How much caffeine should be in pre-workout?

Caffeine can be one of the key performance-enhancing ingredients in pre-workout formulas. Being one of the most popular ergogenic aids used for exercise performance, it is also one of the most effective.
Pre-workouts can have drastic differences in the volume of stimulants included per serving.
So how much should you expect to be in your supplement and how much is healthy? How much should you consume to gain significant benefits in your athletic performance?

How Much Caffeine Should Be In Your Pre-Workout?

Most pre-workouts will contain between 150mg and 300mg of caffeine per serving. But this is not a fixed range because some can contain none and some can contain up to 600mg per serving.

C4 Sport packaging

Here are the most popular pre-workouts and the caffeine amount per serving in them:

Supplement Brand Caffeine Per Serving
C4 Original Cellucor 150mg
C4 Sport Cellucor 135mg
C4 Ripped Cellucor 150mg
C4 Ultimate Cellucor 300mg
C4 Extreme Energy Cellucor 300mg
Mr Hyde Pro Supps 222mg
Hyde Extreme Pro Supps 420mg
The Curse Cobra Labs 145mg
Pre JYM JYM 300mg


Do Pre-Workouts Contain Too Much Caffeine?

The FDA state that most adult humans can safely consume 400mg of caffeine without long-term effects.

So a supplement containing an average dose of caffeine are not usually going to negatively affect the health of most people and research is conflicting regarding the long-term consumption of caffeine and heart issues.

caffeine formula

But there can be side effects associated with caffeine consumption. These might be:

  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Increased blood pressure

Higher doses can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Chest pain

After consuming a higher amount, there is also a risk of post-caffeine fatigue and/or digestive discomfort. Typically, supplements have around 150mg to 200mg per serving which is about the equivalent of 1 or 2 cups of coffee. So most supplement users will not need to be concerned.

Drinking pre-workout supplement

However, if you consume caffeine during the day from other sources, such as coffee, energy drinks, or soft drinks, you may be at risk of consuming more doses of caffeine than you should per day.

Is 200mg Of Caffeine A Lot?

If you are looking at consuming 200mg of caffeine, this is a lot. But you need to consume this amount 2-3 times per day for a mweek for it to have an adverse effect on your health.

Other Stimulants In Pre-Workout Formulas

Aside from caffeine, many pre-workouts contain other stimulants. These can be included with or as an alternative to caffeine.

  • TeaCrine – Also known as Theacrine is naturally present in certain types of tea plants. It has a similar chemical structure to caffeine and it affects the body and brain in a similar way.
  • DMAA – This is a pharmaceutical derivative of amphetamine. It is banned in some countries including the UK and can present health risks. This was one of the stimulants included in the famous but now banned Jack3D.

How Much Caffeine Should You Take Before Exercise?

Caffeine has been proven to increase power output when the body does not have a sufficient amount of carbs for fuel [1]. It has also proven to be useful for endurance sports.

When it comes to endurance, a research study showed that cyclists improved their time to exhaustion after taking 330mg of caffeine before exercise. But how does that translate to its use at the gym?

C4 Ultimate close up

Caffeine inhibits the effects of adenosine which causes the feeling of tiredness. This benefit is exceptionally useful for those that work out early in the morning or after a long day at work.

It is also worth noting that caffeine has a respectable Cognitive enhancing effect which can help with focus and concentration.

We advise getting around 3-5mg of caffeine per kg of body weight for a gym session. This should be taken 30-60 prior to training.

Anhydrous Caffeine vs Coffee

Caffeine is naturally occurring and can be found in over 60 plants. Generally, most pre-workout supplements on the market will contain a similar amount of caffeine per serving as a cup of coffee.

Caffeine anhydrous is the form used in most supplements and energy drinks.

This type of caffeine is extracted from the seeds and leaves of coffee plants. The water is removed to leave a powder, hence the name ”anhydrous’ which means without water.

Is It Safe To Put Pre-Workout In Coffee?

This all comes down to the total caffeine content. The flavor will play a part too!

A typical cup of coffee will contain around 150mg of caffeine. If your pre-workout includes 100-150mg of caffeine, you should be fine to mix it with your coffee. Be sure that you have experience in consuming that amount of caffeine in a single serving. Otherwise perhaps just add a half serving to start with.

cup of coffee

If you are looking for the benefits of the ingredients of pre-workout instead of the caffeine, then you can purchase those separately. For example, you could add 1g of beta-alanine to your black coffee to make a pretty good pre-workout.

Beta-alanine is also tasteless so you won’t even notice it except for the tingling sensation.

But if you are using a pre-workout that has more than 250mg of caffeine, you are going to be consuming the maximum safe daily dose.

Beware that most pre-workouts are flavored, so mixing your blue raspberry supplement into a cup of coffee probably won’t taste good.

How Do I Reduce Caffeine In Pre-Workout Affecting Sleep?

There are a few things that you can do to prevent sleep problems after taking a pre-workout. Firstly, you should consider reducing your pre-workout dose and avoiding other caffeine sources during the day.

Studies show that consuming caffeine bedtime has an effect on sleep [2]. You should also not be caffeinating at least 6-8 hours before bedtime.

If your gym session is close to bedtime, consider using a caffeine-free pre-workout.

Consuming plenty of water can help your body to metabolize the stimulants quicker and flush them out of your system. ZMA is another supplement that can help to improve sleep.

Final Thoughts

Caffeine has its benefits in sports and in everyday life. But whether it is safe to consume too much regularly could be a different story.

The ideal amount of caffeine to take should come down to your body weight. You should take care to calculate your consumption so that you do not take too much in a single day.


  1. Nic Martinez, et al. The effect of acute pre-workout supplementation on power and strength performance. 2016. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. doi: 10.1186/s12970-016-0138-7.
  2. Christopher Drake, et al. Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. 2013. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3170.