Pre Workout VS Energy Drink

Pre Workout VS Energy Drink

It’s 2020 and with the new year, we like to reflect on what’s different and what’s to come. From streaming-service wars to energy drinks, it’s hard to keep up with all the new and old companies. That’s where we come in! In this post, we’re covering some of your favorite energy drinks (like Reign™ and Monster) and their competition; the ready-to-drink (RTD) pre workout!

So what are actually going to cover? As per usual, we’ve broken it down here:

We’re going to go as in-depth as possible, but we may run into some proprietary blends along the way. So we will do our best to generalize across products when possible.

pre workout vs energy drink

Pre Workout VS Energy Drink: What’s Considered Healthy?


This is actually kind of difficult question to answer. Mainly because healthy is different for everyone.

Before we can start comparing products, we have to have a baseline of what’s ideal in our version of healthy. In our ideal energy drink, we have potent sources of energy and focus, BCAAs and/or Electrolytes (for re-hydration and muscle repair), low calories or no calories, and some great flavors without the after-a-energy-drink aftertaste.

Let’s also tackle some of the common features in RTD products…

Preservatives

Preservative ingredients are used to prevent deterioration and spoilage. It also helps extend shelf life. 

Physical methods to preserve foods and beverages include freezing, refrigerating and/or drying. The other method of preservation is through chemicals. Chemical preservation involves “additives”, but there are many naturally occurring chemical preservatives such as salts.

Some common chemical preservatives include:

  • Benzoates
  • Sorbates, including potassium sorbate, calcium sorbate and sodium sorbate
  • Propionates
  • Nitrites
  • Sulfites, including sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite and potassium metabisulfite.
  • Vitamins, including Vitamin E (tocopherol) and Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • Disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid/Calcium Disodium (EDTA) 
  • Polyphosphates- Phosphoric acid is often used in drinks to aid in flavor (adding a tanginess to the drink) and doubles as a preservative.
  • Citric Acid
  • Magnesium Lactate
  • Citrates, including potassium citrate and sodium citrate

sugar and sweeteners

Sugar, Sweeteners, and Flavoring!

The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. 

As you can imagine, there’s more to artificial sweeteners than being a sugar alternative. In fact, one animal study suggests that artificial sweetener may be addictive. (1) In general, it appears that there is a lapse in research for long term usage of artificial sweeteners. However, there are risks associated with daily consumption of drinks with high volume of artificial sweeteners, including metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. 

So what about regular sugar?

Sugar contains its own set of risks including increasing blood glucose levels and insulin, inflammatory mediators, triglyceride and other conditions. 

natural

In pre workouts and energy drinks you can find a combination of natural and artificial sweeteners. These include the following:

Sucrose & Glucose

Sucrose is a disaccharide consisting of glucose and fructose. Glucose is a simple sugar or monosaccharide. It’s your body’s preferred carb-based energy source. (2

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is a common additive in processed foods made of corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. It is very similar to corn syrup but with less sugar content. This ingredient serves several purposes; it’s a sweetener, a thickener, and a preservative. 

While the FDA has approved of maltodextrin as a safe ingredient, it is high in the glycemic index, meaning it can cause a spike in blood sugar. So anyone with diabetes should be cautious of how much maltodextrin they intake. (3

Acesulfame Potassium
Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) is a sweetener that is generally said to be sweeter than table sugar. Because it is a non-sugar sweetener, it is often used in products that are sugar-free or low-sugar. There is a controversy over the safety of Ace-K, however, the FDA has maintained that it is safe for consumption. (4)
Erythritol

Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol that is considered safe. It does not appear to have serious side effects, but consuming too much of it may cause an upset stomach. †

What about natural and artificial flavoring?

The FDA defines natural flavors as any flavor isolated from natural sources like plants. Whereas artificial flavors are any flavors not isolated from natural sources, even if they have the exact chemical composition of natural flavors. Believe it or not, many experts say that natural and artificial flavors aren’t that different. And that the drive to use natural flavors over artificial is more for marketing purposes. (5)

With that all said, let’s start comparing! For the purpose of the post, we’ll be covering the most popular flavors/styles of these products. So there may be variations between products within a brand/series.

redbull pre workout vs energy drink

Red Bull®

Red Bull® is one of the most popular energy drinks and has been for years. It features a moderate amount of caffeine to help you feel awake without feeling jittery.

