If you’re a frequent runner constantly looking to get an edge on your next training session, sometimes a cup of coffee or an energy chew doesn’t quite do the trick.
While it may boost your glucose stores to provide more fuel, you still miss a few pieces of the puzzle: focus, concentration, alertness, and motivation.
Sure, there are plenty of individual supplements that can sharpen cognitive function to get your head in the game or ramp up nitric oxide production to get your blood flowing, but few do it as well as an all-in-one pre-workout supplement.
They’re one of the most popular fitness supplements on the market and are specifically geared to enhance your workout and get you the desired results.
But while you see lifters shoveling the stuff back before hammering the weight, how does it work for endurance athletes? The answer: pretty darn well if you choose the right one.
Maybe you use pre-workout before a run, or perhaps you don’t, but chances are you’ve never met this one. We’re breaking down the ins and outs of pre-workout for running and giving you the only product you’ll need to excel your runs to new heights - quite literally.
In a hurry? Then get your hands on Pre Lab Pro today!
What Is Pre-Workout?
Have you ever had one of those days where your legs don’t want to keep up with your body? Or is your body telling you to go full steam ahead, but your brain just doesn’t want to follow suit?
We all hit a training wall at times where lack of motivation or fatigue gets the best of us, but that’s where a good pre-workout supplement comes into the picture.
If you’ve landed on this article, chances are you’re already familiar with pre-workouts, but let’s cover the basics for those that aren’t.
Technically speaking, pre-workouts are a blend of ingredients that target improvements in acute exercise performance; when used long-term, these formulas may help augment training adaptations 1.
While there’s no “standard” for what’s in a pre-workout formula, you’ll typically see ingredients like caffeine, amino acids, nitrates, creatine, beta-alanine, taurine, and others.
While you’ll typically see pre-workouts used by those after the big guns (i.e. anyone lifting), they have also earned their place in the endurance world.
The synergistic effect of these pre-workout formulas helps to increase energy and alertness, improve blood flow, maximize nutrient delivery to active muscle tissue, and inhibit waste accumulation that can result in muscle fatigue 1.
Most of these ingredients are effective on their own but combined, they offer more favorable benefits on exercise performance and post-workout training adaptations.
To summarize, pre-workouts are geared towards favorable outcomes for:
- Muscular endurance
- Supporting muscle mass
- Force and power output
- Aerobic performance
- Reaction time
- Mental and physical energy
- Body composition
- Energy expenditure
And research supports using a good pre-workout supplement, especially for high-intensity training. Why?
Specific ingredients in pre-workouts enhance energy substrate availability and dilate blood vessels, resulting in better blood flow and nutrient delivery, less waste accumulation, and reduced fatigue risk.
So, while you may not be flying high for hours on a borrowed energy boost from a pre-workout, they can help you hit new levels with your training by altering or supporting pathways that can put a damper on your performance.
What To Look For In A Pre-Workout For Running (And What To Avoid)
There’s no denying that there is a long list of selections for pre-workouts. But while there may be many choices, the choices aren’t always good.
One of the big problems with conventional pre-workouts is that they’re full of garbage - be it artificial sweeteners, synthetic ingredients, or too much caffeine.
You take a scoop thinking you’re in for the workout of a lifetime, only to be left with blood sugar through the roof (artificial sweeteners still spike blood sugar) and jitters that tank your workout.
While the downside of pre-workout may not be the be-all-end-all for some people, they’re not the best outcome for runners - especially those going the distance.
Before we break down the details on what to look for in a good pre-workout for running, let’s look at what not to look for.
Ideally, you want your pre-workout to be clean, effective, and provide sustained energy, which means minimizing ingredients that are synthetic and harmful to your performance.
