We drink coffee to wake up in the morning, to enjoy the rich flavor, and to have a special comforting routine.
But what if coffee could actually help us become faster, stronger, and more enduring?
Of course, it’s not a magical beverage and it can’t turn us into superheroes. But coffee does work in a special way if you drink it before a workout. Want to know what happens exactly? Keep reading.
Why Drink Coffee Before Workout?
Many people drink coffee before workout simply to get a bit more energized (for instance, after a tiring day at work or early in the morning). And it quite makes sense. But the truth is, caffeine before workout can do much more than just give you energy!
#1 It helps you lose weight
During the workout, muscles use stored glucose (glycogen) to transform it into energy. But when caffeine is in the game, things work a bit differently. It kind of shifts the work of muscles and makes them burn fat while preserving glycogen. This results in a couple of things. Firstly, muscles burn fat for energy, which means you can lose more fat during a workout with coffee than without it. Secondly, when burning fat, muscles tend to get tired slower, which can increase your workout duration and, again, give you a chance to burn more fat.
Don’t overestimate the power of coffee by believing that this beverage will do the job for you. It’s just one of those myths about coffee. In reality, you only lose weight when you exercise, while coffee is just a helper.
#2 It makes you more focused
Because caffeine is a nervous system stimulant, it makes your brain more alert. What’s in it for you? You become more focused and concentrated on your workout, which means the quality of the exercise improves and the workout becomes more effective.
The British Journal of Sports Science published a study showing that coffee-drinking people completed their treadmill distance (almost a mile) faster than those who abstained from drinking coffee.
#3 It improves blood flow
Researchers believe that regular coffee consumption (including drinking coffee before workouts) can increase our blood circulation by 30%. And when this happens, the tissues of our body get more oxygen (muscles too, of course), which gives a boost to the exercise efficacy.
#4 It makes you more enduring and increases performance
Again, because caffeine makes muscles burn fat instead of glycogen, you remain energized longer. This study suggests that caffeine has the power to change the way you perceive your exercise. It kind of makes you feel it goes easier. As a result, you feel you can do more and keep going longer.
#5 It reduces pain
It isn’t a secret that our muscles can hurt during and after an intense workout. Well, if you drink coffee prior to that, you lower your chances of any muscle pain. Studies show that people experience less pain during exercising and after when caffeine is in their system. And it’s great, as it means you can have longer cardio workouts or complete more reps during weight training.
#6 It keeps your muscles strong and healthy
While coffee can make your muscles last longer during a workout, it can also preserve them in good condition for years. Research suggests that caffeine helps postpone age-related muscle issues (like loss of strength), keeping your muscles healthy and even reducing the risk of injuries.
Caffeine is able to enhance one’s memory. Even more, the effect does not wear off within 24 hours after having coffee. This comes in handy when your workout involves many steps and a complex routine. Drinking coffee can help you memorize and follow all the steps effectively without the need to take long pauses to check if you’re doing everything right.
#7 It prevents diseases
Now, you might think that this point does not have anything to do with the effect coffee has on your workouts. However, we exercise to improve our health and well-being. And interestingly enough, coffee can do that too. This beverage is rich in antioxidants and can even reduce the risk of certain illnesses, including some types of cancer. So, when drinking coffee before your workout, you do more than improve your performance. You work to keep yourself healthy.
Coffee Before Workout: How Exactly Should You Do It?
So, you already know that coffee before exercising is great. But is there any special way to drink coffee for the best workout?
Well, there’s no magical recipe that can turn you into Terminator, but there are some guidelines you might want to follow, especially if you want to drink coffee in the healthiest way possible:
- Control your intake. Too much is never too good, you know that. Research suggests that you don’t need much coffee to feel its effect. You should consume around 4.5-6 milligrams of caffeine per 2.2 pounds of weight (1 kilogram). So, for a 150-pound person, up to 400 mg per day is a healthy amount. That’s around 16 ounces of coffee, depending on its type.
While coffee is an awesome beverage with a lot of benefits, you still need to be careful with it. Trying too hard is never a good thing. And when it comes to caffeine, too much can make you jittery, anxious, and can even increase your blood pressure.
- Don’t forget about proper hydration. While coffee is a beverage, which might make you feel like you are getting enough liquids, you should not forget about water. Make sure you stay hydrated, especially when working out. Because coffee has diuretic properties, some people believe you need to drink two cups of clean water for each cup of coffee (to kind of renew the water balance). However, I personally believe that you need to drink as much as you’re comfortable with. Listen to your body, it knows exactly how much water it needs.
- Give your preference to fresh coffee without creamers and artificial sweeteners. Such a beverage will be the most nutritiously rich and healthy.
- Don’t drink coffee after the workout if your goal is growing muscles. The process of muscle building actually happens after the workout, and coffee can slow that process by decreasing the protein synthesis in the muscles.
If your workouts involve strength training, you might want to drink coffee before them. Why? Because it decreases muscle pain during workouts. This means you will be able to push yourself a bit harder and obtain better results.
- Drink coffee after the workout if your goal is fat burning. The post-exercise cup of coffee will stimulate the fat burning a bit more, mimicking what happened during the workout and using fat for energy.
- Keep the caffeine amount in mind. Different coffee beverages contain different amounts of caffeine. Just like that, bean roast levels also influence the numbers (the darker the roast, the less caffeine we get). Keep these aspects in mind if you really want to consume caffeine properly.
Testing the Theory: Our Little Experiment
Here’s the deal:
While research and scientific facts do seem impressive, we tend to believe the things we personally experience. That’s why my colleague and I decided to hold an experiment.
We both usually work out three times a week (or at least try to, when the time and the work schedule allow for it). And this is a great opportunity to check how coffee really affects us when we drink it before working out.
My colleague (Edna) and I are pretty much in the same shape, which we thought was perfect for our test. I decided to be the one who drinks coffee (since I love it so much), and Edna chose to drink water before exercising.
Coffee is truly a marvelous drink. Not only can it help you be more productive mentally and physically, but it also can decrease your chances of suffering from such conditions as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even some forms of cancer.
We had three workouts. Monday was for weightlifting, while Wednesday and Saturday were purely for cardio. Here are the results:
- When running the same distance on a treadmill, I finished 1 minute 24 seconds sooner than Edna.
- When working out on the elliptical, Edna felt tired after 40 minutes, while I was pretty energized until hitting the 46-minute mark.
- I did two reps more when weightlifting and managed to work with more weight (even though the difference wasn’t that big, just a couple of pounds).
So yes, the results are obvious. Of course, drinking coffee before working out did not turn me into Superman, but it definitely helped me be more energetic and enduring.
How often do you work out? Do you drink coffee to boost your performance? Can you see any improvement? Let us know in the comments!
My name is Yurii Brown. I am a passionate coffee geek and, concurrently, a certified coffee specialist.
I’ve been learning about coffee for a long time, testing various devices and practicing in home coffee brewing. I like to share my experience and insights with fellow coffee lovers so that my readers could enjoy the real taste of quality-brewed beverages.