Pre-Workout Supplements vs Energy Drinks: Unveiling the Best for Your Fitness Goals

When it comes to your fitness, it can be a good idea to find something that will give you that energy boost to keep you going, especially if you’re planning on going on longer during your sessions. On one end, you have pre-workout supplements with plenty of ingredients that will increase energy.

The other end features energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster. Which of these may be the best fit for your fitness goals? The answer may or may not surprise you.

As such, it may be a good idea to carefully read through this guide. Because both pre-workout and energy drinks may affect your workouts - for better or worse. Let’s get started.

Two flavors of the Essential Pre-Workout, from RAW

What Are the Main Differences Between Pre-Workouts and Energy Drinks?

To begin, let’s ask this burning question that may be going through your mind reading this. There are plenty of differences between pre-workout supplements and energy drinks. Let’s cut to the chase and go over what they are:

Caffeine content

Both pre-workout and energy drinks contain caffeine. However, not all pre-workouts do. The major difference in this regard is that energy drinks tend to have more caffeine as opposed to an average amount of pre-workout. Also, energy drinks and some pre-workouts may be equal in this regard.

One thing to keep in mind is that pre-workout may focus less on caffeine and more on the other ingredients aimed at increasing overall performance. Energy drinks focus on the boost and not so much on the performance.

Ingredient formulation

Aside from caffeine, pre-workouts contain a variety of other ingredients, such as BCAAs and nitric oxide boosters. These are designed to increase the blood flow and oxygen that is delivered to your muscles, providing that pump that will be beneficial to muscle growth over time.

Meanwhile, energy drinks contain other ingredients such as taurine, ginseng, and guarana, among others. They may not have the number of amino acids or nitric oxide boosters that will be beneficial for a muscular pump. So, there’s an obvious winner here when it comes to getting excellent performance benefits.

Sugar content

One thing that energy drinks are notorious for is the amount of sugar it contains. This can be a huge problem for those who want to keep in step with their fitness goals, especially when one of the goals is ensuring that they maintain a healthy weight.

Sugar may cause weight gain if consumed in more than ideal doses over a regular period. Needless to say, pre-workout supplements will not have the same amount of sugar content compared to their energy drink counterparts. If anything, sugar may hurt muscle strength as opposed to helping it.

Overall effectiveness

Pre-workout can optimize exercise performance and muscle recovery. This can be due to the amount of BCAAs and nitric oxide boosters as the active ingredients. Chris Bumstead, a five-time Mr. Olympia and the face behind Raw Nutrition, knows that pre-workouts are performance-focused; thus, our pre-workouts contain plenty of high-quality ingredients to make your workouts more effective.

Energy drinks were designed for one purpose, a quick energy boost and nothing more. So, it's perhaps the one thing that fitness enthusiasts should stay away from (and for good reasons). 

What Are the Common Ingredients in Both?

Now, we’ll be taking a look at the common ingredients for pre-workout supplements and energy drinks. This will give you a good idea of what’s inside. Let’s start with a list of pre-workout ingredients:

Pre-workout ingredients


Of course, plenty of pre-workout powders have caffeine. Others, like our Pump Non-Stim Pre-Workout, do not. The important thing to remember is that this ingredient is included to increase your energy levels along with improved mental performance.

So you have just enough of an energy boost for workouts. Keep in mind that some pre-workouts have a higher amount of caffeine compared to others. One of them is our Pre Extreme, which contains 400 mg of caffeine.

Beta-alanine and nitric oxide boosters

Beta alanine is an important ingredient that will work as a nitric oxide booster. It will help expand the blood vessels allowing it to accommodate for increased blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. As a result, you get an excellent muscle pump that will make them look larger temporarily.

Of course, a pump will be useful if you intend to grow your muscles over a period of time. This ingredient is one of those “don’t leave home without it” kinds - because it’s essential to reducing muscle fatigue.


Creatine may be found in some pre-workouts. They may not be found in all of them. However, this blend of amino acids will be great for muscle growth and recovery after working out. This is an excellent ingredient for those who want to enhance their athletic performance.

Energy drink ingredients

Now, let’s switch gears and discuss the common ingredients found in energy drinks. Here’s the list right here:


Self-explanatory. Energy drinks will focus more or so on the energy boost, unlike pre-workouts, even though some energy drinks may have more caffeine content than pre-workouts (and vice versa).

Sugar and artificial sweeteners

While these are included to make the energy drinks taste great, they can harm your overall health if they are consumed to excess. As such, it is important to consume sugar or artificial sweeteners in moderation if you so choose.

