Almost everyone has heard of Optimum Nutrition, so you're probably wondering if their pre-workout is worth trying.

It certainly has many ingredients you'd expect, but it's tough to know how it will actually perform.

In this Gold Standard pre-workout review, I'll look at everything, including taste, performance benefits, and cost, and help you decide if it will help you reach your goals.

Optimum Nutrition is one of the best-known supplement brands on the market.

They have all types of nutritional products designed to help you build the body you want, including bundles for weight gain, weight loss, and maintenance.

The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout is one of their most popular products. They first launched it in 2017, and it's designed to help you get more from your workout.

They have a few different flavors, and it comes in powder form - which is fairly standard.

The formula hasn't changed since it first launched, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but the science behind supplements has developed a lot in the last 5 years.

This is probably the reason why this product isn't leading the market.

However, the Gold Standard Optimum Nutrition pre-workout supplement is made with a lot of the key amino acids and other ingredients shown to boost performance, and it's one of the most affordable options.

It's clear to see why it's a popular option, and that's why I've taken a closer look.

Gold Standard

Gold Standard Pre-Workout







Overall Rating


My Results Taking The Popular Gold Standard Pre-Workout

I wanted to go into this Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout review fresh, so I stopped taking everything else for two weeks. I then started taking it just before each training session.

Here are my thoughts about the product and its impacts:

1. Flavor

There are 5 different flavors:

  • Blue Raspberry
  • Fruit Punch
  • Green Apple
  • Kiwi
  • Watermelon

They used to do Blueberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lime, and Watermelon Candy - but they don't seem to stock them now.

You can also buy individual Gold Standard supplement shots with a single serving. These are liquid and come in cola, lemon-lime, and mixed berry.

It was actually great to have flavors that were clear and not cryptic because some brands like I AM GOD have flavors like 'Thou Shalt Not Covet' that don't give any indication of taste, and it's pretty confusing.

For this review, I wanted to try a couple of flavors, so I chose the Fruit Punch flavor and Green Apple flavor (many people said this was the best Gold Standard pre-workout flavor).

I also tried a couple of single-serving cola-flavored shots, but they are more expensive, so I didn't get loads.

The Fruit Punch and Green Apple Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre weren't awful, but they were very clearly artificial flavors and had artificial colors.

All of this made it feel like quite an unnatural product trying to emulate the taste but didn't quite get there. 

However, what I did like was the way the powder blended with cold water.

The silicon dioxide content means that it mixes easily and is really smooth, which is quite a contrast to some other well-known brands like Gorilla Mode, which is pretty grainy.

If taste is a big deal for you, then you're better off with something like RYSE or Transparent Labs Bulk supplements, which have amazing flavors - but if it doesn't matter if it tastes good, then Optimum Nutrition is ok.

2. Performance Increase

I took it about 30 mins before each session, and I could definitely feel a little bump from the caffeine, but not that much else.

I didn’t particularly feel like I could lift heavier, and while it probably did fight fatigue a bit, it wasn’t very noticeable.

It's weird because when you look at the ingredients list, there are a lot of good things on there which should improve performance.

The issue is the quantity. For example, creatine can boost muscle strength, but there are only 3.4 grams in a serving. This is ok, but will probably have a limited impact.

It's the same for some amino acids like L-Citrulline and Beta-Alanine. It's in there, but maybe not in high enough quantities to improve performance.

So Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard didn’t exactly blow me away, but I didn’t feel like it took my training to new heights.

3. Pump

I didn't really get much of a pump, or at least not a very noticeable one.

It's not too surprising because it doesn't have very many ingredients that boost oxygen and blood flow to your muscles and only has limited amounts of amino acids that will help feel that pump.

4. Focus

I definitely felt more focused about 20 minutes after taking the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout.

The caffeine, acetyl L carnitine HCI, and n acetyl L tyrosine all worked together to help improve cognitive function, and I did feel more focused in the gym. 

While this pre-workout gives you a bit of mental focus, if you look at the nutrition facts, you can see why it's not as effective as some other brands.

