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.
Our Top Pre-Workouts for Cardio (September 2023)
1 - Gorilla Mode (Editor's Choice)
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 have shown that it has a positive effect on athletic performance and endurance .
And our testing results showed a significant improvement for both.
Check out our full review about Gorilla Mode pre-workout.
- Creatine : 2500 mg
- Betaine : 1250 mg
- Caffeine : 175 mg
- L-Tyrosine : 750 mg
- 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
- You’ll need to order two tubs to get the free shipping
2 - Pre Lab Pro
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 .
The main reason we didn’t bring this further up the list is that we like to see supplements with different flavor options, so you don’t get bored with them.
- Caffeine : 80 mg
- L-Theanine : 160 mg
- L-Tyrosine : 400 mg
- Beta-Red Beet Powder : 1500 mg
- 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
- Only available in berry flavor at the moment
3 - Transparent Labs
The next pre-workout supplement that we’d recommend is this one from Transparent Labs.
This company 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.
It’s also a good option for taking later in the day as it doesn’t contain any caffeine.
- BCAA : 4000 mg
- Betaine : 2500 mg
- Taurine : 1300 mg
- Beta-Alanine : 4000 mg
- 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
- Only available on the official website
4 - C4 Original
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 .
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.
- Beta-Alanine : 1.6 g
- Citrulline : 1 g
- Creatine : 1 g
- Caffeine : 150 mg
- Provides enough beta-alanine to make a noticeable difference
- Comes with great natural flavor options
- Great subscription discounts available for regular deliveries
- The company shows a partial proprietary formula that makes stacking difficult
5 - NitroSurge Pre-Workout
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.
- Betaine : 1.25 g
- Caffeine : 180 mg
- Theobromine : 50 mg
- Beta-Alanine : 1.6 g
- 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
- It has quite a strong dose of caffeine that could cause jitters
6 - Huge Supplements Wrecked Pre-Workout
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 .
We just found that some of the flavors available were a bit too sweet and artificial tasting.
- L-Tyrosine : 1500 mg
- Betaine : 3000 mg
- Caffeine : 250 mg
- Beta-Alanine : 3500 mg
- 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
- Some of the flavors are quite fake and sweet tasting
7 - Naked Energy All-Natural Pre-Workout
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.
So maybe avoid taking this late in the day to avoid a sleepless night.
- Caffeine : 200 mg
- L-Arginine : 1 g
- Creatine : 1g
- Beta-Alanine : 2 g
- 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
- It can work out quite expensive as there aren’t subscription discounts
8 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
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 .
The Optimum Nutrition pre-workout flavors are also very refreshing, and the best feedback we got was for the fruit punch one.
- Creatine : 3 g
- Caffeine : 175 mg
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine : 375 mg
- Beta-Alanine : 1.5 g
- 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
- Some of the ingredients are more geared toward muscle growth
9 - Beyond Raw LIT
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.
And if you start taking a larger dose, it becomes quite expensive, and you end up taking in too much caffeine.
- Creatine : 1.5 g
- Caffeine : 250 mg
- L-Citrulline : 3g
- Beta-Alanine : 3.2 g
- 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
- Could have a stronger dose of creatine
10 - Legion Pulse Pre-Workout
The final one of our best pre-workout supplements 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.
And 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 .
“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
- Betaine : 2.5 g
- Caffeine : 350 mg
- L-Theanine : 350 mg
- Beta-Alanine : 3.6 g
- 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
- It has a very strong dose of caffeine that can make you quite jittery
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.
- Best Pre-workout Supplement for Men
- Best Pre-workout Supplement for Women
- Best Pre-workout Supplement for Teens
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 .
“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 .
- Betaine: can help with reducing muscle lactate to boost stamina .
- Caffeine: has a thermogenic effect that can help burn calories more effectively .
- L-Tyrosine: can boost cognitive endurance to stay focused on your workouts .
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
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.
There is one caveat regarding pre-workouts that I would highlight.
When it comes to caffeine, you need to pay attention if you tend to be sensitive to stimulants or if you drink a lot of coffee.
While most people can handle 200 mg of caffeine or more, you still don’t want to take that late in the day if you want a good night’s sleep.
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.
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.
Which Pre-Workout Supplement Should You Choose
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.
Order your first supply today and find out how much of a difference it will make to your cardio efforts.
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