Coffee: Before or After Your Workout? The Science Will Surprise You!

We are aware that moderate coffee consumption has its benefits. Research has indicated that it can boost energy levels, increase metabolic rate, reduce the risk of depression, and lower the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Speaking of energy, many of us can’t leave the house without that comforting cup (or two) of coffee. It becomes our morning lifeline, but we’ve all wondered at some point: Is it a good idea to have coffee before a workout in the morning? After all, when does the jitters, stomach discomfort, anxiety, and other potential side effects of caffeine kick in? Caffeine is, after all, a stimulant, which can either work in favor of or against your fitness goals.

So, the burning question is: Should we kickstart our workout with a cup of coffee, or is it better to save it for later? According to Brittany Michels, M.S., RD, a nutrition expert for The Vitamin Shoppe, having coffee before your morning workout is perfectly fine and can actually offer numerous benefits to your fitness routine. (Phew!) However, there are a few exceptions to consider.

The advantages of consuming coffee before exercise include potentially revving up your metabolism, reducing the perception of exertion, improving microcirculation, and enhancing athletic performance, according to Michels. She notes that coffee is just one of many caffeinated options that can provide these advantages. So, if you’re not a coffee drinker but still want the perks of caffeine, there are alternatives.

Some studies suggest that pre-workout caffeine intake can increase calorie burning for several hours after exercise. “For those seeking a metabolic boost, coffee can be a wise choice,” Michels adds. She recommends that anyone interested in combining coffee with exercise should determine the right caffeine dosage for their body, as the side effects can vary based on caffeine levels, duration, and the type of activity. In general, the ideal time to consume caffeine is about 20 minutes before exercising.

Who should exercise caution? According to Michels, individuals with caffeine sensitivity or a sensitive stomach should start with a smaller dose of caffeinated coffee and gradually increase it. “Signs that you’ve exceeded your body’s tolerance include stomach discomfort, nausea, an increased heartbeat, or palpitations.”

Some individuals notice benefits with 50 to 100 milligrams of caffeine before a workout, while others see improvements in the range of 300 to 400 milligrams. Some may not experience any benefits at all. “There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to coffee and caffeine consumption,” Michels explains. Additionally, if your goal during a workout is to feel more relaxed, it’s best to skip the caffeine altogether.

As for post-workout caffeine consumption, if you rely on coffee to get through the day, consider evaluating your sleep quality, stress levels, and dietary habits. For some, caffeine dependence may be masking underlying issues related to energy levels. Michels advises against consuming caffeine close to bedtime, as it can disrupt your natural sleep patterns. If you need a pre-workout energy boost in the evening, consider non-caffeinated sources like maca or beetroot.

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