There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to the performance-based benefits of supplements for runners, especially those taken in the hours or minutes leading up to a run.
Pre-workout supplements are usually associated with bodybuilders or fast-twitch muscle growth and/or performance.
This type of muscle group is primarily responsible for quick or rapid bursts of energy needed during activities like sprinting or weightlifting.
However, slow-twitch muscles respond quite differently and are mostly utilized when participating in longer, endurance-based activity – like running.
This group requires different fuel and a unique nutritional support profile that both nourishes the body and promotes quick absorption into the blood stream.
Like any other physical activity, running requires an immense amount of energy and a consistent fuel source.
Without proper nutrition, glycogen stores (the primary fuel for runners) become depleted and serious performance-based consequences can occur – fatigue, nausea, cramping, muscle breakdown etc.
Thankfully, many pre-workout supplements designed specifically for runners promote building energy stores prior to running, sustaining performance during activity, and ensuring optimal recovery afterwards.
This makes proper research and a general understanding of what the body needs during endurance activity extremely important if peak physical performance during a run is the end goal.
Do Pre-Workout Supplements Help Runners Specifically?
The answer to this question all boils down to how well you understand the nutritional requirements of a runner.
A product is only as good as the ingredients it has in it – runners need a combination of calories, carbohydrates and basic proteins or amino acids.
The best pre workout supplements for running are usually a precise formula composed of quick-burning carbohydrate sources and amino acids (protein) that prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue.
This helps slow twitch muscles perform consistently well during a run while also ensuring the body recovers quickly afterwards.
What are the Benefits of Taking a Pre-Workout Supplement for Running?
Good pre workout supplements for running provide many different benefits such as increased energy, strength, endurance, and mental focus/fortitude.
Specific ingredients have different impacts – most running-specific pre workout formulas involve some combination of the following compounds:
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) – These are made up of leucine, valine, and isoleucine and prevent the breakdown of muscle fibers during endurance-based activities. Insufficient levels of BCAAs present in the body during a run lead to muscle fatigue and weakness.
Glutamine – An amino acid that is responsible for immune function and tissue repair, Glutamine becomes depleted when the body is under stress and cortisol is released. Constantly impacted by cardiovascular activity, it needs to be replenished before a run to ensure body stores are adequate while running.
Caffeine – Responsible for providing a quick energy boost and a mental stimulant, caffeine reduces the levels of perceived effort so you can train harder during a run. Research shows it also improves the body’s ability to convert fatty acids for energy use, conserve carbohydrates, and delay fatigue.
Creatine – Helps to promote strength and endurance of slow-twitch muscle fibers.
Beta-Alanine – Reduces muscle fatigue and lactic acid build-up.
There are certainly many more common ingredients that are usually found in the best pre run energy supplements, but the ones outlined above are definitely the most prevalent.
Are Pre-Workout Supplements for Running Safe?
It is always important to know exactly what you are putting into your body and what specific purpose each ingredient of a good pre workout for running holds.
Health and safety should always be the number one priority of any dietary supplementation plan or product. It’s vital to look for products that not only use lab-tested ingredients that have a large sample size of safe-use cases but are also backed up by measurable increases in performance.
There is no “one-size fits all” way to look at pre-workout supplement health.
Certain ingredients can impact different people depending on age, body type, or general health. The key is to stick with products that are vigorously tested in both the lab and real world so that accurate health conclusions can be reached.
Some possible side effects of pre-workout supplementation include:
Feeling jittery or noticing a more rapid than usual heartbeat sensation
Increase in stomach activity/digestion during a run (which can lead to bowel issues or “runners trots”)
Racing thoughts or anxiety
Many companies offer samples or smaller sized containers of product to allow potential customers to get a feel for a product.
It is very important to try out a large variety of different products and ingredients to figure out what combination works best for you in terms of performance and overall health.
So, as you can see – utilizing a good pre workout for running has a ton of positive benefits that are backed by quality scientific research.
The next step is to take a look at some top-rated products on the market in 2021 that are consistently recommended by a wide variety of runners.
This list is a great place to get started and offers a ton of insight into the best pre workout supplements for long distance running.
Let’s dive in!
Top 13 Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Runners 2021
Review: Easily one of the highest rated pre-workout supplements on the market in 2021, Pulse by Legion Athletics packs a serious punch.
Made with all natural ingredients that boost strength, energy, and endurance, Pulse contains L-Citrulline, Caffeine, Ornithine, and Beta-Alanine that work together to keep you at your best from start to finish.
Pulse is 100% natural and contains no harsh stimulants or any other ingredients that can sometimes cause jitters, stomach aches, or post-workout crashes.
Made with all natural ingredients.
Backed by scientific research.
Contains caffeine for an extra physical and mental boost.
Review: MusclePharm really did a fantastic job with this particular product. Chock full of ingredients that promote maximum energy, strength, and recovery, Assault performs well pretty much across the board.
Beta-alanine, L-Glycin, and Creatine monohydrate certainly mesh well together to enhance muscular endurance.
This product also contains both caffeine and taurine, which increase energy + focus, reduce fatigue, and may even help to reduce inflammation.
Increases endurance and power.
No artificial dyes.
Contains creatine, beta-alanine, and caffeine.
All ingredients are clinically proven.
Occasionally excess foam when product is mixed.
Assault certainly offers a lot and comes at a reasonable price.
Definitely can’t go wrong with this product – it certainly classifies as a good pre workout for running, especially with the added bonus of creatine monohydrate.
Review: The world’s first completely organic pre-workout supplement certainly has created quite a large fan base in the running community.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that it is made up of quality ingredients such as Maca, Acai, Yerba Mate, Green Tea, Beet Root, and many more.