There's only 175mg of caffeine in a 10g scoop, so when you compare it to Gorilla (350mg), RYSE (370mg), or even Alani Nu (200mg), it comes up shorter.

Person Placing Gold Standard Pre-Workout Into Backpack

5. Energy

I like to mix up my workouts in the evening and morning, and I found that the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout was perfect for me.

It has a few ingredients to improve endurance and give you increased energy, but the caffeine hit is fairly mild.

This meant I could take it safely to get a medium-sized energy boost without worrying about it impacting my sleep pattern. 

6. Side Effects

This is probably the best pre-workout option for those concerned about side effects because I genuinely didn't feel any.

There weren't any tingles, no upset stomach, there wasn't a crash, and I wasn't left struggling to sleep.

Now, you could argue that this is because it's underdosed in a lot of areas, so it doesn't have as big of an impact, but if you are a beginner worrying about side effects, then this is one of the best pre-workout supplements around.

7. Post-Workout

I've tried and tested some seriously high stimulant pre-workout supplements, so I'm prepared for a big crash a few hours after training.

However, with the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout, it never came. I didn't feel any sudden energy crash and was fine for the rest of the day.

This is probably because the caffeine hit is much smaller than other pre-workouts, and less experienced users may still have crashes - I didn't feel anything.

8. Cost & Availability

Optimum Nutrition is a well-known brand, and it's easy to get hold of their products.

You can pick up the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout from their website directly, Amazon, or through an independent website like GNC or Muscle Factory.

I ordered directly from Optimum Nutrition because I like to go to source, and their international shipping is good.  

Optimum Nutrition does well in the price category. It's $1.17 per serving of this pre-workout, which makes it one of the cheapest around when you compare it to other products like RYSE ($1.72 a serving) and Transparent Labs ($1.77 a scoop).

However, with sports nutrition, you do tend to get what you pay for, and generally, this is a very average pre-workout.

It's underdosed in a lot of areas, so spending a bit more on a different pre-workout might actually give you better value.

Gold Standard

Gold Standard Pre-Workout







Overall Rating



  • Low cost
  • Not overpowering - good for beginners
  • Great flavors
  • No side effects
  • Third party tested and very safe


  • Relatively low stim
  • Limited muscle pumps
  • Won’t dramatically improve performance

ON Optimum Nutrition Pre-Workout Nutritional Facts

Gold Standard Pre-Workout Supplement Facts

Creatine Monohydrate - 3g

Creatine has been proven to improve your muscular strength and increase physical performance during high-intensity exercise.

It can be beneficial, but there isn't a huge dose here, so you may need to take other supplements.[1]

Caffeine - 175mg

Caffeine helps to focus your mind and wake you up to improve performance.

This is a moderate dose (similar to a strong coffee), so unless you have a medical condition that means you have to take caffeine-free products, you should be fine.

Beta-Alanine - 1.5g

Beta-alanine is in every pre-workout proprietary blend and helps to reduce muscle fatigue, helping you to train for longer.

It can make you feel tingly, but this dose is small enough that it should be fine.

L-Citrulline - 750mg

This boosts nitric oxide levels to give your muscles more blood flow and oxygen and improve your muscle pumps.

Vitamin D - 12.5 Mcg

Vitamin D has been shown to improve your concentration, strength, and overall health.[2]

Vitamins B6 And B12

These help your body to create blood vessels, which in turn helps to give your body oxygen for a better training session.

Pantothenic Acid

This is also called vitamin B5, and it's one of the artificial ingredients included to help improve your internal functions.

To be honest, most people have enough of it, so it's a bit of a pointless ingredient, and if you did have a deficiency, you should be transferred to a physician's care immediately.[3]

Thiamin – 2 Mg

This is similar to malic acid and helps to stop the formation of lactic acid in your muscles so you can train for longer.

Niacin – 20 Mg

This helps to preserve energy and help your muscles to produce energy so you can train for longer.

AstraGin – 25 Mg

Astragin works with your L Citrulline and L Arginine ingredients to help them become absorbed by your body. This makes the whole pre-workout more effective.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine Hydrochloride – 375 Mg

This actually impacts the mitochondria of your muscle cells and encourages them to create more energy. It’s particularly useful for low or moderate training routines.

