Coffee vs Pre-Workout Supplements: What’s The Best Choice For You?

So you’re about to hit the gym, What should you drink beforehand: coffee or a pre-workout supplement?

Coffee vs Pre-workout
Coffee vs. Pre-workout supplement

While drinking water is important to your workout routine, if you want to get a little extra energy before exercise coffee or a pre-workout drink can help. Keep reading to learn more about coffee vs pre-workout drinks to see which one is best for you before you exercise.

Benefits of Coffee Before Workouts

Should you drink coffee or a supplement? You can workout without either, but both can offer an energy boost to keep you going as you exercise.

Coffee offers many benefits that can help you while you work out. You don’t have to be a huge coffee drinker to enjoy the advantages of coffee.

Here are a few pros of drinking coffee before heading to the gym for a hard workout.

1. Boosts Metabolism

Coffee contains caffeine, which can help raise your resting metabolism. The caffeine in coffee can help burn fat, and that helps your overall metabolism.

Because it raises your resting metabolism, you can eat more without gaining weight. It can also help you with weight loss. While that’s not everyone’s reason for working out, it can help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.

2. Increases Energy

Another reason you may want to drink coffee or espresso before a workout is to increase your energy. The caffeine content helps block adenosine receptors in your brain. Adenosine can make you tired.

When you consume caffeine, it can keep the adenosine from making you sleepy. Whether you have an early workout or a long session, drinking caffeine can help you push through. You won’t feel as tired as quickly as if you only had water or nothing at all.

Theobromine also occurs in coffee in small amounts, and it can also help stimulate you. However, be careful not to rely on caffeine too much. You can build up a tolerance to it, making it less effective.

Also, avoid decaf coffee if extra energy is your reason for drinking coffee.

3. Contains Antioxidants

Coffee contains antioxidants, and antioxidants can prevent oxidation. When oxidation occurs in your body, it produces free radicals. The antioxidants in coffee can keep your body from having free radicals, so you can maintain healthy cells.

Coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants in the average diet. While it doesn’t provide anything different from fruits with antioxidants, coffee can be easier to consume before a workout.

Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-Workout Supplement and Creatine
Pre-workout supplements are popular with fitness buffs

While coffee provides many benefits for your workout, so do pre-workout supplements. You can enjoy many of the same positive effects as coffee, but pre-workout drinks have a few unique benefits.

1. Improves Recovery Time

Because a pre-workout drink is specific to working out, it can have specific ingredients that help you recover during a workout. Many pre-workouts contain creatine, which can help you recover quickly. The chemical supports recovery by helping with muscle mass and overall strength.

You can take a creatine supplement on its own, but you can also take it as part of a pre-workout drink. Pre-workout drinks also have L-Citrulline, which helps your body make more creatine, and that can help you even more.

L-glutamine helps you maintain energy, and it can assist with muscle growth and repair. All of that can also help you recover more quickly from an intense workout.

2. Prevents Fatigue

Many pre-workout drinks contain cordyceps, which is a chemical that may help prevent fatigue. It can work with the drink’s caffeine content to support your existing energy. Then, you can complete your entire workout without getting too tired in the middle of it.

The presence of L-carnosine in some pre-workouts may also help prevent fatigue. If you want to get through your workout and build muscle, you may need to push through some tiring exercises.

While coffee can give you energy, it doesn’t have the same ingredients to fight fatigue. So a pre-workout drink can be a better option for some people.

3. Promotes Muscle Mass Recovery

Creatine and L-glutamine can help support the growth and repair of your muscles. If you do a lot of strength training, you should consider taking a pre-workout supplement. The supplement can support muscle growth and repair at your next training session.

While you do need to work out to build muscle mass, you can use pre-workout drinks to support that change. That way, you can make sure you get as many benefits as you can from your workout. If you like this post, you might be interested in our guide on the best coffee for energy.

Pre-Workouts Drink Supplements to Try

When comparing coffee vs. pre-workout drinks, you should explore your options. Here are a few pre-workout drink powders available on Amazon.

Kaged Muscle Pre-Workout Powder

If you’re looking for a pre-workout supplement, try Kaged Muscle Pre Workout Powder. It contains L-citrulline and beta-alanine to help you fight off fatigue and improve blood flow.

