Pre-Workout Drinks: What To Look For and What to Look Out For

Kaelin Tuell Poulin, LadyBoss Co-Founder, Weight Loss Expert, Best Selling Author

Kaelin Tuell Poulin is an award-winning fitness professional, best selling author, and weight loss expert who personally lost 65 pounds in 7 months. The founder of The LadyBoss Movement, her LadyBoss Formula has helped tens of thousands of women lose weight and keep it off forever.
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Pre-workout drinks should provide fuel for your body through complex carbs and amino acids, not sugar.  

It is a common misconception that energy drinks and pre-workout drinks are the same.  There is actually quite a big difference.

While some people may drink a Red Bull or a Monster before hitting the gym, pre-workout drinks provide more necessary nutrients.

During exercise, your body needs sustainable fuel and proper nutrition to help with muscle growth and development.  Energy drinks, which are typically loaded with simple sugars, don’t contain these nutrients.

Plus, even what some may consider the best energy drinks, those too are typically loaded with simple sugars and chemicals not beneficial to your body or workout. 

Proper pre-workout drinks should contain complex carbs as their fuel source.  They should also provide the body with amino acids that support muscle function during a workout.  

That’s why we’ve decided to break down what makes a great pre-workout drink.  

It is important to know what ingredients should be in a pre-workout drink.  You should also know what ingredients you need to avoid.

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Not All Pre-Workout Drinks Are Created Equal

Just as energy drinks and pre-workout drinks aren’t the same, not all pre-workout drinks are the same.

That is why it is essential to educate yourself on what you are looking for when selecting a pre-workout.  

Pre-workout drinks should supply your body with fuel from complex carbohydrates and amino acids, not simple sugars.  

Simple sugars, otherwise known as monosaccharides or disaccharides (aka refined sugar), can indeed provide energy.  However, it is only for a brief time.  

Simple sugars could lead to a blood sugar crash, leaving you feeling tired and depleted.  

Your body needs a fuel source that sustains its energy levels for a longer period of time to benefit from a workout.  That is where the complex carbohydrates come into play. 

Complex carbohydrates, also known as polysaccharides, are considered–well complex– because they have more than two sugar units linked together.  In fact, poly means “many.”

Because of the extended sugar chains within complex carbohydrates, it takes your body longer to break them down.  As a result, the glucose from complex carbohydrates is released slower into your bloodstream, helping to prevent a blood sugar spike. 

Being aware of the fuel source within a pre-workout drink is essential.  You want to ensure that you are fueling your body with complex carbs, not simple sugars.

No one wants to be mid-workout and experience a loss of energy from a blood sugar crash.

Fuel your body with what helps it perform at it’s best. 

PreWorkoutDrinks simple sugars

What the Simple Sugars in Low-Quality Pre-Workout Drinks Do to Your Body

You now know to avoid simple sugars in your pre-workout drinks, but the question becomes: What are you looking for?  Or, put another way, what ingredients should you be trying to avoid?  

Simple sugars come in many forms, including fructose, glucose, galactose, and high fructose corn syrup.  

Let’s dive into each one to get a better understanding of what each one is.


Along with glucose, fructose is one of the most commonly added sugars used today.  Fructose makes up 50% of table sugar (glucose is the other 50%).  

Wait, doesn’t fruit also contain fructose and glucose? So why wouldn’t it be ok in a pre-workout drink? 

Yes, fructose is the naturally occurring sugar in fruits.

PreWorkoutDrinks Fructose 

However, the difference is that whole fresh fruit is typically low calorie and extremely nutrient-dense.  Also, the fructose level in fruit generally is much lower than what you find when fructose is added sugar. 

Fructose alone, when used as an added sweetener to food, offers no nutritional benefit.  

Another concern with fructose is how often it is an added sugar in processed food. One study even shows the possibility of high amounts of fructose can overwhelm the liver, resulting in the fructose storing as fat automatically.


Glucose is the naturally occurring sugar found in our blood, aka blood sugar. So it must be good for you then if it’s naturally in your blood, right? 

Well, it depends on what kind of glucose.  Glucose, as a simple carb, is the body and brain’s preferred energy source.

However, glucose syrup is used as a sweetener in foods and is distinctly different from glucose in the body.  Glucose syrup yields a sweetener product with higher glucose content.   

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The most common source of glucose syrup used for sweetener is corn; it can also come from potatoes, barley, and wheat. Because of the source, glucose syrup is extremely cheap to produce. 

Because glucose syrup does not crystalize like other sugars, you will find it in candy, fondant, and pre-packaged baked goods.

Glucose, like fructose, offers no health benefit on its own.  It is a concentrated sugar that typically has four times the calories and carbs of table sugar. 

Research shows that consistent glucose consumption can lead to high blood sugar and pressure, obesity, and heart disease.  


Galactose is another sugar that occurs naturally, like fructose and glucose. 

Galactose is referred to as “milk sugar” because this is the natural sugar found in cow’s milk.  While galactose alone is a simple sugar, when combined with glucose, it creates lactose.  

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However, when isolated and used as a sweetener, galactose offers little health benefits.    

Galactose is not as common as fructose and glucose for artificial sweetening. Nevertheless, it can appear in drinks and drink mixes, baked goods, and confectionery.  

High Fructose Corn Syrup 

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sweetener derived from corn syrup.  It made its appearance as a cheaper alternative sweetener in the American diet during the 1970s.

Since then, HFCS has grown to become one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners in manufacturing. It has also become one of the most controversial.  

