What Are the Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Running in 2018?

Man on a bridge stretching, after taking the best pre-workout supplement for running.

You’ve been there before. You went on this run thinking it’d be no sweat, but now your lungs are burning. You’re not sure your legs can carry you the rest of the way.

Fortunately, there are healthy supplements to increase your endurance during a run. I’ll take you through the reasons to try a pre workout supplement and help you choose the best pre workout for running.

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Our #1 Rated

CytoSport

Cytomax

Cytomax
A citrus flavored powder with a unique carbohydrate blend—enhancing during and post exercise results.
Our #1 Rated

CytoSport

Cytomax

A citrus flavored powder with a unique carbohydrate blend—enhancing during and post exercise results.

Optimum Nutrition

Essential Amino Energy

Essential Amino Energy
100 mg of caffeine from green tea/coffee, giving energy boosts without crashing. 5g of amino acids assists recovery.

Optimum Nutrition

Essential Amino Energy

100 mg of caffeine from green tea/coffee, giving energy boosts without crashing. 5g of amino acids assists recovery.

Scivation

Xtend BCAAs

Xtend BCAAs
Formulated with 7000 mg of BCAAs to enhance muscle growth, assist with recovery and help replenish electrolytes.

Scivation

Xtend BCAAs

Formulated with 7000 mg of BCAAs to enhance muscle growth, assist with recovery and help replenish electrolytes.

Red Leaf

Pre-Workout Energizer

Pre-Workout Energizer
Includes beta-alanine—proven to reduce muscle fatigue, allowing you to exercise longer/harder and recover faster.

Red Leaf

Pre-Workout Energizer

Includes beta-alanine—proven to reduce muscle fatigue, allowing you to exercise longer/harder and recover faster.

MusclePharm

Amino 1 Hydrate + Recover

Amino 1 Hydrate + Recover
Designed to be quickly absorbed by the body, allowing the 10 grams of amino acids to provide fast-acting endurance.

MusclePharm

Amino 1 Hydrate + Recover

Designed to be quickly absorbed by the body, allowing the 10 grams of amino acids to provide fast-acting endurance.

Why Use a Pre Workout Supplement for Running?

Different types of exercise have different needs. Many pre workout supplements are meant for weight training or high-intensity routines. Runners don’t necessarily need the same high-energy boost at the beginning of a workout.

Instead, it’s more important to take a supplement that helps you with endurance. The hardest part of running isn’t getting started, but keeping yourself going.

What Should Runners Look for In a Pre Workout Supplement?

Running is tough on your body, so it’s not a good idea to go heavy on stimulants. Stimulants energize you for a brief amount of time but leave you feeling even more burned out when the temporary high fades.

Fortunately, some nutrients can improve your body’s stamina and endurance. It’s important for runners to get carbohydrates, amino acids, and beta-alanine, all nutrients that improve endurance, and don’t just give a short-term boost.

Carbohydrates

Some people avoid supplements with carbohydrates, but for runners, carbs are important. Complex carbohydrates give you the energy needed to do extended cardio exercises. Regular marathon runners know that carbs are vital to getting across the finish line. (source)

Carbohydrates produce glycogen, your body stores in your muscles. When you need the energy, your body draws on this glycogen store. Having enough glycogen gives the body a consistent source of energy without depleting your muscle mass.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is an up-and-coming supplement in the health and fitness world used for increasing your endurance. It’s a type of amino acid. Research has found that in addition to improving performance, beta-alanine also helps increase your lean body mass. (source)

Check out this super quick video to get an idea of how beta-alanine works in the body:

Beta-alanine works great in a pre workout regimen. However, you can take doses anytime during the day and still experience its benefits.

BCAAs

Amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), are great for endurance and toning your body mass. A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition tested participants in a resistance-training program. (source) Half of the participants took BCAA supplements while the other half took whey protein.

The BCAA group showed greater improvements in muscle strength and fat loss, resulting in an overall leaner body mass.

Another study examined body mass while participants stayed on a calorie-restricted diet. (source) Regular BCAA supplements helped active adults lose fat mass. However, individuals who didn’t take BCAAs lost lean muscle mass.

The most commonly accepted BCAA ratio is 2:1:1 of leucine to isoleucine to valine. This ratio lines up most closely with our muscles’ natural structure. Leucine is the most beneficial BCAA, most effectively encouraging muscle growth and recovery. (source)

Citrulline

Citrulline is another useful supplement which increases blood flow and metabolism to prevent too much fat storage.

What to Exclude

Try to avoid caffeine or other stimulants in your supplement. Since most pre workout supplements contain some caffeine, look for those with small doses.

Many runners opt for supplements without creatine. In addition to a few health risks for select populations, creatine doesn’t improve performance in endurance activities like running.

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Our #1 Rated
Our pick our #1 rated

CytoSport

Cytomax Sports Performance Mix

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Cytomax Sports Performance Mix is specially formulated for runners, especially long-distance running. It provides a steady source of energy without a post-stimulant crash.

Sports Performance packs in the carbohydrates to fuel your muscles during a workout. Amino acids and other essential nutrients delay the onset of fatigue. A blend of electrolytes is present to replace sodium, potassium, and magnesium lost through sweat.

Sports Performance uses multiple carbohydrate sources, including glucose, fructose, and alpha-l-polylactate. Alpha-L-polylactate helps balance the pH levels in your blood by preventing the buildup of lactic acid. There is a modest amount of caffeine, but it’s small enough that you should only feel a slight boost and none of the adverse effects like increased heart rate.

