9 Best Pre-Workouts for Running (2024) Runner's Perspective  

Supplements Considered 35
Supplements
Considered
Hours of Research 73
Hours
of Research
Reviews Examined 39
Reviews
Examined
Experts Interviewed 14
Experts
Interviewed
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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.

There’s a lot of information on the internet about how to run longer, and one of the suggestions that often pops up is the need for a pre-workout with caffeine.

From my years of experience in the fitness industry, I've seen firsthand how the supplement market can be flooded with products making bold claims. Many pre-workouts might contain misleading ingredients or make promises they can't deliver.

Driven by my commitment to genuine fitness results, I researched these products for 73 hours. My findings culminate in rigorous testing, research, and feedback from countless training sessions with my clients.

The Best Pre-Workouts For Running

Editor's Choice
Gorilla Mode Pre-workout
Gorilla Mode
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
5.0
Price
4.8
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Click For Best Price
2nd Best Choice
Pre Lab Pro
Pre Lab Pro
Taste
4.9
Ingredients
5.0
Price
4.8
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Click For Best Price
3rd Best Choice
Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK Pre-Workout
Transparent Labs
Taste
4.5
Ingredients
4.8
Price
4.6
Overall Score 4.6
4.6
Click For Best Price

Our Top Pre-Workouts for Running (April 2024)

1 - Gorilla Mode Pre-workout (Best Overall)

Rated 4.9/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

5.0
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
4.8
Price
Gorilla Mode Pre-workout

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Non-proprietary blend pre-workout formula
  • Incredible energy and endurance to maintain a higher level of activity
  • All of the flavors are refreshingly tasty
  • It contains a high dose of L-citrulline for increased muscle oxygenation

Cons

  • Some consumers claim that it has a grainy texture in their mouths

Whether you're training for an ultramarathon or participating in your first fun run, Gorilla mode will help you build muscle strength, energy, and stamina.

The 350 mg of caffeine anhydrous in this pre-workout will stimulate your brain to increase your alertness and provide a steady energy boost during bouts of prolonged exhaustive running.

Also, the high concentrations of the amino acid L-citrulline and creatine in this pre-workout will provide the muscle strength and stamina necessary to increase peak power output and help you reach your athletic goals.

During a recent long-distance run, Gorilla Mode increased my muscle strength, athletic performance, and endurance while lessening post-training muscle soreness.

Get 10% off using coupon code:  TOTALSHAPE

2 - Pre Lab Pro (Best for Electrolyte Balance)

Rated 4.9/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.9
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
4.8
Price
Pre Lab Pro

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It will boost athletic performance
  • Helped with endurance and power
  • Contains unique ingredients

Cons

  • Four capsules per serving

Pre Lab Pro Pre-Workout was recommended to me by a colleague and I initially liked it because it had a lot of amino acids to support the body.

This food supplement also has unique ingredients like Himalayan pink salt to help with hydration.

I decided to take this pre-workout before my long run. I could feel my blood flow and heart rate increase as I ran. It definitely gave me a quick energy boost.

The only inconvenience was that a serving is four capsules and it seems like a lot to take all at once.

3 - Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK Pre-Workout (Best for Muscle Building)

Rated 4.6/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.5
Taste
4.8
Ingredients
4.6
Price
Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK Pre-Workout

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Lots of happy customers
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Contains Testosterone Support complex (vitamin D3, boron, and zinc)

Cons

  • No creatine

With almost 2,000 5-star customer reviews on their website, I decided to try out Transparent Labs’ Pre-Series BULK to see why so many people think of this as the best pre-workout supplement.

I was really surprised that creatine is not in this pre-workout but the company claims that the caffeine prevents it from working correctly so they excluded it.

Get 10% off using coupon code:  TOTALSHAPE

4 - NitroSurge Pre-Workout (Cheapest Option)

Rated 4.5/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.5
Taste
4.5
Ingredients
4.5
Price
NitroSurge Pre-Workout

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Good-tasting flavors
  • No jittery feelings
  • Energy booster

Cons

  • If you’re not used to fruity flavors, you might not like this
  • No creatine monohydrate

Nitrosurge is another pre-workout that doesn’t contain creatine.

Instead, the company replaced it with Betaine Anhydrous, which helped me gain endurance, strength, and muscle recovery.

I tried it anyway, and I liked the blue raspberry flavor because it had a subtle sweet taste. This pre-workout drink mixes and dissolves quickly, too. The best part is that the flavor tastes natural, unlike some supplements that taste like cough medicine.

I didn’t get a jittery feeling as I usually do with other pre-workout supplements. I absolutely felt an significant boost of energy that helped me with my sprinting routine.

