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Coffee vs Pre Workout – Is Pre Workout or Coffee Better Before Exercise?

coffee vs pre workout before exercise
Hello! This website participates in affiliate programs (Amazon affiliate program, etc) to fund its existence. Also, I am not a doctor and I do not provide medical advice. I am a professional basketball player, Certified Personal Trainer, and Masters Student in Nutrition Education. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Review Disclaimer for more information.

Coffee and pre workout supplements are both excellent options to drink before workouts or training sessions if you are looking for an extra boost of energy.

For natural pre workout products, there is not more potent option than drinking coffee before exercise. However, there are numerous pre workout products that are “stronger” than coffee, and they contain other beneficial ingredients as well.

However, the debate about coffee vs pre workout before training does not only involve milligrams of caffeine.

Choosing to use coffee or a pre workout product before training is an excellent way to improve your workout quality, build an aesthetic body, and produce better results overall. Realistically, either will help you obtain your goals.

Although you can drink either a pre workout supplement or coffee before exercising each day you are going to have to choose one or the other.

If you want to know whether drinking coffee or pre workout supplements before training will be better for you, keep reading below!

Important Differences in Coffee vs Pre Workout Supplements

Depending on which pre workout supplement you use, unless you use a stimulant free pre workout, pre workout supplements usually will contain at least twice as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. However, the caffeine content is very much dependent on which pre workout product you use, and how many cups of coffee you drink.

Most cups of coffee contain around 60-80mg of caffeine per cup, and you could choose to drink two or three cups before your workout if necessary. Contrarily, most pre workout products contain 150mg-300mg of caffeine, which is significantly more.

If you need a stronger jolt of energy, choose a pre-workout with a higher amount of caffeine.

When comparing pre workout vs coffee, their main differences are that coffee contains natural antioxidants (such as chlorogenic acid), and pre workout supplements contain additional helpful ingredients such as amino acids.

Depending on your regular diet, you can make a decision which is more important for you. If your diet already consists of a lot of foods high in antioxidants, you might not need the extra antioxidants from coffee and prefer the amino acids and other compounds of a quality pre workout supplement.

Keep reading below to learn a few more specific benefits of both coffee and pre workout supplements, and see my decision on which product wins the battle of coffee vs pre workout!

Drinking Coffee Before Workouts – The Benefits of Coffee as Pre Workout

drinking pre workout vs coffee before exercise

To understand whether a pre workout product will make a positive impact on your workout of the day or not, you also need to consider the pre workout ingredients.

However, with coffee, nearly all types of (real) coffee will produce the same results. More expensive organic coffee is better for you, but even a cup of coffee from McDonald’s before exercising can provide you similar benefits as the most expensive option.

However, my only suggestion is that you stay away from coffee drinks from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts which contain loads of artificial sugar. According to a report from the University of Delaware Food & Nutrition Education Lab,

“coffee drinkers who add artificial sweeteners tend to have higher BMIs and larger waists compared to those who do not. Those who use very minimal additives or none at all benefit from better blood pressure, cholesterol and weight maintenance.”

If you are going to choose to drink coffee instead of a pre workout product, choose to drink black coffee, coffee which contains only real sugar, or Bulletproof Coffee.

If you want to try my personal coffee recipe which is my favorite for drinking before exercising, the recipe is:

  • Organic Coffee
  • Coconut Oil
  • Maple Syrup
  • Cinnamon

Compared to coffee drinks from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, my recipe contains more healthy dietary fats, and a lower glycemic index sugar (maple syrup). I used to drink more traditional Bulletproof Coffee, but I prefer my new recipe even more.

Now, check out these benefits of drinking coffee before you head to a workout!

Improved High-Intensity Exercise Performance

Although there are numerous other health benefits of coffee, the most pertinence to our current topic is that coffee improves performance when performing high-intensity exercise.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine,

“results showed that ingestion of caffeinated coffee: decreases the time taken to run 1500 m (P less than 0.005); increases the speed of the ‘finishing burst’ (P less than 0.005); and increases VO2 during the high-intensity 1500-m run (P less than 0.025).”

Although this study only focused on running, it is likely that the benefits will apply to other forms of high-intensity exercise as well.

I often drink coffee before basketball practices, weight lifting sessions, my morning walks, and other activities.

Increased Fat Burning and Weight Loss

One of the other main benefits of drinking coffee before a workout is that it can help you burn more calories and lose more weight. Although coffee has additional useful properties, the caffeine content in coffee alone can help you increase your ability to lose weight.

According to a study in Obesity Reviews,

“caffeine ingested (coffee and pure caffeine), prior to an exercise bout, significantly elevated fat oxidation rates as well as performance.”

Related Reading: The Best Weight Loss Coffee

Chlorogenic Acid

One of the main benefits of drinking coffee at any point during your day is the chlorogenic acid content.

As stated in a study produced in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine,

“Chlorogenic acid (CGA), one of the most abundant polyphenol compounds in the human diet, is a group of phenolic secondary metabolites produced by certain plant species and is an important component of coffee. Accumulating evidence has demonstrated that CGA exerts many biological properties, including antibacterial, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic activities.”

Consuming chlorogenic acid through drinking coffee is an excellent way to improve your health, and one of the main reasons that you should try drinking coffee before your workouts.

The Best Pre Workout Coffee

Although there are a few options for what I would consider my favorite coffee to drink before training, if I had to choose one, I suggest everyone try Puroast Low Acid Coffee.

