Pre Workout for Cardio: Should You Take It?

by Matt Wilson
Last Updated: 19/04/2021
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You want to know about supplements and their usage before doing cardio workouts. 

Should you use pre-workout for running?

Maybe you are tired of strength training and want to work on your stamina. Maybe you want to lose some weight or maybe you want to prepare for a marathon. Who knows (only you)? 

All those goals are valid and knowing if you should take supplements before going for a run or a swim is important.

In this article, we are going to answer these questions. We are also going to talk about different types of cardio workouts and what pre-workout supplement is used for which exercise.

We will discuss the effects of supplements on cardio training, and how those can increase your energy levels and contribute to fat loss.

Should You Take Pre-Workout Before Cardio?

First of all, pre-workout is a supplement that could be primarily used for an increase in energy. It can significantly influence your performance during exercise. 

Taking them before cardio training is not bad. 

If you are a healthy individual, it is recommended to start with supplementation a few weeks after you’ve started with your workouts, before your body gets the chance to adjust to the training routine (this is all assuming that you are a complete beginner) [1].

Just like strength training, cardio workouts lead to an increase in body temperature and raised heart rate. If you have health issues, cardiovascular problems, it’s not recommended to use any supplements before cardio (unless your doctor said otherwise).

When combining cardio workouts with pre-workout, you can expect some side effects. You could feel dizzy or nauseated. If there is creatine or caffeine in your pre-workout, you could experience dehydration.

Does Using Pre Workout Improve Cardio?

Using pre-workout can improve cardio and physical performance in general [2]. It can help you to be more focused and can give you an increase in stamina and endurance. 

Using pre-workout is highly recommended for exercises, such as running or swimming. It can help you achieve better results in the athletic activity of your choice.

Be careful when choosing your pre-workout product and look at the list of ingredients in order to maximize the positive effects on your cardio training.

Can Pre-Workout Before Cardio Be Bad?

Pre-workout supplements used before cardio are in most cases safe and have no significant negative effects on your health (assuming you don’t have any underlying health issues)

But, there are some cases where pre-workout supplements can produce negative side effects that can potentially ruin your cardio session. It all depends on the list of ingredients and how each ingredient affects your body.

For example, if you use caffeine in your pre-workout mix before cardio, you can experience increased heart rate, anxiety, restlessness or digestion problems. 

How Does Pre-workout Impact Cardio?

Cardio training often entails high-intensity exercises (sprints). But, it can also be more relaxed, almost like a jogging type of exercise. 

If later is the case, this type of cardio is known as LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State). 

LISS is a type of cardio that is best suited for maintaining your health, cardiovascular system and endurance in particular [3]. You can do LISS by walking, swimming or cycling.

During that slow pace, you can burn a lot of fat if the duration of your exercises is at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Usual supplements used for LISS cardio are BCAAs and nitrate because of their positive effect on endurance.

There is of course also HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) cardio, which is great, not just for losing fat but for building muscles as well. 

HIIT differs from LISS in the sense that it requires more explosivity and speed of movement. Taking breaks and working in short intervals is what makes this type of cardio great for powerful results.

This could include short sprints or push-ups. Every exercise needs to be done with full commitment and energy.

Same as LISS, HIIT can be beneficial for your health, especially when it comes to blood pressure regulation and lowering of cholesterol.

What are the appropriate pre-workout supplements for this type of exercise?

You can use creatine, beta-alanine, caffeine or BCAAs (to name a few) as pre-workout supplements for HIIT cardio. They can increase your power output and are also good for strength training.

Be careful and use your pre-workout supplement in moderation!


Anaerobic and aerobic are types of exercises most commonly related to HIIT and LISS. 

Anaerobic exercise is quite different from an aerobic one. It increases the heart rate during short intervals and requires short bursts of energy and focus [4]. 


You need to work continuously in order to preserve the level of stamina required for these types of exercises. Relevant supplements can increase the quality of your anaerobic exercises by providing you with more energy and improving your heart activity and blood flow.

Some anaerobic activities include cycling and boxing.


Aerobic activity can increase your pulse and breathing. When doing an aerobic exercise, your heart is sending oxygen through blood in your blood vessels in order to make sure your muscles are working properly.

Aerobic exercise is done without a break. It includes hiking, running, cycling, yoga, etc. In all those activities, our bodies adjust and we stop having the feeling of an intensified workout.

Using supplementation in these types of workouts can help your aerobic training to be more intense, longer-lasting while keeping you focused throughout the whole process.

Why Take Pre-Workout Before Cardio

A lot of the pre-workout supplements can produce a significant amount of adrenaline in your body by inhibiting adenosine receptors.

The energy that is released in this way can lead to better performance and improvement in your overall workout experience.

If used before cardio, pre-workout can provide more oxygen in your blood vessels through increased heart rate. This can help you in the gym (when you need to lift more) and can improve the delivery of nutrients to specific parts of your body.

It is very important to know when to stop. When you feel tired, it’s recommended to rest and let your body recover.

Impact of Pre Workout Before HIIT

Preparing yourself for a high-intensity training and HIIT exercise can be done with the aid of specific supplements [5]. Workout supplements can give you just what you need in order to have a great and highly explosive workout.

Pre-workouts can give you extra energy, usually when you include caffeine and creatine in your supplement mix. Creatine and caffeine are very powerful when it comes to unleashing your energy and boosting your performance.

Caffeine, in particular, can increase your heart rate and help with the blood flow which can lead to a more productive exercise routine.

If you include beta-alanine and amino acids, you can improve your recovery time and endurance, both of which are crucial when it comes to exercises that last longer.


How Long Before Cardio Should You Take Pre Workout?

You should take your pre-workout supplement at least 30 minutes before doing any cardio. If you take your supplements too early you could end up working “on an empty tank”.

If you take them too late, you could be left waiting for that energy surge until the middle of your workout session and ruining the whole point of taking a pre-workout in the first place. 

Do You Need a Pre-Workout for Cardio or Just the Specific Ingredients?

It all depends on the type of cardio you will be doing. 

As we said, you could be doing HIIT in which case you’d need something strong for explosive and short repetitions. If this, in fact, the case, then you will probably want to include caffeine or creatine in your workout mix.

If you prepare to do a LISS cardio exercise, then you would want for BCAAs or nitrate to be included in your pre-workout supplements. These two can be astonishingly beneficial when it comes to endurance.

Is Pre Workout Good for Running?

Taking pre-workouts before running can improve your performance. 

You could use caffeine, which gives you more energy and helps you achieve better results in high-intensity exercises.

Using caffeine for running can help you increase your alertness and energy levels while increasing your body’s ability to burn fat. Using supplements before cardio can help you lose weight and stay fit.

We recommend taking supplements before your cardio training (30 minutes to an hour). 

What’s the Best Pre Workout Supplement for Cardio?

For that, you should check the list of ingredients on products that you are planning to use. In order to achieve better results (when it comes to cardio) that list should include: creatine, caffeine, beta-alanin, citrulline, BCAAs or nitrate. 

Not all of these ingredients need to be included. If just one is on the label you should expect an increase in your performance.

The Bottom Line

Taking pre-workout before doing cardio is in most cases quite safe. You should take them if you want to achieve better results.

In order to achieve the best results, pay attention to the list of ingredients and take those supplements that are adequate for the type of cardio you are planning to do.

Don’t forget to take your pre-workouts at least 30 minutes before doing exercises.


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