5 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout (Best for Endurance Running)

Rated 4.5/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.5
Taste
4.5
Ingredients
4.4
Price
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No proprietary blends
  • Dilates blood vessels to increase blood flow
  • Good for endurance running

Cons

  • Might be too much caffeine if you are sensitive to it, leading to headaches and other symptoms

This pre-workout is one of the pre-workouts that has ingredients that I would like to see on a label — everything from citrulline malate to amino acids.

It’s also packed with 175 mg of caffeine to help boost your mind and body, preventing tiredness due to the stimulants' effect.

It even includes a transparent label that lists the ingredient amounts so you're sure there are no misleading proprietary blends.

I took this before I went running, and I was pleased with the results. Even though I was running for quite some time, I had high energy during the entire run without experiencing significant pain.

6 - Legion Pulse Pre-Workout (Best All-Natural)

Rated 4.4/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.5
Taste
4.4
Ingredients
4.2
Price
Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Uses natural ingredients for better cell production
  • Has caffeine-free versions
  • Energy booster

Cons

  • Not as many servings per container

Legion Pulse is slightly different from the others, offering caffeine-free pre-workouts with natural ingredients.

Their pre-workout powder is a nitric oxide booster and has essential ingredients, such as Beta Alanine, that help tone your muscle mass.

I tried it before running, and I find the taste reasonably delicious, especially the Strawberry Margarita. I felt the effects as I was running such as increased heart rate. I enjoyed feeling like I could keep running for a long time.

The only downside to this is that a container of the caffeine-free stimulant only contains 21 servings, so it doesn’t last as long as other supplements.

7 - Red Leaf Pre-Workout Energizer Powder (Best Vegan Powder)

Rated 4.3/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.2
Taste
4.4
Ingredients
4.3
Price
Red Leaf Pre-Workout Energizer Powder

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Contains unique ingredients like green tea
  • No jittery feelings
  • Good energy pre workout supplement

Cons

  • A little artificial taste

Red Leaf's Pre-Workout has ingredients that you don’t usually find in other products like cranberry, beetroot juice, and green tea extract, which are Vegetarian. These improve fat oxidation while exercising.

They include these for their antioxidant properties, so you only get the best for sports nutrition.

However, it doesn’t have creatine. The caffeine content is also pretty low with only 40mg per serving. While it may work well for a cardio workout session, it may not be enough for more intense strength exercises.

I thought the taste was a little artificial, but I still managed to have a good run. You can also add this to your existing pre-workout drink.

8 - BioSteel High Performance Sports Hydration

Rated 4.3/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.4
Taste
4.3
Ingredients
4.3
Price
BioSteel High Performance Sports Hydration

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Used by pro athletes
  • Helps with hydration
  • No high blood pressure

Cons

  • Not a traditional pre-workout

Pro athletes like Andrew Wiggins and Jalen Ramsey use this hydrating drink as it contains vitamin B12, minerals, and good amino acid profiles.

The primary purpose is to increase your endurance level during your workout while helping with muscle fatigue through preventing glycogen depletion.

It’s not a pre-workout in a traditional sense, but it can help with other aspects of your workout performance in the gym.

When it comes to running, I thought this helped a lot with staying hydrated. It helped me run longer that way.

9 - MusclePharm Assault Pre-workout Powder

Rated 4.2/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

4.3
Taste
4.2
Ingredients
4.0
Price
MusclePharm Assault Pre-workout Powder

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No proprietary blends
  • Elevated energy
  • No noticeable side effects

Cons

  • Contains artificial sweeteners and flavors

The ingredients of this pre-workout powder certainly pack a punch with 200 mg of caffeine.

I was excited to test this out and see if it did anything for my energy.

I liked the taste of fruit punch and the fact that it does not contain any proprietary blends. I did my long workout sessions, and I felt like it significantly increased my energy levels and helped with muscle fatigue.

Each container has 30 servings, so it can easily last you one month.

How We Tested Pre-Workouts Tailored for Runners

My team and I tried various pre-workouts during our training sessions. We evaluated energy impact, endurance, recovery, taste, and side effects.

We also referenced scientific research and interviewed 14 experts to validate critical ingredient effects.

Energy Boosting Ingredients

We meticulously analyze ingredients known for energy enhancement, such as caffeine, B vitamins, and taurine. We measure the concentration of these ingredients and compare them to the recommended daily allowances and clinically effective dosages, typically ranging from 50 to 300 mg for caffeine and 1 to 5 grams for taurine.

Endurance and Stamina

To test a product's impact on endurance and stamina, we conduct controlled running trials over a period of 4 to 6 weeks. Participants are asked to consume the supplement according to the recommended dosage and report on their endurance levels during runs, which are typically 30 to 60 minutes long.

