It goes without saying that if you want the most out of your workout, you should enter each session as fresh and rested as possible.
This is why coaches of elite athletes have long encouraged their stars to take a shot of caffeine before a training session or competition, improving performance by making it easier to exercise. There’s less pain and fatigue, resulting in better efficiency.
But for your Average Joe, does a cup of Joe give that much of a boost to a regular workout?
Science pundits aren’t ready to go all in on caffeine, but the research supporting it is encouraging nonetheless.
Caffeine primarily boosts alertness and arousal in the body, making workouts less strenuous. It can also help muscles burn extra fat; muscles use glycogen for energy, and when the reserve is depleted, muscles get weaker and less efficient. This leads to exhaustion. But when muscles are also burning fat, they won’t tire as quickly. Caffeine shifts the muscles to burn fat, allowing the body to preserve glycogen reserves, giving your muscles longevity before you’re pooped.
Having said that, it may take a bit of time to kick in. The benefits are much clearer in endurance exercises rather than short-term exercises – muscles will always turn to glycogen for energy first. There’s no set time as to how long you need to exercise before caffeine triggers fat-burning, but most studies suggest they’ll play a role after two hours or so. Caffeine’s energizing boost peaks about an hour after ingestion, and can last from three to six hours!
Researchers still aren’t sure how much coffee you need to consume for these exercise benefits, too. Until now, it was believed the body can actually become resistant to coffee, meaning regular drinkers would need extra doses to feel the effects during exercise.
But a recent study from Brazil showed that even regular coffee consumers – including people who drank up to three cups a day – could pedal faster and longer on a stationary bike after taking a caffeine pill. The pill contained the equivalent caffeine of four cups of coffee, proving that the effects are consistent, whether you drink a ton of coffee or not.
Further research also suggests that caffeine could have a place in any workout circuit, as long as you’re mindful and careful. Like anything in excess, caffeine comes with its downsides – this includes headaches, a spike in blood pressure, and some people even develop stomach ulcers.
Exercise gurus recommend drinking a cup of coffee about an hour or so before any workout, and determining if that perk-up can help you power through your session more easily, and with less fatigue.
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