10 Best Pre Workout for Cardio (2024) Approved by Experts

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 11, 2023
We personally test every product featured in our reviews and guides. By ordering products anonymously and getting a group of independent testers, we are able to get first-hand experience and provide data-driven recommendations. Learn more.

In my experience working with athletes, I’ve learned that while pre-workouts are ideal for maximum pump and blood flow during resistance training, those usually won’t do much for a cardio session.

The most important thing is to figure out what ingredients work better for a cardio exercise program.

So, I teamed up with a nutritionist and 13 clients to research and test 30 different products over a six-week period and compare the results.

Let’s take a look at the best pre-workout for cardio.

The Best Pre Workout for Cardio

Editor's Choice
Gorilla Mode
Gorilla Mode
Effectiveness
4.9
Ingredients
5.0
Price
4.9
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Click For Best Price
2nd Best Choice
Pre Lab Pro
Pre Lab Pro
Effectiveness
4.9
Ingredients
4.9
Price
4.8
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Click For Best Price
3rd Best Choice
Transparent Labs
Transparent Labs
Effectiveness
4.8
Ingredients
4.8
Price
4.9
Overall Score 4.8
4.8
Click For Best Price

Our Top Pre-Workouts for Cardio (February 2024)

1 - Gorilla Mode (Best Overall)

Gorilla Mode
4.9
Effectiveness
5.0
Ingredients
4.9
Price
Overall Score 4.9
Click For Best Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Seems to work fast, within less than 20 minutes
  • Carefully chosen pre-workout formula with proven ingredients
  • The powder mixes easily with water and doesn’t require a shaker
  • It’s also a great-tasting pre-workout drink available in a load of different flavors

Cons

  • You’ll need to order two tubs to get the free shipping
  • Creatine : 2500 mg
  • Betaine : 1250 mg
  • Caffeine : 175 mg
  • L-Tyrosine : 750 mg

After many weeks of testing, our team and nutritionist agreed that Gorilla Mode is the best pre-workout supplement for a cardio session.

It has a carefully planned formula, and my nutritionist highlighted that all the ingredients have scientific support.

One of the notable ingredients is creatine, and studies from the Centre for Sports Science and Human Performance have shown that it has a positive effect on athletic performance and endurance [1].

And our testing results showed a significant improvement for both.

Check out our full review about Gorilla Mode pre-workout.

Quick Facts:

2 - Pre Lab Pro (Best for Strenght Training)

Pre Lab Pro
4.9
Effectiveness
4.9
Ingredients
4.8
Price
Overall Score 4.9
Click For Best Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Good combination of caffeine and L-theanine for a motivational boost
  • Comes with a free shaker for convenient mixing just before a cardio workout
  • Great bulk-order discounts are available that can help save a lot of money

Cons

  • Only available in berry flavor at the moment
  • Caffeine : 80 mg
  • L-Theanine : 160 mg
  • L-Tyrosine : 400 mg
  • Beta-Red Beet Powder : 1500 mg

Our second best pre-workout for your cardio exercise days is this one from Pre Lab Pro.

I’ve extensively used this for strength training, and our testing results showed positive effects for cardio training as well.

What seems to work particularly well is the mix of caffeine and L-theanine.

Studies have shown that this combination works particularly well for cognitive performance to boost motivation [2].

Quick Facts:

3 - Transparent Labs (Best Beta-Alanine)

Transparent Labs
4.8
Effectiveness
4.8
Ingredients
4.9
Price
Overall Score 4.8
Click For Best Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great source of beta-alanine for improved endurance
  • It’s a stim-free pre-workout to help you avoid jitters
  • It has a natural-tasting flavor and mixes easily with water

Cons

  • Only available on the official website
  • BCAA : 4000 mg
  • Betaine : 2500 mg
  • Taurine : 1300 mg
  • Beta-Alanine : 4000 mg

Transparent Labs lives up to its name as it’s completely transparent about the ingredients and quality.

My nutritionist highlighted that it’s a great pre-workout for cardio activities because of the added beta-alanine.

Researchers have shown that Transparent Labs pre-workout has a significant impact on workout performance in general, including cardio [3].

It’s also a good option for taking later in the day as it doesn’t contain any caffeine.

