If you want to get the most from your workout, you need to be mentally and physically switched on. Energy drinks and pre-workout powders are commonly used before training, but each has pros and cons. 

You need to find the best solution for you so you can get into the zone, and in this guide, we'll give you the full breakdown of pre-workout vs energy drink.  

Pre-workout and energy drinks are designed to do similar things, but there are some key differences.

We've looked at all the critical factors to determine which is better for you.  

Caffeine Content 

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that can wake you up, stimulate your body, and boost energy levels so that you perform more effectively. 

Red Bull and Monster energy drinks have about 80-100mg of caffeine in a serving, but other specialist pre-workout energy drinks have very high levels of caffeine.

For example, the C4 pre-workout energy drink has 200mg of caffeine, and the Bang energy drink has 300mg of caffeine (which is about the same as 4 espressos!).

Energy drinks are designed to get caffeine into your system quickly, which will give you a quick burst of energy and remove any tiredness from your mind.   

The average caffeine content in pre-workout supplements can vary between 150 mg to 300 mg per serving. Many pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, though there tends to be less, and it's usually natural. There are even some stimulant-free pre-workout supplements which contain zero caffeine.

This gives you much more control over your caffeine intake than energy drinks, and you can control the serving size to limit your intake if you want to. Caffeine is a great way to focus your mind, and energy drinks will usually have more.

However, if you need to avoid caffeine or have a limited tolerance, then you'll be better with pre-workout powder because you'll have a lot more control. 

pre-workout and energy drink


Knowing what's inside pre-workout and energy drinks is important so you can understand how it will impact your body.

They have some similar ingredients, specifically amino acids, creatine, and B vitamins:

  • Amino Acids
    These ingredients are absorbed quickly into the body and help to build your muscles. They will help improve your endurance and lower your recovery time, making workouts easier on your body and allowing you to train harder.
  • Creatine
    This substance is often taken on its own as a pre-workout supplement and has been proven to aid lean muscle mass building and athletic performance. It's usually taken as a standalone daily supplement, but within pre-workout supplements, it is in small doses so that it can add to your overall supplementation. Creatine will give your muscles a boost and let them work harder so you can lift more. This is a particularly important ingredient for experienced weightlifters.[1]
  • Vitamin B12 & Other B Vitamins
    These are commonly found in pre-workout formulas and your favorite energy drink. These are absorbed and converted into energy for your body and can improve your overall health. You'll usually find very high levels of vitamin B in energy drinks, but not all of it can be digested.

Energy drinks tend to have a longer ingredients list and include some other ingredients. Some of these are beneficial, but others can have certain side effects that you need to be aware of.

The main ingredients within energy drinks tend to be sugar, ginseng, guarana, and taurine:

  • Sugar
    Glucose helps to improve the taste of energy drinks and make them more palatable. However, there is usually a lot of sugar in energy drinks, and this means they can be quite calorific. This isn’t great for those on a strict diet and can cause weight gain if you aren’t careful. You can pick up sugar-free versions of the most popular energy drinks, and we'd recommend drinking these instead.
  • Ginseng
    This substance has long been used to improve concentration and stamina. It's commonly found in energy drinks and works with the caffeine to enhance your alertness and leave you feeling refreshed.[2] While it does have some positive qualities, it's not great for you because it can cause hypertension, sleep disruption, and diarrhea.
  • Guarana
    This is used as another stimulant alongside caffeine, and many athletes use it to improve their performance. It comes from a South American fruit and is said to fight fatigue. It can be effective but adds to the caffeine content, so you need to be careful how much you’re having.[3]
  • Taurine
    This amino acid is used in energy drinks and has been proven to make you more mentally and physically alert. It's not technically bad for you, but there is usually a lot in energy drinks that takes you right over the recommended daily intake. This can cause your heart rate to increase and raise your blood pressure.[4]

The key difference between pre-workout and energy drinks is the volume of these ingredients.

Energy drinks often fail to disclose the total amounts of each ingredient because they’re unwilling to disclose their full recipe.

This makes it more challenging to determine how much of each ingredient you’ll get and harder to know how it might affect your body.

A good pre-workout is generally much more transparent, so you can accurately control what you're ingesting. Energy drinks contain a wider range of ingredients, and many of them aren't particularly good for you.

Pre-workout is generally healthier, and it's easier to track what you're putting in your body.  

Energy Boost 

Energy drinks are packed with caffeine and will give you a very quick energy boost before a workout.

Pre-workouts may also contain caffeine and other stimulants and energy-boosting ingredients and usually have higher levels of amino acids and other beneficial compounds. This will give you more energy, but it takes longer to be digested and processed by the body. 

If you need an instant energy boost, go for energy drinks (10 minutes to kick in). If not, pre-workout will give you more energy but will take about 30-40 minutes to kick in.

man drinking a pre workout in the gym

Physical Performance 

If you want to increase your exercise performance in the gym, then pre-workout is the best option.

It is literally designed with ingredients that will be absorbed into your body and target muscle groups. This will let you train harder and get better results in the gym. 

On the other hand, energy drinks are designed to give you a quick caffeine boost and improve mental concentration. This is useful in the gym but won't be as beneficial as a pre-workout. 

Side Effects 

Both pre-workout and energy drinks can have side effects, so it's important that you take the correct dose.

Pre-workout side effects can cause headaches, increased heart rate, stomach aches, pre-workout jitters, bloating, and diarrhea. Energy drinks can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and dehydration.  

Regardless of the pre-workout formulation, it probably has slightly worse side effects, but you can avoid the side effects of both options by having them in moderation.  