At this point, you probably have a good understanding of caffeine. But, just in case we’ll still go over it.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. When it is consumed and reaches your brain, you’ll notice the effects like energy and alertness. Because of this effect you can find caffeine in a wide range of products and medications. 

But, caffeine also has some side effects. Too much caffeine can lead to headaches and jitters, as well as high blood pressure and even building a tolerance. Like most stimulants, when you build tolerance to caffeine, you’ll need more of it to gain the same benefits someone who isn’t tolerant would have. 

That’s why it’s important to cycle your caffeine usage. When you don’t cycle your caffeine you create a dependence for it. And here’s the thing, like most stimulants, caffeine is a drug and it’s a drug you can be addicted to. So the day you do forget your morning coffee or Red Bull®, you can be greeted by some withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritability, and drowsiness (6,7

Dosages:

Caffeine is considered to be safe for consumption at up to 400 mg (around 4 cups of coffee) by the Mayo Clinic. Per 250 ml can of Redbull, there is 80 mg of caffeine (7). 

water

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid found commonly in the brain. It serves multiple purposes in the body including (8): 

  • Maintaining hydration and electrolytes
  • Regulates minerals such as calcium
  • Supports the nervous system and eyes
  • Regulate immune system functions

But, taurine also may boost exercise performance studies suggest that taurine may aid in removing waste products that lead to fatigue and muscle burn. What this translates to is it being effective for promoting endurance, increasing alertness and enhancing recovery. (9

Dosage:

Taurine may be efficient when dosed at 500 to 3000 mgs. (10

Sodium Bicarbonate

The next ingredient is something we all have somewhere in our homes, sodium bicarbonate aka baking soda. So why have it in redbull? Sodium bicarbonate may actually help improve performance in high-intensity exercises (more research is needed). As well as improve muscle coordination and increase strength. (11,12

Dosage:

 Sodium bicarbonate is effective when dosed at 90 to 135 mg. (11

Magnesium Carbonate

Magnesium has a ton of functions in the body from energy creation to genetic maintenance. So it should come to no surprise it plays a role in exercise performance as well. Results are mixed within the studies, so we would need more evidence to be definitive what aspects are being improved. (13,14,15) Magnesium Carbonate, however, is used in products as a drying agent† and is a common over the counter remedy for heartburn and upset stomach (16).

Dosage:

The standard dose for magnesium is 200 to 400mg.†

monster pre workout vs energy drink

Monster

The next energy drink we’re going over is Monster. Monster’s formula features a little more ingredients than Red Bull® and almost doubles the serving size.

But, there are several ingredients that we’ve already gone over. This includes:

Which leaves:

  • L-Carnitine L-Tartrate
  • Salt
  • D-Glucuronolactone
  • Guarana Extract
  • Panax Ginseng Root Extract
  • Inositol
L-Carnitine L-Tartrate

L-Carnitine plays a crucial role in energy production by transporting fatty acids into your cells’ mitochondria. Where, your mitochondria uses these acids to create energy. (17)

There is also evidence (though mixed) that L-carnitine l-tartrate may benefit exercise performance. This may be through enhancing recovery, increasing oxygen supply, improving stamina, and reducing muscle soreness. (18,19)

 Dosage:

Doses of 2 grams or less are considered safe for most people. There are some potential side effects, including nausea and stomach discomfort. (20

Salt

Because sodium is a major salt in sweat, drinks may include sodium or other versions of salt to aid in rehydration. (21)

Dosage:

Research suggests that consuming about 450 mg or more sodium per hour of exercise is needed to maintain plasma volume and sodium levels. (21

D-Glucuronolactone

Glucuronolactone is a sugar acid that is naturally occurring in the body. This is a common ingredient found in energy drinks and pre workouts alike, but what it does isn’t very clear. There are some studies that suggest it may improve energy and alertness, but more research is needed to support this. (22

Energy

Guarana Extract

Guarana is a plant native to the Amazon with seeds that may contain four times more caffeine than coffee beans. Because of this, guarana may promote the same effects of caffeine. This includes improving energy, alertness, and may even improve metabolism. (23

 Dosage:

One of the best aspects of guarana extract is that a little goes a long way. The cognitive benefits have been noted at doses as low as 37mg to as high as 300mg. (24)  

