Pre-workout For Runners: Does It Work?


Pre-workout suppliment

Throughout all of the years that I have been running, I have learned a lot about drinks, energy food, shakes etc that claim to help with running. In today’s article, I am going to answer a frequently asked question, is pre-workout for runners any good, and does it even work?

In general, pre-workout does work for runners. The most efficient pre-workout for long-distance runners is one that contains protein, carbs, creatine, and perhaps nitric oxide. For runners who are trying to lose weight, you want a pre-workout that contains 0 sugars and 0 carbohydrates.

In this article, we are going to answer a lot of your questions. Not only are we going to discuss in-depth what pre-workout is and why it is good for runners, but we are also going to answer questions that we get asked about pre-workout in general. So, for everything you need to know about pre-workout for runners, keep reading this article. Remember to bookmark this page as a reference.

Research into the effects of pre-workout suggest that it helps with improvement in VO2 Max, critical velocity and lean body mass in anaerobic running.

What Exactly Is Pre-workout?

Pre-workout is exactly what it sounds like. It is a supplement that can either come in the form of a pill or powder. While things like coffee are a pre-workout, most commonly, it comes as a powder that you mix with water. While some supplements are primarily designed to help you recover after working out, boost muscle growth, or even help you lose weight, pre-workout is different.

Pre-workout has one main objective and that is to help you boost your energy before working out. However, you get different variations of pre-workout. Some are loaded with carbs and protein to help you build muscle at the same time. Others have no carbs and are designed to help you lose weight while giving you energy.

In order to understand why pre-workout gives you energy, you need to know what the main ingredients are in most pre-workouts. So, here is a list of the main ingredients that you will find in a pre-workout. We will then discuss some of them in detail.

  • Caffeine.
  • Creatine.
  • Protein.
  • Essential vitamins.
  • Ephedra extract
  • Carbohydrates.
  • L-citrulline.
  • B-Alanine.
  • Arginine.

By looking at those ingredients, you can tell that pre-workout is normally designed for anaerobic exercise. This means an intense but relatively short workout. 

The most common ingredients and the one with the highest concentration in pre-workout is ephedra extract and caffeine. These are the two most effective ingredients in giving you energy. Everything else has its little purpose. However, a pre-workout won’t be a pre-workout without those two main ingredients.

Is Pre-workout Safe?

Again research has shown that short term use of pre-workout formulas is safe, although longer term use needs further assessment. 

Personally, this is not a straightforward question and its answer can be quite subjective. We can use driving as an example. Driving is relatively safe however if you have a pre-existing condition such as impaired vision, then no it is no longer safe. Now, let’s apply that same logic to pre-workout

Pre-workout is safe however if you have any pre-existing conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure, or even diabetes, then it is best to speak to your doctor to find out if you can take pre-workout. In most cases where you do have a pre-existing condition, a good doctor is the best solution, and here is why.

A good doctor will be able to diagnose your situation and then recommend a pre-workout that is best for you because even though you do have a pre-existing condition, there is bound to be a pre-workout that is designed and developed with your condition in mind.

How Long Does Pre-workout Last?

A lot of people will answer this question by stating how long the effects of pre-workout will last. However, I don’t want to overlook an essential consideration. Before we take a look at that, I can say that pre-workout will last an average of around 5 hours from when you consume it.

The initial burst of energy that you get from a pre-workout will not last that long and I would say that after about 2 and a half hours after taking your pre-workout, that initial burst of energy starts to subside. Why is this important though?

Well, you really want to do all of your training within that time period because that is when the pre-workout is most efficient. It is important to remember that you use all the nutritional value of a pre-workout during your workout and that is why you can’t say that pre-workout lasts up to 5 hours. That duration gets shorter the more intense your workouts are.

With all of that being said, it is vital that you do train during the five-hour time period that a pre-workout lasts. This is because if you don’t, this could be very bad for you and we will get into that further down in this article.

Is Pre-workout Good For Runners?

In my experience, pre-workout is brilliant for runners especially if you are running 5 to 10 miles per session. If you run for too long, you will start to notice that it will feel like you are hitting a wall in your running.

As we have already discussed in this article, your body uses all the nutritional value of a pre-workout, and by the time you reach the end of a very long run, the effect of the pre-workout could have worn out already.

Running in a hoodie

It is also important to remember that while we can say that pre-workout is good for runners, we cannot account for everyone’s pre-existing conditions but for the average healthy runner, pre-workout is good.

Taking pre-workout half an hour before your run can promote endurance, weight loss, concentration boost, and much more. 

Let’s say you run for 1 hour, pre-workout can help you cover more distance in that time. Maybe you run a certain distance instead. Well, pre-workout will help you achieve a better time.

