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Coffee Before Workout: The Pros And Cons Of Your Rocket Fuel

February 07, 2021 5 min read

Coffee Before Workout

Should you drink coffee before your workout? Or is it best to stay away from the caffeine right before hitting a heavy cardio workout?

Pre-workout rituals vary from person to person. While one may listen to techno music, another may involve eating bean burritos for a protein burst. These routines are as varied as the gym rats themselves. One such popular ritual involves drinking a cup of coffee, but is it a good idea to guzzle a cup of java as you're about to hit the weights?  

Coffee and exercise may go together like cream and sugar

The first thing everyone grabs in the morning is that hot cup of coffee. It opens your eyes, alerts your senses, and helps you remember why you got up in the first place! One of those reasons for getting up is to pump some iron and stay healthy. So should coffee be part of that workout regime?

Coffee before exercise feels like it's a great idea besides emptying the cobwebs from your brain: whether you’re looking to energize before hitting the treadmill, put in a few more reps, or run another loop around the block, coffee is the beverage choice for many pre-workout routines. 

Let's explore when it is okay to drink coffee before working out and when it's not.

The lean, mean workout bean

Caffeine could be a practical way to get ready for your favorite workout. It is an ergogenic aid. This means it aids in performance levels by increasing the body’s energy needed to pump iron, the focus to stay true to your goals, and the endurance to go farther and harder.

However, keep it plain. By adding sugar or certain sweeteners to your coffee, you could make your blood sugar spike - this will reduce your ability to keep your workout going, as sugar is considered more of a short-term energy boost.

So keep your coffee black for a smoother and more sustainable use of energy.

  • Caffeine is a stimulant. It keeps you alert and improves concentration. An essential way to boost cognitive function before any task, especially a great workout! Most workouts need the added amount of attention and focus. 
  • Coffee gently increases your focus to have a greater bond between the physical and mental aspects of your exercise. Whether it's a long marathon, a quick run, boxing, yoga, or simply weight training, coffee can give you the mental and physical boost you need to finish strong.
  • Drinking a cup of coffee before gym training may help reduce muscle pain from your workout. With reduced muscle pain and stiffness, you have a better chance at pumping out more reps or going further with your exercises.

What if I drink coffee before a workout? 

Coffee is the top beverage choice for many to enjoy drinking before work, but what if you want to drink coffee before workout sessions?

If you're thinking about adding coffee to your workout routine, and you're not an avid coffee drinker, you may be in for a shaky ride.

Research shows that people who start drinking coffee when they have never had it before may feel the adverse effects of consuming caffeine, which can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shakes
  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems

So if you're new to coffee, you may want to skip making it a pre-workout ritual.

However, if you're determined to brave the brew, then perhaps try out your caffeine fix when you are not ready to workout. Set aside some free time to experiment with different coffee concoctions until you find the best way to make coffee for you. We suggest trying a pour-over coffee maker or a gooseneck kettle as a safe at home brewing solution. 

Consider trying various coffee types, such as a cappuccino, a single or double shot of espresso, a flavored coffee, or keep it simple with a large black coffee from your local coffee shop. Just make sure you try only one at a time!

When should you NOT drink coffee before working out?

Adding coffee to your daily ritual may not be a good idea if your body is overly stressed, even if it is to fuel a workout session.

Stress is everywhere. It is hard to avoid and could even lead to adrenal fatigue, something so many people suffer from these days! 

Symptoms such as fatigue, mental fog, and low energy appear, and you may be tempted to combat this with caffeine. Watch out! Adding coffee to help you get through a workout could add to that fatigue, instead of helping it!

Instead, replace the cup of coffee with water - it will hydrate you without the added stress.

And please, see a doctor if your symptoms persist.

When should you drink coffee before a workout?

Studies claim that drinking coffee before working out can enhance your athletic performance. However, it depends on the person.

A general rule of thumb is to enjoy your java well before working out. There are some drawbacks, though, for example:

  • Drinking coffee during a workout could interfere with hydrating the body properly. Sweating out water and replacing it with a diuretic isn't the best solution. 
  • Everyone's metabolism is different. Some have a very slow metabolic rate, while others have a high metabolic rate. This will affect how coffee affects you.
  • The average person usually feels the effects of caffeine kicking in at about the 20-minute mark. To be able to utilize the benefits of your coffee for a workout, waiting 30-60 minutes after you've had your cup of coffee is best.

The top 2 pre-workout alternatives to coffee

If you've never had coffee and become a jittering mess after one sip, or worse, you don't like the taste (what is wrong with you?), there are alternative drink ideas to enjoy before you sweat away all of your regrets.

  1. Water! Water! Water! Of course, it's a classic, but it's a classic because it works. You don't need to write a research paper to know that our bodies need water.
  2. Coconut water is another way to replace liquid lost during a workout and provides your body with electrolytes. These electrolytes are vital for an active body, and we suggest replacing them after a vigorous workout.

How long after a workout should I wait before I have a cup of coffee?

You've enjoyed the heart-pounding properties of your pre-workout coffee, but what about coffee after a workout?

Some research suggests that drinking coffee after workout sessions also benefits muscle recovery to refuel the body.

Glycogen is the muscle's primary fuel source for a solid exercise, and this is replenished with athletes who have caffeine after a workout more so than those who don't.

Athletes who ingest caffeine and carbohydrates also have more glycogen stores in their muscles, making recovery quicker.

People run on coffee - literally

Drinking coffee before running may sound like a strange way to fuel the body before a long run or even a high impact jog around the block.

However, coffee has been a legal staple performance enhancer for running athletes in professional competitions since 2004, recognized by the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency.)

  • Moderate intakes of coffee before a run lowers exertion levels - therefore workouts feel much easier, and a runner can maintain a steady pace for more extended periods of time.
  • Caffeine can increase your free fatty acids levels, which becomes fuel and preserves glycogen reserves for a long-distance run.
  • Caffeine also provides a higher level of alertness with a lower level of fatigue -this gives them a heightened sense of the run and how they are coping during the run. More focus makes for a better run!

Getting to the bottom of that pre-workout cup of coffee

As with any exercise or athletic performance aid, moderation is the key.

Coffee is a stimulant - too much, and you'll be running in circles. Too little - and you'll lose the burn out quickly. 

We suggest exploring different quantities and properties of that caffeinated performance potion.

Once you find the right amount in the correct format, you'll be utilizing your coffee buzz for a better burn.

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