There is no doubt that a good pre-workout shake can help boost your energy and workout performance. From BCAAs to creatine and whey, there are numerous pre-workout options you can choose from. The newest entrants in this arena are the energy drinks!
Energy drinks have been around for quite some time, and they work great for a quick pick-me-up. Nowadays, many energy drinks are marketed as pre-workout drinks and they often contain additional performance-enhancing ingredients.
Let’s take a closer look at pre-workouts vs energy drinks and find out which one’s best for your needs.
What is a Pre-Workout?
As the name suggests, a pre-workout is a nutritional supplement taken before a workout to boost energy, improve focus, and enhance physical performance. Pre-workout supplements are commonly available as powders. They have to be mixed with water or a milk of your choice.
What are Energy Drinks Made Of?
Energy drinks are usually caffeinated drinks that offer a quick energy boost. They usually contain high amounts of sugar, along with small quantities of vitamins and amino acids.
You should keep in mind that the caffeine and sugar content in energy drinks can vary significantly between brands and products. Some energy drinks contain herbs such as ashwagandha and plant-based protein sources, turning them into serious contenders for pre-workout supplements.
5 Key Differences Between Pre-Workout vs Energy Drinks
When considering pre-workout vs energy drinks, understanding their key differences can help you make an informed decision.
1. Customization and Ingredients
Pre-workout supplements usually contain a combination of caffeine, and creatine, along with amino acids such as BCAAs and beta-alanine. Electrolytes and B vitamins are often listed among the ingredients.
A major advantage of pre-workouts is that you can customize these drinks or shakes to your preference. Blend in more protein sources such as nuts or seeds. Make them creamy with healthy fats like nut butters, coconut cream, or avocados. Throw in chopped fruits, vegetables, or leafy greens to make your pre-workout more nutrient-dense.
The two most common ingredients in energy drinks are caffeine and sugar. Taurine, L-carnitine, and B vitamins are also found in many energy drinks. Some brands add herbal extracts such as ginseng, guarana, and ginkgo biloba while others may include antioxidants like vitamin C or green tea extract. Since the drinks come pre-mixed and ready to consume, you cannot customize ingredient ratios to your preference.
2. Performance Enhancement
Need a pick-me-up after an exhausting day at the office? Looking for a caffeinated beverage to get you through a late-night gig? Then energy drinks are just what you need to enhance your performance and output.
However, if you are a serious bodybuilder or an athlete, you will need a supplement that's designed to offer sustained energy and power your workout performance. Your pre-workout drink should contain adequate amounts of amino acids to promote muscle protein synthesis. Its caffeine content should also be adequate to kickstart and energize your routine. Herbs such as ashwagandha can also have a significant impact on your exercise performance and muscle recovery.
Energy drinks are much more convenient than pre-workout drinks. Energy drinks are readily available at convenience stores and even vending machines. On the other hand, most pre-workout supplements come in powder forms and have to be mixed with a liquid before consumption.
Energy drinks come in small cans, tetra packs, or bottles. They are easily portable. You can carry them to the gym or your office, to use when needed. With pre-workout shakes, you can blend them with other ingredients of your choice and then carry the drink around in a shaker/bottle. However, once mixed with a liquid, you should consume it within a few hours.
4. Caffeine Content
Energy drinks tend to be high in caffeine. Some of them may contain excessive amounts of caffeine. Consuming these can lead to jitteriness, insomnia, or anxiety, depending on your caffeine tolerance levels.
While most pre-workout supplements do contain caffeine, you can adjust the amount of the supplement used to customize your caffeine dosage. Adding other ingredients such as fruits, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds also helps reduce the caffeine ratio in your pre-workout shake.
Energy drinks come in big and small cans/bottles. They fit into most budgets easily. Pre-workout supplements, especially premium formulas can get expensive.
Is Pre-Workout Healthier than Energy Drinks?
Which drink is healthier depends on the ingredients in the drink. Considering that pre-workouts usually contain some amounts of protein, vitamins, and electrolytes, they are beneficial to health. Their caffeine content is usually not that high. The addition of fruits, nuts, and leafy green add much more health benefits to pre-workout shakes. Since pre-workouts are customizable with ingredients of your preference, you can make it a healthy drink. However, adding large amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats can turn it into an unhealthy choice.
Energy drinks tend to contain high amounts of caffeine and sugar. So regular consumption is not recommended. You can use them occasionally for quick energy during busy days. Since these are premixed drinks, make sure to check out their ingredient lists to see if it is in line with your caffeine tolerance levels and specific fitness goals.
Can You Use Energy Drinks for Workouts?
If you do not have access to a healthy pre-workout shake, then energy drinks are a convenient substitute. Since they tend to be high in caffeine, you should monitor your overall caffeine consumption for the day, to avoid jitteriness, anxiety, and other unwanted side effects.
Look for energy drinks with healthy ingredients such as plant-based protein and ashwagandha. Select low-sugar alternatives. Remember to stay well-hydrated as both caffeinated energy drinks can deplete your body's fluids.
Which Should I Choose Before a Workout?
If you have a hectic lifestyle and are looking for a ready-to-drink option, an energy drink is ideal for you. If your workout is relatively short and not that strenuous, the energy drink can enhance your performance sufficiently.
However, if you are serious about your fitness and require a drink that offers more sustained energy for your workout, then opt for a healthy pre-workout shake. You should also have the time and interest to measure and mix your pre-workout drink.
You can use a pre-workout as an energy drink to boost your exercise performance. Evidently, it's much simpler to buy a ready-made energy drink than make one of your own.
On the other hand, making your pre-workout drink allows you to customize it to your taste and preferences. In the end, it’s all about your lifestyle, convenience, preferences, and fitness goals. When used responsibly and in moderation, both options can provide the energy boost you need to power through your workouts or busy days. Remember to read the product labels and stay mindful of your caffeine intake. Choose wisely, stay energized, well-hydrated, and healthy.