Coffee and Exercise: Before or After?

By Betty Gold, | March 24th, 2023

The answer might surprise you

senior men at a campsite drinking coffee before a hike. Image by Yuri Arcurs. Should you combine coffee and exercise? If so, when and how? Betty Gold of RealSimple examines the connection.

Should you combine coffee and exercise? If so, when and how? Betty Gold of RealSimple examines the connection.

We know that coffee (in moderation) is good for us. It’s been shown to increase your energy levels and metabolic rate, lower your risk of depression and decrease your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes.

Speaking of energy levels, many of us cannot leave the house without a cup (or two) of coffee. We rely on it to bring us back to life in the morning, which is all fun and games until we start wondering, Should we really be sipping this stuff before we work out in the a.m.?

If you’ve ever questioned whether a strenuous spin class or should-be-Zen yoga session could be tampered with by starting with a piping hot cup of acidic coffee, you’re not alone. When do the stomach issues, shakiness, anxiety and other potential side effects of coffee come into play? Caffeine is, after all, a stimulant — which can be in your favor, fitness-wise, or against it.

So which is it with coffee and exercise: Should we be starting our workout with a cup of joe or saving it until the end?

Coffee and exercise

According to Brittany Michels, M.S., RD, nutrition expert for The Vitamin Shoppe, drinking coffee before you work out in the morning is totally fine — in fact, it actually offers plenty of potential benefits to your fitness routine. (Sigh of relief.) That said, there are a few exceptions too.

Potential benefits of drinking coffee before exercise

“Consuming pre-workout caffeine may rev up your metabolism, suppress the effect of perceived exertion, improve microcirculation and enhance your athletic performance,” says Michels. She adds that coffee is one of many caffeinated beverages that may offer these benefits. So if you aren’t a java drinker, but still want the benefits that caffeine has to offer, you have other options.
Some research suggests that pre-workout caffeine may increase caloric burn for several hours post-exercise. “For those looking for a metabolic boost, caffeine from coffee can be a smart option,” Michels adds.

She encourages anyone interested in pairing coffee with exercise to find the right amount of caffeine that works for you, as the side effects vary based on caffeine dosages, duration and type of activity. Generally speaking, the sweet spot for caffeine consumption is about 20 minutes prior to exercise.

Who should be cautious?

According to Michels, anyone with a caffeine sensitivity or queasy stomach should start with a smaller dose of caffeinated coffee and gradually increase it. “Signs that you’ve exceeded what works for your body are an upset stomach, nausea, increased heartbeat or heart palpitations.”

Some people notice benefits at 50 to 100 milligrams pre-workout, while others observe improvements in the 300 to 400 milligrams range. There are also some that notice zero benefits. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to coffee and caffeine consumption,” Michels explains. Also, if your workout objective is to feel calmer, it’s probably best to skip the caffeine entirely.

Post-workout caffeine

If you drink coffee post-workout to get through the day, be sure to assess your sleep and stress levels and your diet regimen. Some people who rely on caffeine may need to address the root cause of their poor energy levels. “Caffeine consumption close to bedtime can disrupt our natural sleep cycle,” says Michels. “If you need a pre-workout boost at night, consider a non-caffeinated energy source, such as maca or beet root.”

Tips for healthier coffee

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©2023 Dotdash Meredith. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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