Pre Workout vs Energy Drink vs Coffee: What’s smart pick?

Pre Workout vs Energy Drink vs Coffee


Different kinds of people can be found at the gym, while some of the people rely on pre-workouts supplementation for improved focus and performance, others are just happy with their regular shot of coffee.  

While some lifters prefer high caffeine content in their pre-workouts, others are looking to have a stimulant-free solution for improved performance. 

Whether you prefer taking pre-workout supplement or energy drinks or just a simple coffee, each one of them have their own set of benefits and limitation. 

In this article, we are going to get into the details of every damn difference so that you can make the right judgment. Let’s get started. 

What is pre-workout 

Athletes at all levels are constantly looking for supplements that can help in achieving improved performance without compromising with long term goals. That’s how pre-workout supplementation came into limelight. 

Pre-workout supplements are probably one of the most discussed topics between serious lifters and pro athletes. 

In simple words, pre-workout supplements are made with a blend of ingredients that are proven to improve athletic and mental performance while intense workout. Fitness industry’s most infamous pre-workouts are designed to burn more calories, establish better mental focus, maximize the performance and improve protein synthesis (1). 

All the pre-workout are created with their own unique blend of ingredients, but some of the common ingredients can be found in almost every brand. Let’s have a look at common ingredients: 

  • Caffeine: For mental focus and energy, the dose of caffeine may differ in different brands. 
  • Citrulline malate: Proven to improve the blood flow which helps in achieving better pumps and improved supply of nutrient-rich blood.
  • Beta-Alanine: Beta-alanine assists in the production of carnosine. Carnosine is a compound that plays a major role in clearing lactic buildup and improving muscle endurance while high-intensity exercises.
  • BCAA’s: It’s a set of essential amino acids ( leucine, isoleucine, and valine ) that help in fast recovery and muscle hypertrophy. BCAA’s also assisted in preventing muscle protein breakdown while intense training.
  • Creatine: Some of the powerful pre-workout blends contains creatine to provide improved ATP creation and superior energy generation while training. 

Benefits of Pre-workout supplements 

A good pre-workout supplement can help you achieve superior performance in the following ways: 

  • It helps in improving focus and motivation. 
  • Beta-alanine and creatine assist in getting that additional repetition. 
  • Pre-workout contains low calories that won’t really affect your weight goals. 
  • Improved Strength – Feel confident while breaking your PR and make faster progress towards goals.
  • Improved blood flow helps in a better supply of nutrients into the muscle tissues. 
  • Psychological benefits can also be experienced. 
  • Lower post-workout fatigue. 

You consume pre-workout drink typically around 20-30 minutes before your gym session.

Basics about energy drinks

These drinks are pretty self-explanatory, they are designed to deliver that boost in energy

Because of the energy drink’s ability to improve cognitive abilities and decrease fatigue, energy drinks have gained popularity among fitness enthusiasts as well. Can you use these drinks as a pre-workout replacement? We will discuss that in the latter part of the article, for now, we need to understand the basic ingredients first. 

Caffeine: You can find the energy drink with a wide variety of caffeine doses, ranging from 80mg to 300 mg, caffeine works as a brain stimulant to make you feel more energetic and focused.  

Vitamin B12, B6 & B3: Most of the people are deficient in B vitamins and that’s the reason most of the energy drinks contain them in abundance. These vitamins essentially assist the body to convert food into energy that’s the reason people who are deficient in B vitamins do feel tired and powerless. Additionally, a shortage in B vitamin may cause anemia which can lead to a shortage in supply oxygenated blood. 

Taurine: Taurine is one of the most abundant naturally occurring amino acids in the body, it helps in regulating heartbeat, muscle contractions, and energy levels (3). 

Sugar: To give you that quick boost of energy by providing fast-absorbing carbs. Although, there is a sugarfree version also available in the market.  

Content Ratio Energy Drinks.

From time to time, we all need a boost in energy levels, an energy drink can be a perfect solution at that time.  I would certainly never take a pre-workout after a hectic day, in that case, energy drinks can come really handy. 

Know your coffee

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages, thanks to its ability to improve brain functioning and focus. 

Coffee also contains high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients that can benefit the body in many different ways. 

The best part is, coffee is an almost zero-calorie beverage that can be easily fit within any sort of diet. 

Although there are multiple benefits of drinking coffee, but can you use it to replace your pre-workout? We are going to discuss that ahead. 

Pre Workout vs Energy Drink vs Coffee

All three options are able to improve your workout and mental focus.  

Knowing your goal is an important part of choosing the best resolution. Let’s get into details.  



Coffee is one of the most versatile drinks that you can have almost any time of day.

Most of the people start our day with a cup of coffee, a coffee just before starting office work, a coffee after lunch, a coffee as soon as you reach home. The fact is, most people consume it all day to improve focus and reduce fatigue.


You cant take a pre-workout any time. These supplements are too strong to be taken anytime. Pre-workouts are designed to improve athletic performance while high-intensity training and its not recommended for any other purpose.

