Most of us are all too familiar with the boost of that good old cup of joe first thing in the morning. But is a hit of caffeine before attempting a sprint workout on the treadmill the right and healthy thing to do? According to some experts, it is. Research has shown that downing a cup of coffee before you break a sweat can boost your performance significantly.
Research published in the British Journal of Sports Science found that people who drank coffee before running 1,500 meters on a treadmill finished the exercise 4.2 seconds faster than those who didn’t have any. Furthermore, pre-workout coffee can also make exercising easier and more enjoyable. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reported that volunteers exercising on a stationary bike perceived the ride as less challenging and more enjoyable after a hit of caffeine.
As stated by Heidi Skolnik, M.S., a sports nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Conditioning, Inc., caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the heart, the central nervous system, and possibly, the “center” that controls blood pressure. Additionally, it can also boost the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, which have significant effects on our pain receptors and mood while working out.
In other words, coffee will make you enjoy getting sweaty, and it will make things easier.
The impact of a pre-workout coffee on your fitness routine
Speaking to Leigh Weingus, senior yoga & fitness editor at Mind Body Green, Dr. Joel Kahn and Dr. Will Cole explained how coffee can positively impact your fitness routine.
Joel Kahn, professor of medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity, started by stressing out that, besides your morning coffee hit, drinking enough filtered water is crucial when you’re exercising. He said that in addition to his morning cup of coffee he also has a glass of room-temperature water, organic green powder and lemon before heading to the gym.
William Cole, D.C., who graduated from Southern California University of Health Sciences in Los Angeles, added that coffee can do several things to improve your workout routine. It can give you an energy boost, improve brain focus, and increase something called lipolysis. Lipolysis is an internal process that helps your body to let go of extra fat and burn more calories.
One study found that people who had a cup of coffee before their workout ate 72 fewer calories later in the day and had an easier time keeping cravings at bay.
However, if coffee upsets your stomach or you are a slow metabolizer of caffeine, Joel said you probably shouldn’t be drinking it all, not even before your workout.
Not all coffee is created equally
If you thought you could swing by Starbucks and down a sugar-laden drink every morning to crush a half marathon, then think again. While Joel said it is okay to add a pinch of sugar to your coffee, black coffee is preferred.
Also, Will stressed how important the quality of your coffee is. He recommended drinking high-quality, pesticide-free organic coffee to reap its full benefits.
“Go for coffee that’s been third-party tested for mold, which can be high in some beans. If you go for decaf, try ones that are decaffeinated with Swiss water process, which is nontoxic. Avoid the blends with artificial flavors. You are real; your coffee should be as well,” he said.
So, unless you are sensitive to caffeine, your pre-workout cup of coffee will make exercising more enjoyable and boost your endurance. However, if you are more of a night owl and like to exercise during the evening, you might have to miss out on the energy boosting benefits of coffee. Skolnik explained that coffee stays in your system for four to six hours after drinking, which may affect your ability to fall asleep.