When looking into the topic of the effects of caffeine on the body it’s a little difficult to keep away from scientific terminology and boring studies.
However we’ve done our best to keep this light so if you are a PhD trained Nutritionists - This may not be the article for you.
So firstly to answer the question of whether, or not, caffeine is effective as a pre workout it’s a good starting point to discuss what a “workout” actually is.
“Going for a workout” sometimes has connotations of standing in the gym lifting weights.
Though, for the purpose of our answers below we are referring to the effect caffeine has on sport in general. Whether that be running, playing racket/ball sports or even climbing.
The short answer is; Yes, caffeine is effective for working out.
This has been the conclusion of literally hundreds of studies and literature reviews. A recent study found that caffeine improved endurance in cyclist by over 7% when compared to the placebo group.
Side note: A placebo group in science study, is a subset of the test group. They are told they are being given the “drug” in the test; when in reality they are given an empty pill. This is done in order to measure the performance of this “drug” against people who truly believe they have taken itl when in fact they haven’t.
However the long answer is a little more nuanced than that. To say that caffeine is effective without providing context is a little misleading.
It’s important to understand how much caffeine is needed, how long it takes to be effective and how long is it effective for.
It’s also important to understand your goals. Caffeiene is effective for increased stimulus. But what are you truly trying to get from your workout.
Are you just looking to increase overall fitness? Are you looking to increase flexibility? Are you looking to simply reduce stress?
These are just a few examples of reasons for working out. Depending on what you are trying to achieve will change whether or not caffeine will be effective in helping you achieve those goals.
Read on to see if caffeine is right for you and your work out.Is caffeine right for my workout?
The best way to get your caffeine kick
How many calories are there in coffee?
Is caffeine right for my work out?
Let me start off by telling you, caffeine is a diuretic. Simply put, that means it has dehydrating properties.
As such it’s suggested you accompany caffeine intake with water.
If you are drinking coffee you are also drinking water (DUH!). But if you are taking a caffeine pill for example, then you might not be drinking water alongside it.
Therefore the advice is simply, ensure you are drinking water during your workout.
When are you working out?
The time of day is an important factor in deciding if caffeine is right for you when you are working out.
It may sound a little obvious but caffeine is a stimulus and as such you may think it’s going to keep you awake if you have it right before an evening workout.
You might be correct here, however it is important to note that ass you workout your body enters a stage of alertness that awakens different chemicals in your brain. For example your dopamine levels increase during a workout.
These chemicals are just as likely to keep you up at night as caffeine. Therefore regardless of caffeine intake; you may find it harder to sleep after “waking” yourself up with exercise.
How long will you workout for?
Quick gym session? 5k run? Exercise class? Caffeine will certainly help stimulate an increase in concentration and performance in these examples.
They are short (sub 1hr) and require a peak in physical performance.
However if you are running a marathon, going on a long trek or any longer sporting activity. These require prolonged performance.
And whistle caffeine has been shown to increase endurance. It’s also important to understand it has a shorter life-span for effectiveness.
In these instances it is probably better to look to slow-release carbohydrates to ensure you have the capacity to continue for a longer period of time.
How long before my workout shout I take my caffeine (drink my coffee)?
It takes on average 30-60 minutes for caffeine to kick in. However the reality is that depending on your source off caffeine will vary how long it really takes.
For example caffeine extracted in the form of coffee may enter your bloodstream more quickly than caffeine from chocolate.
You should also take into account how much food you’ve eaten. If you drink a cup of coffee right before your morning workout, having skipped breakfast, then you may feel the effects almost immediately.
If you have a cup right after eating lunch, before a midday exercise class, then it may take a little longer.
Ultimately it varies by individual. Start off by drinking a cup of coffee 45minutes before you workout and adjust as needed the next time you are heading to the gym.
The best ways to get your caffeine kick (More than just coffee)
By far the most common way of getting a caffeine kick before a workout is to drink a cup of coffee. It’s a little less well-known that there are actually many different sources of caffeine.
Starting with perhaps the most obvious; is a selection of hot drinks that contain caffeine:
- Coffee (obviously)
- Hot chocolate (needs to be high cocoa content
Of course there are the cold equivalents of our list above. However there are also caffeine in these:
- Energy drinks
- Some electrolyte drinks
- Fizzy drinks (Coke, lemonade, etc)
Caffeine can also be ingested through foods. Some ideas for snacks before a workout are:
- Some cereals
- Some ice-creams
- You could also eat some chocolate covered coffee beans
Non food/drink alternatives:
For those not looking to eat or drink your way to a caffeine kick. You could always try the following:
- Sport performance gels
- Caffeine supplement pills
How many calories are in each coffee?
We wrote an article that helps you understand the number of calories in each cup of coffee, depending on the coffee type. It’s pretty interesting the difference in calories between a cappuccino and a latte:READ THE ARTICLE HERE