Working out brings a wealth of health benefits both physically and mentally. But the workout that we do and how we prepare for it and recover from it can make a world of difference. Preparing your body for a solid cardiovascular workout can be the key to performing at full capacity and not putting too much strain on your body. Let’s take a look at my top 3 picks for the best pre-workout for cardio, but before I even get to my favorites, I’ll answer some important questions about pre-workout in general.

What is pre-workout, and what does it do?

Question: What does a pre-workout supplement to?

Answer: A pre-workout refers to a sports supplement designed to provide your body with a boost of energy to increase your athletic performance. Many pre-workout supplements are designed to help you meet the top end of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or weightlifters and are typically not viewed as essential for moderate cardio.

Question: What are the common ingredients found in a pre-workout supplement?

Answer: Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), Beta-Alanine, Caffeine, and Creatine

  • BCAA’s are a group of three essential amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which comprise around 35% of your body’s muscle protein. They’re essential because your body doesn’t make them on its own; you must get them from food or supplements.
  • Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid made by the body, so it doesn’t have to be found in your food. Your body uses it to produce carnosine, which helps improve exercise performance.
  • Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee, and cacao plants. It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system and can be used to improve mental alertness. Caffeine can also shift muscles to burn fat more quickly.
  • Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity training.

Question: Why do bodybuilders use pre-workout, and do I need a pre-workout for cardio?

Answer: One supplement that has become a staple in the bodybuilding industry is pre-workouts. The most significant benefit associated with pre-workouts is a boost in energy levels. It has been said that the people who benefit most from a pre-workout exercise with an intensity that would include weightlifting and high-intensity interval training. While pre-workouts have gotten a reputation for being designed before lifting weights, they may also be beneficial before cardio! The effects on endurance and aerobic performance aren’t as clear-cut, but pre-workout supplements can improve physical performance and help with cardio training.

Female bodybuilder; woman working out; exercise; lift weights

Question: How does pre-workout impact cardio?

Answer: Using a pre-workout before doing cardio exercise will have a different effect, depending on what type of cardio you are doing. Anaerobic exercises involve quick bursts of energy and are performed at maximum effort for a short time. Examples include jumping, sprinting, or heavy weightlifting, and all of these count as a type of cardio. Aerobic exercise is any type of cardiovascular conditioning like swimming laps, going on long runs, or cycling. During “cardio” conditioning, your breathing and heart rate increase for a sustained period of time. 

While anaerobic exercise is what most pre-workouts were made for, the right pre-workout supplement can help you deliver your best performance, whether you’re weightlifting, running, cycling, or swimming laps. In either anaerobic or aerobic exercise, a pre-workout can help with the focus and energy to step it up to a new level. That might mean a new personal record in your mile time, cycling, or elliptical.

Woman and dog running on beach at sunset

My Top 3 Picks For The Best Pre-Workout For Cardio

1. Coffee & Cocoa

Wait, what?! Did I say chocolate? Yep! Coffee & cocoa may be the most synergistic beverage combination for cognitive enhancement & reduced mental fatigue without anxiety. Caffeine on its own can shift muscles to burn fat more quickly, which can preserve glycogen stores and give muscles more time before they wear out during a tough workout. Combine cocoa with the natural energy boost you’ll get with your morning cup of coffee, and you’re on your way to a more focused and productive cardio session.

If you’re looking for a great, organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade, Gluten-Free cocoa powder, try Navitas Organics Cacao Powder.

Cup of coffee; cup of hot chocolate

2. Naked Energy Pre-Workout Formula

I LOVE a natural product, and many pre-workouts are a powder that you mix with water and can be extremely sweet. Naked Energy Pre-Workout Formula is an all-powder, vegan-friendly, unflavored option with no added sweeteners, colors, or flavors. It features ten high-quality ingredients using natural amino acids, vitamins, and caffeine from unroasted coffee beans. Naked Energy Pre-Workout will give you the energy you need for your cardio workout, WITHOUT feeling jittery! Even better, because this is unflavored, you can add it to your coffee in the morning or mix a workout drink with coconut water or other workout ingredients.

Ingredients Include: Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate, Calcium, Beta-Alanine, Creatine Monohydrate, L-Arginine, and Caffeine

Scoop of protein powder pre-workout supplement

3. Genius Pre-Workout Powder

If you’re looking for a caffeine-free option, this is an excellent choice! Your physical capabilities are guaranteed to expand when your brain is engaged with the proper (all-natural) nutrients, and your muscles are stimulated by scientifically proven ingredients. Genius Pre offers a synergistic Mind to Muscle formula. Their caffeine-free formula gives energy and focus naturally and is 100% naturally sweetened with organic, vegan-friendly stevia.

Ingredients Include: L-Citrulline Malate 2:1, CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine, Betaine Anhydrous, L-Tyrosine, L-Arginine, Taurine, AlphaSize (50% Alpha GPC), HICA (a-Hydroxyisocaproic Acid), Rhodiola Rosea {root} {Std. to 3% Salidrosides), ElevATP (Ancient peat and apple [fruit] extract as Malus domesticus), Theobromine, AstraGin (Panax notoginseng [root] Extract and Astragalus membranaceus [root] Extract), Huperzia Serrata [whole plant] (Standardized to 1% Huperzine A), Silica, Sodium Citrate, Stevia Leaf Extract, Natural Flavors, Tumeric Root Extract, Spirulina Extract

Whether you’ve been working out consistently or are planning to get back into a fitness routine, you’ll find that pre-workout can bring a wealth of benefits. In addition to the physical advantages you’ll see, there’s the potential for an elevated mental clarity. Give it a try and see if it doesn’t take your workout to the next level!

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