Panax Ginseng Root Extract

Panax Ginseng is a slow-growing root that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. There are several beneficial functions of ginseng, but one that we’re most interested in is the brain functions. Studies suggest ginseng could help improve cognitive functions like memory, social functioning, and mood. (25)

Dosage:

Studies suggest that dosages from 200 to 400mg is effective for improving mental performance and calmness. (26,27)

Inositol

Inositol is a type of sugar that serves several functions, as well as play a structural role in your body’s cell membranes. It’s benefits range from aiding in anxiety disorders like panic disorder to benefiting metabolic syndrome risk factors and may help prevent gestational diabetes. However, more research is needed overall. In a pre workout or energy drink, inositol may be beneficial as a vasodilator and may aid in reducing blood pressure. (28,29,30,31)

reign pre workout vs energy drink

Reign™

Reign™ is one of the newer energy drinks to come out last year and it’s reflected in the formula. The only non-preservative ingredient we’ve already gone over is caffeine. And there is actually a significant amount of caffeine in a can of Reign™ (300 mg). So if you’re sensitive to caffeine this may not be the right drink for you.

The ingredients here that we’ve already gone over include:

The ingredients we haven’t reviewed include:

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine 
  • L-Valine
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
amino acids
L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine

L-Leucine, L-IsoLeucine, and L-Valine are often seen together and recognized under the name Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAA. BCAA’s are great for aiding in recovery and could aid in preventing oxidative damage. (32)

Instead of typical dosage, BCAAs are often referred to by their ratio. The most common (and often preferred) ratio is the 2:1:1. This means there is twice the amount of leucine than isoleucine or valine. The reason behind this ratio is because leucine may be better at stimulating protein synthesis and suppressing muscle protein breakdown than the other amino acids. (33)

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occuring nutrient in the body that acts as an antioxidant. But, it also plays a role in metabolism, ATP production, can help prevent headaches and improve exercise performance. (34,35,36)

Dosage:

There currently is no specific dosage for CoQ10, the range suggested for use is from 50 to 1,200 mg.†

5hour energy pre workout vs energy drink

5-Hour Energy

Our last OTC energy drink is more of a shot than a drink, 5-Hour Energy. This just under 2 fl oz, energy shot promises around 5 hours of increased energy. However, individual results will vary. At 200 mg of caffeine, 1 full 5-Hour Energy is around the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee. So this could be a great option for individuals looking for a quick energy boost to get through a workout shift.

Ingredients previously gone over include:

Which leaves us with:

  • Citicoline
  • N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
  • L-Phenylalanine 
  • Malic Acid
  • Choline
Citicoline

Citicoline is a nootropic compound that converts to both choline and cytidine. Like most nootropics, it may aid in boosting cognitive functions like memory and learning. (37) In fact, citicoline may even be used medicinally for cognitive impairments. (38)

Dosage:

Optimal dosages of Citicoline is around 500 to 2,000mg. (39

N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is a common focus-enhancing ingredient found in pre workouts. So it’s used to promote improved cognition. That includes attention, focus, memory, and even mood. Interestingly, researchers have found that these effects may be more prominent in individuals who are sensitive to stressors (40).

Dosage:

It appears there is no set clinical dosage for N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, however, consumers generally take between 700 to 1000 mg. †

mood boosters

L-Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is an amino acid that may improve mood, which is why it is seen being used to help depression. (41) Research also suggests that this amino acid may aid in fat oxidation (weight loss). (42)

Dosage:

Dosages of L-Phenylalanine can range. In one study, a max dose of 2,500 mg was used, but others range between 50 to100mg. (41)

Malic Acid

Malic acid is found naturally in fruits and vegetables like apples. It’s metabolized by the body to create energy.† It also may be beneficial for boosting immunity. (42) There is no standard dose of malic acid that is recommended.

Choline

There are a bunch of benefits of Choline, but what it’s most recognized for is its role in cell structure, messaging, fat transport and metabolism, and DNA synthesis and nervous system maintenance. What this translates to is improved brain functions like memory and focus (43).

Dosage:

Typical dosages for choline range between 250 to 500 mg. †

bang pre workout vs energy drink

Bang®

Bang® Energy is our first pre workout RTD, which comes from the makers of a previously popular RTD drink Redline, VPX sports. It actually comes in a RTD version and powdered, so if you rather mix your pre workout on your own or control the dosing, you can. But, Bang® isn’t the only pre workout available from VPX Sports. You can also opt for their Shotgun pre workout, which features 5 complexes to help you reach your goals.

