Is Monster Energy a Good Pre-Workout? (Ingredients Explained)

Everyone has been in a place where you feel sluggish, both mentally and physically, and that’s OK!

However when it comes to being ready to hit the gym for a workout, feeling “meh and blah” is the worst.

Rather than looking forward to pumping iron or going for a run, you look more forward to curling up on the couch under a warm blanket.

While many people use a pre-workout formula to help break out of this rut and prep for their workout, others turn to energy drinks such as Monster Energy due to convenience, cost, or even taste.

But is Monster Energy a good pre-workout? Can I use Monster instead of a regular pre-workout?

Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr

Although high-caffeine energy drinks like Monster Energy have become a popular pre-workout alternative, they do come with their pros and cons. Monster and other energy drinks are great for a quick boost of energy and are readily available almost anywhere, making them a good occasional substitute.

But for an every day pre-workout, you’ll do much better with a properly formulated pre-workout mix like C4, Six Star, etc. that slow releases the energy and minimizes crash.

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients and the pros and cons of using Monster as a pre-workout.

What’s the difference between energy drinks and pre-workouts?

While both energy drinks and pre-workout provide you with a “pick me up”, the specific impact of energy drinks is to support increased physical energy as well as mental alertness and focus.

Pre-workout also supports increased energy, but it also helps build muscular endurance and strength, with a slower release than an energy drink.

The main purpose of drinks such as Monster Energy is to provide a boost of energy at any point during your day, whether it be home, school, work, driving, or in the gym.

Pre-workout on the other hand is specifically designed to be consumed prior to your workout in order to prep your body for physical exertion and is created to have a slower release with a longer-lasting effect.

Energy drinks are mostly liquid and sold in a bottle or can, which often means that many of the ingredients or appropriate dosage that can be inserted into pre-workout are not available as they could be impacted by the liquid format or have a negative effect on the solubility of the beverage. 

Whereas Monster Energy drinks come in a variety of flavors and contain more stimulants than pre-workout, the powdered mix pre-workout more often than not provides a larger number of nutrients and a range of vitamins.

One noticeable difference between drinks like Monster Energy and pre-workout is the fact that the beverages are readily available at nearly every grocery store, drug store, corner store, gas station, you name it, they will more than likely have it (maybe not the exact brand or flavor you are searching for, but nevertheless).

Pre-workout has started to pop up at grocery stores in their nutrition or health food sections as well as drug stores, but unlike energy drinks, they are not found at your local convenience stores.

So that makes Monster an appealing alternative to a pre-workout. You can grab one any time, almost anywhere, for just a couple of bucks.

Pre-workout is cheaper per serving, but usually has to be purchased in a ~$20 tub.

What do studies show about the effects of energy drinks like Monster Energy on a workout?

As with other energy beverages, it takes Monster Energy approximately 30-45 minutes to reach its maximum boost level, so if it were to be your drink of choice before working out, you may want to time consuming it accordingly.

Also note that as with other carbonated, high-caffeine beverages, using Monster Energy as a pre-workout beverage could have side effects leaving you with:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • or an unsettled stomach

Which nobody wants to have, or be around during a gym session!

Research is mixed on the effectiveness of pre-workouts and caffeine in general on your workouts.

Many people report feeling great on pre-workouts and energy drinks and having better workouts, but most of the science doesn’t back up any hard benefits.

And in fact, an excess of caffeine can have lots of detrimental health effects.

(Yes, there is such a thing as a low or no caffeine pre-workout.)

Drinks like Monster Energy are usually full of sugar (55g in a 500ml can), which of course, along with the caffeine, can help give you a quick kick.

However at the same time, that high volume of sweetness is not only bad for your health, but also your fitness goals.

For a full-sugar Monster, get ready for 360mg of sodium and 220 calories, numbers that can impact your fitness goals if you are trying to lose weight.

Monster Energy ingredients explained vs pre-workout drinks

Here’s what’s inside a can of Monster Energy:

  • Carbonated Water
  • Sugar
  • Glucose
  • Citric Acid
  • Natural Flavors
  • Taurine
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Color Added
  • Panax Ginseng Extract
  • L-Carnitine
  • L-Tartrate
  • Caffeine
  • Sorbic Acid
  • Benzoic Acid
  • Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
  • Sucralose
  • Salt
  • D-Glucuronolactone
  • Inositol
  • Guarana Extract
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6)
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)

Hands up if you know what half of these ingredients are?

Now to be fair to Monster Energy, there are many products on the market that consumers are unfamiliar with contents.

As stated earlier, the sugar content in a can of Monster is extremely high (unless of course you choose the sugar-free variety) and so too is the amount of caffeine.

Of the FDA-recommended 400mg maximum a day, Monster Energy amounts to 160mg per can, nearly half of your daily maximum.

Speaking of sugar-free, Monster Energy does offer that option which comes with zero calories, as well as a “lo-cal”, which they promote as having a fraction of the calories and carbs without losing any of the buzz.

Of course, some of the ingredients such as Vitamin B2, B3, B6, and B12 assist with energy production, releasing energy, and storing energy.

While taurine helps with the protein intake and guarana extract contains stimulants and a number of antioxidants.

While there are a number of ingredients that Monster Energy and pre-workout share, note that most pre-workout mixes do not have:

  • Sugar
  • Ginseng
  • Taurine
  • Guarana

On the other hand, most pre-workout mixes come with the following ingredients that you will not find in Monster Energy, ones that will help increase blood flow and muscular endurance, assist with recovery time, improve alertness and focus and delay fatigue:

  • Beta-Alanine
  • Betaine Anhydrous
  • Branched-Chain Amino Acids
  • Citrulline Malate
  • Creatine
  • L-Theanine

Again, energy drinks are formulated for alertness and mental focus, where pre-workouts are formulated for endurance and athletic performance, along with slow-release energy.

Wrapping Up & Overall Recommendation

So — is Monster a good pre-workout?

The answer is, frustratingly, it depends!

Yes, Monster Energy will give you the energy boost you desire with the amount of sugar and caffeine, but if your body doesn’t react well to the high volume of those two ingredients, then it is obviously counterproductive.

In a pinch, Monster will perk you up for the gym. But as a long-term, every day pre-workout, you’ll find it’s missing a ton of ingredients that can help with performance and recovery.

Given that Monster is readily available for about $3-4 per can, it is a suitable alternative every now and then should you forget your pre-workout mix.

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Hope this helps!