Russ Howe PTI workout programs

Many people consume energy drinks before exercise, but today I’ll show you why you should avoid this trend.

energy drink pre workout

This article:

6 min read

Over 30% of Americans now drink at least one energy drink per day, making the energy drink market the second largest niche in the entire supplement industry (behind only multivitamins).

That’s about 85 million people, and this number has been steadily growing year on year for nearly a decade. (1)

One thing I have noticed with this increase in popularity is that many people have started using energy drinks before exercise to improve their performance in the gym… but this is a mistake!

In this article I’m going to show you why energy drinks are terrible pre workouts.

Table of Contents

Energy Drinks Do Not Contain Enough Caffeine

are energy drinks good pre workouts

Now you’re probably thinking:

“Huh?! Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine!”

But they’re not.

A great meta-analysis published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal confirmed that athletes need a caffeine dose of 5mg per kilogram of body weight to unlock the full performance benefits it offers (greater strength output, endurance, mental focus, increased calorie burn). (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

For an 80kg person this equates to 400mg caffeine.

The same researchers also found that anything below 2.1mg per kilogram offers no training benefits AT ALL. That means an 80kg person needs at least 168mg caffeine to see ANY performance improvements.

And here’s the thing…

There are zero energy drinks on the market which can provide you with the top end dose to unlock the full training benefits, and if you take a look at the inforgraphic below (from the wonderful folks at!) you can see that most energy drinks actually come in way below the bottom threshold!

how much caffeine is in energy drinks

Severely Under-dosed In Other Key Ingredients

is Monster a good pre workout

There are lots of things which go into making a great pre workout besides caffeine.

Ingredients like betaine anhydrous, citrulline malate, l-theanine, beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate can dramatically improve our performance in several key areas; faster recovery between sets… the ability to achieve more reps before failure… more explosive strength… offset the caffeine crash… provide better delivery of nutrients to working muscles… to name just a few! (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16)

However, ingredients like CitMal and betaine are expensive so they’re rarely included in energy drinks.

Instead caffeine is the star of the show, and it’s often paired with a bunch of BCAAs and vitamins which come in trace amounts, rendering them completely useless for performance!

Taurine & Caffeine Do Not Work Well Together

caffeine taurine

Taurine has some pretty solid benefits when used as a standalone product.

Research shows it can lead to better blood flow during training, temporarily boost mental focus, and even speed up muscle recovery between workouts. (17, 18, 19)

By including this ingredient in their formula, manufacturers are legally allowed to boast about all of the above – but what they don’t tell you is that we’d need a clinical dose of 2 grams, which is significantly higher than the amount of taurine you’ll find in an energy drink.

However, there’s an even bigger problem which me must address, and that is the fact that taurine is a known antagonist of caffeine. That means it literally prevents caffeine from doing its job properly. (20)

A study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior (2012) concluded that:

“When taurine and caffeine are consumed simultaneously, taurine appears to reverse caffeine’s effects on vigor.”

This was re-confirmed in further studies performed in 2013 and 2014. (21, 22)

What this means is not only can taurine undo the effects of caffeine, but these two clashing ingredients can leave the trainee (you) feeling sluggish and fatigued rather than energized. Which begs the question; why include it?

Well part of the reason is bad science. Many supplement manufacturers still live in the dark ages when it comes to formulating products (BCAAs, anyone?!). And another part of the reason is ulterior motive. As taurine effectively “dilutes” the effects of caffeine, the trainee (you) will not feel as much of a kick from the product as you should, meaning you’ll grab another one later in the day and quickly become hooked on having a constant stream of caffeine in your bloodstream just to feel normal.

(If you’ve got a friend who smashes 8 cans of Monster every day this is why!)

I say f**k that with a capital fist. If you want to improve in-gym performance with a pre workout, get yourself a quality pre workout instead of a can of energy drink!

Who Is Russ Howe PTI?

russ howe pti

Featured in Men’s Fitness magazine and voted in the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost, Russ is among the UK’s most subscribed personal trainers with 104,357 people getting his free weekly fitness tips e-mail.

In the gym, clients range from busy parents, to models, to athletes and actresses. Russ also worked alongside the UK government for 8 years in a venture combating childhood obesity in England.

Outside of the gym, he’s a proud Dad to three young boys.

You can get more tips by joining the e-mail newsletter above, and you can instantly access full workout plans by hitting the button below!



