often report fewer side effects from using this product than other pre-workout supplements they have tried. For many users, this reduced likelihood of side effects is due to the smaller dosages of ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine. That said, these sorts of side effects are somewhat more common for users of the Gold Standard Pre Advanced formulation, which contains higher doses of core ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Pros and Cons
- The inclusion of caffeine derived from natural sources, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, and creatine monohydrate makes for a well-rounded and balanced formulation that is well-equipped to give fitness enthusiasts the boosts they need to excel. These are the ingredients most widely proven to be effective in improving exercise performance, and Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Pre-Workout supplements cover all of the bases.
- For the blend of ingredients you get, the below-average price point for the regular Gold Standard Pre-Workout is a great value.
- Moderate dosages of the most impactful ingredients give users a boost without the jitters and crash of a high-stimulant supplement. This product is ideal for beginners and users of any experience level who don’t have a high caffeine tolerance.
- Due to the comparatively low strength of the ingredients in the original formulation, some users, especially those with a high caffeine tolerance, find the Gold Standard Pre-Workout less effective than they would like.
- The more intense Gold Standard Pre Advanced supplement costs twice as much per dose as the original formulation, making it one of the more expensive options on the market.
- The taste of Gold Standard’s Pre-Workout powders—even among the brand’s most popular flavors—has received mixed reviews. With most of the top pre-workout powders on the market, you will find some users who love the taste and some who hate it, but this brand’s flavors received more critical reviews than others we have tried.
Whether you make do with the more modest energy boost that accompanies the value-priced original Gold Standard Pre-Workout or you splurge for the intense results that accompany the premium Gold Standard Pre Advanced supplement, you can feel good about Optimum Nutrition’s long reputation for quality. Ultimately, we would recommend either of these supplements depending on individual users’ budgets, caffeine tolerance, and dosage intensity needs.