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The Best Complete Pre-workout Guide for Runners (and Other Workouts)

The best pre-workout for runners or anyone else needing some energy and endurance through working out can be difficult to determine with so many to choose from and so many different opinions. This pre-workout guide will answer a lot of questions and recommend the best supplements as well as all natural products to get the most from your workout.

Pre-workout supplements can come in a powder form, a pill form, or even pre-made drinks and shakes! These products are all created as nutritional add-ons that can help you to achieve your goals and can help you to boost your workout (whether at home or at a gym). If you are looking for the best pre-workout for running or other workout routine, check out this list that we have put together for you below.

All About Pre-Workouts for Running and Others

Before we start talking about products, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and the specifics. What is a pre-workout? What do they do? What are the benefits and what are the drawbacks?  

What are Pre-Workout Supplements?

As mentioned earlier, pre-workout supplements can come in different forms. You’ll often find it as a powder, a pill, a drink or even in snack form. The basic principle of a pre-workout is that it’s key ingredients will help to give you an energy boost, improve your mental focus and boost your overall athletic performance.  

What are Intra-Workout Supplements?

Another supplement that many fitness enthusiasts and athletes take is an intra workout. These supplements are taken during your workout and the goal of consuming them is to improve your workout, increase your energy, improve endurance, keep you hydrated and recover more quickly.

While there are pre-made drinks out there made for this purpose, most often you will find that this supplement comes as an intra workout powder. 

lady holding shaker bottle with pre-workout

What Should You Look for When Buying a Pre-Workout Supplement?

There are many, many different types of pre-workout supplements out there. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and it’s easy to just grab one and go thinking that they’ll all be the same. I assure you, they are not.

Here are some of the things you should look for when buying a pre-workout:


Some pre workout supplements are just gross. I have tried some that taste absolutely awful. I have also tasted even more pre workout formulas that taste amazing. Chances are, you’ll easily find one that you like, but it’s worth nothing that you might not! You need to be sure and look for a taste that you typically enjoy, although that won’t guarantee that it will be good, it is a good start though!  

Natural Caffeine

If you choose a caffeinated pre-workout, be sure that the pre-workout you choose has a natural caffeine source. Be sure and check the label for ingredients such as green tea or coffee. 

Good Reviews

Be sure to check the website itself as well as other retailers and even Google for reviews. Seeing reviews from verified purchasers is a great way to find out if others have had a good experience with the product. You’ll also see many people discuss the taste in their reviews which is a huge plus if you are concerned about getting one that has a bad flavor. 

woman holding bottle putting scoop of protein in

Quality Ingredients

Check the ingredients list, read the label, make sure that the ingredients in the preworkout you choose come from quality sources. Many cheaper brands use ingredients that aren’t as pure which means that your body will not get as much benefit from them. Let’s avoid that! 

What You Should Be on the Lookout For When Buying a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Artificial Sweeteners

If you have a sensitive digestive tract, it’s a good idea to make sure that the pre-workout supplement you choose isn’t known for creating digestive issues. Sometimes just the pump of energy will create some digestive issues (we’ve all been there), but often times more uncomfortable intestinal distress will occur when the pre-workout formula contains artificial sweeteners as those are known to create stomach issues for many people. 

Banned Substances

If you are participating  in an event at a competitive level, you might need to check the rules for any banned substances and make sure that the pre workout supplement you choose does not include any of those. 


Just like any other food product, you need to be on the lookout for any allergens. You may be thinking that a pre-workout product won’t feature any particular product that you would be allergic to, but you might be surprised. 

For example, most people wouldn’t expect to have to worry about wheat in their fitness products, butI have seen many supplements that have gluten listed on their ingredient list. This can be dangerous for someone that has celiac disease or an allergy to gluten and/or wheat. This one may be a given for many, but just in case it hadn’t crossed your mind, I figured it was worth mentioning. 

What are Some of the Common Ingredients of Pre-Workout?

You will typically find the same common ingredients within most any pre-workout formula. Of course, some may have some ingredients that differ, but many times you’ll find slight differences. The common ingredients of pre-workout include B vitamins (niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12), beta alanine, and L-citrulline. Most, but not all pre-workouts also contain caffeine. 

What are the Different Types of Main Active Ingredients in Pre-Workout?

While most pre-workout formulas contain the ingredients that we talked about earlier, most workouts do have a main ingredient/type. Here are the different ingredient types of products that you can expect to find:

BCAA Type Pre-Workout Supplement 

The benefits of a BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acid) type pre-workout supplement include fatigue prevention as well as protection from muscle damage. BCAAs pre-workouts are a blend of leucine, isoleucine and valine amino acids. 

