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.
While a good pre-workout could help your running, the supplement industry is wild and there are a lot of scammy pre-workout supplements that either have the wrong ingredients or inaccurate claims.
That's why I went and looked at the best pre-workouts to see if they lived up to their claims. Here’s what I found based on my in-depth research and years of experience with clients.
Our Top Pre-Workouts for Running
1 - Performance Lab Sport Pre-Workout (Editor's Choice)
Performance Lab’s 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.
It 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.
- Energy booster
- Helped with endurance and power
- Contains unique ingredients
- Four capsules per serving
The only inconvenience was that a serving is four capsules and it seems like a lot to take all at once.
2 - Transparent Labs PreSeries BULK Pre-Workout
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.
- Lots of happy customers
- Contains Testosterone Support complex (vitamin D3, boron, and zinc)
- No creatine
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3 - NitroSurge Pre-Workout
Nitrosurge is another pre-workout that doesn’t contain creatine.
Instead, the company replaced it with Betaine Anhydrous which aids with endurance, strength, and muscle recovery.
I tried it anyway, and I liked the blue raspberry flavor because it had a subtle sweet taste. I also liked how easy it was to mix and dissolve.
- Good-tasting flavors
- No jittery feelings
- Energy booster
- If you’re not used to fruity flavors, you might not like this
- No creatine
I didn’t get a jittery feeling as I usually do with other pre-workout supplements. I absolutely felt an significant boost of energy.
4 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
This pre-workout is one of the pre-workouts that has ingredients that I would like to see in 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.
It even includes a transparent label that lists the ingredient amounts so you're certain that there are no misleading proprietary blends in it.
- No proprietary blends
- Increased blood flow
- Good for endurance running
- Might be too much caffeine if you are sensitive to it
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.
5 - Legion Pulse Pre-Workout
Legion Pulse is slightly different from the others as they offer caffeine-free pre-workouts with natural ingredients.
Their pre-workout powder is a nitric oxide booster and has the essential ingredients that help tone your muscle mass.
I tried it before I went running, and I find the taste fairly delicious. I felt the effects as I was running such as increased heart rate. I really enjoyed feeling like I could keep running for a long time.
- Uses natural ingredients
- Has caffeine-free versions
- Energy booster
- Not as many servings per container
The only downside to this is that a container only contains 21 servings, so it doesn’t last as long as other supplements.
6 - Red Leaf Pre-Workout Energizer Powder
Red Leaf's Pre-Workout has ingredients that you don’t usually find in other products like cranberry, beetroot juice, and green tea.
They include them 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.
- Contains unique ingredients like green tea
- No jittery feelings
- Good energy supplement
- A little artificial taste
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.
7 - BioSteel High Performance Sports Hydration
Pro athletes like Andrew Wiggins and Jalen Ramsey use this hydrating drink as it contains vitamin B, minerals, and good amino acid profiles.
The primary purpose is to increase your endurance level during your workout while helping with muscle fatigue.
It’s not a pre-workout in a traditional sense, but it can help with other aspects of your
- Used by pro athletes
- Helps with hydration
- No high blood pressure
- Not a traditional pre-workout
When it comes to running, I thought this helped a lot with staying hydrated. It helped me run longer that way.
8 - MusclePharm Assault Pre-workout Powder
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.
- No proprietary blends
- Elevated energy
- No noticeable side effects
- Contains artificial sweeteners and flavors
Each container has 30 servings, so it can easily last you one month.
Is Pre-workout Good For Running?
Yes, pre-workout is useful for running. It helps boost your energy and prevents lactic acid from building up which makes your muscles tired.
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 Should A Runner Look For In A Pre-workout?
A pre-workout has a few necessary ingredients that most, if not all, have in their formula. Here is a breakdown:
- 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 .
- Creatine: The primary purpose of creatine is to help with muscle strength . It can be taken by both women and men for short bursts of energy that makes 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 .
- 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 it can also help runners with next-day soreness .
Another thing I would look for in a pre-workout is the correct dosage. It’s not enough to only have the right ingredients.
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.
You might also find that some other supplements add unique ingredients like pink salt, vitamin C, or green tea. If you find those, then you might want to do some research into their health benefits.
What Are The Benefits?
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
- Lowers the feeling of perceived effort
- Increases energy for muscle cells
- Improves metabolism
Runners of all levels can enjoy the benefits of pre-workout. It supplements your energy and supports your muscles.
Some people ask me if pre-workout is good for weight loss. It’s not a diet pill, but it could help intensify your workouts.
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.
What Are The Side Effects?
The most common side effect is a tingling sensation throughout your body caused by beta-alanine. But don't worry, it’s just a temporary feeling.
If you go running in the evening or at night, you should consider using a pre-workout with no caffeine.
When Should I Take Pre-workout?
You should take a pre-workout before you exercise. The pre-workout I use, Performance Lab, suggests taking it 45-60 minutes before your workout. Other people suggest 20-30 minutes.
We talk about more of this on our how long are the effects of pre-workout article.
Should I Take 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.
How Long Does Pre-workout Last?
With caffeine as a common ingredient, the effects of pre-workout depends on your sensitivity to its ingredients.
However, 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.
Is Pre-Workout Safe For Everyone?
Pre-workout is a safe product for a lot of 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 it can affect your body and muscle mass.
Are Pre-workouts FDA-Approved?
Pre-workouts are not approved nor regulated by the FDA. 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:
Will It Make Me Run Faster?
Pre-workout could potentially make you run faster. It’s 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?
You could increase your energy levels with an energy drink or coffee. However, they both lack the other nutrients that a pre-workout has.
Coffee does have some health perks, but coffee can only boost your energy. Coffee can’t support your muscles like pre-workout can.
Our Recommended Pre-Workout for Running?
Pre-workouts can make a significant impact on your ability to run longer. They support your muscles, provide energy, and even help with muscle recovery.
It’s a lot of work for pre-workout supplement, but I feel like Performance Lab has the right formula.
It has all of the benefits, tastes great, and significantly improved my running performance. It also has ingredients that aren’t in other supplements like the Himalayan pink salt which helped me stay hydrated during my long runs.
If you want to learn more about it, check it out here.
What do you think of my list? What is the best pre-workout for runners in your experience?