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We Found The Best Pre-Workout For Cardio (2024)

Pre-workout supplements are usually in the arsenal of serious lifters or explosive athletes, but they are not the only ones...

Pre-workout supplements are usually in the arsenal of serious lifters or explosive athletes, but they are not the only ones who can benefit from them.

The primary purpose of these supplements is muscle building and improved strength and blood flow, but they also provide a lot of energy, focus, and some endurance benefits, making them worthwhile even on cardio days.

Some products will yield better results, and some types of training like sprinting and HIIT will feel better after taking a pre-workout, but on this list, you will find a suitable product regardless of your chosen cardio training.

Best Pre-Workout For Cardio

Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train

Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre Train

Pros

  • 200 mg of caffeine + 2g of taurine is the amount for most people
  • Big beta-alanine dose will lead to endurance benefits
  • Very well-rounded and adequately dosed pre-workout suitable for every training situation

Cons

  • It can take quite a bit to arrive
  • If you need a product solely for cardio, something cheaper with more caffeine can be a better choice.

Price Per Serving

  • $1.99 per serving single purchase
  • $1.39 per serving with sub

===>Check Latest Crazy Nutrition Pre-Workout Deals<===

Crazy Nutrition Pre-Train is one of the exceptions on the market, with adequately dosed ingredients. I often recommend it as the best pre-workout for various needs and will make no exception in this roundup.

Since we are focusing on cardio, caffeine is the most important ingredient. With 200 mg, Crazy Nutrition strikes a balance between having too little to have any performance effects and overdosing to be jittery for the whole day.

The product also contains taurine. The most intriguing thing is how it functions together with caffeine.

A taurine intake of 71-3105 mg reduces the need for high caffeine levels to achieve performance-enhancing effects [8].

The more taurine ingested, the greater the performance, regardless of caffeine intake.

In general, taking in 3 - 6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight increases strength by 6.5% and the number of reps accomplished when lifting by 9.4%. [9].

While the caffeine in this supplement may seem insufficient for a heavier person, according to this formula, the taurine decreases the amount of caffeine necessary to 40 - 325 mg [8].

Next in importance for cardio is Beta-Alanine. This ingredient is responsible for the tingling sensation that some people dislike but others enjoy because it is associated with a pre-workout "kick-in." 

This is a harmless side effect when taking 800 mg or more, as it increases carnosine production [4].

This higher carnosine concentration improves the muscle's ability to eliminate acidic waste products produced during energy regeneration, resulting in better short-term, high-intensity endurance.

Endurance increases are most prominent in the 1-4-minute range, achieved by high rep sets in the gym, long sprints on the track, or a combat sports typical round [6].

For example, a meta-analysis found that 179 g of beta-alanine improved endurance performance by 2.85%. [5]. Keep in mind this is not a single dose but was taken over time.

If you want to benefit the most from beta-alanine, you will also need to take it separately on your off days when you do not drink this pre-workout.

The recommended dose varies from 2.4 to 6.4 g, and Crazy Nutrition contains 3.5 g of beta-alanine.

Citrulline Malate is usually the most important ingredient in a pre-workout, but it's less essential for cardio.

However, if you also lift weights, the optimal dose of 8 g of Citrulline Malate is important.

The most effective dose of citrulline malate 2:1 is 6-8 g, with the higher end being better for acute performance enhancement and the lower for chronic supplementation [1][2].

Studies have shown that taking 8 g of citrulline malate 60 minutes before training improves reps to failure, reduces muscle pain for 24 to 48 hours, and boosts maximal grip strength [1].

When 6 g is ingested over 7 days, the time to exhaustion increases during moderate-intensity cycling [2]. Furthermore, muscle tiredness was reduced following exercise compared to the placebo [3].

Betaine anhydrous is used in pre-workouts because it improves anabolic environment after exercise [7]. The recommended dose is 1 to 6 g, and Crazy Nutrition Intensive Pre-Train falls within this range at 1.8 g.

The product also contains ashwagandha, which, in higher doses, may improve strength, power, and VO2 max. [10][11] On the other hand, piperine helps better in the absorption of all ingredients.

The pricing is reasonable given the Intensive Pre-Train's excellent formulation and nice flavor. A subscription plan will save you 30% and reduce the price from $59.99 as a single purchase.  

There are cheaper pre-workouts on the market, but most only contain massive caffeine doses, with everything else underdosed.

If you want only an energy boost for steady-state cardio, they might work, but if you also lift or do any kind of explosive work, Crazy Nutrition Pre Train has the complete package.