Previously reviewed ingredients include:

That leaves us with:

  • EAAs
  • Magnesium Chloride
  • Creatyl-L-Leucine (Super Creatine)
  • Calcium Chloride

the blend

EAAs

EAAs consist of all 9 essential amino acids, including the three in BCAAs. Therefore the benefits carry over as well as having its own benefits.

This includes:

  • Increased muscle growth by stimulating protein synthesis.†
  • Decreased muscle soreness after intense workouts.†
  • Improved mood and sleep.†
  • Boosted metabolism.†
Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium Chloride is often used to treat heartburn and constipation. But, research suggests it may help relieve muscle soreness. (44)

Dosage:

The dose for Magnesium Chloride ranges from 310 to around 420 mg depending on age and sex.†

Creatyl-L-Leucine

Super Creatine consists of creatine bonded with L-Leucine. This combination may be more soluble than either component alone. Together, they may aid in increasing muscle hypertrophy, muscle strength, repair, protein synthesis and more. (45) There is no current standard dose for super creatine that is recommended.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium Chloride is often used as an electrolyte in sport drinks to aid in re-hydration. (21)

c4 pre workout vs energy drink

C4

C4 from Cellucor is another popular RTD energy drink and pre workout. While there is currently an RTD C4 for the original C4, there are also several other versions of C4. This includes C4 Ultimate, C4 Ultimate Shred, C4 Ripped,and C4 Extreme Energy.

Previously gone over ingredients include:

That leaves us with:

  • Beta-Alanine
  • L-Citrulline
  • Betaine Anhydrous
Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine may aid in buffering away lactic acid build-up. Lactic acid builds up in our muscles when we workout, causing the “burn” effect. With beta-alanine, this effect is delayed. Allowing you to continue your workout (46).

But, lactic acid isn’t all bad, lactate can be used by the mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell) for energy. Additionally, it may also be beneficial for muscle growth (47).

Dosage:

The general recommended dosage for beta-alanine is between 2 to 5 grams daily. But, to avoid the tingling sensation, you may want to opt for a lower dosage. (48)

muscle

L-Citrulline

Citrulline is a common and effective ingredient for increasing blood flow to muscles via vasodilation (49). Where vasodilation refers to the widening of arteries or veins.

Dosage:

For exercise performance, a dosage of 6 to 8 grams is recommended for citrulline. (50)

Betaine Anhydrous

Betaine Anhydrous is similar to Citrulline in that it promotes better blood flow. This can be expressed as improved body composition, increased endurance and strength output. (51)

Dosage:

A dose between 2.5 to 5 grams of betaine may be beneficial for elevating plasma betaine levels and enhance sports performance. (51)

nitraflex pre workout vs energy

Nitraflex

Nitraflex is another popular pre workout. Unlike its competitors on this post, you may not find Nitraflex RTD as easily as coming to your local 7 Eleven. The good news is that its powder version is what established Nitraflex in the pre workout game and we keep that in stock. But, like C4, there are other versions of Nitraflex available; including, Nitraflex Pump and Nitraflex Burn.

Previously reviewed ingredients include:

That leaves us with:

  • Citrulline Malate
  • L-Arginine Malate 
  • L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate
  • Calcium Fructopyranose Borate (CFB) FruiteX-B
Citrulline Malate

Citrulline Malate is another version of citrulline. So it has the same benefits of aiding in blood flow and endurance. Even the recommended dosage is the same. However, research suggests that the addition of the malic acid (represented as Malate), this version may improve stamina and reduce pain better than the citrulline alone. (52)

L-Arginine Malate & L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG)

Arginine is another endurance boosting agent. When arginine is consumed, the body converts it to Nitric Oxide, where it is then able to boost vasodilation. (53) When it comes to L-Arginine Malate VS AAKG, there are claims that AAKG may be better at absorption†. However, there is not enough research comparing these two ingredients to support this.

Dosage:

The standard dose for Arginine is 3 to 6 grams.There is no current differentiation between dosing for L-arginine malate vs AAKG.

Calcium Fructopyranose Borate (CFB) FruiteX-B

Calcium fructoborate is a form of boron that could aid in naturally boosting testosterone (54).