Many experts consider the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in the American diet as a significant contributing factor in the country’s rising obesity crisis. 

PreWorkoutDrinks high fructose corn syrup

The increased intake of fructose from HFCS in the American diet can affect our liver, much like alcoholism.  The rising cases of liver diseases, such as fatty liver disease, are linked to high fructose corn syrup.  

Other diseases, such as diabetes and gout, have also been linked to our excessive fructose intake from HFCS.

High fructose corn syrup, like other simple sugars, is empty calories, offering no nutritional value. Try to avoid it wherever possible to make room for more nutrient-dense foods.

Pre-Workout Supplement Powders and Complex Carbs

Understanding that you want complex carbohydrates in your pre-workout drink instead of simple sugars is a good start. However, it is only half of the story.

Now the question becomes: What exactly makes complex carbs the best pre-workout fuel source?

The simple answer is that complex carbs provide sustained energy levels.  

Where simple sugars can lead to blood sugar spikes that result in a burst of energy, you risk the possibility of a blood sugar crash.  When this happens, you can often be left feeling more tired than before. 

Because your body takes more time to break down complex carbs, your body has an extended, more sustained energy source.

Complex carbohydrates help in proper blood flow, help in healthy blood vessels, and maintain a healthy heart rate.    

PreWorkoutDrinks complex carbohydrates

As mentioned before, complex carbohydrates take longer to digest. As a result, glucose levels in the blood are not spiked, avoiding high blood sugar and high blood pressure. 

High blood pressure resulting from continuous spikes in blood sugar can damage blood vessels and increase the heart rate.  The risk is even higher for those who are pre-diabetic or have Type-1 diabetes.  

Overall, it is best to avoid simple sugars in your diet where you can and try to eat more complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in oatmeal, vegetables, beans, and even some fresh fruit. 

In regards to pre-workout drinks, by now, the answer is probably pretty clear. Unless you want to be mid-workout and suffer an energy crash, it’s probably best to get a pre-workout drink that fuels your body with complex carbs.

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What You Want a Pre-Workout Drink Supplement to Do for You

When it comes to a pre-workout drink, you obviously want it to supply you with workout energy.  

We already know that an energy drink does not provide you with the proper fuel your body needs for a workout.  You want sustained energy from complex carbohydrates to avoid a blood sugar level spike and sudden drop in energy.

But what else should you expect from your pre-workout drink? 

What about vitamins and minerals? 

Your body is working hard during exercise, and as you sweat, you’re not just losing water.  

PreWorkoutDrinks minerals lost

Essential minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all leave the body through sweat. Your body needs replenishment of these nutrients to ensure proper muscle function.

Take, for example, potassium. Potassium is essential for muscle function, and when we become low during a workout, we risk muscle cramps. 

Have you ever gotten a cramp on the stair climber machine? Suddenly, you’re falling down the stairs instead of climbing them. 

Amino acids, such as BCAAs, are also a vital part of any pre-workout. They are essential for muscle fuel, growth, and muscle recovery.  

When it comes to a pre-workout drink, it is not just about getting energy.  It is about fueling your body and supporting it with the nutrients it needs.

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A Few More Pre-Workout Drink Ingredients To Look For

There are a few other essential ingredients you should look for in a good pre-workout drink. Each ingredient serves a vital role in helping your body perform better during exercise.  

Vitamin C

Along with boosting your immune system, vitamin C also helps with your workout

Vitamin C plays a vital role in repairing muscle tissue that breaks down during a workout. This process helps the broken down muscle grow back as strong, lean muscle.  

The antioxidant benefit of vitamin C can also help battle fatigue and susceptibility to respiratory infections following strenuous exercise.

Rhodiola Rosea Root Powder 

Rhodiola is an ancient herb used in traditional medicine for centuries.  

Because of its ability to aid in reducing stress, Rhodiola can be very beneficial during a workout.  Its stress-reducing abilities can also help lower heart rate during high-intensity workouts.  

In other words, you push harder without feeling like you’re working harder.

Rhodiola also helps in weight loss because of its ability to reduce the body’s level of cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and when elevated, it can lead to sugar and carbohydrate cravings. 


Since caffeine is one of the most popular stimulants in America, it probably seems like an obvious ingredient in a pre-workout drink.

But did you know that caffeine, when taken in moderation, offers quite a few benefits to weight loss and fitness? 

First of all, caffeine may help in the restoration of muscle glycogen stores.  Glycogen is the primary source of energy used by your muscles during exercise. 

Studies have shown that caffeine can stimulate thermogenesis, which is where the body produces energy from food. When the production of thermogenesis is higher, more calories burn as a result.

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Your Pre-Workout Drink Should Fuel Your Body With Sustained Energy and More

Just as with your day to day diet, any supplements you fuel your body with should help it perform at its best.

When you are heading into the gym, you want a pre-workout drink that will sustain you through your entire workout. It should also be fueling your muscles with the nutrients needed to grow and develop. 

Finding a pre-workout that supplies you with complex carbs for sustained energy will make all the difference in your exercise performance.

A pre-workout drink that also includes amino acids and essential vitamins and minerals plays a crucial part in how your body performs overall from your workout. 

While the best energy drinks can taste delicious, and the simple sugars can be alluring, remember this should be about what will fuel your body best!

Besides, there are a lot of great-tasting, high-quality pre-workout drinks out there, such as LadyBoss FUEL, which tastes just like watermelon candy!

You’re already working so hard at the gym.  Why wouldn’t you fuel yourself with a pre-workout that’s going to work just as hard as you do?

You deserve the best, and so does your body.



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