What's The Best Pre-Workout For Runners? Top Reviews For Running, Cycling & Endurance Training

best pre workout for running

We have all been there before. You’re mid-run when you just can’t push yourself anymore, no matter how hard you try.


This is completely normal and happens to all runners, including myself, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find a solution.

To up your endurance and energy levels throughout a run, I recommend a reliable pre-workout supplement. These supplements can up your performance and help you get more out of your workout without overdoing it.

But only if you choose the RIGHT one...

The Top 5 Running Pre-Workouts For Endurance

Now that we’ve heard about the benefits, let’s take a look at the best pre-workout supplements, tailored specifically for runners.  

These five options give you a variety to choose from when it comes to effective pre-workout supplements.

1. CytoSport Cytomax Sports Performance Mix

CytoSport Cytomax Sports Performance Mix

The first & overall top option is the CytoSport Cytomax Sports Performance Mix, one of the most popular pre-workout supplements. It contains a great blend of nutrients that provide long-lasting energy without letting you crash.

CytoSport Cytomax Sports Performance Mix has the perfect level of carbohydrates to keep your muscles going as well as formula of essential nutrients (including amino acids) that prevent fatigue.

The advanced carbohydrate system provides 22 grams of carbohydrates which are quickly absorbed by the body allowing for long lasting energy. This also helps you to reach your daily recommended carbohydrates.

We all get a bit sweaty during a workout and lose sodium, magnesium, and potassium. But have no fear, these electrolytes replace those lost nutrients and fuel your body.

This is also one of the best pre-workout supplements for reducing muscle soreness. We all know that a sudden cramp can be detrimental to your performance on a run and this supplement prevents cramping by lowering acid in the muscles.

Another bonus for users of this pre-workout is the range of flavours, including tropical fruit and cool citrus.

Many have found the drink to be tastier than other supplements, making it great if you are new to supplements and are looking for something you will enjoy using, as well as a drink which will improve your workout.


  • High in Carbohydrates
  • Reduces muscle soreness 
  • Range of flavours


  • Some people have found that the powder doesn’t mix as well as other products and can become foamy if you take it running with you

2. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract

Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract

Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract is another pre-workout to consider.

While this pre-workout does contain caffeine, it is still a great choice for runners because it balances that caffeine stimulation with longer lasting sources of energy.

The caffeine comes from the green tea and green coffee extract which delivers about 160 ml of caffeine per serving (two scoops).

This energy blend can be used both before and during your workout. So if you find you are hitting a wall halfway through your run, you can refuel your body, whilst rehydrating, for that extra kick of energy.

This makes it the best option for people who are looking to overcome that feeling of hitting a wall mid run.

It is also beneficial if you run fasted or before eating as the energy sources included prevent your body from burning its own muscle for energy.

This pre-workout has a mix of both branch and free form amino acids that give your body the natural boost it needs during a run as well as helping with muscle repair and recovery.

If you are looking to speed up your recovery time, this supplement is ideal as it stimulates protein synthesis and prevents protein breakdown. It is worth noting that this product does not contain any creatine, which can be good or bad depending on your preference.

The mix comes in a range of flavors which have a great taste despite the fact that there is no added sugar! These flavors include grape, watermelon and strawberry lime.


  • You can drink this both before and during your run for an extra boost
  • Beneficial if you prefer to run on an empty stomach
  • Aids muscle recovery
  • Contains a small amount of caffeine
  • No added sugar 


  • Contains small amount of caffeine (if you prefer caffeine-free)

3. Scivation Xtend BCAAs

Scivation Xtend BCAAs

Scivation Xtend BCAAs is a great pre-workout mix that doesn’t contain any caffeine or creatine.

Instead of quick energy, this formula focuses on helping your body perform by transferring more nutrients to your muscles so that you enhance muscle growth during your run.

This pre-workout is also a great source of nutrition and is formulated for body resistance, helping you to get more from your workout and run for longer without feeling fatigued.

If you are looking to improve your endurance, this could be a great option.

The nutrients help to start protein synthesis immediately which strengthens the muscles during your run.

Since this blend is very natural, it is considered to be one of the best pre-workout drinks for running long distances or for drinking on an empty stomach as it has very few artificial ingredients or stimulants.

However, some people have found the taste to be inferior compared to some of the other pre-workouts listed here. Give it a try before your next run to see what you think!


  • Does not contain caffeine or creatine
  • Good source of nutrition
  • Natural ingredients which are fine to drink on an empty stomach 


  • Some people have found the taste to be not as appealing as other products

4. MusclePharm Amino 1 Sport Nutrition Powder

MusclePharm Amino 1 Sport Nutrition Powder

MusclePharm Amino 1 Sport Nutrition Powder is considered to be one of the best overall pre-workout health supplements for runners.

This powder is both creatine and caffeine free, which is important to many runners and helps to keep energy high without crashing.

Although this might be a complaint for body builders who are aiming for high performance in short bursts, it can be beneficial for runners who would rather focus on stamina and endurance.

One thing I really like about this supplement is that it contains Citrulline Malate, which is known to keep nutrients moving throughout your body, enabling a more effective and healthy workout.

These ingredients aim specifically to support lean body mass which is the best physique for runners. They also increase hydration more effectively and support muscle recovery to keep you running for as long as possible.

This product is the best option for muscle growth if you are looking to improve your physique through running.

Additionally, this mix has a great blend of electrolytes that will replenish important nutrients as they get used up when you sweat during your run. The nitric oxides widen blood vessels and allow your blood to transport these nutrients to the muscles more quickly.

Keeping electrolyte levels high is also essential for avoiding cramps which could cut your run short.


