More and more people are taking to using energy drinks are pre workout supplements…
… and it makes me mad!
Not because they leave their cans of Monster and Red Bull all over the gym floor (passive aggressive, much?), but because energy drinks are really poor pre workout supplements.
Today, I’ll walk you through the two reasons why I never do this.
1. Not Enough Caffeine
“But Russ! These things are loaded with caffeine, right?”
Actually, they’re not.
At least, not when we’re speaking about using caffeine for its performance benefits…
A great meta-analysis published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal concluded that optimal caffeine dosage for athletes is 5mg per kg of body weight, which equates to around 400mg caffeine for an 80kg guy (175lbs). (1)
Very few pre workouts are dosed this high, and zero energy drinks are.
Going above this level doesn’t seem to yield any greater results, as the effects appear to max out at 400mg.
However, the research also notes that a dose less than 2.1mg per kg body weight offers no training benefits at all!
You read that correctly!
This means if our 80kg guy has less than 168mg caffeine in his pre workout, he’s not seeing the results from it.
As you can see below in this great infographic from the folks at Examine.com, the most popular UK energy drinks come in under the threshold for unlocking any damn performance benefits.
Also, the rest of the formula is usually very weak in energy drinks, so if we ever did find a product which offered a full clinical dose for training output, we likely wouldn’t see the inclusion of any of the other ingredients we need in order to maximize our results…
For example, we’d need an ingredient like l-theanine to offset the huge caffeine dose, otherwise we’re taking a one way trip to Jitter City. (2)
And then there are other pre workout major players like citrulline malate, creatine, betaine, and beta-alanine.
So why do they include caffeine in a dose that’s not high enough to produce its maximum performance benefits?
And why won’t we find any of those key pre workout ingredients alongside it?
Energy drinks are created for casual consumption throughout the day, not prior to weight training. They’re designed with one purpose in mind; to get you addicted.
A can here… a can there…
Before long, you’re sat at your work desk like an Oompa Loompa on a sugar comedown, craving another can of Monster just to feel “normal” again.
If you’re one of the many new readers to discover my site lately, let me catch you up:
Sure, it has certain benefits when it comes to increasing mental focus, but we’d need a dose of around 2g per day to see those results and that’s way higher than we’ll ever get in an energy drink. (3)
It’s included because it’s cheap and allows the manufacturer to then make claims of a product which boosts focus, even though the dose is way off.
But there’s a huge caveat here, which most supplement companies and energy drink manufacturers seem blindly unaware of:
Taurine is an antagonist of caffeine.
It literally prevents caffeine from doing its job!
So not only do we have a product which offers us less than ideal caffeine for performance benefits, it’s being strangled because the product also contains f**king taurine!
This was demonstrated in a great study published in Appetite back in 2013, and then again in a 2014 trial published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behaviour. (4, 5)
The researchers concluded that “when consumed simultaneously, taurine appears to reverse caffeine’s effects on vigor.”
Ever downed an energy drink (or poor pre workout) and felt sluggish and tired a little later?
Of course you have.
Say hello to taurine, friend.
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- McCormack, W. P., et al. Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance. Str Con J. (2012)
- Haskell, C. F., et al. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. (2008)
- Kim, S., et al. Taurine Induces Anti-Anxiety by Activating Strychnine-Sensitive Glycine Receptor in Vivo. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. (2009)
- Peacock, A., et al. Energy drink ingredients. Contribution of caffeine and taurine to performance outcomes. Appetite. (2013)
- Giles G. E., et al. Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. (2014)