Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 12, 2021

Pre-workout supplements are known to improve anaerobic strength [1] and most bodybuilders and power sports athletes can attest to this.

However, its effects on endurance and aerobic performance isn’t as clear cut, and I still get a lot of questions from clients if they should use a pre-workout or not if they’re exclusively doing cardio exercises.

Without further ado, let’s dive into this topic and lay out the potential benefits of taking a supplement before your cardio routine.

Does Taking Pre Workout Improve Cardio?

clock and dumbell

Yes, pre-workout supplements can improve physical performance [1] and help with cardio training.

They can help you max out your HIIT training, and they can improve focus and endurance for slower, steadier exercises like running or swimming.

The ingredients in a good pre-workout supplement can help with any form of athletic activity and can help you get the most out of your cardio workouts.

The main goal of pre-workout supplements, based on the research but contrary to most pre-workout claims, is to enhance the feelings or perception of a superbly charged workout,
- Jim White Registered Dietitian and Certified Health Fitness Instructor

Is Taking Pre-Workout Before Cardio Bad?

man with tumbler

Taking pre-workout before your cardio workout is not bad for you if you have no underlying health issues and lead an active life with a proper diet. [2]

A pre-workout is meant to be used for anaerobic workouts such as weightlifting or strength training.

Using it for aerobic exercises such as running does not make it harmful, but you may want to weigh the pros against the cons.

This detailed write-up talks about its potential side effects.

Excessive caffeine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, causing cardiac issues. If you take creatine before a workout, chances are you are just irritating your gut, which ultimately may be costing you,
- Katie Woeckener Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator

How Does Pre-workout Impact Cardio?

Using a pre-workout before doing a cardio exercise will have a different effect, depending on whether it is an anaerobic or aerobic routine. T

These two types of workouts ask different things of your body. They will benefit differently from a pre-workout supplement.



Anaerobic exercise is what pre-workout was made for.

This consists of activities such as weightlifting and strength training. It also includes any form of HIIT training or any exercise that requires bursts of maximum effort and then a short rest.

Pre-workout supplements can help you to deliver your best performance in anaerobic activity by improving your energy levels, heart activity, blood flow, and recovery time.

Boxing and cycling are both anaerobic activities. How about doing them at the same time, sounds fun? Check out our buyer's guide on the Lifespan Cycle Boxer.


Aerobic workouts such as swimming, yoga, or running are what we typically think of when we cardio comes to mind. Workout supplements can help with this too, but it’s not what it was technically designed for.

The problem with aerobic exercise is that our body can quickly become used to the intensity of effort that we put into it.

This means you’ll stop feeling the benefits of your exercise routine more rapidly, and pre-workout can help with the focus and energy to step it up a gear.

Does It Help With Anaerobic Or Aerobic Exercise?

The terms anaerobic and aerobic are commonly associated with the HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State) acronyms.

But what specific effects does a pre-workout supplement have on these two types of cardio training?


When you take pre-workout before high-intensity cardio exercise, the main effects that you’re looking for as follows:

  • Extra energy usually sourced from creatine and caffeine.
  • An increase in your heart rate and blood flow usually provided by caffeine.
  • Improved recovery times and endurance offered by beta-alanine and amino acids.

If your cardio pre-workout activity falls into a more sustained and steady category like cycling or running, then most of the effects are either unnecessary or severely lessened:

  • Unless you’re looking to push yourself to the next level, you may not need the extra energy.
  • Too much caffeine pre workouts can be a bad thing as it increases your heart rate more than what is needed.
  • Recovery times for LISS exercise are usually slower, so amino acids are less necessary.

Reasons For Taking Pre-Workout Before Cardio

Here are some of the main benefits of a typical pre-workout and how they may assist you in your training.

Note though, that the benefits and side effects of using pre-workout with cardio will depend on the specific type of exercise you’re doing.

Adrenaline Release

Many pre-workouts inhibit adenosine receptors to encourage the release of adrenaline. This increases energy levels and endurance, which can assist weight lifters to dig a little deeper and recover faster. It could also boost a runner to go a bit further a little faster.

Improving Vasodilation

Great pre-workouts can improve oxygenation in your blood vessels by increasing your heart rate. This can assist bodybuilders in achieving a better pump, but for all athletes, it can improve muscle performance and nutrient delivery.


Your brain is just as much a part of a good workout routine as the muscles you’re working on. When fatigue begins to set in, you need the mental acuity to know when to quit and when to push through.

How Long Before Cardio Should You Take Pre Workout?

man with watch

Take your pre-workout around 30 to 45 minutes before your workout, which gives ingredients time to start working. This allows you to hit your cardio with the explosive energy or determined focus that you need.

Different metabolisms and pre-workout supplement doses will work differently, so to get a more fine-tuned time estimate will be a case of trial and error.

You can also read our article on how long the effects of pre-workout last?

Related Post: Can you snort Pre-Workout?

Do You Need A Pre-Workout For Cardio Or Just The Specific Ingredients?

dumbell and white powder in wooden bowl

Depending on the exercise you are doing, you may only want specific ingredients to cause specific effects.

The ingredients in pre-workouts are formulated to deliver the complete package for those usually focused on strength training.

This means that if you wanted to use it for cardio, there might be a fair amount of filler that you don’t need.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ingredients and their effects on your body.


It might be a non-essential amino acid (meaning your body can make it on its own), but the role it plays in your workout is essential.

Beta-Alanine effectively acts as a buffer between you and fatigue. If you can work out harder and more often, it will be massively beneficial to your health and fitness goals.

