Running is the ultimate test of endurance. Consistent training, healthy eating, and enough sleep all help, but an including an effective pre-workout supplement in the equation should help you break the finish line tape in record fashion. Trying to cover long distances can be a daunting task – one may find himself of herself sucking wind midway through. In other words, if you want to be at your best as a runner, you have to start strong and finish strong. Make no mistake about it: pre-workout supplementation is one of the keys in achieving this goal on a consistent basis.
Quick List: Pre-Workout Supplements for Runners
The best pre-workout supplements for runners efficiently harness the powers of ingredients which stimulate both physically and mentally for superior results. Let’s check out the top-rated pre-workout supplements for runners:
|#1. Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout – Clean and clinical pre-workout which helps ramp up endurance and extend training time to exhaustion. Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout website|
|#2. 4 Gauge – The only shell-shaped pre-workout supplement on the market which features a smart caffeine formula which should help runners go the extra mile without the unwanted crash. 4 Gauge website|
|#3. Dymatize Pre W.O. – This is the so-called “Perfectly-Engineered Pre-Workout” which helps “maximize energy, strength, pump, and intensity,” per its official website. Dymatize Pre W.O. website|
|#4. MusclePharm Wreckage – The manufacturer created this elite pre-workout formula for the most seasoned athletes. MusclePharm Wreckage website|
|#5. iSatori MORPH XTREME – Make way for the “Most Complete Pre-Workout of this Supplement Generation.” iSatori MORPH XTREME website|
Or, read on to learn about runners’ pre-workout challenges and how herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other pre-workout supplement ingredients can help them succeed.
Runners’ Pre-Workout Supplements Guide
Before we discuss the best pre-workout supplements for runners in greater detail, let’s rattle off the reasons why these athletes can benefit from pre-workouts.
1.Pre-workouts help reduce perceived effort. Some pre-workout supplements such as CYTOMAX contain ample amounts of carbohydrates which help increase performance. “Consuming a CHO-rich (carbohydrate-rich) meal in the hours prior to endurance exercise appears to benefit performance. The effect of modified starches, such as Vitargo (fast-digesting) and UCAN (slow-digesting) (slow-digesting), is dependent primarily on the manner in which the starch is modified,” per the April 29, 2014 issue of Nutrients (via NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov).
2. Help keep fatigue at bay. Improper nutrition and training may set the stage for fatigue to kick in earlier. Taking a pre-workout prior to your run helps offset this. According to the March 30, 2012 issue of Nutrition & Metabolism (via NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov), supplementation “may reduce both feelings of fatigue and actual fatigue, which can result in performance increases in both muscular endurance and reaction time.”
3. Increase in fat loss and metabolism. Not only will pre-workout supplements rev up a runner’s engine, but they will also help increase fat loss and metabolism. Staple pre-workout components such as caffeine (which you can find in pre-workouts such as Redcon1 Total War and Controlled Labs White Flash) help increase thermogenesis and also suppress appetite.
4. Shorten recovery time. Running certainly has great benefits (better cardiovascular function and overall health, among other things), but if one takes it to the extreme, it may raise body temperature, impair digestion, and create joint discomfort. Pre-workout supplements with key ingredients such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) help shorten recovery time. The result: you’ll be able to run more efficiently over the long haul.
5. Improve concentration. Maintaining one’s focus and concentration are imperative when running. An individual cannot allow negative thoughts to affect his or her performance. Pre-workout supplements include components such as l-tyrosine which help boost focus. “Tyrosine supplementation does appear to consistently attenuate losses in cognitive function when individuals are exposed to challenging environments,” per the Gatorade Sports Science Institute’s official website. Long story short, if you need to clear your mind before running, pre-workout supplementation should pay dividends.
To achieve the best results, runners should look for pre-workout supplements that provide extra support for:
- Mental and physical energy
- Exercise performance
- Focus and concentration
- Thermogenesis/fat burning
- Recovery time
What Ingredients Should Runners Look For in a Pre-Workout Supplement?
