What you eat and drink before hitting the gym can make the difference between a so-so workout and a kick-ass one. If you’re putting in the time to exercise, it’s just as important to put some thought behind how you fuel your body. I’ve talked before about the best pre-workout snacks, but what about your drink? Yes, water is critical. But there’s another beverage you should consider downing before your gym session: coffee.
The most widely used stimulant in the world, caffeine has been used as a natural ergogenic aid for years with most studies using coffee as the source of caffeine.
Here are five reasons to consider incorporating coffee into your pre-workout routine.
Increase Your Endurance
Multiple studies have shown that caffeine increases exercise endurance for running and cycling workouts. Even low doses of 2 or 3 mg/kg of body weight resulted in faster cycling times.
Lift More Weight
Looking to increase strength and build muscle? Caffeine may help. A study published in May found that people who had caffeine before a workout could do more reps in both bench press and leg press, compared to those who had a placebo. In three sets, they performed 11.6% more bench press reps and 19% more leg press reps.
Studies have shown that having caffeine within an hour before exercise lowers rates of perceived muscle pain during exercise and post-workout. Less pain means you’ll be more likely to push a bit harder and see better results from your workouts.
Burn More Calories
A study earlier this year found that people who had caffeine pre-exercise burned 15% more calories in the three hours post-exercise compared to those who took a placebo. This was seen with 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For a 150 pound person this is equivalent to about 300mg of caffeine or 12 ounces of brewed coffee – an amount that may not be too far off from your current morning routine.
Enjoy Exercise More
Not only can caffeine improve your performance, it can also boost your mood. A study on weight-lifters found that those who drank caffeine pre-workout reported a lower rate of perceived exertion and were willing to put in more effort at the gym.
Refuel Better Post-Exercise
Incorporating caffeine into your recovery routine can result in better muscle refueling. Studies looking at endurance workouts found that a combo of caffeine + carbohydrate post-workout resulted in a 66% increase in muscle glycogen compared to just carbs. Glycogen is the stored form of carb, stockpiled in muscles to provide energy during exercise. Better storage post-workout means more energy for your next exercise session.
What about coffee’s diuretic effect?
Coffee can often cause more trips to the bathroom, leading some to believe that it can have dehydrating effects and negatively impact performance. However research shows that hydration levels are unchanged during exercise despite drinking caffeinated coffee beforehand. Just make sure you’re still drinking plenty of water alongside that coffee before, during and after your workout.
How to find your optimal dose
Various doses have been studied and anywhere from 3-6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight appears to have the best performance improvements while minimizing side effects (such as anxiety, jitters, or stomach issues). For someone who weighs 150 pounds, this is equivalent to 200-400mg of caffeine or about one to two cups of drip coffee. Individual responses to caffeine can vary widely and more research is needed to see if the same effects are seen for people who drink caffeine sparingly compared to those who down cappuccinos all day. Your best bet: test it out before a workout and see what amount has the best effect on your exercise routine without giving you any jitters or an upset stomach.
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