Quick Facts:

4 - C4 Original (Cheapest Option)

C4 Original
4.8
Effectiveness
4.7
Ingredients
4.8
Price
Overall Score 4.8
Click For Best Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Provides enough beta-alanine to make a noticeable difference
  • Comes with great natural flavor options
  • Great subscription discounts available for regular deliveries

Cons

  • The company shows a partial proprietary formula that makes stacking difficult
  • Beta-Alanine : 1.6 g
  • Citrulline : 1 g
  • Creatine : 1 g
  • Caffeine : 150 mg

This pre-workout for cardio is from C4, which is a well-known and established brand in the dietary and sports supplement space.

It has a good dose of citrulline for increasing blood flow [4].

But it’s the mix of creatine and beta-alanine that seems to be behind the good workout improvements we measured.

The main reason we put Cellucor C4 Pre-workout supplement for cardio further down the list is due to the partial proprietary blend around stimulants. That makes it difficult to stack other pre-workouts.

Quick Facts:

5 - NitroSurge Pre-Workout (Best Tasting)

NitroSurge Pre-Workout
4.7
Effectiveness
4.8
Ingredients
4.7
Price
Overall Score 4.7
Click For Best Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It has one of the largest selections of flavors available
  • Gives you a great amount of focus and motivation
  • Great for aerobic exercise endurance levels

Cons

  • It has quite a strong dose of caffeine that could cause jitters
  • Betaine : 1.25 g
  • Caffeine : 180 mg
  • Theobromine : 50 mg
  • Beta-Alanine : 1.6 g

This Nitrosurge pre-workout supplement was one that a few of our testing team liked for fasted cardio in the mornings.

It seems to give you a great motivational boost and focus on athletic performance.

Just keep in mind that it has a strong caffeine dose that can make you jittery and lose some sleep as well.

Quick Facts:

6 - Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout

Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout
4.7
Effectiveness
4.7
Ingredients
4.6
Price
Overall Score 4.7
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Good combination of key amino acids for improved endurance exercise
  • Provides a great level of focus to improve exercise performance
  • Starts working within about 15 minutes for a more effective cardio workout

Cons

  • Some of the flavors are quite fake and sweet tasting
  • L-Tyrosine : 1500 mg
  • Betaine : 3000 mg
  • Caffeine : 250 mg
  • Beta-Alanine : 3500 mg

This pre-workout for cardio has a lot of fancy advertising, but our testing results show that the chosen ingredients have a positive effect on muscular endurance and overall exercise performance.

Our testing indicates that it can allow you to push yourself about 5% further than without taking pre-workouts.

With the high-dose caffeine intake, you could also be looking at a thermogenic pre-workout that can help with fat burning [5].

Quick Facts:

7 - Naked Energy All-Natural Pre-Workout

Naked Energy All-Natural Pre-Workout
4.6
Effectiveness
4.7
Ingredients
4.5
Price
Overall Score 4.6
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Contains no empty carbs or sugar to simply improve the taste
  • Positive results for fat burning and improved body composition
  • Available as an unflavored option that you can mix with other supplements

Cons

  • It can work out quite expensive as there aren’t subscription discounts
  • Caffeine : 200 mg
  • L-Arginine : 1 g
  • Creatine : 1g
  • Beta-Alanine : 2 g

This Naked Energy supplement is another one that saw some measured improvements in performance, and our testing team found that it can boost energy in less than 20 minutes.

With the improved performance and added caffeine content, we also had reports that it helped people burn fat and break through weight loss plateaus.

But keep in mind that it has as much caffeine as two cups of coffee.

Quick Facts:

8 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
4.6
Effectiveness
4.6
Ingredients
4.6
Price
Overall Score 4.6
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A moderate dose of caffeine helps to avoid jitters
  • A good dose of acetyl-l-carnitine to boost physical endurance and performance
  • Available in multiple tasty and refreshing flavors

Cons

  • Some of the ingredients are more geared toward muscle growth
  • Creatine : 3 g
  • Caffeine : 175 mg
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine : 375 mg
  • Beta-Alanine : 1.5 g

Next on our list of best pre-workout supplements for muscular endurance is this one from Optimum Nutrition.

The ingredient that pulled our attention is acetyl-l-carnitine because researchers have shown that it can improve muscle endurance and energy supply while also limiting muscle fatigue [6].

The Optimum Nutrition pre-workout flavors are also very refreshing, and during our testing, we liked the fruit punch one the best.

