Should You Have Coffee Before You Exercise?

Amelia Phillips

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Long blacks, Short blacks, Lattes, Cappucinos, Bubbacinos and even Puppycinos, however you like it, coffee, or should I say caffeine, is an integral part of most people’s daily ritual. Research suggests it may actually help with our workouts as well…good news!

What Are the Benefits of Caffeine on Performance?

Numerous studies from as far back as the 1970’s have been testing the impact of caffeine on physical performance. Latest research suggests that “caffeine ingestion” prior to exercise will;

  • boost performance (Journal of Applied Physiology),
  • improve endurance,
  • burn more calories (International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism)
  • increases your metabolism by up to 20%.
  • Reduces muscle soreness – According to the Uni of Illinois 2-3 cups of coffee (caffeine equivalent) reduces your ‘perceived muscle pain’ which leads you to push harder during your workout;
  • Improves circulation – Japanese researchers found those that did not regularly drink coffee experienced a 30% ‘boost in capillary blood flow’. More blood flow = more oxygen in your tissues = better workout!
  • Muscle ‘preservation’ – Its suggested that caffeine may help preserve your muscles as you get older. Although the Coventry University only tested on animals they found caffeine helped ‘offset age-related ‘loss of muscle strength’.

Bring me a Latte – NOW!

How Does It Work?

Ok, so surely its not that simple, its only caffeine after all? Let’s check out what this stimulant actually does:

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) caffeine is referred to as an ‘ergogenic aid’ that absorbs quickly and increases the ‘adrenaline into the blood’. It’s thought to delay the use of muscle glycogen and therefore muscle fatigue, by using fat reserves first. (Referred to as ‘glycogen sparing’) Studies show in the first 15 minutes of exercise, caffeine can reduce the loss of glycogen by 50% (Journal of Pain) Scientist Gene Spiller also performed many studies that found caffeine can increase ‘muscular force’ (power) because it strengthens muscle contractions. But that’s not all..

 Things To Be Aware Of:

So, there has to be a downside right? Well maybe not a down side, but some things to keep in mind:.

  • Testing tends to be on elite athletes or serious recreational athletes, so the effect on the general exerciser is not yet known;
  • Optimal amounts vary however the research shows 2-3mg of caffeine per kilo of body weight (2-3 cups);
  • There are side effects of too much – cramping, fatigue, headaches and sleep deprivation;
  • While the caffeine may give you a boost, remember the sugar or milk added, adds the calories and potentially undoes all your good work;
  • Like anything that is ‘overdone’, if it becomes a habit the effect will reduce its effect on your body.

Need another reason? How’s this? Caffeine was once on the Olympics’ list of banned substances. It’s no longer banned, but the IOC will still test the athletes and have the right to re-ban if it’s on the increase in athletes!

All hail the caffeine hit I say!

I’d love to know, do you throw back a short black before your workout?

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