This is why

===>Check Latest Crazy Nutrition Pre-Workout Deals<===

Best Budget Pre-Workout For Cardio

Nutricost Pre-Workout Complex

Nutricost Pre Workout Complex

Pros

  • Ideal dose of caffeine + taurine for a solid energy boost.
  • 5 excellent flavors.
  • At $0.50 per serving, the product offers tremendous value.

Cons

  • The nootropic ingredients are so underdosed they are pointless.

Price Per Serving

  • $0.53 per serving

===>Check Latest Nutricost Pre-Workout Deals<===

I frequently choose Nutricost when looking for budget-friendly supplements, and their Pre-Workout Complex is yet another solid product in this segment.

The Pre-Workout contains the well-known blend of L-citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine, which often form the backbone of a pre-workout. Since the price is lower than that of Crazy Nutrition or Transparent Labs, the doses are roughly half but are still higher than in many other popular pre-workouts.

The caffeine dose, which is the most important element for sustaining long cardio efforts, is 200 mg, the same as my top choice by Crazy Nutrition. The 1500 mg of Taurine makes it even more effective than it would be alone, so you will get noticeable performance benefits.  

Nutricost also contains a few nootropic ingredients, such as L-tyrosine, Alpha GPC, and Huperzine A. They have proven mind-boosting effects, but I believe the doses here are too low to deliver noticeable effects.

At $31.95 for 60 servings, Nutricost is a hell of a deal for a third-party tested pre-workout containing a full list of known performance enhancers.

Yes, most of them are underdosed, but the inexpensive price makes it worthwhile, even if you just use it for the caffeine + taurine stack.+

===>Check Latest Nutricost Pre-Workout Deals<===

Best Natural Pre-Workout For Cardio

Naked Energy

Naked Energy

Pros

  • Great for vegans.
  • Third-party tested and free of GMO, soy, gluten, and additives.
  • 200 mg of caffeine from an organic source.

Cons

  • Everything besides caffeine is underdosed.

Price Per Serving

  • $1.42 per serving

===>Check Latest Naked Pre-Workout Deals<===

The big selling point of Naked Energy is that it is vegan, entirely clean, non-GMO pre-workout. Everything is natural, organic, and created with the most health-conscious people in mind. 

The product contains 14 ingredients, including a few crucial vitamins and minerals. It also includes 2 g of beta-alanine, 1 g of creatine, and 1 g of arginine.

While the formulation is fine, these doses are nowhere near the recommended ones, so I highly doubt they can lead to dramatic performance enhancement.

However, we are here for the 200 mg of caffeine from 100% organic green coffee beans, which will fuel your next workout session.

If you are after something more, this isn't the best option, but for vegans or people who want only natural products free of additives, soy, gluten, and contaminants, Naked Energy is a good product.

===>Check Latest Naked Pre-Workout Deals<===

Best High-Stim Pre-Workout For Cardio

Legion Pulse

Legion Pulse Pre-Workout

Pros

  • 350 mg of caffeine for everyone running on high-stims.
  • 350 L-theanine can lower the negative effects of the large caffeine dose.
  • All the rest of the main ingredients are equally high-dosed.
  • Almost two dozen flavor options.

Cons

  • The caffeine will be too much if you train in the afternoon.
  • The most expensive product on the list.

Price Per Serving

  • $1.79 per serving

===>Check Latest Legion Pulse Pre-Workout Deals<===

If the 200 mg of caffeine in the previous entries looks like a child's dose to you, let me introduce you to Legion Pulse. With 350 mg of caffeine inside, this pre-workout will surely kick you in the butt and rapidly boost focus and energy.

Usually, this is too big of a dose for many people as it can lead to anxiety and jitters, but Legion have taken precautions and included 350 mg of L-theanine in the formulation.

L-theanine is one of the best friends of caffeine, increasing its positive effects and greatly diminishing the adverse ones [12,13]

The rest of the formulation is equally impressive- 8 g of citrulline malate, 3.6 g of beta-alanine, and 2.5 g of betaine anhydrous are among the highest doses found in any pre-workout, matching Crazy Nutrition and Transparent Labs.

But whereas the latter two play it safe with caffeine or are entirely free of it, Legion Pulse goes all in for everyone who wants the full effect of the world's most popular legal drug for their next workout.