That’s things like:
- Fillers and additives
- Synthetic ingredients
- Artificial colors and flavors
- Artificial sweeteners
- Mega-doses of caffeine
- Unnecessary ingredients
Although many of those ingredients aren’t likely to cause immediate effects, a poor-quality pre-workout that lacks scientific backing can land you in troubled waters:
Gastrointestinal distress or discomfort
One of the biggest complaints you’ll hear about pre-workouts is GI discomfort.
We’re talking about gas, bloating, cramping, nausea, and diarrhea - not exactly anything you want to experience mid-run.
Some of the ingredients used in pre-workouts, specifically caffeine, sodium bicarbonate, and artificial sweeteners, are known to cause issues in the gut, which can lead to the unpleasant side effects we just mentioned2, 3.
Nothing says disappointment like popping back a pre-workout only not to feel any effects. But the reality is, that’s just what happens for some people.
A pre-workout is only as good as its ingredients, and if you have a pre-loaded with poor-quality ingredients in improper doses, chances are it’s not going to work.
On top of that, pre-workouts loaded with caffeine can go either way - some people find it overstimulating or doesn’t have an effect. In contrast, others find the opposite effect and experience fatigue.
Knowing how your body reacts to certain ingredients can help you hone in on what to look for in a pre-workout.
Not all manufacturers in the health and fitness industry have the consumer's health at heart.
You’ll notice “proprietary blends” on many pre-workout formulas that work in favor of the manufacturers - they give you a blend that claims to work without having to release what exactly is in it.
Because they’re not required to provide specific dosages for proprietary blends, you ultimately have no idea what you’re getting. And runner or not, the FDA doesn’t clear all pre-workout supplements, which means transparency is minimal, and the safety risk is high.
Consider it a goner if your pre-workout lacks transparency about ingredients and dosages. With all of that said, what should you look for in the best pre-workouts for running?
We’re not going to break each of these down, but these should be a priority:
- Clinically effective doses
- Research-backed natural ingredients
- Filler and additive-free
- Low-moderate caffeine
- Label transparency
Should I Take Pre-Workouts For Running?
For people heading to the gym to lift, pre-workout is generally in the repertoire for things to do before leaving the house.
But how helpful is a pre-workout if you’re not touching the weights and training high-intensity intervals or long-distance endurance?
A good pre-workout supplement for endurance athletes should deliver on a few key areas:
- Increase energy, alertness, and motivation
- Reduce fatigue and muscle cramping
- Increase muscle endurance
- Improve muscle efficiency and recovery
One of the primary ingredients responsible for these benefits is caffeine. As a mild central nervous system stimulant, caffeine has been shown to improve endurance performance via a few pathways 4:
- Increasing time to exhaustion
- Preserving muscle glycogen levels
- Delaying perceptions of fatigue
- Decreasing perceptions of pain and perceived effort
Although caffeine has several mechanisms through which it exerts its effects, its ability to inhibit adenosine receptors in the brain is the main one responsible for its impact on fatigue, pain, and perceived effort 5, 6.
It can delay fatigue during exercise by influencing metabolism and enhancing fat oxidation, which helps to preserve muscle glycogen content 7.
Long story short, the best pre-workout supplements have shown equally favorable effects on endurance performance as they have for lifting.
Still, the results and efficacy ultimately boil down to what’s in your pre-workout. If you have a pre-workout that targets muscle growth and strength adaptations, it won’t be the best for runners. The same is true of the opposite.
So, let’s look at some of the best ingredients for the best pre-workout for runners.
The Best Pre-Workout Ingredients For Runners
If you want to perform like the best, it’s not all about training. What goes in your mouth dramatically affects how well you perform, so make it count.
With Pre Lab Pro®, you’re getting the ultimate stack of research-backed natural ingredients designed to optimize performance on all levels - no matter the sport.
So, if you're looking for the best pre-workout supplement for running, you've found it here.
RedNite® Beetroot Powder
Beetroot powder probably doesn’t come to the forefront when you think about optimal performance.
But to maintain speed, sharpness, and energy, your muscles require energy and nutrients - and if your blood isn’t flowing as it should, oxygen and nutrients cannot be delivered to muscles, and waste cannot be removed.
