Should You Take Pre-Workout Before Cardio? (Do’s & Don’ts)

Many athletes swear by pre-workout supplements to enhance endurance, energy and focus during and after a workout.

Right now, there's a wide variety of products on the market to choose from, and many of them have been proven to improve performance drastically.

Supplements like these are commonly used by bodybuilders, weight lifters, and CrossFitters, but what about taking pre-workout before cardio?

Let’s find out all the facts about pre-workout for cardio and whether or not it’s worth using.

pre-workout before cardio

Before getting into the good and bad aspects of pre-workout, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what pre-workout actually is.

Here’s a pre-workout explanation according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine [1]:

“Pre-workouts are a blend of various individual supplements used to enhance energy, focus, and muscle protein synthesis. If your goal is to lift more or build more muscle, a pre-workout supplement could most definitely help! Although, you need to ensure your pre-workout contains specific ingredients in the correct doses to truly obtain these benefits.”

Based on that definition, as well as numerous fitness studies, taking some type of pre-workout is, in fact, a good idea. But why?

It all has to do with the ingredients contained within these supplements.

While the specific ingredients vary from product to product, most contain things like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine, all of which are perfectly safe and effective.

Some pre-workouts come in the form of pills that can be swallowed, and others as powders that are mixed into drinks or sprinkled on food.

They can also be mixed with protein powders for improved muscle building.

Do You Need Pre-Workout For Cardio?

Technically, you don’t need a pre-workout before cardio. However, that doesn’t change the fact that taking supplements can be beneficial to your fitness routine. Here’s why…

Many of the ingredients found in pre-workouts are naturally occurring in the foods we eat. You can get caffeine from coffee (and even chocolate) or drink a glass of milk for some creatine [2]. 

But there’s a drawback to taking this route; you need an insanely large amount of these foods to feel each ingredient’s energy-boosting effects.

The much easier and more effective option is to find a pre-workout product that contains these ingredients in large quantities so that you'll actually feel their effects.

Read Also - How Much Caffeine Is In Pre-Workout?

Why Take Pre-Workout Before Cardio? (Benefits Explained)

Aside from the general benefit of boosting energy and improving endurance, there are quite a few perks to taking pre-workout supplements.

Just be aware that the exact benefits depend on the specific workout you’re doing, so let’s focus on how pre-workouts can affect cardio.

One of the biggest pros to taking pre-workout before a run or other cardio workout is the fact that it triggers an adrenaline release in our brains.

Pre-works are specifically designed to inhibit our adenosine receptors to increase the release of adrenaline, and this, in turn, increases energy as well as endurance. That means you can push harder through your cardio workout [3].

Another benefit is improved focus. Many people think that working out is only about the physical body, but it's just as much mental as it is physical.

With pre-workout, your brain is sharpened with mental acuity, which means that you’ll have a better chance of pushing through those high-intensity cardio sessions.

Here are a few more benefits that come along with regularly taking pre-workout before cardio:

  • Boost blood flow for better circulation
  • Increase nutrient delivery throughout the body
  • Greater high-intensity workload (pre-workouts are great for HIIT)
  • Greater ability to develop lean muscle mass
  • Better physical performance overall
should you take pre-workout before cardio

What Ingredients In Pre-Workouts Are Good For Cardio Training?

The quality and effectiveness of a pre-workout ultimately come down to its ingredient list.

Remember, you need to select a product with ingredients that can benefit your specific type of workout. 

Some ingredients increase strength, others boost endurance, so try to choose a pre-workout that caters to your fitness goals.

