Coffee Before A Workout: Game Changer Or Recipe For Disaster?

Brew. Java. Bean juice. Joe. Whatever you want to call it, coffee can be an effective, simple way to get more out of your workout.

Erin Fisher Author Image
Erin Fisher

May 6, 2024 - Updated May 6, 2024

Kayla Coffee Couch

There are so many ways to supercharge your fitness routine and level up your workout performance - everything from quality sleep and good nutrition to a solid warm-up, being well-hydrated and doing exercise you genuinely enjoy. But aside from the fundamentals, what about the cheeky hacks? Can a quick hit of caffeine before a workout really work wonders? Here’s everything you need to know. 

What having coffee before a workout can do

Enjoying a caffeinated coffee (sorry, decaf fans!) as a pre-workout beverage has the potential to elevate your workout in several ways due to the caffeine it contains. The International Society of Sports Nutrition has evaluated the research currently available and says that in many studies, caffeine has been shown to enhance components of exercise for athletes and non-athletes, such as muscular endurance, strength and speed.

When it comes to those studies, the keyword is many, not all - meaning it’s important to note that caffeine doesn’t have the same beneficial effects for everyone (or the same levels), nor does everyone respond positively to it. For those who find coffee and exercise to be a match made in heaven, here are five reasons why.

Move with more energy and power

According to the National Library of Medicine, caffeine is a naturally occurring central nervous system stimulant and the primary goal of caffeine consumption is to combat fatigue and drowsiness, meaning it can help you to move through your workouts feeling more energised. Research from 2018 and 2013 highlighted the effects it has specifically on endurance, power output and speed in time trials.

For many people, a bad workout is a tired one, and while we’re always going to encourage you to start by looking at your sleeping habits for better energy, coffee can definitely help you head into your next Sweat session with a spring in your step.

Feel more alert and focused

A pre-workout caffeine boost isn’t just about higher energy levels - studies have shown it’s also about concentration and cognitive function. Instead of moving through the motions in a bit of a daze, constantly double-checking what exercise you’re supposed to be doing, grabbing the wrong equipment or letting a 60-second break turn into five minutes scrolling on your phone, you’re mentally firing and power through from start to finish. Not only is this great for getting the most out of your session with great form and a strong mind-muscle connection, but also for avoiding injury.

Experience less fatigue

Having caffeine before exercise has also been shown to reduce your muscular fatigue and your rate of perceived exertion during a workout, meaning it can feel easier to push through that heavy squat or another set of burpees without feeling as tired or sore. 

One caveat here, though. If you’re already feeling sore, fatigued or burnt out, don’t try to override your body’s systems by guzzling coffee before a workout. Rest and recovery are key if you want to come back stronger. 

Great for aerobic and anaerobic workouts 

Research (here, here and here!) has shown the benefits of having caffeine before a workout aren’t limited to either aerobic or anaerobic training. Sorry, what? Basically, aerobic exercise is anything that has your heart rate and breathing elevated for an extended period (such as running, power walking or cycling). On the flip side, anaerobic exercise involves quick bursts of activity - that’s your HIIT workouts, heavy lifting and sprints. Both are great for your overall health and both can benefit from caffeine.

Save $$$

Aside from everything it can do for your workouts, coffee is a far more affordable and accessible option than some other pre-workout supplements! In this economy? An obvious win.

Woman Drinking Coffee

How much should you have and when? 

Because everyone is built differently (you might feel nothing with one shot of coffee while your friend has the shakes), giving a universal caffeine recommendation isn’t possible, but from the research we can definitely give you a helpful guide. 

To improve your exercise performance, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends you consume 3-6mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight around an hour before exercise. Some people may notice the benefits with a lower dose, so if you’re not usually a coffee drinker, check the nutritional information on your coffee for the caffeine serving measurements and start small!

And no, higher levels of caffeine doesn’t equal improved performance. In fact, overdoing it can lead to some unpleasant side-effects and isn’t necessary to reap the benefits.

Is there anything to be mindful of? 

First and foremost, remember you don’t need coffee to perform well - it can just be a nice booster if you find it’s something that makes you feel good. Don’t forget, caffeine is a stimulant and because we each have different levels of sensitivity, coffee can either give you that feeling of being fresh and fully charged or leave you jittery and anxious. If you’re sensitive to caffeine and drink coffee later in the day, it can also interfere with your sleep - and neither anxiety or a bad night’s sleep are worth it.

For pregnant women, it’s also recommended to keep your daily caffeine consumption under 200mg per day and consult your healthcare provider. And finally, coffee and a happy digestive system don’t always go hand-in-hand. If you enjoy the benefits of coffee before exercise but it tends to upsets your stomach, you can try these tips:

  • Have coffee with some carbs like a piece of toast or a banana

  • Reduce the volume of liquid by having a shot of espresso

  • Have black coffee without any milk 

  • Drink your coffee at least an hour before exercise to give it time to digest and absorb

  • Avoid store bought coffee beverages which often have added syrups, flavourings and sweeteners which can upset digestion and don’t offer nutritional value

  • Allow enough time to visit the bathroom before your workout if that’s what you’re worried about!

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Your body knows best 

Caffeine can definitely be a fast and effective hack to help you have a great workout, so could be worth experimenting with if you’re looking to boost your energy and performance. Listen to your body, keep notes on how much coffee you’ve had and how you feel in each exercise session to find your sweet spot. 

That being said, always try and think of coffee as a supplement. Keep sleep, nutrition, hydration and recovery as your primary performance check boxes, and let caffeine be the cherry on top. 

Erin Fisher Author Image
Erin Fisher

Erin is a writer and editor at Sweat with years of experience in women's publishing, media and tech. She's passionate about the power of movement, and you can often find her on a yoga mat, a hike, a dance floor, in the ocean or the gym.


* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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