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Is Coffee A Good Pre-Workout Drink?

Benefits Of Drinking Coffee Before Workout

Is coffee a good pre-workout drink? Yes. Some of the benefits of having coffee before a workout are longer training, better aerobic capacity and better performance, lower perception of pain and exhaustion, and minimal weight gain. Since caffeine in coffee is responsible for this, you should have the coffee black and undiluted. Since too much coffee can be harmful, limit your coffee intake to four cups, one of which can be had just before your workout for maximum benefit.

If you like your hot cuppa joe every now and then, take heart. There is one more awesome reason for you to get caffeinated regularly and unapologetically. A cup of unsweetened espresso before the workout can positively affect your performance in the gym. We are not lying; there is evidence to prove it. It is no surprise then that trainers have started recommending coffee as a pre-workout drink. Latest studies have attributed many qualities to this workout habit–longer training hours, better endurance and aerobic capacity being some of them. Let’s look at them in detail.

1. Longer Training

Do you start your workout with enthusiasm only to see you have no energy left to see the session through? Coffee can come to your aid here. It is an effective ergogenic aid, which means it is a substance that enhances your performance. Caffeine content in coffee is at levels way lower than the acceptable limits of any international sports competition, making it a popular drink with athletes around the world.1 It is caffeine alright, but only so much the body can take. So, go ahead and take a good sip before you deadlift.

2. Better Performance

After a shot of espresso, you not just train longer, you also perform better. In a study done to assess the effect of caffeine bars on endurance performance in cycling, it was found that the performance-enhancing effects was from not feeling fatigued easily. This shows caffeine stimulates the central nervous system to keep you going.2 Studies have also found caffeine to improve running performance in male athletes.3 Since coffee is the safest source of caffeine, having coffee before a workout can enhance performance.

3. Increased Aerobic Capacity

Coffee significantly improves the aerobic capacity which, in turn, improves the endurance and performance in workouts. Aerobic capacity is the ability of muscles to utilize oxygen. When oxygen is utilized optimally, it works in favor of the endurance of the body. Longer workouts mean better results. The improvement in this performance after a shot of coffee is from the stimulation of lipolysis. Additionally, it is believed to enhance fat oxidation which delays glycogen depletion and fatigue.4

4. Minimal Weight Gain

All weight-loss methods work on the principle of creating an energy imbalance by combining exercise and nutritional intervention. Studies have found that caffeine, combined with exercise, creates a great energy deficit resulting in very little weight gain.5 Moreover, caffeine is a known metabolism booster. A study, done on both normal weight and obese individuals, showed caffeine to significantly improve the thermic effect of the meal and fat oxidation, both amount to better metabolism.6

5. Lowered Perception Of Exertion And Pain

What more? A hot cup of java before the daily workout actually helps you feel pain and exertion a lot lesser than when working out otherwise. Result? Better, longer workouts. In 21 studies conducted to study the rate of perceived exertion or RPE after a workout, it was found that caffeine before workouts significantly reduces RPE. Caffeine, however, did not reduce RPE after the workout.7 Caffeine before a workout also reduced the perception of pain during the workout, especially in the case of eccentric exercises.8

Is Having Coffee Regularly Before Workout Safe?

Coffee before a workout is safe, even beneficial, but there are dangers to overconsumption. Here are some:


Coffee is a known stimulant that stimulates the central nervous system and aids the release of one of the happiness hormones, dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward center.9 This makes caffeine addictive10 and studies have shown “syndromes of intoxication, withdrawal and dependence” for coffee.


Coffee can cause some serious dehydration if not had in moderation. But this does not apply to those who limit their caffeine intake.11

Sleep And Awakening

Caffeine is known to keep you awake in the night. Studies have shown that after having caffeine in any form, on an average, the mean total sleep time decreased by two hours and the number of awakening between periods of sleep increased with the time of wakefulness between periods of sleep doubling.12

How Much Caffeine Should You Have?

Since some caffeine ingestion before the workout is found to be effective, you should choose the best form of caffeine, which is coffee. Pure caffeine is the most effective but it is not recommended for daily ingestion. It has also been proven that caffeine is most effective in the first two hours of ingestion.13

Even if you choose to have coffee, you need to have it without milk or sugar. Any add-ons will reduce the effect of caffeine on you. We would suggest a shot of espresso just before your workout and not more than that.

So, how many cups of coffee should you have in a day? Studies show four cups a day or 28 cups a week would be ideal for an average human being.14 Anything more than that could lead to dependence.

Why not make one of the four cups you have in a day a pre-workout drink?

References   [ + ]

1. Graham, Terry E., James WE Rush, and Mary H. van Soeren. “Caffeine and exercise: metabolism and performance.” Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 19, no. 2 (1994): 111-138.
2. Hottenrott, Kuno, Stephan Schulze, Sebastian Ludyga, and Stefanie Geissler. “Caffeine bars used as pre-exercise supplements influence endurance performance, energy metabolism and perception of effort in trained cyclists.” Journal of Nursing Education and Practice 4, no. 3 (2013): 180.
3. Bridge, C. A., and M. A. Jones. “The effect of caffeine ingestion on 8 km run performance in a field setting.” Journal of sports sciences 24, no. 4 (2006): 433-439.
4, 13. Sandhu, Jaspal S., Shweta Shenoy, and I. Dutt. “Time Dose Relation of Caffeine Ingestion on Muscular Strength and Endurance Performance.” Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, Education and Research 46 (2012): 19-23.
5. Schubert, Matthew M., Susan Hall, Michael Leveritt, Gary Grant, Surendran Sabapathy, and Ben Desbrow. “Caffeine consumption around an exercise bout: effects on energy expenditure, energy intake, and exercise enjoyment.” Journal of Applied Physiology 117, no. 7 (2014): 745-754.
6. Acheson, Kevin J., Barbara Zahorska-Markiewicz, Philippe Pittet, Karthik Anantharaman, and Eric Jéquier. “Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 33, no. 5 (1980): 989-997.
7. Doherty, M., and P. M. Smith. “Effects of caffeine ingestion on rating of perceived exertion during and after exercise: a meta‐analysis.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 15, no. 2 (2005): 69-78.
8. Maridakis, Victor, Patrick J. O’Connor, Gary A. Dudley, and Kevin K. McCully. “Caffeine attenuates delayed-onset muscle pain and force loss following eccentric exercise.” The Journal of Pain 8, no. 3 (2007): 237-243.
9. Nehlig, Astrid, Jean-Luc Daval, and Gérard Debry. “Caffeine and the central nervous system: mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic and psychostimulant effects.” Brain Research Reviews 17, no. 2 (1992): 139-170.
10. Olekalns, Nilss, and Peter Bardsley. “Rational addiction to caffeine: An analysis of coffee consumption.” Journal of Political Economy 104, no. 5 (1996): 1100-1104.
11. Armstrong, Lawrence E. “Caffeine, body fluid-electrolyte balance, and exercise performance.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 12, no. 2 (2002): 189-206.
12. Březinová, Vlasta. “Effect of caffeine on sleep: EEG study in late middle age people.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 1, no. 3 (1974): 203-208.
14. Liu, Junxiu, Xuemei Sui, Carl J. Lavie, James R. Hebert, Conrad P. Earnest, Jiajia Zhang, and Steven N. Blair. “Association of coffee consumption with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.” In Mayo clinic proceedings, vol. 88, no. 10, pp. 1066-1074. Elsevier, 2013.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.