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Pre-Workout vs Energy Drinks

If you love to hit the gym, get a pump, break a sweat, and/or burn calories, then you're probably constantly on the lookout for ways to give yourself that extra edge.


Pre-workout supplements and energy drinks are two of the most popular options when it comes to on-demand energy and performance. Both of these options claim to help boost energy levels, heighten focus, improve performance, and help you get better results from your time spent in the gym.. but which one is better for your workout?



Let’s discuss.

What’s the Difference Between Energy Drinks & Pre Workout Supplements?


The main difference between energy drinks and pre workout supplements is their purpose. Energy drinks are designed to increase mental energy, alertness, and focus -- think of it as a quick “pick-me-up” when you’re dragging and/or a caffeine-infused alternative to coffee or tea.



Pre workout supplements, on the other hand, are meticulously formulated to help you perform better in training or competition, be it:


  • Lifting more weight
  • Performing more reps
  • Resisting fatigue
  • Boosting endurance, and/or
  • Maintaining a high level of focus and effort throughout the duration of your workout or competition.


Should I Use Energy Drinks or Pre Workouts Before a Workout?


The answer to this should seem rather obvious -- pre-workouts are a superior option to energy drinks as they contain ingredients that are specifically included to help you train harder, last longer, lift more weight, and get better results faster.


Energy drinks may (or more likely may not) have ingredients that improve athletic performance, outside of caffeine.


Sure, but Can I Use an Energy Drink as a Pre-workout?




You can use an energy drink as a pre-workout. You could also use a cup of coffee (or tea) or no pre workout supplement at all.


Energy drinks contain caffeine, first and foremost. Some may contain fast digesting carbohydrates (“sugar”) as well, which could provide readily useable energy for training. However, more and more energy drinks on the market are zero sugar (“sugar free”) to save consumers calories.


Caffeine has been well-studied and has been shown to improve performance across a wide range of workouts (resistance training, HIIT, endurance training, etc.) and sports (football, martial arts, soccer, etc.).[1]


Energy drinks also contain a number of other “buzzword” ingredients, including essential amino acids, Taurine, B-vitamins, green tea extract, choline and many more. The main issues with these “bonus” ingredients in energy drinks is that they are usually underdosed and enclosed in a proprietary blend, which means you have no idea how much of each ingredient is actually in here.


(Hint: if the companies were actually using an efficacious dosage of a proven ergogenic, they wouldn’t hide it in a proprietary blend.)


The main takeaway here is that while energy drinks can be a “serviceable” (decent) pre workout option, they are far from optimal. If you’re serious about maximizing your training sessions, then you want to choose a properly formulated pre workout supplement, such as 1UP Pre Men, 1UP Pre Women, or 1UP Stim-Free Pre Workout.


The Reason to Choose Pre-Workout Supplements Over Energy Drinks for Workouts


For starters, pre workout supplements were initially created to help athletes and everyday fitness enthusiasts stay stronger and last longer during workouts.


Key ingredients used in pre workout supplements (such as 1UP Pre Workouts), but not usually found in energy drinks at an effective dosage, include:


  • L-Citrulline: an amino acid that boosts nitric oxide (NO) production, which enhances blood flow, resistance to fatigue, and muscle pumps[2]
  • Nitrosigine: optimized form of L-arginine that significantly boosts NO levels, increases focus, and improves muscle recovery[3]
  • Beta Alanine: delays the onset of fatigue and increases endurance, especially when rest periods are limited[4]
  • ElevATP: combination of ancient peat and apple extracts increase levels of endogenous ATP in the body as well as improve strength, power, and performance[5,6,7]
  • CognatiQ: Novel coffee fruit extract that increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) -- an important neuropeptide that supports the health of neurons and increases focus[8,9]


The Bottom Line on Pre-Workout vs Energy Drinks for Workouts


Energy drinks and pre-workout supplements can both help to increase energy, mood, and focus. As such, both could be considered a pre workout supplement.


However, an energy drink only offers stimulation while pre workout supplements include ingredients that can reduce fatigue, increase blood flow, heighten focus, boost muscle pumps, and support muscle recovery.


In a pinch, an energy drink can “get the job done,” but if you want to get the best workout possible, then using a pre workout supplement is the way to go!



  1. Guest NS, VanDusseldorp TA, Nelson MT, Grgic J, Schoenfeld BJ, Jenkins NDM, Arent SM, Antonio J, Stout JR, Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Goldstein ER, Kalman DS, Campbell BI. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021 Jan 2;18(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4. PMID: 33388079; PMCID: PMC7777221.
  2. Park HY, Kim SW, Seo J, Jung YP, Kim H, Kim AJ, Kim S, Lim K. Dietary Arginine and Citrulline Supplements for Cardiovascular Health and Athletic Performance: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2023 Mar 3;15(5):1268. doi: 10.3390/nu15051268. PMID: 36904267; PMCID: PMC10005484.
  3. https://nutrition21.com/nitrosigine/
  4. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Hoffman JR, Wilborn CD, Sale C, Kreider RB, Jäger R, Earnest CP, Bannock L, Campbell B, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss TN, Antonio J. International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Jul 15;12:30. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y. PMID: 26175657; PMCID: PMC4501114.
  5. B, Argumedo R, Shu C, Huynh L, Pietrzkowski Z. Effect of the dietary supplement ElevATP on blood ATP level: An acute pilot clinical study. J Aging Res Clin Practice. 2013;2:178–84.
  6. Reyes-Izquierdo T, Shu C, Argumedo R, Nemzer B, Pietrzkowski Z. The effect of elevATPTM on whole blood ATP levels: a single dose, crossover clinical study. J Aging Res Clin Practice. 2014;3:56–60.
  7. Joy, J. M., Falcone, P. H., Vogel, R. M., Mosman, M. M., Kim, M. P., & Moon, J. R. (2015). Supplementation with a proprietary blend of ancient peat and apple extract may improve body composition without affecting hematology in resistance-trained men. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 40(11), 1171–1177. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2015-0241
  8. Reyes-Izquierdo, T., Nemzer, B., Shu, C., et al; “Modulatory effects of coffee fruit extract on plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy subjects”; British Journal of Nutrition; 2013;
  9. T. Reyes-Izquierdo, R. Argumedo, C. Shu, B. Nemzer and Z. Pietrzkowski, "Stimulatory Effect of Whole Coffee Fruit Concentrate Powder on Plasma Levels of Total and Exosomal Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Healthy Subjects: An Acute Within-Subject Clinical Study," Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 9, 2013, pp. 984-990. doi: 10.4236/fns.2013.49127.

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