Can Energy Drinks Be Used as a Pre-Workout? It Depends…

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Should I Use An Energy Drink Instead Of A Pre-Workout?

A typical energy drink contains caffeine, taurine, guarana, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. If that was all there was, you might think an energy drink would be more than sufficient as a pre-workout drink. However, there’s more to the story than that. 

While an energy drink does have some pre-workout benefits, it’s nowhere near the level of an actual pre-workout consumable. You could use one in a pinch, but the massive volume of sugar and calories offset some of the gains, even when the energy drink is labeled “zero-sugar.”

Caffeine also has its limitations, even though it is largely considered pretty useful throughout your workout. But caffeine is also addictive, and your body will grow used to its effects over time, necessitating more caffeine intake to receive the same benefits. 

Let’s jump into it and find out if using an energy drink instead of a pre-workout is the way to go.

How Do Energy Drinks Work?

Energy drinks work pretty much how you would assume they would, based on their name. They supply your body with a quick burst of energy through carefully tailored amounts of energy-boosting properties, such as caffeine, sugar, and other ingredients.

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a molecule the body produces to facilitate sleep, relaxation, and lethargy when the end of the day draws near. Sugar also supplies a boost by speeding up metabolism. However, a sugar crash is very real, and it follows soon after feeling its effects. 

Caffeine also promotes the release of dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical that results in a burst of energy, willpower, and focus. Caffeine, like sugar, has a shelf life in the human body. After roughly 45 minutes, it kicks in, spreading throughout the body and boosting energy levels and metabolism. 

After the caffeine has exhausted itself, you experience a crash on the other side. It’s not as bad as a sugar crash, but when it’s combined with sugar, such as it is in energy drinks, the crash is compounded and much worse than either one would be individually. 

Using an Energy Drink as a Pre-Workout

You can certainly use an energy drink as a pre-workout, which is common among athletes. The prevalence of caffeine, sugars, taurine, guarana, and B vitamins makes for a stimulating concoction that will carry most people through a complete workout regimen. 

However, it’s like burning leaded gasoline over unleaded gasoline. Both will get the vehicle from point A to point B, but the unleaded gasoline will get you there by burning much cleaner along the way.

Various studies exist that will confirm this to one degree or another. It also helps to choose the right energy drink, which should contain caffeine, taurine, BCAAS (Branch-chain amino acids), and B vitamins. 

BCAAS is a branch chain of amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three are often found in the best pre-workout energy drinks. These amino acids are important for post-workout muscle response, even though most people drink energy before working out. 

They are designed for rebuilding and recovery. When you work out, especially weightlifting, thousands of tiny, microscopic tears form in the muscles; these tears are then rebuilt through protein and creatine, becoming larger and stronger. 

The concept is similar to breaking a bone. Typically, the bone will heal when the break occurs, more dense and strengthened than before the break. 

Pros and Cons of Energy Drinks Pre-Workout

Like everything in life, there is a bad side to counter the good. We’ve discussed some benefits and drawbacks of consuming energy drinks as a pre-workout supplement.

Some athletes prefer them, however, but on a limited basis, most people don’t concern themselves with them while hunting for an energy drink on the store shelf.

Energy Drink ProsEnergy Drink Cons
Mood enhancement Attitude enhancement Improved workout performance Energy boost Zero calorie and zero sugar optionsAddictive Zero calories and sugars is a deceptive thing Can create health issues, Sugar highs and crashes Potential weight gain

Dangers of Zero Sugar in Energy Drinks

When you see the label “Zero-Sugar,” that means the drink will most likely contain aspartame. There are multiple things that aspartame does that wreak havoc on the body. 

  • Aspartame has been linked to cancer
  • It slows down metabolism and increases fat storage
  • Spikes insulin
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Causes teeth and bone issues

Trying to escape the dangers of high fructose corn syrup will only lead you into the arms of aspartame, which is arguably more dangerous than sugars. So what are you to do if you want a good, pre-workout drink? 

Either stick with the sugar-laden option or use a pure, pre-workout drink instead. 

Energy Drinks Versus Pre-Workout Drinks

The first and most obvious difference is their designed purposes. Pre-workout drinks are specifically designed for pre-workout benefits. Energy drinks are designed to give you an energy boost. The latter is probably more useful to an office clerk trying not to yawn their way through the day. 

An energy drink has its uses before a workout, and you can certainly get away with drinking one before a workout. However, they lack the benefits of a true pre-workout formula. Pre-workout supplements generally come in powder form, providing an excellent way to stack certain supplements.

Energy drinks are what they are, and you have less leeway when building your stack or going off a stack you’ve read about and want to try. Pre-workout formulations are far more varied and easy to manipulate according to your needs. 

They also include (generally speaking) some things that energy drinks often do not, depending on the energy drink. Mainly, creatine monohydrate is common in pre-workout stacks and rare in an energy drink not specifically designed as pre-workout fuel. 

Energy drinks offer convenience and will generally cost a lot less. Of course, it also depends on how many you drink and purchase per day because some of them can be quite expensive. 

However, suppose you want to create a true pre-workout formula that improves your weaknesses while boosting your strengths. In that case, a pre-workout formulation will almost always be the better option. 

The fact that you can stack a variety of pre-workout supplements and create your own personalized formulations is highly advantageous over anything that an energy drink has to offer. 

Should You Use Energy Drinks or Pre-Workout Formula?

The healthiest and purest option is to go with pre-workout formulas. You can eliminate the harmful side effects (aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, too much caffeine) while including all the things an energy drink offers and more. 

A good pre-workout stack is formulated to target energy production, flooding the muscle fibers with water and nutrients and allowing energy and endurance longevity. 

A good pre-workout formula is also something that remains useful inside the body after your workout, such as the chain amino acids we listed above. There are not many energy drinks that can match personalization or a customized pre-workout formula. 

Though it may be more expensive (the expense comparison is relative here), going with a pre-workout formula is the healthier and more beneficial option, especially in the long run. Over time, energy drinks become more harmful as time passes. Plus, the sugar and caffeine crashes are never fun to deal with.

Energy Drink vs. Pre-workout Powder Nutrition

Let’s take a quick look at two nutrition labels from a Monster Energy drink and Jocko Go pre-workout. I picked a zero-calorie label from Monster to compare against Jocko Go pre-workout. Keep in mind that many energy drinks are loaded with sugar and calories.

You’ll see that the Monster Energy drink has more caffeine than the Jocko pre-workout formula. Hence the name: energy. If you need a strong pick-up, energy drinks will do the trick.

But, in comparison. The Jocko Go is loaded with nutrients that are beneficial to building strength and endurance. You aren’t going to find that in an energy drink.

Monster Energy Nutrition Label

zero calorie monster energy nutrition label

Jocko Go Pre-workout Nutrition Label

jocko go pre-workout nutrition label

Should You Use An Energy Drink Instead Of Pre-workout?

Energy drinks make a good pre-workout when there is nothing else for you. In other words, they’re good for you in a pinch but not for the long term. Pre-workout formulas are tailored to your needs and are far healthier in the long run.


Valdez, E. (October 11, 2021). Pre-Workout vs Energy Drinks: Which is Better Before a Workout?

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Pre-workout vs Energy drink: can you take together?

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Jeff Carpenter

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