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Pre-Workout vs. Energy Drink: Which One is Best for Your Workout?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

Many fitness enthusiasts turn to pre-workout and energy drinks to enhance concentration and performance before hitting the gym. While both options provide an energy boost, there are significant differences to consider.

So, pre-workout vs. energy drinks: what’s better for your workout routine? Let’s look at everything you need to know to select the right product for your preferences, goals, and tastes. 

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What Are the Differences Between Pre – Workout and Energy Drinks?

As the fitness and wellness industries continue to grow, so does the demand for products that can help improve performance and energy levels. Energy drinks and pre-workout supplements are two of these industries’ most commonly used products. 

If you’re trying to decide which one to use for your next workout, it’s essential to understand the critical differences between them:

  • Pre-workout supplements are formulated to increase athletic performance and provide targeted benefits to endurance, strength, and focus.
  • Energy drinks are designed for a quick energy boost and to combat fatigue.
  • Pre-workout supplements include ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine. 
  • Energy drinks may include higher doses of caffeine and other stimulants like guarana. 
  • Pre-workout supplements are usually taken in smaller doses and timed before training for effectiveness.
  • Energy drinks are convenient and can be consumed on the go. 

While they have overlapping benefits, energy drinks, and pre-workout serve different purposes. Their ingredients have different effects on the body and performance. Understanding these differences will help you decide which option suits your fitness goals and lifestyle. 

Common Ingredients Found in Pre – Workout and Energy Drinks

The ingredient list is the first step to understanding the differences between pre-workout and energy drinks. Caffeine, beta-alanine, and B vitamins are just a few of the ingredients shared between the products.

Although these drinks have different marketing messages, they typically include similar ingredients to boost energy, improve focus, and enhance exercise performance. 


Caffeine is easily the most common ingredient found in both products. It’s a central nervous system stimulant widely used to enhance alertness, focus, and energy levels. Caffeine’s impact on athletic performance is well-documented, and it has been shown to positively affect endurance, power, and focus during training. 

The caffeine content in each product ranges between 150–300mg per serving. The recommended daily dose is 400mg, and exceeding it can lead to increased heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, and other adverse effects.


Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid naturally produced in the body and found in foods like turkey, chicken, pork, and fish. It helps increase muscle endurance and delay muscle fatigue, allowing athletes to train harder for extended periods. 

Although beta-alanine is generally considered safe, it can cause a tingling sensation in the skin, known as paresthesia. The feeling is harmless and typically goes away within 60 minutes. 

Creatine Monohydrate

The naturally occurring compound creatine is one of the most popular and widely researched supplements for improving physical performance. It is commonly included in pre-workout and energy drinks like Bang. 

Creatine is a critical component of the ATP-PC energy system, giving the muscles energy during short, high-intensity movements. 

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One meta-analysis found creatine supplementation increased maximal strength by an average of 8% and power output by 14%. 

B Vitamins

B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins playing critical roles in energy metabolism and other essential functions. They are found in energy drinks and pre-workout supplements in high levels to boost energy levels and support overall health. 

B vitamins have been linked to several health benefits, including the following:

  • Enhanced energy levels and reduced fatigue
  • Increased mood and cognitive function
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Benefits to skin, hair, and nail health. 

Common Ingredients Typically Found in Energy Drinks

You’ll see a cabinet lined with countless energy drinks in every convenience store, gas station, and vending machine. Because they’re so convenient, many people drink them before hitting the gym or to power through the day.

But have you looked at the ingredient list on the back of the can?

Although they contain ingredients that can increase energy, improve focus, and enhance physical performance, it’s crucial to understand what you’re putting into your body. Here are a few common ingredients found in energy drinks that aren’t typically included in pre-workout. 


It’s no secret that popular energy drinks like Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar contain sugar. Many products contain 27–35 grams of sugar per serving. Although some pre-workout blends include sugar, most products use artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and saccharine. 


Taurine is commonly found in energy drinks but is not typically included in pre-workout blends. Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar energy drinks all contain taurine. It’s an amino acid found in the brain, retina, heart, and reproductive organ cells, as well as in meat and seafood.

Many believe taurine increases physical performance by reducing fatigue and increasing endurance. That said, the current data isn’t sufficient to say for sure whether taurine has a positive effect on these factors. 


Ginseng has been used for thousands of years, including in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s an herb rich in antioxidants, and research suggests it may provide benefits to the brain, immune system, and energy levels


Guarana is a plant-based stimulant commonly found in energy drinks but is often left out of pre-workout bends. Guarana contains various stimulants, including caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine. It may improve focus, reduce fatigue, and aid in weight-loss efforts. 


Glucuronolactone is a compound naturally produced in the body and is included in some energy drinks, such as Red Bull. It is believed to have stimulant effects and reduce brain fog, but these are unfounded claims based on studies on energy drinks that contain other active ingredients.

