Pre-Workout vs Energy Drinks

Medically reviewed by Dr Dimitar Marinov
Pre-Workout vs Energy Drinks

Have you ever wondered if energy drinks could replace your pre-workout supplement? It definitely gives that rush of energy, but what exactly would be the difference between drinking a Redbull or taking a pre-workout?

In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about pre-workout and energy drinks to see which is the better option to take before you exercise.

What is a pre-workout?

Pre-workouts are supplements designed to take an athlete’s ability to perform during exercise sessions to the next level. Pre-workouts usually contain a blend of ingredients that include necessary nutrients that may help increase your body’s ability to perform and aid in recovery. This leads to helping you increase your muscle mass, endurance and strength.

What’s an energy drink?

Energy drinks are beverages that increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance to a degree. Caffeine is one of the main ingredients, and energy drinks typically contain 70 to 200mg of caffeine per serving.

Is it better to take pre-workout or energy drink supplements?

Deciding whether pre-workout powders or energy drinks are better depends on what you want to use them for. Both give you increased energy levels, but each of them has a very different goal.

Energy drinks are great for a quick energy boost

When you need a quick pick-me-up or just something tasty to wake you up, sugar-free energy drinks can do the trick. An energy drink is designed to give you a quick burst of energy whenever you want it. But if you need something specifically designed to improve your physical and mental performance during training, then a pre-workout supplement is the better option. Here’s why.

Pre-workout is great for long-term fitness goals

Unlike energy drinks, pre-workout is designed to lift your athletic performance before you exercise to ensure you can exercise harder and for longer.

Pre-workout drinks have specific ingredients to help boost your body’s ability. For example, beetroot extract is a common ingredient in pre-workouts and has high concentrations of nitrate, which dilates the blood vessels, allowing larger volumes of blood to flow. This then leads to more nutrients reaching the muscles, which allows you to train for longer and harder.

Reviewing the ingredients in Pre-workout

Pre-workout contains a range of different ingredients that are specifically used to improve your exercise performance by increasing energy, mental focus and alert levels. A good pre-workout supplement can contain:

  • Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels to allow blood and nutrients to flow faster around the body
  • Nootropics for improved focus during training
  • Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps reduce muscle fatigue
  • Branched-chain amino acids boost muscle growth
  • Caffeine boosts energy

What are the benefits of taking Pre-workout?

Pre-workout formulas have several benefits, including the same benefits as energy drinks, as caffeine is often an ingredient in them. Pre-workout benefits include:

  • Boosted energy levels
  • Promotion of muscle growth
  • Increased blood flow
  • Faster recovery
  • Increased endurance.

Some pre-workout supplements even have vitamins and minerals that aid in strengthening your immune system and overall health.

What are the drawbacks of taking Pre-workout?

Unfortunately, pre-workouts also have one or two drawbacks to them that you should be aware of. These often present themselves as side effects, which include:

  • A built-up tolerance to caffeine
  • Nausea
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Jitters
  • Dehydration

Reviewing the ingredients in Energy drink supplements

The main ingredient in most energy drinks is high doses of caffeine (70 to 200mg of caffeine per serving). They contain considerably higher amounts of caffeine than your usual cup of coffee, so they’ll definitely give you an instant energy boost you might think you want before the gym, but the effects are quite short-lived compared to taking a pre-workout.

Depending on the energy drink, you’ll also find:

  • Guarana
  • Sugars
  • Taurine 
  • Ginseng 
  • B vitamins 
  • Glucuronolactone 
  • Yohimbe 
  • Carnitine 
  • Bitter orange

What are the benefits of taking energy drinks?

Benefits of taking energy drinks include:

  • Improved physical endurance
  • Increased alertness 
  • Improved reaction time
  • Almost instant energy boost

What are the drawbacks of taking energy drink supplements?

While most energy drinks taste great and really do boost your energy, they also have a few drawbacks:

  • The high caffeine content can lead to serious heart and blood vessel issues
  • Caffeine use is often associated with anxiety, sleeplessness and digestive issues.
  • High sugar levels are bad for your health

What is the best time to take Energy drinks or Pre-workout?

You can drink energy drinks that can be taken throughout the day when you feel like you need an energy boost. The recommended time to take a pre-workout is 30 minutes before your workout to give your system time to process the nutrients.

How many servings of a pre-workout or Energy drink can I have?

Most pre-workouts or energy drinks will have consumption instructions on the bottle, which we’d suggest following. However, pre-workout supplements are generally taken once a day before a workout and energy drinks have a recommendation of two per day. 

Final thoughts

We all need a little boost in energy now and then, and that’s where energy drinks come into the situation. As an instant fix, they’re great for giving you a strong caffeine hit, but in comparison to pre-workout supplements, energy drinks don’t provide the same amount of nutrients and thus are less effective as a supplement before you workout.  

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