===>Check Latest Legion Pulse Pre-Workout Deals<===

Best Stim-Free Pre-Workout For Cardio

Transparent Labs Stim-Free Pre-Workout

Transparent Labs Stim Free

Pros

  • Big doses of L-citrulline, betaine and beta-alanine
  • Third-party testing guaranteed by the Informed Choice mark
  • A nootropic stack to keep you focused for longer

Cons

  • The high beta-alanine dose can create too much tingling sensation.

Price Per Serving

  • $1.66 per serving single purchase
  • $1.49 per serving with sub

===>Check Latest Transparent Labs Stim Free Pre Workout Deals<===

While caffeine is usually the most important ingredient for cardio as it provides energy, some people stay away from the stimulant but still want a pre-workout of its other benefits. Transparent Lab’s Stim-Free Pre-Workout is usually the best option in this case.

The Stim-Free pre-workout provides efficacious doses of L-citrulline, beta-alanine, and betaine anhydrous.

Keep in mind that the 4000 mg beta-alanine is one of the biggest doses I've seen in a pre-workout, and while it will undoubtedly be helpful, it can also cause severe itching and tingling.

The Stim-Free also contains multiple potent nootropics, including L-tyrosine, Senactiv (Panax ginseng), and Huperzine A. These can enhance focus, alertness, and reaction, although the doses here are not optimal.

The price is $49.99 for a single purchase and $44.99 for a subscription.

Since there is no caffeine, the best option is to aim for the highest beta-alanine and betaine anhydrous doses, which Transparent Lab Stim Free has.

===>Check Latest Transparent Labs Stim Free Pre Workout Deals<===

Should You Use A Pre-Workout Before A Cardio Session?

There is a preconception that pre-workouts are only suitable for heavy lifting and high-intensity sessions.

While the people who will benefit the most from the typical pre-workout fall into these two categories, this type of supplement can also be used for cardio training.

Many of the typical pre-workout ingredients increase blood flow and muscle strength endurance, which translates to better pumps and more reps in the gym, but do little to aid steady state or mid-tempo cardio.

However, another big benefit of pre-workouts is the energy surge they provide, which is where they come in handy for cardio. Caffeine is usually the main tool for boosting energy reserves, which can carry you through a long run or swim.

Many pre-workouts contain high doses of caffeine, aided by L-theanine and taurine, to make it even more effective.

If you are doing steady-state cardio like running, cycling, or swimming, picking a pre-workout with high caffeine content is the best choice.

Other ingredients like beta-alanine and creatine also have endurance benefits. While they are optimal for explosive to mid-tempo work, some effects carry over into steady-state cardio.

If you plan to build your cardiovascular system and endurance through sprinting and HIIT, a pre-workout becomes a much more valuable tool.

The formulations enhance short bursts of explosive efforts the most and will surely make a training session of this kind more effective. 

How To Pick The Best Pre-Workout For Cardio

Pre Workout For Cardio

Ingredients

Pre-workouts can contain several ingredients, the key being caffeine, especially if you plan to use the supplement before cardio training.

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, increasing energy levels, attention, and fat oxidation while decreasing perceived exertion during exercise.

Caffeine considerably improves physical and mental function in moderate amounts (2-4 mg per kg body weight).

Combinations with L-theanine and taurine boost caffeine efficacy and minimize the amount needed to obtain the same results as a higher dose.   

L-citrulline is another important element in most pre-workout supplements. It is arguably the most effective vasodilator on the market, widening blood vessels and improving blood flow. 

Beta-alanine is the next most common component. In addition to producing the characteristic tingling effects, it has strong performance benefits such as increased power production and decreased tiredness.

In most cases, L-citrulline is the most important pre-workout ingredient, but for cardio, beta-alanine has the better effect.

Although betaine has received less extensive research than the preceding two components, it is thought to offer significant performance and muscle-building effects.

Other common ingredients in pre-workouts are creatine and beetroot extract, as well as popular brain boosters L-tyrosine and Huperzine A.

However, caffeine, beta-alanine, L-citrulline, and betaine anhydrous are the most important, regardless of whether you plan to build muscles or cardio.   

If you go back to the Crazy Nutrition Pre-Train section, you will find even more details about the benefits of each of these ingredients.

Dose

The proper dose of an ingredient in a supplement is as important as having it in the first place. Here are the suggested dosages you should look for in a high-quality pre-workout:

  • L-citrulline: 6-8 g
  • Beta-Alanine: 2-3 grams
  • Betaine anhydrous: 2.5 g
  • Caffeine: 100-300 mg
  • L-theanine: 100-400 mg
  • Taurine: 500-2000 mg

Third-Party Testing

Unfortunately, far too many supplements on the market include heavy metals or other pollutants that might have a negative impact on your health.

