coffee vs pre workout: know what to choose

What would happen if you drink a hot cup of coffee instead of a pre workout supplement before hitting the gym? I am sure an idea like this has been in your mind for a long time but you were not sure whether or not to try it.

If you are a fitness enthusiast, you must be well aware of what pre workout supplements are. They are essentially a powder form of drink that increases your energy level and overall performance when you exercise. In this way, you can maximize the output from your workout session. But over the years, the supplement industry has grown bigger and bigger along with the arrival of numerous competitors on a daily basis. There are literally thousands of pre workout supplements in the market now because of their huge popularity.

Coffee vs Pre Workout

What happens when you directly compare coffee with something else that may cause an increase in your energy and performance levels? Before getting to that point, let’s talk a bit more about pre workout supplements. You surely know that not all pre workout powders are the same though most of them are formulated with similar ingredients. These ingredients are usually put together into a specific formula that is commonly known as the proprietary blend, and sometimes, the percentage of these ingredients is disclosed or kept hidden by the manufacturers. These ingredients include Caffeine, Creatine, Beta Alanine, Amino Acid, and vasodilators like arginine and citrulline. Since the FDA does not regulate these ingredients, these supplement manufacturers have the freedom to add different ingredients any way they like and sometimes, they even add some ingredients that we have never heard of. As a result, these supplements often lack the necessary scientific evidence to prove that they do work during your workout session.

So, in order to understand what does pre workout do as a whole, you should first know what’s in pre workout to have a basic understanding of how each ingredient works and the synergy between them.


This is one of the most popular stimulants in the entire world. Caffeine is an adenosine receptor antagonist that inhibits the receptor in the brain, which allows the central nervous system (CNS) to become extra adrenalized at a cellular level. Caffeine is also addictive and the effects of withdrawal vary from person to person if they get hooked up with it. But there are a lot of benefits of caffeine consumption, such as improving memory, decreasing fatigue, and allowing your brain to function optimally just like a nootropic.

A downside to caffeine consumption is that it increases your blood pressure temporarily. Anybody with a pre-existing health complication related to blood pressure should not consume caffeine at high amounts. Consistently taking a high level of caffeine can also cause heart diseases, as it increases blood pressure and stress responses. Also, if you abuse caffeine on a regular basis, you run the risk of developing some serious symptoms like nausea, vomiting, insomnia, tremors, chest pain, and heart palpitation. So, make sure you are consuming a non caffeine pre workout drink or snack if you have any such health issues.

The typical consumption of 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day, as recommended by the experts, appears to be safe. The amount will also depend upon the individual’s caffeine tolerance level, size, genetics, and some other factors.

Also, some Pre workout supplements contain a lot of caffeine that is actually bad for your health. So, you need to know exactly how much caffeine you should consume before your workout in order to reap the benefits of pre workout.

Creatine Monohydrate

Monohydrate is the most common type of creatine found today. Creatine offers a lot of pre workout benefits that any fitness lover desires, such as it helps produce more energy, increases strength and exercise performance, helps fight neurological diseases, and it can possibly enhance bone regeneration. Of the different types of creatine out there (e.g. creatine monohydrate, tri-creatine malate, ethyl ester, micronized creatine, liquid creatine, and conjugated), creatine monohydrate is mostly studied today because of its safety and effectiveness. This is the sole reason I personally recommend this to you guys.

There is also a better version of creatine called micronize creatine that has smaller granules than the other types. These tiny granules help you with better absorption and less discomfort during consumption.

Also, creatine virtually has no side effects at all and has been proven safe many times in different studies. You can safely rule out the old studies that tell you it is dangerous to consume.


This is one of those ingredients that make your skin tingle and delay your fatigue. However, this is also true that there are no extraordinary benefits you can expect from this ingredient commonly used in pre workout supplements. Very few studies had actually proved that after taking beta-alanine, the subjects experienced 3% delay in fatigue after exercising for 1 – 4 minutes. You may say to yourself something is better than nothing but in reality, it does almost nothing and you can skip the tingling sensations unless that gets you going in the gym.

Also, taking too much Beta-Alanine could negatively impact the Taurine levels in your body because they compete with each other for uptake. If you become taurine deficient you could suffer impaired vision, depression, anxiety, hypertension, and have problems with endurance and recovery. There is also the possibility that you could even gain a lot of weight. So, is it really worth taking Beta-Alanine prior to your workout? Probably not!


Incorporating protein in form of amino acid into your diet is obviously important, but taking the BCAA pre workout supplement separately isn’t really necessary if you haven’t taken enough amount of protein during a day. If you do choose to consume BCAAs, you could gain some other benefits, such as an increased endurance level during aerobic exercises, an increase in fat oxidation and in your processing accuracy. As long as you do not take BCAAs in excess amounts and keep it to about 20 grams per day, you are good to go.

Pump & Vascularity

These supplements help vasodilate and promote blood flow in and out of the muscles. This creates strong effects during workouts, which a lot of bodybuilders and athletes enjoy because it makes them look bigger and bring about that vascularity if they have a low percentage of fat. This can also lead to an increase in their performance and reduced fatigue levels. However, you also have to be careful about your dosage because too much of these could lead to low blood pressure, which could be dangerous. So, always maintain the recommended dose for these kinds of supplements.

A More Natural Option – Coffee!

The health benefits of coffee include protecting yourself from type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. It can also help cure certain types of cancers, maintain a good rhythm of your heart, and fight against strokes. Since coffee contains a large amount of caffeine that I have discussed at the beginning of this article, taking a cup of before a workout can help you burn more fat by accelerating the fat loss process. It can also help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite. This is really important for gym-goers because if you start to feel hungry during your training session, your overall performance could suffer due to exhaustion.

The large amount of caffeine present in coffee can also take your performance in the gym to the next level by reducing body pain and even changing the perception of fatigue. It can sense and reduce pain in advance. For example, if your muscles are sore, coffee can help you push past that pain. However, you have to be careful about over-exercising. Coffee can also help improve your focus which is an important part of training.

It also contains a host of antioxidants that can help clear your body from free radicles and protect against some serious health conditions. Lastly, the best part of the coffee is that it is totally natural and all you have to do is make sure that you get good quality coffee.

So, What Should You Take? Pre-workouts or Coffee?

After this coffee vs pre workout discussion, I personally would suggest that you take coffee all year round and pre workout supplements occasionally.  Why? Because coffee is safe and we have been drinking coffee for ages. The health benefits of coffee are clearly proven and it is much safer than those supplements.

Although both pre workouts and coffee contain caffeine, pre-workouts mostly contain the synthetic and lab-made version of caffeine called caffeine monohydrate. On the other hand, pump products and vasodilators are great for temporary pump effects but they really don’t do too much in terms of increasing your performance or endurance as a whole.

The only part of pre-workout supplements that really wins is the effect of creatine. But creatine is usually underdosed in most of these supplements. Creatine is also very cheap to buy in its micronized form. However, caffeine found in coffee has many effects in preventing many diseases and I have never heard of someone protecting himself from those health conditions by taking pre-workout supplements.


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