Nutrition Athletics

Pre Workout Vs Energy Drinks – The Smart Pick

Pre Workout Vs Energy Drink - The Smart Pick

It would literally freak you out if you realize that your mobile battery is about to go dead! Would take seconds for you to rush and plug it into the charger. Now imagine replacing the mobile with your body. 

Recharging your body and fueling your energy stores requires a lot more attention. Making the best choice for drinks to boost your energy is even more important. It’s not rocket science but a smart choice you have to make.

“Energy drinks and Pre Workout drinks” you might have used these two words interchangeably very often. This is because both of these products are designed to offer energy boosts to help get you through your day and they are quite similar as well.

The difference between pre-workout and energy drinks lies in the ‘goal’ behind their use.

Pre-workouts are formulas specially designed to improve workout performance. Energy drinks amp up your energy quickly but momentarily.

Energy Drink vs Pre-workout: Which is Best for You?

The main difference between energy drinks and pre-workouts is their purpose of use. Energy drinks are designed to give you a quick boost, while pre-workouts are specifically designed to make your workout more effective. 

Another important difference is the effect of ingredients. Pre-workout supplements often have ingredients designed to help you get through the pain, and build more muscle like L-Citrulline. It is something that you will not find in energy drinks. Its primary purpose is to increase blood flow to the muscles. 

In energy drinks, the caffeine content is the masterstroke. The effect mostly relies on the stimulation of caffeine when you ingest energy drinks which is not the case with pre-workouts. Very high sugar content is a step back for energy drinks as you start crashing too soon.

Another point to be noted here is that pre-workout supplement has ingredients in grams level doses which can be taken as a limitation whereas energy drinks typically use milligram doses so that there is no residue or ingredient separation.

Know More: Do Energy Drinks make you lose weight?

Energy Drinks or Pre-workouts: The Real Deal

Energy drinks are beverages that provide you with energy, mostly as a result of natural caffeine, an ingredient with the highest concentration of every energy drink. This caffeine is a stimulant that prevents fatigue and enhances alertness.

Other than that, it contains high sugar content, vitamins, amino acid derivatives, and herbal extracts.

girl drinking pre work out drink

Caffeine takes about 45 minutes to reach your whole body and brain. It starts showing its result effectively by fueling you up with energy, improving your brain function, and making you feel refreshed at the same time.

Pre-workouts are dietary formulas that contain a mix of ingredients that boosts energy and improve athletic performance. They usually come in powdered form that you can mix with water and drink before starting your exercise session.

Pre Workouts, as the name suggests,  are usually consumed around 20-30 minutes before your workout starts. They induce immediate benefits like-

  • Increased energy and strength
  • More focus
  • Enhanced muscle endurance

Also Read: Best time to take Pre-workout for better results?

Before and after workout drink- What to choose?

As already mentioned, energy drinks contain a huge amount of sugar. The accepted RDA for sugar is –

  • 37.5 grams for men
  • 25 grams for women

A typical energy drink contains around 27 grams of sugar per serving which is already beyond the threshold for ladies and just on the brink for men. Such sugar ingestion by the body before a workout may lead to a sudden insulin spike. This results in exhaustion just after an hour of your workout.

According to the FDA, 400mg of caffeine (around 4-5 cups of coffee) is a safe daily limit for healthy adults. Many energy drinks contain even more caffeine content which can be dangerous to consume before a workout.

Since energy drinks rely mostly on sugar and caffeine for their effect, it holds less nutritional value than pre-workouts which can be modified by adding many healthy ingredients.

The pre-workout drink contains water, sodium, sugars, and sometimes potassium in proportions that help the body absorb fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat and breath while exercising. A fun fact of pre-workouts is the addition of beetroot juice into them which is known to enhance nitric oxide levels resulting in better blood flow during workouts, according to a 2017 review.

The notions are that energy drinks can be consumed before and after workouts as they enhance muscle strength, and boost energy levels and the sugar in them provides fuel for exercise.

But with all these benefits, it is important to keep in check the amount of sugar and caffeine you are consuming and how your body is accepting it.

With pre-workouts too, there are certain side effects that you need to look out for. These are-

  • Jitters
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Stomach aches
  • Bloating
  • Tingling sensation in hands or feet
  • Diarrhea

These side effects occur when you consume pre-workouts in very excess amounts. So, be it energy drinks or pre-workout, their before and after exercise use depends upon your body tolerance and the amount being consumed.

Ingredients Used In Pre Workout Vs Energy Drinks

One ingredient used in both energy drinks and pre-workouts is caffeine. In energy drinks, the caffeine is usually high – it can even be 200 to 300 mg in one drink. The source of this caffeine is Guarana. It is a South-American fruit rich in caffeine. 