EAAs Type Pre-Workout 

The benefits of an EAA (Essential Amino Acids) type pre-workout supplement include increased muscle building and repair. EAA pre-workout are a blend of leucine, lysine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, methionine and histidine amino acids. 

BCAAs and EAAs are both great pre-workout options for you if your goal is heavy lifting or endurance training or for athletes that need to reduce training due to injury to help preserve muscle mass during their break in training. 

water bottle in hand

Carbohydrate Pre-Workout

Carbohydrates are often used in pre-workout formulas because of the great benefits of retained energy levels which is necessary for athletes. There is a reason why you see so many endurance athletes consuming high amounts of carbohydrates in their diets. It’s because it helps them to stay energized longer. Many fitness professionals recommend consuming at least 15 grams of carbohydrates 30-45 minutes before your workout. 

Due to the popularity of low carb diets, you often don’t think of carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet. While of course you should watch the amount of and types of carbohydrates you consume daily, they do often have great benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Caffeine Pre-Workout

While caffeine is an ingredient in many pre-workout formulas, some are more caffeine focused than others. Countless scientific research studies have been done on the effects of caffeine and these studies have shown caffeine to be effective at maintaining high-intensity exercise with reduced fatigue for up to an hour longer than with no pre-workout. 

You don’t need a lot of caffeine to get this benefit either. These benefits can come with just 1.5 mg of caffeine. 

Creatine Pre-Workout

Creatine occurs naturally in our bodies and in some foods (fish, red meat), but taking added amounts of creatine in pre-workout can boost energy production for higher intensity, longer exercise sessions. Here are some of the benefits that can come from creatine:

  • Fatigue prevention
  • Increased endurance
  • ATP production support (ATP is the energy source used during high intensity exercise)
  • Boosted muscle strength and power

As an added bonus for the ladies, creatine has been shown in studies to counteract menopausal related issues such as muscle and bone reduction as well as reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.  

What are the Benefits of Pre-Workout?

There can be many benefits of taking pre-workout products.

  • Increased energy level
  • More intense workout
  • Improved focus
  • Improved stamina and endurance
  • Delayed muscle fatigue

These are all benefits that will help you to see the best results from your workout. 

What are the Actual Health Benefits of Taking Pre-Workout?

Many people either become excited about the energy benefits of this supplement while others are concerned about the side effects. Both of these are very valid pros and cons to pre workout. Many other people, though, don’t take into account the actual health benefits of taking pre-workout. 

Okay, to be fair, these health benefits are actually going to be the result of exercising, not necessarily the pre-workout, but these health benefits can include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Improved Muscle Mass
  • Improved Flexibility
  • Improved Self Confidence

Are Pre-Workout Supplements Necessary?

Short answer is no, but the right supplements can definitely help you reach your goals more easily and quicker.

While many of us can definitely use a boost in the energy department and the ability to allow our muscles to recover more quickly is a huge benefit, pre-workout supplements are not a requirement for exercising. Most people can have the right amount of energy simply by following a healthy diet, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep daily. 

If you do all of these things and still find yourself struggling for energy and motivation to workout though, a pre-workout supplement may benefit you. 

Who Should Take Pre-Workout Supplements?

Anyone who is looking to step up their workout a notch should be looking at taking a pre-workout supplement. Again, the old adage of pre-workouts being made just for body builders and gym rats is no longer valid. Pre-workout is for anyone looking to get a great benefit of their time spent exercising. 

Who Should Avoid Taking Pre-Workout?

While there are great benefits to taking pre-workout. They aren’t for everyone. There are times when pre-workout supplements should be avoided, here are some of these times listed below:

  • If you suffer from insomnia 
  • If you need to sleep soon
  • Pregnant and nursing women should not take pre-workout
  • Those with heart conditions
  • Certain medications do not mix well with pre-workout. Be sure and check for interactions and talk to your doctor.

What can you expect when taking pre-workout?

There are certain reactions that you can expect from your body when you take a preworkout, particularly if you have taken too much. These reactions can include:

  • Tingling sensation or “pins and needles”
  • Itchy skin
  • Feelings of overstimulation
  • Feeling jittery

There are a couple of things that you can do to reduce these reactions. You can simply take a smaller dose of pre-workout or you choose a stimulant free pre-workout. 

Tips for Taking Pre-Workout

Here are a few tips for you to take note of when taking pre-workout supplement:

  • Talk to your doctor – As you likely know, you should speak with your doctor before taking any new supplement, this is especially true if you have any health conditions or if you take any prescription medications. 
  • Time it right – Take the pre-workout at least 30 minutes before your workout.
  • Take it consistently – The ingredients in pre-workout formulas tend to work better when they are built up in your system. That means that they are more beneficial when taking them consistently over taking them every once in a while. 
  • Don’t take too much – Be sure and take the recommended amount of pre-workout and not more. Taking too much can create negative side effects and reactions. 
  • Go slow to start – If this is your first time taking pre-workout, start out slow.  You probably don’t want to take it every day for a week if you are by taking it once every couple of days for your first few weeks.  

