Most coffee drinkers don’t need a reason to drink coffee— if it’s there, they’ll drink it. However, more fitness enthusiasts have been looking to coffee for an edge in training. After all, if the caffeine in pre-workout gives athletes a boost, why not drink a beverage they love to get the same effects? That leads to the question: can coffee boost athletic performance during training? Here’s what you need to know.
Coffee and Caffeine: What You Need to Know
When it comes to boosting your athletic performance, it’s less about the coffee and more about the caffeine content. Caffeine itself is what’s been studied in regards to training performance, and your caffeine intake will ultimately depend on what kind of coffee you drink, how much, and when.
The average cup of coffee has about 95 mg of caffeine per eight-ounce cup. If you’re drinking a latte or espresso-based drink, expect about 64 mg of caffeine. Espresso contains more caffeine per ounce, but tends to be ingested in lower quantities.
Comparatively, pre-workout boasts 150-300 mg of caffeine per serving. So yes, coffee can give you the boost you need to get through a workout, but it’s unlikely to equate to the jolt of pre-workout. People also tend to sip coffee rather than shoot it back, which will create a slower release over time.
How Coffee Impacts the Body
What is it, exactly, that caffeine does to the body? This stimulant engages your body’s flight or fight system by increasing adrenaline. Meanwhile, it also releases those feel-good endorphins that you need to feel motivated.
In other words, coffee affects your endocrine system to give you a temporary boost of energy that can help you run a little faster and push a little harder. While sipping on coffee is unlikely to skyrocket your gains or have you lifting heavier than usual, it can give you the boost you need to get a workout done with a bit more energy and vigor.
How Coffee Impacts the Mind
Another way coffee impacts athletic performance is by tripping the nervous system to improve your alertness and focus. The overarching studies show that low to moderate caffeine intake can temporarily improve alertness, attention, and reaction time.
Most athletes can attest to the fact that training is as much a mental game as it is a physical endeavor. Whereas the lower dose range of 40 mg of caffeine did show an impact in these studies, a cup of coffee can have the effect you desire in the gym.
Limitations and Considerations
As with anything, there’s only so far that coffee can take you. Usain Bolt’s secret sauce isn’t a cup of blonde roast in the morning. Caffeine is a supplement that can give you a moderate boost. However, it will never equate to the results you get from consistency, rest, and nutrition.
Another consideration is how you’re drinking your coffee. If you bring black coffee home in a responsible cup, or brew it from home, you’re getting a boost with minimal caloric implications. If you’re hitting the Starbucks drive-thru every day and grabbing a latte topped with whipped cream, the calorie content could thwart your results more than the caffeine helps your performance.
Too much caffeine is also a concern. A few cups of coffee aren’t going to hurt you. Contrary to popular belief, drinking coffee won’t dehydrate you either. That is, as long as you’re not replacing water with coffee or drinking so much that you get heart palpitations and anxiety.
Can Coffee Boost Your Athletic Performance?
Drinking coffee is a great way to get a temporary boost in athletic performance, giving you the edge you need. Treat coffee as a supplement, rather than a focal point. Nutrition, recovery, progression, and consistency are all more important— but a hot cup of Joe is the cherry on top.