The main reason that I chose this as my favorite coffee is that it contains 70% less acid than other coffees! As stated on their product,

“Puroast Coffee is for people that drink more than one cup of coffee a day, Puroast is THE specialty coffee that allows you to drink more coffee throughout the day without the bitter side effect because its unique roasting process yields less acid, more antioxidants, and a smooth, rich flavor.”

Besides the acid content, Puroast also contains 7x as many antioxidants as the average cup of green tea due to the unique processing of Puroast Coffee.

Puroast Low Acid Ground Coffee, House Blend, High Antioxidant, 2.5 Pound Bag
2,869 Reviews
Puroast Low Acid Ground Coffee, House Blend, High Antioxidant, 2.5 Pound Bag
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Benefits of Pre Workout Supplements Instead of Coffee Before Exercise

drinking pre workout vs coffee before workout

If you don’t like the taste of coffee, or you have an allergy to coffee, pre workout supplements are an excellent option!

Unlike coffee, you can get pre workout supplements with a wide range of tastes, ingredients, and effects.

There are literally thousands of pre workout products in existence, and I have probably tried at least 100!

Check out these benefits of using pre workout products.

Pick Your Caffeine Content

Unlike coffee, which generally contains the same amount of caffeine in each cup, you can find an enormous range of stimulant levels in pre workout products. You can find products that provide stimulant-free energy, or you can find a pre workout product with 400mg of caffeine per serving!

Whether you need more caffeine to get you in the gym or less, choosing to purchase your own pre workout product gives you the freedom you need.

Nitric Oxide Boosters (Get the Pump)

One of the main benefits of using pre workout products compared to simply drinking coffee before training is that pre workout supplements often contain nitric oxide boosters which help you get a better “pump” in the gym and improve muscle growth in other ways as well.

For example, one notable nitric oxide boosting supplement is citrulline malate. According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine,

“Citrulline Malate (CM) ingestion resulted in a significant reduction in the sensation of fatigue, a 34% increase in the rate of oxidative ATP production during exercise, and a 20% increase in the rate of phosphocreatine recovery after exercise, indicating a larger contribution of oxidative ATP synthesis to energy production.”

Unique Range of Ingredients

Aside from these two standard components of most pre workout products, you can also find pre workout products with a variety of other ingredients as well.

For example, if you are also looking to lose weight, you can find a pre workout product that contains L-Carnitine or other well-known fat-burning products.

If you want to build as much lean muscle mass as possible, you can use a product that contains ample amounts of Creatine Monohydrate and maybe some additional carbohydrates.

Regardless, I do not doubt that you can find a pre workout product with precisely the type of ingredients you are looking for because there are so many options!

Unfortunately, I cannot choose only one pre workout product which I would call my favorite.

However, I can narrow it down to a few options.

Based on what I believe are the best pre workout ingredients, one of my favorites is Pre Jym by Jim Stoppani PhD. I used Pre Jym a lot during the last year, and it deserves to be called one of the best pre workout supplements.

Pre Jym hits all of the best pre workout ingredients I suggest you have in a pre workout product, and it has many other great ingredients as well! Although it is not the most “natural” pre workout product, it gives you an awesome pump and incredible energy for your workouts.

Pre JYM Pre Workout Powder - BCAAs, Creatine HCI, Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, Betaine, and More | JYM Supplement Science | Tangerine Flavor, 20 Servings
2,948 Reviews
Pre JYM Pre Workout Powder - BCAAs, Creatine HCI, Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, Betaine, and More | JYM Supplement Science | Tangerine Flavor, 20 Servings
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  • MENTAL FOCUS - Caffeine and Huperzine A have been suggested to naturally enhance mental focus....
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My other favorite pre workout supplement is RSP Nutrition Amino Lean. I like this product because it contains BCAAs, an ample amount of caffeine (from green tea), and additional L-Carnitine for more fat burning.

RSP Vegan AminoLean - All-in-One Natural Pre Workout, Amino Energy, Weight Management - Vegan BCAAs, Preworkout for Men & Women, Cucumber Lem, 25 Serv
2,140 Reviews
RSP Vegan AminoLean - All-in-One Natural Pre Workout, Amino Energy, Weight Management - Vegan BCAAs, Preworkout for Men & Women, Cucumber Lem, 25 Serv
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Lastly, if you would like to use a stimulant free pre workout supplement, I suggest The Genius Brand Pre Workout.

Genius Pre Workout Powder – All Natural Nootropic Preworkout & Caffeine Free Nitric Oxide Booster w/Beta Alanine & Alpha GPC | Boost Focus, Energy & NO | Muscle Builder Supplement – Essential Herbs
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Concluding Thoughts – Pre Workout vs Coffee Before Exercising

As you can see, there are numerous unique benefits of using either pre workout or coffee before exercise.

However, I’d have to say I prefer coffee over pre workout supplements. Pre workout supplements might do more for some people, but I prefer coffee because it is more natural.

Depending on your goals and needs, either coffee or a pre workout supplement will probably be better for you.

Regardless, both coffee and pre workout supplements can make a significant positive impact on your workout performance, and they can both be a part of achieving your fitness goals!

Read Next: Best Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain


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Adam Kemp
Hello! My name is Adam Kemp. I am a professional basketball player and an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer. In 2014 I graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in Communications, and for the last seven years, I have played professional basketball in Europe. I am also an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, and I am currently completing my Masters of Science in Nutrition Education at American University. The health and fitness tips you can find throughout the articles I have written include information I have learned throughout my basketball career, academic studies, and my own personal research. If you would like to learn more about my life, please take a moment to follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

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