Taking a pre-workout before any form of exercise, including cardio, is what many gym-goers do.

However, before you scoop that pre-workout powder, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons.

In this article, I'll explore whether or not you should take pre-workout before cardio and provide you with the insights you need to make an informed decision.

Taking pre-workout before cardio is not bad. The key is using them responsibly and adhering to recommended dosages to avoid potential side effects.

Overuse may lead to side effects like jitteriness, anxiety, insomnia, or increased heart rate. That said, those side effects can be more or less pronounced depending on your stimulant tolerance.

I take a pre-workout supplement containing 200 mg of caffeine and 6 grams of L-citrulline before cardio sessions, as this specific combination significantly enhances my endurance, allowing me to run, cycle, or tackle the StairMaster longer and with increased intensity.


Pre-workouts are a blend of various individual supplements used to enhance energy, focus, and muscle endurance. If your goal is to lift more, build more muscle, or run further and faster on a treadmill, a pre-workout supplement could most definitely help! However, you need to ensure your pre-workout contains specific ingredients in the correct doses to obtain these benefits truly.[1] 

Do You Need Pre-Workout For Cardio?

You don't need pre-workout supplements for cardio. You can get most of the ingredients found in pre-workouts from foods. You can get caffeine from coffee, protein from meat, creatine from herring, citrulline from watermelon, and nitrates from beetroots.[2]

But there’s a drawback to taking this route, as you need an insanely large amount of these foods to feel each ingredient’s energy-boosting effects. You would have to eat a pound of herring for 3-4 grams of creatine and over 2 pounds of watermelon for just 2 grams of citrulline.

Therefore, most people, including myself, find that pre-workouts are a convenient way to get those ingredients in, helping maximize the effectiveness of cardiovascular workouts.

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

What Are The Benefits of Pre-Workout Before Cardio?

Pre-workouts offer a range of benefits that can boost your performance and make your cardio sessions more effective.

Enhanced Strength

Pre-workout ingredients like caffeine and citrulline can increase your muscle strength depending on their dose.

This boost in power can be particularly helpful during high-intensity cardio activities like sprinting or uphill running, enabling you to push yourself further and achieve better results.

Improved Muscular Endurance

Compounds like L-citrulline (or even beta-alanine, if supplemented regularly) can improve muscular endurance in several ways.

Citrulline stimulates the production of L-arginine, a precursor to nitric oxide, resulting in improved blood vessel relaxation and enhanced blood flow. Beta-alanine, on the other hand, has been shown to buffer lactic acid build-up.

Personally, I prefer citrulline over beta-alanine when I'm cycling due to the lack of side effects and a broader range of effects.[3]
should you take pre-workout before cardio

Better Focus

The caffeine in pre-workouts will enhance your mental alertness and concentration.

While in this state of heightened focus, I find myself being able to maintain a consistent pace and ensure that my cardio workouts are both effective and efficient.

Reduced Perception of Fatigue

Pre-workouts often contain ingredients, like caffeine, L-citrulline, or even L-tyrosine, that diminish the perception of fatigue. 

This means you'll feel less tired during your cardio sessions, allowing you to put in more effort and extend your workouts.

Faster Metabolism

Caffeine in pre-workouts can help increase your metabolism and speed up fat oxidation.

This not only leads to a more efficient calorie burn during your cardio workouts but also aids in weight management.

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

Some ingredients increase strength, and others boost endurance, so try to look for these ingredients when buying a pre-workout you'll use for cardio:

  • Caffeine: 
    Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant and the most common ingredient in exercise supplements. It binds to adenosine receptors in the brain to increase alertness and make you feel less tired, both of which are important for working out your cardiovascular system.[4]
  • Citrulline: 
    Citrulline is a well-known and equally effective vasodilator. It is used to boost nitric oxide production, which helps improve blood flow, enhance muscle pumps, and, most importantly, reduce muscle fatigue during running, cycling, or HIIT cardio sessions.
  • Beta-alanine: 
    Beta-alanine, if supplemented regularly (6.4g/day for 28 days), can improve endurance and fight muscle fatigue. When lactic acid starts to build up in your body during longer bouts of cardio exercise, beta-alanine helps combat the acid and reduce tiredness and DOMS.
  • Nitrosigine: 
    Nitrosigine is a patented complex of arginine and inositol. Just like citrulline, Nitrosigine promotes vasodilation, increasing blood flow to muscles, which can enhance endurance and cardiovascular performance.
  • L-Tyrosine: 
    Tyrosine is a precursor to catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine). Tyrosine excels at improving mental focus and clarity during times of stress, which is what intense cardiovascular training session is.

There are a few more ingredients that athletes look for in pre-workouts, such as Alpha-GPC, DMAE, L-theanine, and others, but the abovementioned ones are the most useful for a cardio session.

is it bad to take pre-workout before cardio

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

You should take your pre-workout supplement 30 minutes ahead of your planned cardio workout.

Just keep in mind that 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 ever so slightly.

If you don't feel your pre-workout working in 30 to 40 minutes, you may want to try and cycle pre-workout. It could be that you've developed a tolerance to caffeine, which means you might have to give your body two to three weeks to readjust.

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

Pre-Workout Before Cardio FAQs

What else can I take for energy before a run?

A balanced meal, a spoonful of honey, some salt, or even a granola bar can go a long way to fuel your body, as can drinking water or an energy drink containing electrolytes. [5]

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

As long as you choose a high-quality supplement and you adhere to the dosage recommendations, you can take pre-workouts every day for cardio.

What type of cardio does pre-workout benefit?

Pre-workout supplements can benefit all forms of cardio training, as they offer a sufficient energy boost to help you maintain pace and intensity for the entirety of your cardio session, whether that's running, cycling, swimming, or HIIT.

Is C4 pre-workout good to take before cardio?

C4 Original is not particularly good to take before cardio. However, C4 Ultimate contains clinically effective dosages of active ingredients and is a good option for high-intensity cardio workouts as well.

Related Article: Cellucor C4 Pre-Workout 


Taking a pre-workout 30 minutes before an intense cardio session can give you the energy and focus you need to improve your fitness, especially products containing effective dosages of caffeine and citrulline.

So, feel free to take a pre-workout before cardio, but make sure you choose a high-quality pre-workout, like C4 Ultimate.

recommended pre-workout!

Cellucor C4 Ultimate Pre Workout Benefits







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1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30089501/
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20421833/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4759860/
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11583104/
5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-to-eat-before-running

Last Updated on November 3, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.