Taurine and B-Vitamins

An amino acid that can also be associated with an energy boost. Also, B vitamins can play a role in boosting your energy.

A woman working out in the gym

Are Energy Drinks Bad for Your Health?

This will depend on how much you are consuming. Regular consumption of energy drinks regularly will increase the risk of adverse health conditions. This can include obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The keyword here is excess. You may have an energy drink once in a while to pick me up, and you’ll be fine. But drinking them regularly is just asking for trouble because of the high amounts of sugar that are in them.

On the other side of the coin, some of the other ingredients inside energy drinks may have certain health benefits like increased concentration and energy. However, these can also be acquired by way of a pre-workout. If you can help it, you can steer clear from energy drinks as they could be detrimental to your fitness goals.

But if you have to have one, make sure it’s in a situation where you need that quick boost of energy and fast. Moderation is the name of the game here

Is it Safe to Replace My Energy Drink with a Pre-Workout Supplement?

You can replace your energy drink with a pre-workout supplement. Pre-workouts should not be a temporary substitute for energy drinks since they may hurt the effectiveness of your physical performance. As such, it can be quite confusing for your body.

One of the best reasons to do this is that you can utilize it for the ingredients that will focus more on your athletic performance as well as your concentration and focus. The good news is that you also tend to get rid of all the excess sugar you may be consuming.

Nevertheless, you should remember that pre-workouts and energy drinks are not the same. So, all in all, it is safe. However, you’ll need to choose between one or the other at this point.

Do Natural Alternatives to Pre-Workouts and Energy Drinks Exist?

Absolutely. There are healthier energy alternatives to pre-workouts and energy drinks. The real question is, what makes it necessary to have them? It may be because you may not use one or the other because of caffeine sensitivity or maybe an allergy to the ingredients.

With that in mind, it is important to take a look at the following natural alternatives. Here’s what they are:

  • Water: Excellent for hydrating your muscles, which can also help with muscle pumping.
  • Protein and carbs: This will be found in many foods within your diet including fruits, eggs, peanut butter, meat, etc.
  • Vitamins and mineral supplements: You can take regular supplements such as vitamins and minerals like magnesium - which can be beneficial for body energy. They can also give you an energy boost. Bear in mind that fatigue may exist due to a deficiency of these vitamins and minerals.
  • Work out regularly: This can’t be explained further enough. After all, you do work out, right? Regular exercise will give you more energy compared to those that don’t.


What If You Want a Pre-Workout That Doesn’t Have Caffeine?

Here’s the rub: there are pre-workouts that contain no stimulants. For example, our Pump Non-Stim Pre-Workout is one of the best examples of what we offer for those who want to avoid caffeine while getting the best benefits out of a pre-workout. So, there is good news for those with caffeine sensitivities.

You get the best benefits, such as a muscle pump that will be beneficial for muscle growth. As for the increased energy, you can get that just by your workouts by themselves. Your exercise performance will still be just as awesome.

Frequently Asked Questions

If there are other things that we haven’t covered throughout this guide, we’ll make sure to cover them in this section. Let’s take a look at the other questions people may also be asking:

Is it OK to take a pre-workout just for energy?

No. We don’t recommend pre-workout powders for a pure energy boost. Supplements like this were designed to enhance your physical performance. Not to mention, you may deal with adverse side effects in a similar manner to caffeine overstimulation. This will happen if you take pre-workout and don’t exercise. If you need something for the sake of energy, a cup of coffee will be sufficient.

What are the side effects of energy drinks?

The side effects of energy drinks can vary from cardiac issues such as a fast or irregular heartbeat and increased blood pressure. You may experience an elevated heart rate, insomnia, anxiety, and even dehydration. Serious health issues can develop if you consume energy drinks regularly.

Are there downsides to using pre-workout?

Yes, pre-workouts also have their own downsides and side effects as well. In this case, they can cause headaches, water retention, and digestive issues such as an upset stomach. Typically this can occur if you have taken more of the recommended dosage of pre-workout. Follow the dosage directions accordingly.


Pre-workout supplements and energy drinks are two different things. While they share some things in common, one thing is for certain. One belongs, and the other doesn’t in terms of workout. If you need an energy boost, it may be wise to choose one or the other.

Ready to dominate your fitness routine with a balanced energy boost? Check out our Raw Energy Pre-Workout today.

March 14, 2024 — Aaron Napoles