Do these best pre-workout supplements address the needs of runners? With that in mind, let’s analyze the ingredients they need for their pre-workout supplementation.
Beta-alanine is a naturally-occurring amino acid which helps synthesize muscle carnosine levels. The result: increased work capacity and the ability to ward off fatigue like never before. You’ll be able to cover distances you thought you never could. Thinking of running a 26-mile marathon (such as the TCS New York City Marathon)? Supplementing with beta-alanine will certainly go a long way.
Australian researchers conducted a study in 2013 to substantiate our claim. “Overall, 28 days of beta-alanine supplementation (80 mg•kg-1BM•day-1) improved 800-m track performance in recreational club runners,” per the December 2013 issue of International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (via NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov). Granted, that covers a small area of a 26-mile marathon, but it should be a good sign, nonetheless.
A word of caution: beta-alanine may produce a harmless tingling and flushing sensation in the neck, shoulders, and arms known as the beta-alanine itch. This sensation usually goes away after 15 minutes or so.
- CarnoSyn® is the best form of beta-alanine on the market. The reason: many bodybuilding supplement manufacturers use this brand more than any other. It’s effective and it will give you a fast return on your investment.
Runners who are caffeine consumers, rejoice. This stimulant (arguably the most popular among bodybuilding and fitness enthusiasts) should be on your pre-workout ingredient short list. Nutritionists and dieticians rave about caffeine because of its ergogenic benefits on running.
For one, the body rapidly absorbs caffeine after consumption. Its excellent bioavailability properties enable a runner to improve his or her athletic performance. Here’s the key: “Glycogen is the principal fuel for muscles and exhaustion occurs when it is depleted. A secondary fuel, which is more abundant, is fat. As long as there is glycogen available, working muscles can utilize fat. Caffeine mobilizes fat stores and encourages working muscles to use fat as a fuel. This delays the depletion of muscle glycogen and allows for a prolongation of exercise,” per Rice University’s official website.
Experts believe consuming between three to six grams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight helps reduce perceived exertion. So, if you’re a 70-kilogram individual, supplementing with 210 to 420 milligrams of caffeine (equal to two to four cups of brewed coffee) before your run should work to your advantage.
However, bear in mind caffeine is a double-edged sword: it may cause a spike-crash effect, jitters, nervousness, and sleeplessness. If you’re iffy about caffeine, consult your doctor first before buying your pre-workout supplement.
- Caffeine anhydrous is the most widely-used form of caffeine among pre-workout supplements. It’s the purest, powdered form of caffeine. This allows you to reap caffeine’s benefits in terms of athletic performance and overall health (increased fat loss and energy levels, improved antioxidant defense, liver function, and blood sugar levels; and enhanced cognitive function).
If you’re having second thoughts about caffeine, l-theanine should help put your doubts to rest. This is a naturally-occurring amino acid and natural ingredient of green tea (Camellia sinensis) which helps neutralize the stimulatory effects of caffeine and enhance cognitive function.
As hard evidence, the March 13, 2015 issue of Psychopharmacology (via NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov) says, “Caffeine and l-theanine, at doses equivalent to one to two cups of tea, are capable of modulating cerebral haemodynamics, cognitive performance, mood, and autonomic measures. When combined with 75 mg of caffeine, 50 mg l-theanine abolished a reduction in oxy-Hb (oxygenated hemoglobin) observed following 75 mg caffeine in isolation, with this effect still apparent at the end of the assessment period.”
More pre-workout supplements are using this combo (the so-called “smart caffeine” formulation) so customers can reap caffeine’s benefits without the dreaded crash and jittery effect. L-theanine is here to save the day.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids. They’re “essential” because the body cannot synthesize them. Hence, one must obtain them from whole foods and supplements. BCAAs help increase endurance, decrease fatigue, and keep muscle soreness at bay – three crucial benefits for runners.