If, after taking pre-workout, you develop problematic symptoms, be sure and contact your doctor.

Is Pre-Workout Safe?

As mentioned earlier, there are side effects (both positive and negative) to taking pre-workout. As long as your health allows you to take it safely and as long as you take it as directed. 

When choosing the best pre-workout for runners or other cardio, you’ll want to access the ingredients in the supplement. Some people doing cardio prefer to use a supplement with reduced or no caffeine, but one that targets more intra-performance for endurance and continued hydration.

What Should You Eat Before Working Out?

For the best results, the timing of the carbs, protein and caffeine you consume is important. For this reason, it’s a good idea to put some focus into making sure you are eating the right things before your workout. 

The best pre-workout for runners and other workouts could be a variety of options depending on your timing of the workout, what you’ve eaten prior to the exercise and what your plans are after the workout.

If your goal is to do fasted cardio, you can still do that while taking pre-workout. If you are not going to do fasted cardio, it’s important to nourish your body the right way. 

The best workout will come from the right nutrients. That means that you should consume the correct amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates for the best results.

The following are some great ideas for your pre-workout meal:


Oatmeal is a great meal when eaten 1-2 hours before your workout. It is packed full of complex carbohydrates which means that they digest more slowly. This keeps you full and satisfied longer, while also keeping you energized. Adding almond, peanut butter or a scoop of protein powder can add protein to this great pre-workout meal. 


If you are feeling hungry, but you have plans to workout in less than an hour, a banana with a scoop of almond or peanut butter makes a great pre-workout snack. The simple carbs will give you the needed boost of energy, while the protein in the nut butter will be an added bonus!

Protein Bar

Protein bars are a pretty great invention. They are a great option for a grab and go snack that is made up of just the right macros to give you a boost in the gym. Be sure and check the labels to find one made up of carbs and proteins both for that added boost of energy.


Smoothies make a great pre workout snack or meal! Choose a fruit smoothie, or make something like this amazing greens smoothie, for a good source of energy and go ahead and toss in a scoop of protein powder while you are making it to make it more balanced. I highly recommend that you avoid store or restaurant bought smoothies as you don’t know all of the ingredients and these often include ingredients that will not be beneficial to your workout.  

Whole Grain Toast with PB

Toast up a slice or two of whole grain bread and top it with your favorite natural peanut butter for an added healthy protein. Toast like this is a complex carbohydrate that digests more slowly, so this should be eaten about an hour or two before your workout. 

Chicken, Rice, and Vegetables

Chicken, rice and vegetables may seem more like dinner than a pre workout meal, but the truth is, this makes a great meal before you hit the gym! This well balanced meal has the right amounts and types of proteins, fiber and carbohydrates to keep you feeling full longer, while energizing you for a good workout session at the same time. 

A larger meal like this should be consumed at least 2 hours before your workout. 

Sweet Potato

A sweet potato with a protein source makes a great combination of protein and carbs that are ideal for a pre-workout energy source. This type of meal should be consumed an hour or two prior to your workout session. 

Brown Rice

Similarly, combining brown rice with a protein source gives you a great mix of protein and carbs to fuel your workout the right way. Be sure and eat this an hour or two before your workout.

Apples and Peanut Butter

Apples and Peanut Butter makes a great snack as these are a great mixture of carbs and protein that are great to consume roughly 30 minutes before a workout. 

Protein Shake

If you are super short on time, a protein shake makes a very good pre-workout snack idea. You can grab some protein powder and toss it in a shaker cup with some milk or water! It’s super easy, you can make it in less than a minute and you can drink it while on the go.

Toss in some BCAAs for even more benefit and voila! You have yourself a pre-workout snack! 


An omelet makes a great pre-workout meal as long as you are consuming it at least 2 hours before your workout. Eggs are packed full of amino acids and protein which are essential for muscle building. A veggie packed omelet can be a very good meal for optimal muscle building potential. 

These are all great options for pre-workout meals and/or snacks. Again, the key is to consume the correct combination of nutrients that will lead you to the best results. 

Choosing the Best Option for Your Pre Workout

When it comes time to choose the best pre-workout for runners and other exercising, be sure you are looking for one that is going to provide you with more than just an energy boost. You are looking for a pre-workout with quality ingredients that will help you with your energy levels, increased focus, increased blood flow, increased oxygen and more. Just remember that a good quality pre-workout formula will help with more than one thing when it comes to your fitness.  

