He stops by the gym’s café for a cup of coffee before heading to the treadmill. Or, she walks into the gym with her favorite Starbucks coffee before busting it out in a high energy Zumba class. It would not surprise me if you have come across something similar. You know, someone who chugs down a quick drink of coffee? Be slow to criticize, though. While I am not here to wholly advocate caffeine, research has shown that drinking a cup of coffee before a workout can improve performance, offer some functional advantages, and may even help with weight loss.
Caffeine, whether coffee or another source, is one of the most popular ways for many to start their day. In fact, some studies have revealed that half of American begin their day with coffee. One study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that trained athletes who consumed caffeine before exercising burned 15% more calories during the three hours following the workout.
Before jumping into this promising news, we need to talk about caffeine itself, though. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant which, in turn, can affect the body’s metabolism, make you more alert and boost your energy. These effects, among others, can play a significant role in improving performance during a workout. Caffeine can also affect mood and consciousness, acting to release what some refer to as “feel good neurotransmitters.” Essentially, your mind and body will be motivated to push harder more easily power through your workout.
With that said, here are a five tips keep in mind if you want to take advantage of the benefits of a pre-exercise cup of coffee:
When to Drink Pre-Workout Coffee
It is best to drink a cup of coffee approximately 1 hour before your workout. Caffeine is absorbed from the stomach rather quickly, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after consumption. The peak time to reap the most stimulatory benefits ranges from 30 to 75 minutes, which is why the standard recommendation is to drink it one hour before.
Importance of Water
While drinking a cup of your favorite java before a workout is fine, it is extremely important that you are giving your body more liquids than just coffee. Follow your cup of coffee with some water, especially if you are not exercising immediately. Yes, coffee is a liquid but caffeine can act as a diuretic, so it is important to drink plenty of water. In fact, this is a good policy to apply all day and not just pre-workout. Too much coffee can lead to dehydration.
For those who prefer to work out in the afternoon or evenings, there is one small twist to your enjoying a pre-workout cup of coffee. Caffeine can remain in your system for anywhere from four to six hours after consumption. What this means is that you could be risking losing valuable sleep if you choose coffee before your evening workout. Keep in mind that the effects of caffeine are different for everyone, so you may not have any issues; but this is something to consider.
Losing sleep can lead to a vicious, unhealthy cycle and lead to future health problems. Do not sacrifice a good night’s sleep for a cup of coffee, even if the motivation is to have a better workout. Sleep affects our body’s ability to recovery, brain functioning and our appetite.
If you are a person that will be up until midnight after drinking a cup of coffee before your evening workout, you may have to miss out on the benefits of coffee before exercise.
Alternatives to Coffee
Especially for evening fitness buffs, there are some alternatives to a regular cup of coffee that offer caffeine but in lesser amounts. For instance, cold brew coffee and dark roast coffee tend to have less caffeine. Another option is tea. While it may not offer as great a boost as coffee, black tea can contain up to 70 milligrams of caffeine in one cup.
How Much Is Too Much
“Too much of a good thing…”. Heard the expression? It fits perfectly here. While the caffeine in coffee may offer some benefits, too much can be harmful and lead to significant health issues. Most professionals say that the majority of people only need 250 to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily to feel the benefits, although it will vary by person. A cup of coffee could contain anywhere from 100 milligrams up to 450 milligrams, based on the size of the cup and type of coffee.