Pre-workout For Running: Should You Be Using It?

Table of Contents

Pre-workout For Running: Should You Be Using It?

Table of Contents

Are you are sprinter chasing for supplements to increase your speed? Or a distance runner looking for greater endurance? Or perhaps, you simply want to improve your workout performance.

Regardless of your fitness goal, supplements can make a difference in your sport or activity. The right one will also help you to achieve longer mileages, your new personal bests, and speed up recovery. 

Enter pre-workout for running–a popular supplement in the market today because of its assistance with muscle metabolism, focus, and energy for runners.

However, should you really be using it as a runner? Here is everything you need to know about the popular pre-workout for runners filling their checkout carts.

What Is Pre-Workout?

A pre-workout is a supplement designed to give you an energy boost when you run or exercise and boost athletic performance. It often comes in a powder form or a pill, with caffeine as its primary ingredient in most of them. 

Some pre-workouts contain ingredients that will fuel your workouts and are good for your health. Still, it may bring side effects that you need to know. (We’ll discuss it later.)

Therefore, this sports performance aid needs to be taken shortly before you run or train. It will give you an “edge” or a running performance benefit because of a boost in energy.

Is a Pre-Workout Supplement Good for Runners?

Pre-workout For Running: Should You Be Using It?

Source: Canva/huasui

Yes and no. Some pre-workout drinks are effective for runners but not for all. 

Suppose you’re a runner interested in trying a pre-workout supplement. In that case, starting with a simple ingredient product is best to know if it agrees with your body.

It also helps if you start at a low dose (half or one-quarter of the lowest available dose) to lower the risk of dose-related side effects. [1] When starting supplementation, this approach is called “start low, go slow.”

Nevertheless, good pre-workout supplements contain ingredients that assist with recovering and maintaining a lean muscle mass. Most contain ingredients such as antioxidants, electrolytes, and vitamins, while some contain stimulants like caffeine.

7 Health Benefits of Pre-Workouts for Runners

Pre-workout ingredients and their quantities differ. Still, they usually contain a mix of ingredients that studies showed may improve focus and energy. Here are some of the well-known benefits of pre-workouts for runners:

1. More Intensity

Pre-workouts have ingredients that can optimize performance and help runners train more intensely.

For instance, those that contain L-Citrulline malate improve blood flow and reduce the sensation of fatigue. [2]

Another ingredient in a pre-workout supplement that is beneficial for runners is creatine, which improves energy production in cells. Creatine works by increasing the store of phosphocreatine, the main building block of Adenosine triphosphate (the fuel for muscle contraction).

In theory, increasing ATP storage may lead to better running efficiency, especially for high-intensity sprint workouts. 

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has confirmed this theory. It showed that the higher a person’s creatine levels, the more energy muscle cells produce during high-intensity training. As a result, it improved performance. 

2. Greater Focus

Running, especially long distances, is a physical and mental stress test. As such, keeping your brain engaged is very important to fast through the tough parts of a run.

Taking a pre-workout supplement may help with mental alertness and focus, especially those that contain optimal doses of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can improve mental focus, endurance, and energy levels, making it a staple in many pre-workouts.

Beta-alanine enhances endurance, too. It also delays fatigue of the muscle as it helps increase its carnosine levels. 

However, if you want the safer route to help you recover faster after a run, you can also use a doping-free sports gel that contains carnosine. This gel is none other than the CarnoSport.

3. Improved Running Efficiency

Most runners want to gain the ability to run faster using less energy. They also have to train for speed via tempo, intervals, and other workouts to boost performance and their overall fitness.

Fortunately, that’s what the makers of pre-workout supplements promise, which is improved maximal power output. For instance, caffeine reduces your effort perfection, making running feel easier.

Caffeine has likewise been shown to improve the ability to burn fat and use it later as a fuel source. It also improves neuromuscular coordination, which is how fast your brain sends signals to the muscles to relax and contract.

Improved neuromuscular coordination also enables your leg muscles to function more forcefully and quicker, meaning a more efficient run.

4. Postpone or Reduce Muscle Fatigue and Soreness

Pre-workout For Running: Should You Be Using It?

Source: Pexels

Pre-workouts with beta-alanine have postponed or reduced fatigue while improving recovery in sprinters. [4]

Another ingredient common in pre-workouts is nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels to increase blood flow in the body. This ingredient also promises to boost endurance and strength and reduce fatigue in the muscle. [5]

The same goes for pre-workouts that contain branched-chain amino acids. In fact, BCAAs, on their own, is a well-known supplement category. A dose can kickstart protein synthesis. As a result, it leads to better cellular energy during your run, lessened fatigue, and better hydration.