The powder also has electrolytes, like sodium and magnesium, to support hydration and fluid balance. This powder has an excellent formula for athletes, but it can help anyone during a workout.

Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout Powder

Another pre-workout to consider is Cellucor C4 Original Pre Workout Powder. The powder has 150 milligrams of caffeine per serving, which is more than you’ll find in a cup of coffee.

This powder also contains vitamin C to help support your immune system, and the beta-alanine can keep you from getting fatigued during your workout.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is another great choice. It contains caffeine, beta-alanine, and vitamin D. One serving contains close to the same amount of caffeine in two cups of coffee, and it can help you focus.

The other ingredients help support your immune system and keep you from getting fatigued during your workout.

Coffee vs Pre-Workout Downsides

While coffee and pre-workout drinks can help you, neither is perfect. Consider these factors when deciding between coffee vs. pre-workout to help get through your time at the gym.

Negatives of Coffee

Coffee is a great drink to have in the morning, but depending on your tolerance, there are a few downsides to drinking it before a hard gym session.

1. Can Build a Caffeine Tolerance

One of the biggest risks of drinking coffee often is that you can build a caffeine tolerance. When that happens, you’ll need to raise your caffeine intake to get the same energy boost. The more coffee that you drink, the more your body adjusts to that change.

If you want to use caffeine in coffee to give you energy for the gym, do so sparingly. That way, your body won’t build up a tolerance as quickly, and you can get similar benefits for a longer period.

2. Can Add Extra Calories

Another downside of relying on coffee to fuel your workouts is that it can add extra calories. Unless you like to drink black coffee, you are likely to add sugar or milk.

Drinking coffee with sugar or milk may reduce any benefits it can have for your workout. You’ll have to burn more calories to maintain or lose the same amount of weight when you use sugar in your coffee.

3. Coffee May Activate Your Bowels

Drinking excess coffee may stimulate your bowels. Normally, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But you don’t want to interrupt an intensive interval training or weightlifting session to run to the bathroom. It’ll break up your workout.

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  • Boosts metabolism
  • Increases energy
  • Contains antioxidants


  • Can build a caffeine tolerance
  • Can add extra calories
  • Coffee may activate your bowels


Negatives of Pre-Workout Supplements

When comparing coffee vs. pre-workout drinks, it’s important to look at the downsides of a pre-workout. There are multiple supplements out there that help you work out. However, many of them have similar formulas that have common effects.

1. May Cause Higher Blood Pressure

Pre-workouts and other energy drinks can raise your blood pressure. The increased blood pressure can put more strain on your heart to keep up with the excess pressure.

A recent study determined that people who drink energy drinks with certain ingredients have higher blood pressure or an irregular heart rhythm.

2. Can Cause Insomnia

If you work out in the morning, you won’t have to worry about potential sleep issues from drinking a pre-workout supplement. However, if you work out in the late afternoon or evening, you may run into problems. The amount of caffeine in many pre-workouts can keep you from falling asleep at night.

Some pre-workouts contain more caffeine per serving than coffee. If you like working out in the evening, you may want to look for drinks with less caffeine.

3. Induces Unusual Tingling

Higher quantities of beta-alanine, an ingredient in pre-workout supplements, can induce a tingling or prickling feeling on your skin.

Known as paresthesia, if you’ve never felt this before, it can serve as a distraction from working out. If this happens, you may like an energy drink instead.

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  • Improves recovery time
  • Prevents fatigue
  • Promotes muscle mass recovery


  • May cause higher blood pressure
  • Can cause insomnia
  • Induces unusual tingling


The Final Word on Coffee vs Pre-Workout Drinks

Working out can take it out of you, especially at first. Luckily, you can use a pre-workout drink to help set you up for success. But if you already drink coffee, you may wonder if it’s a good alternative.

While both offer some benefits and have some risks, a pre-workout drink is the best option. It contains caffeine to boost your energy, but it also has creatine to help build your muscles. Other chemicals in the drink can help you recover during your workout as well.

However, if you already have your morning coffee, you shouldn’t also take a pre-workout supplement. If you do, you may feel the negative effects of too much caffeine.

Instead, choose one or the other for a morning workout. Either way, you’ll get the caffeine you need to power through your workout. Then, you can have some coffee in the early afternoon if you still need some energy.

When you’re done, have a beer to celebrate!


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.