  1. Hoffman J. R., et al. Caffeine and Energy Drinks. Str Cond J (2010).
  2. McCormack W. P., et al. Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance. Str Con J (2012).
  3. Duncan M. J., et al. The effect of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance to failure. J Strength Cond Res (2011).
  4. Childs E., et al. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (2006).
  5. Kim T. W., et al. Caffeine increases sweating sensitivity via changes in sudomotor activity during physical loading. J Med Food (2011).
  6. Cook C., et al. Acute caffeine ingestion increases voluntarily chosen resistance training load following limited sleep. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab (2012).
  7. Del Coso J., et al. Dose response effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on muscle performance: a repeated measures design. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2012).
  8. Mora-Rodríguez R., et al. Caffeine ingestion reverses the circadian rhythm effects on neuromuscular performance in highly resistance-trained men. PLoS One (2012).
  9. Lee E. C., et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2010).
  10. Holewa J., et al. Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, Coastal Carolina University (2013).
  11. Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res (2010).
  12. Haskell C. F., et al. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol (2008).
  13. Hoffman J., et al. Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med (2008).
  14. Artioli G. G., et al. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2010).
  15. Rawson E. S., et al. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res (2003).
  16. Pearson D. R., et al. Long-Term Effects of Creatine Monohydrate on Strength and Power. J Str Cond Res (1999).
  17. Kim S., et al. Taurine Induces Anti-Anxiety by Activating Strychnine-Sensitive Glycine Receptor in Vivo. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (2009).
  18. Moloney M. A., et al. Two weeks taurine supplementation reverses endothelial dysfunction in young male type 1 diabetics. Diab Vasc Dis Res (2010).
  19. Goodman C.A., et al. Taurine supplementation increases skeletal muscle force production and protects muscle function during and after high-frequency in vitro stimulation. J Appl Physiol (1985).
  20. Giles G. E., et al. Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. (2012)
  21. Peacock A., et al. Energy drink ingredients. Contribution of caffeine and taurine to performance outcomes. Appetite (2013).
  22. Sorkin B. C., et al. Executive summary of NIH workshop on the Use and Biology of Energy Drinks: Current Knowledge and Critical Gaps. Nutr Rev (2014).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

russ howe pti programs

Grab a membership to have access to all training programs, diet plans, supplement research and the famous Daily Trainer workouts from Russ!

Click here to see more.

russ howe pti musclefood live clean

I’ve partnered with Musclefood to make meal prep easier than ever. Tell ’em your calorie goal and they’ll send your entire diet to your door. Bosh!

Click here to see more.

  • How To Get In Photoshoot Shape In 2 Months

    In this article I’m going to give you a quick and easy nutrition plan you can use to whip yourself into photoshoot shape in just 8 short weeks.

    Click Here To Read

  • The Rules To Ripped

    These ten tips will help you to lay the foundations of a rock solid body transformation. I call them “The Rules To Ripped”.

    Click Here To Read


    What is the best pre workout of 2020? Don’t waste your money – it’s time for The Russ List 2020, my yearly breakdown of the best pre workout supplements!

    Click Here To Read

  • How To Make Your Own Pre Workout Supplement

    Want to learn how to make your own pre workout from scratch? This guide teaches you the four ingredients you’ll need.

    Click Here To Read

  • Adapt Nutrition Pre Train X Review

    Adapt Nutrition have produced one of the best pre-workouts of the year in Pre Train X. Here’s the official review.

    Click Here To Read

  • How To Use Periodization For Better Results

    Proper periodization is the difference between a good workout program and a great workout program.

    Click Here To Read

  • How Much Volume Do You Need For Muscle Growth?

    Explode your results by hitting each muscle group with the correct amount of volume to grow.

    Click Here To Read

  • Did You Spot These 4 Easter Eggs?

    There are several little Easter eggs built into which most readers never notice.

    Click Here To Read

  • Why Arnold Is Still The Best Bodybuilder

    Many people are hailing Chris Bumstead as the greatest bodybuilder of all time. Here’s my take on why Arnold is still #1.

    Click Here To Read

  • Creatine Myths Busted!

    There are many myths surrounding creatine and it’s potential side effects. This article addresses them one by one.

    Click Here To Read

  • Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fat

    Fat was demonized in the 1980s and is still misunderstood today. Here’s the science on optimizing your fat intake for results.

    Click Here To Read

  • Eat More Protein For Muscle Growth

    How much protein should you eat per day to build muscle? More than most people do. Here’s the lowdown on protein requirements for athletes.

    Click Here To Read