One of the most widely consumed performance-enhancing drugs is sitting in your mug or thermos almost every day (hint: it’s not steroids). Caffeine is both mentally and physically stimulating. Not only does a cup of coffee clear your mental fog, it revs your body’s engine.
At one point, caffeine was banned in the Olympics. In 2004 it was allowed – and in quite high doses. You’d need to drink about 4 or 5 cups of coffee right before an event to be disqualified. The fact that it’s illegal at a certain point shows you that caffeine must have some performance benefit.
Indeed, most studies show that caffeine helps endurance performance. That means runners, cyclists and swimmers should have a cup of coffee or two before or during their training or competition.
On the other hand, caffeine isn’t as beneficial for strength training. It helps endurance training because it elevates your heart rate, increases blood flow, and spikes your adrenaline. All those things are necessary to perform well in an endurance event.
When you lift weights your muscles are doing work for a few seconds, then resting for much longer. It’s an entirely different type of training that doesn’t benefit much from an increase in heart rate or blood flow.
Besides the physical effects of caffeine, the mental boost can be equally as powerful for training. Caffeine dulls the sensation of fatigue and exertion that comes along with exercise, allowing you to perform at a higher level for longer.
Most studies on caffeine involve at least one cup of coffee, although two seems to be more standard. Researchers note that too much can hurt your stomach, cause nervousness/anxiety, and disrupt sleep.
The bottom line is that you can drink coffee before workouts. It may help you if you drink the right amount, but it can harm you if you drink too much. It also seems to be more helpful for endurance training than strength training.
Written by Henry Halse