Getting ready for a workout can be just as important as the workout itself. Not only do you need the proper gear and motivation, but you also need to prep your body for the lifting and weights to come.

Part of that prep comes in pre-workout drinks and powders. The difficult part is finding a brand or product that can actually deliver what you need.

Knowing how much caffeine in pre-workout mixes and drinks is an important decision you need to make. 

This guide will help you identify the right amount of caffeine intake, the products in that range, and which is best for your needs. 

There’s no exact answer to how much caffeine there is in a pre-workout supplement, but the average range typically falls between 100 and 300 mg per serving, with some products containing up to 400 mg of caffeine. 

Surprisingly, though most pre-workout supplements contain caffeine and other stimulants - not all of them do. These are called stimulant-free or caffeine-free pre-workout supplements. Now, while this may not sound like a big deal, it actually is. 

Caffeine consumption can offer several benefits for your workout routine. 

When consuming caffeine, especially in the form of caffeine anhydrous, which is a commonly used, concentrated version of caffeine in many supplements, it can increase reaction time, reduce feelings of fatigue, and stimulate the central nervous system.[1]

Such effects will give gym enthusiasts a much-needed jolt of energy to kickstart their workout. At the same time, with benefits come potential pitfalls. 

Adverse effects are possible when consuming caffeine in excess. Balancing caffeine consumption is paramount, as research suggests the maximum you should take daily is around 4 cups of coffee, translating to 400 mg of caffeine.[2

If you regularly consume caffeine through other sources like coffee or tea, adding a pre-workout supplement can tip the scale towards an unhealthy range pretty easily. 

And yes, having a cup of coffee after the pre-workout wears off also counts, even if you don’t feel the buzz anymore.

Therefore, it's always wise to monitor how you consume caffeine to ensure that your intake remains within a safe and beneficial range for your body, making your gym workouts both productive and safe.

Related Article - Stimulant Vs Non-Stimulant Pre-Workout

Popular Pre-Workout Brands & Caffeine Per Serving 

If you have been to the gym supply shops or the workout area of your local grocery store, GNC, or sporting goods shop, you know there are a lot of different brands selling pre-workout supplements. 

In the chart below, we will compare the most popular and commonly found brands. We will look at their caffeine content per serving to see which brands offer the amounts you want from your pre-workout supplement. 

How Much Is Too Much Caffeine In Pre-Workout?

Is there such a thing as too much caffeine? The simple answer is yes, but there isn't enough research yet to define how much is too much. 

Part of this depends on the person. Your body mass index, weight, height, metabolism rate, heart condition, and other factors all play a role.

There have been a lot of studies done on caffeine, and the results are a bit muddy. However, the Mayo Clinic, FDA, World Health Organization, and other groups have found that up to 400mg per day of caffeine is safe for most people.[3] 

However, if you are nursing, under the age of 18, elderly or pregnant and taking pre-workout, these levels may be too much for you. Caffeine can also contribute to amplifying underlying heart conditions.

If you know or suspect you are sensitive to caffeine or have heart issues, you need to talk to your doctor before using a pre-workout powder or drink. 

Because a pre-workout supplement can contain a lot of caffeine, it is important to know your limits. It is also essential to know how much other caffeine you consume during the day, because while caffeine addiction isn't exactly a thing - caffeine dependency indeed is. 

Keep in mind the recommendations and limitations done by the studies and governing bodies use a daily intake level of pre-workout, not a per-drink level. 

With pre-workout drinks offering high doses over 300mg per serving, you can quickly reach the caffeine limit for the entire day. If this is the case, you may wish to look for a pre-workout brand that has less caffeine. 

Woman drinking red pre-workout mix

What Are Other Ways To Get The Similar Effects?

If you are sensitive to high caffeine content or don't want to worry about the energy rush falling off, you can get the same overall benefits with pre-workout alternatives

The downside is that this can take more time, more planning and dedication to meal-prep days, as well as maintaining a constant intake of the foods. 

