There are a million suggestions out there about what to do to work out more efficiently. If you want to lose weight faster, you should add interval training to your runs. If you want to build muscle, you should eat protein after you lift weights. If you want to keep your body working and burning calories, change up your routine every few weeks. And on and on.
This advice can be overwhelming, and possibly even disheartening. It may feel like there’s no possible way you can incorporate all those ideas.
So what to do? The easiest thing to do with all that advice is to find a few habits that have multiple benefits that are easy for you to incorporate into your daily life. One of the easiest things to do? Drink coffee before your workouts.
Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, making the United States the leader in coffee consumption worldwide.
Drinking coffee before a workout may offer benefits. Here’s a look at why.
Coffee is an ergogenic aid
First and foremost, coffee enhances performance because it’s an ergogenic aid. You’re probably asking what that means. An ergogenic aid is something that increases our capacity for physical or mental labor, or both. It does this by eliminating fatigue symptoms. That means it helps with your physical performance and improves mental focus.
Coffee is one of the best known ergogenic aids out there. Just ask anyone who’s crammed for a test in college or had to pull an all-nighter. And as long as you aren’t pouring massive amounts of sugar into it (or even worse, sugar replacements that are full of chemicals), it’s better for you than sugary sodas and energy drinks.
There are a number of studies out there on the ergogenic effects of caffeine, and on coffee specifically. Most of these conclude that coffee is a powerful ergogenic aid that does make exercise seem easier, enhancing performance.
Many recent studies have confirmed similar findings about caffeine intake and improved exercise, including both aerobic workouts and strength training.
How much coffee should you drink before a workout?
If you’re planning to do a long workout, you’ll benefit more from drinking coffee. If you’re going to work out for 20 minutes or less, it’s probably not worth having any.
A study in Medicine & Sports in Sports & Exercise found that after a coffee boost and an exhaustive workout in the morning, it was unnecessary to consume more coffee to maintain the ergogenic effect. The same was true of study participants who exercised again later that day. Translation? You’ll reap the benefits all day long.
Unfortunately, for those of you who already drink a lot of coffee every day, you won’t see as many benefits. If your body is used to something, it needs larger and larger amounts of it to make the same impact. Don’t overdo it just to boost your performance working out.
Consider cutting back on your regular coffee consumption so it will still be effective as a preworkout boost. Also consider how your body normally deals with caffeine and coffee specifically. For example, if you’re someone who suffers from nausea during or after your workouts, you’ll want to address that before you start having caffeine before exercising.
Mental performance benefits of drinking coffee
Coffee helps with mental work as well as physical. If you’re doing any type of exercise that requires quick thinking (such as tennis or team sports), it can help your mental performance. Coffee does help with alertness, so it’ll keep you from zoning out and risking an injury, too.
Coffee boosts metabolism
A cup of joe has fat-burning properties that will boost your workout’s effectiveness. Caffeine increases epinephrine in your blood, which travels to your fat tissues and signals for it to break down. One study found that caffeine may even raise calorie burning for three hours after exercise. A cup of coffee before a workout may help you burn more calories, making any exercise more efficient.
Coffee has other miscellaneous benefits, including:
- lowering your risk of stroke
- reducing risk of cirrhosis of the liver
- diminishing depression in women
- decreasing muscle pain
- being full of antioxidants
Despite the myth that coffee is dehydrating, you don’t have to worry. Yes, it is a diuretic, but as long as you’re keeping consumption to a moderate amount per day, you won’t need to worry about dehydration. Of course, you’ll still want to hydrate during and after exercise. Enjoy the coffee, but don’t neglect the water.
Coffee may improve your performance if consumed before a workout. It can benefit your wellness in other ways, too. Always keep your own habits and health in mind. If coffee bothers your stomach, for example, don’t force yourself to drink it because it might help during Zumba class. Sleep quality can be affected by nighttime caffeine intake, so it’s best to limit caffeine in the evening.
It’s generally accepted that 400 mg of caffeine a day is safe for most adults. A cup of regular-strength brewed coffee contains anywhere from 95 to 200 mg caffeine. So to stay below the 400 mg max, drink less than four cups of coffee a day. Anything above that can cause:
- upset stomach
These symptoms may be worse if you’re not a regular coffee drinker. For best results, keep your coffee guzzling to normal levels. If you feel like you can exercise with a little coffee in your belly without adverse effects, fire up the espresso machine and reap the benefits.