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.
- Difference Between Pre-Workout And Energy Drinks
- When Should You Take Pre-Workout Supplements?
- Should You Take Energy Drinks For Workouts?
- Can You Mix Energy Drinks & Pre-Workout?
- Is Pre-Workout Better Than Energy Drinks?
- Common Pre-Workout & Energy Drink Questions
Difference Between Pre-Workout And 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 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.
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:
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:
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 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.
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.
Learn More - Is Taking Pre-Workout Everyday Safe?
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.
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.
Learn More - How To Make Pre-Workout Taste Better?
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.
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 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?
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.
Common Pre-Workout & Energy Drink Questions
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.
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.
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.
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.