As a result, muscle contraction becomes impaired, and waste accumulates, leading to fatigue.
That’s where nitric oxide boosters shine. You’ve likely seen them on the ingredient list of any pre-workout, but there’s nothing more effective can the good ol’ root vegetable.
Beetroot is a concentrated, natural source of nitrate that drives nitric oxide production. 8
Nitric oxide is one of the most powerful signaling molecules in the body and is a potent vasodilator, meaning it opens up blood vessels to allow for better blood flow.
As a result, muscles receive more oxygen and nutrients, and waste clearance becomes more efficient in preventing fatigue and cramping.
Beetroot is also a concentrated source of betalain pigments - they’re powerful antioxidants that can reduce the effect of free radicals and oxidative stress on muscle cells, upregulate endogenous antioxidant enzymes, and stimulate host defense to support repair and muscle recovery 9.
Plus, the anti-inflammatory properties of beetroot may attenuate muscle soreness and performance decrements induced by eccentric exercise, thereby helping you get back to training faster and stronger - be it on the treadmill, pavement, or weight room floor 10.
If you’re looking for better energy levels and more alertness, one compound continually comes to the forefront: caffeine.
It’s one of the most well-known central nervous system stimulants and a killer for performance. However, the problem with caffeine lies in dosing.
Because most conventional pre-workout supplements overdose caffeine, it leaves you feeling wired, jittery, and anxious, none of which are conducive to running - or any other sport.
Studies even find that low to moderate doses of caffeine supplemented late in exercise can improve athletic performance. In trained cyclists, the moderate dose (200 mg) outperformed the low dose (100 mg) for improving time-trial performance 11.
Pre Lab Pro® scraps the mega doses in favor of something that works. It offers moderate natural caffeine for sharper focus, more attention, an energy boost, enhanced alertness, and improved cognitive function.
And because Pre Lab Pro® is stacked with boosters and balancers, you’ll receive all the synergistic benefits of the ingredients without any of the side effects.
Setria® Performance Blend (Glutathione + Citrulline)
Exercise can be exhausting, and when you’re training at high intensities for long durations, having something to maximize your work capacity and muscle recovery is critical.
While the staple for most people is branched-chain amino acids and potentially creatine, we have something better: glutathione and citrulline. It’s a powerful combination of nitric oxide boosters and sustainers for the ultimate pump regardless of activity.
Whether running or lifting, Setria® Performance Blend L-glutathione + L-citrulline helps you push harder, finish stronger, and go longer.
Never heard of them before? L-glutathione is one of - if not the - most potent endogenous antioxidants that prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals generated by an intense workout.
Because the body consumes more oxygen while running, it also produces more free radicals 12.
If the body’s endogenous antioxidant defense system becomes overburdened by free radicals and can’t neutralize them, they can cause damage and oxidative stress, contributing to muscle damage and inflammation.
As a potent antioxidant, glutathione protects muscle tissue during exercise, bolsters immune defenses to fight inflammation, and supports better performance.
It also improves lipid metabolism and reduces skeletal muscle acidity during exercise to avoid muscle fatigue 13.
And then, we throw L-citrulline into the mix. L-citrulline is an amino acid that increases blood concentrations of nitric oxide to boost blood flow and sustain that classic muscle pump.
While you may not think nitric oxide is required for running, it is. It helps to enhance oxygen and nutrient delivery to active muscle tissue, thereby improving exercise tolerance and recovery mechanisms 14.
L-citrulline helps to enhance muscle power output, maintain VO2max, increase energy in muscle tissue, and enhance muscle growth, comfort, and recovery.
As we’ve said, the one big drawback of conventional pre-workout supplements is their tendency to go ham with caffeine.
As a result, you get a serious energy boost, but it leaves you feeling like a sack of trash afterward. Chronically high caffeine intake can lead to long-term exhaustion, anxiety, jitters, and other unwelcome side effects.