The problem can be considerably worse for athletes or individuals who are exposed to random drug testing, as they may fail a test due to a contaminated supplement.

This is why independent third-party purity testing is so vital. All of the products on this list are from trustworthy manufacturers and have undergone credible third-party testing.

Names and marks to look for are NSF, Informed Choice, Informed Sport, or Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG), all of which are legitimate third-party testers. 

Frequently Asked Cardio Pre-Workout Questions

Can I Use Pre-Workout For Cardio?

You can use a pre-workout for cardio. Even though most ingredients are intended to enhance strength training and explosive movements, pre-workouts also positively impact endurance, which can help with cardio training.

The most significant benefit of pre-workouts for cardio is the energy they provide, so caffeine is the main ingredient you should look for if steady-state cardio is your primary training modality.

Is Pre-Workout OK For Your Heart?

For most people, pre-workouts are ok for your heart. But if you have some heart conditions, pre-workouts can be terrible for you since they contain substances that increase blood flow and heart rate.

If you've ever had heart issues, talk to a doctor before taking a pre-workout, regardless if it has caffeine or not.

What is The Best Pre-Workout For Energy?

Legion Pulse provides the most energy from the pre-workouts in this roundup because it has the highest caffeine content, 350 mg, which is roughly as much as three and a half cups of espresso.

Summary

As with most pre-workout roundup reviews I write, the Crazy Nutrition Pre-Train is the top pick. The simple reason for this is that the product is adequately dosed, well-priced, and has a delicious taste.

For a budget offer, look to Nutricost. If you are not afraid of high caffeine doses, you can try Legion Pulse. Transparent Labs Stim-Free is the best choice if you are on the other side of the fence and want a caffeine-free pre-workout.

===>Check Latest Crazy Nutrition Pre-Workout Deals<===

References

  1. Gonzalez, A. M., & Trexler, E. T. (2020). Effects of citrulline supplementation on exercise performance in humans: A review of the current literature. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 34(5), 1480-1495.
  1. Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., Lord, T., Vanhatalo, A., Winyard, P. G., & Jones, A. M. (2015). l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology.
  1. Suzuki, T., Morita, M., Kobayashi, Y., & Kamimura, A. (2016). Oral L-citrulline supplementation enhances cycling time trial performance in healthy trained men: Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled 2-way crossover study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(1), 1-8.
  1. Trexler, E.T., Smith-Ryan, A.E., Stout, J.R. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 12, 30 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y
  1. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids, 43(1), 25-37.
  1. Saunders, B., Elliott-Sale, K., Artioli, G. G., Swinton, P. A., Dolan, E., Roschel, H., ... & Gualano, B. (2017). β-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(8), 658-669.
  1. Apicella, J. M., Lee, E. C., Bailey, B. L., Saenz, C., Anderson, J. M., Craig, S. A., ... & Maresh, C. M. (2013). Betaine supplementation enhances anabolic endocrine and Akt signaling in response to acute bouts of exercise. European journal of applied physiology, 113(3), 793-802.
  1. Souza, D. B., Del Coso, J., Casonatto, J., & Polito, M. D. (2017). Acute effects of caffeine-containing energy drinks on physical performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European journal of nutrition, 56(1), 13-27.
  1. Astorino, Todd A; Roberson, Daniel W. Efficacy of Acute Caffeine Ingestion for Short-term High-Intensity Exercise Performance: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(1):p 257-265, January 2010. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c1f88a
  1. Bonilla, D.A.; Moreno, Y.; Gho, C.; Petro, J.L.; Odriozola-Martínez, A.; Kreider, R.B. Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on Physical Performance: Systematic Review and Bayesian Meta-Analysis. J. Funct. Morphol. Kinesiol. 2021, 6, 20. https://doi.org/10.3390/jfmk6010020
  1. Pérez-Gómez, J.; Villafaina, S.; Adsuar, J.C.; Merellano-Navarro, E.; Collado-Mateo, D. Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on VO2max: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients 2020, 12, 1119. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12041119
  1. Owen, G. N., Parnell, H., De Bruin, E. A., & Rycroft, J. A. (2008). The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutritional neuroscience, 11(4), 193-198.
  2. The Efficacy of A Nootropic Supplement on Information Processing in Adults: A Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Study Volume 49- Issue 1. Andrea Utley, Yadira Gonzalez and Carlie Abbott Imboden

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