This might surprise you, but one of the most effective pre-workout drinks is probably sitting in your cupboard. Research shows that downing a cup of coffee before a workout can boost your performance. So, if you want that extra edge for next your cardio or strength training session, you won’t need to visit a supplement store to get it.
That means you can swap your strange smelling shaker bottle for your coffee cup or tumbler.
7 benefits of drinking coffee before a workout
It seems the benefits vs. drawbacks of coffee have been debated for some time. The notion that coffee causes certain diseases has been laid to rest. Thanks to ongoing research, we know that your morning cup of joe actually provides many benefits.
In addition to being a pure source of caffeine, coffee provides many functional benefits when consumed before exercise:
1. Coffee provides a metabolic boost
That’s a fancy way of saying, “accelerated fat loss!” According to Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet and Unlocking the Muscle Gene, coffee can increase your metabolism by up to 20 percent.
Health Magazine outlined the results of a 2014 study conducted in Spain:
"[A] Spanish study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism,3 found that trained athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned about 15 percent more calories for three hours post-exercise, compared to those who ingested a placebo.
The dose that triggered the effect was 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For 150-pound woman (68 kg), that's roughly 300 mg of caffeine, the amount in about 12 ounces of brewed coffee, a quantity you may already be sipping each morning."
2. Coffee improves circulation
According to Health Magazine, Japanese researchers discovered a 30% boost in blood flow in participants who drank five ounces of regular coffee over a 75-minute period (versus those who consumed decaf). As Dr. Mercola points out, improved blood circulation typically equates to improved oxygenation of your tissues, which can improve exercise performance.
3. Coffee reduces pain
Whoever said “No pain, no gain” probably didn’t have to go to work after an intense spin class. Thankfully your morning cup of coffee can help prevent you from crawling into work.
Research from both the University of Illinois and the University of Georgia has found that two to three cups of coffee (or the caffeine equivalent) consumed one hour prior to a half-hour-long workout can reduce your muscle pain pre and post workout. The University of Georgia’s research concluded that two cups of coffee an hour before training reduced post-workout muscle soreness by up to 48%. Similar muscle soreness research has concluded that Aleve only achieved a 30% decrease in post-workout muscle soreness and aspirin produced a 25% decrease.
4. Coffee improves endurance
According to 2005 research, coffee can actually make your workout easier! The study concluded that caffeine can reduce your perceived level of exertion by more than 5%.
5. Coffee preserves muscle
I don’t know about you, but I want to keep the results I’ve worked for. According to Coventry University’s research shows that caffeine helps offset the age-related loss of muscle strength. These findings suggest that caffeine may help preserve your muscles as you age, and reduce your risk of injuries.
According to Ori, coffee triggers a mechanism in your brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Besides the brain, BDNF also expresses itself in your muscles, where it supports the neuromotor—the most critical element in your muscle.
Without the neuromotor, your muscle is like an engine without ignition. Neuro-motor degradation is part of the process that explains age-related muscle atrophy. So in this respect coffee may help maintain more youthful muscle tissue.
The featured article also notes recent research from Coventry University that supports this notion. In that study, they found that caffeine helped offset the age-related loss of muscle strength, again suggesting that caffeine may help preserve your muscles as you age, and reduce your risk of injuries.
6. Coffee improves memory
Maybe you’re new to working out, starting a new routine that requires a sharp memory, or you keep forgetting the name of the new girl (or guy) at the gym – don’t worry. Your cup of coffee can help.
“Coffee triggers a mechanism in your brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).” BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons in your brain, which can have definitive benefits for your brain function.
Research conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine-enhanced participants' memory for up to 24 hours.
7. Coffee makes your workout more enjoyable
Heidi Skolnik, M.S., sports nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Conditioning, Inc. suggests that caffeine actually makes your workout more enjoyable.
She explains that “Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system, the heart, and possibly the ‘center’ that controls blood pressure,” and goes on to say “It can also increase the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, which effects pain receptors and mood.” while you’re working out.
How much coffee should you drink before a workout
According to Skolnik, you only need 250 to 300 mg of caffeine each day to benefit from its performance-enhancing effect. The exact amount may vary depending upon your body weight and fitness goals.
One thing to remember (especially if you’re going for a long run): Caffeine can have a laxative effect. Too much coffee can lead to dehydration, so make sure you’re drinking your coffee with a glass of water (12 ounces).
How long before a workout should you drink coffee
In the previously mentioned interview, Skolnik noted: “Caffeine is quickly absorbed from the stomach within 15 to 45 minutes of consumption, but it hits its peak stimulatory effects between 30 and 75 minutes.”
To get the most out of your coffee, drink it about an hour before your workout.
Beyond just helping you wake up, coffee will give your workout an extra boost as well. Drink a cup of coffee or two an hour before your morning workout to experience the many benefits it can provide.