Should You Drink Coffee Before a Workout?

6 ways coffee can enhance athletic performance

Some active adults and athletes want to enhance athletic performance with stimulants but without the adverse effects of unregulated supplements. Coffee may be a useful alternative since it contains the natural stimulant caffeine. Black coffee has become a popular pre-workout drink. 

Learn more about the potential benefits of drinking coffee before a workout for performance, energy, endurance, calorie burn, and more.


Coffee Helps Burn Fat and Boost Energy


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The high levels of caffeine in coffee significantly improve the body's ability to burn fat during exercise. In addition, drinking coffee in the morning means consuming fewer calories during the day because caffeine suppresses appetite. 

Research shows caffeine provides a significant increase in fat oxidation (burning) due to increased metabolism. This means coffee provides more effective fat-burning during a workout and for several hours following exercise.

Most studies on caffeine use a dosage of 5mg to 6mg kg per kilogram of body weight. If you are a 150-pound athlete (about 68 kilograms of body weight), your recommended dose would be roughly 340mg to 409mg of caffeine. One cup of coffee contains about 95 to 100 mg of caffeine.

If you have never used caffeine before, a recommended starting dose would be 2mg to 3mg of caffeine per kilogram of weight, or 136mg to 204mg for a 150-pound person.

Caffeine is in your bloodstream within about 15 minutes of consumption. The peak stimulant effect of coffee occurs 40 to 80 minutes after drinking a cup. Once caffeine enters the bloodstream, the body responds in several ways. 

Blood pressure and heart rate increase, fat stores are broken down, and fatty acids are released into the bloodstream. The result: Many people feel energetic and ready for a great workout.  

People who are pregnant or have medical conditions such as hypertension, acid reflux, or caffeine sensitivity should not drink coffee without checking with their physician first.


Coffee Increases Metabolism

Caffeine enhances the metabolic rate, which is the rate the body uses or burns energy. Research shows that consuming coffee is associated with a significant increase in metabolic rate during caffeine ingestion and continuing for three hours. 

The body reacts to coffee and caffeine just like any other drug. Habitual, large dose use is counterproductive. In this case, more is not better, and it takes a small amount to achieve great results.


Coffee Enhances Athletic Performance

“Caffeine effectively enhances various types of performance when consumed in low-to-moderate doses,” according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Even if you are already a coffee drinker, you may find that simply consuming your coffee before working out makes a difference in performance.

Caffeine enables an athlete to train longer, with greater power output and resistance to fatigue. Endurance athletes appear to benefit significantly from coffee.

Coffee stimulates the body to use fat stores, instead of muscle glycogen (sugar), during long workouts. This allows for prolonged use of working muscles.

Research on coffee and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) indicates that athletes had a more positive exercise experience when they consumed coffee. They felt less fatigue and effort during their workout sessions.  


Coffee Promotes Better Concentration

Coffee and caffeine improve mental focus. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can boost brain function and have a positive impact on the areas of the brain responsible for memory and concentration. When thinking is sharp, workouts become more productive and effective.

One study of older adults found that caffeine may improve mental performance and reduce the progression of age-related mental decline.

Other research examined the effects of caffeine intake on the prefrontal lobe of the brain. This area of the brain is specific to attention span, planning, and concentration. Results determined that caffeine improved brain function in this area.

Another study measured the cognitive effects of caffeine on athletes. Those athletes consuming caffeine prior to intense fitness training showed improved concentration with the ability to sustain high levels of exercise intensity. These results also included athletes without sufficient sleep. 


Coffee Reduces Muscle Pain

A small study involving 9 women suggested that drinking two cups of coffee can reduce post-workout muscle soreness. This is significant for active people concerned about soreness after an intense workout. 

Another small study of 9 caffeine-consuming males found that caffeine significantly reduced post-workout muscle soreness and shortened recovery time versus a placebo when measured on days 2 and 3 post-workout.

Participants who drank coffee prior to upper body weight training were also able to complete more repetitions on their final set.

Drinking a cup of coffee prior to exercise may help those who tend to give up during a workout. Exercise can cause painful lactic acid build-up when the muscle is stressed. Some people stop working out because of this discomfort.


Coffee Helps Fight Disease

Coffee contains powerful antioxidants that can reduce the risk of disease. Antioxidants work by removing free radicals that cause inflammation, resulting in illnesses and diseases. Coffee is one of the top sources of antioxidants that Americans consume in their diets.

Coffee and caffeine have been linked to disease prevention. Studies have shown coffee reduces inflammation, improves Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and lowers the incidence of certain cancers. It may also lower the occurrence of gallstones.

A Word From Verywell

If you feel the need for a little boost before your training session, coffee could be worth a shot. It's proven to provide a small energy boost and may be less stimulative with fewer side effects than pre-workout supplements.

Be sure to discuss the use of coffee or any other substance with your doctor if you have any concerns or chronic conditions.

13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Darla Leal
Darla Leal is a Master Fitness Trainer, freelance writer, and the creator of Stay Healthy Fitness, where she embraces a "fit-over-55" lifestyle.