If you participate in long endurance sporting events such as marathons, your body breaks down amino acids and burns them for energy. Long story short, the body’s protein levels diminish. Taking a pre-workout supplement with BCAAs helps offset that. Plus, BCAAs help increase energy levels and ward off fatigue.
- Fermented BCAAs produce maximum results without the impurities (duck feathers and human hair) inferior forms of BCAAs have. This type of BCAA helps promote anabolism (muscle growth) and ward off catabolism (muscle breakdown). They are also a wonderful option for vegans and vegetarians.
Vitamin C is more – much more – than just a remedy for the common cold. It’s also a powerful antioxidant which keeps oxidative stress at bay. This allows you to run harder. Plus, vitamin C also helps shore up the immune and cardiovascular systems.
“Vitamin C is also important to athletes because as an antioxidant, it may help to reverse some of the oxidative damage that may occur from exercise. This oxidative damage, caused by free radicals, may interfere with the cells’ ability to function normally and is believed to play a role in many different health conditions, including the aging process, cancer, and heart disease. Vitamin C promotes a healthy immune system and may help to prevent the dip in immune function that may occur right after exercise,” per PeaceHealth’s official website. Bear in mind this vitamin also helps improve connective tissue and bone health.
However, there have been conflicting studies on vitamin C’s effects on exercise endurance. For instance, Dr. Goran Paulsen of the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences concluded, “Our results show that vitamin C and E supplements blunted the endurance training-induced increase of mitochondrial proteins, which are needed to improve muscular endurance.” With this in mind, Dr. Paulsen advises endurance athletes to proceed with caution when taking higher doses of vitamin C (more than 1,000 mg daily) and vitamin E (more than 540 mg daily). Fortunately, you are unlikely to find these amounts in today’s pre-workout supplements.
- Ascorbic acid is the most common form of vitamin C in pre-workout supplements. Its bioavailability is the same as the vitamin C in natural, whole foods such as broccoli and orange.
Coconut water is fast becoming a staple of many pre-workout supplements. You’d normally find it in post-workout supplements, but its rich electrolyte content (especially potassium and magnesium) helps runners hydrate efficiently before a marathon or training session. Its potassium content helps regulate blood pressure levels, boost heart health, and ward off muscle cramps. One eight-ounce serving of coconut water gives you approximately 40 calories and nine grams of sugar (in contrast, the same amount of Gatorade yields 50 calories and 14 grams of sugar).
While consuming plain water is sufficient for replenishment purposes after a hard 60-minute session on the treadmill, coconut water’s electrolyte content can make the difference for runners before and after a race. Consider it a major bonus if your pre-workout supplement has coconut water.
What to Avoid in Runners’ Pre-Workout Supplements
A word of caution: many pre-workout supplements contain fillers which are detrimental not only to performance, but to long-term health as well. Here are some of the ingredients which raise a red flag:
- Yohimbe: A stimulant which manufacturers tend to go overboard on
- Synephrine: Even though this is a natural ingredient which manufacturers derive from the citrus plant, excess amounts may compromise blood pressure levels. It may also result in nausea.
- Excessive caffeine: While caffeine has many benefits (antioxidant protection, increased fat loss, enhanced cognitive function, better liver health, etc.), too much may result in a spike-crash effect, jitters, palpitations, and sleeplessness. Talk to your doctor to determine your threshold for caffeine before buying any pre-workout supplement.
- DMAA: Steer clear of pre-workouts with methylhexanamine or dimethylamylamine on the supplement facts. This component may compromise your blood pressure levels and cardiovascular health.
- Artificial food colorings: Unfortunately, many bodybuilding supplement manufacturers cut corners nowadays. They include artificial food colorings such as FD&C Red No. 40 or FD&C Yellow No. 6 which have several side effects. Go for pre-workouts with natural components such as beetroot powder (which helps ward off inflammation and regulate blood pressure levels) instead.