Okay, now that we have all of that out of the way, it is time to get to what we are here for! Here is a list of some great options of the best pre-workout for running and so much more. 

All of the recommendations below are from 1st Phorm, a company that is located in America, and created in USA as well. If you want to know more about this company, please take a look at this in-depth article, What is 1st Phorm, outlining them and their vast variety of health and wellness products.

The Best Stimulant Based Pre-Workout Supplements

megawatt pre-workout container

MegaWatt Pre-Workout by 1st Phorm

The MegaWatt Pre-Workout is a great option for any workout or athletic activity. It is made using natural ingredients for its caffeine and electrolytes to help you achieve the best workout possible. 

Megawatt is ideal for those looking for good mental focus and an added motivation for pushing through those tough workouts. The boost of B vitamins can help you to dial in the concentration you need to finish strong. It also tastes great! 

1st Phorm

Project 1 Pre-Workout by 1st Phorm

Project-1 is a fantastic pre workout, happens to be a favorite of mine, created with high performance athletics and fitness in mind. That being said, this formula is still versatile enough for athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all levels. With its ingredient list including special formulated creatine and a caffeine content of 350mg you’ll get a long lasting boost of energy and focus and strength, making this a great supplement for any exercise or activity.

Nitric Oxide is another key ingredient in this pre workout supplement. Nitric Oxide promotes oxygenation and blood flow into your muscles. This boost of oxygen provides a great pump to your muscles during your workout. 

1st Phorm

The Best Stimulant Free Pre-Workout Supplements

AlphaSurge by 1st Phorm

While it is a nitric oxide, pump style product, Alphasurge is so much more than that. more than  isn’t just another typical nitric oxide “pump” product. Specifically formulated by athletes for athletes looking to expand and explode their training levels, AlphaSurge was precisely engineered with a hand-selected blend of ingredients that work together to help volumize your muscle cells and improve nutrient delivery. This helps boost your training and promotes skin-tearing pumps in the gym!

1st Phorm
container of alpha-surge pre-workout


Energizing yourself and your muscles doesn’t always require a stimulant based pre-workout. The Endura-formance energizes your muscle fibers with more power and stamina while also giving your body the ability to maintain a much longer workout. This supplement formula is made with a proven blend of ingredients, such as creatine, beta-alanine that will help you reach success in your fitness goals, no matter what those goals are.

1st Phorm

The Best IntraWorkout Supplements

If you are looking for more of an IntraWorkout supplement to add to your routine, these are great!


We mentioned them earlier, but Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are three of the essential amino acids that are required by your body. These amino acids; Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine can all assist in helping to increase your muscle protein synthesis. This helps lead to greater muscle gains and a decreased sense of muscle fatigue.

Using BCAAs while you exercise may help prevent you from becoming fatigued mid-workout. If you are training for a big event or working hard toward a goal, you might consider trying a BCAA supplement such as this one. It helps you to recover from workouts that may otherwise wear you out. Oh, and it tastes great too! 

1st Phorm

Intra-Formance Intra-Workout Endurance Formula

The Intra-Formance Intra-Workout Endurance Formula is made with what just might be the perfect blend of carbohydrates, electrolytes and amino acids. This unique combination provides you with the best blend of nutrients to fuel your workout to an optimal level, allowing you to reach your goals and beyond. 

The amino acids in this formula help to prevent muscle soreness and help you to work toward your muscle growth goals. You can also be assured that you will have the appropriate amount of hydration and energy to keep you going at the top of your potential.

Intra-Formance is a great option for your intra workout drink or anytime you would typically think of drinking a gatorade. 

1st Phorm
box of hydration sticks

Hydration Sticks

Okay, so these may not technically be an intra workout, but the Hydration Sticks from 1st Phorm are great because they taste delicious and they keep you hydrated! The added caffeine that you consume with pre-workouts combined with the amount of sweating you are doing during your workout can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is bad for your health, bad for your fitness goals and bad for the success of your workout. This is a great supplement that is perfectly fine to drink anytime. 

By using 1st Phorm’s Hydration Sticks you are not only replacing the electrolytes that you may sweat out, but research has shown that you are replenishing some of the minerals that are known to be deficient even before you started sweating. Making sure you have these key minerals in your system during activity is important so you can perform at your best, and also to prevent cramping, that may ruin your event.

1st Phorm

Whew, that is a lot of information on pre-workout for runners, but did I leave anything out? As you read, pre-workouts for exercise can be helpful for anyone!

I’ve been using pre-workouts since I started working out after 40 and those recommended here have been my favorite by far.

Drop a note below if you have a question not answered here and I’ll get back to you.

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