5. Improved Mood

Running already increases endorphins, which are the hormones that produce feelings of happiness and pleasure. That’s why popular culture called the chemical “runner’s high.”

Taking a pre-workout supplement before an intense exercise or run can make you even happier and more optimistic about your training and life.

6. Increased Stamina

In running, especially marathons, having stamina allows you to keep up physically and mentally. After all, it is a sport that needs to be sustained for long periods and requires endurance.

Additionally, pre-workouts increase the blood flow in the body, which delivers nutrients and oxygen to the muscles while you run or exercise. As a result, it increases your stamina.

7. Easier Recovery

Ingredients in the best pre-workout supplements help you minimize downtime and support your body through recovery. When you exercise and put stress on your muscles, they begin to break apart.

However, a good supply of amino acids can help your body repair cells and remove waste. These include creatine or beta-alanine, which help you heal faster and bounce back sooner.

5 Downsides of Pre-Workouts for Runners

Pre-workout For Running: Should You Be Using It?

Source: Canva/Maridav

Pre-workouts are generally safe for healthy individuals. However, there are still some who experience side effects, such as the following:

1. GI Distress

Some ingredients in the pre-workouts can cause cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and nausea. These side effects can happen, especially if it contains too much caffeine or artificial sweeteners.

2. Jitteriness

For people sensitive to caffeine, pre-workouts for runners may make them anxious or jittery. Taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach also increases this risk as there’s no buffer between digestion and stimulants.

If you experience this side effect, try a smaller dose first and observe how your body reacts.

3. Increase in Blood Pressure

Consuming high amounts of caffeine from pre-workouts may increase your blood pressure. Your normal daily caffeine intake from soda, coffee, and other sources can cause this as well. 

However, studies revealed that consuming caffeine in moderate quantities is not harmful to the body. [6] 

4. Changes in Blood Sugar

Pre-workout drink mixes that contain artificial sweeteners, and additives may increase blood sugar. Consuming it in large amounts can also cause liver problems.

However, choosing a caffeine-free pre-workout for runners can prevent it. The best thing about them is you can consume them at any time of the day. Unlike caffeinated pre-workouts, they don’t disturb your body clock or cause sleeplessness.

5. Tingling Sensation

Another side effect of a pre-workout is that it induces a tingling sensation, likely caused by an ingredient called beta-alanine. [7] 

A study shows that such a side effect could happen when beta-alanine activates the G-protein receptors. These are responsible for transmitting signals to the central nervous system, including the skin. [8]

Additionally, the tingling sensation may be associated with sex (which occurs more frequently in females than males), body size (people weighing less than 165lb experienced stronger tingling sensation or itchiness), and ethnicity. 

This phenomenon is generally harmless and not a cause for concern. Therefore, don’t take too much pre-workout and ease your way in to avoid these drawbacks.

Should Runners Take Pre-Workout With Food or on an Empty Stomach?

While some people are okay with taking pre-workout on an empty stomach, we don’t recommend doing so. You are more likely to experience unwelcome side effects, such as headaches and nausea.

Instead, consider taking the supplement, at least with a small pre-workout snack, like a banana or yogurt, before you start your run.

Generally, there are no contradictions for taking a pre-workout on an empty stomach, apart from individual sensitivities or allergies. A specific answer depends on factors like medical conditions, age, and stomach sensitivity.

How Long Does a Pre-Workout Last?

The effects of a pre-workout depend on its ingredient, as each last at varying lengths of time. 

If we consider some of the active ingredients, it would be caffeine and arginine. These two ingredients take about 60 to 90 minutes to kick in. Their maximum effects also occur an hour after caffeine consumption and an hour to 90 minutes after arginine consumption. [9] 

Are Pre-Workouts Safe for Runners?

Pre-workouts may have varying effects on the body, depending on the ingredients. So, there’s no definitive way to tell.

Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements (MIPS) are generally safe for runners. [10] There are also others. However, that may cause GI distress and increase restlessness. Some ingredients, especially those with high caffeine levels or artificial sweeteners, may cause these side effects.

Remember that a good pre-workout contains ingredients, like creatine, to improve performance, strength, and recovery. Meanwhile, others have a decent amount of caffeine to increase focus, mental clarity, and power output.

Using a product certified by NSF or a third-party regulatory body will significantly reduce the risk of getting an unsafe, banned, or unknown ingredient from the supplement. 

