Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which is better?

Let’s all be honest, some days we go to the gym feeling like a zombie. Sometimes you just get off of work tired, had a family emergency, or you just didn’t sleep well.

And sometimes, you may be planning to hit some serious PRs- and there’s no way you’ll hit that new bench max without some serious energy in you.

Or maybe you’ve just plateaued. I’ve been there, and you just need that energy to push through and force those muscles to grow.

Coffee and Pre Workout are both consumed to boost our energy. They utilize caffeine, the most consumed performance enhancer in the world.

But, while they share that similar ingredient- they couldn’t be further apart.

While some bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger preferred coffee for a workout (and I do too!) many other bodybuilders prefer a good ol’ reliable C4 Sport Pre Workout.

So, Coffee vs Pre Workout- which one is better? If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here’s what you need to know:

Using coffee as a pre-workout will save you a ton of money down the road, give you around the same energy, and has better nutrients for your health. However, it is slightly weaker and may upset your stomach. Using normal pre-workout will give you a little more energy and be easier on the stomach, but it is a little more expensive. Pre-workout is also much more convenient than brewing coffee.

But, let’s cover this more in-depth and help you decide- Coffee vs Pre Workout – which one should I take?

Coffee vs Pre Workout - Which is better?
Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which is better?

Why Should You Take Pre Workout?

Look, the first few weeks/months of working out are honestly some of the easiest.

I swear, your body feels like Superman in that gym. Then, the superman strength dissolves and you feel tired, groggy, and sluggish whenever you try to pick up those weights.

And that’s not to mention if you’ve had a long day at work, slept badly, or you’re feeling a little sick.

Pre workout will give you a ton of energy before a workout, which is much appreciated.

Working out while tired is just dreadful, in my opinion. I would rather just skip the entire workout completely. Simply put, it’s just such a drag to keep mentally forcing yourself to push all that heavy weight when you’re just empty on energy.

That’s part of the reason I’ve been notorious for using pre-workout. Often, I don’t sleep well, have something come up, or just get off work exhausted.

Pre-workout gives me that much-needed energy boost to crush those weights. Even if I was having a bad day, it sets me straight and gives me that intense focus and strength to make sure that I get a good workout in.

And personally, nothing is more demoralizing to me than a bad workout. It just kind of ruins my whole day- so I do whatever I can to avoid it. The gym is my therapy- so it’s important I can always come with energy.

So even if you don’t want to use it every day, it’s sometimes better to just have it as a backup in case something comes up. None of us can predict the future, sometimes it’s better to have it when you need it after a long day at work than need it and not have it.

Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which Gives More Energy?

The most important part of a pre workout is- how much energy does it give? No point in drinking coffee for your pre workout if it feels like you just sipped some Sleep Tea and you’re going to doze off after.

Coffee and Pre Workout generally give around the same energy, actually. The thing is, most of the energy just comes from the caffeine content itself- nothing else. So, as long as you are brewing enough coffee beans to match your pre-workout’s caffeine content, you’ll have roughly the same amount of caffeine.

But there are two main problems:

  • It can sometimes be hard to brew those coffee beans, or put shots of espresso in your coffee.
  • Pre-workout generally contains different ingredients that boost your energy in the gym.

Pre Workout Contains Chemicals That Give More Energy and Endurance

So, caffeine is the main source of all the energy you’re getting when you sip either coffee or pre workout.

Pre workout sets itself apart from coffee by including chemicals that give more energy and endurance.

I went super in-depth about this in my C4 Sport Pre Workout Review, but I’ll try to summarize it here to save your time.

Basically, there are ingredients in the pre workout that make your muscles push longer and stronger.

For instance, one of the chemicals causes your muscles to not feel as tired when reaching ‘muscle failure’- allowing you to often get 1-2 more reps per set.

They also include many things that help naturally stimulate muscle growth like BCAAs, and stimulate ATP which brings you more energy during a workout.

The Energy Increase is Tiny, But It’s There

Honestly, the energy increase is negligible at best. The only thing I really like is how you can usually squeeze out 1 extra rep on each set on average.

On a normal workout day, it’s not that important. But if you’re trying to hit some new PRs and increase your bench press, squat, or deadlift- it might be something to note.

The point is, while the energy increase is tiny, it still gives the pre workout a tiny edge.

So, on my days, I know I’ll need all the strength I can get. I’ll bring some of my pre workout with me to the gym and drink it 20 minutes before I hit my max, that way I get all that energy again and I can have that extra rep in the tank in case things go south.

Brewing Enough Coffee Beans to Match Pre Workout Can be Tough

One C4 Sport Pre Workout scoop contains 135 mg of caffeine.

A typical 8 oz cup of coffee will contain 80-100 mg of caffeine. So, you’re going to have to brew that coffee longer, or add more beans, or use a different blend.

Regardless, it can be a hassle sometimes to match the caffeine content of pre workout. And that’s not to mention how awful the taste of coffee can be if you put too many coffee beans into a small cup.

Personally, I just don’t even try to match the caffeine content. Some of my friends just put a shot of espresso in and it does them wonders- they like the taste.

But for me, I think 135mg of caffeine is way too much anyways. I just need an energy BOOST, not EXPLOSION.

Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which has more nutrients?

One of the most important parts of a good pre workout choice is the nutrients you have in it.

Coffee is actually very healthy for you and has many powerful nutrients in it like:

  • Vitamin B2
  • Niacin
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B5
  • Maganese
  • Potassium

It’s also known to help burn fat and reduce the chance of things like heart disease.