Side Effects

We monitor participants for any adverse effects, such as jitters, heart palpitations, or energy crashes, throughout the testing period. This includes regular check-ins immediately post-consumption and 24 hours after to track any delayed reactions.

Flavor and Taste

Each product is tested by a panel of at least 10 individuals to evaluate its flavor profile. The panel rates the taste on a scale of 1 to 10, considering factors like sweetness, bitterness, and aftertaste.

Price per Serving

We calculate the cost per serving for each supplement and compare it to the average market price for similar products. This helps us assess whether the product offers value for money, considering both its effectiveness and cost.

Ingredient Quality and Safety

We verify the quality and safety of ingredients by reviewing product labels, manufacturer information, and, where available, Certificates of Analysis (COA). We prioritize products that source ingredients from reputable suppliers and adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Third-party Testing

Supplements that have undergone third-party testing receive additional points in our evaluation. We verify the testing by reviewing the third-party certificates and reports, ensuring that the products meet high standards for quality and safety.

Buyer's Guide for the Best Pre-Workouts for Running

Athlete with face towel on his back holding supplement drink

A runner should look for the following ingredients in a pre-workout:

  • Beta-alanine: It's an important amino acid that helps with endurance and sustained energy. It creates a process in your body to prevent fatigue in your muscles, preventing your body from producing hydrogen ions. It's best if you also find a pre-workout with Carnosine since it buffers your pH levels to prevent metabolic acidosis [1].
  • Creatine: The primary purpose of creatine is to help with muscle strength [2]. It can be taken by both females and males for short bursts of energy that make it easier to lift weights. It could also potentially help sprinters.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine is one of the common ingredients for pre-workouts which solely helps to increase energy. It can provide support for endurance athletes as well as repeated short efforts of maximum power for sprinters. It also prevents fatigue and the feeling of perceived effort [3].
  • BCAAs: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are fundamental to a pre-workout. It includes the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They help manage protein in your body, and they can also help distance runners with next-day soreness [4]. It's effective because they bypass your liver digestion, meaning it goes straight to your muscles. At the same time, it prevents a spike and dip in blood sugar after consuming carbohydrates.

Another thing I would look for in a pre-workout is the correct dosage. It’s not enough to only have the right ingredients, even for vitamins C and other B vitamins like niacin.

Caffeine should be 200-500mg, BCAAs need 5-20g, beta-alanine ranges from 1.5-5g, and creatine is between 5-20g.

You should consult a health professional to determine the exact amount you need, especially for Branched-Chain Amino Acids and other essential amino acids like L-Citrulline.

You might also find that some other supplements add unique ingredients like pink salt, vitamin C, or matcha green tea. If you find those, then you might want to do some research into their health benefits.

Is Pre-workout Good For Running?

Women on race track holding pre-workout

Yes, pre-workout is good for running, whether it comes as a powder, pill, tablet, or even gummies and bars. It helps boost your energy and prevents lactic acid from building up which makes your muscles tired [5].

I would caution against taking it all the time though. You might develop a tolerance to pre-workout and won’t feel the energy-boosting effects anymore. Use it wisely, and you’ll notice having longer runs.

Evidence supports a range of carbohydrate uses for various athletic applications, from taking in 30 to 60 grams per hour during endurance events to simply rinsing the mouth with a carbohydrate solution before sprint events.
- Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.S.D

What Are The Benefits?

Runners preparing for a race

There are many benefits to taking a pre-workout for runners. Let’s take a quick look:

  • Increases energy for endurance runs and sprints
  • Reduces the chances of soreness
  • Helps with muscle strength through protein synthesis
  • Lowers the feeling of perceived effort
  • Increases energy for muscle cells (ATP)
  • Improves metabolism and consumption of carbohydrates

Some people ask me if pre-workout is good for weight loss. It’s not a diet pill, but it can still help intensify your workouts with vitamins and other nutrients, like vitamin B6.

If you work out harder, then you might see some fat loss. But of course, you will see better results if combined with a calorie-restricted diet or low-carb diet [6].

What Are The Side Effects?

The potential side effects of drinking a pre-workout are minimal but may include a tingling sensation throughout your body caused by beta-alanine. However, there’s no need to worry as this is only temporary. If you go running in the evening or at night, you should consider using a pre-workout with no caffeine.

Otherwise, you might not sleep that night and mess up your sleeping schedule. This isn't ideal for your fitness goals since it will make your sleep quality worse, causing you to become unmotivated to stick to your running routine. Before long, you might notice a sharp drop in your lean muscle mass.