Dosage:

Research suggests that at the dose of 220mg daily, CFB may be beneficial for joint pain.However, there is not an established dosage for increasing testosterone. (55)  

alani nu pre workout vs energy drink

Alani Nu

Alani Nu is one of the newer brands we see rocketing in the RTD energy drinks family. Like our other pre workouts, it’s featured as both an RTD energy drink and a powdered pre workout. One of the more notable features from Alani Nu Pre Workouts, besides it’s clean and sleek design, is the variety of flavors available. From Mimosa to Hawaiian Shaved Ice, there’s a tasty drink to get you through your work-day to workout.

Previously reviewed ingredients include:

Leaving us with just:

  • Theanine
  • Gum Acacia 
Theanine

Theanine is considered an anti-stress amino acid with a “relaxation without sedation” effect. But, when combined with Caffeine, there may be a synergistic effect. Research suggests that this combination may promote heightened focus, awareness, and energy. (56)

Dosage:

The recommended dose is between 100 to 250mg of Theanine. (56)

Gum Acacia

Gum Acacia or Gum Arabic is widely used in beverages to help delay sugar crystallization, stabilizing emulsion to fat.†

pre workout vs energy drink safe

Are They Safe

Now that we’ve compared a bunch of products, what have we learned?

  • There are a bunch of ingredients that are shared between both energy drinks and pre workouts.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean better.
  • There are a ton of preservatives and sweeteners in RTD drinks.
  • Energy drinks can come with a significant amount of calories. 

It’s those last two bullet points that should make you think twice on what you’re purchasing when you’re looking for a quick fix. While calories are most certainly not the bad guy, if you’re looking to lose weight you may want to save your calories for meals over drinks. 

As for preservatives…

It should make sense that there are a ton of them in RTD drinks, afterall, they are made ready-to-drink. So the preservatives are there to maintain shelf-time. You can find preservatives in almost anything, but sometimes too many can cause some concern.

There are some reports that suggest the chemicals used in preservatives have side effects, which can range from mild to life-threatening. Some of the side effects include: Headaches, palpitations, allergies(skin rashes) or even cancer. (57

So what should you do about it? 

Do your research if you feel like you may be experiencing a side effect related to preservatives and take note if other foods cause the same response. You’ll want to avoid these products or search for better options. In general, the less preservatives in your diet, the better. 

What about sweeteners?

Like we mentioned earlier in the post, there are a bunch of artificial sweeteners that the FDA has approved of as safe. But, artificial and natural sweeteners alike, have risks. 

for the gym

Which Is More Effective For The Gym

As for the gym, you’ll want to aim for a product that’s promoting blood flow and endurance. Afterall, that’s what is really going to help you bust through PRs.

So look for products containing:

  • Forms of Citrulline
  • Forms of Arginine
  • Betaine
  • Creatine
  • Beta Alanine
  • Glycerol 

You may also want to opt for a product with nootropics or cognitive enhancers to aid in the tunnel vision effects. So ingredients like:

  • Forms of Choline (Citicoline and Acetylcholine)
  • Alpha GPC
  • Caffeine
  • Theanine
  • Panax Ginseng

bang for your buck

How To Get The Most Bang For Your Buck

 Bulk. 

It comes down to a simple principle of price-per-serving. If you’re purchasing an energy drink a day (this includes your coffee) for $4-5, you’re spending a minimum of $120 a month. Whereas you can get a case of 12 for generally around $30. Or if you really want to save money, you can purchase a powder version of a pre workout for roughly the same price as the case, but get 30 servings (or more if you don’t take a full scoop).

putting it all together

Putting It All Together

When it comes down to nitty-gritty, it’s all about your preference and what fits your lifestyle. Us at Same Day Supplements like to enjoy a variety of pre workouts and energy drinks. But, when it comes to the gym, we tend to stick with a pre workout. Thank you for reading and if there’s another product you’d like us to review, an ingredient that you think needs further elaboration, or another blog idea you want to see in the future– send us an email here or leave a comment below!

†PLEASE NOTE:

The intention of the information provided is for reference only and we are in no way providing medical advice or instruction. The information provided in this post is based on anecdotal information and available studies/reviews. While it is our goal to maintain and display accurate information, we can’t guarantee it represents the latest formulation of the product or information. Therefore, if you have any concerns, please visit the manufacturer’s website. Also, the information above is not a representation of our views at Same Day Supplements. Rather, these are the views and information provided by manufacturers and users. Also, the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. Finally, the intention of these products is not to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.