Coffee is naturally rich in caffeine, a compound known for its instant kick. No wonder fitness enthusiasts gulp down a cup or two before the workout. But is taking coffee before workout a good idea? What are the benefits it delivers? Read through to get answers to these and more about using coffee before a workout for best results.
Compounds in Coffee
The unique flavour which is typical to coffee is because of the naturally occurring compounds present in it. These compounds also make it a power drink. Read on to know more about the compounds present in coffee and how they help:
Caffeine, a plant-based compound, is an active stimulant. It is naturally found in about 60 plant species, including cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, and coffee beans. As it is absorbed quickly and enters the bloodstream instantly, it affects the functioning of various organs with a visible impact on the brain and the central nervous system.
In the brain, it blocks the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that signals the brain to feel tired. Thus, as caffeine in coffee cuts this signal, the brain becomes more active, alert and less tired. This pushes the entire body into the ‘active’ zone by delaying the onset of tiredness.
Coffee contains a high dose of antioxidants like chlorogenic acids and melanoidins. These help the body from damage caused by free radicals. It thus protects the body from debilitating conditions like cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, liver cancer, gallstones, cirrhosis of the liver, and Parkinson’s diseases.
Antioxidants also help burn fat by curbing the enzyme required to make triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood.
Diterpenes are a class of chemical compounds in the oil found inside coffee beans. The two abundantly present diterpenes in coffee are – cafestol and kahweol. Diterpenes possess biological attributes and help in anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antispasmodic activities.
The anti-inflammatory properties of coffee are especially helpful in cutting post-workout inflammation in the muscles.
How Does Coffee Work?
Caffeine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the gut. The blood levels peak within 30 minutes of consumption and remain high for about 3 hours before its effect begins to wane. Unlike other sports supplements, caffeine affects cell functioning throughout the brain and body. Thus, coffee’s effects on exercise performance are instant and widespread. These include:
- Brain – Caffeine stimulates brain cells and the central nervous system. This improves concentration and energy while delaying the onset of tiredness.
- Hormones – Caffeine triggers the production of epinephrine (adrenaline), the fight or flight hormone.
- Body temperature – Caffeine has thermogenic properties which help burn more calories.
- Fat burning – Caffeine increases fat burning through lipolysis, breaking down fats in fat cells.
- Endorphins – caffeine triggers the release of endorphins, chemicals that help relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve the sense of well-being and satisfaction.
- Muscles – Caffeine improves muscle strength and enhances muscular power.
Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee
Thanks to its compounds, coffee helps the body in innumerable ways. The health benefits associated with drinking coffee include:
- Helps control diabetes – coffee alters the way the body processes glucose, cutting down the risk of diabetes.
- Protects against cognitive diseases – coffee helps people better control their movements and confers a feeling of alertness, reducing the risk of developing Parkinson’s and dementia.
- Protects the liver – coffee is eventually broken down in the liver, safeguarding it from a range of liver diseases.
- Protects the heart – coffee helps cut down bad cholesterol, protecting the heart from cardiovascular ailments.
- Reduces obesity – coffee is thermogenic. It helps burn more calories.
- Prevents cataracts – coffee protects the eye lens that deteriorates to form a cataract.
- Energy booster – caffeine in coffee is a natural stimulator. It stimulates the central nervous system to feel more active. It is, for this reason, that having coffee before a workout is a common scenario.
Benefits of Coffee Before Workout
As more and more people are using coffee as a pre-workout drink, here’s what you can expect from your coffee:
1. Improved Speed
Caffeine helps improve workout speed. While this could last from 45 seconds to up to 8 minutes, it has a significant impact on resistance exercises. So, drinking coffee before a workout can help you strength train faster than usual.
2. Enhanced Strength
Caffeine is known to support maximum muscle strength with enhanced muscular power. This significantly impacts force and power output.
3. Reduced Anaerobic Exhaustion
Anaerobic exercises are high-intensity, high-power exercises that break down glucose for energy without using oxygen. This leaves you exhausted quickly. But coffee before workout can delay the point of exhaustion. This can help you work out for a longer duration at a stretch.
4. Increased Stamina
Coffee stimulates the central nervous system. This makes the brain more alert and less tired. Reduced fatigue and drowsiness directly increase stamina.
5. Reduced Muscle Pain
Sore and stiff muscles can keep you away from your exercise regimen. But coffee as pre workout beverage helps. It blocks the activity of adenosine, a chemical released as an inflammatory response to injury. Thus, coffee helps ease post-workout muscle pain.
6. Increased Fat Oxidation
Coffee helps increase fat burning. The antioxidants present in coffee, namely chlorogenic acids and melanoidins, help burn fat by curbing the enzyme required to make triglycerides. This makes coffee a perfect addition to weight loss diet plans.
7. Improved Cognitive Function
Caffeine is a natural stimulant. It enters the bloodstream quickly and stimulates the brain to feel more awake and alert. Improved cognitive function means better concentration and enhanced energy levels, which translate to a better athletic performance.
When to Take Coffee Before Workout?
The best time to drink coffee will depend upon what time of the day you prefer to exercise.
If you are an early bird, drinking coffee 30-60 minutes before a workout session is an ideal start to the day. Research shows that consuming coffee 30 minutes before a workout helped improve speed or isokinetic performance, whereas consuming coffee 60 minutes before a workout helped improve physical performance, including muscle endurance and strength.
But if you prefer hitting the gym end-of-day, drinking coffee as pre workout will disturb your sleep pattern. While boosting performance is important, getting enough sleep is paramount for muscle repair and maintenance. Thus, it is best to avoid coffee if you plan to work out at night.
Types of Coffee
Coffee can be consumed in any form:
- Instant coffee
- Freshly brewed coffee
- Espresso coffee
- Black coffee with no carbs
One can also consider caffeinated gum or candy, energy drinks or pre-workout beverages or powders that contain caffeine. Read product labels carefully to know the amount of caffeine in each serving size.
How Much Coffee to Consume?
According to medical recommendations, caffeine intake must not exceed 3–6 mg per kg of body weight. This translates to about 200–400 mg or 2-4 cups of coffee per day.
But intake of coffee is habit forming. Prolonged use of coffee can lead to caffeine addiction. In such a case, the body develops tolerance to caffeine, and it would now require a higher dose to match previous results.
But in no case the daily intake of caffeine must exceed 600 mg.
Side Effects of Excessive Coffee Consumption
In addition to the several plus points, coffee also has a range of downsides. Coffee delivers benefits only if consumed up to a recommended dose. Excessive use of caffeine can have numerous side effects. The most common ones are:
- Tachycardia or increased heart rate
- Insomnia or sleep disruption
- Hot flushes and night sweats during menopause
- Stomach discomfort
- Caffeine overdose
Who Must Avoid Coffee Before Workout?
Coffee before a workout is not recommended for:
- People with heart disease
- People with high blood pressure
- People suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease
- People with osteoporosis
- Individuals using muscle relaxants
- Individuals on anti-depressants
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women
Coffee is a popular beverage. It is a part of a pleasurable lifestyle but fitness enthusiasts have coffee before workout to enhance performance and endurance. Caffeine, the active compound found in coffee, stimulates the central nervous system. It signals the brain to become more active and pushes the body into an ‘active’ zone, thereby delaying the onset of tiredness.
The best time to drink coffee is 30-60 minutes before a workout with a recommended dose of not more than four cups per day. Excessive coffee consumption has serious side effects and caffeine overdose can also prove fatal.