Have you ever seen a runner drink a cup of coffee, an energy drink, or some type of neon-colored substance before their run?
All of these are forms of a pre-workout, a supplement used to increase energy levels for better athletic performance. These can be taken before any type of exercise, like running, for instance.
A common question among runners is whether they should or shouldn’t consider taking a pre-workout before a run. While pre-workouts aren’t necessary to have a good run, they can act as a helping hand.
These may aid those who are looking to reach certain goals, such as getting a few more miles under their belt, completing a run in a faster time, and smashing personal best times.
We’ll cover everything runners need to know about pre-workouts below, including what they do, what they’re made of, and any potential side effects that may occur after taking one.
What Do Pre-Workouts Do?
Pre-workout supplements are designed to give you a boost of energy. In the case of running, these can help you run for longer periods, as well as increase your endurance and stamina.
Pre-workouts usually contain a blend of vitamins, antioxidants, electrolytes, and caffeine. They can also contain specific ingredients that can help you recover after a hard run, maintaining lean muscle tissue as a result.
There are a lot of pre-workout supplements available to purchase in various forms, like tablets, drinks, powder, and chewy gummies. We’ll cover what is in these supplements in the next section.
What Are Pre-Workouts Made From?
If you’re looking for a pre-workout to help you run better, keep an eye out for some particular ingredients when shopping for one. Here are some of the most common substances you might find within pre-workout supplements.
Beta-alanine initiates a procedure within your body that prevents your muscles from tiring out. As a result, the amino acid helps you perform harder and maintain energy levels for longer periods.
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
BCAAs are building blocks of protein that the human body cannot produce naturally. BCAAs are found within food sources, but if you don’t consume enough of them, your muscles can become weaker and tire out easily.
Active tissue easily absorbs BCAAs as the amino acids are metabolized within the muscle instead of the liver. BCAAs consist of three main ones: valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
They are important to perform well when working out. BCAAs work in tandem to help the body handle protein, and can help to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness in runners.
This is arguably one of the most important ingredients within a pre-workout, as caffeine can help give you more energy when you’re on a run. Caffeine can also reduce tiredness and exert more effort as you work out.
Caffeine can also aid in the body using stored fat as fuel, instead of glycogen within the muscle.
This is particularly important for marathon and distance runners, as their muscles will be able to perform for longer without breaking down from glycogen loss.
Other pre-workout supplements contain creatine, a substance that energizes you for intense and longer runs. Creatine also helps the body produce adenosine triphosphate, also known as ATP.
ATP provides our muscles with the energy to move. Our bodies don’t have much ATP within our cells, but muscle movements need our system to create ATP quickly. Creatine supplements can help with this.
Pre-workout supplements with creatine can help runners become stronger, improving their muscle growth and endurance.
This lets you keep up with your performance level, finishing strong even during endurance running, like marathons.
Electrolytes are very popular in the world of sports nutrition. These are minerals that have an electrical charge alongside water, which is why they’re called electrolytes.
They are important to maintain a healthy water balance inside and outside of our cells.
Most people can keep their electrolyte levels up through the right nutrition, but high-endurance runners often need to consume more of these minerals to perform to the best level.
Pre-workouts that contain magnesium, potassium, and sodium can help replenish electrolyte levels that were depleted after a run.
If you only head out for a short run, you need to replenish your electrolytes if you begin sweating. This can help you recover faster and keep your body in optimum condition.
Certain Vitamins, like C, B12, and B6, are known for their immune-boosting properties, which is why they’re often included in pre-workout supplements.
The vitamins can also aid in muscle recovery, as well as maintaining energy levels during longer runs.
Pre-Workout Supplement Benefits
Here are some of the advantages taking pre-workout supplements can have:
- Decreased perceived exertion
- Delayed muscle soreness and fatigue
- A larger percentage of fat used as a source of energy
- Better respiratory fitness
- Better muscle gains and decreased muscle breakdown
- Greater muscle endurance
- As much as a 30% increase in metabolism
- Prevents tiredness, nausea, and muscle cramps
- Prevents depletion of glycogen stores
All of these advantages can help you increase your intensity or endurance when running. Running a little further or faster than usual can do wonders for your mental health too.
Potential Side Effects Of Pre-Workout Supplements
While pre-workouts can have many athletic benefits, they can incur side effects in some individuals. People who are sensitive to caffeine should always take less than the intended dose.
A full dose of pre-workout can have as much as 300mg of caffeine in it, which translates to three cups of coffee.
If you don’t drink caffeine or know that it can make you jittery, take a smaller pre-workout dose and see how you feel. You can take less or more from that point onwards.
If you’re new to pre-workouts or haven’t taken a certain one before, always test it out first before taking it, especially if you’re about to take on a big run.
Here are some potential side effects of pre-workouts:
Many contain artificial sweeteners that can cause indigestion. This can impact your digestive system, leading to runner’s trots.
Caffeine content can have various effects, including increased heart rate and jittery feelings. The body will also pump caffeine faster through the body as you’re running, which can make you feel more anxious than normal.
Tingling feelings within the feet and hands, including restlessness, contributes to insomnia.
Some energy drinks contain lots of sugar, which has various health consequences.
If taken to push workout performance to particularly high levels, can lead to tiredness and exhaustion.
Some pre-workout supplements won’t have as much of an impact on the digestive system as coffee does, but you should always test it out beforehand to avoid bathroom issues later!
Those who are just beginning to try pre-workouts but are troubled by the side effects may prefer single-ingredient supplements instead. This can aid in working out which ingredients your body prefers over others.
Best Time To Take A Pre Workout
In most cases, pre-workout supplements start kicking in after ten minutes, with most of these having their maximum effects after 45 minutes. However, this can vary depending on your caffeine tolerance.
If you are more sensitive to caffeine, pre-workouts might start having their effect soon after you take them. If your caffeine tolerance is higher, you might take longer to feel the effects of pre-workouts.
Remember that the caffeine from pre-workouts, like coffee and energy drinks, can keep circulating within your system for as many as 6 hours.
It’s best to avoid taking pre-workouts in the afternoon, as this can have negative effects on your sleep pattern.
Pre-workout supplements aren’t essential to running well, but if you’re looking to improve your performance, they can be a good addition to your running regimen.
Pre-workouts usually contain a lot of caffeine, so take this into account if you’re sensitive to its effects.
Always test out a pre-workout before using it, especially if you have important runs coming up. You might find that it leads to unpleasant side effects, so it’s best to be safe than sorry!
If you’re wary about other side effects, you can purchase single ingredient pre-workouts instead. These can help you if a particular ingredient doesn’t work with your system.