Pre-Workout vs. Coffee: Which Is Better?

March 28, 2023

Are you looking for the perfect pick-me-up to get you through your workout? You may be wondering whether pre-workout or coffee is the better choice.

Pre-workout and coffee have the most effective performance-enhancing ingredient, caffeine. However, caffeine dose varies in coffee, and pre-workout has additional ingredients to potentially improve other areas of performance.

So, how do you know if you should use pre-workout or coffee before training, and is there much of a difference between the two for performance?

Is Pre-Workout Healthier Than Coffee?

Pre-workout supplements and coffee both contain caffeine, known for its energy-boosting properties. For example, caffeine improves sprint performance and power output by 6.5% and increases the number of reps lifted at a given load by 9.4% [1].

Further, 2.2% endurance performance improvements are seen compared to placebo [2]. But when it comes to health, there are a few factors to consider. Pre-workouts often contain additional ingredients like amino acids, creatine, and beta-alanine that can provide extra benefits.

However, they can also include artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives, which may not be ideal for those looking for a cleaner option. On the other hand, coffee is a natural source of caffeine and antioxidants. Still, adding milk, cream, or sweeteners can also be high in calories and sugar.

If health is a primary concern, opting for a pre-workout with minimal artificial additives and enjoying black coffee without added sugar can keep both options healthier. For example, organic pre-workouts like Paleo Pro’s Power Coffee fit this description.

Can You Drink Coffee Instead Of Pre-Workout?

Can You Drink Coffee Instead Of Pre-Workout

For many athletes and fitness enthusiasts, coffee can be an effective alternative to pre-workout supplements. However, it’s essential to be aware that coffee may only provide part of the spectrum of benefits that some pre-workout supplements offer.

For example, pre-workouts often contain ingredients to boost blood flow and endurance performance, like L-citrulline. Further, coffee has varying levels of caffeine depending on the type of coffee and how it’s brewed.

Caffeine in an 8 oz coffee ranges between 60-90 mg [3]. Therefore, you may not want to vary your dose from session to session. Therefore, a pre-workout supplement may be a better option.

Can You Take Pre-Workout And Coffee?

Combining pre-workout and coffee might seem like a good idea for an extra energy boost. Still, it’s essential to consider the potential risks. The primary concern when mixing the two is the amount of caffeine you consume.

Excessive caffeine intake can lead to side effects such as jitteriness, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and even more severe health issues. You’re better off using one or the other as a stimulant for training.


The decision between pre-workout and coffee ultimately comes down to your personal preferences, fitness goals, and tolerance to caffeine. Coffee may be your best bet if you’re looking for a natural, simple option with a caffeine kick. However, a pre-workout could be the way to go if you want a supplement designed to enhance various aspects of your workout.

If you’re in the market for a pre-workout, check out the best pre-workout for beginners article for my complete guide to the ultimate energy-boosting supplements.


1. Astorino, T. A., & Roberson, D. W. (2010). Efficacy of acute caffeine ingestion for short-term high-intensity exercise performance: a systematic review. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(1), 257-265.

2. Southward, K., Rutherfurd-Markwick, K. J., & Ali, A. (2018). The effect of acute caffeine ingestion on endurance performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine48(8), 1913-1928.

3. van Dam, R. M., Hu, F. B., & Willett, W. C. (2020). Coffee, caffeine, and health. New England Journal of Medicine383(4), 369-378.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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