Should You Take a Pre Workout for Cardio?

The decision to take pre-workout supplements before engaging in cardio exercises is a topic of much debate among fitness enthusiasts. 

While these supplements are often marketed to enhance energy, focus, and performance, their effectiveness and safety for cardio activities remain controversial. 

This article explores the potential benefits and drawbacks of using pre-workout supplements specifically for cardio workouts, aiming to provide readers with a balanced perspective to make informed decisions about their fitness routines.

What’s in a Pre Workout Supplement?

Key Ingredients in Pre Workouts

Pre-workout supplements often contain a combination of ingredients designed to boost energy, improve focus, and enhance performance. Some key ingredients commonly found in pre-workout supplements include:

  1. Caffeine: A stimulant that can increase energy levels, improve focus, and reduce perceived exertion during exercise.
  1. Beta-Alanine: Helps buffer lactic acid buildup in muscles, delaying fatigue and improving endurance.
  1. Creatine: Aids in the production of ATP, the primary energy source for muscle contractions, leading to improved strength and power output.
  1. BCAAs: Leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which help reduce muscle breakdown, enhance recovery, and support muscle growth.
  1. Betaine: Supports muscle strength, power, and endurance, and may also have a role in promoting muscle growth.
  1. Taurine: An amino acid that can help improve endurance and reduce muscle soreness.

Ella Pre Workout is a women's pre-workout supplement that provides energy, focus, and endurance support. With only 8 ingredients, including organic green tea extract, dihydrocapsiate, and grains of paradise extract, it is considered a clean option.

How Pre-Workout Supplements Work

Pre-workout supplements work through various mechanisms to enhance exercise performance. One of the key ways they do this is by increasing energy production and delivery to muscles.

  1. Stimulation of Adrenaline: Many pre-workout supplements contain stimulants like caffeine, which can increase adrenaline levels. Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a hormone that prepares the body for physical exertion by increasing heart rate, dilating airways, and mobilizing energy stores.
  1. ATP Production: ATP is the primary energy source for muscle contractions. Ingredients like creatine in pre-workout supplements can increase ATP production, leading to improved strength and power output during exercise.
  1. Vasodilation: Some pre-workout supplements contain ingredients like citrulline malate, which can increase nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes and widens blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow. This enhanced blood flow can improve nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles, helping to delay fatigue and improve performance.
  1. Buffering Lactic Acid: Beta-alanine is another common ingredient in pre-workout supplements. It helps buffer lactic acid buildup in muscles, which can delay the onset of fatigue and improve endurance during high-intensity exercise.

Overall, pre-workout supplements aim to enhance various aspects of exercise performance by increasing energy, improving blood flow, and supporting mental focus. 

The Benefits of Pre-Workout for Cardio

Increased Energy and Focus

Many pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, a stimulant that can improve focus and alertness. 

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain, which helps to prevent the onset of drowsiness and promotes a feeling of wakefulness. 

This can be especially useful during cardio sessions that require sustained effort, as it can help you stay mentally engaged and push through fatigue.

Enhanced Endurance and Performance

Beta-alanine is a helpful ingredient in pre-workout supplements because it can boost your endurance, especially during tough cardio workouts.  

When you do intense exercise, your muscles produce lactic acid, which can make them feel tired and sore. Beta-alanine helps your muscles make carnosine, a substance that reduces lactic acid buildup. 

This means you can work out harder and longer before feeling tired. 

Considerations and Potential Side Effects

Side Effects to Be Aware Of

Pre-workout supplements often contain high levels of caffeine, which can lead to several common side effects, including:

  1. Jitters: High doses of caffeine can cause a jittery or shaky feeling, especially in people who are sensitive to caffeine.
  1. Anxiety: Some individuals may experience increased feelings of anxiety or nervousness when consuming high amounts of caffeine.
  1. Heart Palpitations: Caffeine can stimulate the heart, leading to a faster heart rate or irregular heartbeat in some individuals.
  1. Sleep Disturbances: Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

If you experience persistent or severe side effects, it's important to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional.

Necessity and Tolerance

The necessity of pre-workout supplements varies based on individual factors such as fitness levels and dietary habits. 

Beginners or those engaging in lower-intensity workouts may not require supplementation, while experienced athletes or individuals with specific dietary needs may benefit. 

Regular use of pre-workout supplements, especially those containing stimulants like caffeine, can lead to tolerance over time, requiring higher doses for the same effect. It's important to assess individual needs and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen to avoid dependency and minimize side effects.

Pre-Workout and Different Types of Cardio

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) vs. Steady State

Pre-workout supplements can be effective for enhancing performance in various types of cardio, but their impact may vary based on the intensity and duration of the activity.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Pre-workout supplements can be particularly beneficial for HIIT, which involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or lower intensity. 

Ingredients like caffeine can increase energy levels and improve focus, allowing individuals to push harder during the intense intervals. Beta-alanine may also be beneficial, as it can help buffer lactic acid buildup, delaying fatigue during the high-intensity intervals.

Steady-State Cardio: While pre-workout supplements can still be effective for steady-state cardio, their impact may not be as pronounced as with HIIT. 

Steady-state cardio typically involves maintaining a consistent intensity for a longer duration, and while pre-workout supplements can provide an energy boost and improve endurance, the benefits may be more noticeable in activities that require sudden bursts of effort like HIIT.

How to Use Pre-Workout for Cardio Effectively

To use pre-workout supplements effectively for cardio, start by carefully reading and following the dosage instructions on the product label.

Take the supplement 20-30 minutes before your workout to allow enough time for it to be absorbed and take effect. It's important to stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout, especially when using pre-workout supplements, as they can increase the body's need for fluids. 

Monitor your body's response to the supplement and adjust the dosage as needed based on your tolerance and energy levels. 


In conclusion, the decision to take pre-workout supplements for cardio should be based on individual needs and goals. 

While these supplements can enhance energy, focus, and performance, their effectiveness and safety can vary. It's important to assess your tolerance and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen. 

Pre-workout supplements can be beneficial for high-intensity activities like HIIT, where the ability to maintain intensity is crucial. However, their impact on steady-state cardio may not be as significant. By using pre-workout supplements effectively and in moderation, individuals can potentially improve their cardio workouts and achieve their fitness goals.