Pre-workout for runners: should you take it?

What is it? Is it effective for running? What is the best pre-workout for running? We discuss.

Person using pre-workout

Chances are you’ve seen a runner or two drink a Redbull, a cup of coffee, or an odd-looking coloured drinking before running or even during.

These are all forms of pre-workout, used to enhance performance during exercise such as running.

If you too would like wings, helping you break those personal bests then maybe pre-workout is something you should consider.

This article will discuss everything you need to do know about the supplement, from side-effects to a variety of different supplements available here’s what you need to know.

What is pre-workout?

Pre-workout supplements are multi-ingredient dietary formulas designed to increase energy and boost athletic performance, whether out running, in the gym, or performing bodyweight circuits.

Related: 5 Bodyweight exercises for beginner runners.

As previously mentioned, there are countless types of pre-workout from coffee to Redbull to powdered substances which are mixed with water and drank before exercise.

Each of these supplements does similar things, mainly making use of caffeine to reduce fatigue and increase muscular strength.

Various studies signpost the many benefits of caffeine – with this being a popular go-to-supplement for athletes of all sports.

Other benefits are dependant on the ingredients contained within your choice of supplement- some will increase strength and power while others may also improve endurance – perfect for sports such as running and cycling.

Later in this article, we will highlight the best pre workout for running.

Should I take pre workout before running?

Pre-workout before running, whether this is caffeine in the form of a cup of coffee, an energy drink, or a powdered substance mixed into your drink should improve performance.

You will most likely feel and see the benefits of using this supplement before running if feeling tired and lethargic before your run, if you’re running an intense interval session or alternatively running a race.

Pre-workout, including caffeine should reduce your perceived effort, increase alertness, your perception of pain, and may even contribute to increased fat burning during exercise – perfect if you’re looking to lose weight.

However, if this is the case you may wish to avoid sugary options such as energy drinks before exercise.

For optimal performance, we recommend taking your chosen pre-workout supplement 30-60 minutes before exercise.

Are there any side-effects?

If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine it is advised to either avoid pre workout or alternatively start with much smaller doses.

You can slowly build these doses up dependant on the individual product, but ensure to do this slowly.

According to WebMD, potential side-effects of pre-workout may include:

  • Digestion problems
  • Jitters & an increased heart rate (unsafe for some)
  • Feelings of anxiousness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia

These potential side-effects differ from person to person – it’s ultimately down to trial and error and personal experience.

Should you use pre-workout before every run?

Supplementing pre workout before running, each and every run may not be quite as effective as taking irregularly.

Taking this supplement regularly may increase body adaptation to this, therefore, reducing the overall effect. This would require you to take more pre workout to receive the same benefits – a common problem with coffee drinkers.

Therefore, we recommend taking this supplement as infrequently as possible, but definitely when it matters. For example, before a race, a hard interval session, or when you really can’t be bothered getting out of bed for that Sunday long-run.

Is pre-workout safe for running?

While this supplement was originally targeted towards weight-lifters and gym-goers, there are many benefits which transfer over to cardio including running.

These include increased alertness, endurance, and energy reserves – as well as those benefits previously mentioned. This supplement is safe for use regardless of your chosen exercise, whether performing circuits or running intervals on the track.

Related: Indoor track running: what you need to know.

However, if you’ve never taken this before we recommend starting with a much smaller dosage – building this up slowly over-time.

How long does pre workout last?

This will depend on your sensitivity to the ingredients of your chosen product, mainly caffeine. However, many runners should feel the benefits within 30-45 minutes with these lasting anywhere between three and six hours.

Once again, this is entirely individual-based so we recommend playing around with it a little and seeing what works best for you.

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What is the best pre-workout for running?

1. C4 Original Pre-Workout

C4 pre-workout for runners (product recommendation)

C4 creates some of the most widely used supplements for athletes, with no exception for this product. Containing 150mg of caffeine, 1.6g of CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine, 1.5g of Creatine Monohydrate, and 1g of Arginine AKG this is the ultimate pre-workout for all athletes.

View on Amazon

2. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Optimum nutrition pre-workout for runners (product suggestion)

Containing naturally souced caffeine and a wide variety of vitamins and coming in five different flavours, this supplement really lives up to the ‘gold standard’ hype.

View on Amazon

3. My Protein Vegan Pre-Workout

Product recommendation for runners - my protein vegan pre-workout

As not all pre-workouts are vegan friendly, we’ve also provided this vegan pre-workout from My Protein. This product contains a 150mg of natural caffeine and comes in a variety of flavours.

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4. Bulk Powders Complete Pre-workout (Mixed Berry, Tropical & Energy)

Bulk Powders - pre workout for runners (product recommendation)

This supplement from bulk powders comes in three different flavours: mixed berry, tropical and energy. From the leading sports nutrition brand, this product contains BCAAs, B6 (increases alertness), and amongst other ingredients caffeine to enhance performance.

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5. Science in Sport Go Caffeine Shots (12 pack)

Product suggestion for runners - caffeine shots

For those not a fan of pre-workout, you can also take caffeine shots. These contain 150mg of caffeine and are taken in shot form – ideal for those looking for a quick kick of energy (great before a race).

View on Amazon

So, as a runner should you take pre-workout?

Most runners should benefit from taking pre-workout, whether you choose a mixture based product or a large cup of coffee. The benefits are numerous, but most notably a reduced perception of pain, increased endurance and even increased fat burning during exercise.

However, we can’t stress enough that pre-workout is not for everyone – especially those who are caffeine sensitive. Ultimately this is a trial and error situation, finding out what works best for you.

Does pre-workout work for running?

Yes! Pre-workout should reduce fatigue, your perception of pain, and even increase endurance - perfect for running.

Is pre-workout safe?

For most runners, pre-workout is safe. However, if you're particularly sensitive to caffeine you should be extra careful, certainly starting off on much smaller doses.

How long does pre-workout last?

Pre-workout will usually take 30-45 minutes to kick in with these benefits lasting anywhere between 3 and 6 hours.

Should I try pre workout?

We recommend using pre-workout before a hard interval session, race, or difficult long-run for the biggest benefit.

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