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Coffee Before Workouts: The Pros, Cons and Logical Alternatives

coffee beans pouring out of a cup

It’s not uncommon to find yourself struggling to get to the gym with a lack of energy. Being tired is one thing, but signing up for intense physical activity while tired is demoralization to the maximum.

This is why a lot of people choose the path of least resistance and don’t go.

Unfortunately, it shows.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this hard to get up and go. The same secret sauce you use to get your career in shape to prove your haters wrong is the same trick that can get you physically moving.

That ‘secret sauce’ is coffee.

Coffee before exercise is great for alertness, focus and you guessed it: improving physical performance. Below we’re going to share the pros and cons of drinking coffee before the gym.

3 Pros of coffee before a workout

What makes coffee a good choice for before workout energy? Here are the pros to your cup of joe.

1. Coffee is a rich source of polyphenols – PRO

Believe it or not coffee is actually considered a health drink, assuming you aren’t adding a coca-colas worth of sugar to it.

In Japan, coffee is one of the main dietary sources of polyphenols in middle age women. Similar conclusions have been drawn in Polish and French research groups.

This high polyphenol and anti-oxidant activity have lead scientists to believe that coffee may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion: whether you exercise or not, you can feel good about your coffee consumption.

2. Coffee improves mood and motivation – PRO

Coffee’s ability to improve mood and motivation is really the only confirmation many of us needed to see.

Specifically, it appears that coffee can improve mood and reduce anxiety within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion.

This means that if you drink your cup before heading to the gym, you’ll be feeling more motivated to perform by the time you get there.

Conclusion: Coffee can help you get over yourself and workout, just take it 30-60 minutes before you need to perform.

3. Coffee can improve physical performance and endurance – PRO

Interestingly, coffee appears to improve one’s ability to do physical work.

How much of this is attributed to mood is unknown, but part of the story is caffeine’s ability to strengthen the signals that your brain sends to your muscles. Stronger signals = more strength.

Coffee’s greatest performance improvements have been observed in intense and prolonged exercise protocols. Meaning, if you push – coffee and its caffeine pushes too.

Conclusion: Drinking coffee before you exercise can help you reach a new personal record on endurance-based high intensity exercises.

3 CONs of coffee before a workout

Its clear that coffee can give us the kick-in-the-butt we need to get going, as well as stay going. But what’s the catch?

Below we cover the potential negatives to coffee drinking, but really these are only seen if you take too much coffee as a non-avid drinker.

1. Coffee is a raw caffeine source that can cause jitters – CON

The most common side effect to drinking more coffee than you’re used to is the jitters. While some people may thrive on them, others are likely to find themselves a little uncomfortable and tight.

Solution? Start small. Just because you feel X tired, doesn’t mean you need 2Y cups of coffee. Stick with something small and work up from there if necessary.

2. Coffee can cause a headache if you don’t dose properly – CON

Coffee headaches are real. This happens either due to too much caffeine, or abruptly stopping caffeine after habitual consumption as explained by John Hopkins in a Healthline article.

Solution? Well, avoidance is key.

There are two primary reasons why coffee headaches occur:

  1. You drank far too much coffee.
  2. You’re dehydrated.

With that in mind, lessen the amount of coffee you’re drinking per sitting and increase your daily water intake.

3. Coffee can intensify rapid heartbeat while working out – CON

Your heart is going to pound pretty hard while working out if you’re new to the gym, that’s a given. However, adding coffee to the picture can leverage that rapid heartbeat up another notch. Depending on your age and health profile, that may not be a good thing.

Solution? Keep your coffee intake small and just enough to get you going, especially when starting the gym. As you learn your body, you can make adjustments.

Alternatives to drinking coffee before workouts

Coffee is great, but it can have some caveats if you’re not already a bean connoisseur. Here are some more beginner-friendly methods for ramping up that go-go gadget drive.

1. Take an actual pre workout supplement

You want more energy to workout? Well, there are specific supplements for that. The only catch is that they aren’t as cut and dry as coffee can be.

We recommend finding a trusted source for recommendations, such as the best pre workouts for women guide by BWSB.

Other options include going to a local GNC or vitamin shop, but their recommendations may be a matter of availability and not quality.

2. Green black and earl grey tea

If you’re just not the coffee type, then tea may be more your style.

The key differences between tea and coffee is that:

  • Tea is gentle and flavorful
  • Tea contains less caffeine (1/2 according to The Guardian).
  • Teas like green tea contain l-theanine which makes caffeine less jittery.

While there is more prep-work involved, the reward is sweet.

3. Eat and sleep for all day energy

This is the thing that nobody wants to hear: sleep well, eat smart, and you’ll have better quality of life.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) its true. You probably don’t even realize how overworked and malnutritioned you currently are… And you won’t until after you make a successful change.

Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

Bottom line: the choice is yours

You’re eager to make a change, and you are seeking out ways to lessen obstacles in your path – that’s amazing.

For the gym, picking a caffeinated beverage like coffee, tea or even pre-workout can help A LOT. Which edition can best jazz up your madness is your call.

We’ve shared our perspective, now its all on you. What would the person you aspire to be in a year from now choose to do? Now, do that.

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