Quick Facts:

9 - Beyond Raw LIT

Beyond Raw LIT
4.6
Effectiveness
4.5
Ingredients
4.7
Price
Overall Score 4.6
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Good selection of proven ingredients for a cardio pre-workout
  • Save money by ordering large tubs to keep you going for months
  • Available in one of the largest selections of flavors to avoid getting bored

Cons

  • Could have a stronger dose of creatine
  • Creatine : 1.5 g
  • Caffeine : 250 mg
  • L-Citrulline : 3g
  • Beta-Alanine : 3.2 g

This Beyond Raw pre-workout product came up with some decent test results from our testing, and we really liked the different flavor options available.

It has a well-rounded pre-workout formulation with key ingredients that have a proven effect on muscular endurance.

My dietitian just highlighted that some of the ingredients could do with a stronger dose.

Quick Facts:

10 - Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout
4.6
Effectiveness
4.5
Ingredients
4.5
Price
Overall Score 4.5
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Creatine-free option for those who prefer not to have the tingling feeling
  • Solid boost for focus and mental strength during endurance training
  • Uses natural flavors and sweeteners that are not overpowering

Cons

  • It has a very strong dose of caffeine that can make you quite jittery
  • Betaine : 2.5 g
  • Caffeine : 350 mg
  • L-Theanine : 350 mg
  • Beta-Alanine : 3.6 g

The final one of the best pre-workout supplements we put through our testing comes from Legion Athletics, which is another reputable brand in the sports supplement space.

Legion Pulse pre-workout has a particularly strong dose of caffeine that some of our clients found to be a bit too much.

If you can handle that, you should be able to notice good improvements in focus and motivation.

It’s also creatine-free, which can be a great choice for people who don’t like the tingling sensation it can sometimes cause [7].

“If you're someone who experiences tingling sensations after taking pre-workout supplements, you're not alone. This side effect is actually quite common, and it's usually nothing to worry about.”

- Amber Smith, Writer at discovermagazine.com

Quick Facts:

How Did We Choose These Supplements?

Our rigorous selection process for the these pre-workout supplements for cardio was thorough and methodical, focusing on key factors that align with the specific needs of cardiovascular training.

Key Ingredients

While there are lots of effective pre-workout ingredients, the ones we prioritized were creatine with a minimum dose of 2,000 mg, betaine with a dose of 1,000 mg or higher, and L-citrulline with an ideal dose of 3,500 mg.

Carbs and Fat

For cardio enthusiasts, we sought out pre-workout supplements that minimize carbs and fat, thereby supporting a lean energy boost without counterproductive additives that could hinder fat oxidation during cardio sessions.

Flavor and Texture

Since pre-workouts for cardio often forgo sugars, finding a formula that still tastes great was essential. We valued supplements that delivered a satisfying flavor profile, making the pre-cardio ritual enjoyable.

Solubility

A pre-workout's ability to dissolve effectively in liquids is a must for convenience. We tested each supplement's mixability in various liquids to ensure a clump-free, smooth beverage, whether stirred or shaken.

Digestive Compatibility and Side Effects

Our team personally tested each pre-workout for ease of digestion, noting any negative effects such as energy crashes or gastrointestinal upset, to ensure a comfortable and safe workout enhancement.

Third-Party Testing

We prioritized supplements that have undergone third-party testing, affirming their quality and purity of their ingredient labels. This step is crucial for performance athletes who also want to avoid banned substances.

Value for Money

The market for pre-workout supplements is diverse, with prices reflecting different quality levels and brand prestige. We aimed to still deliver good value with a price per dose in the range of $1.00 to $1.50.

Buyer’s Guide

A man browsing supplement on a mobile phone

Before you make a final choice from the above lists of pre-workouts, let me show you what to consider in your decision-making process.

Who Should Take Pre-Workout Supplements For Cardio?

Athletes who want to improve exercise performance in their cardio workouts for weight loss should consider investing in pre-workout supplements.

While many of these pre-workout products focus on muscle building, they often contain ingredients that limit fatigue.

You can take advantage of those ingredients to gain some additional stamina for your aerobic performance so that you train longer or at a higher intensity level.

Related Articles:

Who Shouldn’t Take Pre-Workout Supplements For Cardio?

