It’s a common debate among fitness enthusiasts: should you drink coffee before, during or after exercise? And when you’ve worked that one out, you’ve got to consider at what time interval you consume it, and how much of it you consume for optimal success. Do you drink it moments before you step onto the treadmill or one hour before?
It’s a tough debate to deconstruct, and it’s one that doesn’t have a definitive answer to it. However, there are some benchmarks to consider when it comes to coffee and fitness.
Here’s what we know.
Caffeine before workouts
Caffeine, like anything you ingest, takes its time to get into your system. Unless you’re putting caffeine direct into your bloodstream (which, by the way, we strongly advise against), your coffee won’t give you that elated feeling until a while afterwards.
Science Daily ran a study that found the maximum caffeine concentration in the body was 45 minutes after the consumption of coffee. According to their findings, caffeine has a larger effect on men than women, and the effects of caffeine start just 10 minutes after your first sip.
If you’re planning on hitting the gym, then, we suggest you down a cup at least half an hour prior to your workout. Fingers crossed you’ll be at mile three before it really starts kicking in.
Caffeine during workouts
If you’re in for a long workout, it might be wise to take your cup of coffee to the gym with you. Because caffeine kicks in about 45 minutes after it is ingested, you don’t want to peak too early into your routine. After all, we’ve all experienced the coffee crash, and they’re not pretty.
If you’re drinking coffee before or during your workout, however, consider your food intake, too. Not only is a coffee crash worth avoiding, over caffeinating and getting jittery will hinder your workout, leading to faster burnout and, sure enough, more time in the sauna trying to relax afterwards.
Caffeine after workouts
Consuming coffee after a workout isn’t necessarily bad for you, but we think it should be avoided, especially if you’re consuming coffee before a workout.
Oftentimes, because we’ve exerted ourselves in the gym, we opt for higher doses of caffeine (by drinking more coffee) after a workout to bring us back up to speed, and consequently, we tend to over caffeinate in the process. If you love those jitters, ignore this advice.
The rule of thumb on coffee and exercise…
Let’s get scientific for a moment.
Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks your adenosine receptors in your brain, which are the neurotransmitters that stop you from feeling fatigued. In theory, then, coffee doesn’t make you more alert, but less tired.
When it comes to coffee and fitness, consuming a coffee prior to exercise will help you work through the immediate fatigue you feel in the gym. And because you’ve worked out, you’ll likely exercise enough to avoid that post coffee crash.
But, while a coffee after the gym might keep you alert for a while, you’ll likely be stationary (having just dragged yourself through hell), which means it’ll stay in your system for a long time to come, leading to the eventual crash of doom.
Our advice, then, is this: Drink coffee before your workout. Work hard enough to avoid a coffee crash. Eat food to refuel after the gym (and soak up any leftover coffee) and avoid a second cup of coffee… unless, of course, you just can’t live without it, in which case, you should order a bag of beans, get that grinder out and get to work. Forget what we just told you…