5 Ways Coffee Can Fuel Your Performance In the Gym
If you consider yourself a high performer - you’re continuously trying to get the most of your training. Whether pushing harder in your workouts, trying to hit a new PR, or sometimes just showing up - your performance is often defined by your habits beforehand.
For many of us, those habits start with a strong cup of coffee - the high performers fuel.
Yet we continuously seem to hear our friends talk about “trying to drink less coffee” or articles talking about the importance of cutting back. While the emergence of high stimulant pre-workouts and energy drinks have become commonplace in the athletic community, becoming more intentional with your caffeine in-take might be a good idea - but does that mean you should ditch your coffee intake?
If you want to get the most out of your workouts, we’d say no.
In fact, a strong cup of coffee might be the perfect pre-workout drink to fuel your performance in the gym - here’s the top 5 reasons why:
#1: Coffee Is Noticeable Effect on Performance
Caffeine has long been known for its ergogenic effect among athletes. So much so, that caffeine has been listed on the WADA’s anti-doping list for international competitions (at high dose).
Caffeine has been shown to improve both sport and exercise performance among athletes, most prominently in endurance based sports. This can be attributed to a number of different mechanisms from hormonal benefits to increased blood flow - but simply put, caffeine improves your capacity to do exercise.
While your coffee will likely be far under the WADA’s limit of roughly 500mg of caffeine, a strong cup of coffee gives you the perfect dose of caffeine to maximize your performance, without the substances hidden in pre-workouts.
#2: Coffee Enhances Endurance & Decreases Perceived Exertion
Coffee & caffeine is the go-to pre-workout supplement in the gym.
The stimulant effect is often associated with getting “amped up” for a lift, when research shows that it actually has a greater effect on endurance related exercise.
One study in endurance athletes found that those who consumed high-dose caffeine were able to cover 2-3.2km more than a placebo group. In cyclists, caffeine was found to have the largest performance benefit versus water or carbohydrates - increasing workload by 7.4%.
This isn’t just caffeine. Studies have found that coffee has that same effect on endurance performance.
While one study found that coffee helped reduce perceived exertion (allowing athletes to work harder) - another notable study found that coffee drinkers completed a 1500-meter run on average 4.2 seconds faster than those drinking decaf.
Definitely justifying that strong cup of coffee before a conditioning workout.
#3 Coffee Supports Fat Metabolism
There are thousands of fat burner products in the supplement market today. And while most are packed with suspicious ingredients, they all have a common ingredient that defines their intended effect - caffeine.
Caffeine is a noted stimulant mentally, but it also acts to stimulate our metabolic rate.
While most of these supplements are recommended against by health professionals - strong coffee has been shown to have enough caffeine to stimulate this effect.
In a recent study, comparing the metabolic rates of four different groups during exercise - a group consuming coffee showed a significant increase in metabolic rate for the hours following coffee consumption. Participants also showed an increase in fat oxidation, suggesting that coffee as a pre-workout can increase the metabolic rate of exercise and induce further fat burning.
#4: Better Concentration During Workouts
It’s no secret that coffee is a stimulant - a strong cup of coffee can feel like literal jet fuel some mornings.
What’s less known is that beyond acting to stimulate the central nervous system, coffee and caffeine can actually improve brain function on neurophysiological level. While there’s some days that you feel yourself distracted in the gym or more interested in just about anything else than your set - coffee could be the hack to getting dialled in.
- Research has shown that caffeine (in a dose similar to coffee) positively impacts the areas of the brain responsible for memory and concentration.
- A study on brain activity and caffeine found that it stimulated, increased activity, improved function of the prefrontal lobe of the brain - the area responsible for attention span & concentration.
- Caffeine consumption in athletes has shown not only physical benefits, but improved cognitive function - with the ability to maintain focus and improve decision making at greater levels of exercise intensity.
While acting on the nervous system is the effect most of us are chasing with that morning cup of coffee - that cup can act as the mental boost to help us truly max out in the gym.
#5:Coffee Reduces Muscle Pain
This one might surprise you.
While we all obviously love the pre-workout effects from coffee, research has shown a number of post-workout benefits as well.
A study from the University of Illinois compared a control group to one that drank coffee during and after their workouts. They found that the coffee drinkers (our kind of people) reported less muscle soreness during and after their workouts.
Another study found that drinking two cups of coffee can reduce post-muscle soreness by upwards of 50% - a considerable effect for athletes or high performers looking to push harder in the gym.
While not coffee specific, caffeine at a similar dosage to a strong coffee has been found to support these findings - with research finding that post-workout soreness was reduced after an intensive upper body workout in those who consumed caffeine versus a placebo.
So while you’re optimizing your nutrition to support recovery and repair - coffee could potentially be considered a valuable tool for getting back in the gym faster.
You likely didn’t need an excuse to drink more coffee - but here they are.
While most athletes or high performers have played around with high-caffeine pre-workout supplements, a strong cup of coffee might just be what you truly need to max out your performance!