In pre-workouts, you can usually add coffee on your own – may be in the form of a scoop of coffee powder. This way, you can control the amount of caffeine that goes into your body and prevent the disadvantages that come with an overdose. 

So, is a pre-workout drink better than energy drinks? If you put in healthy ingredients in healthy doses, it is! But you can always use an energy drink as a pre-workout too for a quick boost in energy.

Other ingredients used in pre-workout supplements

1) Amino acids: Pre-workouts have ingredients like green tea extract that contain several amino acids for you to enjoy. Amino acids like beta-alanine, tyrosine, BCAAs (isoleucine, leucine, and valine), and arginine get absorbed by your body fast and help in muscle building. 

For example, Beta-alanine reduces muscle fatigue by working on hydrogen ions. BCAA helps to provide energy for enhanced exercise performance and also helps in muscle recovery.

2) Beetroot extract: Beetroot in your pre-workouts helps raise the levels of nitric oxide in the body. These dilate your blood vessels and help to increase blood flow. With blood traveling easily and providing each organ their nutrients faster, your cardiorespiratory endurance increases. This endurance can be useful during a hard workout. 

3) Creatine: Taking creatine helps you get more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) around your muscle cells. This results in better muscle fiber activation, better muscle contraction, and better gains – be it in energy or size of your muscle pump. 

Some people see its results for strength even without stepping into the gym. And those who do perform some weight training slow down the loss of bone mass that comes with age. Thus, lowering their risk of suffering from osteoarthritis.

Know More: Is Pre-workout twice a day safe?

Other ingredients used in energy drinks

1) Sugar: The right amount of sugar helps in hydration and provides you with enough instant energy to have a good workout. Although, the wrong amount can lead to not just jitters, but eventually diseases like diabetes, heart problems, and obesity. 

In this game of pre-workout vs energy drinks, pre-workouts have many advantages. The primary one is that they don’t contain harmful amounts of sugar like energy drinks. 

2) Ginseng: An Asian herb, ginseng helps increase stamina, concentration, and energy at the same time. But, a few studies suggest it is not too great for endurance and so may not be as good as pre-workouts to consume before exercise.

3) Taurine: Pre-workouts have many kinds of amino acids, but Taurine isn’t one of them. This amino acid is specifically in energy drinks and works as a stimulant to increase your mental and physical performance. It is healthy unless taken in large doses.

How to use energy drinks for workouts?

Simply, start small. Do not consume large amounts of energy drinks in one go. Initiate with small doses and then keep incrementing them as your body gets acquainted with the caffeine. 

In the context of sugar ingestion, choose zero sugar, zero-calorie energy drinks if you do not want a sugar crash right in the middle of your workout. Different energy drinks have varying proportions of ingredients in them. It is suggested to choose smart mix energy drink options to suffice your energy boost as well as maintain the electrolyte balance of the body.

Benefits of Pre-Workout vs. Energy Drinks

Both Pre-workout and Energy drinks provide an instant boost of energy.  Pre-workout formulas are more suitable for, well, pre-workout.

The ultimate motive of the pre-workout is not only to provide energy but also to help sustain and endure the workout. It also helps in building muscle and can have other benefits depending on the ingredient list.

Energy drinks also provide instant energy given a high concentration of caffeine. But the entire motive of an energy drink is still nothing but energy and wakefulness at the time of consumption and can be taken any time of the day.

Pre-workout on the other hand, is meant to be taken just before hitting the gym and will provide all the required ingredients to increase stamina and will keep the action going. 

However similar the ingredients might be in the two forms, pre-workouts are way more effective for gym goers.

Can You Use Energy Drinks for Workouts?

Yes, you can but you need to understand the difference to make the right decision. Both energy drink and Pre-workout will provide you with a sudden flush of energy but the role of an energy drink is a little different than a pre-workout. 

The latter not only provides the required energy but plays a major role in increasing your stamina, muscle mass and delays fatigue during a workout. 

Whereas, when it comes to energy drinks the maximum it does is give you an energy burst. Even if the ingredient list of an energy drink is similar to a pre-workout, the concentration is way less and the formulation is diluted.

So, the crux is, you can  take an energy drink before hitting the gym once in a while. But if you are a regular gym goer or lift heavy weights, having a pre-workout makes more sense.

Take away

Both energy drinks and pre-workouts are beneficial when consumed in moderation. But if they’re not, you may get some nasty adverse effects. They are equally good at serving their purposes but the choice depends on many factors.

Make sure you know your body type and its preferences and then make the right call. Pre-workouts vs Energy drinks results in a win-win with no drink taking over another. The choice is completely yours.

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