Pros
Pro 22 grams of carbohydrates per serving
Pro 35 mg of caffeine (about one-third of a cup of coffee)
Pro 120 mg of sodium
Pro 60 mg of potassium
Pro 6 mg of calcium
Pro 14 mg of magnesium
Pro Includes an amino blend with L-glutamine and L-alanine
Pro BCAAs
Pro Available in 1.5 pounds and 4.5 pounds
Pro 6 different flavors
Cons
Con Some find the texture a little grainy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #2 Rated
Our pick our #2 rated

Optimum Nutrition

Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy

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Optimum Nutrition is a well-established company in the field of nutrition and supplements. They own their production facilities, so they control the quality of their products from start to finish. All of their factories are GMP certified.

Amino Energy specializes in the areas of endurance and muscle recovery. They pack in both branched-chain and free form amino acids to provide a natural boost. Although the product does contain caffeine, it’s a moderate amount.

Several ingredients work as a replacement for creatine and have the same energy-boosting effects. Green tea and green coffee bean extracts are two of their most prominent natural ingredients. Amino Energy raises your stamina and blood flow using l-glutamine, citrulline antioxidants, and electrolytes.

Pros
Pro 5 grams of amino acids
Pro No added sugar
Pro Only 10 calories
Pro Includes l-glutamine
Pro citrulline
Pro and antioxidants
Pro Electrolyte blend
Pro Green tea and green coffee extracts
Pro Increases stamina and recovery
Pro Reputable
Pro GMP-certified company facilities
Pro 15 flavors
Pro Competitive price
Cons
Con Less electrolyte replenishment than some competitors
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #3 Rated
Our pick our #3 rated

Scivation

Scivation Xtend BCAAs

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Scivation’s Xtend is a simple pre workout supplement that focuses on branched-chain amino acids. The leucine to isoleucine to valine ratio is 2 to 1 to 1, following the natural ratio found in muscles.

It has none of the caffeine or nitric oxide boosters which are standard for many other pre workout supplements. However, its simplicity makes it an ideal supplement for running.

Since it isn’t packed with artificial ingredients or stimulants, Xtend is easy on an empty stomach and works well before long-distance runs.

Pros
Pro Total of 7000 mg of BCAAs in a research-proven ratio
Pro 3500 mg of L-leucine
Pro 2500 mg of L-glutamine
Pro 1000 mg of citrulline malate
Pro 1140 mg of an electrolyte blend
Pro No sugar or calories
Pro Available in 12 flavors
Cons
Con No carbohydrates
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #4 Rated
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Redleaf

Red Leaf Pre Workout Energizer

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The Red Leaf Pre Workout Energizer is full of beta-alanine, BCAAs, and several natural ingredients that will leave you feeling great. Antioxidants from green tea and cranberry (which is also the supplement’s natural flavor) give an added nutritional bonus too.

This supplement boosts your energy and extends endurance. It does include a mild dose of caffeine, but it’s nowhere near the amount that some pre workout supplements pack. Arginine and L-Glutamine also encourage recovery after your workout.

Red Leaf’s Pre Workout formula uses only high-quality ingredients. It’s manufactured in a GMP-certified facility. They use no artificial coloring, maltodextrin or any carbs at all.

Pros
Pro 40 mg of caffeine
Pro 1 gram of beta-alanine
Pro 1 gram of BCAAs
Pro 1 gram of L-Glutamine
Pro 500 mg of AAKG
Pro Antioxidants from cranberry and green tea extracts
Pro No maltodextrin
Pro No artificial coloring
Pro Produced in a GMP-certified facility
Cons
Con No carbohydrates
Con Only 1 flavor available
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #5 Rated
Our pick our #5 rated

MusclePharm

Muscle Pharm Amino 1

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As you can tell from its name, Muscle Pharm Amino 1 is an amino acid based supplement. It doesn’t include creatine or caffeine, making it ideal for runners. The formula is easy for your body to absorb quickly, allowing your muscles to grow and recover, even during a run.

Amino 1 has a whopping 10 grams of BCAAs in every serving. They use a 3 to 1 to 2 ratio, with higher percentages of leucine and valine than most pre workout supplements.

It’s packed with healthy nutrients too, including electrolytes for hydration and citrulline malate. Citrulline malate helps nutrients reach all areas of your body and boosts nitric oxide levels.

Pros
Pro 10 grams of BCCAs with 3:1:2 ratio
Pro 5 calories per serving
Pro Citrulline malate
Pro 4 grams of arginine AKG
Pro 1 gram of taurine
Pro Coconut water and electrolyte blend for hydration
Pro Includes l-Glutamine
Pro l-Alanine
Pro and l-Glycine
Pro Available in 30 servings
Pro Comes in Cherry Limeade and Fruit Punch flavors
Cons
Con No carbohydrates
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Conclusion

Cytomax Sports Performance Mix is my top pick for the best pre workout for running. Cytomax increases endurance with a focus on carbohydrates, while still including a healthy amount of amino acids, including BCAAs.

It does use caffeine for a boost, but in a small quantity than many competitors. Sports Performance also has health-boosting ingredients to increase your performance and the quality of your workout.

L-glutamine and L-alanine encourage muscle growth and recovery, while a blend of electrolytes helps you stay hydrated on long runs. Sports Performance is a reasonably priced, healthy boost to take before your workout.

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