Whether you’ve picked up running as a solo activity to take your mind off the stress of daily life or you’re training for a marathon, running is one of those sports that always allows you the opportunity to hit a new personal best.
It could be from fixing your form, investing in some new shoes, or maybe you’ve changed up your diet or supplement regime, and now we’re talking full-fledged explosive runs. Better fuel means a better run, right?
Whatever the reason is, running is one of those activities where one question always comes up with supplementation: Should I take pre-workout before a run?
Traditionally, we’ve always made the connection between pre-workout and strength training or HIIT, but if you’re wondering whether a pre-workout will benefit cardio, you’re not alone.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about taking a pre-workout before a run—why pre-workout, how pre can benefit endurance athletes, and the top reasons a good pre-workout should be in your lineup before you hit the trails.
What Is A Pre-Workout And Why Take It?
The thing with running, and really any form of training, is that you have to be properly fueled or you’re not going to perform well. There’s minimal chance that you’ll hit a personal best on a lift or beat your current record for a 1-mile run on a poor diet and zero supplementation.
But when you add in a good stack that helps to support both optimal performance and recovery, you’ve got yourself a win on every level.
That’s partly where a pre-workout can come into the mix.
If you’ve never taken a pre-workout, they’re a blend of ingredients—usually caffeine, amino acids, nitrates, creatine, β-alanine, and others—designed to improve acute exercise performance, which ultimately helps augment training adaptations when used long-term 1.
Studies find that supplementing with a pre-workout can cause significant improvements in anaerobic peak and mean power performance, but the results in terms of upper and lower body power and strength may be nothing spectacular 2.
The reason it can be so beneficial for high-intensity work is because they’re often a combination of compounds that boost energy substrate availability (creatine) and dilate blood vessels (nitric oxide boosters), which enhances blood flow to working muscles and removes waste to prevent lactic acid buildup and fatigue.
We’ll talk more about the specifics below, but in any case, a pre-workout can be a great addition to your training stack regardless of the style or type of training you’re doing, be it endurance, strength, or power.
The problem with a lot of conventional pre-workout supplements, though, is that they’re high-stim—in other words, they’re loaded with caffeine. It’s that heart-pumping, jittery, I can conquer the world-type feeling you get after you down a scoop of pre.
And while that may work for some people looking to do HIIT or some other high-intensity training, it’s not exactly ideal for runners.
Conventional pre-workouts generally cause:
- Jitters or nervousness
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances
- Increased heart rate
- Digestive discomfort
None of which are conducive to a 20, 10, or even 5km run. Not to mention they can interfere with your body’s ability to recover and carry you through your next run.
So, ideally, you want to invest your time and money into a pre-workout supplement that is actually going to benefit endurance athletes. That is, prevent muscle cramps and fatigue, provide sustained energy, and drive focus.
Pre-Workout And Endurance Exercise
You’ve likely seen athletes and lifters going crazy with pre-workout before they hit the weight room, but it’s not too often you hear about long-distance athletes downing a scoop of pre before they hit the pavement; it’s usually an energy chew, a handful of carbs, or something else to sustain them down the road.
So, is pre-workout actually worthwhile to take before a run?
As it turns out, pre-workout can offer some pretty good benefits to endurance athletes. Depending on the ingredients in the formula, it can help to improve endurance, increase oxygen supply to muscles for endurance activity, enhance mental focus and intensity, and accelerate recovery.
3 Reasons Why You Should Take Pre-Workout Before Running
1. More Energy
One of the sole purposes of pre-workout supplements is to increase energy to help you get through even the toughest and most intense workouts. For most formulas, they’ll contain some sort of stimulant, generally in the form of caffeine, to do this.
Caffeine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that helps reduce fatigue and increase energy and alertness. It does this by acting as an adenosine antagonist.
Because it can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, caffeine can counteract the inhibitory effects of adenosine on neuroexcitability, neurotransmitter release, and arousal, thereby reducing fatigue and increasing energy.
Through this mechanism, caffeine ingestion may help to 3:
- Modulate central fatigue
- Alter rate of perceived exertion
- Reduce perceived pain
- Alter levels of vigor
Taken together, these factors may all result in some serious performance improvements, whether that’s for fatigue, lap time, or otherwise..
2. Better Endurance
As a runner, you obviously want to constantly improve your time and pace, which means that working on your stamina and endurance is of the utmost importance.
For bodybuilders and lifters, creatine has always been the weapon of choice, but it turns out that where endurance exercise is concerned, there’s a new kid in town—beetroot. We know, you probably think we’re a bit crazy, but hear us out.
Beetroot is a rich source of nitrates, which increases levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. NO serves several important functions, including increasing blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency, and strengthening muscle contractions 4.
Studies suggest that supplementing with beetroot juice or beetroot powder can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency, which ultimately enhances performance at various distances, increases time to exhaustion at submaximal intensities, and can improve cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities as well as maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) 4.
Why wouldn’t you want to take it if that’s what you’re getting?
3. Greater Muscle Efficiency And Faster Recovery
There’s no denying that running is hard on the body. Your heart, lungs, joints, muscles… you name it, and it’s probably hit during a long-distance run, which makes optimizing recovery even more critical.
Glutathione is one of the most important antioxidants in the human body and comprises three amino acids—glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. While endogenously synthesized in hepatic cells, it can also be supplemented in something like Setria Performance Blend alongside L-citrulline.
It plays a significant role in several physiological functions, in particular, anti-oxidation and detoxification functions 5. Because physical exercise decreases the reduced form and increases the oxidized form of glutathione, as well as decreasing total plasma and tissue glutathione content, studies suggest glutathione may be linked to aerobic energy metabolism and maintenance of muscle contraction.
Without going into great detail, research finds that supplementing with glutathione can improve lipid metabolism and acidification in skeletal muscles during exercise, which leads to less muscle fatigue, better performance, less muscle soreness, and faster recovery 5.
But when you combine it with citrulline, you’re also getting the perfect combination to protect muscles against oxidative stress during high-intensity exercise and support greater muscle efficiency by augmenting NO levels 6; both important factors for optimizing performance and recovery.
If you’ve always been under the impression that pre-workout was meant for the big lifts, it’s time to think again. With better and more precise formulas designed for maximum power, speed, strength, and endurance, knocking back a scoop of pre-workout before training—whether that’s resistance training or endurance—is one of the best ways to go.
The specific combination of ingredients maximizes blood flow, drives focus and intensity, and accelerates recovery to get you back to training tomorrow.
So, next time you’re about to head out for a run, reach for Pre Lab Pro rather than your typical carb-loaded energy chew… the results you get will speak for themselves.
- PS Harty, HA Zabriskie, JL Erickson, PE Molling, CM Kerksick, AR Jagim. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1):41.
- N Martinez, B Campbell, M Franek, L Buchanan, R Colquhoun. The effect of acute pre-workout supplementation on power and strength performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:29.
- MS Ganio, JF Klau, DJ Casa, LE Armstrong, CM Effect of caffeine on sport-specific endurance performance: a systematic review.J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(1):315-324.
- R Domínguez, E Cuenca, JL Maté-Muñoz, et al. Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. 2017;9(1):43.
- W Aoi, Y Ogaya, M Takami, et al. Glutathione supplementation suppresses muscle fatigue induced by prolonged exercise via improved aerobic metabolism.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:7.
- S McKinley-Barnard, T Andre, M Morita, DS Willoughby. Combined L-citrulline and glutathione supplementation increases the concentration of markers indicative of nitric oxide synthesis.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:27.