You can also visit NSF’s Certified for Sports site or use their app to scan the supplement’s barcode if you see an NSF Certified for Sport label.

Additionally, your body may become intolerant to the supplement if you take it too long or before every run. Thus, it may not be as effective as before.

Just like consuming coffee, regularly taking your pre-workout will decrease your body’s sensitivity and reduce its supposed effect. With that in mind, it’s best to take a short break occasionally, so your pre-workout sensitivity will return to normal.

When Should Runners Take a Preworkout?

Source: Canva/Getty Images

If you’re a runner and would want to try a pre-workout, take it approximately 30 to 60 minutes before your run or workout. 

To prevent poor reactions, just like trying new foods, gear, or shoes, it’s safer to try something first during training and not on competition or race day.

Now, if you’ve already tried it and you plan to continue taking it, our advice is to take it for VO2-max interval running training. You may also use it for threshold run (tough than casual run) or shorter tempo sessions (continuous run that requires sustained effort) as well. 

However, a pre-workout is unnecessary on easy days because its benefits may not translate to long runs. But you can use it before one-mile to 5k races. Take a pre-workout at least 30 minutes before the start of a long race, giving the ingredients time to begin working as they get into your bloodstream.

Can You Take a Pre-Workout Before A Race?

Sure, you can.

As long as it doesn’t contain ingredients on the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Code International Standard, then it’s not prohibited in the competition. You can also take it before a race. So, always be mindful of the labels. [11]

However, taking a pre-workout for the first time before a race is not ideal, especially if you’ve never tried it during training. So, don’t risk experiencing negative side effects in the middle of a race.

If you are running at a high-level competition, check your local athletic governing body or race organizers. They will let you know if they’ve set restrictions on supplements or the amount of caffeine you can take before the competition.

Using Sports Gel to Ease Muscle Soreness After Running 

Many runners experience soreness or stiffness of the muscles 24 to 48 hours after running or any form of exercise. This is especially true if they increase in intensity or distance or are new to running.

While Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) goes away on its own after a few days, applying a sports gel can speed up the healing process.

ChemiPower, in cooperation with Tartu Pharmacology Institute and the large athlete communities, has developed a sports gel that reduces muscle fatigue, accelerates muscle recovery, and improves muscle performance.

This sports gel is called CarnoSport.

It is a doping-free sports gel that not only increases muscle performance but it also improves ligament, tendon, and joint health. The primary ingredient is carnosine, which many food supplements use.

By applying CarnoSport to the desired muscle group, carnosine’s effect is stronger. That said, it may also be beneficial when applied pre-workout or pre-run because it buffers the pH levels in the muscles.

Furthermore, carnosine minimizes metabolic acidosis that happens during a hard workout. To better understand this condition, think about burning, tired legs, which others call a “lactic acid buildup.”

Although it’s not really lactic acid that’s causing fatigue and limiting your performance, your muscles produce acid (hydrogen ions) during an intense workout without sufficient oxygen (for example: when you’re breathless). This acid accumulation in the muscle inhibits how fast you run.

Carnosine buffers such an acid buildup and has anti-oxidant properties that help build better muscle, aid in balance, and maintain strength for daily activities.

Final Verdict: Should You Take Pre-Workout Supplements Before Running?

If it’s a quality pre-workout, then yes, we encourage you to consume it for better athletic performance. You can also take it for a little energy boost, along with the plenty of advantages we shared above. 

But to be safe, evaluate the factors first that could be affecting how you feel before, during, and after a run.

Generally, consuming balanced meals, proper hydration, getting adequate sleep, regulating stress, and recovering from exercise are all helpful and produce similar results.

Simply put, include a wide variety of foods, like vegetables, wholegrain bread, lean meat, and fruit, in your balanced diet. These healthy foods will get you the best sports nutrition and help you achieve the optimal body weight and fat levels for running.

Rule of thumb: If you enjoy taking pre-workout because of its benefits, make sure to read the ingredients and avoid taking more than the recommended dose.

Disclaimer: The text and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only. They are also not meant to diagnose, treat, or replace medical care from your doctor.

Learn more about how CarnoSport gel can support your necessary muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints and eventually optimize your post-run recovery.

Don’t miss:

References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017255/ 

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29176388/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10919967/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257613/

[5] https://www.usada.org/spirit-of-sport/nitric-oxide-supplements

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5445139/

[7] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/beta-alanine-itch

[8] https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/10/3/452/5450731

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5445139/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6083567/ 

[11] https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/2022list_final_en.pdf