- Aspartame: Consuming this artificial sweetener may result in headaches, obesity, and memory loss. Stevia, a natural alternative which helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, is the far better option.
How Best 5 Supplements Rates and Ranks the Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Runners
For general information on purchasing high-quality supplements, please check out the Best 5 How to Buy a Good Supplement guide. In terms of the best pre-workout supplements for runners in particular, here are the criteria we used in our ratings:
- Combinations: Components should work synergistically to produce the best possible results.
- Healthy: The best pre-workout supplements for runners not only fire you up physically and mentally, but also help boost long-term health.
- Quality: We give precedence to premium ingredient and delivery forms than to inferior ones.
- Research: Pre-workout supplements for runners which have the backing of science always get the nod.
- Service: No bodybuilding supplement is worth it if the manufacturer offers crappy customer service.
- Value: We love pre-workout formulas which give a fast return on your hard-earned investment.
- Cleanliness: Clean formulas not only produce the best results, but they also help safeguard long-term health.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Runners
#1: Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout
This top-ranked pre-workout supplement covers just about all the bases in this product category. It helps increase strength, exercise performance, nitric oxide levels, and muscle pumps; keep lactic acid levels in check, and maximize muscle hydration. It also features clean and premium ingredients which help runners hurdle all of their pre-workout obstacles.
Full ingredient list: Creatine (as Creapure® pH10) 1000 mg, Cordyceps sinensis as Cordyceps Super™ (50 percent total polysaccharides, 15 percent 1,3-1,6 beta glucan, five percent alpha glucan) 750 mg, L-citrulline 500 mg, L-glutamine (from Ajinomoto®) 250 mg, L-carnosine (N-beta-alanyl-histidine) 300 mg, Himalayan pink salt 350 mg, maritime pine bark extract (95 percent proanthocyanidins) 100 mg
Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout Summary
|Advanced Ingredients: Creatine (as Creapure® pH10), Cordyceps sinensis as Cordyceps Super™(50 percent total polysaccharides, 15 percent 1,3-1,6 beta glucan, five percent alpha glucan), L-glutamine (from Ajinomoto®), maritime pine bark extract (95 percent proanthocyanidins)|
|Clean Label: Yes. You won’t find any synthetic ingredients or additives in Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout.|
|Advanced Delivery: Yes. One serving yields four Plantcaps®, vegetarian capsules made from pullulan (a by-product of tapioca).|
|Stimulant-Free: Yes. This supplement revs up your engine via non-stimulatory pathways.|
|Price: $45 for one box (120 capsules; 30 servings)|
|Any Deals? Yes, $85.50 for two boxes (five percent savings) and $121.50 for three boxes (10 percent savings)|
|Service: 24/7 customer support, get a reply in 30 minutes, 30-day money-back guarantee|
|Official Website: https://www.performancelab.com/supplements/pre-workout|
|Read our in-depth Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout review|
#2: 4 Gauge
Meet the world’s only shotgun-shell-shaped pre-workout supplement: 4 Gauge. Can a pre-workout be strong and safe at the same time? Yes. 4 Gauge’s smart caffeine formulation featuring 150 milligrams of caffeine anhydrous and 200 milligrams of l-theanine per two-scoop serving should be an indication of great things to come. When you consume 4 Gauge, you’ll push yourself harder and increase your focus for your runs like never before.
