Should You Take Pre-Workout Before Running or Cardio?

We’ve all heard about these powerhouse supplements. They’ll help you lift heavier, work harder and stay focused. But will they work for all kinds of training? We delve into pre-workouts for cardio to find out if it really works.

Since women first started lifting weights and slaying the gym, the pre-workout drink has been the go-to to ensure an absolutely fiyah workout.

We know it’s incredible for getting that explosive power in your lifts, but is pre-workout for cardio really a thing?

SpotMeGirl investigates to find out whether a pre-workout can really impact your cardio session.

[Related Article: Best Pre-Workouts for Women 2021]

Best pre-workouts for women 2021

woman holding pre workout shaker before going to do cardio

What is pre-workout

A pre-workout is designed to help your body stay energized, make every movement powerful and keep you focused as you work out.

Each ingredient should work to help you optimize your physical performance in every workout. It should be taken between 30-60 minutes before you go to the gym and give you a boost to help power through heavy lifts, sprint faster and increase your endurance too.

Pre-workouts are usually created as a powder and mixed with water to be consumed as a shake.

How does pre-workout work?

Behind every great pre workout is a well-researched formula. It’s the ingredients in this formula that help you get the best from every workout, girl. Each one should support your body function in a way that boosts performance.

A good pre-workout should work in the following ways:

Boosts energy levels.

A good pre-workout should give you a powerful energy boost that will last by stimulating adrenaline release and inhibiting your adenosine receptors. It should be able to help you lift heavier, go for longer and tackle every workout with intense energy. A pre-workout usually uses caffeine to provide this powerful edge.

[Related Article: Caffeine Anhydrous Explained- What is it and How Does it Work? ]

Makes you feel more powerful.

If you’re going to get the best out of every workout, you need to feel powered up every time you hit the weights room.

Vasodilator ingredients like L-citrulline DL-malatemwill help give you a boost of power in every workout. With more blood pumping through your muscles, you’ll experience muscle pumps that will make you feel stronger and ready to take on a huge workout.

Gives you more focus.

On those days when you just don’t want to head to the gym, your pre-workout should help you get there. An effective supplement should give an extra edge to your cognitive function that will help you stay motivated for a killer workout.

They do this by stimulating the neurotransmitter: gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA.

Avoids crashes.

An intelligent formula should be created to give you a clean lift, without jitters, side effects or any nasty energy crashes.

Check out this article on pre-workout side effects (and how to avoid them).


Ultimately, by taking a pre-workout before you head to the gym, you can power up your body and take your performance up a notch in every session. But does it work for cardio workouts too? Let’s find out, girl.

 woman doing a cardio workout of running along a river in a city settting

Why should you do cardio?

Cardio refers to just about any exercise that puts your cardiovascular system to the test. Anything that raises your heart rate for a longer period of time, increases your body temperature and gets your lungs working hard is typically a cardio exercise.

If you’re pretty familiar with your fitness terminology, you’ll recognize this definition as an aerobic activity. That translates as any exercise that relies on oxygen to help use the fat and glycogen stored in your body for fuel.

Although strength training holds a special place in our hearts, we can’t deny the benefits of cardio.

If you want to lose fat, check out this cardio workout for fat loss.

Here’s a few of the reasons you should try to include cardio in your workouts:

  • Burns fat – Cardio training can be one of the most effective ways to help you with your fat loss journey. Combined with a healthy diet and a calorie-deficit, smart cardio training is un-beaten when it comes to burning calories.
  • Makes your fitter – Every time you get your cardiovascular system working hard for you, it grows stronger and more efficient at dealing with the demand. That process of adaptation will make you fitter.
  • Boosts your overall health – Regular cardio training can help to keep a range of health issues at bay. It can help you deal with cholesterol, blood sugar levels, your mental health and sleep quality. Because it keeps your heart strong, it can also help reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues and even cancer.
  • Aids ability to perform – A huge number of competitive sports rely on explosive bursts of speed, or the ability to endure extended periods of consistent effort. If you’re into sport, you can’t pass up your cardio training.
  • Improves quality of life – If you include more cardio in your regular routine and focus on development of your body, you’re more likely to feel positive, confident and motivated.

Best pre-workouts for women 2021


two women performing a med ball HIIT workout together

What types or cardio are there? 

Traditionally, when you think cardio, an image of someone plugging away on the cross trainer for an hour comes to mind. Or a runner hitting a marathon. Well, girl, we’re here to tell you that that’s not the only way to cardio.

Key Point: There are two main types of cardio training you should know about: low-intensity steady state (LISS) and high intensity interval training (HIIT).

LISS accounts for long runs, two-hour cycle sessions and just about anything that requires you to keep drilling away at a steady rate.

HIIT is very different to the traditional view of cardio. Its main focus is on the intensity of an exercise rather than the duration. You’ll be performing short, explosive bouts, then taking a short rest period before repeating several times to ensure a hard workout.

Both types of cardio are beneficial, you just need to choose the right one based on your fitness goals.

If you’re an endurance athlete, your focus will be on LISS training. The more you do this type of training, the more your body adapts to that particular challenge, making LISS training ideal if you’re after stamina in the long run.

If you lift weights and want to lose fat, without losing your gains, a HIIT program will be the most effective option as it supports power over duration. That means your muscle will be protected, while the workout blasts away any unwanted fat.

Learn more about this style of training with this article on the benefits of HIIT


two woman training a cardio workout together

Why use a pre-workout for cardio?

Whatever your discipline, effective cardio calls for intensity. If you’re an endurance athlete, that intensity if usually the distance or length of the workout. If you’re a sprinter, the intensity comes from speed and power.

The best pre-workout for cardio should be able to help you smash your cardio session.

Traditionally, pre-workouts have been mainly known as a supplement to help weight lifters get more power behind their workouts. However, they can offer countless benefits to cardio workouts too. Science shows that caffeine, one of the key ingredients of many pre-workouts, can improve an athletes ability to train harder, for longer [1].

Another study found that combining caffeine and creatine helped to increase both strength and muscle contraction, along with endurance performance too [2].

If you’re using LISS to lose fat, a pre-workout with a stimulant in the mix can also help to boost your metabolism. Bonus.

Although you won’t need the power element of a pre-workout, you may still benefit from improved stamina, mental focus and you should keep fatigue at bay too.

When it comes to HIIT, a pre-workout is perfect. There’s so much research out there to support its use for a high intensity workout.

A recent study shows that pre-workouts containing caffeine, citrulline malate and creatine help to improve maximum oxygen consumption, lean body mass composition and even boosted the running speed at high intensity [3].


How to take pre-workout for cardio

If you’re taking pre-workout for cardio, you should aim to consume it as per the recommendations from the manufacturer. Take the suggested dosage 30 minutes to an hour before you head to the gym and you should benefit from all the energizing goodness.


The final word

Although it’s always been closely linked to weight training, the benefits of a pre-workout can be transferred to a cardio. It should make you feel stronger, more energized and boost your endurance, no matter what your workout, girl.

Take your run, cycle or swim to the next level and find a pre-workout for cardio. You might just crush your personal best.

Check out our guide on the Best Pre-Workouts for Women 2021

Best pre-workouts for women 2021


[1] Del Coso, J et al (2012). Dose response effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on muscle performance: a repeated measures design. Journal of the international Society of Sports Nutrition. May 9:21.

[2] Tarnopolsky, MA et al. (2005) Nutritional needs of elite endurance athletes. Part II: Dietary protein and the potential role of caffeine and creatine. Eur J Sport Sci. 2005;5(2): 59-72

[3] Smith, AE et al. (2010) The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010; 7: 10

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