Good point! A strong cup of tea or coffee, or a can of your favorite energy drink, definitely has some of the same performance-boosting potential as a pre-workout. After all, caffeine is an undeniable pre-workout powerhouse! It can increase endurance, strength, and power while lowering your sense of fatigue. It can make you more alert, able to summon power more quickly, and help you focus during a difficult set.
That said, a simple caffeinated beverage is a one-dimensional fix, whereas a pre-workout is a multi-dimensional solution.
"When it comes to the specific challenges of hard training, you may be shortchanging yourself by relying on energy drinks alone," writes exercise physiologist Nick Coker in his article "Transform Your Energy Drink into a Pre-Workout Powerhouse."
If you're going to use an energy drink in the place of a pre-workout, Coker suggests taking extra amounts of key pre-workout ingredients, such as citrulline malate. And honestly, if you're trying to get the most out of a workout, it's also a good idea to take a hard look at what—if anything—you're eating in your pre-workout meal.
"While caffeine can help you crawl through your day without eating much, it's been shown to be more effective at delaying workout fatigue when combined with carbs," Coker says. "Whatever meal you choose, aim for 35 grams of carbohydrates and at least 6 total grams of essential amino acids, or around 20 grams of high-quality protein."
With some food in your stomach, your muscles will enter the workout with the fuel they need to perform, and then recover.