Energy drinks:

Energy drinks are a great option to fuel a workout or reduce stress after a hectic day. Although you cant consume energy drinks as frequently as coffee but these are still more versatile and mild options than pre-workout supplementation.

Muscle Hypertrophy

Coffee: The cleanest way to energize your brain for superior performance. Coffee might not directly affect hypertrophy but it will surely help you achieve better workout which will result in greater gains. Coffee can help you improve your performance by 10-15% (4, 5). 

Pre-workout: Pre-workouts are designed to achieve superior hypertrophy by supporting muscle strength and pump. Almost every ingredient in your pre-workout is determined to provide better muscle gains and hypertrophy. 

Energy drinks: Energy drinks contains Caffeine, Taurine and B vitamins that are proven as a performance enhancer. Energy drinks do not contain BCAA’s or Creatine which makes them slightly less effective for superior hypertrophy. 


Coffee: A simple coffee can help you sustain your workout for longer duration by stimulating your brain to feel more energetic and active

Caffeine also assists in the accelerated metabolization of body fat to make more energy available for the training session (6, 7). 

A simple coffee does not contain a huge quantity of caffeine, which makes it suitable for endurance training as well. While most of the pre-workouts are not really the best choice for long endurance workouts since they might shoot the heart rate way high. 

Pre-workout: Pre-workouts are designed to increase the endurance of High-intensity training, a training that requires better blood circulation and better ability to clear out the lactic buildup. Beta-alanine is a primary ingredient that assists in clearing lactic buildup and improving muscle endurance as well. 

Energy drinks: Commonly, energy drinks contain Caffeine, Taurine and Carbs. That’s all you can expect to improve endurance. Carbs help in replenishing the glycogen levels. Taurine helps with reducing muscle fatigue while caffeine assists in staying more focused and energetic.

Many lifters use energy drinks as an intra-workout to support high-intensity training. Energy drink with BCAA’s is my top choice for improved endurance. 

Fat loss


Caffeine can increase the body’s ability to burn fat via lipolysis (8). In short, it’s the cheapest solution to increase metabolic rate and accelerate fat loss. 


Pre-workouts also contains caffeine to increase the fat, additionally, they contain other ingredients that help in accelerating fat loss. 

Most pre-workouts contain fat burners like Bioperine which is extracted from black pepper and known for its thermogenic properties (9). BCAA’s present in pre-workouts is also proven effective in accelerating the process of fat loss (10). 

Energy drinks: 

Most of the energy drinks are designed to boost energy levels, not fat loss. 

Although the presence of Caffeine and B vitamins do assist in the acceleration of metabolic process but the presence of sugar and carbs might counterbalance the fat-burning effects. 

Opt for zero-calorie energy drinks if you are looking for fat loss. 

Muscle pump


A cup of strong coffee before a workout will help improve the quality of workout which may improve the muscle pump as well. Coffee does not have a direct relation with achieving a better muscle pump. 


Pre-workouts functioning revolves around the improvement in the pump. It’s not a good pre-workout if it can provide a better pump, that’s what most of the lifter believe. 

Citrulline Malate and other vasodilators present in the pre-workout formulae allows the lifter to gain that craze pump. L-citrulline is found to be further beneficial than L-arginine at increasing nitric oxide and exercise performance.

Energy drinks: 

Energy drinks contain Taurine that does assist in improved blood flow but most of the energy drinks are not designed to provide the best pump.

Fatigue reduction


Coffee contains caffeine that stimulates the brain to stay energetic. But it has nothing to do with the post-workout fatigue. 


Pre-workouts contains many ingredients that to decrease exercise fatigue. The presence of BCAA’s and Beta-alanine also ensure the reduction in post-workout fatigue. 

Energy drinks: 

If workout fatigue is your area of concern then you should be trying energy drinks, they are designed to give a boost in energy and replenish the lost glycogen and electrolytes to lower fatigue. 

Choosing energy drinks that contain BCAA’s will act as added benefit to reduce fatigue.



Coffee has no part to play in reducing DOMS. DOMS is Delayed onset muscle soreness, which is experienced a day after a good workout. DOMS can be managed by some hot&cold shower, post-workout stretching, and good nutrition. 


While beta-alanine helps in removing lactic buildup that controls the post-workout soreness, BCAA’s helps in repairing muscle fibers for faster recovery

Energy drinks: 

Controlling DOMS is not an area of expertise. An energy drink is designed to ensure a boost in performance not to support fast recovery. 


Every option has its own limitation and this article would be insufficient if skip the limitations. 

Coffee– Inaccurate serving size and caffeine quality may vary.
– Not the best option for a muscle pump. 
– Not eligible to reduce symptoms of DOMS. 
Pre-workout – Not best for long endurance sports.
– It can be overstimulating.
– It can cause a crash because of high dose of caffeine.
– Dehydration and Blood pressure.
– Insomnia.
Energy drinks– Might restrict fat burning due to sugar.
– Boost energy but not the best pump.
– Absence of extensive muscle support.
– Cost is comparatively high.  

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.

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