But if you’re after the health benefits of caffeine without the dark side, check out L-tyrosine.
It’s an amino acid that throws a serious curveball at caffeine by supporting the catecholamines most affected by caffeine and high-intensity training. It supports the synthesis and recycling of three catecholamines: dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine 15.
By counteracting the nasty side effects of heavy stimulant use, you’ll get sharper focus and maintain levels of the neurotransmitters involved in performance, mood, and energy.
Last but not least, we get to L-theanine.
While it’s commonly used to support sleep, it can also be a great support for preventing overstimulation and enhancing physical and mental performance.
Caffeine is a great compound for a solid energy boost and to sharpen focus, but too much - especially long-term - can quickly derail your workouts and interfere with recovery.
High doses of caffeine are known to deplete essential brain chemicals and nutrients required for optimal performance, which means your body doesn’t have what it needs to perform.
However, L-theanine is one of the most powerful and effective natural compounds for balancing the effects of caffeine to prevent stress-related decrements in performance - and it should be in all the best pre-workouts.
L-theanine enhances the effects of caffeine to provide a calmer, cleaner stimulation by supporting critical neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, glutamate, and serotonin 16.
It promotes a relaxed, motivated state of mind that’s perfect for pushing you to the finish line of your race.
Final Thoughts On Pre-Workouts For Running
Finding the best pre-workout supplement can be like finding a needle in a haystack. But when you know what to look for and what to avoid, a great pre-workout can be the best-kept secret to a solid run.
So, while pre-workout supplements have typically been geared towards lifters, there is such thing as the best pre-workout for running - and that’s Pre Lab Pro®.
- Harty PS, Zabriskie HA, Erickson JL, Molling PE, Kerksick CM, Jagim AR. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1):41.
- Ruiz-Ojeda FJ, Plaza-Díaz J, Sáez-Lara MJ, Gil A. Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials [published correction appears in Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):468]. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(suppl_1):S31-S48.
- Rao SS, Welcher K, Zimmerman B, Stumbo P. Is coffee a colonic stimulant? Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1998;10(2):113-118.
- Martinez N, Campbell B, Franek M, Buchanan L, Colquhoun R. The effect of acute pre-workout supplementation on power and strength performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:29.
- Sökmen B, Armstrong LE, Kraemer WJ, et al. Caffeine use in sports: considerations for the athlete. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(3):978-986.
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- Spriet LL. Caffeine and performance. Int J Sport Nutr. 1995;5 Suppl:S84-S99.
- Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ. The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015;7(4):2801-2822.
- Clifford T, Berntzen B, Davison GW, West DJ, Howatson G, Stevenson EJ. Effects of Beetroot Juice on Recovery of Muscle Function and Performance between Bouts of Repeated Sprint Exercise. Nutrients. 2016;8(8):506.
- Clifford T, Bell O, West DJ, Howatson G, Stevenson EJ. The effects of beetroot juice supplementation on indices of muscle damage following eccentric exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2016;116(2):353-362.
- Talanian JL, Spriet LL. Low and moderate doses of caffeine late in exercise improve performance in trained cyclists. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(8):850-855.
- Viña J, Gomez-Cabrera MC, Lloret A, et al. Free radicals in exhaustive physical exercise: mechanism of production, and protection by antioxidants. IUBMB Life. 2000;50(4-5):271-277.
- Aoi W, Ogaya Y, Takami M, et al. Glutathione supplementation suppresses muscle fatigue induced by prolonged exercise via improved aerobic metabolism. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:7.
- Bescós R, Sureda A, Tur JA, Pons A. The effect of nitric-oxide-related supplements on human performance. Sports Med. 2012;42(2):99-117.
- Young SN. L-tyrosine to alleviate the effects of stress?. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007;32(3):224.
- Haskell CF, Kennedy DO, Milne AL, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. 2008;77(2):113-122.