Pre workouts are known for delivering endurance, strength and mental focus. All of which are big parts of any cardio session.
But, should you be taking pre workouts before you do cardio? And if you do what can you expect to happen?
To most bodybuilders, cardio, or at least long sessions of cardio are considered slightly counterintuitive. By upping cardio you’re essentially powering through calories and will be losing energy that could otherwise be sent straight to building new muscle. (And that’s a short summary…)
But there are plenty of reasons why, even as a hardcore bodybuilder that maintaining a level of cardiovascular fitness is a good idea.
Benefits of Cardio for Bodybuilding
We’re not going to waffle on about cardio here, but just flag up 3 main points that mean if you don’t already have it as part of your program, it might be worth considering:
- It’s an extremely effective way of cutting fat. Cardio burns calories. With the right form of cardio you’ll find it much easier to stay lean.
- Cardio maintains heart and respiratory health, which doesn’t just mean you’ll live longer, but also means you’ll be able to train harder and for longer.
- Adding cardio workouts could increase strength and muscle gains. An improved cardiovascular system will help the body recover quicker from workouts and speed up nutrient delivery and waste removal within muscle tissue. Leading to bigger gains over time.
So, cardio and pre workouts…
Before we jump into whether you should, let’s clear up what we mean by pre workout and what we mean by cardio. As these are two terms with a massive number of meanings!
What do pre workouts do?
Pre workouts are designed to get you training harder. The nutrients in most pre workouts are aimed at delivering energy to muscles as glucose, oxygen and other key nutrients. With an added function of improving focus and supporting repair using amino acids.
Our pre workout ticks all of the above, and we also opted to include some coconut water, in order to keep muscles properly hydrated through training. Again, aiding the nutrient flow to muscles.
Types of Cardio
Now, cardio is essentially any form of exercise. So we need to breakdown what we mean by cardio here.
LISS stands for low intensity steady state cardio which is lower intensity runs spread over a longer duration and what most people would define as cardio, and HIIT is high intensity interval training. HIIT involves short bursts of exercise focused around getting your heart rate up and body turning to quick sources of stored energy. We’ll look at both and the effects of pre workout before them.
Pre Workout Before LISS Cardio
What most people deem as ‘cardio’ is LISS, which is low intensity steady state exercise that has you grinding away for long periods of time. Pre workouts are generally formulated to benefit strength training and anaerobic exercise.
Most pre workouts effects will happen 30 minutes after taken and last for 5-6 hours
These effects can be ideal, especially as they can help you mentally keep going for an extended period of time. Some people on long runs though, may prefer simple caffeine supplements, as this cuts the risk of any stomach issues during a long run.
Pre Workout Before HIIT Cardio
HIIT cardio is short bursts of exercise that get your heart rate up. Think of treadmill sprints and you’re there. HIIT can also be an intense circuit with weights too.
Pre workouts are perfect for HIIT cardio as they’ll not just boost energy levels and improve mental performance, but often they’ll be able to increase ATP synthesis and promote increased blood flow to working muscles.
The result is you’ll be able to work harder, for longer. Just like when taking a pre workout before you hit the weights.
Ingredients to Look Out For
So, if you’re considering using a pre workout to help boost your cardio efforts in both forms, you want to keep things simple and natural. Look for products that contain caffeine, l-citrulline and amino acids.
Essentially, and one of the most well studied ingredients in supplements. Caffeine works as a stimulant to the central nervous system and takes around an hour to reach it’s peak effect once it’s been absorbed into your stomach.
Supplementing caffeine before cardio makes sense as it increases alertness and allows you to push further during your workout.
L-Citrulline boosts up blood flow, which delivers fresh nutrient rich blood to muscles helping you sustain a cardio session for longer. Numerous studies have supported it’s use with one 2006 study finding that it improves athletes time to exhaustion. Another found that it can increase muscle oxygenation. Coupled with the fact a study in 2010 saw participants who supplemented citrulline malate could better utilize key amino acids for energy.
There’s a whole host of amino acids out there, some like l-theanine and l-tyrosine can impact neurotransmitters and improve energy levels and increased alertness.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which are vital to repair and muscle, regulate the immune system and assist with nearly every other biological function in some way.
Key amino acids are BCAA’s, which are considered essential in that your body has to get them from your diet. These can help with glycogen storage and prevent muscle protein breakdown. Your body will turn to BCAA’s for fuel when glycogen runs low. BCAA’s have also been linked in studies to reductions in fatigue and increased output.
Pre workouts contain specific BCAA’s, and most are geared towards mental function. But, the point is, that amino acids can be a great way to maximise cardio performance.