Pre – Workout vs. Energy Drinks: The Advantages

Pre-workouts and energy drinks are popular products for those seeking a boost of energy before an exercise session. Both options provide similar benefits, but there are distinct advantages to using pre-workout supplements over energy drinks. 

The Advantages of Pre-Workout Supplements

  • Targeted Nutrients: Pre-workout drinks are specifically designed to provide a precise blend of nutrients to improve athletic performance, increase energy, and enhance focus. Ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine, and creatine work together to stimulate the body and promote better training sessions.
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  • Customizable Dosages: Pre-workout supplements come in a wide range of dosages and product types, like capsules, gels, powders, and drinks. This allows individuals to customize their dosage depending on their needs and tolerance. Individuals can also adjust the amount of caffeine to avoid adverse side effects
  • Faster Absorption: Pre-workout formulas are created to be quickly absorbed, meaning individuals can feel the benefits within a few minutes. Fast absorption is helpful, especially if you struggle with low energy or fatigue during training. 
  • No Sugar Crash: Many pre-workout blends are sugar-free or low-sugar, which helps prevent a “sugar crash.” You may feel a more sustained release of energy throughout your workout compared to energy drinks. 

The Advantages of Energy Drinks

  • Convenience: Energy drinks are easy to find and can be purchased at most grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores. You don’t have to mix any powders or use a special cup, making them easy to consume on the go. 
  • Variety of Flavors: If you’ve ever had an energy drink, you understand how delicious it can be. Energy drinks come in various flavors, which can be appealing to individuals with a sweet tooth or who don’t enjoy the taste of supplements. 
  • Lower Cost: Energy drinks are often less expensive than workout supplements, making them an affordable option for lifters on a tight budget. 

Pre – Workout vs. Energy Drinks: The Disadvantages

Depending on your goals and your budget, both can have some serious disadvantages over the other. Here they are:

The Disadvantages of Pre-Workout

  • Potential Side Effects: Pre-workout products often include high doses of caffeine and other stimulants, which may lead to side effects like jitters, anxiety, and insomnia. Those with sensitivities may experience discomfort or health complications.
  • Safety Concerns: Unfortunately, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, meaning individuals can’t be sure about the quality or safety of the product. Although there are third-party testing companies, some supplements contain illegal and harmful ingredients. 
  • Addiction Risk: It’s possible to become dependent on pre-workout for motivation or to get through a workout. This can lead to high tolerance, less effectiveness, and potential long-term health complications.  
  • Cost: Supplements can be expensive, especially if you opt for high-quality brands with premium ingredients. Many pre-workout powders cost $35–$50, making them less budget-friendly. 

The Disadvantages of Energy Drinks

  • Sugar Content: Several energy drinks include high quantities of sugar, which may lead to weight gain, dental issues, and other health concerns linked to excessive sugar consumption. 
  • Health Risks: Like pre-workout, energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine, which may cause health issues, including cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and dehydration. 
  • Sleep Disruptions: Energy drinks may cause disruptions to your sleep patterns if you consume them too close to bedtime. Low-quality sleep can lead to fatigue, reduced concentration, and lower performance during training. 
  • Potential Addiction: We all know someone who slams multiple Red Bulls throughout the day. Excessive energy drink consumption may lead to dependence or addiction due to the high levels of caffeine. 

Which Should You Take Before a Workout?

Energy drinks and pre-workout supplements aren’t created equal. When deciding between each option before a workout, several factors must be considered. 

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Both drinks provide an energy boost and enhance focus but differ in specific effects and ingredients. 

Pre-workout blends are formulated to enhance athletic performance through ingredients such as caffeine, beta-alanine, and creatine. The ingredients improve endurance, muscle strength, and maximum power. Pre-workout can help you get through tough workouts and perform at a higher level for more extended periods. 

On the flip side, energy drinks are mainly consumed for their stimulant effects and caffeine content. They may help increase alertness, focus, and energy, which is also advantageous before hitting the gym. Typically, energy drinks do not contain performance-enhancing ingredients as pre-workout. 

So, which option is better before you hit the gym?

The answer ultimately depends on your preferences and goals—but pre-workout is the clear winner. Pre-workout can improve athletic performance, endurance, strength, and power. Energy drinks are a convenient solution but aren’t designed for the gym.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Pre-Workout Better Than Energy Drinks?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to enhance physical performance, endurance, and strength during training. They’re better suited for those with related fitness goals. When selecting a pre-workout, look for high-quality products from reputable brands with transparent ingredient lists. 

Can I Use Pre-Workout as an Energy Drink?

You can take a pre-workout without hitting the gym, but it isn’t typically recommended. Pre-workout formulas are designed to enhance physical performance and are not a substitute for energy drinks or coffee. Stick to energy drinks or coffee if you only want to improve alertness, productivity, and mental focus.

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