Pre-workout drinks (per serving) tend to be more affordable despite the more complex nature of the ingredients included. On average, a single serving of a pre-workout comes out at $1.50, whereas the average cost for a can of an energy drink is closer to $2.

However, there are a variety of different pre-workout and energy drink brands on the market, and the cost will vary. So, yes, some energy drinks may be cheaper, but it all depends on the brand. 

Even so, a good pre-workout will give you better training results, so even if it's more expensive compared to Red Bull - it’s worth the extra expense for experienced lifters.  

man drinking a supplement at the gym

When Should You Take Pre-Workout Supplements?

Pre-workouts should be taken about 30-60 minutes before a session, so it has time to have an impact.

You just need to ensure that you don't take too much pre-workout, or it can cause some side effects, including nausea, stomach upset, and jitters.

Pre-workouts have been proven to improve your focus and concentration and improve performance while working out

They're usually bought as a powder and mixed with water for you to drink before your session. They contain amino acids, caffeine, creatine monohydrate, B vitamins, and artificial sweeteners.

You can design your own pre-workout or buy readymade supplements (which are much more convenient), but they're all absorbed into the body and muscles to increase your performance and endurance.  


  • Increased performance 
  • Improved focus 
  • Higher energy levels 
  • Reduce muscle breakdown 


  • Dehydration
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Expensive

Should You Take Energy Drinks For Workouts?

Yes, you can drink it before and during your workout, and the effects should be instant but just remember not to overdo it because you could get some jitters or heart palpitations if you have too much.  

Energy drinks use caffeine to provide a quick burst of energy when you need it most. Caffeine works to block the effects of adenosine, the chemical which causes the brain to sleep.

Most energy drinks have anywhere from 100-400mg of caffeine, and getting this big hit all in one go forces your brain into a state of alertness and focus.

Alongside caffeine, energy drinks also contain taurine, amino acids, sugar, guarana, and other ingredients. Red Bull, Monster, and other energy drinks are all popular as pre-workout because they wake you up.

This helps to improve your motivation during a workout and encourages you to perform at a higher level. 

Unlike pre-workout supplements, energy drinks don't contain ingredients that improve muscle endurance, but they do dramatically increase mental and physical alertness. Studies have shown this makes it easier to train harder and longer.  

Energy drinks are consumed by people all around the world and aren't just used for training but gymgoers will often have a can of Monster when they walk into the gym.

Athletes will also take energy drinks before performing, but some of the sugar and other ingredients make them less popular with those on strict diets.

Energy drinks generally come in a standard serving and are usually ready to go in a can.


  • Fast energy boost 
  • Improved focus 
  • Increased physical alertness
  • Increases motivation 


  • Can be addictive 
  • Can cause weight gain 
  • High in sugar 

Can You Mix Energy Drinks & Pre-Workout?

Mixing pre-workout and energy drinks might seem like a good way to get the best of both worlds, but it's not recommended, the main reason for this is human caffeine sensitivity.

Everyone has a different level of tolerance or sensitivity for caffeine, but generally, having over 500mg in one serving is a bad idea because it can cause potentially harmful disruption to your heart rhythm. It can also increase your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Caffeine tolerance and sensitivity are different for everyone, so you may be fine, but mixing pre-workout and Red Bull just isn’t worth the risk.

You shouldn’t really need both energy drinks and pre-workout supplements to get a physical and mental boost, and combining them means you’re putting a lot of stimulants in your body in one go.

If you need aenergy drink after your pre-workout, wait at least 30 minutes, and it should be a bit safer.

Is Pre-Workout Better Than Energy Drinks?

A pre-workout is better than energy drinks for boosting performance in the gym.

Unlike energy drinks, pre-workout supplements are specifically designed with a blend of ingredients such as caffeine, citrulline, and tyrosine (and the rest we discussed), all tailored to enhance strength, endurance, and focus during a workout. 

On the other hand, energy drinks are made to provide a general energy boost and contain high levels of caffeine, but sometimes also sugar and artificial ingredients, which can lead to energy crashes and unwanted weight gain.

Even though some people have favorite energy drinks they swear by, they might not be the most effective option for improving gym performance compared to most pre-workout formulas on the market.

is pre-workout better than energy drinks

Common Pre-Workout & Energy Drink Questions

How long before a workout should I drink energy drinks? 

Ideally, you should have your pre-workout energy drink about 30 minutes before you train, but because energy is released so quickly, you can have them right before you work out.  

Is C4 energy drink a pre-workout? 

C4 is a noncarbonated pre-workout energy drink designed to boost energy and focus. It's a grab-and-go pre-workout option for anyone on the move.

How long do energy drinks last? 

Energy drinks typically work very quickly and peak within 2 hours. The energy levels will then start to decline, but it will stay in your system for 12-13 hours.  

How many energy drinks a week is safe? 

It’s recommended that you only take 1-2 energy drinks a day, and only 2-3 days a week maximum. It’s a good idea to try and have fewer than 5 cans a week to stay safe. 


In conclusion, when it comes to training, pre-workouts are far superior to energy drinks.

They provide a targeted approach to enhancing all aspects of physical performance - from strength to endurance.

For those serious about maximizing their results in the gym, a pre-workout like Transparent Labs BULK pre-workout should be a clear choice, even though drinks like Red Bull or Monster can help improve your alertness and concentration.

So, if you're a serious lifter, you'll benefit far more from pre-workout supplements.

recommended pre-workout!

Cellucor C4 Ultimate Pre Workout







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1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/creatine-for-muscle-and-strength
2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262982
3. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-935/guarana
4. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1024/taurine

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...