A complete guide for runners to all things pre-workout
Every runner has a unique routine they go through before their runs. This can include a large cup of matcha, an espresso shot, or even a can of energy drinks.
Whilst all of these are technically types of pre-workouts, today we will be talking about something a little different.
There are a growing group of runners that swear by using energy-giving performance enhancers, known as pre-workouts. They claim that using these pre-workouts has led to faster recovery times and even smashing their PBs.
Today we will be talking you through everything you ever wanted to know about pre-workouts - we'll be covering the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What is pre-workout?
Pre-workouts are formulated supplements designed to be taken before a workout. If they work correctly they will enhance your performance during the said workout.
They are different and should be taken separately to a protein shake.
Pre-workouts come in many forms. Some come as a pill you can take, others come as a powder that you can mix with water or soda.
Energy drinks like Monster or RedBull are also considered types of pre-workouts.
The basic concept behind pre-workouts is that an excess of caffeine is used to enable the body to work harder and speed up recovery.
Other health benefits will vary depending on the individual supplement.
Should I take pre-workout before running?
Before thinking about whether you should take pre-workout you should look at the ingredients of your chosen pre-workout. Check that you are not intolerant or allergic to any of the ingredients.
If you are fine with the ingredients then you will likely see a benefit from taking pre-workouts before going for a run. The caffeine will allow you to push yourself harder than you traditionally would.
As with any form of caffeine you are likely to become more alert and more perceptive of the effects running is having on your body. Caffeine highs make it harder for us to feel pain.
Studies have shown that in certain cases pre-workout can help your body to burn fat faster. If this is something you are looking for then you should avoid pre-workouts with high calorie counts - like sugary energy drinks.
Are there any side-effects?
As we mentioned before, you should avoid any pre-workouts that contain ingredients that will make you unwell.
If you have caffeine sensitivity then you are better off avoiding pre-workouts altogether. Caffeine has been known to cause anxiety, and trigger panic attacks for people with anxiety disorders.
Studies have shown that pre-workouts can cause:
- Digestive problems
- Jitters or physical shaking
- Feelings of anxiousness
- Caffeine crashes
- Accelerated heart rate
As the formulas and ingredient combinations vary from brand to brand. You may find that one brand has a worse effect on you than others. This is not unusual and you should not be worried about that.
People who have heart problems should avoid taking pre-workouts.
Should you use pre-workout before every run?
It is best to save pre-workout taking for the days that you want to put in your best performance. The more frequently you take pre-workouts the less effective they will become.
The more our body is exposed to something the quicker it adapts to it. If you were to continuously take pre-workouts you may find that after a few months it no longer has an effect on you.
It is possible that you could prevent this by regularly switching between brands and formulas. Doing this would prevent your body from getting too used to the pre-workout and theoretically prevent it from becoming ineffective.
So, when should you take pre-workout?
- On days when you feel truly exhausted but need to train
- On race or competition days
- Before HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions
Is pre-workout safe for running?
We understand why runners would be worried about taking pre-workout drinks and supplements. The supplements were originally designed for professional athletes, weight lifters, and endurance athletes.
However, there is very little runners need to worry about. These supplements were designed to improve performance, alternates, and recovery. All of which runs can benefit from.
Running expends enough energy to justify the large amounts of caffeine ingested via pre-workouts.
How long does pre-workout last?
This question does not have a simple answer. It will entirely vary depending on the formula that you are using and how intensely you exercise after using it.
If you were to go for a medium effort run that took you less than 45 minutes then you expect to be feeling the effects of the pre-workout for around 2-6 hours.
What is the best pre-workout for running?
What is best for you will entirely depend on how your body reacts to the formula of your pre-workout. You may have to try a few to find the one that works best for you. This can be a tricky process.
To save you some time, here are 5 pre-workouts that we and many of our fellow runners have loved:
OUR TOP PICK
We adore this pre-workout and had to put it at the top of our list. This isn't just a pre-workout, it's a whole health kick in a cup.
Not only does this have energy-boosting caffeine, but it also has added electrolytes, amino acids, and BCCAs. Plus it comes in a watermelon flavor (as well as three other, less exciting choices.
This pre-workout contains no sugar and only 5 calories per serving. It has added electrolytes to support basic muscle function and increase potential muscle growth.
We lose a lot of electrolytes whilst we sweat, this pre-workout allows you to end your workout with a normal level of electrolytes.
This online bestseller comes in 8 delicious flavors. This pre-workout was one of the first available on the market.
It began its life in sports science labs in 2006, helping international athletes give their best performances.
It comes infused with creatine (which aids muscle growth) and beta-alanine (this increases recovery speeds).
If you're looking for a pre-workout that has a well-deserved reputation for producing amazing results. Try this one.
This is one of the best vegan pre-workouts on the market. You'd be surprised how many formulas aren't vegan. This option is also GMO free, paleo friendly, and safe for those on a keto diet.
This pre-workout claims to offer crash-free energy boosts. It is sourced from and made in the US.
We love this formula as it derives all its caffeine from natural sources. It is also available in multiple flavors. Our favorite flavor is Passion Fruit Guava.
We'll be the first to admit that it's hard to resist any kind of pre-workout named after the mighty Honey Badger.
It would be equally as hard to live up to that name, Shockingly, the pre-workout actually does.
This is a vegan, keto, and paleo friendly pre-workout, that has zero sugar per serving. It comes in four flavors and is GMO free.
Our final offering is another great vegan choice. It claims to offer no crashes or jitters. It also comes in multiple flavors.
This is a naturally sourced pre-workout that contains no GMOs or creatine. Their formula is based on the results of clinical trials done on professional athletes. If you get this pre-workout as a subscription you can save a large amount of money.
Does pre-workout work for running?
As we mentioned above, all the benefits of taking pre-workout translate really well to running.
However, we don't recommend taking it frequently. You should consider saving it for days when you are taking part in a race, or are feeling exhausted.
If you are sensitive to caffeine or it gives you anxiety then you should avoid pre-workouts. Anyone with heart problems should also avoid taking pre-workout supplements.
Should I try pre-workout?
Yes, if you can safely handle all of the ingredients in your supplements, then it can add a lot to your running life.
Make sure to experiment with different brands and formulas to find which one works best for you. If you need inspiration check out our favorites above.
Make sure to regularly switch between brands to prevent your body from getting too used to the formula. Which can happen if you use the same supplements for too long or too frequently.
Pre-workouts can make a great addition to your workout routine if used sparingly.
Using pre-workouts at the right time can help you overcome fatigue and break your PBs.