Five reasons to drink coffee before a workout

Five reasons to drink coffee before a workout

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WORDS Joe Bishop 

If you’re like the vast majority of people, your day starts with a cup of coffee despite conventional warnings that it may not be all that good for you. 

Author of The Warrior Diet and Unlock Your Muscle Gene Ori Hofmekler researched coffee comprehensively and determined that when consumed the right way, it can be used as a health- and fitness-enhancing tool. Ori specifically outlined the benefits of drinking coffee prior to a workout, which is the focus of this article. 

Contrary to conventional advice that coffee raises your blood pressure, coffee does seem to have functional benefits if consumed pre-workout. A Spanish study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that trained athletes who consumed caffeine as their pre-workout burnt 15 per cent more calories for three hours post-workout compared to those who consumed the placebo. 

According to Ori’s research, consuming approximately 150mg of caffeine pre-workout can increase your metabolism by up to 20 per cent. Plus it has other functional benefits when taken as a pre-workout. These include: 

1.  Improved endurance: A 2005 meta-analysis concluded that caffeine can reduce your perceived level of exertion by more than 5 per cent, effectively making your exercise feel easier. Moreover, the same study showed caffeine improved exercise performance by 11 per cent, which is related to reduction in the perceived level of exertion. 

2.  Pain reduction: Research from the University of Illinois found that consuming coffee one hour prior to a 45-minute-long workout reduced the participants’ levels of perceived muscle pain. Consuming the same amount of coffee an hour before training reduced post-workout muscle soreness by up to 48 per cent. To put this into perspective, studies using naproxen and aspirin achieved a reduction of only 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. 

3.  Muscle preservation: Coffee has also been found to trigger a mechanism in the brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (or BDNF). BDNF supports the neuromotor of the brain, as well as muscles, where it acts like the ignition of the engine that is the muscles, and without it muscle atrophy occurs. So, in this respect, coffee may help maintain more youthful muscle tissues. 

4.  Improved memory: BDNF also activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons in the brain, which has a definitive benefit to your brain. Research conducted by John Hopkins University found that drinking 200mg of caffeine enhanced participants’ memories for up to 24 hours. 

5.  Improved microcirculation: According to Health magazine, a Japanese study discovered that people who did not consume coffee regularly had a 30 per cent boost to their capillary flow after consuming 140mL of regular coffee. Improved blood circulation typically equates to improved oxygenation of your tissues, which may boost your exercise performance. 

That’s five pretty good reasons on the plus side of drinking coffee as a pre-workout. However, they come with some important caveats to consider. 

Consuming coffee with milk, cream, sugar or artificial sweetener will eliminate any health benefits that coffee may have. Some studies have also referred to the use of caffeine directly, as opposed to coffee, and it’s important to understand that consuming caffeine in isolation could be toxic. 

Consumption of coffee should never exceed two cups per day. Coffee is a potent substance, and if consumption is abused, it can have adverse effects on your adrenal glands, causing exhaustion. Coffee is also a diuretic, so it is important to stay hydrated whenever it is consumed. 

Coffee should only be consumed pre-workout if you’re aiming to build muscle. Caffeine has been shown to inhibit mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), the mechanism that increases protein synthesis in your muscles. 

Also, women should avoid consuming coffee while pregnant, as caffeine can easily pass through the brain barrier and placenta and is also transferred into breast milk.  


Joe Bishop is a Personal Trainer with a focus on boxing at Nitro Boxing Fitness Centre (Chermside, Brisbane).  He has been in the industry for six years after completing a Bachelor of Medical Science at QUT.  He is also a Level 2 Strength and Conditioning Coach and has traveled overseas to implement his position in various international rugby union teams.


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