Full ingredient list: l-citrulline dl-malate 6000 mg, creatine monohydrate, 1000 mg, acetyl l-carnitine (as acetyl l-carnitine HCl) 500 mg, red beet (Beta vulgaris) root extract 300 mg, coconut water powder 300 mg, l-theanine 200 mg, caffeine anhydrous 150 mg, Rhodiola rosea (root) powder 100 mg
4 Gauge Summary
|Advanced Ingredients: Monk fruit extract (standardized to mognosideds) and Swerve® (erythritol, oligosaccharides, natural flavors)|
|Clean Label: Yes. All-natural and no synthetic ingredients.|
|Advanced Delivery: No. This product utilizes regular pre-workout powder.|
|Stimulant-Free: No. 150 mg caffeine anhydrous|
|Price: $45 for one 4 Gauge shell|
|Any Deals? Yes. $90 for two 4 Gauge shells (plus free U.S. and U.K. shipping) and $135 for three 4 Gauge shell (plus a free fourth 4 Gauge shell and free U.S. and U.K. shipping)|
|Service: Online email form for customer inquires and returns|
|Official Website: https://www.4gauge.com|
|Read our in-depth 4 Gauge review|
#3: Dymatize Pre W.O.
The manufacturer claims the so-called “Perfectly-Engineered” pre-workout supplement helps increase energy, strength, pumps, and intensity. Simply put, this is a powerful, banned-substance tested formulation which should help you reach peak conditioning for your running sessions.
Full ingredient list: vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) 250 mg, niacin (as niacinamide) 30 mg, folate (as folic acid) 260 mcg, vitamin b12 (as methylcobalamin) 30 mcg, citrulline malate 8 g, beta-alanine (CarnoSyn®) 3.2 g, l-taurine, 2 g, betaine (BetaPower®) 1.5 g, inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (Nitrosigine®) 1.5 g, n-acetyl l-tyrosine, 350 mg, caffeine (as anhydrous) 300 mg, coconut water fruit powder 200 mg, theacrine (as TeaCrine®) 125 mg
Dymatize Pre W.O. Summary
|Advanced Ingredients: vitamin C (as ascorbic acid), niacin (as niacinamide), folate (as folic acid), vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin), beta-alanine (CarnoSyn®), betaine (BetaPower®), inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (Nitrosigine®), caffeine (as anhydrous), theacrine (as TeaCrine®)|
|Clean Label: No. Contains sucralose, an artificial sweetener with links to obesity.|
|Advanced Delivery: No. Product features regular pre-workout powder.|
|Stimulant-Free: No. Has 300 mg of caffeine anhydrous per one 20-gram scoop.|
|Price: $39.99 for a 400-gram container|
|Any Deals? No. Manufacturer distributes Dymatize Pre W.O. to various retailers such as Amazon, Bodybuilding.com, GNC, iHerb, Muscle and Strength, Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, and Suppz.com.|
|Service: Customer service depends on the retailer where you purchase Dymatize Pre W.O.|
|Official Website: https://www.dymatize.com/prewo/|
|Read our in-depth Dymatize Pre W.O. review|
#4: MusclePharm Wreckage
MusclePharm Wreckage is the elite pre-workout formula which helps long-time athletes and runners stay at the top of their game. The manufacturer claims this pre-workout has safe and clinically-dosed ingredients which help increase vasodilation, enhance cognitive function, and improve athletic peformance.
Full ingredient list: l-citrulline 5 g, Vaso6™ (green tea extract [leaf]) 300 mg, AstraGin® (Astragalus membranaceus extract [root] & Panax notoginseng [root]) 50 mg, CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine 2 g, taurine 1 g, caffeine anhydrous 300 mg, tyrosine 500 mg, alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (GPC) 100 mg, l-theanine 100 mg, NeuroFactor™ (whole coffee fruit concentrate)(Coffee arabica) 100 mg
MusclePharm Wreckage Summary
|Advanced Ingredients: Vaso6™ (green tea extract [leaf]), AstraGin® (Astragalus membranaceus extract [root] & Panax notoginseng [root]), CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, caffeine anhydrous 300 mg, NeuroFactor™ (whole coffee fruit concentrate)(Coffee arabica)|
|Clean Label: No. Contains sucralose.|
|Advanced Delivery: Yes. Features AstraGin® (Astragalus membranaceus extract [root] & Panax notoginseng [root]) to improve bioavailability|
|Stimulant-Free: No. Has 300 mg each of caffeine anhydrous and Vaso6™ (green tea extract [leaf])|
|Price: $39.99 for one 357.5-gram container|
|Any Deals? No.|
|Service: Toll-free customer service hotline (Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm MST) and online web form; 90-day money-back guarantee|
|Official Website: https://musclepharm.com/products/wreckage?=variant287383420938|
|Read our in-depth MusclePharm Wreckage review|
#5: iSatori MORPH XTREME
The manufacturer claims iSaotri MORPH XTREME is “our most intense, complete pre-workout ever,” per its official website. One look at the supplement facts, you have to agree with it. Its 7-in-1 formula helps increase energy, focus, muscle pumps, and strength. It also shortens recovery time. This is one formulation which should go the extra mile for runners the world over.