When Should I Take Pre-workout?

You should take a pre-workout before you exercise. The pre-workout I use, Gorilla Mode, suggests taking it 45-60 minutes before your workout. Other people suggest 20-30 minutes. 

Should I Take Pre-workout Before Every Run?

You shouldn't take a pre-workout before every run. Taking a pre-workout regularly may cause your body to adapt to it which can reduce the overall effectiveness.

Therefore, you may need to take more dosage of pre-workout to get the same effects which is a common symptom of substance dependence, making you unable to function without pre-workout as fuel.

How Long Does Pre-workout Last?

A pre-workout usually lasts anywhere between 3 and 6 hours. It also takes 30 to 45 minutes to kick in, based on my personal and clients' experience. With caffeine as a common ingredient, the effects of pre-workout depends on your sensitivity to its ingredients.

Is Pre-Workout Safe For Everyone?

Pre-workout isn't safe for everyone, but it is for most people. If you have concerns, you should consult with a health professional because they can help you make the best choice.

You should also be careful in choosing products that contain high amounts of sugar or artificial flavors as they can affect your body and muscle mass.

Are Pre-workouts FDA-Approved?

Pre-workouts are not FDA-approved. However, most of the common ingredients in a pre-workout are being regulated. To make sure that your pre-workout contains the exact ingredients on the label, you can check if it has any independent certifications from:

Does Pre-Workout Make You Run Faster?

Yes, pre-workout can make you run faster. It is designed to help your body produce more energy, which could help with your overall running.

There are a lot of other factors to consider to improve your running performance. But if you find a pre-workout that works for you, then there's no harm in taking it.

Can I Take Energy Drinks Or Coffee Instead?

Men drinking energy drinks

You can't take energy drinks or coffee instead because both lack certain nutrients that a pre-workout has. However, you would probably increase your energy levels either way.

An espresso does have some health perks, but coffee beans can only boost your energy. Coffee can't support your muscles as pre-workout can. Worse, it can cause cramping, diarrhea, and nausea among marathon runners with caffeine sensitivity.

FAQ

Is Pre-Workout Good for Running?

Yes, pre-workout is good for running because it enhances energy and endurance, essential for improved running performance.

Does Pre-Workout Make You Run Faster?

Yes, pre-workout can increase running speed because it boosts energy production and enhances overall athletic performance.

Can I Take Energy Drinks or Coffee Instead of Pre-Workout?

No, you cannot replace pre-workout with energy drinks or coffee because they lack specific nutrients and formulations that support muscle endurance and recovery effectively.

 

 

 

Our Verdict on the Best Pre-Workout for Running

The best pre-workout supplements contain the ideal combination of ingredients that work together to improve muscle strength, endurance, and focus.

While it may seem difficult to find a single supplement that provides all of these benefits, my team agreed that Gorilla Mode contains the optimal formula to achieve this.

Gorilla Mode contains sufficient caffeine in the anhydrous form to exert a stronger ergogenic effect, enhancing running performance and concentration.

Furthermore, L-citrulline provides sufficient oxygen to your leg muscles, allowing them to endure prolonged periods of exhaustion and deliver nutrients more quickly, reducing muscle soreness after long-distance running.

Our #1 Pre-Workout for Running

Gorilla Mode Pre-workout (Best Overall)

Gorilla Mode Pre-workout
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
5.0
Price
4.8
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Pros
  • Non-proprietary blend pre-workout formula
  • Incredible energy and endurance to maintain a higher level of activity
  • All of the flavors are refreshingly tasty
  • It contains a high dose of L-citrulline for increased muscle oxygenation
  • Get 10% off using code: TOTALSHAPE
Cons
  • Some consumers claim that it has a grainy texture in their mouths
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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3 thoughts on “The Best Pre-Workout for Running
Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

  1. I agree. Performance Lab Sport is the best pre-workout when running.

  2. Pre-workouts for runners are helpful in building stamina. As a runner, I can profess to this.

  3. Thanks for this. Now I know what to look out for in a pre workout supplement 🙂

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Our ingredients score is based on 3 factors including: transparency, blend disclosure, and dosage accuracy. We conduct third-party lab verification of ingredients. The score is an objective measure of the lab test results compared to the product label. For more information see our ingredients score explanation here.
Our price score is based 3 factors including: cost justification, market comparison, and overall value. The score is a subjective measurement of the product's value against its price when compared to similar products. For more information see our price score explanation here.
Our scoring system is the result of objective testing data and subjective expert analysis by a team of fitness coaches and medical experts. Our scoring factors are weighted based on importance. For more information, see our product review guidelines.