It definitely is a solid source of natural fuel that leaves you feeling energized and focused. Overall stamina is also greatly increased as well, especially since it doesn’t contain any synthetic sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Organic Muscle has also done a great job with creating three unique blends of organic ingredients, herbs, and superfoods – vascularity & pump blend, (beet root, pomegranate, acai) energy, focus, & stamina blend, (coconut water, ginseng, yerba mate, maca, and others) and an antioxidant & metabolic boost blend (green tea, goji berry, cranberry, blueberry, niacin).
Certified USDA organic.
No artificial sweeteners or processed sugars.
Ingredients are easily processed by the body.
Upgraded formula dissolves easily in water and tastes much better.
Doesn’t contain any BCAAs or Glutamine.
A great all-around product, USDA Certified Organic Muscle really backs up their claims of creating one of the best pre run energy supplements on the market today.
Mixing this product with a source of BCAAs and Glutamine creates a fantastic one-two punch.
Review: Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the branding for this particular product. I was not impressed by the name at all and didn’t really take it all that seriously on the surface.
However, after digging a little bit deeper, I really found that there’s a lot to like about it as well.
Not only does YOLO contain no sugar, dyes, or any other artificial ingredients, it also is extremely light on the stomach – it certainly is in the mix for the best pre workout supplement for long distance running.
Comes with in-depth workout plans.
Easy on the digestive tract.
Consistent energy and mental focus.
Once you look past the name, this product checks all the boxes (and then some!) for what a good pre workout for running needs to contain.
It has a ton of consistently positive reviews from a wide range of athletes and is easily a supplement that is worth checking out soon.
Review: Naked Energy is an all-naturally derived pre workout supplement that is also vegan friendly. It contains ten high quality ingredients including amino acids, vitamins, caffeine, and creatine.
This particular product is unflavored and doesn’t use any artificial sweeteners or additives.
Keeps things simple by using only ten high quality ingredients.
Includes creatine to help promote endurance and faster recovery.
Caffeine is sourced from unground coffee beans for maximum absorption.
Not everyone will be a fan of the “no taste” experience.
A really unique product that caters to many different types of dietary habits – it certainly holds its own on a performance-based ranking as well.
Although some may not prefer the absence of any taste or flavor, Naked Energy is a no frills or gimmicks product that does what it says it will.
Jacked Factory Nitrosurge Pre Workout Supplement
Review: Nitrosurge is a quality pre workout supplement that is made in the USA – it features a really in-depth clinically dosed formula to ensure noticeable results quickly.
Perfect for runners due to the three-pronged combination of energy, focus, and endurance.
Clinically dosed formula.
Research backed ingredients.
No fillers or dyes.
Near instant mental focus and lasting energy.
Can cause difficulty sleeping if consumed too close to bedtime.
Not just for use before lifting or bodybuilding, this is another good example of a quality pre-workout supplement that can have a huge positive impact on your running experience and baseline performance.
EVERTRAIN PRE - Clean Pre Workout Powder
Review: PRE uses six clinically backed ingredients to provide sustained focus, strength, and endurance. Everything in the formula is naturally sourced and free from artificial fillers or coloring.
Evertrain is known for creating great tasting products and PRE is definitely no exception – each of the three flavors is delicious!
Nitric Oxide booster.
Heightened cognitive function.
Easy on the digestive system.
Doesn’t contain glutamine.
This product really locks you in mentally before heading out on a run – which is often half the battle, especially when tackling longer distances.
PRE really helps with sustained endurance too.
Truwild Motion Plant Based Vegan Pre Workout Powder
Review: Specifically designed for outdoor athletes, Motion is a pre workout supplement that uses natural science to deliver long lasting energy, hydration, and performance.
Like all other Truwild products, Motion is vegan friendly and gluten-free. It also contains many ingredients that other products listed in this guide don’t have – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Green coffee bean (caffeine), Himalayan pink salt (electrolytes), and black pepper (absorbtion) combine with several other more common ingredients to create a potent and effective pre workout formula.
Unique and all natural ingredients.
Designed with runners specifically in mind.
Easy on the stomache.
Lack of BCAAs and true strength building compounds.
This is a truly unique product that brilliantly combines a ton of simple, all-natural ingredients to create one of the best pre workout supplements for marathon runners and other long distance endurance athletes.
Despite not containing creatine, glutamine, or any other BCAAs, the plant based formula of Truwild still is exceptionally effective.
Review: Another product that utilizes mostly fruits and vegetables, Ora Organic does wonders for the digestive system.
It ensures a focused, high performance run that is entirely fueled by natural sources – all without any stomach issues or energy crashes.
USDA Certified Organic.
No sugar or extra flavors.
Yerba Mate provides a clean source of BCAAs and antioxidants.
Easy to recommend a product that makes good use of so many natural ingredients.
Featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank”, the team behind this product is extremely passionate and dedicated to delivering the best pre workout supplement possible.
That’s just a small sample of some of the products and science-based nutrition that can help you achieve peak performance when engaging in an endurance sport like running.
It’s really important to research and experiment with a few different supplements in order to figure out what works best for you. Remember, there is no “one size fits all” pre workout formula for running – everyone will respond to a product differently.
Whatever way you look at it, investing in a good pre workout supplement will certainly pay dividends in the future – proper nutrition plays a huge role in strength, endurance, and mental focus.
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Michael is a fitness expert and professional home/garage gym builder. His tutorials, guides, and reviews are backed up by his own experience and will definitely help you achieve your goals. He also loves putting mayo AND ketchup on the pizza for some reason!