Full ingredient list: vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) 125 mg, vitamin B6 (as pyridoxine HCl) 10 mg, vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin) 10 mcg, magnesium (as magnesium creatine chelate) 200 mg, citrulline malate 7000 mg, inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (Nitrosigine®) 1000 mg, astralagus (root) (Astralagus membranaceous) extract: tienchi ginseng (root)(Panax notoginseng) extract (Astragin®) 25 mg, beta-alanine (H + Beta-Alanine™) 3200 mg, magnesium creatine chelate (Creatine MagnaPower®) 2500 mg, betaine anhydrous 1500 mg, l-leucine/l-leucine AKG (LeuciTor™) 2000 mg, l-isoleucine/l-isoleucine AKG 1000 mg, l-valine/l-valine AKG 1000 mg, l-alanyl l-glutamine (Sustamine®) 25 mg, taurine 2000 mg, choline bitartrate 500 mg, caffeine anhydrous 350 mg, yohimbe (Coryanthe yohimbe schum)(bark) extract (supplying 3.2 mg yohimbine) 40 mg, Extended Energy Blend (167 mg) [glucuronolactone, theacrine (TeaCrine®), ashwagandha (root) extract (Withania somnifera)(KSM-66®), cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), l-tyrosine, holy basil (leaf)(Ocimum temuiflorum) extract, reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) extract
iSatori MORPH XTREME Summary
|Advanced Ingredients: vitamin C (as ascorbic acid), vitamin B6 (as pyridoxine HCl), vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin), magnesium (as magnesium creatine chelate), inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (Nitrosigine®), tienchi ginseng (root)(Panax notoginseng) extract (Astragin®), beta-alanine (H + Beta-Alanine™), magnesium creatine chelate (Creatine MagnaPower®), l-leucine/l-leucine AKG (LeuciTor™), l-alanyl l-glutamine (Sustamine®), theacrine (TeaCrine®), ashwagandha (root) extract (Withania somnifera)(KSM-66®)|
|Clean Label: No. Has sucralose and FD&C Yellow No. 6.|
|Advanced Delivery: Yes. Has astralagus (root) (Astralagus membranaceous) extract: tienchi ginseng (root)(Panax notoginseng) extract (Astragin®) for improved bioavailability.|
|Stimulant Free: No. Has 350 mg of caffeine anhydrous and 40 mg of yohimbe (Coryanthe yohimbe schum)(bark) extract (supplying 3.2 mg yohimbine)|
|Price: $44.99 for a 560-gram container (20 servings)|
|Any Deals? No.|
|Service: 24/7 online customer service, company issues refunds on first-time purchases only|
|Official Website: https://shop.isatori.com/products/morph-xtreme|
|Read our in-depth iSatori MORPH XTREME review|
Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Runners Conclusion
Contrary to popular belief, bodybuilders aren’t the only athletes who can benefit from pre-workout supplements. Runners can, too. In fact, adding a pre-workout to your supplement stack can help fire you up physically and mentally for your runs.
Fortunately, there are many pre-workouts with ideal formulations for runners. This guide features five of the best pre-workout supplements for this athlete demographic. Try complementing your training and nutrition regimen with any of these, and watch your results soar.