A cup of black coffee with a spoonful of sugar can give you the caffeine you need. You can get the rest from food. This is the easiest way.

Eating properly is always a good move, but for that pre-workout energy and motivation, you need specific things. 

For instance, the right balance of macronutrients coupled with dietary supplements like creatine can help.

Things like chicken breast, beef, yogurt, eggs, cheese, and even tuna will provide amino acids, carbs, and healthy fats - all of which are vital for muscle growth. 

For example, a whole-grain bread turkey sandwich and a cup of coffee about 30 to 45 minutes before your workout will be about the same as using modest pre-workouts, or you can also try to make your own homemade pre-workout.

Caffeine intake won't be as high, but at the same time - it is an overall healthier approach. 

And finally, if you do want a caffeine boost, but you don't want to drink coffee or take supplements - caffeine pills rather than pre-workout are the cheapest and most effective way to boost performance and cognitive function.

man scooping caffeinated pre-workout

Caffeine in Pre Workout Vs Coffee (What’s The Difference?)

You may think that there is a difference in the caffeine effects or even the caffeine itself when it comes to pre-workout powders versus coffee.

However, this isn't the truth. Caffeine is caffeine, and once it is in the body, it doesn't matter how it got there. 

The only difference between a pre-workout and coffee is that the powders use what is known as an anhydrous caffeine source.

Timing could also be a determining factor, but we'll assume you drink your black coffee and espresso as intended - quickly. 

Anyway, caffeine anhydrous is essentially caffeine that is dehydrated. It has no major difference from standard caffeine except that it is absorbed faster and therefore acts faster in aiding your mental and athletic performance. 

So drinking a pre-workout will have more rapid effects than slowly drinking a cup of coffee. You will also need to drink less to get the same benefits.

If you are not a caffeine-dependent person and don't drink coffee or tea regularly, pre-workouts are great for you. You would need to drink 2 to 4 cups of coffee before your workout to get the same levels as a pre-workout. 

Related Article - Why Does Pre-Workout Make Me Tired?

Woman in hooded jumper with coffee in hand

Frequently Asked Caffeine In Pre-Workout Questions

Is it better to drink coffee or pre-workout? 

You get the same amount of caffeine to give your workouts a boost with either coffee or pre-workout powder mixes. However, with the coffee, you will need to drink about 24 ounces or more to get the same caffeine levels as an 8 to 12 ounce glass of pre-workout. Having less fluid in your stomach during high intensity exercise is probably better. 

How much caffeine does 5-Hour Energy have? 

5-hour energy drink doesn't list the caffeine content for all of their drinks. However, the Extra Strength contains 230mg for a 2-ounce shot, and the standard formula contains 200mg. The flavors don’t affect the caffeine content. 

Can you burn off caffeine with exercise? 

Caffeine typically has a half-life of about 6 to 8 hours. This means that once ingested, you will have the effects for at least 6 hours before they start to fade off. Performing exercises and working out can cut this time in half.[4] It is also interesting to note that exercise cuts the half-life further for heavy caffeine drinkers than light drinkers. 


As you can see, pre-workouts, and energy boosting supplements, in general, have a lot of caffeine - up to 400 mg. But, to get the energy and motivation you need for the gym - caffeine is arguably the best option

That said, while most healthy adults can get away with 300 to 400mg of caffeine per day, and as we learned, a single pre-workout drink can contain just as much - so balance is needed.

If you are a soda, coffee, energy drinks, or tea drinker, you may exceed the daily recommended limits, so watch your intake. 

Luckily, if you happen to overdo it with caffeine ingestion - you can cut its half-life to 3 or 4 hours by simply working out!

recommended pre-workout!

Cellucor C4 Ultimate Pre Workout Benefits







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Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Miloš loves three things - science, sports, and simplicity. So, what do you get when you put the three together? A no-BS guy that's all about efficient workouts and research-backed supplements. But he also thinks LeBron's the greatest ever, so...