Pre-Workout Vs Energy Drinks (Which Is Better For Training?)

If you want to get the most from your workout, you need to be mentally and physically switched on. Energy drinks and pre-workout 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 drinks.  

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 can be useful to wake you up and stimulate your body 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, C4 pre-workout energy drink has 135mg of caffeine, and Red Line energy drink has over 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.   

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 because you'll have a lot more control.   

Related Article - Average Caffeine Content In Pre-Workouts

pre-workout and energy drink

Ingredients  

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 muscle building. It's usually taken in cycles, but within pre-workout supplements, it is in small doses so that it can be absorbed into your muscles more quickly. This will give them an energy 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 and energy drinks. 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. 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 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. If not, pre-workout is best.

energy drink vs pre-workout

Physical Performance 

If you want to increase your performance in the gym, then pre-workout is best. 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 can cause jitters, headaches, increased heart rate, stomach aches, bloating, and diarrhea.

Energy drinks can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and dehydration.  

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

Read More - What Are The Side Effects Of Pre-Workout?

Cost 

There are a variety of different pre-workout and energy drink brands on the market, and the cost will vary. Pre-workout tends to be more expensive because of the more complex nature of the ingredients included.

Energy drinks are cheaper, but pre-workout will give you better training results, so it’s worth the extra expense for experienced lifters.  

pre-workout vs energy drinks

Pre-Workout Supplements (Why Take Them?) 

Pre-workout supplements are designed to be taken before workouts and improve your performance. They're usually bought as a powder and mixed with water for you to drink before your session. They contain amino acids, caffeine, creatine, 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.  

Pre-workout is used by athletes and gymgoers. It used to be a bit more niche, but it's gradually moved into the mainstream, so now most serious lifters are using it.

Pre-workouts have been proven to improve your focus and concentration and improve performance while working outIt 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, or it can cause some side effects, including nausea, stomach upset, and jitters. 

Related Article - What To Do When You Take Too Much Pre-Workout

Benefits 

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

Drawbacks 

  • Dehydration 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Expensive 

Energy Drinks Before Training (Why Have Them?) 

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

Most energy drinks have 300-400mg 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.

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.  

Benefits 

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

Drawbacks 

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

Can You Mix Energy Drinks & Pre-Workout (Guide For Redbull & Monster)

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 an energy drink after your pre-workout, wait at least 30 minutes, and it should be a bit safer.

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. 


Conclusion

Taking a pre-workout supplement is a good way to get the most from your workout. Energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster can be taken as pre-workout and should help improve your alertness and concentration.

However, if you're a serious lifter, then you'll benefit more from pre-workout supplements because they tend to be more effective. Hopefully this guide has helped explain the differences, and you now know which is best for you.  

Last Updated on August 3, 2022