Did you know that drinking coffee could support your goal for getting more fit? People want to know if it is bad to drink coffee before working out? We all know that a cup of coffee is great for getting you going, but drinking a cup of coffee before and after working out, has additional health benefits for getting the most out of your fitness regime. Read the five ways that drinking coffee can improve your workout as well as how much coffee to drink and what time to drink it before and after your trip the gym.
1. Coffee helps improve focus during a workout.
Adenosine is responsible for suppressing arousal in preparation for sleep. It is neurotransmitter that is a byproduct of your body breaking down food for energy which is why you can experience a post meal “coma”. Caffeine creates an alert state by binding to the adenosine receptors in the brain which can also help you push through a tougher gym workout and help you reach your fitness goal. Read more about “How Caffeine Works on the Brain”.
2. Coffee helps improve workout performance.
Once caffeine enters the body it increase blood pressure and heart rate, fats are broken down and fatty acids enter the body. Studies have shown that there is a link between athletic performance, fitness and caffeine intake prior to workout.
A report published in Sports Medicine refers to caffeine as a “powerful ergogenic aid,” and mentions that athletes can “train at a greater power output and/or train longer” after caffeine consumption. Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Science found that subjects who consumed coffee before running 1,500 meters on the treadmill completed their run 4.2 seconds faster on average than the control group.
3. Coffee helps decrease muscle pain.
We don’t want to ignore body pain entirely because it is a way to signal to us that something is wrong, but sometimes when we want to go just past our comfort zone while working out it can be very helpful. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that subjects who drink coffee prior to exercise experienced less muscle pain during their workout than their non coffee drinking counterparts.
How does this work? We already know that caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in the brain. These receptors are also heavily involved in the perception of pain. On top of blocking pain perception, natural pain killing neurotransmitters, dopamine and beta-endorphins, are also released with the consumption of coffee. This dual action of caffeine on pain helps you push through those “give in” moments of your workout.
The takeaway? You can complete more reps at a higher resistance during your weight training sessions, as well as run faster and longer during your cardio workouts.
4. Coffee Helps Improve Workout Recovery
So coffee after workout is good for you too? Not only has caffeine been shown to help during the workout, it also helps with post-workout muscle soreness. In a study in the Journal of Pain, drinking coffee 24 to 48 hours after a workout reduces that pain by half. This pain is caused by inflammation in the body which is necessary part of the process of your body adapting and improving from working out. Excess inflammation on the other hand can slow down recovery and lead to an increase chance of creating an illness.
Natural antioxidants in coffee play a role in your bodies recovery process by clearing some of the post work-out inflammation according to sports dietitian Kelly Pritchett, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Speaking of post-workout coffee brews, caffeine may also increase the body’s ability to refill its energy stores following exercise. In one small study, exercisers who consumed carbs and caffeine after a tough workout packed away 66 percent more glycogen – a form of carbohydrate that hangs out in your liver and muscles to fuel intense activity – than those who only ate carbs. Stockpiling your reserves allows you to work out that much harder the next time you hit the gym, but more research is needed to confirm caffeine’s potential effects on recovery.
5. Drinking Coffee Helps Accelerate Fat Loss
Perhaps the greatest benefit on the body when drinking coffee before your workout is its fat-burning properties. Drinking coffee before exercise—can cause fat cells to be used as an energy source as opposed to glycogen. Also, the high amounts of caffeine in black coffee will increase your metabolism, which makes you burn more calories throughout the day. Drinking coffee before exercise enhances that effect.
As a bonus, caffeine and other compounds found in coffee act as an appetite suppressant, making you consume less overall.
In a study utilizing four different trials, the group consuming coffee showed a significant increase in metabolic rate during and continuing for three hours after caffeine ingestion.
How Much Coffee to Drink Before Your Workout
Some people may get their caffeine via energy drinks or tablets, but some studies have shown that drinking coffee itself is more effective for enhancing performance during resistance exercise.
Research suggests that you need to consume 4.5 to 6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight to maximize your exercise benefits. For a 140-pound woman, that’s roughly 285 to 380 milligrams, or roughly one 20-ounce to two 16-ounce cups of coffee. (Every brand, roast and shop offers slightly different amounts of caffeine.) And, in case you’re wondering, even if you’re a heavy coffee drinker and have a tolerance to caffeine, you don’t necessarily need extra coffee to get an exercise boost, according to University of Illinois findings. Depends upon making a case for drinking as much coffee as you like.
If you have a sensitive stomach or aren’t used to drinking that much coffee, start with about half that and see how it goes, Pritchett says, noting that you will likely see a benefit from the smaller servings.
When to Drink Coffee for Workout
Power up one hour prior to hitting the gym, Pritchett says, noting that’s when the vast majority of studies time pre-workout caffeine. Its effects peak between 30 and 75 minutes after ingestion. However, it’s possible that coffee can boost recovery when consumed following exercise, so go ahead and give it a shot – as long as that doesn’t mean drinking coffee too close to bedtime. Caffeine consumed within six hours of bedtime can significantly affect sleep quality in most people.
Some have also suggested that you should abstain from caffeine in order to enjoy a better effect on your performance when you consume it for exercise. It’s also important to practice with caffeine during training sessions before using it for an important event.
Those with medical conditions like hypertension, caffeine sensitive, or who are pregnant should not drink coffee without having a discussion with their physician.
A new study, published in Nutrients, of 38 participants (19 men, 19 women) has found that drinking caffeinated coffee improves speed of cycling.
The study, which investigated the effect of coffee ingestion in a 5km cycling trial, found that it had a positive effect on the time trial performance of both sexes. The study's findings suggest that both men and women respond similarly to coffee and that coffee ingestion may be a practical source of caffeine prior to exercise to improve performance.
Participants restricted coffee consumption for 12 hours before drinking either: coffee providing 3mg.kg-1 of caffeine, a placebo in water or nothing as a control. In a 5km cycling time trial, following coffee ingestion, the performance of both men and women improved by approximately nine seconds and six seconds compared with placebo and control, respectively. No differences in performance were observed between the placebo and control.
The study contributes to the growing body of research that highlights the ergogenic benefit of coffee ingestion. To date, much of the research on this topic has focused only on anhydrous caffeine and on men.
Associate Professor Neil Clarke, School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University, United Kingdom
1. N Clarke et al. (2019). Coffee ingestion improves 5 km cycling performance in men and women by a similar magnitude. Nutrients. Published online.
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