Pre Workout, on the other hand, has generally things more focused towards the gym itself:

  • Beta Alanine – Which helps you get that extra rep or two in.
  • Creatine – Which helps your muscles look bigger.
  • Taurine – Helps regulate bodily functions.

At the end of it all, coffee has the better nutrient profile. But, the pre workout definitely pulls its’ weight with creatine and beta alanine, which are both super important nutrients when it comes to the gym.

For this round, I’ll have to call it a draw. The pre workout has nutrients that are better for the gym, and the coffee has nutrients better for your health. It’s hard to say one is better than the other.

Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which is cheaper?

Now let’s be real here, bodybuilding can be a super expensive sport. Gym prices, commuting, all the food, my gosh- I try to cut costs where I can.

If you’re looking to cut prices on your gym membership, try Active & Fit Direct, you can get a gym membership that works at nearly every gym in the US for literally $25/month. I use it myself, and it has saved me literally thousands.

There’s no point in paying for pre workout if it’s $1000/box, right? So, let’s compare the price of that to the price of coffee.

I will be comparing the price of the most common pre workout, C4 Sport Pre Workout with the price of coffee that you buy the beans/grounds for. This way, we are looking at the most common way of enjoying coffee. (Basically, I won’t be saying you’re buying $10/day Starbucks for pre workout!)

The Price of Pre Workout

Now, prices can vary on location to location. I live in a place that is fairly average on prices, if you’re in California or Hawaii things will be different. (But that’s something to note too, coffee is EVERYWHERE and always super cheap!)

Typically, a normal tub of C4 Sport Pre Workout will be $20. A normal tub has 30 servings.

This means, every scoop of pre workout (or use, I guess) will cost you $0.67. Keep that in mind while we discuss coffee.

The Price of Coffee

Coffee is a little different. Coffee is the most consumed beverage after water in the world. Coffee is a cultural thing for all humans, no matter what part of the world you come from.

Because of this, coffee is actually really cheap since it has such high demand and high supply to match the fact that literally everybody wants it!

Now, if let’s just assume you buy some stuff at Walmart. Folgers, for instance- though not sponsored!- it will get you around 200 servings for $10.

That means every time you use that coffee as pre workout, you’re spending $0.05.

So, that is literally 1/14th of the price you’d be spending on pre workout. That already sounds big now, imagine the savings over years.

The Winner? Coffee! It is 1/14th of the price.

The winner of this round is coffee. It is literally 1/14th of the price of pre workout.

Let’s assume you work out 4 times a week. You’ll average 4 scoops of pre workout a week, and 4 scoops of the coffee each week.

That is 16 scoops each month, 192 scoops per year.

If you were only using pre workout, you’d spend $128 annually on pre workout.

Assuming you’re using coffee as a pre workout, you’d spend a little less than $10 annually.

That’s right, by just using coffee as a pre workout- you’d save $180 a year. Coffee definitely wins this round.

Coffee vs Pre Workout – Taste

Again, it wouldn’t matter if pre workout did more for you if it tasted awful.

Thankfully, none of these options taste completely horrible.

If you don’t like the flavor of coffee alone, you can add creamer, sugar, and/or milk. I used to add milk in mine for that extra 8g of protein every morning.

For pre-workout however, they typically choose fruitier flavors like strawberry, fruit punch, and blueberry. If you aren’t really into those flavors, you might want to avoid pre workout.

However, I’d say that on both ends, they taste fine. And if you don’t like the taste, usually you can alter it in a way to make it work for you.

So for this round? Both sides win.

Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which is easier on the stomach?

Ah, here’s one that most people don’t consider.

Normally, when you drink coffee- you aren’t going to perform strenuous exercise right after.

But, for some of us with more sensitive stomachs, we need to keep in mind that coffee isn’t always the best thing before trying to squat 400 lbs.

Pre workout creators know that you’re going to use the drink to workout hard and heavy, so they engineer pre workout to not affect your stomach so much.

In fact, even as someone that has a hard time eating fruits- their fruit flavors don’t even affect me. It feels like I’m drinking water it goes down so easily.

For this round? Pre workout definitely takes the win. Some of us are not going to be able to work out effectively with coffee in our stomachs.

Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which one is the easiest to make?

Another one people may consider.

I love the gym, a lot- so I really don’t like wasting a ton of time in the morning before I go.

Sometimes, the convenience of pre workout is underappreciated. You take a scoop, put it in your water bottle, then add water. It’s that simple.

Coffee on the other hand can be a little more intricate. You have to get hot water, grind up coffee beans, let them brew in the water for minutes, let the coffee cool down- et cetera. It can take 5-15 minutes to get that coffee ready.

Even if you just have a coffee machine, it still takes quite a bit of time for the whole process to get done.

If you’re in a rush, pre workout is much simpler to take.

I used to have a limited amount of time to go to the gym before it closed after school. I had to take pre workout during class because I can’t really just get up and start brewing some coffee- right?

That’s something you might want to consider, do you have time to make coffee before you go to the gym? Or, do you have a limited amount of time where a quick scoop that will get your pre workout ready in 5 seconds easier for you to work with?

Coffee vs Pre Workout – Which one should YOU take?

Honestly, it depends on what you like.

If you’re a big fan of coffee (my fiance LOVES her coffee and drinks it religiously every morning) then just go with that. It will save you money, it’s familiar, and it gives you about the same amount of energy.

But, if you don’t like coffee that much, maybe you get an upset stomach from it- or maybe you just want something that doesn’t require all that time brewing, then pre-workout may be better for you.

Personally, I have both on standby. I’ll usually just use my morning cup of coffee to power me through the gym, but if I end up going to the gym late at night or I need a little extra ‘oomph’- then I’ll reach towards the pre workout.

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