Best energy drink for the gym (for workout freaks)

When I think of the gym and the amount of motivation it takes to go every day, energy drinks can be a useful gym buddy to help get me there and getting the most out of my workouts.

There are so many pre-workouts and energy drinks to choose from though, which one should you choose and which one is best for you?

This article will provide you with a quick rundown of the most common questions that you might have so that you’ll be best informed to decide which energy drink is the best for YOUR workout.

So let’s get started!

Things to look for when buying energy drinks

As soon as you enter your local store you see racks of energy drinks filled with colorful packages all somehow claiming to be the best.

So how do you choose your best gym energy drink for every day use?

In my opinion, the most important thing is to know which ingredients are included in the energy drink that you’re considering, and in what amount.

The List below will help you through this process:

  • caffeine content
  • sugar content
  • Other ingredients
  • price

Caffeine content

Caffeine is perhaps the most important ingredient in an energy drink, particularly if you’re serious about your gym workout.

This study published in the Wiley Online Library found that resting energy expenditure (REE) was increased in people who consumed caffeine versus the control group.

Many other studies have found the same thing, and it’s widely accepted that this increased REE helps weight loss if caffeine is combined with exercise.

It’s important to note that caffeine consumption on its own is not sufficient to burn fat, despite the increase in REE and some brands trying to make you believe that simply drinking their energy drinks will be enough for you to shred up.

But, what if you don’t need to lose weight and you just want to have a good amount of energy to fly through your sets without feeling fatigued?

Well, caffeine is still definitely important.

The right amount of caffeine can be the difference between getting that last rep out versus not even bothering with your final set.

If you overdo it, too much caffeine can be counter-productive and leave you feeling unable to think straight and nauseous.

Other studies have shown that caffeine also has a positive affect on your mind when combined with exercise. Just another reason to add it to your workout routine!

In my opinion, the perfect amount of caffeine is between 50mg and 100mg per serve. Any more than that and I sometimes feel hot flushes and find it to be a bit overpowering.

Although caffeine has very useful properties, that definitely doesn’t mean that more is better.

I recommend that you stick with the FDA recommendation which is no more than 400mg per day

Caffeine: A great ingredient for boosting energy
Caffeine: A great ingredient for boosting energy.

Sugar Content

Sugar is a key energy-boosting ingredient in some (but not all) energy drinks.

Whether or not you want sugar in your energy drink is going to be up to you because there are certainly pros and cons to it.

I would like to stick with something with very low sugar or no sugar at all.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25g of sugar per day for healthy adult females and no more than 37.5g per day for healthy adult males.

The good news is that if you would rather avoid sugar completely, there are plenty of good sugar-free energy drinks to choose from.

Other Ingredients

It’s a good idea to read the label of an energy drink before deciding to buy or drink it.

Some of the included ingredients might not agree with you, while others might be present in very large (or very small) quantities.

To help consumers better understand what they’re drinking, the American Beverage Association (ABA) set guidelines and make it compulsory for any beverage companies to display their ingredients clearly on their cans.

Ingredients of a Coca Cola Energy drink.
Looking through the ingredients of one of the very first Coca Cola Energy drinks when it was only available in parts of Europe. Good luck reading Hungarian!

Price

When I think of price I want a good deal.

I’m not looking for a low-quality, cheap option, but if I can find a good quality product for a lower price that’s obviously better than shelling out more than I need to. I’m sure you’re probably the same.

Be aware that there are many brands out there that are no better than some of the more affordable brands. The price tag is not a reflection of higher quality or superior ingredients.

There are lots of great energy drinks that won’t break the bank if you know where to find them.

My personal favorite is REIZE, which costs only around $1 per drink including shipping right to your door, but more on that later.

Are energy drinks before a workout good or bad?

Energy drinks consumed before a workout are good.

This study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine found that people who consumed a supplement containing caffeine, taurine and other ingredients 10 minutes before exercise were able to complete more reps with more power than the placebo group.

Other research shows that caffeinated drinks and exercise lead to a range of benefits and improvements versus the placebo group.

Remember to stay within the FDA recommendations of no more than 400mg of caffeine per day and always read the label of the energy drink that you’re considering using to see what other ingredients are included.

Do energy drinks help you workout?

Yes, energy drinks do help you workout.

As mentioned above, many studies have shown that caffeinated drinks that include the ingredients commonly found in many energy drinks result in more reps, more power, better endurance and better cognitive performance to boot.

Can I drink Red Bull before gym?

Yes, you can drink Red Bull before gym.

Red Bull is a perfectly fine choice to drink before the gym. With 80mg of caffeine per regular 8.4 fl.oz can, it will give you a nice boost.

It’s best to drink Red Bull about 30 minutes before getting started with your workout if it’s your energy drink of choice.

However, in my opinion, there are better options than Red Bull because it contains a bit too much sugar for my liking – 27g per can.

Keep in mind the AHA recommendations of no more than 25g of sugar per day for women and 37.5g per day for men. That’s your entire daily quota from ALL food and drink sources.

You see the problem here…

If you’re wondering if it’s safe to drink Red Bull every day, check out my other article where I cover everything you need to know all in one place.