Beta-Alanine can also increase the levels of carnosine in your muscles, which reduces lactic acid build-up.


Caffeine is mainly included in supplements as a way to boost your energy levels and focus. However, more studies are coming out now, which state that caffeine may have more benefits for your body than just that. [3]

It has been linked to an increase in endurance, speed, and muscle performance, and it can also aid in weight loss.

When considering its use for cardio, those with high resting heart rate should consider that caffeine may further increase the heart activity and might want to choose a caffeine-free pre-workout instead [4].


Creatine is known to be the ultimate ingredient for boosting muscle power.

It works by helping your muscles create adenosine triphosphate, which provides energy for processes like muscle contractions.

I would consider this a fairly pump centric effect though, and the ingredient would be less critical for HIIT or LISS cardio.


L-citrulline is another pump focused ingredient that you don’t need to worry too much about for a cardio-focused routine.

It is an essential amino acid used by the body to produce l-arginine, a building block of nitric oxide, which assists in maintaining healthy blood vessel function.


Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) help your body reduce the amount of protein breakdown that occurs while you’re working out.

In simpler terms, it lessens the wear and tear or fatigue that you will feel after your workout. It also means that you can go longer while feeling less of a burn.


So Should You Take Pre-workout Before Cardio?

Pre-workout is designed for maximum strength and performance, and this is just as good when used for cardio.

It can help you push yourself to your limits and set new personal bests.

Some of the ingredients are not as necessary, and there are more considerations to be made so you can find a pre-workout that fits you and your routine perfectly.

If you need help finding one for your cardio workout, why not start with our handy list? Read here for our top recommendations.



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  • Wow!!! This is so great! Such an amazing resource for beginners like me. I like this particular product I tried a sample of, but the tub is so expensive I don’t think i can maintain it! So I looked for ways on how to do it yourself and this is probably the best one I have found! So detailed and so much useful stuff! I will definitely try making one for myself this weekend — so excited to try it out! If this goes well, then I don’t need to buy that expensive product ha ha so wish me well!

    By the way, I’ve been reading your blog the whole day today. I love it. Definitely makes me think about my lifestyle choices! Not in a judgmental way though, but more on an educational way, he he! Will bookmark your page and read more of it, im sure there’s a lot more value in here that I haven’t touched

    • Hi Fern, I hope you read my comment (the one after this lol) i know you want to save some money but trust me, the effort isn’t worth it haha there are cheaper products out there that you can buy and will last for a month or two, those should be good!

      • Hi Yosef, thank you! I actually realized that as I was researching for the ingredients. Haha those ingredients are difficult! They are difficult to spelll and difficult to find lol thank you for your insight. There’s this product that I enjoyed but I guess I will have to substitute something cheaper. It ‘s sooooo expensive, like a hundred bucks for a month’s supply like ?????? that’s just too much for me. i am a student and do not have much in the bank, i work part time so I save what I can. yeah, need to research more for a cheaper product

  • I also don’t recommend making your own, just buy the stuff on the grocery or online and you’re good. It takes too much time. Also, I don’t have all the ingredients on my local grocery so I would have to research still on where and how to get those especially the ones that sound so foreign to me. If you have the time and resources, sure go ahead and do it, but I think it will still end up being costly considering that you can’t buy those things on a per serving basis! You have to buy them in pouches that maybe has 1kg of it, and you won’t be needing that much. So personally, it’s not worth my time and money. I’ll just shell out $40 and there, I have my product. It’s that easy!

    • 100% agree with you, brother. I tried doing this on my own and straight up failed, it was chunky and tasted like an expired chalk, imagine that, it’s not that an unexpired chalk tastes good. And regarding the ingredients, they are not readily available anywhere, so I looked online and found some but most of them were expiring in a few months’ time 🙁 I was only able to make a few servings that lasted me almost a month, after that, my ingredients have all gone bad. That’s one of the downsides of buying online, most of them are almost expired, more so if they’re being sold at a low price! such a sad experience. i ended up spending over 60$ instead of just getting a tub for half the price. that’s a lesson learned, and i hope everyone reading this listens to me lol i don’t want to you to go through the hassle i went through

  • Hi, i have a question, where do i get these ingredients? Do i get them from the drugstore? or my local grocery? not sure about them, tried searching online and can’t seem to find any info on where to buy cutruline malate or whatever that is.

    • Hi Madison, most drugstores have those, GNC or anywhere that sells the same products. However, as most people here have commented, making your own isn’t going to a walk in the park. It’s time consuming and i find that a tiny mistake in measurement can mess up the entire thing (not that I experienced it, oh yes i actually did and mine tasted like crap). So you are going to have to be careful with that if you want something good. You also have to use the same exact tools and measurements all the time. There’s no estimating in here everything has to be to a T. I don’t know, i don’t have the patience for that, but may be you have.

      • Thannk you for your insight, Oakley! I appreciate it. I actually just called my local GNC and sadly they don’t have these things so I might have to look somewhere else. I have a favorite one that i take all the time but i thought this would be a good way to switch things up, like an experiment! Ha ha, i will definitely take your advice into consideration. As soon as I have everything I need, i’ll make one and will let you know of the outcome! If it turns out great, then good, but if not, then i’ll just remember it as a funny experience lol. Thanks!

        • Sounds exciting, do let us know what happens! Excited to hear about it. If anything, I’ve tried it once before and it went well, the second try did not. THat’s why I mentioned consistency in measurement and everything else. I agree with you though, it’s a fun experience, albeit messy and tasted awful lol. I have a feeling you’ll go back to your favorite brand but whatever happens, we won’t judge, hehe all the best to you!