Coffee Can Improve Your Exercise. Here's How
Exercise is healthy. Physical training and exercise have been present throughout human history, and its benefits have been noted since antiquity. Coffee, according to the vast majority of scientific research (and there has been a lot), is also healthy. Coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of Parkinson’s, heart disease, melanoma, prostate cancer, and even suicide.
So exercise is healthy, and coffee is healthy. What happens when you combine the two? In this article, we’ll look at the link between coffee and improved exercise, when to drink coffee to improve your physical performance during exercise, what kind of coffee to drink, and the types of exercise coffee can assist.
Exercise and coffee
Exercise can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Whether playing sports, jogging, swimming, or simply walking, getting regular exercise can benefit everyone, no matter your age or physical ability.
Of course, exercise tires you out. That’s sort of the point, after all. And athletes both professional and amateur are always looking for ways to increase endurance and speed recovery.
Millions of Americans, meanwhile, drink coffee on a daily basis, whether in the form of a morning drip coffee at breakfast or a can of ice-cold nitro cold brew as an afternoon pick-me-up.
Caffeine-rich coffee’s ability to perk us up is well known. It would make sense, then, for researchers to look at the impact that drinking coffee has on exercise and recovery. There have been many, many studies looking at the intersection of coffee, caffeine, and exercise. Let’s explore.
How Can Coffee Help with Exercise
Athletes have been using caffeine to gain an advantage for many decades, so much so that the International Olympic Committee added the stimulant to its list of banned substances in 1984. That ban was lifted in 2004, and research suggests that more than 73% of athletes currently use caffeine to attempt to achieve an edge on the competition.
While research shows that caffeine can give elite athletes those tiny marginal gains they need to compete at the very top, it can also help regular folks just looking to train harder or jog for longer. Here are some commonly asked questions about coffee and exercise.
First off, which coffee is healthiest?
Latte, macchiato, cappuccino, frappuccino—all delicious, all coffee. But are they all healthy? While we might wish we could enjoy a delicious, creamy latte and then hit the gym, unfortunately not all coffee is built the same. The more additives like milk and sugar you mix into your coffee, the less healthy it’s going to be. The healthiest coffee, the one that is going to give you the most benefits when you go for your morning run, is simple black coffee.
If you want to see the most benefits from your coffee and exercise combo, stick to black coffee—be it drip, Americano, or nitro cold brew.
Should I drink coffee before a workout?
Coffee has been widely studied as an ergogenic aid—that is, a performance enhancer. It has been researched in regards to its uses for both strength and cardio training, and has been found to allow athletes to train longer and with higher power output. Drinking coffee prior to working out has also been found to increase aerobic exercise’s fat-burning ability, giving you a head start before you even hit the gym.
When should I drink coffee before working out?
You want the caffeine in your coffee to be absorbed into your bloodstream before you begin exercising to really boost your workout. Most research suggests that you should enjoy your coffee between 45 and 60 minutes before you begin running, lifting, or any other type of exercise. While you might feel a buzz minutes—or even seconds—after taking that first sip, it’s important to give your body time to adjust and get ready to exert.
Will drinking coffee after exercising help recovery?
As discussed previously, drinking coffee before you begin your workout can offer many benefits, from increased endurance to improved fat-burning capabilities. But what about post-workout, when you’re tired and sore?
The good news is, it can help with that too! Research suggests that caffeine can help reduce post-workout muscle pain, and can help those same muscles refuel quicker, allowing you to feel limber sooner and get back on the treadmill.
Can drinking decaf give the same effects?
When you read a story that describes coffee’s effect on exercise, what they generally mean is caffeine’s effect on exercise. While some studies do let participants enjoy a delicious brewed coffee before the research begins, the vast majority see them popping caffeine pills—mostly because it’s easier to strictly control the amounts ingested in order to generate accurate results.
Caffeine is what gives most of the measurable benefits to exercise, and most of the benefits described in this article refer to caffeinated coffee. However, that doesn’t mean that decaf drinkers are left out entirely.
Many of the health benefits of coffee are found in the antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid and cafestol that give coffee its anti-inflammatory properties, and these are also present in decaf. Switching to decaf can also have a small but measurable impact on blood pressure. Drinking decaf, therefore, can help you stay healthy and recover better from exercise.
Can coffee help with weight loss?
This is a tricky subject. Being healthy and being thin are too often considered synonymous, and losing weight isn’t necessarily always a good thing. Eating well, getting plenty of exercise, and feeling happy in your body are more important than burning fat at all costs. Coffee, with all those antioxidants and numerous proven health benefits, can play a role in keeping us healthy and thriving for the long term.
That being said, coffee has been shown to boost metabolism and can offer certain fat-burning qualities. Significantly, combining caffeine with exercise has been shown to make the act of exercise more enjoyable.
What types of exercise does coffee benefit
While coffee has been shown to have a tangible impact on exercise in general, the type of exercise is important when deciding whether to add coffee to your pre-workout routine. Cardio, endurance, and strength workouts appear to benefit most from caffeine’s myriad influences. However, because coffee has many beneficial effects besides caffeine, it can positively impact other types of exercise as well.
Is it okay to drink coffee before running?
As long as you wait that 45 minutes to an hour before beginning your run to allow your body time to absorb the caffeine, then yes! Multiple studies have found that ingesting caffeine gives a small but significant increase in performance for both professional and recreational runners. For those looking to shave a few seconds off their personal best, coffee might be the key! Plus, despite what you might have heard, coffee won’t dehydrate you during exercise.
Can I drink coffee before yoga?
While coffee might not be able to directly assist your yoga practice—at least, not in a way that’s been studied yet—it does come with some benefits that can work in tandem with your yoga practice. Caffeine wakes you up and improves concentration, but it also enhances your mood and can keep you more alert, all of which can assist in the practice of yoga.
Is coffee only good for aerobic exercise, or can it help me with anaerobic exercise as well?
As we’ve discussed, coffee can tangibly help with aerobic exercises such as jogging or cycling. But it can also benefit anaerobic exercises such as weightlifting and high intensity interval training, short duration workouts designed to build muscle, power, and endurance.
Caffeine has been shown to enhance upper body strength in resistance-trained women, giving them a significantly increased bench press maximum. Caffeine can also help with sprint performance, and increase endurance for competitive rowers.
Are there negative effects of coffee on exercise?
The scientific literature generally agrees that coffee is beneficial to exercise. That being said, the widely understood downsides to drinking coffee—long term caffeine tolerance, issues with sleep disruption, etc—are worth considering when it comes to exercise.
For example, if you like to work out in the evening, but you also have issues with caffeine interrupting your sleep patterns, then you should understand the pros and cons before drinking a pre-workout coffee. Everybody’s caffeine tolerance is different, so your use of coffee as an exercise aid should account for that as well.
Drinking coffee before you exercise is, according to the many hundreds of studies carried out on the subject, a safe and effective way to enhance your workout. From professional athletes looking for marginal gains to amateur weightlifters trying to soothe their sore muscles, caffeine can be the supplement that makes a difference. Just be sure to:
- Drink your coffee about an hour before you start
- Pay attention to your body and your personal caffeine tolerance, and Stick to good quality black coffee.
While you can pair most any type of coffee with exercise and receive the benefits, there are added health advantages to drinking black coffee without any additives. If you’re looking for the perfect combination of healthy, caffeine-rich, and most of all delicious, we recommend a can or two of our Original Black Nitro Cold Brew.