Workout supplementation is not new in the fitness industry. As a matter of fact, it has become pretty standard with supplements specifically designed for specific athletes, genders, deficits, goals — you name it, they probably got it. 

Two of the most popular types of supplements are pre-workouts and fat burners. Let’s see what range of benefits they have and how different they are from each other.

Defining pre-workout 

The name is pretty indicative of the function of this supplement type. The idea is that you take these before you have a workout session, and you get a boost to your stamina and endurance. 

The most often promoted benefits of these supplements include increased blood flow and higher energy levels. This means that you get everything you need to get quicker and more significant muscle gains. 

The most common ingredients in pre-workouts include:
  • Beta-Alanine;
  • Creatine;

  • L-Carnitine;

  • Caffeine;

Keep in mind that these supplements may contain a wide range of ingredients, and most of them have unique formulas, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find any of these in a pre-workout blend. 

When it comes to quantifying the boost you are getting, you can expect up to a 5% boost in performance which may not seem like much, but it makes a lot of difference in practice. It translates into either more reps or lifting heavier weights without getting fatigued too fast.

When it comes to their effectiveness, like with all products there might be some bad eggs out there, but in general, if you are using a trusted product and you are not getting results — you might want to check your expectations. 

Pre-workouts (and fat burners, for that matter) are not magic potions that give you strength from nowhere. They are natural products designed to give you a healthy boost while not disrupting your body too much. 

Defining fat burners 

This type of supplement has a bit of a different goal. Sure, some fat burners may contain ingredients that give you more energy (like caffeine or other stimulants), but that’s not their core function.

The ingredients in fat burners are supposed to stimulate your body to burn fat faster. They achieve this in several ways, but the primary two include: 

  • Controlling your appetite;
  • Speeding up your metabolism.

They achieve this in different ways depending on the ingredients. Some will use ingredients that make your body feel sated quicker and longer. They do this by adding ingredients that promote your brain sending signals to your body that it’s full or through adding ingredients that expand in your stomach and trick your body into thinking you are full.

Another way they help you lose weight is by incentivizing your body to burn fat. One of the most popular ways of doing this is by triggering a natural bodily process called thermogenesis. This is a process in which your body increases its temperature slightly (you are not purposefully causing your body to run a fever). The body literally burns fat to create energy and heat, which helps increase the overall amount of fat you burn in a day.

Differences in benefits

Pre-workout supplements aim to give you a boost in performance at the gym. Their primary benefits are naturally tied into that and have three ways of doing this:

  • Improved stamina;
  • Improved energy;

  • Enhanced endurance;

A good pre-workout will make you feel energized and ready to take on the challenges of an intense workout. Still, they are not designed to do this alone — you still need to be on point with your diet as supplements are not meant to replace meals, only make them more complete.

A good fat burner supplement, on the other hand, has a completely different set of goals in mind. These supplements are meant to help you shed that stubborn fat faster, and the benefits they bring are tied to that. This includes:

  • Improve weight management;
  • Increased fat loss.

They won’t help you lose fat to a massive degree — it’s somewhere in the ballpark of around a few grams per day. Still, when we add this up with the weight we lose thanks to our dieting and exercise, we see that there is a considerable acceleration of the entire process. Losing weight is a long battle, but fat burners may cut down on the time you need to reach your goal.

Differences in effects on metabolism

As we mentioned previously, fat burners are responsible for increased fat burning through the triggering of the thermogenic process in our body. This means that our metabolism speeds up and burns fat cells to produce energy which is then converted to heat. 

On the other hand, pre-workouts are more focused on injecting our muscle tissue with fatty acids. These acids are used as fuel by the muscles to ensure more reliable performance in the gym. Our metabolism isn’t really impacted by them to a great degree by this type of supplement. 

Differences in side effects

Naturally, different ingredients mean different side effects. It should be noted, though, that these supplements rarely cause any side effects since they use natural ingredients in the majority of cases.

Pre-workout supplements usually cause stomach issues as they can be quite potent. This includes bloating, gassiness and nausea.

On the other hand, fat burners are usually loaded with stimulants, the most popular choices being caffeine and taurine. If you are not careful with your coffee, tea, and energy drink intake while consuming this type of supplement, you may experience jitters, insomnia, anxiety, and so on. 

Naturally, if you are allergic to any ingredients, regardless of which type of supplement you intend to use, you can expect side effects equivalent to the severity of your allergy. Usually, allergies present themselves in the form of disturbed airways, bloating, rashes, itching, blurred and teared-up eyes, etc.

Differences in ingredients

Pre-Workout top three ingredients
  • Beta-alanine

    This substance combines with L-histidine to form dipeptides called carnosine. Their role is to reduce muscle fatigue by providing a buffer for acidity.

  • BCAA

    This acronym refers to three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three acids help with preventing muscle waster and soreness, especially during cutting phases.

  • Creatine

    The benefits of creatine are present before and after exercise, but we’re here to talk about pre-workouts. It basically boosts your strength, enabling you to lift more without getting tired.

Fat burner top three ingredients

How to make the right choice

Even though there is a potential for overlap in ingredients, these supplements have completely different goals, and therefore, it should be pretty easy to pick the one you need.

If you find yourself not being able to perform well at the gym due to a lack of energy, then pre-workout supplements might be the right choice for you. 

On the other hand, if you want to boost the rate at which you burn fat and get that slim figure faster, by all means, try one of the trusted fat burner brands. 

Now the obvious question is, “Can I use both?” as there are situations where people believe they could benefit from both supplements. Well, that would depend. Stacking supplements is tricky business, and we wouldn’t recommend doing it on your own. Most supplements are formulated and dosed to be taken alone, and therefore you might run into trouble when you combine their ingredients. Go see a dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor and consult them on combining the supplements you intend to use before starting.


We hope we managed to help you demystify these two supplement types and show you the benefits they bring to the table. It should go without saying that they are intended for people who have a good dieting plan and exercise on a regular basis in order for their effects to become apparent.

Also, supplements are not medicine, and their effects are gradually built up instead of becoming apparent after an hour of two. This means that you would need to use them regularly over an extended period to experience their benefits.

About the Author Tim Rockwell

Tim Rockwell is a highly skilled and knowledgeable fitness expert. With a background in exercise science and years of experience in the fitness industry, Tim is passionate about sharing his expertise with others through his writing. He currently contributes articles to Eurasc, where he shares practical tips and strategies for leading a healthy, active lifestyle.

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