Here are the main ingredients to look for before buying a pre-workout:

  • Caffeine:
    Caffeine is a naturally-occurring stimulant that’s found in coffee and tea, but it’s also a very common ingredient in exercise supplements. That’s because it stimulates certain parts of the brain to increase alertness and make you feel less tired, both of which are important for working out [4].
  • Beta-Alanine:
    Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps fight muscle fatigue. When lactic acid starts to build up in your body during intense exercise, beta-alanine helps combat the acid and reduce tiredness. Because of this, beta-alanine is great for improving overall performance.
  • BCAAs:
    BCAAs, short for branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), help your body reduce the amount of protein breakdown common during workouts. In other words, these acids lessen the fatigue you’ll feel after your workout.
  • Nitric Oxide:
    Nitric oxide is a natural compound that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. A lot of research suggests that supplementing with these nitric oxide compounds (L-arginine, L-citrulline, etc. ) helps to boost oxygen and nutrient transport to your muscles, ultimately enhancing athletic performance.
  • Creatine:
    Creatine is naturally found in our cells, and it’s a popular dietary supplement for increasing muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance. This is because creatine is an important part of the energy production systems inside your cells, and increased energy means you work your muscles harder to improve strength in the long run. 

There are a few more common ingredients that athletes look for in pre-workouts, but many of these are geared towards weight lifting and “pump” centric workouts.

So, for now, focus on the ingredients listed above if your main focus is cardio.

Learn More - Why Does Beta-Alanine In Pre-Workout Make You Itch?

Learn More - BCAAs Vs Pre-Workouts (What's The Difference?)

Recommendation | Our #1 Pre-Workout

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How Long Before Cardio Should You Take Pre-Workout? (For Max Results)

Each individual’s metabolism and digestion work at a different rate, so the amount of time it takes your pre-workout to kick in will vary.

In general, though, you should take your supplements 30 to 45 minutes ahead of your planned workout.

This allows your body time to digest the pre-workout and gives each ingredient plenty of time to kick in.

Once you step on the elliptical or lace up your running shoes, you should have plenty of energy and focus.

For the first few days of using pre-workouts, the timing will be trial and error.

Start by taking pre-workouts 30 minutes before hitting the gym, then slowly alter the timing based on how you feel.

If you notice that the supplements don’t kick in until 10 minutes after your workout has started, take your pre-workout 40 minutes before instead.

Related Article - How Long Does Pre-Workout Last In Your Body?

is it bad to take pre-workout before cardio

Pre-Workout Before Cardio FAQs

What else can I take for energy before a run?

If you’re not quite on board with supplementing your cardio with pre-workouts, there are plenty of snacks you can eat prior to a run that can boost your energy. A piece of fruit or a granola bar can go a long way to fuel your body, as can drinking water or an energy drink containing electrolytes [5].

Learn More - Is Pre-Workout Good For Running? 

Can you take a pre-workout every day for cardio exercises?

As long as you choose a high-quality supplement, pre-workouts are generally considered safe. Even so, they shouldn't be consumed daily because they can start to have negative side effects. If taken too frequently for an extended period of time, pre-workouts can lead to insomnia, jittery movements, and even long-term heart problems.

Learn More - Can You Take Pre-Workout Everyday?

What type of cardio does pre-workout benefit?

There are 2 types of cardio training, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS). HIIT involves bursts of energy followed by short periods of rest, and pre-workouts are GREAT for this since they increase energy and reduce muscle fatigue.

On the flip side, pre-workouts aren’t overly necessary for LISS training. LISS involves more sustained and steady movement, like cycling or power walking, and pre-workouts don’t offer a lot of benefits in this cardio category.

Is C4 pre-workout good to take before cardio?

C4 is a popular pre-workout supplement used to support strength and performance. It contains creatine, caffeine, and beta-alanine, and although it’s mainly used for strength training, it’s a good option for high-intensity cardio workouts as well.

See Also Our Review Of Cellucor C4 Pre-Workout 


While pre-workouts aren’t for everyone, there’s no harm in trying one (unless specifically advised otherwise by a medical professional).

Taking a pre-workout 30 to 45 minutes before an intense cardio session can give you the energy and focus you need to improve your fitness, especially products containing caffeine, BCAAs, creatine, and beta-alanine.

Just be sure to choose a high-quality pre-workout, like C4, and follow the dosage recommendations.



Paul J

Last Updated on January 21, 2023