Coffee: Better Than Pre-Workouts and Thermogenics?

by Matt Weik

What if I were to tell you to ditch your pre-workout for a hot cup of coffee? You might think I’m absolutely insane. As surprising as it may sound, studies show coffee is incredibly effective at boosting energy and maximizing fat-burning.

Coffee has been the go-to beverage for the drowsy night owls and the early morning risers alike. But many have been grabbing their favorite cup of Joe to fuel not only their day but workout.

Whether you are a fitness newbie or a long-time fitness enthusiast, coffee may be one of the most effective pre-workout and thermogenic beverages you can consume – just skip the sugar and cream.

There are many reasons why you may choose to fuel your workouts with a strong cup of black coffee, and here are some of them.

Why You May Benefit from a Strong Cup of Coffee

Drinking coffee can improve your workout and has several health and fitness benefits.

1. Increases Fat Loss

Perhaps, the most significant benefit of having a cup of coffee before your workout is its fat-burning properties. When you drink coffee before exercise, it can cause fat cells to be used as an energy source instead of glycogen.

Also, the high amounts of caffeine present in black coffee can increase your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the day.

When you have black coffee before a workout session, it can enhance the effectiveness of the workout. Additionally, caffeine has an appetite suppressant property that can help you feel satiated and full for longer.

2. Coffee Improves Focus When You are Working Out

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that has properties to improve brain function and can have a positive impact on the brain – more specifically, concentration and memory. When you are focused and your thoughts are clear, your workouts can become more efficient and easier.

One study performed on older adults showed that coffee might improve mental performance and decrease the progression of any age-related cognitive decline. Another study showed that athletes who had coffee before workouts showed increased concentration and sustained higher levels of exercise intensity.

3. Coffee Improves Energy Levels

As we know, coffee makes people feel less tired and skyrockets their energy levels. It is because coffee contains a natural stimulant (caffeine), which is the most commonly used psychoactive drug globally.

When you consume coffee, the caffeine gets absorbed into your bloodstream and then makes its way to your brain. What coffee does in your brain is it blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine. This triggers an increase in the number of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to more neurons transmitting.

Essentially, this can help improve energy levels, your mood, and other aspects of brain function.

4. Coffee Gets Rid of Muscle Soreness

Muscle pain after a workout session is something that we collectively hate. Some people curse out loud the day after a heavy leg day when needing to walk up a flight of stairs. Besides being able to increase fat-burning, coffee also aids with reducing muscle pain and soreness.

Drinking a cup of black coffee before a workout may help those who have the tendency to give up during training and stop their set before truly breaking down muscle fibers. During a set, you will more than likely experience a painful lactic acid build-up in the muscle being worked. This then leads to many people to end their set early.

Studies have shown that drinking two cups of coffee can actually decrease post-workout muscle pain and soreness.

5. Coffee Improves Circulation

Research shows that coffee improves blood flow by as much as 30% over a span of 1 hour 15 minutes. Being that your muscles require oxygen to function optimally and maintain performance, better circulation means you can achieve greater power and endurance during your workout.

What this means is that if you drink coffee before your workout, it may help your muscles perform at a higher level during the workout session versus not drinking coffee at all.

6. It Helps Your Muscle Recover

Switching gears slightly, rather than consuming coffee just as a pre-workout ergogenic aid, you can actually benefit from consuming it post-workout as well. Post-workout caffeine can help with muscle recovery if you consume it with carbs.

Coffee helps to bring glucose from your blood into your muscles, replenishing your stores in around four hours.

Workout pain and soreness are caused by inflammation happening in the body, which is an integral part of the process of your body getting used to and improving from one workout to another. However, increased inflammation can slow down recovery and lead to a greater chance of developing an illness.

Coffee is a natural antioxidant that helps your body recover from intense workouts by minimizing some of the post-workout inflammation that can occur.

How Much Coffee Should You Consume Pre-Workout?

Research suggests that you should consume around 4.5 to 6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight so that you can maximize your workout benefits.

If you are sensitive to stimulants or are not used to drinking much caffeine, start with half of the actual amount and see how it goes for you, and evaluate things from there.

When Should You Drink Coffee For Workout Enhancement?

Drink coffee one hour prior to hitting the gym. Its effects will peak between 30- and 75-minutes post-consumption.

However, coffee can also boost recovery when consumed after exercise, so you can go ahead and give that a shot as well, assuming that you are not drinking coffee too close to your bedtime.