Is Pre-workout Bad For Runners?

I have been running for over 6 years and in that time I have met a lot of fellow runners with opinions on this. Here is one thing I have learned about pre-workout and in fact, all supplements.

People get used to the supplements and this creates a psychological effect where people think that they cannot train without them and cause other side-effects. This to me is probably the worst thing about pre-workout. With that out of the way, let’s dig deeper into whether or not pre-workout is bad for runners.

While there are many athletes and professionals who advocate for pre-workout, there are some who claim that the product is bad for you. More specifically, they claim that pre-workout can be bad for your heart, blood pressure, and kidneys.

I like to think about it in a way that takes both the advocate’s claim and the skeptic’s claims into consideration. For example, pre-workout is great for your workout however if you do not take it in moderation, then it could be bad for you.

What If You Take Too Much Pre-workout?

If you take too much pre-workout the biggest side effect that you will notice is the jitters. In fact, you will probably get the jitters the first time you take pre-workout and perhaps even the second or third time. This is because your body is not used to it.

If you don’t understand that the jitters are a normal side effect of taking pre-workout for the first time or taking too much pre-workout, then yes, it can be quite scary. However, it will subside in a few hours or immediately after you have trained.

Also, as I mentioned above, you should take your pre-workout in moderation. Follow the recommended doses that come with the product and make sure that you train after taking it.

When Is The Best Time To Take Pre-workout Before Running?

This is probably the most important thing that you need to consider when taking pre-workout before a run. You should take it half an hour before you set off. Try to be as on point as possible with this.

Because pre-workout takes approximately 30 minutes to kick in, if you take the product immediately before a run and then run for only half an hour, the product will only kick in when you get back home, This means that taking it was rather pointless and you might end up with the jitters.

I think it is best for you to take your pre-workout 20 minutes before you start stretching for the run. Then, once you are done stretching for 5 or 7 minutes, your pre-workout should kick in around 3 minutes into your run which in my opinion, is perfect.

What Is The Best Pre-workout For Running?

Now that we have gone through the most important parts of this article, I want to give you a few recommendations when it comes to pre-workout. This list is especially for runners. I chose these products based on my experience with them and also based on the ingredients and what you get out of them.

So, here is a list of our top thre pre-workouts for running.

Insane Labz Psychotic Gold, High Stimulant Pre Workout Powder

The first on this list is a pre-workout that is made for long-distance runners. It has a focus on lifting weights in the gym however when used for running, it can seriously increase your endurance.

The pre-workout has zero sugars, carbs, or calories. In other words, it has your boosters. Instead of relying on boosters, it uses ingredients such as L-Citrulline, Beta-Alanine, and Agmatine Sulfate to give you a long-lasting boost of energy.


C4 Ripped Sport Pre Workout Powder

If you are running in order to lose weight then this is the pre-workout for you. While it does have a very small amount of carbs, the product is sugar-free. The ingredients in this pre-workout aims to significantly increase your metabolism.

When you combine an increased metabolism with a good running session, you are bound to start shedding weight rather quickly. 

What makes this pre-workout so great for running is that it increases your muscle endurance as well. So, while you are running your calves, thighs, and glutes are going to perform better which ultimately means you can run better.


Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Before we get into this product, we need to understand what the “gold standard” means. Basically, it means that among experts and a few medical experts, a product that has the gold standard should be the first choice amongst individuals and athletes.

When you look at the ingredients of this pre-workout, you start to notice that the product is developed to keep your well-being in mind. That’s why they include a lot of vitamins in the ingredients most notably, vitamin D which supports your system.

Other than that, it’s got Beta-Alanine which helps support your muscle endurance which is great for runners. However, I would say this is a perfect pre-workout for people who run between 5 to 10 miles.


Can You Use Pre-workout Before Any Cardio?

Whether you are looking to use pre-workout for running or if you are just looking for it to do other exercises that focus on your cardio, you can be sure that pre-workout can be used before doing any of these.

It boosts your energy, promotes endurance, and in some cases, promotes weight loss.  

Conclusion

If you are considering using pre-workout for your running, I would say go for it as long as you have spoken to your doctor about any pre-existing conditions that you might have. All that I ask is that you do not become dependent on supplements for your workouts.

As I mentioned in the article, this is in my opinion, one of the most negative side effects of all supplements. I have seen it happen to a lot of people. Other than that, remember to stay safe while running and have a good time.

References

The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance

Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review

Mark Norman

I've been running for over 6 years and now try to balance it with life as a dad to two young kids. I'm not super quick, I just try to run consistently, not always easy! I'm lucky enough to have run the London Marathon twice along with countless other half marathons and 10ks. I'm also one of the Run Directors at my local parkrun.

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