Homemade energy drinks for the gym

Here’s a list of energy drinks that you can prepare yourself at home if you’re looking for a more natural energy boost.

  • Iced Tea
  • Coconut Water
  • Green Mango Drink
  • Banana Smoothie
  • Spinach, Pineapple and Apple

Pre-workouts Vs energy drinks

It can be a little confusing knowing exactly where the line is between energy drinks and pre-workouts.

Here’s a general rule to make it simple: pre-workouts contain a lot more caffeine than energy drinks.

If that’s your thing, great. But I prefer to be able to think straight and not feel like I might vomit mid-way through a workout, so I prefer to go for the more sensible lower-caffeinated options.

Truth is, energy drinks make perfectly fine pre-workouts, even if they get you less wired – which I think is a good thing.

For many pre-workouts, it’s simple to know where they belong – energy drink or pre-workout.

However, for some brands, I’m not even entirely sure myself. Again, this just goes to show that there really isn’t much of a difference in the list of ingredients.

The main way to tell them apart is caffeine content and I guess also their marketing and branding.

but there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t use any energy drink as your pre-workout. And you’ll have a better workout for doing so compared to not having anything or having something that’s too strong and makes you feel sick.

Use what works best for you.

Are pre-workouts better than energy drinks?

No, pre-workouts are not “better” than energy drinks for most people.

Some people who are elite bodybuilders or athletes may find that pre-workouts are better than energy drinks because they really want the extra caffeine (and often some other scary ingredients that I would rather not put in my body) to get that extra set out.

For the vast majority of people, energy drinks will be just as “good” or better than using a pre-workout.

It comes down to personal preference, so try both and see which you prefer.

Using pre-workout as an energy drink

You could use a pre-workout as an energy drink, but I don’t recommend it.

I see at least a couple of reasons NOT to do this.

Firstly, energy drinks are nicely measured out and standardized so you know what you’re getting in each can.

Pre-workouts, on the other hand, are scooped, meaning there’s a lot more room to overdo it.

Also, pre-workouts often include a bunch of ingredients that are a bit too “hardcore” for me. In some cases, they include substances that are banned in some countries.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to “roll the dice” when all I really need is a little extra energy to get through the afternoon.

Best energy drinks for gym workouts

Here is a quick table to easily compare the energy drinks listed below.

BrandCaffeine Content (mg) Sugar Content (g) Calories
CELSIUS 200010
Bang 30000
Monster Ultra Zero16000
REIZE
50
0 11

CELSIUS

CELSIUS, a well-known brand among the fitness crowd is a popular choice for many people before heading to the gym.

It tastes good, has 200mg of caffeine per can and nothing that I would consider to be on the fringe of extreme in terms of other ingredients.

My main concerns with Celsius aren’t so much with the ingredients, although I think 200mg of caffeine is too much, it’s more to do with the way the drink is marketed.

Celsius commissioned a series of 6 university studies (which you can read about here) to try to show that drinking Celsius causes you to burn fat.

I have a problem with this brand messaging and I would like to see them cut that out of the way they do things.

Still, the drink itself is good and I have no problem recommending it if you’re okay with the 200mg of caffeine.

Check out my review before getting some to see how it compares to other brands.

You can check the latest price on Amazon here. (#ad)

Celsius Energy drinks with multiple favors to choose from.
Celsius has multiple favors to choose from.

Here is the current price on Amazon

Bang

Bang is another really popular choice for the fitness crowd.

With 300mg of caffeine per can and zero calories, this is a good example of an energy drink that is getting pretty close to actually being a pre-workout in my opinion.

But, there’s a problem.

You see, despite printing “300mg caffeine” on their cans, when I paid to have Bang lab tested by 2 different labs there was much less caffeine than 300mg in a can.

The caffeine content wasn’t the only surprising thing to come out of that lab test.

Despite the inconsistencies, I like the drink, think it tastes good and also think it’s a decent choice before a gym workout.

Check the current price at Amazon. (#ad)

Monster Ultra Zero

With 160mg of caffeine per regular 16 fl.oz can, Monster Ultra Zero has a bit less caffeine than the above options, but still a bit more than I like.

It’s sugar-free and doesn’t have any calories.

Certainly worth trying to see if it works for you.

Check the current price on Amazon. (#ad)

REIZE (the best gym buddy)

REIZE is my all-time favorite energy drink.

With a sensible 50mg of caffeine per serve, no sugar and a great combination of taurine, ginseng and B vitamins, REIZE will give you the perfect energy boost to get through your gym workout – with no crash.

REIZE, an energy drink with uncompromising quality
REIZE is a great energy drink to have before the gym.

It comes in handy little sachets that you can mix with water when you’re ready for a fresh energy boost. Perfect to keep in your bag or pocket and take anywhere you go.

Best of all, for only around $1 per drink, REIZE is amazing value for money.

That’s INCLUDING shipping to your door. Yes, amazing value.

Give REIZE a try today and you might also find that it’s the perfect gym buddy too.

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Marty Spargo

I started my own energy drink brand in 2014 and am passionate about educating people about energy drinks so that they can properly understand the ingredients, benefits and risks without being influenced by the marketing messages put out by some brands. You can read my full bio here.

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