Athletes who are very sensitive to stimulants and certain amino acid ingredients that cause a tingling sensation shouldn’t consider buying pre-workout supplements. While you can improve physical performance, getting jittery or feeling uncomfortable isn’t worth it.

For example, some pre-workout brands include a very high dose of beta-alanine, and studies have shown that it can cause an itchy sensation similar to what happens with creatine [8].

“Beta-alanine can cause itchiness or paresthesia, especially in high doses. This symptom typically resolves within 1 hour.”

- Grant Tinsley, Ph.D.

Ingredients To Focus On

Based on our research and testing of the best pre-workout supplements, we have identified those pre-workout formulas that seem to work the best.

While there are many common pre-workout ingredients, here are the four most important ones: 

  • Creatine: has been shown to provide an extra boost in aerobic performance [9].
  • Betaine: can help with reducing muscle lactate to boost stamina [10].
  • Caffeine: has a thermogenic effect that can help burn calories more effectively [11].
  • L-Tyrosine: can boost cognitive endurance to stay focused on your workouts [12].

Also, keep in mind that for cardio, it’s less important to focus on things like citrulline for increasing blood circulation and lean muscle mass.

Dosage Of Ingredients

Getting a scoop of a pre-workout supplement

When it comes to the dosage of each ingredient in a pre-workout formula, you want to look at what scientific studies used to prove a certain beneficial effect.

That can be very time-consuming, and it’s something that our dietitian did for all the above products.

So, if you stick to one of those recommendations, then you should be in a good position to have the optimum effects.

Brand Reputation

When it comes to choosing a pre-workout, you also want to look at the reputation of the brand.

Some of these supplement companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on product development. 

And that reflects in less effective results.

Most pre-workout supplements we encountered actually came from reputable brands, and the ones above include some of the biggest and most well-respected brands available.

Caffeine Content and Sensitivity

Caffeine levels in pre-workouts vary widely, catering to different sensitivities. Those sensitive to caffeine can opt for lower-dose options to energize workouts without the jitters or crashes.

Based on research from Sports Med, even low doses of caffeine can help with performance [13].

It's crucial to assess personal tolerance and choose a pre-workout that aligns with one's caffeine threshold, ensuring an effective yet comfortable boost in energy.

Natural vs. Artificial Ingredients

The natural vs. artificial debate in pre-workouts leads to a lot of disagreement, but from my experience as a personal trainer, there is only one answer.

Natural ingredients often mean fewer health risks and a cleaner label, but may come with taste trade-offs. Artificial additives enhance flavor and solubility but can raise health concerns.

Studies from Advanced Nutrition have highlighted the risks that artificial sweeteners pose on your gut health [14].

Gender-Specific Formulations

Gender-specific pre-workouts claim tailored benefits, yet the science suggests pre-workout nutritional needs don't significantly differ by gender.

This raises questions about whether such formulations are driven by genuine physiological considerations or merely marketing tactics.

My personal experience as a fitness coach with pre-workouts is that you don't need to choose a gender specific supplement, as most products on our list deliver good results for men and women.

FAQs

Does Pre-Workout Ruin Fasted Cardio?

No, a pre-workout supplement won’t ruin fasted cardio. In most cases, these products don’t contain sugar or carbs and have very limited calories, so they won’t disrupt your fasting efforts.

Is It OK To Take Pre-Workout Before Running?

Yes, it’s OK to take a pre-workout supplement before running. Many of the pre-workout formulations that help with strength training will also help with cardio to boost overall stamina.

Our Verdict on the Best Pre-Workout for Cardio

Based on our extensive testing of dozens of pre-workout brands and products, we have found that our results point to one clear option as the best pre-workout for cardio.

Our test results show that Gorilla Mode provided the best boost in endurance and stamina.

That means you can increase the time or intensity of your workout routine and reach your goals in a shorter time frame.

Our #1 Recommendation

Gorilla Mode (Best Overall)

Gorilla Mode
Effectiveness
4.9
Ingredients
5.0
Price
4.9
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Pros
  • Seems to work fast, within less than 20 minutes
  • Carefully chosen pre-workout formula with proven ingredients
  • The powder mixes easily with water and doesn’t require a shaker
  • It’s also a great-tasting pre-workout drink available in a load of different flavors
  • Get the BEST PRICE until the end of February
Cons
  • You’ll need to order two tubs to get the free shipping
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