  • Creatine- and caffeine-free 
  • Contains Citrulline Malate
  • Specifically supports lean body mass, improving physique for runners
  • High in electrolytes which improve hydration and help to avoid cramp 


  • Low in carbohydrates

5. Cellucor C4 Original Explosive Pre-Workout Supplement

Cellucor C4 Original Explosive Pre-Workout Supplement

The final supplement to consider is the Cellucor C4 Original Explosive Pre-Workout Supplement.

While this supplement does contain caffeine, it is only a moderate dosage and not too intense.

Stimulants in the Explosive blend help to improve focus in the same way that caffeine does, without that caffeine crash. 

This is not the right supplement for those looking to break records in their workout but is great for those days when you are having a hard time finding the energy to go for a run.

The blend of ingredients gives you a gentle but noticeable boost that will help you kick off the feeling of fatigue, and start proving to the world, and to yourself, that you can do it!

It is also packed full of vitamins helping you to get your daily recommended amount of vitamin B and C. You might be struggling on your run because of vitamin deficiencies and, if so, you will notice a difference in your energy levels after replenishing them with this supplement.

Because of this, C4 is the best supplement if you usually feel too tired to go for a run as it will give you the boost to get you going and give you the nutrients you need to run.

C4 pre-workout for running is also produced by a very reliable company with great tasting flavors, which is why this is one of my favorite supplements. There are eight different flavors to choose from, giving you a great variation in taste.


  • Small dosage of caffeine helps to kick off the feeling of fatigue without crashing
  • Contains vitamins B and C to help with general tiredness
  • Great tasting flavours and variation 


  • Contains caffeine (if you are sensitive to caffeine)

Which Pre-Workout is the Best for Me?

You might be struggling to choose between these products as they all offer something to improve your run.

Maybe you don’t know which one is the best for you, especially if you have never tried supplements before.

If you’re still not sure which to pick, here is some useful information to help steer you in the right direction. 

What To Look For In The Perfect Supplement

The best pre-workout for running should not be high in stimulants, as these will simply give you a boost of energy and leave you feeling drained once they wear off. Caffeine is okay in small doses, but check caffeine content before buying.

Instead of being high in stimulants, look for a pre-workout which is rich in carbohydrates, amino acids, and beta-alanine.

These three nutrients will give you long-lasting energy so you can keep on running.

lady running in the sunset

According to Outdoor Tag, another ingredient you want to look for is creatine. Some runners love this extra boost, but some don’t, the choice is totally up to you.

Nevertheless, I’ve included some mixes here that include creatine just in case you’re looking for that extra boost. If you prefer a more natural mix, you consider C4.

Think about what you want to achieve from your workout. Are you struggling with muscle soreness and don’t want to go out for another run when your legs are still aching from the last time?

Try a product which focuses on muscle repair and uses protein synthesis to build the muscles, such as Cytomax. Remember that the more you practice the more your stamina will improve, and to build up your endurance slowly.

Think about how well you react to stimulants like caffeine. Do you find that coffee gives you that much needed energy boost or leaves you feeling jittery and anxious? Some people might like the immediate boost of caffeine whereas others will opt for a more natural release of energy.

Do you feel generally fatigued and don’t have the energy to go for a run? In this case, consider C4 to replenish the level of nutrients in your body. If you just need a quick boost to keep going on your run, try something like Amino Energy which has a small amount of caffeine to pick you up.

Advantages Of Using Pre-Workouts

There are advantages to taking any one of these supplements in terms of performance.

Supplements have been shown to increase power, performance, and even reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Other benefits include reducing anxiety, improving mental state and brain functions, and enabling better sleep.

What’s more, they help you to reach your daily recommended amount of protein and nutrients, something which a lot of people don’t achieve through their regular diet alone.

usmc runner on desert road

Whether you just feel like you need more sustenance in your diet to keep you going, or you need that constant hit of energy to keep you hydrated and energetic throughout your run, each product offers key benefits which will help you to improve.

Benefits include enhanced muscle repair, reduction in anxiety, higher focus and greater endurance.

Possible Side Effects

As long as you do not exceed the recommended daily amount, many of these pre-workouts have been found to have no glaring side effects, but you have to be aware of how your body reacts to different supplements.

You might experience a slight tingling sensation as a result of products including beta-alanine, but this is nothing to worry about. It has been reported that products containing creatine can cause an upset stomach, kidney problems and weight gain. 

This might be another reason to avoid products which include creatine. If you react badly to coffee it is also better to use a caffeine-free product.

woman with running stitch

What’s The Best Way to take It?

It is recommended to take pre-workout 30-40 minutes before your run but you can take some of these products, such as Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy, during your run for an added boost and rehydration. 

Read the instructions to find information about the correct dosage, mix with water, and shake well before enjoying!

Get Your Run On

There you have it! These five reviews of some of my favorite pre-workout supplements that will help get you up and running better than ever before as well as achieve all your running goals.

I highly recommend you give CytoMax a try before your next workout! It will give you long-lasting energy (without the crash) and reduce soreness tomorrow. 

Remember that no matter what you choose, you should start slowly and build up your stamina over time.

All it takes is a supplement that has the right mix of amino acids and carbohydrates without overdoing the amount of added stimulants (such as caffeine). There are many supplements that meet these qualifications, but these five stand out above the rest in terms of results.

Picking the perfect one for you will depend on your preferences, whether you want something more natural, endurance focussed or ideal for muscle recovery, these products all offer something that can raise your game and let you get the most out of your run.

Do you practice other endurance training in addition to running? Check out the best cardio pre-workouts right here: https://www.healthlisted.com/pre-workout-for-cardio/

Have you found the perfect pre-workout booster to up your running game? Let me know what you are using. And finally, remember that all progress, no matter how small, is still progress!

Last Updated on August 31, 2022

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