Should You Drink Coffee Before A Run?

I start every day with a hot cup of coffee. I rely on caffeine to wake me up and keep me going strong, and I know I’m not the only one. Coffee and other stimulating drinks are used by millions of people daily to boost wakefulness, improve focus, and alleviate fatigue.

Nowadays, more and more runners are using coffee as a means of improving performance, and there are plenty of studies and scientific papers to back them up. In today’s post, I’ll give a brief overview of some of the research linking coffee and athletic performance.

I hope the information I provide helps you decide whether a pre-workout cup of coffee is right for you or not.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound and psychotropic found in coffee, tea, and chocolate. It’s also added to cola and energy drinks.  It works by activating the brain and central nervous system, helping to improve alertness, relieve drowsiness, and prevent the onset of tiredness.

Considered both a drug and a food additive, caffeine is consumed in large amounts in the U.S., with roughly 90 percent of Americans consuming it every single day in one form or the other. A recent FDA survey showed that 80 percent of American adults ingest roughly 300 mg of caffeine every day, the equivalent of two 8-ounce cups of coffee. That’s a lot of caffeine!

The Research

Researchers have had a lot to say about caffeine intake before exercise and its role in athletic performance. Here are a few studies to check out:

Study I

A study published in Sports Medicine concluded that caffeine is a powerful ergogenic aid. Its stimulating effects on the central nervous system can help athletes increase energy, reduce the sensation of fatigue, alleviate pain, and enhance recovery. Commonly used ergogenic aids include amino acids, carnitine, dried adrenal glands, creatine, chromium, and protein powders.

Study II

A report in the British Journal of Sports Science showed that subjects who drank coffee before running 1,500 meters on the treadmill finished 4.2 seconds faster than a similar non-caffeinated group. Talk about a performance edge!

Study III

Japanese researchers found that subjects who had a cup of coffee before exercising improved their circulation by 30 percent when compared to a control group. When circulation is improved, muscles receive more oxygenated blood, which is needed in droves when working out. More oxygenated blood improves both performance and endurance.

Study IV

According to a meta-analysis, caffeine can reduce perceived level of exertion by more than 5 percent. How does this help? It makes running feels a lot easier, reducing fatigue perception while maintaining higher levels of performance. Talk about a win-win!

Study V

Research conducted at the University of Illinois revealed that subjects who had two cups of coffee before a 30-minute workout experienced less muscle pain than a non-caffeinated group. It is believed that caffeine may block adenosis, a natural byproduct of the body’s breakdown of food for energy. Adenosis contributes to fatigue and brain fog, and it’s thought that caffeine’s blockage of it may dull pain.

The Downsides Of Drinking Coffee

Coffee comes with some downsides. For starters, it’s  a mild diuretic, meaning that it makes you produce more urine. Drinking coffee is not the same as hydrating with water. Water is always your best option for staying hydrated. It’s cheap, calorie-free, caffeine-free, and readily available.

To stay safe, monitor your hydration levels by checking the color of your urine—the darker the color, the more dehydrated you are.

Too much coffee can also have a laxative effect on some people, especially those already prone to diarrhea and other bowel issues. That’s obviously not an ideal situation to find yourself in—especially when you’re out for a run.

Finally, in some individuals caffeine can cause insomnia and severe headaches.

Should you drink coffee before a run?

Current research suggests that caffeine could be a helpful addition to your workout plan, as long as you’re adding it carefully.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Pre-Workout Coffee

As wonderful as coffee is, there’s always a limit to how much you can drink. Higher doses won’t do more to boost your running performance, and could increase the risk of negative effects such as anxiety, dizziness, heart palpitations, etc.

Just one cup of joe or a shot of espresso before a run is all you need to reap caffeine’s running benefits. The recommended caffeine amount for improving performance with minimal side effects is roughly 1.2 to 2.5 milligrams per pound of body weight, taken one hour before a workout.

To put this in perspective, for a 160-pound person that’s about 290 to 400 milligrams, or roughly 12 ounces of strong coffee. The buzz you get from this will be enough to help you power through your run more easily and with less fatigue.

Conclusion

So what’s your decision? Are you going to start drinking coffee regularly before your workouts? Or would you rather stick with water?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Keep Running Strong

David D.