Most pre-workout supplements contain 150m to 300mg of caffeine. This is because 150mg is the lower limit for effective sports performance boosting. However, 300mg isn’t the most they’re allowed or intended to contain.
Clearly, pre-workout supplements are built on the back of caffeine – but how much is healthy? How much is the minimum to achieve significant benefits? What should you look for?
Today we’re answering these questions and giving you the low-down on caffeine in a pre-workout.
- How Much Caffeine Is There in Popular Pre-Workout Products?
- Is Pre Workout With Caffeine Bad for You?
- How Much Caffeine Should You Have Before a Workout?
- Does More Caffeine Mean a Better Pre-Workout?
- Is 400 Mg Caffeine Too Much?
- Do All Pre Workouts Have Caffeine?
- Caffeine in Pre Workout vs Coffee
- Final Thoughts
How Much Caffeine Is There in Popular Pre-Workout Products?
When it comes to popular pre-workouts, the actual dosages can vary drastically. This can make one product more suitable for your needs than others or tell you which to avoid!
This table will show you some of the most popular pre-workout supplements and the concentration of caffeine in each product.
Caffeine Content in Popular Pre Workout Supplements
|PRE WORKOUT||BRAND||CAFFEINE CONTENT (PER SERVING)|
|C4 Extreme Energy||Cellucor||300mg|
|1.M.R VORTEX||BPI Sports||approx. 200mg|
|The Curse||Cobra Labs||145mg|
However, what do you do with this information? The next step is to discuss what these quantities of caffeine will do to you and whether they carry any risks…
Is Pre Workout With Caffeine Bad for You?
The short answer is “no, but it depends”.
Regular pre-workout supplements are designed for better health and performance. They’re not going to unduly risk your health and wellbeing – they’re also regulated on the amount of caffeine a single serving is allowed to contain.
What you’re looking at with pre-workouts is a supplement that is healthy if you use them as instructed. All the problems of using a pre-workout come from irresponsible use.
Caffeine is only associated with problems in a small number of very specific situations:
- If you’re caffeine-naïve and take a large dose
- If you’re consuming way over the 400mg/day recommended dose
- If you’re caffeine-intolerant, allergic, or have any other adverse medical reaction to stimulants
These are obviously serious problems, but they’re not relevant to most people when they’re consumed in the kind of doses and patterns recommended in the instructions of these products.
Caffeine in pre-workouts is not bad for you – but you can use it badly. It might be trendy to talk about taking 4 scoops, but this kind of stimulant load is not a sustainable or sensible strategy.
How Much Caffeine Should You Have Before a Workout?
Before a workout, the minimum caffeine intake to have reliable, significant effects is 150mg. This is why we see 150mg as the lower limit of caffeine in pre-workout supplements and often in energy drinks, etc.
The upper limit is hard to really pinpoint. Daily caffeine intake is safest below 400mg, but this includes everything you take all day– including those coffees or soft drinks. These add up and it’s not a good idea to jump in with 400mg of caffeine pre-workout!
We recommend starting at 150mg and slowly easing up as appropriate. You’ll also need less caffeine to get the same effects if you take time off and cycle your pre-workout (which the instructions will also recommend).
So, you’re looking for anywhere between 150mg and 300-400mg before your workout. We recommend taking your time, however, and use a product with a reasonable caffeine-per-serving to give yourself more control over each dose.
Does More Caffeine Mean a Better Pre-Workout?
Caffeine is an effective compound, but there is far more to it than just caffeine. A good pre-workout should include other compounds that are either useful without caffeine or combine with it for better effects.
For example, a lower-caffeine product with theanine is a good choice, as these compounds combine to have better effects. They produce better awareness while reducing any side-effects, like headaches, that come from taking too much caffeine.
Look for key performance- boosting compounds, whether you’re getting caffeine or not: creatine, citrulline, beta-alanine, and others are key.
Is 400 Mg Caffeine Too Much?
It’s exactly as much as the FDA recommends for a single day. This isn’t necessarily bad, but taking 400mg at once radically increases the risk of side-effects and digestive discomfort.
The caffeine in pre-wokrouts is fine, but taking your whole daily recommended allowance at once is probably not the smartest choice! Think about it like anything else: would you take all of your food intakes at once, or your water, or anything else?
Taking 400mg of caffeine is possible, but you need to remember two things:
- Caffeine intake adds up, with a 6-hour half-life, so you may end up jittery
- 400mg of caffeine is a lot for those who are not caffeine-adapted
As ever, we recommend starting with a smaller dose and seeing how you respond before rushing to 400mg of caffeine!
Do All Pre Workouts Have Caffeine?
No – they don’t!
There are pre-workout supplements that are low-caffeine or caffeine-free! These are often stimulant-free entirely, which can be great for those who are not medically ready for stimulants.
This allows for a great workout and performance-boost whoever you are – and whatever your medical background. Look for key performance boosting compounds we mentioned above.
Caffeine in Pre Workout vs Coffee
The only difference between caffeine from coffee and from pre-workout is the format. They’re comparable in their effects, but the real difference is that anhydrous caffeine (the kind in pre workout supplements) is faster-acting.
The benefits of a pre-workout rely on this: it’s a fast way of picking yourself up and feeling more awake and prepared for your workout when tired. This means a faster build-up and drop-off, but also means an increased risk of the side-effects of post-caffeine fatigue.
Coffee provides a smaller dose of caffeine most of the time – depending on the specific beans, extraction, and how many shots – but it does provide caffeine.
It’s entirely reasonable to have a strong coffee instead of a pre-workout supplement, but we recommend doing so earlier before a workout to give yourself time to adapt to it and get all the benefits.
For example, a pre-workout supplement is likely to take around 30-60 minutes to reach maximum effect, while a black americano with 2 shots of espresso is more likely to take around 60-90 minutes. This means you’re going to want to time yourself a little more carefully.
Don’t forget, however, that some of the benefits of a good pre-workout supplement come from drinking during your workout. This is a hydration benefit that will need replacing if you switch out from pre workout – and it can be beneficial for keeping your muscles and CNS healthy,
You might also consider combining your pre-workout with a workout carbohydrate, as the benefits of caffeine and carbohydrates are both positive influences on short-term mental and physical performance.
Getting a good pre-workout is about a healthy, effective amount of caffeine, as well as performance-enhancing ingredients, too! The way you use your pre-workout is also key, so get a great product but make sure that you’re using it responsibly for the best results!