N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine – 250 Mg

This is another energy-boosting ingredient that helps increase the dopamine and epinephrine levels in your brain, making you more alert and focused.

Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex – 100 Mg

This citric acid extract helps to support your overall immune system and has been linked to an increased power output during your training routine.

Who Should Consider Gold Standard Pre-Workout?

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout fitness supplement is great for beginners and amateurs.

The combination of caffeine and the muscle matrix's creatine can all have a positive impact on your workout performance, but it will be limited for experienced athletes or bodybuilders.

If you're new to performance enhancers, then the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre-workout is a good entry-level supplement to get you going.

Who Should Avoid Optimum Nutrition’s Pre-Workout?

The Gold Standard pre-workout isn't going to be useful for anyone who wants a big energy boost or for experienced lifters/athletes.

The Gold Standard pre-workout does have 175mg of caffeine to increase energy, but it's much less than some other products.

If your goal is to stay under the recommended daily value of caffeine, that's a good thing, but if you want a big energy boost, you're better with something like Gorilla Mode.

For experienced lifters, the pre-workout is underdosed, and the pre-workout ingredients aren't going to do a lot to improve your power output.

You can take more than one scoop, but this isn't very efficient and makes the product much more expensive.

If you are an experienced lifter, you're probably better with the Transparent Labs Bulk Pre Workout instead.

How Does ON Gold Standard Stack Up Against Competitors?

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Vs C4 Pre-Workout

C4, just like ON, is one of those supplement companies that almost everyone knows.

C4 have a wide range of pre-workouts, and the ingredients list does vary between them, but C4 supplements are generally for beginners.

C4 is more powerful than the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard pre, especially if you're taking the C4 Extreme or Ultimate.

They've got 200-300mg of caffeine in one scoop and a tougher performance composite that includes higher levels of beta-alanine and other compounds.

If you're choosing between C4 or Gold Standard pre-workout, then it's pretty close. C4 is a bit more cost-effective and will probably give better results.

Both popular pre-workouts are designed for beginners, but you'll get slightly more from C4.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Vs Amino Energy Pre-Workout

ON also makes a range of energy-boosting products called Amino Energy.

As the name suggests, these are made with high levels of amino acid ingredients - particularly beta-alanine - and are designed to give you an instant energy boost.

Despite not being a full pre-workout supplement, the Amino Energy pre actually gives many of the same benefits.

It has a bit less caffeine but higher levels of vitamins, Beta-Alanine, L Citrulline, and other amino acid ingredients.

However, it doesn't have the muscle matrix components which improve your endurance and give you muscle pumps.

When it comes to Amino Energy vs Gold Standard pre-workout, it's a pretty easy choice.

If your goal is just to increase your energy levels, then the Amino Energy is good, but if you want to improve your strength and muscular endurance, then the Gold Standard is better.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout FAQs

How long before a workout should I take optimum nutrition pre-workout?

You should aim to take it 30-45 minutes before your workout to give the amino acid performance composite and caffeine a chance to work.

Does optimum nutrition pre-workout have calories?

There are 5-10 calories in the Gold Standard pre-workout, depending on the flavor you choose.

How many scoops of gold standard pre-workout should I take?

The recommended dose of this pre-workout is one scoop, which is around 10 grams.

You may choose to take more to feel greater benefits, and for most healthy adults, that's fine. Just make sure you aren't taking too much caffeine.

Final Verdict

ON Gold Standard is a popular supplement, but for me, it gets a very average rating.

It has limited amounts of amino acid ingredients, which increase blood flow, a small amount of caffeine, a small amount of creatine, and barely any nitric oxide pre-workout ingredients.

All of that means it isn't great for experienced lifters.

That being said, it may be the best price supplement for beginners and will give new lifters some noticeable benefits. 

Hopefully, you've found this article helpful, and you now know if the Gold Standard pre-workout will support your sports nutrition effectively.

we recommend this instead!

Cellucor C4 Ultimate Pre Workout







Overall Rating




Last Updated on January 5, 2024

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.