It’s Monday morning, and I drag my groggy self out of bed to go to the gym. I have 15 minutes to get to my yoga class, and I’m still insanely tired. So I run by the dining hall on my way to the class and pick up coffee.
As I’m walking to the gym, coffee in one hand, water bottle in the other, I wonder if drinking coffee before exercising is a bad idea. I already know that the notion that coffee dehydrates you is a myth, but I don’t know anything about the effects of caffeine on exercising. For some reason, I expected that there would be negative consequences. Either way, at that point it was too late.
I finished up the cup of coffee, took the yoga class, and found it very difficult and exhausting. Naturally, I used this as an excuse to confirm my suspicions (rather than admitting to the fact that I am incredibly out of shape). So I Googled, “should you drink caffeine before a workout.” As it turns out I just really suck at yoga. Here are the benefits I came across in my search.
1. Improved circulation.
In a Japanese study (fancy), researchers tested the effects of coffee on circulation in non-regular coffee drinkers. If you’re reading this, you probably are a regular coffee drinker, but just hear me out. They found out that people who drank caffeinated coffee (vs. decaf coffee) had a 30 percent increase in blood flow. I feel like that would mean there is at least a 15 percent increase in blood flow for regular coffee drinkers (don’t quote me on that). Either way, that’s 15 percent to 30 percent more oxygen for your muscles, people!
2. Less pain.
A University of Illinois study showed that drinking two to three cups of coffee before an intense 30-minute workout eased perceived muscle pain. Consuming that amount about an hour before the exercise may very well aid in muscle endurance.
3. Better memory.
You might think better memory is unrelated to exercise, but what about when you want to remember that arm toning weights routine your friend told you was a godsend? If you’re like me and feel like a goof looking up exercises at the gym while everyone around you seems to know what they’re doing, try about two cups sometime in the 24 hours before your workout. A John Hopkins study found that caffeine can improve memory up to 24 hours after it is consumed.
4. Muscle preservation.
In a study done on animals at Coventry University, caffeine was shown to reduce the loss of muscle strength that comes with aging. Effects were primarily manifested in the diaphragm (the muscle you use to breathe) and skeletal muscle. Slow down the effects of aging? Sign me up.
5. Muscle fuel.
A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that a caffeine and carb combination after an intense glycogen-depleting workout resulted in a 66 percent glycogen increase in the body. Glycogen is the carb in your body that fuels endurance and strength workouts. This one’s looking at you, crazy person that runs seven miles every day.
6. Keeps you from overindulging later in the day.
Another study from the Journal of Applied Physiology had two groups complete the same morning routine. One group drank two cups of coffee; the other was given a placebo. Both groups had a cup of coffee to wake up, went to the gym, had another cup with breakfast, then had lunch. At lunch, both groups were treated to a sandwich buffet, and on average the non-placebo group consumed 72 calories less than the placebo group. That’s 72 extra calories to put towards that slice of cake in your fridge that you’ve been dying to eat.
7. Accelerates fat loss.
Apparently, even if you’re not working out, the high amounts of caffeine in black coffee help increase your metabolism which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. A cup of coffee before a workout enhances that effect.
8. Improved performance.
An article in Sports Medicine states that caffeine helps athletes train better, and for longer. Supported by a study in the British Journal of Sports Science that indicated that runners who consumed caffeine before 1500 meters on the treadmill on average completed their run 4.2 seconds faster than the control group. That doesn’t sound like a lot to me, but I guess it’s a big deal if you’re a competitive runner (I most certainly am not).
9. Improved focus.
Since it is a stimulant, caffeine can help you keep focused on getting through your run or a complicated workout routine. I don’t know about you, but my ADD runs rampant at the gym, and I can almost never get through a workout without spacing out (at that cute guy lifting weights across the room). However, if a cup of coffee can get me out of the gym faster then sorry, charming guy, but I am no longer buying tickets to the gun show.