While pre-workout is often associated with bodybuilding and weight lifting, it can be used with a variety of training methods. People who use pre workout do so because they want to improve performance and have sufficient energy during their training. Most pre-workout formulas contain ingredients to do exactly that, but your training method does matter when it comes to selecting the right pre workout for you. If you’re a runner, you may be wondering if you can take pre-workout before a run. And our answer is yes, provided that you’ve talked with your physician first. Here are a few things you will want to look for if you’re a runner on the hunt for a pre-workout.
Here’s what you need to know if you want to take pre-workout before a run.
If you’ve ever drank a shot of espresso or an energy drink, or eaten a handful of candy before heading out on a run, you’ve already used pre-workout. While pre workout powders tend to be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “pre-workout,” they are not alone in the category of pre-workout fuel. A pre-workout supplement is anything you take before a training session that is designed to improve your performance in some way, but powders are an especially efficient way to deliver fuel to the body before working out.
The benefits of pre-workout powders lie in the combination of ingredients in the formula. Both the amount and quality of the ingredients matter for delivering a balanced, optimized training session. Most brands tend to use the same general ingredients to deliver a similar stimulus. For example: when delivered in the right amount, caffeine helps increase focus and energy during a training session. Beta-alanine helps increase muscle endurance. Amino acids, if they’re included in the formula, help improve muscle recovery and decrease soreness. Electrolytes can help improve hydration lost from sweat, something especially desirable for runners. But your needs are unique to you! Here’s what you should look for if you want to take pre-workout before a run.
Caffeine Diminishes Fatigue
Caffeine is a stimulant that helps increase focus and energy and decrease perceived effort during activity. In fact, caffeine is the most common ingredient found in pre-workout powders due to its ability to improve training performance, especially during intense exercise. There is a ceiling to caffeine’s benefits though. At a certain point, too much caffeine can negatively impact performance with side effects including jitters, heart palpitations and gastrointestinal discomfort. Depending on how much caffeine is consumed, these side effects can even become life threatening.
Most pre-workout powders contain anywhere from 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving. The AHA recommends that people not exceed 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, so 200 milligrams of caffeine, while standard, is really quite a lot. Especially for runners who perform high intensity exercise like sprints or long endurance sessions, caffeine can be very hit or miss. If you are going to maintain an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time (>60 minutes), or a maximal heart rate for short periods of time over a longer session (>15 minutes), you may be more sensitive to higher levels of caffeine during training.
Long story short: Caffeine is an ingredient you want to see in your pre-workout powder. It will help you have more energy and focus during training and will help decrease your perceived effort. However, if you’re a runner looking to take pre-workout before a run, make sure you are using a formula with lower levels of caffeine. Red Leaf Pre-Workout contains 40 milligrams of caffeine per serving and is a great alternative to standard formulas for runners.
Beta-Alanine Improves Muscle Endurance
Ah, beta-alanine. The amino acid that makes you itch. Seriously, beta-alanine is an amino acid that creates a histamine response in the body that results in a tingling/itchy feeling, especially in the face and hands. Many people think they’re having an allergic reaction when they take pre-workout for the first time because they’ve never had beta-alanine. However, this sensation is totally normal and diminishes over time with continued use. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, why is beta-alanine a good ingredient for runners?
Beta-alanine helps your muscles perform better for longer, i.e. it helps improve muscle endurance. For endurance and short distance runners alike, beta-alanine can be a helpful ingredient in decreasing muscle fatigue and lactic acid build up during training. However, when it comes to finding the optimal dose for you, it’s important to consult your physician. Studies show that athletes receive the best results when they take between 3 and 6 grams of beta-alanine every day over about a month. General exercisers may see benefits of using beta-alanine with even lower doses. It really all depends on your personal preference.
Long story short: Beta-alanine is a hit or miss ingredient in a pre-workout. Some people love it and want as much as they can get while others don’t enjoy the feeling beta-alanine gives them. As a runner, beta-alanine can improve muscle endurance, decrease fatigue and boost overall performance during your run. But if you aren’t a fan of feeling some initial tingling, we recommend trying a pre-workout with lower doses of beta-alanine or one with none at all.
Electrolytes Keep You Hydrated
Most people think of leading sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade when they think of electrolytes, but what are they? Electrolytes are charged molecules like sodium, calcium and magnesium that help our bodies maintain homeostasis. One of the times this becomes most important is during and after exercise. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes along with water and over time, this can lead to dehydration. It’s why simply drinking water doesn’t replace hydration at the cellular level. Dehydration can become quite severe, especially if you aren’t drinking fluids during your workout. Many pre-workout formulas contain electrolytes already, but if yours doesn’t, you can simply add around 500 milligrams of sodium (yep, your table salt will do!) to whichever pre-workout you decide to use.
Long story short: Electrolytes are critical for performance and health during any activity, but especially during long, sweaty workouts. While you should also be hydrating during your run, it’s helpful to hydrate with electrolytes before your run. If your pre-workout doesn’t contain electrolytes, add 500 milligrams of table salt to your drink. Trust us, your muscles will thank you!
Amino Acids Decrease Muscle Soreness
You know that feeling after a run, after you’ve stretched and cooled down, showered and have sat down for a little while? The one where your body feels a little stiff and you have to make an audible noise when you stand up? That’s the familiar feeling of muscle soreness. While muscle soreness isn’t entirely preventable, nutrition plays an important role in how severely you experience it. Runners focus a lot on carbohydrates, and they should! Carbohydrates are extremely critical to cardiovascular endurance, performance and recovery, but protein should not be neglected! Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they are essential to keeping your muscles pliable, strong and healthy. A great way to ensure you’re getting the amino acids you need to is to find a pre-workout that has amino acids like glutamine, valine, leucine and iso-leucine.
Long story short: Balanced nutrition is key for keeping runners strong and healthy. That includes what you’re eating and drinking before and after your workout. One of the most important ingredients you should be looking for in a pre-workout drink is amino acids. The branched chain amino acids, valine, isoleucine and leucine, are essential for your body to perform and recover from stress. Make sure to get a pre-workout that includes the bcaa’s and other amino acids to promote healthy recovery so you can keep doing what you love!
Whether or not you take pre-workout before a run is totally up to you, but we always recommend consulting your physician before taking a new supplement. If you’re going to to try a pre-workout powder, we recommend trying to find a mild formula with lower doses of caffeine, few artificial ingredients and lots of great recovery ingredients like beta-alanine and bcaa’s. We made Red Leaf Pre-Workout so that everyone can enjoy feeling their best before and after their workout. Try it today and save 15% when you use the code redleaf at checkout!