Benefits of drinking coffee before exercise

Crawling out of bed too early… coffee! Cramming for a test in the middle of the night… coffee! Long drive and feeling drowsy … coffee! Big business meeting but the baby kept you up all night … coffee! Increasing athletic ability… coffee? We’ve all been there. Coffee has come to the rescue for many of us in times of need. A little cup can give us that extra jolt of energy we need to push through and elevate our performance when our eyes feel heavy and mind foggy. Great news for all of us who drink coffee before a big run, pilates class, gym session or preparing for sport - coffee has a few great benefits to kicking you into shape for physical performance. 

You might have walked into a supplement shop and been overwhelmed by the shelves stocked with tubs of flashy pre workout powders and potions. The ingredient lists can be incredibly long, full of unrecognisable chemicals and supplements that can be intimidating! Whether you are needing extra energy to get you off the couch or trying to break a new personal-record,  a simple cup of coffee can be that perfect buzz to charge you through your workout without the high prices and potentially harmful side effects of specialised workout supplements. 

The Power of Caffeine

The main ingredient we are after in coffee is a natural source of caffeine. Caffeine has extensive scientific backing on the ability to improve athletic performance. That is why most pre-workouts contain a significant amount of caffeine in them (unfortunately most pre-workouts have artificial caffeine). A 2005 study found that coffee can actually trick your body by reducing your perceived level of exertion by over 5%! [1]

I get an extra cup of coffee and a workout that feels easier… deal!

Let's take a further look at all the excuses why you should brew an extra mug of coffee before tying the laces on your sport shoes. 

Exercise and coffee

Body + Brew Breakdown

You take a sip of coffee but how does that delicious warm beverage actually change your energy and performance on a cellular level? How does your body utilise caffeine? Caffeine is absorbed in the bloodstream and metabolised mainly in the liver, but also a bit in the kidneys as well.

Chris Sinclair and Dr. Jonathan Geiger, The Journal Of Sports Medicine And Physical Fitness,  explain that the most well understood process of how caffeine directly affects athletic performance is primarily through its ability to block attachment sites in the body where the inhibitory substance adenosine is normally active.  [2]

When adenosine is able to attach to receptors in the body, it causes inhibition of fat metabolism, slowing of heart rate, and general nervous system inhibition, effectively making you tired. Caffeine can reverse this and block these receptor sites – which is how it magnifies so many powerful uplifting mental and physical benefits. While exercising, our adenosine levels skyrocket to try to preserve the body’s energy. If adenosine cannot attach to the receptors because caffeine is blocking them, we don’t feel the exhaustion, and this is what allows us to push our bodies further and reach new levels of physical exertion. [3] [4] [5

Caffeine alters our bodies recognition of physical fatigue. It has also been shown to make athletic movements more powerful by increasing the number of fibres used in muscle contractions. [6] [7]

An increasing number of studies have also shown that coffee can be used as a fantastic alternative to caffeine to improve exercise performance in areas like cycling and running and produce similar results similar to pure caffeine, found in energy drinks or pre-workouts. [8] [9]

This means that your favourite hot brew may even be more effective at improving resistance exercise than caffeine by itself. This is why many energy drinks, and pre-workouts containing caffeine are consumed before exercise. But it looks like a natural caffeine hit is best before exercise, and can improve mental focus, alertness, anaerobic performance, and endurance performance. [9] [10] Total weight lifted when performing back squats to failureTotal weight lifted when performing squats to failure.

Courtesy of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research [11]

Mind over Matter

Caffeine is a psychostimulant. It helps increase alertness and reduce sleepiness while improving motor activities. [12] Aside from its effect on adenosine, caffeine changes the levels of many other neurotransmitters in the brain including dopamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin. The effects of altering these neurotransmitters in the brain can enhance mood, suppress appetite, alleviate pain, and even protect brain cells from damage and disease down the line. [13]

Ever heard of the phrase “mind over matter.” Or how about “you can do anything you put your mind to” and “it’s all a mind game.” 

The mind can be so much stronger than the body, and a dose of caffeine can make your brain that much more powerful in motivating your body to reach its highest potential. Just like you would drink coffee when your sleepy, caffeine works on the brain in the same way when we feel tired from physical exertion by blocking the chemicals in your brain that would cause you to tap out of a challenging workout. 

Mind over matter

Burn Baby Burn

In addition to burning more calories in longer or more intense workouts, coffee also has been shown to enhance fat-burning in exercises. A publication in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, concluded that [14]:

“trained athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned about 15%  more calories for three hours post-exercise, compared to those who ingested a placebo.”

During endurance exercises, the body increases levels of adrenaline and releases free fatty acids. The body uses fat stores to try to prolong energy levels during strenuous activities while delaying the use of carbohydrate stores. Some studies have found that coffee significantly increased the release of stored fat before and at the end of a workout. [15

Increases in fat burning go hand in hand with increased resting metabolic rates. This means that the number of calories your body burns even at rest is increased! Some research has shown that taking caffeine before exercise increases the release of stored fat by 30% [16]

Coffee helps you lose weight

Does coffee enhance all types of athletic activities?

Yes and no. 

Yes coffee does make us feel more energised and that in itself might help you feel motivated in your workout, but extensive scientific studies have shown caffeine increases performance more specifically in endurance events. Coffee before a workout increases an athlete’s ability to draw extra energy during their exertion. [17]

In one experiment done by the Sport Medicine Council of Manitoba, the times of athletes cycling and running until exhaustion increased, swimming race times decreased, and tennis winning percentage as well as post- exercise recovery both increased. Studies even show that caffeine can enhance weight lifting strength performance [18], increase jump height in basketball players [19], and improve golfers’ accuracy [20]. However, in short physical tasks lasting under 3 minutes, limited caffeine benefits were shown.

Timing

Timing is key if you're using coffee as a your pick-me-up before exercise. Coffee will have a peak effect on the body between 30 and 75minutes after you drink it. The author personally drinks a cup of black coffee in the morning, and then by the time he has dressed and driven to the gym, caffeine effects are on. [21]

Don't Forget…

BEFORE you drink your coffee, it is imperative you drink ample water. Caffeine is a diuretic and causes a dehydrating effect on the body as there is increased blood flow through the kidneys to process the caffeine. And then doing a sweaty workout on top of that - make sure you don't forget to drink water! 

Coffee has a peak effect on the body in around 30 minutes

Made better by science

Here at Savvy we love coffee! We just added a blend of 13 ingredients, including vitamin B complex, vitamin C, Ashwagandha, Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola, Green Tea Extract and L-Theanine, to take the benefits of your coffee to the next level to fuel your workout and day and keep you performing at your peak! 

If you enjoy the effects of coffee, then you will LOVE Savvy coffee with some better living through by science (and a few nootropics). 

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